Monday 24 September 2018

Settling in to Autumn

In sharp contrast to the heavy rain and blustery winds of last week, autumn has officially arrived, bringing with it some sunshine, blue skies and crisp, cold weather. The darkness of early morning has given way to a beautiful but very chilly day, and Lily was most excited to announce 'Mummy, I've found my breath!' as we walked through the village to school.
It has been two weeks since the beginning of the autumn term and Lily has slotted back into the regular school routine once again, which is such a relief, although, I wish I could say the same for myself. I've been finding this whole transition period a little unsettling. I am aware I'm juggling a few extra balls this year but it's taking more getting used to than I originally anticipated. I think I just need to have faith in myself, be a bit more patient, and hopefully everything will eventually fall into place. With a bit of luck, I will be left wondering what I was so stressed about in the first place.

We are still getting out in the garden at every opportunity. Lily is using it mainly as some kind of a mud kitchen with her bucket and spade! In between clearing away small piles of mud, I've trimmed back the hedges that I wanted to get done before the winter months, and have been harvesting the tomatoes and beans on an almost daily basis. Thankfully they all managed to withstand the heavy winds. Remember the failed strawberry plants? Well, one out of the nine of them looked OK, so rather than bin it, I moved it into a large empty pot, and it has thrived and filled the pot with runners. I will have to wait and see if it provides us with any fruit next year.

Indoors, I've been busy turning the tomatoes into delicious meals and soups, I can hardly keep up with them since they started ripening. The sofa throws are being used as the evenings turn cooler, and we are gradually adjusting to the shorter days. I've picked up my crochet again, as I really want to try and get Lily's blanket finished before winter. It feels lovely when I'm working on it, nestled in the comfort and warmth of the wool.

Recipe for tomato soup:

50g butter
2 chopped onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of plain flour
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 kg tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
Fresh basil

Melt butter and gently fry the onions and garlic until soft.
Add the flour and mix well, taking care not to let it burn, then gradually add the stock, stirring all the time.
Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and basil and allow to simmer for around 30 minutes.
Blitz with a hand blender then sieve to remove any pips and pulp.

J. X

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Changing Seasons

I am relieved to say that, despite my concerns, the first week of autumn term has gone really well. In fact, Lily's first day back was apparently 'amazing!' but with a bit more sitting still and listening expected this year, we'll see how long that lasts :) Even so, it was sweet to see all the children lined up again wearing their shiny new shoes, and I'm sure they're all at least a foot taller than when they finished for the summer. We are, at least, finding our feet now and within the next week or so I'm sure we'll have more of a daily routine established, which will mean I might, hopefully, find the time to get out for a run, as well as opportunity for us to go swimming once a week.
The weather has really changed recently, leaving us in no doubt autumn is fast approaching. At the beginning of the week we were drinking the last of our Elderflower cordial (I thought it had all been used up, but discovered some small bottles hiding at the back of the vegetable drawer) and by the end we were eating apple crumble and custard. The central heating has been on most mornings and my summer footwear has been replaced by my socks and boots again. It's turning windy, the air is damp and leaves are beginning to fall from the trees.

Now that the weather is turning cooler, I've started using my slow cooker again. It's so simple to throw everything in the pot and leave it to cook  gently while we're out for the day. If it's a stew I just need to thicken it, add some dumplings, then serve up with some vegetables in the evening for a hearty, delicious meal. It saves me so much time when I return home, so as well as the usual soups, stews and chilli's, I'm going to hunt out some more recipes I can use it for. Any suggestions are very welcome.
As I was walking through the village one morning last week, I noticed some 'help yourself' apples in a bucket on a wall, which I used to make the apple crumble. I always think it's so kind of people to share in this way, even if they would otherwise go to waste. We don't often eat puddings in this house, but apple crumble always goes down well at this time of year, especially served with custard. I always like to add a sprinkle of cinnamon to mine to give it a real Autumnal flavour.
I'm still using up  the produce from our garden. The onions are mainly being used in sandwich fillings, the beans and beetroot alongside main meals, and the tomatoes are still ripening gradually, some of which were used in last night's tomato, pesto and mozzarella slice and I think the next batch will be made into soup.

At the weekend we went for a short bike ride. From Brockhole we took a trip across Windermere on the Bike Boat, then followed the shoreline around towards Wray castle, where we stopped for a short break at the cafĂ© there before returning.  It was such a fun day out. We went as part of a Let's Ride event and met up with a really friendly group of around twenty people, most of whom were small family groups. I really hope we can join in with another event in the future.
J. X

Monday 3 September 2018


Just over six weeks ago the thought of the first day of autumn term was of little concern to me. It was so far away, and there was a whole summer of late bedtimes, lazy mornings and fun filled days to be had. This last week, however, has seen the need for us to ready ourselves for the inevitable return to work and school. Lily has endured the back to school haircut, new shoes have been bought, name labels have been stitched and the P.E. bag is hung on the door ready for the morning. We're as ready as we can be.

Nevertheless, the whole idea of rushed mornings and the approaching darker evenings has got me rather melancholy this year. Naturally, I find myself missing the long, sunny, carefree days of summer, but by this time of the year I usually find I am in need of a bit more structure to my days as the seasons begin to change. Recently I have also begun to really love autumn, so I don't know why I'm feeling this way.  I'm sure I will feel fine once I get back in the swing of things and Lily settles into her second year at school. That's possibly part of my unease. It seems quite a big leap from Reception class into Year 1, as if all of a sudden they are expected to be much more grown up.

At least the changing weather has seen me spending more time in the kitchen. It has felt good to be getting my bake-on again and the slow cooker has seen it's first use since the beginning of the year. With my days getting busier, I think I'll be using it much more often from now on. 

I've also been doing some work outside. I've cut back some of the hedges and the small tree at the end of the garden. I still need to turn over the raised bed when it's finally cleared, the flower bed next to it and then tidy up the pots and large planter.  It's all been a bit neglected recently and I want to make sure it's tidied up and  I'm on top of things before the cold weather arrives. We're still eating our way through our home grown beans and beetroot. The tomatoes are finally ripening and they will get used up in soups and sauces.

Our days have been quite overcast, but  mostly warm and dry, so we've still found chance to get out in the fresh air. Following a walk in some nearby woods, we discovered a bird hide tucked away, which I think we will be paying a visit to again in the future, and at the weekend we spent a lovely afternoon by Grasmere. We were surprised at how quiet it was, for once, and we were so relaxed as we walked along we hadn't noticed how quickly the hours had passed. We didn't return to the village until almost half past five, however, we were still just in time to buy some Grasmere gingerbread which, having been freshly baked, was still slightly warm from the oven. Delicious!
J. X