Sitting on the settee, the fire quietly crackling away, half completed mug of tea next to me.
Actually, we are all sitting here, contentedly allowing Sunday to slide by. Eldest is frowning with concentration as he types out a report on the causes of animal extinction in the UK, Youngest is surfing the web looking at cars and motor bikes, Himself is doing something similar - occasionally they share their latest find and compare vehicle laden anecdotes with each other.
We are still on our new style of eating and Himself and I agree that we feel so much better for being on it. Not that we were particularly unhealthy before (at least I don't think we were) but omitting purchased breads, reducing salt and animal fats and trying to have as near as every meal cooked from scratch is paying off. I still bake for the boys - they would 'wither away' and wonder what the world had become without biscuits and cake. So - no - we are not 100% virtuous and I don't pretend to be.
Today's lunch was a thick and warming soup we affectionately call 'Skye Soup' with hunks of soda bread. It is good watching three hungry menfolk wolfing down bowls of steaming soup.
The soup is so named for a couple of reasons. We've been up to Skye on holiday and discovered and visited the Isle of Skye Bakery in Portree. The food there is to die for, home made, rustic, filling and very very tasty. The following year, when a dear friend went up to Skye, she was clutching a list of places to visit which we'd pressed into her hands, of which this bakery was fairly near the top!
So she did, and like us found the food to be filling and wholesome and ordered a take-away of a thick and warming butternut and lentil soup. We both did a little internet delving and found a version which we think is as near as the original Skye Bakery recipe - hence the name 'Skye Soup'.
The recipe I use is HERE - the only difference is I usually add a red pepper but today it was a glossy yellow one :)
The soda bread - now a staple which I bake every second or third day - comes from HERE and is as simple as simple can be. My only addition is a generous tablespoon of chia seeds for good measure.
As for the baking for the boys? Well seeing the oven was hot for the bread, seemed a waste not to utilise that heat and baked a batch of the all essential bird buns and a pile of peanut butter cookies - which I am still experimenting with. The original recipe is far too sweet for us so I have reduced the sugar by more than half and added loads of oaty goodness! I will bake them again (all in the name of science of course) and shall share the recipe once I get the proportions correct :) In the mean time the boys are happily eating the results of the test kitchen baking :D
Any hoo, Sunday has turned from a snowy cold day to a crisply cold evening. I'll have to return to the kitchen shortly to start the evening meal. Eldest has requested a frittata and roast veg before he sets off back to uni. Just need to finish my mug of tea and chatting with you first - what a good way to end the weekend :)
I was reading a new-to-me blog early this morning (it was is still gloomy and grey outside) and one of the posts really reached out to me - 'Abundance'. (Thanks to Aril from EAaRfGBT)
I have been quietly working away at practising gratitude which has certainly helped me when ever I feel a dip in my mood. 'The more you are grateful for, brings more to be grateful about'.
It is one of the reasons I write my present blog. To remind myself of all the small and precious things that happen on a daily basis - the sort of things that easily get forgotten over time.
My original blog started as year long photographic exercise to mark the first year of senior school of my eldest son. I looked back to see when the first post was and it is dated 09.09.09 ... nearly 10 years ago .... it has evolved somewhat and transformed to my present format.
Where is this leading? Well, I have a lot to be grateful for.
Like my husband who, with my boys, built me a beautiful summerhouse and converted it into a the most wonderful personal space where I can paint, draw, listen to music, watch birds, drink tea. And for all of summer and autumn that is exactly what I did.
Then winter came and the summerhouse struggled with persistent winter rain seeping in constantly and despite checking all the obvious routes - we were left scratching our heads. I had to move back into the house. I was left surprisingly bereft and combined with the downturn of the weather to the most dreary wet and dull winter I felt like I'd fallen down a hole.
Himself every weekend (weather permitting) would work on another theory where the rain was getting in, then we would have to wait for it to rain to check ..... no joy. As the water rose and receded, I drew a line around the mark, logging the waxing and waning of the leaks.
We continued like this for weeks.
