Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

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Sunday 18 November 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012: Day 18. Happy Summer Days Remembered.

I am tired, so there will be nothing intellectually challenging today.  Just photos from summer.

I was flicking through some of the 39,452 (!) photos of mine on the computer.  I came across these and remembered the warm summer’s day on which I took them.

Sun, though you have been here today, will you ever make a regular recurrence? I long for lush, vibrant colours that spell happiness and fertility and life. Too many dark nights and a palette full of greys, mud-browns and camouflage-greens is disheartening for a girl like me.

In the darkest, deepest days of winter it seems as though we will never again feel the same kind of sweltering warmth that we did in the summer.  And in summer we can never imagine the ravages of winter; the feeling of snow underfoot or the crunch of a lawn made white by the spindly fingers of Jack Frost.

Saturday 17 November 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012: Day 17. Spicy Rice is Nice.

I thought I’d finally give you the recipe for the lovely spicy Moroccan rice that I made the other night.  It was a recipe born out of necessity because I had over-bought onions and short of making my other delicious but much longer to make caremelised onion marmalade, I needed a quick and tasy recipe to use them up.

For this, I used red onions but any onion will do – including shallots/banana shallots.

Firstly, get yourself into the ‘zone’.  This includes clearing your workspace and popping Radio 4 on.


4 red onions.
1 rounded teaspoon of Ras el-Hanout.
Worcestershire sauce.
3 cloves of garlic, minced.
1 tsp sugar.
A little oil to fry the onions.
Rice (I used basmati).
Chicken/vegetable stock (a good one).
Slivered almonds and/or coriander (optional).


Fry the onions gently in a little oil until they have ‘melted’ and become translucent. This needs to happen otherwise the onions will remain tough and crunchy – not good!
In the meantime, cook the rice according to instructions but in chicken or vegetable stock. This gives you a nice savoury tang to the rice.

Once translucent, add the garlic and fry a little more until it becomes perfumed.  Add the ras el-hanout spice, Worcestershire sauce and the sugar. Stir to coat.

Add the cooked and drained rice to the still-warm pan. Allow twenty minutes or so for the rice and spices to mingle.

The perfect end to this accompaniment would be slivered almonds and coriander, but as this was a last-minute dish, I didn’t have these things to hand.  I would serve this (usually) with some kind of tagine or Chermoula dish – instead we went a bit fusion and had it with a chicken korma (as you do).  This would make a really delicious meal on its own, too.

Friday 16 November 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012: Day 16. Lights.

I saw these lights on my way to do an errand.  At £2.50, they were less than the price of an eggnog latté and will give me hours of pleasure looking at their multi-coloured splendour.

Yes, it is that time of year.  Lights twinkle, trees look festive and the magic of Christmas (with its attendant consumerism) begins in earnest.

This Christmas it will be a homely affair; simple yet really cosy and shared with the family that I want to be around me.  I have been dreaming of what I can serve as appetisers; what the Christmas tree will smell like when it is warmed throughout with fairy lights.  I have dreamt of turkeys and crackers and the very magic of the run-up to the Big Day.  I honestly cannot wait.  Until then – the time when I can legitimately listen to Christmas music and seriously start talking turkey prep – I have the lights.

Oh and the lights!  I am like a child in a sweet shop.  I cannot get enough – there are not enough twinkling lights out there!  I love them.  If we were in our ‘usual’ place, living in Northumberland, in the middle of November I would get our Christmas boxes down from the loft, dust them off and check the lights for missing bulbs, place an order for spares and store them in the spare room until the time came for a whole lot of tree decorating!

This year it’s a little different, but orders have been placed with Noma for their bulbs and I can rest assured that our free-range Bronze turkey is being loved by the Waitrose farmers.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012: Day 13. Last Autumn Flowers.

Nature is most definitely showing signs that it is the end of autumn, but here and there, if you look really carefully, there are still signs of summer.

Cow parsely and a little yarrow plant grow wild in the hedgerows.  When you have a camera with you, it makes you look a little harder and seek out the beauty in the everyday.

Today I took my film camera and caught birds – hundreds of them – swooping and diving.  Swans, black-headed gulls (which had lost their black heads, instead gaining black spots behind their ears) and pigeons – I hope that I got some good photos.  The nicest thing about the day was that people stopped me to ask questions about what I was taking photos of.  One person said that had I not been taking photos, she wouldn’t have noticed half of the things going on around her.  How nice! I can’t wait to get the photos developed to see what came out!

