Thursday, 31 October 2013

Cinnamon, Ginger and Cumin

Today I replaced my herbs and spices.
It is a very meditative thing to do:
writing labels, washing jars,
moving spices from one jar to the next.
I remember, as I do every year,
how much I like caraway seed cake,
juniper berries for venison casserole,
cloves for a Christmas pomander.
Fines herbes from the French market
are still fresh and so is saffron
that MissM brought back from Dubai
but I need more paprika and turmeric,
bay leaves, rosemary and nutmeg.
I have done this all my married life,
aromas of cinnamon, ginger and cumin
fill the kitchen and I am soothed.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

MasterM, Chip off the Old Block

MrsM finds the following letter

Dear MrM and MrsM

Unfortunately on Wednesday MasterM was involved in an incident where he made plastic pellets in the Design Technology lesson which are capable of being fired by a rubber band. The situation has been dealt with within school but there may still be a number of pellets at home, and if so, could you please ensure that MasterM returns them to me.

Yours sincerely
Hapless Design Technology Teacher

MrsM had forgotten about this 'incident' and shows the letter to MrM who blushes.

"I may not have mentioned this at the time but when I was the same age as MasterM the Art teacher left us unsupervised for a while. My friend, who was a farmer's son, suggested that we make clay pigeons and we set to diligently. We probably would have got away with it but then we decided to test the clay pigeons by throwing them at the wall. By the time the teacher returned there was wet grey clay everywhere so we had to spend the rest of the lesson washing the wall."

MrsM looks suitably shocked.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

St. Jude's Day Storm

Stormy sea with blazing wreck (1835-40)

"Winds from fiery holes in heaven
Piled the hills darkening around them
To awe them..."

Ted Hughes

Stormy sea with blazing wreck (1835-40)

All night we listened
to the powerful storm wind
battering our house walls,
and marvelled at the courage
of the lifeboat off Newhaven
fighting the violence of the waves.

Steam boat off a harbour's mouth making signals
in shallow water and going by the lead (1842)

We were tucked up snug
in our warm little house
with candles flickering by choice.
So much to be grateful for.

Shore scene with waves and breakwater

Turner understood the grandeur of the storm
the vulnerability of those trapped by the sea,
and the quiet of the day after.

The morning after the deluge (1843)

Nothing has changed.


All paintings by J M W Turner RA (1775 - 1851)

Monday, 28 October 2013

winter rose

I found it this afternoon,
sheltered by the apple tree,
a pink cushion of rose,
unexpected summer.

Now it is laid carefully
onto white linen,
clove fragrance seeping
into the warm kitchen.

I would not have it back,
that summer, but I am glad
of the fragrance sweetening
the first day of winter.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

beyond the (purple) door

Pinterest is a strange place. I find it very absorbing but I think it uses the part of my brain formerly occupied by stamp collecting. It gives me great satisfaction to bring together a disparate selection of images into a coherent theme. My favourite board based on the colour Purple and includes a glass door knob, aubergines and sheet music - it is a curated gallery rather than an inspiration board.

There is so much to think about in Pinterest Land...

If Americans call prawns shrimp, what do they call shrimp?

What is arugula? And chimichurri?

Strawberry Cream Cheese Popovers.
Just NO.

Will Pinterest change my photographic style?
Expect more sunsets.

Somewhere in the world
there is a door of every conceivable colour.
Or is it the magic of Photoshop?

I have a weakness for pictures of puppies
which I am trying to manage without medication.

If the most successful food photography looks inedible
why is it so appealing?

Dear marketing manager of the refuse disposal company
I salute you for your innovative use of social media
but I think you are mistaken.

Does Mary Oliver get commission?

I feel a collection of knitting pattern swatches
coming upon me. I'm resisting.

Enough of Halloween already.

"How to Defibrillate Dying Kale?

On the other hand I bought those Victorian silver earrings from Grays Antiques after seeing them on Pinterest.

It's not all puppies and popovers.

Friday, 25 October 2013

a perfect day for tea

We have known each other forever. I was introduced to Sue by the midwife at antenatal classes, Helen moved in next door not long afterwards, I shared a school run with Jane and met Caroline through postnatal classes. In the intervening years our children have gone to different schools, Caroline has been abroad and family commitments and jobs have got in the way of spending together. Today we met for tea to celebrate all sorts of things - new jobs, house moves, plans for early retirement, holidays. Sitting by the fire, listening to the laughter, it seemed like a miracle to me that our friendship has survived the lean periods when we have been too busy to see each other and I was so grateful for these wonderful, enterprising, funny women that I am fortunate enough to have as friends.

Thursday, 24 October 2013


All summer long the back garden catches the sun
We sit under the cherry tree, grateful for shade.

Now the days are shorter, sunlight is precious
and the table has been moved back to the patio.

I was planting pots and window boxes today.
Tiny gardens which give me much pleasure.

The pots in the back garden are pale blue and white,
reflecting light from the house at night.

In the front garden the window box is bright yellow,
a burst of sunshine for dark winter days.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Supper will be late...

MrM is stuck in a traffic jam
so there is time to play with the camera.

blackbird wanted to see more of my kitchen.
There's not much to show...
it's very small.

I'm crazy about mushrooms this year
check out these Portabellini!

Yes - I know that it looks tidy.
I cleared up before I took the photo.

Delicious cabbage!
There is a ban on kale
after a recent disaster.
Let's move swiftly on.

Woahhh - a spaghetti spoon!
Where did that come from?
Did MissM leave it there?