But, (carefully dancing with joy) this last ten days or so - the tide seems to have turned, both figuratively and literally, despite the rain, the wood is drying out and there are no new water marks. (Woop woop).
His dedication and persistence to mend something for me was above and beyond the call of duty. SO today, I go back out and tidy my summerhouse studio, move back in - in a temporary sort of way, we still need to replace all the inner wooden panels now they and the floor are drying beautifully and relay the carpet - BUT I can get out and and be in my wonderful personal space where I can paint, draw, listen to music, watch birds, drink tea.
Like I say, I have a lot to be grateful for. xxxxxxxx
Thank you too for all the lovely comments you take the time to leave and hello to more new followers - welcome to my small part of the world - thank you for joining in :D
Not sure if it is this rather dank and dreary and decidedly damp weather (ooh I love alliteration) or the fact my kitchen mojo is no longer languishing in idle but revving at 'ready-steady-cook speed' but this last week some half decent menus have been carried triumphantly out and served with a bit of a flourish.
I mean - Monday we had the surprisingly delish lentil loaf with fat free Spanish roasties,
Tuesday was quiche and roast vegetables,
Wednesday was spicy Spanish chickpeas and spinach stew,
Thursday was err err - forgotten but apparently it was good coz the boys said it was good (grief how could I forget??) still they liked what ever it was!
Friday we had vegetarian chilli and couscous,
Saturday lunch - creamy vegan tomato and spinach soup and Irish soda bread.
Now, one or two comments and via a couple of direct emails, I was asked to jot down some of the meals/recipes that we were trying out, so, as I sit here waiting for jacket potatoes to cook (ooh the kitchen smells gloriously of hot cooking potatoes) I thought I would make a start :)
Right here goes - be prepared for a rather random rendition of this recipe (alliteration appears again!)
Start with a variety of your favourite vegetables all chopped into friendly fork sized pieces (not too small as they shrink in the heat and you wouldn't want to feel short changed!)
I've used combination of this list;
Mushrooms - halved
Celariac - cubed
Carrots - chopped
Pepper (green/red/yellow) chunked
Onion - quartered
Cauliflower - broken into florets
Courgette - thick slices
Parsnips - peeled and cut into long quarters
Broccoli - same as the cauliflower - florets and leave as much stalk on - they cook sooooo tenderly too
Sweet potato - cut into 'chip' lengths
French beans - topped and tailed
Basically any vegetable you have - get chopping!
Quantity wise, I chose a large flat metal baking tray and kept adding my chopped veg until the tray was nicely covered. I reasoned that if I made too much it could go in the 'fridge til the next time. I needn't have worried!
Now.... get some oil - sunflower or olive - about a tablespoon and drizzle the oil over the vegetables. Using your hands ruffle everything together until the vegetables are coated.
Season well, salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Again lightly ruffle the vegetable pieces around ensuring all beautifully seasoned.
Place your baking tray in the centre of your pre-heated oven (200 deg c) and roast for about 20 - 25 mins until all yummy and soft and golden brown and succulent and tasty and steaming hot!
Now, if you can hold yourself back from scoffing the lot, serve it with your main for a scrumptious meal..... and if per small chance you have any left, the soft and tender vegetables are wonderful warmed up and served on freshly toasted soda bread for lunch the next day.
Now, should you like a slightly more sensible version of this recipe rather than my overly excitable rendition - have a look HERE.
And if you need any more encouragement to try - when I ask the boys what they fancy eating - so far their first request is 'whatever as long as it has roast vegetables...'
Since leaving full time work it has taken me a while to 'find myself' again and re-discover my love for a number of things.
I'd denied myself anything too creative beyond knitting and crochet. Gardening became a chore of the-weekend-weed-dash, reading was for people who had the energy and I'd forgotten that I like to cook. Not LOVE to cook - no, not that dedicated! But I used to like cooking nevertheless.
Himself enjoys his food (but remains as lean as a bean pole - sigh) and the boys have the same outlook and leanness (not trying to sound bitter .... I look at food and feel the calories layering themselves on me!).