Monday 12 November 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012: Day 12. Corners of Comfort.

Today is about sorting out and keeping cosy.  The skies are grey and there is a lack of colour inside and outside.  I am laundering the remainders of blankets and cushions so that I can snuggle up on the sofa and read or watch TV in comfort. The tree outside still bears a few of its yellow leaves, whilst the rest of the bright yellow beauties line the ground, becoming slippery and stickier with each day that passes.

I am listening to Gabrielle Aplin (really, just this song) and The Album Leaf in alternate doses (Vermilion and The MP).

We put a new bulb into our Swedish star light the other day.  Instead of a hot (but lovely) little 40w pygmy bulb, we popped in a really bright energy-saving bulb instead and the change has been lovely.  The light has been burning all day because our living room is west-facing and gets virtually no light until the afternoon – if there is any light to be had, which today it doesn’t look like there is!  Oh how I’d love a whole galaxy of these stars, dotted around everywhere.

My latest splurge was at Muji, one of my favourite shops from way-back-when. I love their tin candles and always get a couple as they are very reasonably priced (£3.50 each) and smell amazing. My favourites are Hinoki Wood, Cedar, Elderflower and their newest Christmas offering, Log Fire. I cannot explain accurately enough what it smells like, but it is very smoky, a little sweet, a little resinous and very woody. It smells exactly like wood smoke but is not at all acrid and nice enough to burn inside. I am saving a candle and not burning it at all, so that I can sniff it throughout the year – whenever I need to be reminded of some of the magic of the season.

I feel I need a little bit of a photographic distraction from things at the moment.  I’d love to be able to run outside with my camera, but it has started to rain, the wind is cold and I have so much work to do.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get out later in the week when things have calmed down a bit.

Saturday 10 November 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012: Day 10. Yellow Leaves.

Yesterday I finally got outside to enjoy what little light there was.  I walked briskly, snapping leaves left and right.

In the middle of a stand of broadleaves, this little Acer stood out so bright and proud and red – the only red tree for a long way.

I was quite taken with the mix of colours.  Lime-green mixed with acidic yellow and the burnt ochre of the copper beeches overhead.

I am coming to terms with the end of autumn and the quiet of the season. Busy in lights but with lots of icy, cold, quiet moments.

January is what I dread the most, as always.  At the end of Christmas I feel as this leaf feels: a bit redundant, weary and completely unprepared for the onslaught of the new year.  Like this leaf, I find I need propping up too.

Until then, though, there is a lot to look forward to.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Autumn apples and cinnamon swirls

Ahhh, l’amour.  Your beloved by your side; a sweet apple pie made with locally-grown apples (Newton Wonder) in the oven; the smell of cinnamon wafting gently on the muggy-leaved autumn air and a pot of Whittard’s Costa Rica in a diddy little cafetiere (bought for the princely sum of £2 in a church sale).  It holds just enough to make two perfect cups of coffee.

What a lovely weekend I have had, simply because I have been able to spend it with someone I love, in the way that we used to spend our weekends way back when.  Today was wonderful because it included a lie-in, croissants with wild blueberry jam and pains au chocolat (and more of our new-favourite coffee!).  After breakfast we went for a long walk and found the most beautiful tree, that was illuminated with the most wonderful of yellow hues.  Not my favourite colour in normal circumstances, but it suited this tree so well.  It sat near to a deep red acer and the two, brightly coloured trees stood in front of a whole host of evergreens, proud in their blazing show of colour.  I had my camera primed for the occasion – not my digital though, oh no, this one was my prized 35mm.  I have yet to get the photos developed, but I can’t wait!  What can look bad from nature’s palette?

What else did I do?  I got to cook for Mr VP: a stunning meal of roast free-range chicken, a plethora of local squashes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and onions.  I made gravy and stuffing.  By the end of it all, I didn’t want to eat anything, but he definitely did!

The pie was a bit of a handmade affair: pastry made without a recipe (who needs a recipe for butter, flour, an egg and cinnamon?), rolled out not with anything round but instead with a rough patting of my hands; pastry that turned out deliciously, as did the filling.

And this was the last of the day’s sunshine, drying my very favourite bed-linen (an Ikea find, high thread count, silky soft and covered in carnations) which I took inside, still cool from the autumnal breeze and put onto the bed.  Mr VP bought up our electric blanket as I have been feeling pretty cold recently (this is a whole new story in and of itself) and needed something to stop me shivering.  Thankfully this weekend I haven’t needed it as Mr VP is a fairly effective hot water bottle!

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