Monday, 24 September 2012

Food Stamp Challenge

It seems that menu planning is never far from my mind, recently. Perhaps it is because of the change of season and the foods coming into their best, the anticipation of apples and pears in abundance, or perhaps it is because there have been several lovely new cookery books, magazines and tv series recently. Whatever it is, I have been thinking more and more about What To Cook.

It is a tricky balance for me, as I am working long hours, and it is very easy to fall into the trap of having no time to plan, so you end up having to get something on the way home from work, which really isn't very satisfying. Somehow it seems impossible to come out of a shop with change from a £10 note, but then again, perhaps part of the problem is that we so rarely pay with actual money nowadays.

This time last year we were adjusting on living mainly on one salary; the spectre of another restructure and another possible redundancy beckons. The idea that there won't be as much money seems very real again. Even without that, I found myself walking out of the shop the other evening, tired and worn to a ravelling, having paid money for food that wasn't particularly inspiring, but was easy and quick, thinking 'surely, for the money I have, I can do better than this'.

For the budget I have for food, I should be able to provide tasty healthy seasonal meals. I can, I know I can, from experience. But it has felt a bit more of a struggle recently. And then in a timely way, I came across this post over at The Quince Tree: I quickly totted up how much I would have to spend...there are two of us, so two times four is eight, seven days in a week, seven times eight is fifty six, which isn't bad at all, and isn't that different to what I have in my budget now. Until you realise that is dollars not pounds, so I would actually have £34.58 which really isn't so very much after all. I don't want to throw myself into doing this right away, I want more time to think. But the seeds are planted, and I am thinking away, ideas bubbling.

A few months ago, I noticed that a food bank had just been started, and was appealing for donations. I had a tumble of feelings - good that something is being done to help people who need it, sad that there are people who need it, and vaguely horrified by the list of foods requested, tempered by the realisation that when the wolf is at the door you will of course eat whatever there is. It isn't that I wanted to donate caviar or lobster, but UHT milk, instant mashed potato and tinned meat just isn't very inspiring. I pray that I will never have to find out what it is like to need a donation of food just to keep going, and I know that if I did I would be grateful to have something to feed my family with, but reading through the shopping list, I couldn't help but think surely there is a better way of feeding your family cheaply, than this? And just because people are in straightened circumstances, that doesn't mean that you stop liking nice food. And nice food to me doesn't necessarily mean expensive food. I had a thought flitter through my mind that it woudl be lovely to get together with some of my friends to share our favourite thrifty end-of-the-month recipes, that are so tasty you would be happy eat them any time of the month, even on payday! And then I thought that we could print that little booklet and put donate it with the food boxes. But then I thought, surely that would be a bit patronizing. Yet then again, if you haven't been taught to cook from scratch, it must be bewildering to suddenly have to do it. And it never fails to amaze me how many people don't know. Just the other day, we walked through the park, round the pond, and noticed a couple who were feeding the ducks with entire flatbreads, bagels, and fresh from the packet Kingsmill bread...hopefully they will never have to cut back, and maybe I am judging them harshly, but I can't imagine that there is a lot of cooking from scratch in their kitchen!

The Words Out Of My Mouth II It is officially Autumn. This means that there are certain things I’ll enjoy doing with my family and friends that only feel this good in the autumn months. If I were to try to recreate them in the Spring or Summer something would be out of place and that is why I love paying attention to the seasons and really making the most of them. These are some of things I’m looking forward to this Autumn - Slow Cooked Food Being outside on a warm Autumn afternoon Baking using cinnamon and nutmeg Watching any period drama – Pride & Prejudice (Colin Firth version), Merchant Ivory films, Downton Abbey etc.. Watching any one of these (or all three)….. I make fires I wear sweaters and big socks I drink much more tea And consume more sweet potatoes......

