Tuesday, 17 October 2017

In Search of Autumn

October is marching on, and although I've settled into a 'sort of' routine I haven't managed to post as much as I would like. I think it has just taken me a little longer to adjust than I originally anticipated.
Life is very good, however, and with weekdays now being filled with work and school it has been even more important for us to make the most of our precious time together at the weekends. Therefore, when Lily came home from school last week with a little note requesting we go out and search for signs of Autumn, it didn't take much persuading for us to gather together our warm socks and boots and head off into the woods.
We ambled through the fields, which have become incredibly muddy over the last couple of weeks. Being careful of my footing I was very glad of my new 'sorry I forgot your birthday' field boots. The hedgerows are full of berries with bursts of red everywhere and there were still plenty of Rosehips for the picking, the birds having seen off the last of the elderberries. Although the sky was grey, the air was warm and still and it didn't take long for jackets to be removed.                         
Since our last walk the woodland floor had become covered with leaves. On the pathway beneath the now scant canopy of the trees they had turned brown and squelchy, but in the clearings where the track opened up there was a great variety of colour, the russet, yellow and orange underfoot in sharp contrast to looking upward at the black silhouette of the tree branches against the murky sky.
At this time of year my inner child never tires of kicking through the leaves, so when Lily is around I make the most of every opportunity, along with trying to catch some as they fluttered down on us from above. We gathered leaves of each colour to take into school along with a handful of conkers.
At the farm shop there was a gorgeous display of locally grown pumpkins for sale. I couldn't resist taking a photograph.
I think we found Autumn.
J. X

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Routine

We have finally reached the end of Lily's first week comprising of full days at school and thankfully all is still going well. 
Following some employment changes over the Summer months, as a family we have now settled into a new pattern which works for us and I am slowly realising that dealing with school paperwork, requests for my time and sudden changes to term dates etc. amounts to a full time job! It is never ending.
Lily appears to be keeping the teaching staff busy (there was a running rogue on to the school field incident!) and although she is thoroughly enjoying her days at school I can tell she misses the freedom of being outdoors, so I am keen to make up for this at the weekends to enable her to burn off some of her endless energy.
We've been out for some shorter, although lovely walks recently. The light is beautiful in the woods at this time of the year, the trees are beginning to shed their leaves now and it won't be long before we will be walking on a carpet of red and gold.
The Autumn Equinox (over a week ago now) brought with it some wetter weather, yet it is still fairly mild here. I have some gardening jobs which need completing once the weather decides to co-operate and the grass might need cutting back one last time.
I'm finding that I'm spending more time in the kitchen, which Autumn lends itself to so very well, filling the stores in anticipation of the Winter months. I finally got around to making my blackberry jam - five jars and enough blackberries left in the freezer for five more. I've made various soups and the daily packed lunch box always contains some delicious homemade flapjack or ginger biscuit.
I have started running again. Hurray! After several months of inactivity I decided (once I knew Lily was settled at school) to make a huge effort and went out for a short run every morning last week to give myself a kick start. It gave me such a boost and my plan is to go out running on only three days this week but to increase the distance slightly. I'm enjoying it so much and I didn't realise how much I had missed that time spent just for myself. So important, but easily overlooked.
As much as I am always so very ready for the Summer months to arrive, along with the freedom and unpredictability they seem to bring, I do find I'm now craving the routine and steadiness of these Autumn months.
J.X

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

One-pot Cooking - Shakshuka


Thank you all so much for your kind words and good wishes with regard to Lily's first week at school. It means so much and it's lovely knowing there are so many caring people around.
She looks forward to going each day and appears to have settled in well, returning most days with muddy trousers, which can only be a good sign where Lily is concerned. I'm gradually getting into the swing of the school run, rushed mornings and the daily checking of the book bag for the seemingly never ending stream of letters (which get sent by email anyway so I don't understand why they do this.) It's all good so far.
So, for a while now I have been promising the lovely Sheila I would post this recipe for her and finally, here it is!
Anyone who knows me knows I am not  natural in the kitchen and quite honestly I become all fingers and thumbs when it comes to attempting to juggle various pots and pans, get timings right or serve up in an attractive manner (me or the food!) ending up a bit frazzled and unable to properly enjoy my meal.
To this end I am a huge fan of one-pot cooking. I find this way of cooking far more relaxing and enjoyable. Being able to produce a delicious meal with a glass of wine in one hand and at the same time holding down a conversation can only be a good thing, right? Add to that a lot less washing up and I'm on a winner.
One of these dishes which has recently become a firm favourite is Shakshuka, a delicious Middle Eastern dish with flavours which can be adjusted to suit your own taste. There are various recipes online with suggestions for alternative ingredients but this is my favourite as it is so simple, fresh and tasty.


