I’ve read US bloggers who’ve written about ‘Gratitudes’. I know some people might feel like throwing up when they hear that expression but actually I think there’s merit in the idea of taking time to think about what you’re grateful for. It’s something I feel the need to do at the moment to counterbalance the (admittedly minor) stresses, worries and niggles I have at the moment. So here goes…
I’m grateful for:
*Our lovely house, which admittedly has its foibles and crumbly bits (and let’s face it, how many 75 year olds do you know who don’t?), but is nonetheless becoming more and more our very own home.
*A knitting bag full of Blue Faced Leicester yarn to knit with, which really, really is going to be a Pirate Sweater for P soon.
*The chubby little legs that try to kick at said knitting from my lap, because M is still little enough to occasionally stop wriggling for long enough to sit with me in peace…
*…and of course P and C, who are sharing more and more father-son moments, some of which I don’t quite ‘get’- flinging ice from a frozen tub of water round the garden, anyone? Being out there in the cold washing bikes in the first place?
*Wonderful news in our wider family and an imminent visit from my folks to boot.
*The thought of the holiday in Dorset we’ve booked for the summer. In a barn, close to the sea. Sunshine please?
*The times when both babies sleep at the same time.
Aaaaaaah! That’s better!
I’m not exactly what you’d call a shopaholic these days. That’s not to say I didn’t spend a good proportion of my younger days trolling around the shops, but our location and lifstyle don’t really fit with that anymore. Apart from anything else, there aren’t usually the funds for it. This has made it even more pleasurable over the last few days to do a bit of guilt-free shopping. Why no guilt? Because I was spending Christmas present book tokens and birthday present money. Hooray!
First, the books. Since we love and get so much use from the River Cottage Family Cookbook we thought we’d add the Everyday Cookbook to our collection, having enjoyed the recent TV series. We’ve already tried making versions of its digestive biscuits, honey roasted root veg and ‘Tupperware Chorizo’ all with great success. We’ve also invested in the River Cottage ‘Veg Patch’ Handbook, which is lovely for it’s textured cover and neat little format alone, but is also inspiring us with all sorts of ideas for what we hope will be our first real venture in ‘grow your own’ this year. Finally, we’ve bought a DIY book because with this house there’s lots to ‘Do’ and noone else to ‘Do’ it for us! As we were using Book Tokens we decided to get all of these from a local independent bookstore. This meant we didn’t get any of the money saving offers we might have done from a chain store, but fits with our ethos of trying to support local businesses. Also when there was an issue with a stitching fault in our first copy of ‘Veg Patch’ it was an easy and pleasant experience getting it replaced.
Next up, I took advantage of only having one tiddler with me this morning to go on a bit of a charity shop trawl. As always I ignored the clothing in favour of homewares and textiles- my favourite charity shop buy is home-embroidered linen tablecloths but alas no joy on that front today. Instead I found this lovely little teapot- cheap, charity shop and using birthday money…perfect, basically! I originally thought it would be destined for the Folksy Shop, but I think I’ve rather fallen in love with it, so it’s probably going to become our regular small teapot. The plainer Brown Betty we’ve been using can go to the shop when I get around to some more knitting- I think some Union Jack teacosies in time for the upcoming Royal Wedding would make sense, and would be really cute as a smaller version.
Last but by no means least, behold our new dining room ‘gubbinet’. Never heard of a gubbinet? Well, it’s a cabinet for all the gubbins that end up lying around downstairs- envelopes, sticky tape and other posting stuff, phone chargers, table linens etcetera. As I write, C is (carefully I hope!) drilling some holes in the back of the top bit so that the stereo can be hidden away, rather than overhanging a shelf as it currently does. I think it’s probably from the first half of the 20th century, as it has curved edges that look a bit 30′s and is pretty solidly made from wood. I don’t really mind to be honest, as it suits our dining room really well and fits the space on one side of the chimney breast just perfectly. Found hidden under some boxes and behind a chair at the back of a vintage shop in Ulverston it was pretty cheap to buy with more birthday money. The only hairy bit was getting it home. I’d taken M shopping with me and couldn’t put her seat in the front due to the airbag, so we couldn’t put the seats down. Of course, when we tried to heft my purchase into the hatchback, it was about 6 inches too long. The only plan we could come up with, apart from coming back another day, was to tie the boot shut with string and for me to drive home ‘not too fast’. Eek! There’s nothing like a large piece of furniture held into your boot with string to make you notice just how many hills there are to go up to get home! Actually, put me on a bicycle and I’ll tell you about every hill, but that’s another story. Anyhow, we made it, I love it and our new (old) house has its first custom bought new (old) piece of furniture. Happy days.
Usually when I can’t think of anything to write about it means I need to get my backside into gear and do more of the good stuff. But actually we haven’t been idle exactly this week. True, we didn’t get out for the planned walk in the Lakes this weekend, mainly because of the weather. Also true is that the Pirate sweater has been half frogged yet again because I wasn’t happy with the pocket, so there’s not much to show there. But there has been making going on, including the marmalade shown here. There have been trips out- to an antiques warehouse and a local bookshop for example. There have been new acquisitions in the form of birthday presents including an interchangable knitting needle set and a sewing box, which I may yet show off on this page.
The truth is we’ve been a bit distracted- by the dull and seemingly endless attempts to potty train P- and also by our new grocery shopping regime. As mentioned last week, I’ve decided to blog about it, if only to help motivate me to keep going with it. To begin with, I’ll just be recording what we buy and what we eat, but when and if we continue I may well begin to add recipes and highlights/disasters from our kitchen and dining table. If you fancy a look, it can be found here. Now I need to go and do some knitting, and take some pictures to prove it!