Not really sure what the tipping point was from the 'liking' to the 'perfunctory' when it came to my cooking style but I suspect a heady combo of having small children, one who was bordering on being an 'airplant' (goodness knows what he ate yet he still grew) and another who was a 'mangetout' (but only with his favorite foods) and the all consuming work.
I would come back drained, have no inspiration and would reach for anything Child A might eat some small token of, Child B who might eat all but only if he liked it, Husband with hollow legs and me who would look comfortably round yet be starving on the inside. Sigh.
Any hoo, fast forward several years - Child A and Child B are now both young men and both taller than me, Himself is still lean while I am still comfortably round.... (and learning to love myself as I am).
Where is this, you might ask, all leading too? Well, I have quietly re-discovered the kitchen is not longer a combatant zone where I go reluctantly and aggressively defend myself against the pots and pans. With a different mind set and a bit of a plan - the meals now come out are far healthier and fulfilling (in more ways than one) and I remain reasonably calm.
For the more technically minded (or persnickety) of you I am trying to maintain a vegetarian based gluten free diet with the occasional token fish for the carnivores in the family. So far so good. We all seem to feel 'good' on it. It is early days - still time to fall off the chuck wagon and return to my old ways (will endeavor to avoid this particular pitfall) - just might even share a recipe or two here as well :)
As for the pictures which all seem to be predominately baked goods? Most of them are from Eldest's new cell phone as he tries out his camera. I promise there have been well behaved and healthy options too - except the evidence has been eaten!
Nuff now - best get to it - things to do, paintings to.... errr..... paint and tea to drink - speak soon x
Over the weekend was the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch and for the first time this year, I joined in. Previous years I was deeply ensconced in a working day and could only observe as a passive viewer and last year I was not settled into myself and although I did think about joining - all I did was think a fleeting thought which quickly then fleeted off....!
However, this time, I have already been quietly logging down my feathery visitors to the bird table when I am out in the studio. There have been moments of joyfully silently squealing (so not to frighten the birds off) when seeing something new to me and moments of quiet smiles when sparrows visit or robins posture.
I do grimace somewhat at my regular squirrel visitor. She has finally got the message (in the bottle) when after many various attempts to squirrel proof the feeder I finally found that having a large 2l pop bottle suspended on the post so far has flummoxed her. She is not stupid and it will only be a matter of time when she has worked out how to get passed my weedy human efforts :)
Any hoo back to the Big Count. Thank goodness they run it over three days and it can be done at ANY time because the usual weekend activities and the vagaries of the weather did hinder me somewhat - but I did finally get my count in *yAy* happy me :)
Did I sit with note book and mug of tea?
Did I happily graze on the home baked bird bites as planned?
Did I by 'eck!!
Of course not, I did manage to tick off the birds in between framing pictures and listening to a podcast - thank goodness they have got used to me wandering around in the studio and my movements did not scare them off :)
Now, I don't consider myself a 'birder' or 'twitcher' or even as far as an enthusiastic amateur - but they do bring me pleasure and their place in this world is important.
♥I thought I better also let you know that this year I won't be doing the heart-♥-thon, a combination of being busy and not having enough images to do the usual 14 days ♥worth - if you have been good and collected your images, please do go on ahead, I l♥ve seeing everyone's photos and stories. ♥
Best stop waffling now, I've just noticed my brew has gone cold, so I have been sitting here a bit too long! Have yourselves a good Tuesday and if the sun isn't shining don't worry - be your own sunshine :)
WoW - what a lovely❤ response to the photo scavenger hunt! Such a brilliant variety of pictures and stories - I love being able to visit you, read your tales and see the images - thank you all for joining in! It has been great popping in and commenting on NeW photo-hunters too x
And while I am on it - HELLO to my new followers - welcome to my corner of the world - I hope you enjoy the ride :D it makes me really HaPpY to see you!
Now, February 2018 is a particularly awkwardly placed month for our hunt, so I did dither a bit which day to choose. Any hoo - for the more keen (I'm looking at you Jayne!!) here are next month's words.
..... drum roll please....
February's Scavenger Photo-Challenge starts here!