The Words Out Of My Mouth

Really it is my favorite time of year, when the house smells like {homemade} peppermint cleaner and for a short while everything is clean inside and out. Because then the fun starts...the pumpkins and apples and cinnamon, and warm stews and hot breakfasts and woolens and pink cheeks...fluffy down blankets and hot water bottles for icy toes. There really is nothing like that first piece of pumpkin bread, or the first mug of cocoa, and my personal favorite seasonal debate...what exactly constitutes "too early for Christmas music".

Autumn Equinox

Something I have been trying to do more over the past year or so is to pay attention to nature. When I think back to my childhood, my memories are very wrapped up in the seasons and the turning of the year, and nature. Little things like filling up jam jars with rose petals and water to make 'perfume' in the summer, squeezing between the rose bushes to gather the best petals, to waiting for dark and wrapping up warm to go out to the school bonfire party, watching my breath like smoke in the air.

The more I read about Steiner and Waldorf education, the more I recognise from my own childhood. I went to a conventional school, but at home we enjoyed simple pleasures, and exploring nature was just something that we did. We didn't have a nature table per se, but I always seemed to have pockets of pinecones and conkers or acorn cups, can even now never walk past a lavender bush without trailing my hands through it, and love watching for the spiderwebs of autumn jewelled with dew in the mornings.

I have definitely been more aware of the phases of the moon this year, and had a note in my diary that it was the autumn equinox this Saturday past. On one hand it is a gentle prompt to really start getting things cosy, as from now on, there will be more dark than daylight. Whilst I love long summer evenings as much as anyone, but dark evenings lit with candles, snuggly blankets on the sofa and a tasty stew bubbling on the stove have a charm of their own.

I wasn't expecting quite such a sudden and definite change in the weather though - on Saturday it was sunny and warm, almost hot...a lovely Indian Summer day. Sunday was as different as day to night - cold and grey and blustery and wet. I went to London to visit The Cake and Bake Show at Earls Court. It should have been a lovely show, and I did enjoy going, but they had sold far too many tickets, and as a result it was too crowded to see anything very easily, and I spent a lot of time getting very jostled about. However, we did some wonderful cakes made for a competition on a beach theme, Mary Berry from an extreme distance, and heard lots of shrieks when Paul Hollywood appeared on the stage!

Alas on the way home, we found that Earls Court Station was not where we left it (in other words, somehow we got lost!) and walked for ages in the wind and rain before catching a bus, then two tubes to get back to Liverpool Street. I got home bedraggled and tired, as there was also a bus replacement service on, to find our living room alight with candles, a hot bath running, and a cup of tea. What a lovely homecoming.

I went into work early this morning as I had lots to get done...I was at my desk not long after 7:30am. I came home at 4:30am, which means that whereas usually I would still be at my desk right now, I am at home drinking tea, with a gammon joint roasting in the oven to be eaten with parsley sauce later. It is times like this that I could not agree with Jane Austen more when she said 'there is nothing like staying at home for real comfort!'

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Autumn Morning, Autumn Evening

When I stepped out of the front door this morning, I was wearing my trench coat with the button flower bouquet brooch, but still actually gasped because it was so chilly. A proper autumn morning, where your skin tingles, and everything feels really crisp and beautiful. When the air is this cool and crisp, it somehow feels cleaner, and as it fills my lungs it makes me feel invigorated.

I was at my desk for 8:00am this morning, and didn't leave until just before 7:00pm, and when I emerged from the labyrinthine corridors of my building, the cool temperature once again surprised me. The light was already graying and dimming before my eyes which surprised me more. I know that it is the autumn equinox any day now, and suddenly the evenings will start to draw in even more, but the sudden dusk at the close of the day came as a surprise.

I am going to tuck myself up in the warm now, but leave the window open so some of the autumn evening breeze can drift in while I sleep. I love these first days of early autumn, knowing that the rest is ready to unfurl in front of me, like a pathway made of autumn leaves ready to scuff.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Cosy Evening

One of the little rhythms that makes up the patterns of my days is the radio. We seem to wake up just a moment or two before Radio 4 comes on in the morning, and we lay and listen for a while before we get up. And in the evening, I love Radio 4 on again, to go to sleep to. There always seems to be something interesting to listen to, and I find the regularity of the beeps marking the hours, and the regular features soothing somehow.