I know everyone says this, but I don’t really ‘do’ New Year’s Resolutions. However, this year, we have decided to try and reduce our reliance on supermarket shopping. It’s for a lot of reasons, including environmental and political ones, which I may or may not expand on at another time.
There’ll be more on how we’re trying to do this later in the week, but basically it’s a quiet revolution because most of the measures are things we’ve done before over the last few years, on and off. So it’s a question of trying to do them all at the same time.
Home-baking is obviously already a regular fixture in our house, but nonetheless we’d slipped into buying quite a lot of ready-made stuff recently, including bread, breadsticks (P’s snack of choice) and M’s weaning baby-mush (known as ‘goo’ in our house).
This week is the ‘start as we mean to go on’ week, so therefore I duly made bread and used some leftover pizza dough and a little pesto (not homemade, I admit!) to make some breadsticks. I then cooked up two carrots, an apple and four tinned prunes to make some goo. Carrots take forever to cook, so I went off and built Duplo houses with P….and burned the goo. Believe me, burned carrot, apple and prune does not smell nice. Nor is it easy to remove from pans.
However, if I gave up that easily I might as well just go to Tesco right now, so I had another attempt and made sure I stayed by the stove this time. An initial whizz with the handheld mixer followed by blending in the liquidiser and we finally had a good approximation of one of M’s favourite bought ‘goo in a pouch’ numbers. What’s more she ate it. So far so goo(d).
I don’t mind admitting that things got pretty fraught around here towards the end of last year. It was a bit about the build up of months of baby-interrupted sleep, a bit about a toddler pushing at boundaries, a bit about weather that kept us stuck indoors, a bit about sickness bugs, a bit about those irritating household things that aren’t about progress, just staying afloat. Anyway, I got so I really wasn’t having a lot of fun in my stay-at-home mum job- and as that job is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week it meant not a lot of fun in general!
The New Year so far has brought better weather, better health, slightly more sleep and a calmer toddler, to say nothing of a better attitude on my part. The title of this post is a bit of a mantra for me at the moment, since I have one of those brains that tends to constantly race ahead and fret over and overcomplicate things.
The picture, meanwhile, is an activity I tried to help me practise what I (inwardly) chant. Some uncooked rice, sprinkled on a baking tray. Simple. The idea was that my boy and I could spend some time practising drawing lines, maybe even letters, together. A shake of the tray and we’d have a new ‘page’ to draw on. As it turned out, when we were ‘in the moment’ he didn’t feel like drawing, preferring to sprinkle and heap the rice instead. Which was fine really- maybe he’ll draw in it another day, maybe not. It turned out it was very peaceful and calming pushing the rice around and sprinkling it onto his palms as ‘rain’. And yes, a little bit ended up on the floor, but that’s nothing a vacuum cleaner can’t fix.
Believe it or not we played with a tray of rice for a serene and happy half an hour and while it’s not like he’s going to reject all the wonderful, thoughtful toys he was given for Christmas, I’m going to make sure I keep up the effort to keep things simple sometimes.
Happy New Year! I’m not a fan of the New Year celebrations, but unlike some I really like this time of year. I enjoy the urge to purge and tidy, to return things to normal, fling out unwanted stuff (or rather Ebay, Freecycle or donate in most cases) and generally start as I’d like to go on.
I’ve decreed that as far as crafts go, the first quarter of this year is going to be all about homemaking, rather than clothes. As a result I have a huge list of projects including curtains, bags, rugs and wall hangings that is likely to last me until about October but will allow me to make use of some exciting Christmas presents which I may show and tell about later in the week.
Inevitably, since no knitter can really cope with empty needles, I have one more clothing project on the go before I kick into an idea for knit/felt cushions. The Pirate Sweater has been fully frogged and restarted, with a new idea for the neckline partly inspired by reading Elizabeth Zimmerman’s ‘Knitting Without Tears’; a smaller needle size resulting in firmer stitches and a neater looking design on the pocket; larger armholes and a general resolve for it to be even better second time around. There is good chance that my junior fashion critic will still declare his dislike for it and refuse to wear it, but as I’m recording the pattern as I go with a view to publishing it I will not accept it being a wasted effort.
Anyhoo, none of this has anything to do with the soup mentioned in the title. I know I’m not alone in feeling that after the scrumptious excesses of Christmas I really need some simple, nutritious food. This soup has twin inspirations- the Cream of Petit Pois in Nadine Abensur’s ‘Crank’s Fast Food’ and a ready made fresh soup we had recently. The latter included spinach and mint as well as peas and was good, but pricey. I was sure I could recreate something like it and did so like this:
GOOD GREEN SOUP
1. Finely chop half an onion and a couple of garlic cloves. Soften in a pan with some veg oil for five minutes or so.
2. Add a pint/500ml of veg stock, with a couple of mugfuls (about 300g?) of frozen peas and about three of those little bricks of frozen spinach.
3. Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes.
4. Add a glug of cream or a dollop of cream cheese or creme fraiche. Tear up a handful of mint leaves and throw them in too.
5. Take pan off heat and blitz with a handheld blender or liquidise.
6. Season to taste and serve with bread.
It doesn’t have too many naughty ingredients- you could even leave out the cream- and actually has lots of good ones. Something about the sweetness and velvety texture the peas give the soup make it really satisfying so you don’t feel like you’re being too frugal and wholesome, even if you’re being healthy.