menu plan monday…

It is definitely that time of year when every magazine you look at has eye-catching headlines such as ‘Best Year ever’,  ‘Your time to shine’,  Make 2017 your year of change’  – I can never decide whether this is motivating or suggests that we are lacking a certain amount of satisfaction with our lives and are left wanting more or different.

The start of the New Year does seem to bring with it a desire to change many aspects of our life that we are disappointed with and of course we all begin with such good intentions but often by the time we are midway through February we have slipped back into our old habits and the resolutions we made become a distant memory.

If I were to make a list of all the things I would like to change it would be so long I wouldn’t have a hope of fulfilling them all this or any other year.  So then I start wondering why I want to change and I can only say to try to make my life feel better – less stressful – more as I imagine it could be – certainly happier, healthier, perhaps a little wealthier – plenty of me time, family time – a well run house, a glorious garden and even some room for creativity.  Of course I then have to wonder why on earth I am not already living this perfect life!

However, in my Economy mode I am whizzing straight past all the magazines with such appealing headlines – I already have a subscription to Country Living magazine (Xmas present) so for as long as I can hold out that is my lot.

This month I am concentrating on compiling Menu plans – mainly for our evening meal at present and then I will deal with my lunches later so I don’t make things too difficult for myself all at once.  I am aiming for low-cost, no waste, nutritional meals using seasonal fruit and veg as much as possible and also using up items from my store cupboard, fridge and freezer.  See the list here.

I have laminated my Good Food – Get 5-a-day every day chart of seasonal winter fruit and veg – this tells me all the British grown fruit and veg and also those items from further afield that are in season and therefore should not be too expensive.  Blueberries and Strawberries are not on the list so I will use up any frozen berries to go with my natural yoghurt for breakfast.

 

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My menu plan this week uses up a few items already in my stock cupboard but most of the veg I will have to buy fresh as I only have celery, carrots and onions left over together with some rather soft radish and a bit of dubious broccoli.

The sprouts, parsnip, leeks, cabbage and beetroot are all in season and British, the Sweet potato is also in season although not grown here.

The items not listed as seasonal are broccoli, green beans and mushrooms.

I am introducing 3 new recipes this week –

  • Vegetable Stew (substituting Sweet potato for the Butternut squash – this will also use up the remaining leek from the Stroganoff on Tuesday).
  • Spiced Chickpea bakes
  • Herby Brown Rice Salad

From my choice of fruit and veg I am told that I will be enhancing my Beta – carotene intake effective against viruses and bacteria, Vitamin C  for my immune system and phytochemical that help the digestive system.

I am looking forward to making the new recipes – if they pass the taste test then I will put them into my recipe binder – if not they will go straight in the bin so I am not keeping recipes that I will never make again.  Any modifications I will add notes to the recipe for next time.

I will be going shopping tomorrow night so will then know just how economical my shop is (or not!) in financial terms – bearing in mind the cold weather a warming Vegetable Stew sounds just right this week.

Have a good week.

 

 

 

 

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Changing colours…

Car Park Vista

On my way through the car-park last night I noticed the leaves on the trees opposite are quickly starting to change colour now and there are tinges of gold and flame red appearing.  I have been so busy at work that I have not had the time to reflect the changes in my house.

Autumn Display

So this morning I thought I would gather a few things together in my Kitchen once I had given it my Friday clean up.  In the garden I found a few autumn berries for my tiny jam jar and surprise, surprise I noticed the Chives are in flower again…is this usual for this time of year?

Breakfast Tray

I took my little ‘Breakfast Tray’ out of the cupboard – it has everything I need for a leisurely weekend continental breakfast with my old silver teaspoon all polished and gleaming and a recent addition of the little butter knife given to me by a friend which says ‘You spread Joy’ on the blade…

Table Display

and Voila…my new table display for the weekend.  It will make breakfast time all the more enjoyable.

Walking in a winter wonderland…

January Snow

I know you might have seen enough of it but I love the snow… it is so magical and this is one of my favourite pictures taken before this weekends heavy snowfall.

Snow Patterns Grid

When I ventured out into the back garden it really was virgin snow and the soft powdery kind,  not even a cat had passed through and my footprints were the very first.  It seemed a shame to disturb it but I wanted to feed the birds and at the same time capture all the different patterns the snow had made, even the garden chairs that have got left out look inviting and the washing line, bottom left picture, is like a line of thick snow suspended in space.

Wheelie Bins

Even the wheelie bins are snuggled up close, they look as if they have their winter hats on!