I have just heard on the weather forecast that there is expected to be a ground frost tonight. I can't believe how just a Sunday or so ago we were sweltering in the sunshine! But I am more than happy to welcome the autumn in, more than ready to skip into my favourite season. One of the things I like about autumn is the preparation, the planning ahead for Christmas, the choosing of my autumn fragrance, the laying in of stocks of tealight candles and cough syrups. Perhaps I was a squirrel in a former life!

Something I did today to get ready for the coming autumn was to buy new bedding. We now have inky violet sheets and pillow cases, and a duvet cover and second pair of pillowcases scattered with tiny pink roses, in what almost looks like Liberty print. There is also a soft violet blanket to go across the foot of the bed.

With the overhead light low and just one side lamp on, a candle burning, and Radio 4 playing, this room is like a little autumn cave, all warm and cosy. I really could never get up again, and was happily ensconced by half past nine this evening.

I really do think that money spent on your bedroom is always money well spent, after all, we spend such a lot of time here. And also, it is never too cold to sleep with the window open, just a little!
Sweet dreams wherever you are!
Love Mimi xxx

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Scenes From a Scrumptious Sunday

Sundays remain for me the best day of the week, even though for the time being I am lucky enough not to have to work on Saturdays either. This past week has flashed by, and I can hardly believe that it is Sunday again already. I seem to have done so much, and also still have so much on my to-do list outstanding.

We have had a family lunch to celebrate my little brother's birthday. I can't believe he will be 26! He is much taller than me so isn't really my little brother but it was lovely to see the family together again. As we walked down to the restaurant for lunch, the Salvation Army Brass Band started to play which was lovely to hear. Although it is far too early in the year, listening to them makes me feel slightly Christmassy!

On our way back home, we bumped into a friend we went to school with, and don't see nearly often enough, so we stopped for a cup of tea with him, before continuing on our way. I wanted to buy some new bedding, a pretty set printed with bird cages, but alas we needed a king size cover and they had only singles, so that will have to wait for another day. (Although we have a double bed, we have a king size duvet on it, to make it extra snuggly)

Now I am snuggled on the sofa with a cup of tea catching up with the premiere of Strictly Come Dancing, seeing the dancers discover who their partners will be. I do love Strictly, and love that it carries us through autumn into winter and deposits us gently on the doorstep of Christmas.

I have a newspaper to read, and there is a lavender scented bath in my near future. Gentle pottering about for a Sunday afternoon, watching the light fade outside the window, feeling the temperature drop slightly, feeling evening creeping on gently.

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a lovely Sunday Love Mimi xxx

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Scrumptious Salad and a Sweet Dessert

Last week, on the way home from babysitting my godchildren, I popped into the supermarket to pick up a few bits. It was Morrisons rather than my usual Waitrose, and it was nice to have a look round somewhere different. Something that really caught my eye was a bottle of inky purple salad dressing made with beetroot and balsamic vinegar. Now I don't like beetroot but I love balsamic vinegar, and over the past few years I have discovered a few things that I didn't used to like I suddenly did (like aubergine) so I decided it was worth trying a bottle.

I am really glad I did, as I have been using it in the most scrumptious salad. I have this lovely little bowl to take salads to work in. In the lid is a little screw top container for the dressing, so you can dress your salad just before you eat it, and the salad doesn't go soggy.

Into the lid-container I pour some of the beetroot balsamic dressing, then into the bowl threw a few handfuls of salad leaves, a mix which included spinach and red chard. Then I added some quartered baby plum tomatoes, and slices of cucumber. I have been using an apple corer to take out the seeds, then slice the cucumber into half moons. I added some shredded chicken, crumbled goats cheese, and chopped walnuts. When it gets to lunch time it is just a case of shaking it all together, then drizzling over the dressing. Do try it, it really is lovely!

