Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Not Autumn Yet

For the last two weeks I have been labouring under the misapprehension that it's autumn. At the weekend I made a big dish of baked oats with pears, ready to be warmed up on chilly mornings, and also a vat of beetroot soup to eat for lunch during the week. I had planned to pack away some summer things and even bought a new log basket. 

The weather, however, has been resolutely summery, balmy even. We've days so hot that it's still 26 degrees when I leave work at six pm, and warm evenings without a breath of wind. I've gone back to wearing summer clothes and the children's school has issued a special "hot weather" memo saying children don't have to wear jumpers. It throws me when it gets dark so much earlier than I feel like it should - the warm weather tricks me into thinking it's July not September.

Fortunately, the chocolate banana cake gets eaten whatever the weather. I have frozen the soup.

We are firmly back into the swing of school and work, with a staggering amount of washing to show for it.

But how things are changing - now I have one child who is, well, not exactly happy to iron her own school shirts, but able to do it.

Bella and Angus's first few weeks back at secondary school have gone surprisingly smoothly. They walk to school and back, make their own packed lunches and so far no-one has lost or forgotten anything vital (that they've told me about, anyway....).

After my first full day at work, I came home to bags and blazers on the hall floor, dirty lunchboxes and water bottles all over the kitchen, a dishwasher that still hadn't been emptied from the morning, and washing hanging on the line. There were words. We now have a list of jobs that they have to complete after school, which basically involves hanging up whatever needs hanging up, putting stuff away, washing up and making sure the dishwasher is empty. They bring in any washing on the line and give Ziggy his tea, and Bella and her cousins walk him a couple of times a week which they seem to love. Anyway, the difference this makes to my mood when I walk through the front door is pretty staggering. It just sets the tone for the whole evening. I am also getting back into the habit of using the slow cooker so that dinner is ready when I get in.

My first few weeks as a student teacher are going well. My parents gave me this amazing present which made me smile so much, although I have to confess some of the bottles may have been drunk before the actual job was completed. The course is unbelievably tiring and the work load is pretty intense - I am at work from eight until six every day as a minimum plus lots of reading and planning over the weekend - but being in a classroom full of children is a joy.

Another lovely surprise was this bunch of gorgeous flowers from my friend Abigail - they are the perfect summer to autumn blooms.

We've been getting out every weekend into the woods for a walk. They are lovely at the moment, quiet and still, before they turn into full autumn mode in another month.

I've been pottering around the garden a bit, cutting back all the plants in my pots, giving it all a bit of a tidy up and sort out. I think I enjoy the garden most at this time of year, when I have no expectations of it. But every week that the sweet peas keep flowering, every day that the sedum changes from pale to deepest pink, every cup of tea drunk outside on the bench, feels like a blessing. In another month I'll be planting bulbs and thinking about tucking the garden up the the winter. Not yet though.

I hope you are all well and enjoying these last warm weeks. 

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Tie Dye and Apple Pie

While I've been busy trying to squeeze every last drop out of the summer holidays, the weather has jumped straight into autumn. We had the chilliest August bank holiday weekend in years and when the alarm went off this morning it seemed so dark. 

During a very wet and windy week we managed a day out to Weald and Downland Living Museum. I love it there. The grounds are beautiful and it's nice to just wander around and look inside the different houses, and it's great for the kids too. 

Angus had the map situation under control.

As we went back to the car to collect our picnic the rain clouds had really started to build up, and before you knew it we were all finishing lunch in the car with the rain thundering on the roof.

At one point we even wondered if we should just go home, but I'm glad we persevered because the rain did (almost) stop and we were able to explore the houses a little more.

I took this photo of the cafe area because I liked the way the trees were reflected in the water. It was only when I looked at it again later that I realised how much the trees are starting to change colour.

The museum has a small mill in which they produce their own wholemeal flour. I bought a bag and added a little to my white sourdough loaf. I like the flavour of wholemeal but find too much makes for a very heavy loaf - a ratio of about four parts white to one part wholemeal seems to work for me, keeping the lightness of the white flour but adding depth and texture with the wholemeal.

The bank holiday weekend was mostly spent getting jobs done before school and work starts again; oiling the new doors, putting up hooks, tidying the garage, cutting back hedges and trees at the front of the house, going to the tip. But there was time for a little rainbow tie dye session, something Bella had wanted to try all summer. Despite following the instructions carefully and much rinsing, everything came out of the machine a mixture of coral pink and turquoise blue. Not very rainbowy, but Bella and her cousins all seemed reasonably happy with the results.

My colleague gave me some enormous apples from the tree in her garden and I spent a very pleasant Sunday morning making a pie. I followed the recipe to the letter, finely slicing the apples, making my own sweet shortcrust pastry and faffing around with a lattice topping. It was time consuming but satisfying at the same time and I was proud of my efforts.

It's not just in the kitchen where the seasons are changing - little autumn touches are creeping in here and there throughout the house. I added my favourite wooden pear to the shelf in the hall and moved my much loved wooden trees onto the round shelf to replace the shells and stones I like to display there over the summer.

I even dug out and untangled my leaf garland. I usually hang it across the mantel but I love it against the green-blue wall here. Changing the decorations in the house to follow the seasons is one of my favourite things to do.

Outside of the house, we know summer is ending because we have now entered Muddy Dog Season. When it's really cold we shower Ziggy in the bathroom, but he had to suffer the indignity of a hose-down in the back garden here. I think his face says it all.

The end of summer always brings with it a desire to pick up the yarn and crochet hooks after months of not really wanting to crochet much at all. I made a little cushion cover, slightly different on each side, and am making a baby blanket for someone. It's small and very manageable, I'm enjoying it actually. It's nice crochet to do in front of the TV.

Life is starting to gather pace here as we all return to school and work. I am back into my old routines of planning meals and checking the calendar, washing school uniform and thinking about slow-cooker meals. Angus starts secondary school tomorrow and Bella goes back Monday. I had a day at University (via Zoom) yesterday and my first day at school today and I swing between feeling completely overwhelmed by information and really excited to just get stuck in. Everything feels odd at school, with the covid-related changes, and I think everyone is trying to get to grips with it, and I think a lot of people feel overwhelmed too which is reassuring I suppose. I am looking forward to next week when all the children come back. A school without the noise of small people is no fun at all.