Mashed potato.
It's smoooooth
and floaty-light.

And lo - sausages in red wine
with thyme and mushrooms
just in time for MrM.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Iron Age

The Ironing Maid
Thomas Harrington Wilson

You might think that
with so much time at my disposal
the ironing basket would be empty.
You would be wrong.

Turns out I have an attitude problem.

I am trying to address this
by downloading audiobooks.
28 hours of Anthony Trollope
seems suitable punishment .

Monday, 21 October 2013

flowers in the rain

On Saturday afternoon
we walked around the corner
and found shoes with flowers.

There was a desk too,
and a wind-up gramophone
playing inexplicably awful music.

What did it symbolise?
I have no idea
but it made me smile.

I hope that you too find
something unexpected today
to make you smile.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Apricot Roses

A fabulous gift

from dear friends

catching the late afternoon sun.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

running in the rain

Don't think for a moment
that it is always sunny. Or dry.

Today it was cold and wet.
I saw hedgerows vanishing in mist,
a stag bellowing in the rain,
a hawk hovering in a grey sky,
road menders enveloped in steam.

I thought about making choices.
For me, today, it was running in the rain
and if I keep on being brave
one day it will be easier. Perhaps.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Pears in Red Wine

The pears, they are poached.
And very good they are too
served with Chantilly cream.

I only poach pears once a year
but it wasn't for the fact
that I still haven't made
my famous autumn plum crumble
I would definitely do them again.

I might anyway.
Some rules are just silly.

Here is a recipe similar to mine
but I use slices of orange instead of vanilla.
I also cut my pears in half,

lay them flat in the saucepan,
and turn them over half way through
because it uses less wine.
I'm mean like that.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

orange : yellow : orange

I checked my list of autumn stuff
and realised that I needed to get a move on.
Photograph dahlias? Check.

Poached pears for supper tomorrow
and I'm checking chutney recipes.
All this good woman stuff is very exhausting.

For some obscure reason item #10 is
"Wear a bobble hat"
I'm thinking MrM needs to step up for that one.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Red ... and White

February 1958

Richard Rutledge


I'm on the sofa
wrapped up in my Galway blanket
so I'm very busy
but I think we can have a chat.
If it's quick.

I'm on the sofa resting
because I have taken up running again.
That ListWriter, she's very inspirational.

So much wind on my run today.
And autumn leaves and berries etc
Also rutting stags.
At least I can run away from them now.

Thank you for all the Apple Cake recipes.
No, really...thank you.
By the time we have eaten all of those cakes
we will never want to eat Apple Cake again.
One less thing to do next year.

Our window cleaner is called Mr Sparkles.
(this may not be his real name)
and he enjoys a chat to a captive audience.
I had to bribe him with cake to go away.

I have just cast on Jenny's Christmas present.
Sorry, no sneaky peeks.

In not unrelated news
I am breaking out the box set of "Pride & Prejudice".
Apparently Colin Firth was supposed to be naked.
I think I need to remind myself.

I bumped into a friend of MissM today
whom I have known since she was two.
She is now a fully qualified nurse.
Another reason to lie down.

We are having strawberry tarts tonight.
I know they are out of season
but they were on special offer.
Also, running. See above.

Parenthetical Discourse:
Audrey will not allow red and white flowers
because she says they are unlucky
and remind her of blood and bandages.

I have created a Pinterest account.
I find it totally absorbing:
hours and hours of eye candy.
What's not to like?

My favourite pin so far
is this Vogue photo
by Richard Rutledge.
It makes my heart sing.

You can go now.
But only if you take a slice of apple cake.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Autumn Apple Cake

In my head there is an ideal Apple Cake.
I can't describe what it looks like
but I will know when I taste it.
I am committed to finding this Apple Cake
which means a lot of baking and tasting.

I don't remember eating apple cake as a child.
My mother makes the most wonderful apple pie
but I don't think she made apple cake.
Did I read about it somewhere
"Little Grey Rabbit" or "Anne of Green Gables"?

This recipe is Mary Cadogan's Apple Cake
via another Mrs M : The Domestic Novice.
Do you know her blog? Go and visit, people,
she is renovating the sweetest cottage.

It is a wholesome autumn recipe,
the sort of cake you might eat at the allotment.
You couldn't feel guilty eating this...
even if you had another slice.
I wasn't sure about using the china plate...
it is a greaseproof-paper kind of cake.

It is moist, spicy and very delicious
especially the demerara sugar topping
but it is not The Cake of my dreams.
I'll have to keep trying.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

at the end of the day

It is only a small kitchen
but I love it very much.

I love it most of all
at the end of the day

when the house is quiet
and everything is packed away

and I can sit for a while
in my new-to-me chair
that I bought for £40.
The man said I had a bargain.

It feels as though
it has always been there.

Monday, 7 October 2013

View from a Turkish Tent

We spent the afternoon in Painshill Park,
wandering from Gothic temple to Crystal grotto
and then on to the extravagant Turkish tent.
The Grand Tour compressed into three hours.

The last time I came here was a school trip
with a tiny MasterM and his friends
and I was afraid it would make me sad
but I could only hear excited little boys
running across the Chinese Bridge.
It was a memory to make us smile.

We climbed to the top of the tower
and looked out across green landscape,
Canary Wharf was somewhere on the hazy horizon
but we could only guess which direction.

It was a peaceful afternoon
at the start of autumn.
Just MrM and I.

I bought a card in the gift shop
illustrated with the Iris Murdoch quotation:
"You can only learn to love by loving".
A lifetime compressed into eight words.