I woke up from a dream the other morning, in which I had made a trifle using battenburg cake and chocolate and cherries. I really wanted to create it for some friends, but while I managed to buy battenburg cake with no problems, I couldn't get the cherries I wanted or the chocolate custard, and was on a bit of a tight time scale. So I abandoned my plan to recreate my dream dessert, and instead used a base of battenburg cake and drizzled it with tinned pear juice, then topped with some of the chopped pears. I repeated those layers, then did a layer of custard, and decorated with piped cream coloured pink, and soem edible pink glitter. I would have garnished with cherries, but I didn't have any, so I garnished with cubes of batternburg instead. In retrospect it might be the kind of dessert best made in shot glasses rather than cocktail glasses as I served it, as it is rather sweet. One day I must try and make my dream trifle instead!
what have you been cooking lately?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Tales of a Sleepy Mimi

I have mentioned before that I am working long hours recently - it is a curious thing that from when I settle at my desk with a cup of tea (in a cup and saucer of course) holding my pebble from the Aldeburgh beach, to the time I switch off the light and slip home seems to elapse in the blink of an can it be home time already when I haven't done this or that or even start this? And yet at the same time, how can it still be the same day, when I have done so much?

Last night, I dozed off on the sofa, and so decided to put myself to bed. I snuggled down at about 10:00pm and was soon fast asleep. Suddenly, I had a rude awakening! There was a roar, and what sounded like a lorry pulled up outside our little flat. I actually thought it was morning when I woke up, and it was one of the recycling lorries. As I blinked the sleep away, I realised it was only 10:30pm and opened the window to investigate. I was right, it was a recycling lorry, and it was right outside our window. Having done their recycling, the men were happily sitting in their lorry cab with the engine running having a good old chat. Well the next thing I knew was that I was standing their, in the street, in my dressing gown and slippers banging on his window and asking him to ssshhhhhhhhhhh! As people were trying to sleep!

When I woke up this morning, I couldn't find my dressing gown. It turns out that when I got home last night, I hung it up like a coat!

I am beginning to feel that I am finding my feet at work. Today was so, so hectic - my lunch hour came at 6:00pm, but I feel like I proved myself a little bit. That feels good, and I hope it continues!

I am sitting in the living room this evening on my own, as Carl is out at Supper Club. I have watched the Great British Bake Off, which I love, and am sipping a cooling cup of tea. The window is open and the breeze that blows through is really chilly, but so pleasant and refreshing, like an ice cube in a glass of water on a warm day. I am really relishing this gentle slide into the start of autumn. When I walked to work this morning, I saw a beautiful scattering of leaves on the pavements. I am not entirely sure where they came from, as the trees are still green, but it is like the first whisper, again.

Carl and I took a lovely walk in the park on Sunday. We always feel better somehow for going there. Perhaps it is being amongst the greenery and wildlife, or just stretching our legs and getting some fresh air, but we love it there and feel very lucky to live so close. While we were wandering through on Sunday, we decided that we would try and remember to take a photograph from the same vantage point every Sunday, so we can see the seasons change on film.

I would love to carry on and continue this evening chatter, but the clock is creeping towards half past ten, and bed is calling me - hopefully without the recycling van tonight!

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a peaceful evening
Love Mimi xxx

Sunday, 9 September 2012

106 Days Till Christmas

It's no secret that I love Christmas, and the past few years have discovered that my best way of enjoying it is to spread the preparation out over the preceding months so I can really relax and enjoy the season.

So while I hate seeing advent calendars in WH Smiths, mince pies in the Co-Op, and cards in almost every card shop, I have been quietly making plans and crafts at home, and aim to have nearly everything done so that I can wake up on December 1st ready to celebrate.

Seeing that there are about twelve weeks to go to Christmas Day itself made me realise that I only have 8 weeks left if I want to achieve my goal, and I will have to start putting in a lot more effort, as so far it has mainly been planning and designing on my part. But then my mind wandered, and I wondered, in 12 weeks, what else can I achieve?