  
You will need,

1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 courgette
2 peppers
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
4 medium eggs
50g Feta cheese
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
A little oil for frying
Fresh mint

Slice the onion, garlic, courgette and peppers and fry using a little oil for around 5 minutes. Add the tin of tomatoes and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Make 4 wells in the mixture and crack an egg into each one. Put the lid on the pan and cook for 8 minutes by which time the eggs will be cooked through but still soft in the middle. Sprinkle over the crumbled Feta and chopped mint and serve with some pitta or crusty bread.

 

I hope you enjoy this recipe, please do let me know if you try it.
J. X

Friday, 8 September 2017

Last days of Summer

As I write this it is a damp, grey day outdoors and it is time to finally accept that, for me at least, Summer is now over. I know we can still expect some warm sunny days ahead but the nights are getting longer now and there is a distinct coolness in the morning air.
I have so much enjoyed these late Summer days and really wanted to make the most of this precious time spent with Lily before she begins school next week.
Naturally one of our days was spent at the beach. I think it will be a while now before we will once again be wearing our shorts and running into the sea.
We've been walking and collecting  more blackberries and some elderberries. There have been so many this year. Some of the blackberries are currently being transformed into blackberry vodka while the rest are still in the freezer waiting to be become jam at some point during the coming week. The elderberries will be turned into syrup. It is delicious on porridge during the colder months and apparently it also has antiviral properties.
While we were in Settle, a couple of weeks ago, we called in at a lovely little toy shop where I picked up a colourful  pocket kite for Lily and when we were out walking last weekend it was breezy enough to try it out. Initially a little unsure of how it worked she soon got the hang of it and thoroughly enjoyed herself. Luckily there is no shortage of wide open spaces around here so I will keep the kite folded up in the rucksack in anticipation of the next flying opportunity.
Also, last weekend I made a brief foray into the world of cycling in order to try out our recent purchase of a trail-gator. I found I enjoyed it much more than I expected. It's been a few years since I was last on a bike, let alone one with another attached  to it and being told 'faster, faster!' We're hoping to get out again very soon, suffice to say I will be getting hold of some padded shorts before I do.
Yesterday I spent an hour sewing name labels into school uniform and this time next week Lily will have spent her very first week at school! I can't think where the time has gone. She seems excited but no doubt it will take her a while to settle in. She's certainly reached a stage where she is ready for new challenges and once she find her feet I'm sure she'll thrive. It doesn't stop me worrying though.
The changing of the seasons sees us finding a new routine to our days which, although very different from the freedom of the Summer months, is reassuring to return to at this time of year.
J. X

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

August

I'm sure you will understand the reason for my lack of posts this month. I have been the sole source of entertainment for a (very) lively four year old which, although tough going at times, has also been a enormous amount of fun.
This month has flown by.
When I initially booked our holiday for the end of July I naively thought the rest of the Summer would stretch on forever and yet now, here we are, almost at its end.
I've really enjoyed the time off and it seems that, once again, we've spent most of the month outdoors. I've made up endless picnics, cleaned muddy boots and swept up A LOT of sand.
We've visited the picturesque towns of Kirkby Lonsdale, Settle and Skipton, walked up Wansfell Pike, overlooking Ambleside and, of course, spent a lot of time at the beach.
In the middle of the month I spent my birthday by the lake at Grasmere. It was a gloriously sunny day and Lily and I had a wonderful time paddling at the soft shingle shoreline. Her confidence has grown in leaps and bounds over the Summer, mastering the zip wire and fireman's pole at the local park and learning to read. We have spent so much time together it is going to be such a wrench when she starts at school in a couple of weeks time.
We've collected plenty of blackberries. Or rather I collected blackberries while Lily stood and kept me company. They are in abundance around here this year and I have a freezer drawer full of them just waiting to be made into jam and possibly some blackberry vodka.
Over the last week the weather has hinted at Autumn, but with the temperatures set to rise again towards the weekend I will be making the most of Summer while it lasts.
J. X