Sunday, 17 January 2021

January


Time feels strange at the moment. So much has happened since I last posted (hello Lockdown 3.0) despite the fact that it was only two weeks ago, but the world within these four walls does not feel wildly different to how it would in any other January. Christmas feels like a very long time ago, and everything is so busy at school; teachers are scrambling around trying to teach both the children of key workers who are attending school and those at home learning remotely at the same time and it's pretty stressful. Bella and Angus are adapting to new ways of learning (again), John is grappling with working from home, I remain swamped with university and school work, and most of our social interaction takes place via a screen.

And yet, it is not all doom and gloom. We have been doing our usual January things, trying to enjoy our precious weekends, trying to enjoy the season and this quiet time of year.

Our cooking has definitely shifted from holiday excess to normal weekly routines - lots of batch cooking and lunchbox fillers.

My weekly sourdough loaf is back, and I have been making soup with things that need eating up from the bottom of the fridge. Leek and potato plus a bunch of kale that was past its best. Broccoli and stilton plus a bit of brie, both of which have been stinking out the fridge for the last three weeks.


Angus and I tried chocolate porridge to liven up our weekday breakfasts. It's your normal porridge recipe (around 40 g oats plus water and milk - I don't know how much because I measure it by eye) with a mashed banana and a teaspoon of cocoa. I really wanted to like it but it was too much - too bitter I think - and I will stick with my usual topping of demerara sugar and dried fruit.



No more gingerbread houses here - it's all breakfast bars and flapjacks, anything filling to keep the cold out and tummies full until the next meal.



Sunday night dinners are our usual winter tray bakes and slow cooker stews again. I have been tentatively dipping my toe into some of the cookery books I got for Christmas and will report back.

I have bought seville oranges, two boxes, and set next weekend aside as Marmalade Time.


I love marmalade, both making and eating it, and always look forward to this day in the middle of winter when the kitchen is full of steam and the smell of oranges.  


It's also a boost to see spring flowers appearing in the supermarket. I haven't bought any fresh flowers for months, probably since last September, so I've been treating myself to tulips for the kitchen table and pots of tete-a-tetes and hyacinths to dot around the house. Fresh flowers are one of those little things that bring so much joy and we need a lot of that at the moment. 


We invested in another warm, brushed cotton duvet cover. I think that brushed cotton is the best winter bedding ever especially when it's very cold, as it has been this month, and you like to sleep with the bedroom window open. 


Sad as I am to take down the Christmas tree, every year I enjoy the January feeling of light and space. Everywhere gets a good clean, furniture and plants get moved around, and this purposeful feeling of renewal helps combat the gloom.


We have not had snow, but we had a bitterly cold week at the start of January, and we've had sun and fog and some spectacular frosts. 



There is also so much mud. Every dog walk at this time of year involves wellies. I am thankful for a dog with short hair and long legs when the weather is like this - we can often get away with not showering him and just rub him down with a towel.


Today the sun shone and we went to the beach for fresh air and vitamin D.


It was glorious 


I haven't been able to settle to a new crochet project for a while, but I've just bought this pattern and am excited to get started on it. I just need to decide what colour yarn to use and order it.

I hope you are all well and staying safe. This is really hard work, isn't it? Try and focus on the things that make you happy and bring you any comfort and joy, however small. I joke that I got through 2020 by watching reruns of Midsomer Murders, the ultimate comfort TV, and it's not a complete lie. Whatever makes you feel relaxed: getting outside, baking, gardening, a jigsaw, crafting....we just need to get through the next few months until spring comes.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Doing Nice Things

    


Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed Christmas, wherever you are and however you celebrated, and had some time to relax. Ours was really quiet, one of our quietest ever, but that was no bad thing. After the very busy weeks leading up to Christmas I was quite happy to slow right down and think about nothing more than what food we were going to eat that day and where we were going to go for a walk. It was exactly what I needed. Of course we missed seeing family and friends, and I know that was especially hard for Bella and Angus, but the empty days were consciously filled with as many nice, relaxing things as possible. 

Our Christmas Day was always going to be the four of us once we knew that John's parents would not be able to travel down and stay with us as they usually do, and so that felt quite cosy. We put the turkey in the oven, exchanged our presents, went for a walk late morning and then came back to open the fizz and start cooking the rest of the late lunch,


John did most of the cooking and I looked after key details like laying the table using my tried and tested selection of: and old white flat sheet, a gold spotty table runner I bought in the clearance section at Sainsburys, my Grandma's solid silver cutlery set and white linen napkins that I embroidered with Christmas motifs a few years ago, plus some candles and greenery snipped from the tree.


We had done most of the Christmas cooking before the day ( I had made the cake, yule log and other things and John had pre-prepared the turkey gravy) and so in the days following Christmas we lived off leftovers; ham with bubble and squeak, turkey, ham and leek pie, cold meats with pickles, not to mention all the cheese and crackers. I made a batch of gingerbread dough with the intention of baking some little house biscuits on Christmas Eve, but we ended up leaving the dough in the fridge for three or four days, and it was absolutely fine. It was actually nicer to bake and ice our gingerbread in an unhurried fashion. Every year I want to make a big gingerbread house but previous experience has told me how incredibly stressful I find this. It either won't glue together, or pieces crack, or my icing looks terrible....but making lots of individual house shaped biscuits satisfied my desire for some festive baking and fiddly icing, but without the pressure

 

We have had some glorious walks over the last week. Blustery, blow-away-the-cobwebs Boxing Day beach walks.....


....stormy, pewter-skied, and bitterly cold walks in the wake of Storm Bella.....


...and the most beautiful, frosty, crunchy-underfoot walks. 


We even had snow showers on one day. It didn't settle - it rarely snows much down here on the south coast, so close to the sea - but it was exciting, and I know that many other areas of the UK have had snow for some days. I'm jealous, I don't mind admitting that, but we did get to jump in some icy puddles.


Ziggy has had a marvelous Christmas; lots of turkey, lots of lying in front of the wood burning stove and lots of scampering and sniffing on long walks.



I've grown to really cherish the days between Christmas and New Year. Usually, I'd find this lack of routine quite unsettling but, after the busyness of Christmas, I relish the absence of structure. As well as all the eating and walking, we have been doing jigsaws, reading, playing with Christmas presents and watching films. 



(A quick update on Angus's arm: it is healing well. He's had the provisional cast removed and a new one put on which comes off in four weeks, and no longer needs to wear the sling. Xbox playing can continue.)



I received some lovely, thoughtful gifts for Christmas. Best of all was a stack of new books, three of which are cookery books, and I've had a very nice time flicking through these. 


These simple, stylish handmade mugs from Winter's Moon are both beautiful and useful, and John did good by supplying me with some much needed new slippers and pyjamas.


It's the first day back at work for me tomorrow, and Bella and Angus return to school on Tuesday. I don't know what this term will hold, the situation is so uncertain and rapidly changing, but I feel ready to make the transition back into a different routine and embrace January.