If I were to make sure I get my five a day every day, that would be 530 servings of fruit and vegetables! Although I try to eat well, I don't think if I counted back 106 days I would quite total that! If I practised my French each day, how much better at it would I be? Just a little seed of a thought, and while I don't want to spread myself too thin, I do like the idea of seeing how far I can get with something in the twelve weeks I have left.

What would you like to improve, or take up by the time you wake up Christmas morning?

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Work Wardrobe

Whether or not to have a uniform was always a topic of much debate when I worked in the library. There was not even a formal dress code, something which I always thought was a shame. Apart from our name badges, there was little to distinguish staff from customers, which could be a little difficult if you were not a regular, especially now we are in the era of not sitting at desks, but floorwalking looking for customers.

Rewind a few years to when we had professional librarians and 'operational' staff, and the librarians were mainly of an older generation whose clothing set them apart from the 'operational' staff. I don't think it was a conscious thing, but it was noticeable. Fast forward a few years, and there are no 'professional' and 'operational' staff any more. The main argument against a uniform, aside from the financial aspect, was that nobody could agree in staffroom tea break debates what the uniform should look like. Nobody wanted Waterstones-style t-shirts, but equally nobody wanted to wear full suits. It was an academic question anyway, but always provoked interesting debate.

When I started managing my own little library, and then the big library too, my working wardrobe definitely changed. When I started with my own little library it was a shift to wearing more 'serious' clothes for the days I was working there. My favourite was a black pencil skirt and a cashmere jumper. When I started managing at the big library, I did have a little shopping trip and bought a few new things to wear.

Now I am working in the Cabinet Office, clothes are once again in my mind. The Councillors wear suits, on the whole. Their advisors wear suits, mostly, but there are some who don't. The PAs wear a wide variety of clothes in varying degrees of formality. The interesting thing is again, there is no formal dress code, but one seems to have established itself in an unspoken manner.

My wardrobe tends to lean towards the vintage style and floral end of things. I made a conscious decision when I started my new job to be very in control of the image I project, and to dress more towards the suit end of things (although without wearing an actual suit!) rather than the more casual end of things. I do occasionally wear floral, but not so often. Last weekend, as I mentioned, I turned out my wardrobe and had a really good time doing it. As well as putting away my more summer clothes and bringing out my autumn-winter clothes, I arranged them with work wear and home wear being distinct. It was very noticeable to me that since starting my new job, my 'home' and 'work' clothes are far less interchangeable, and I actually like that a lot. It makes me feel more 'at home' to not be wearing clothes that I also wear to work, although I do have one or two cross-over pieces.

My work wardrobe is mainly dresses, and is quite mad-men in inspiration, to me at least. My favourite piece is definitely the green Gok Wan dress. To refresh my wardrobe, I want to look out for some nice jumpers for the new season - not necessarily cashmere, but cashmere-look, very Nigella in style. Although I love my dresses, I am enjoying the pencil skirt and jumper or cardigan look. On Wednesday I wore my black pencil skirt with a cream vest top, and over that a little cardigan in slightly sparkly animal print with my red bead necklace, red lips and nails, and nude high heels. It works better than it sounds! It is ways like this that I can inject a bit of personality into my working wardrobe.

I was really interested to see this article on the internet which talks about what secretaries have worn through the years. There are some outfits there that I would never wear in a hundred years, and some I would love to wear!

What would your dream work uniform be?

Monday, 3 September 2012

Stirring Up Some Sleep

Poor Carl is working so hard recently, long hours, and lots of stress. The logical thing would be that he is ready to fall asleep at the end of the day, and he is exhausted, but too overwhelmed and tired to sleep. We are very attuned to each other, which tends to mean if he doesn't sleep well, I don't, so the past few weeks, I have taken getting us a good night's sleep into my own hands.

First comes opening the bedroom window to let in the cool air, and lighting the oil burner. I usually choose a base of lavender, sometimes with a drop or two of chamomile in it to scent the air.