First day of November…

Now the clocks have changed and October has slipped by it feels as if we are really settling into winter.  Dark mornings and colder weather greet us each day, but how pleasant to sit in the evening by the warm  fireside with a candle or two flickering away in the background.  This is now the time for planning; getting prepared for the celebrations to come as Christmas is just around the corner.  This is what I wrote in my Art Journal from Celebrating the Year 2009.

November

 with its misty mornings and crisp starry nights. 

An inky black sky lit up by lamplight and stars and of course -fireworks.

 

Both the trees and ground are now bare once again as everything settles down for rest.  The leaves that have fallen from the trees crunch and rustle beneath us – as crisp as the air itself, making the acoustics for this month stand out from all the others.

 

Although November is remembered mostly for its traditional events of Bonfire Night and Remembrance Day my own memories will always be of the November day when my youngest daughter married in the village church in Masham, surrounded by family and friends in such a charming place.  The brilliant sunshine cutting through the sharp cold air giving a special quality to the autumn colours and the photos we took.  For us it was a day of celebration and joy from beginning to end.

“My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.”
–  Robert Frost, My November Guest

This is a really busy month for me, people and Craft Fairs to visit, lots of making and baking to do not to mention the shopping – I can’t wait to get started.  Have a great November I know I will.

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O Hushed October morning

Middle Autumn Days…

‘Sometimes in the middle autumn days,
The windless days when the swallows have flown,
And the sere elms brood in the mist,
Each tree a being, rapt, alone’

George Orwell

We headed up to Scotland last weekend on a flying visit.  We had no agenda this weekend in fact we had ‘lost the plot’ a little as it is a while since our last visit but it is always good to get away and I am like an excited child waiting to catch a glimpse of the sea.  I especially love this time of year it is so peaceful and quiet – when we woke on Saturday morning the sun shone brilliantly beckoning me into the garden to do a little late weeding.

As I wandered around checking the beds and plants I noticed the once colourful Jubilee bunting that fluttered all Summer between the trees had now been torn away from its anchorage by the recent high winds and lay lifelessly draped over the fading Rosa Rugosa bushes like a symbolic memento of a year so full of celebration that is sadly coming to an end.

Whilst part of the garden is in decline there were unexpected surprises at every turn.  The Nasturtiums continue to grow and flower adding vivid spots of colour here and there…

as do the pretty little deep purple Salvias that give off the most delightful sage smell as you brush by…

and what is this Primula doing already in flower?

…and my problem pond – although full of Sycamore leaves and Pine needles it is for once absolutely crystal clear and Algae free.

After a late lunch we drove up through the North Rhins (we are in the South) to the top of the Peninsula – the sky was a magnificent deep blue usually found on a Summers day.  These are boats taken out of the water for maintenance work on Wig Bay – I always think they look quite majestic with their tall masts.

Equally majestic is the stunning Cow Parsley like a guard of honour lining the grass verges on either side of the narrow lanes.

I love the red corrugated tin clad farm buildings in this area contrasting with the green surroundings and the blue sky.

When dusk begins to descend the whole place takes on a sombre mood with the varying shades of grey against a cool silvery sea – this picture is looking along the shore to the village – a more wintry feeling is certainly closing in – the long sweeping beach is gradually being covered by seaweed tossed around by a turbulent sea.

And all too soon our weekend was over and we set off back to ‘busyland’ across the border!

I hope you enjoyed your whistle-stop tour of our little cottage garden and the North Rhins in my next post I will tell you about our stop off on the way back down at the Craft Fair in the cutest village of Kirkbean.

Welcome to my new blog readers – leave me a comment and introduce yourselves when you have time.

O hushed October morning…

The mornings are noticeably darker now and I always struggle to wake up without the sunlight streaming through our bedroom window – not that we had many sunny mornings this year!    Each day as I set off for work  I am now well wrapped in coat, scarf and gloves to insulate me from the cool nip in the air.

This weekend we had an indulgent day in Manchester, firstly at the Whitworth Gallery viewing an exhibition of paintings by David Hockney and one or two fascinating new ‘installations’  followed by lunch at the Gallery’s award winning cafe and then a walk through the surrounding park collecting leaves to press for future craft work.  Afterwards we moved on down the road to the University to visit the Artists’ Book Fair held in the Holden Gallery by Hotbed Press.  This was our third year and it is great to chat with the artists and be inspired by all their new work.  My favourite this year was a tiny concertina book which opened out to show a series of watercolour line drawings of two latin American dancers – the artist had captured the movement of the dance perfectly.

