It's that time again; new starts, new terms, new teachers and new routines. September always feels more like New Year to me than New Year. I was really happy to go back to work yesterday; don't get me wrong, another week of holiday would have been lovely, but it has to come to an end at some point and the children are ready for school to start again. They would deny that but I think they'll be happy to be back among their friends and in the classroom environment. It was dark when I got up yesterday, and raining too, which made autumn suddenly seem close, although hopefully we'll get some more warm weather this month. I'm not quite ready to pack away my sandals yet.
I sucked every last drop out of the final week of the summer break. I bought new school uniform and school shoes, met friends in the park for picnics, tackled the garden (with a lot of help from my sister). I deliberately made myself something really tasty for lunch each day. I miss my nice lunches when I'm at work, and I used to love this meal when I was a stay at home mum, cooking something that only I liked, that I could eat in silence while reading a magazine. Last week I made omelettes, salads, courgette fritters, garlic mushrooms on toast.
We had some home days where I pottered and crafted and ticked jobs off my list. I wrote it at the start of the summer holidays and it was full of things like: sort through filing cabinet, paint plant stand, clean out garage, get car serviced, book eye test, get hair cut. Things I struggle to do in term time, and I'm pleased that I got a lot of those chores done as it means my weekends will be free for weekending, not boring grown up stuff - for a few weeks at least I hope.
I spent a wonderful day in London with my friend Abigail on Friday. We visited the State Rooms in Buckingham Palace first as we wanted to see the exhibition of the Queen's Wardrobe and it was just amazing. So many beautiful clothes, and so interesting to see how fashions changed over the decades. Her coronation gown was a sight to behold. Then we walked through Belgravia and Hyde Park to our lunch destination in The Orangery at Kensington Palace.
We had "afternoon tea" for lunch which came on a three tiered stand piled high with cucumber sandwiches, mini wraps and bagels, scones, cakes, macarons, tiny little tartlets - everything so dainty and perfect and completely delicious.
Suitably refreshed, we explored Kensington Palace and the grounds, which was all as lovely as you would imagine, before heading home.
It was a nice finale to the school holidays and I'm really glad we saved such a special day out until the end.
I cooked up a storm over the weekend, making all sorts of things to fill lunchboxes for the week ahead. I've made this salad a few times now for myself and it's become a favourite.
I substituted the spinach for parsley as that's what I had in the fridge, and it's delicious warm or cold, and keeps well for a few days without going soggy.
I few weeks ago, I made cookies but my cookie recipe gives enough for about 30 cookies (too much for us, unbelievably!) so I froze half of it. I found it in the freezer the other day, defrosted it and baked them. Oh my goodness, why have I never done this before? It's so blindingly obvious, and such a time saving way of baking. I am always going to freeze half my cookie dough from now on. Also - I am loving how I can get more than two baking trays in the oven at once by using the side oven while cooking something else in the main oven! I know, it's too much.
Remember all those blackcurrants I grew and lovingly picked in the back garden, and how I was going to make blackcurrant liquorice ice cream with them? Well it got cooler and I didn't fancy ice cream so I made them all into compote.
The last few mornings have definitely felt like porridge mornings.
I went blackberry picking with the kids and my parents on Sunday in the grounds of Stansted House (pictured at the top, with the cricket match happening in front - such an English scene!) It's a favourite local walk and excellent blackberry hunting ground, and I have two kilos washed, bagged and frozen. This makes me feel very happy and satisfied, and like I've done something productive. Most will go into jelly but I'll save some for blackberry and apple crumbles which is probably one of my favourite puddings ever.
Wishing you and yours a happy return to school, if you haven't already.
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