Next comes standing in the kitchen stirring up a saucepan of sleep inducing elixr. I have a little pair of cups which are bigger than espresso cups, but smaller than teacups, and they are just the right size for bedtime milk. I think sleepy thoughts as I stir the milk over a low heat. Sometimes I flavour it with cinnamon, or honey, or vanilla. Tonight I mean business though, so I have added some tincture of valerian and a splash of rum. I can feel its warm tendrils starting the work already!

We have been listening to the same sleep relaxation every night, but I have found a new one to try for tonight. I wonder if we are getting too used to the one we have been listening to and it is not as effective perhaps. I must get to the library and see if there is a CD I can borrow; in the meantime I peruse Youtube and find something there.

Tonight I have one other trick to try - I found a reflexology technique suggested on a website to try. We shall see tomorrow if all of this has any effect....wishing you all sweet dreams!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Sunday Evening Simmer

Sundays remain my favourite day of the week, even though for the last 5 months I have been lucky enough not to work Saturdays (after 11 years of working Saturdays, up to 3 a month). Sunday evenings, right about now, are possibly the best part of the best day of the week. I have had most of the pleasures of Sunday, dinner is simmering on the stove, and I still have a few Sunday pleasures to partake of before bedtime.

We started the day with a short drive over to Hylands House, as we love to walk around the grounds (and I must confess, yes I do often murmur to myself 'of all this I might have been mistress!' in the manner of Lizzie Bennett!) and on the first Sunday of the month they have a farmers market. My Pride and Prejudice fantasies were fuelled further today, because for the first time, we were there at the right time for a carriage ride around the grounds, pulled by a Suffolk Punch named Holly.

On the way home, we took a little diversion to the farm shop to pick out the first of the early season apples. They have a table with apples on and a sharp knife, so you can sample them before you buy them. We like to pick 7 different varieties and take home 2 of each, as that way we can try a different one each day. This time a pair of pears made their way into my basket as well! I love it here, but haven't been for a while. I also picked up some frozen blackcurrants, blackberries, cherries and gooseberries (separately, not in a combination!) so that I can stir them into porridge for breakfasts.

Then we came home, and enjoyed a pot of tea before Carl got to work on a document he is writing for work, and I put all my clothes back into the wardrobe-closet, having got rid of a lot, and sorted them seasonally. It is really lovely to walk in and see everything so organized, and I discovered a few dresses which had worked their way to the back and I haven't worn for a while.

We then took a walk into town together; I bought the new issue of Craftseller to read in the bath later, and a black gel ink pen. We picked up some coffee from Starbucks (have I mentioned that the Pumpkin Spice Latte is coming to the UK?!) and took a walk around the park. I never get tired of walking round the park with the trees and the lake-pond. We spotted a squirrel today, and a lot of ducks.

And now Carl is serving the dinner that has been simmering on the stove top...a little something that I put together without a recipe, just a gentle potter around the kitchen... Sunday Evening Simmer
In a heavy saucepan, soften an onion, then throw in a carrot or two, cut into coins. Tip in the end of a bottle of white wine, and sprinkle with some dried tarragon. Top up with some good chicken stock, and add a shake of frozen peas. Shred the meat leftover from a roast chicken earlier in the week, and add to the pan. Remember a packet of pearl barley you have, and shake a little of that in too. Then while it comes up to a simmer, whip up some simple dumplings with 4oz self raising flour and 2oz of suet, a good shake of dried mixed herbs, and enough cold water to make a dough. Divide into 8, pop into the pan, place the lid on, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Perfect Sunday evening eating...

The rest of Sunday evening is going to involve writing out my pattern for the owl mug hug...I plan to do it in the manner of Susan Branch, and is the reason I bought the new pen earlier. Then a bath with Craftseller, and early to bed...

I hope your Sunday is as blissful as mine....