Begins with a...J
My own choice
All you need to do is be inspired by the list.
interpret it as YOU please - think outside the box,
think laterally, collect photos,
either freshly or from your archives
and most importantly - have FUN!
Ok, it is now down to YOU - we shall reconvene and and reveal our pictures and a little bit of waffle, towards the end of February (starting Friday 23rd).
Our first walk of the year was on a rather dull (but fortunately dry) day. One of the photos I took was the one above. I'd noticed the far distant view of the sun trying to squeeze through the clouds. It was only once I was home and downloaded the pictures - the first thing I saw was the yellow warning sign.... oh. Wish I'd noticed that sooner - I would have moved to the left and taken a better image. Sigh.
Starts with an .... O
I have a friend who just knows.
- thank you xS
A small shell on a sandy beach one summer, found by a small boy and proudly shown off - treasure indeed.
We always take down our chrimbly decorations down on New Years Day - it feels right - It is the first day of the new year so sweep everything clean and start anew.
We, over the years have collected a number themes ranging from the traditional of red and gold, Scandi-style of silver, white and wood, Victoriana style, all green, natural (cones, twigs, cinnamon sticks etc), vintage glass and finally - the above ornaments in the image. 'Bollywood' style.
Youngest wanted them a few years ago and I must admit being rather taken aback at his choice but as he was so insistent, I buckled and bought them. He was correct. They looked fantastic on the tree - the colours popped and the tree looked really festive. Strangely now, every year when I throw out the question of .... 'what theme shall we have on the tree this year?.... No one chooses these?? Any hoo - where was I? Oh yes, colourful ... when I was putting the decorations away this year - these jolly ornaments spilled out of their box and reminded me that once again they have been overlooked. May be 2018 will be their year?
my own choice
July 2016 was a holiday of dreams. It was not only a wonderful holiday on a small sandy island in the Outer Hebrides where my heart simultaneously broke at the beauty of it and was healed by the beauty of it...... it was there that I realised that where I was working was breaking me and I should leave. For that - this little island and that particular walk in my photo - will always be precious to me.
Ok, that's me done, off to see what you lovely lot have been up to :) xxx
During the days when I am out in the studio I am lucky enough to watch the birds visiting the feeder table. There are the ground feeders - the blackbirds, dunnocks, collared doves, wood pigeon, They bumble below the bird-table. Furtling about the plants looking for fallen scraps or the sunflower seeds I've scattered for them.
There there are more flighty birds, the ones that flit in, grab a beakful and flit out again. The shy coal tit, the briefly stopping blue tit, the occasional great tit. Their visits are quick and I have to be equally as quick to see them - it is such a pleasure to catch a glimpse.
Then there are the oh so brilliant visitors that make my heart skip a beat when I see them. The nuthatch - I held my breath when I first saw one. The goldcrest, greenfinch both set my heart a flutter. Other, less showy but equally welcome are the sparrows. Once so common around our garden - I occasionally see a timid four birds at any one time.
Regular bossy drop-ins - the robins, chase after the dunnocks and doves and sing their defiant ownership of the garden. The more secretive wren quietly skips along the hedges and fences until she notices a cat then she sings out a trilling song.
We do get more garrulous guests - the magpies, occasional starlings and once or twice a jackdaw - but not that often.
Anyhoo, inspired by my feathery distractions - I decided this year that I would join in the 'Big Garden Birdwatch' run by the RSPB and sent away for their pack. Apart from all the essential tick boxes and identity sheets and very useful little calendar - a recipe card fell out.
It looked like something my hollow-legs would eat - so I tried it out. The first batch did not last long ... the final one being eaten while it was still slightly warm. The second and third batches lasted slightly longer - but only just. Himself devours them almost as fast as the woodpigeon clears the fallen seed. Youngest scoffs them as enthusiastically as the starlings and Eldest takes them to uni and has two for breakfast with a mug of coffee. (Which I am delighted about - he is not a breakfast eater and ends up feeling rotten halfway through the day - since munching these little buns of yumminess he seems to last until lunch time).
Want the recipe ?
You'll have to go here and it is free all you have to do is spend a little time and count the birds in your garden - it will be worth it :D