As we are well into Autumn now and it is the time for ‘gathering in’ many churches will be holding their Harvest Festival services and at the same time there will be events hosted up and down the country to celebrate the humble British apple – this is what I wrote for October in my Art book ‘Celebrating the Year 2009’

 

October is the time of harvest Festivals and the month

we also celebrate Apple Day.

We went to our first Apple Day a few years ago at Erddig, a

National Trust property in Wales.

Until that moment I had never fully realised just how  many

varieties of apples we grow in this country,

partly because when we buy our apples in a supermarket

the choice is often limited to 5 or 6 different types

when in fact there are hundreds.

Seeing them all together in one place was like a treasure trove

and we watched a botanical artist delicately painting them

individually with absolute precision.  These paintings

act as a factual record and historical

archive should a variety become forgotten or extinct.

 By far, the smaller Russet apples are my favourite.  The subdued

colours – from golden brown and burnt umber to

silver-grey, and the rougher skin textures are quite

amazing and stand out against the perfect

blemish free apples on the supermarket shelf.  There is

something of the past captured in the

Russets; they seem ‘earthier’ and are the apples

that past poets wrote about.  They are part of the bountiful

harvest to be found at this time of year.

 Apple Day events are happening all across the counties and are announced on the website at Common Ground and the National Trust.  Quite often you are able to sample and buy the apples on show so that you can rush home afterwards and bake some delicious pies.

Common Ground initiated Apple Day on October 21 1990 in Covent Garden and launched it countrywide with over 50 events in 1991.  These ranged from markets in village halls to menus in National Trust houses, pruning, and grafting classes, apple road shows by horticultural societies and apple food and drink in the Houses of Parliament.

 

We have a few busy weekends ahead of us doing the usual rounds of visiting our beach cottage, my mum and finally my mum-in-law but I hope we can squeeze in a visit to one of the Apple Day events.  As I am still managing to stick with eating my apple a day I would really like to stock up on a few different varieties as a welcome change to the limited ones on offer in the supermarkets.

Have a good week everyone and thank you to all my new friends who left me such supportive comments after my last post when my daughter left home recently – I felt very comforted and am pleased to report that I am feeling so much better this week and slowly getting used to the quiet empty house.

 

Nothing but September…

As October is now fast approaching and September draws to a close the changing season is now very noticeable  – the darker nights and cold mornings with bright sunshine and swirling mists.  The leaves are just beginning to turn and fall – this is what I wrote for September in my Art Book ‘Celebrating the Year 2009’ 

September is the month when the summer draws to a close.  Those warm carefree days now fading away and we begin to cherish the sunny days we have left.  I begin to search out my recipes for warming casseroles and Bean Stew flavoured with tomatoes.  My dad always grew tomatoes and my mum would spend her time making Tomato Chutney and pickling onions when we had gone back to school.  September is traditionally a month to preserve the fruits of our allotments and gardens and begin the baking once again.  There is another kind of preservation that is important and that is our heritage and this is the month that you are able to take a peek at places which are of historical interest that are not normally open to the public.

 

This year we went to Stannington near Sheffield (where I lived when I was two) to see the little Unitarian Chapel which has beautiful and original stained glass windows.

 

 

We then went further afield to Hathersage in the Peak District to North Lees Hall, an Elizabethan Tower House (which is now rented as a Holiday let) and is thought to be the inspiration for Thornfield Hall in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre as it is said that she often stayed here.

Inside you can wander around the rooms where many original features have been maintained and eventually if you make it to the top of the house by climbing the crooked winding staircase you come out on the roof…not for the faint hearted!

Heritage Open Days celebrates England’s fantastic architecture and culture by offering free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission. Every year on certain advertised days in September, buildings of every age, style and function throw open their doors, ranging from castles to factories, town halls to tithe barns, parish churches to Buddhist temples. It is a once-a-year chance to discover hidden architectural treasures and enjoy a wide range of tours, events and activities which bring to life local history and culture.

Scotland holds a similar event and whilst on our journey home we came across this little Chapel in Ruthwell near Dumfries.  A very simple little stone whitewashed building on the outside…

…but quite surprising inside – dramatic contrasting colours adorn the plastered walls and to one side is the finest example of an early Anglo-Saxon Stone Cross said to date from the 8th Century.  It used to be located outside but has been brought inside to help preserve it where upon it had to be sunk into the floor because of its height.  After our tour we were directed across to the little church hall to have tea and home-baked cakes…delicious!

Sadly we didn’t get to visit any of the open days this year nor make Tomato Chutney – where did September go?