Love Mimi xxx

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Starting Over In September

When I was thinking about the blue moon last night, I thought 'how can it be a blue moon? A blue moon is the second full moon in the same calendar month, and there is one full moon every 28 days or so, so how can it be the second one when it is only half way through the month?' and then realised with a jolt that it was actually the last day of August, and today is the first day of September.

This year seems to be rattling away at an alarming rate, but I have had a lot of pleasure from it. I woke up this morning to greet September like an old friend. She answered my welcome with a little nip in the air, cool fresh air which gently blew through the window as we slept. When I walked into town, I spotted several spider webs glistening, and felt that stirring of the back-to-school-new-year-new-start feeling.

Many of my favourite fruits and vegetables are coming into season - I came home from the market yesterday with a brown paper bag full of Victoria Plums, and I am anticipating a visit to our local orchard for early season apples tomorrow. Soon it will be time to splash cinnamon syrup into my coffee and pull out the extra blankets for the bed.

Almost as lovely as the reality of autumn are these last days of summer, the anticipation, the harvest time. I was on a train one evening this week, and saw this wonderful vast field which had been ploughed, next to a field of corn, the two divided by a row of trees. Dusk was falling, but a piercing shaft on sunlight slashed across them highlighting their contrasting colours. So beautiful. It reminded me of harvest festival when I was a little girl. At primary school we always used to have a special whole-school assembly where each class would do a song or a poem or miniature play. When you got into the last class, the oldest children baked bread and were allowed to help serve it and tea and coffee to the special visitors, who I think were probably governors and so on. At school and Sunday school, we decorated shoeboxes and filled them with tins and shiny apples and boxes of tea to give to the old people. Looking back it seems a little odd that we were celebrating the harvest by giving tins!

The year before we were married, we went to a harvest lunch at the church we were married in, and everyone brought with them a home made apple pie. If you read back through the archives ever, you will know what a disaster my poor pie was, but I remember loving that feeling of celebration, and joining together. I am hoping to find a harvest festival service for us to attend this year, and decorate another shoe box, and fill it with lovely things this time.

There is a lovely little delicatessen in the little village where my library-on-a-hill stands, and they bake their own delicious bread. In the window are some varnished loaves to show their skills, including a sheaf of wheat where the ears are individual rolls, and there are little rolls made to look like mice, too. That makes me really want to make bread, as well. I think that perhaps one evening this week I shall bring home a bunch of sunflowers for my kitchen table, bake bread and make soup. Simple, but celebrating the season we are in, and looking forward to the season to come.

My planned task for this afternoon is to thoroughly turn out my clothes closet. It is time to let go of some clothes that I have kept for several years but not worn, to let go of things that are worn out or don't fit or aren't really me. Part of me is scared to have a small collection of clothes, but the reality is that if I am not wearing the others, then really I do have a small wardrobe, I just have some additional clutter. I plan to start to put some of my summer dresses to the back, and bring forwards some wraps and jumpers. After all that, it will definitely be time for a pot of tea...Ceylon today, I think.
Love Mimi xxx

Savoury Muffins

These little muffins are quick and easy to make, and as they bake in the oven, they impart a warm savoury scent that wafts throughout the whole home. They are delicious hot from the oven with a cup of coffee, but serve well at room temperature later, too.

Tie on an apron, pop on the coffee percolator, preheat the oven to 200 oC, and throw these ingredients into a food processor (I used my wonderful Vitamix)
10 oz plain flour 1 tbsp baking powder 2 eggs 225 ml milk pinch salt 2 generous tbsp dollops of caramelised red onion chutney 1 good handful of grated mature cheddar 1 Spring onion, roughly chopped

Whizz it together to make a thick, unctuous mess, partway between a batter and a dough. Spoon into cupcake cases, and top each with a pinch of grated cheese and a crumble of Maldon sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes or so until risen and golden, and try not to burn your fingers as you eat one fresh from the oven.
This recipe makes about 24, and all of them were eaten at the party I took them to. You could experiment with different cheeses and herbs...rosemary and goats cheese would be nice, I think.