Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Festive Fare

Good enough to eat!
In the lead up to Christmas I start thinking a lot about food - what we're going to eat on THE day; the day after, the day before as well as the days where I'm sick of eating and drinking.  This year I'm going to try very hard not to overdo the food thing - I either end up buying food I don't cook or eat and spend a small fortune, or I eat it all and end up feeling bloated and unhealthy. So THE PLAN this year is to buy just what I need and buy healthy stuff along with the just plain delicious and tempting. These are some of the foods I'm thinking of...
I know it's not in season, but it's a staple canape - wrap bundles in
parma ham, drizzle with olive oil and roast for ten minutes.  Serve with shaves of parmesan

Blanch your broad beans, and slip the bright green kernals from their papery shells;
toss with feta, pomegranate and mint for a refreshing salad

Blueberries are nature's best anti-oxidant - make into smoothies,
sprinkle onto porridge or stir into muffin mixture and bake.

Salted Caramel sauce - my favourite - see 'What I'm Eating' for recipe

Ice-cream to go with the sauce...

and of course Christmas wouldn't be the same without Chestnuts. 
I love them hot from a street brazier and pureed they make
a delicious cream accompaniament.
(See right for recipe)

Blogs of note

Do you ever see something, or read something that inspires huge admiration and that nagging voice that says "I wish I'd written/drawn/photographed that"?  Well this blog has had that effect on me.  I think it's the combination of beautiful photography, mouth-watering recipes and and the author's personal sense of her world and her place in it that is so encouraging.  Here are some of my favourite images:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Snapshots from the Weekend (and links)

This weekend I spent some time checking out the refurb of my gym  (very organised and efficient, but frustrating because they've changed all the machines and I have to start from scratch working out what they do), a bit of shopping (food), lying on my sofa sleeping (bliss!) coupled by a dash out of the house at dusk on Sunday to get some fresh air (Cannizaro Park) and dinner cooked by a friend (Roast Pork).  But why, oh why, do they go so fast?...Hope your weekend was restful and life-affirming...
Getting in 'the zone'

Definitely 'out of the zone'! Muffins post workout!

Slow Roast Loin of Pork - mmmn

Cannizaro Park at dusk - strangely forboding
Not part of my weekend, but what a great idea for the staffroom cooler!!!

Have a good rest of the week everyone...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Books that changed my life!

Dramatic title, but yes, really.  These books really did add/change the way I viewed my life and their events.  I think that's why I love reading - you never know what you're going to take away with you; what might shape you and the direction you take.  I know that after reading the following books I made decisions that ranged from changing the entire course of my life to more simple modifications to the way I lived or just casting a different light on more mundane things.  Here are just a few of them:
You may know this as 'Bridges of Madison County' from the film of that title.  The book in its original form was published in the 80's and it made me completely re-think how relationships begin and the sacrifices we make throughout our lives.  I still think Clint Eastwood was badly miscast - he ruined the water-pump scene for me, which should have been on a par with the hair washing scene in 'Out of Africa' with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.

I go back to this book over and over and over.  It 'sleeps' by my bedside and I always pack it when I go away.  I think it's simplicity and the way it guides me back to basics every time make it one of the most influential books I have read.

I bought this after reading her gardening blog.  Sadly she committed suicide but her book lives on.  Her premise is that we waste our weekends catching up on chores and mindless boring admin, whilst missing out on the re-charging that we need after a week at work.  I love the ideas that she gives for weekend pleasures and also the permission she gives us to relax and enjoy our free time.

This book was recommended to me by a Clairvoyant who said I needed to read it!  Well, I started it over and over and couldn't get into it for quite some time, until recently when I gave it another whirl.  Wow.  What an eye-opener.  Basically it's about our power as women and owning and using our power.

Meditation - probably the single-most thing that has enhanced my life over the last few years.  When I practise it regularly (that is everyday) the benefits are immeasurable.  I feel calmer, more able to deal with life, in touch with myself and those around me.  I feel healthier and seem to be able to rise above the usual frustrations far more easily and when I let my practise slip, I'm irritable and dissatisfied and generally feel out of kilter with myself and the world around me.

I'd love to know what books have changed your view on the world, or influenced your life decisions.  I'm always on the look-out for new things to read so please post your suggestions...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Glimpses of the weekend

Spotted this gate on a walk - covered in webs
The weeks are whizzing by; Christmas comes ever closer and our weekends for the next month seem to be fully booked.  This is all nice of course, but I also like to have some 'down-time' where nothing is planned and I can do what I feel like at the time (a real luxury!).  Even when I'm busy with nice things sometimes it becomes something I have to do rather than something I want to do, just because it's been in the diary for weeks and weeks.  I then start to feel resentful which totally defeats the purpose!  I'm thinking of setting aside some chunks of the remaining weekends that instead of being 'free' will become 'unavailable' just so that I have some built in quiet time.  Hopefully that means that by the time I get to Christmas celebrations I'll have a bit of energy left to enjoy them instead of doing a "bah humbug" impersonation and being the person wilting on the sidelines of every party, wondering how long I have to stay before I can make my excuses without being rude!  Does anyone else ever feel like that?  What do you do to stay on top of things in the mad run up to Christmas?  All tips gratefully received!

Beautiful colours

Beautiful bottles by Tocca

More reminders of Christmas approaching

Produce at the local Farmers Market

My favourite Coral nail polish from Revlon

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Give Thanks

When I was little I loved my birthday, but hated the days that came afterwards...Why?  Quite simply because my parents made me sit down and write my 'thank-you' letters.  It wasn't enough to just say 'Thank you for the elephant toothbrush holder', in fact the actual words 'thank you' weren't really allowed to appear.  Instead I had to eulogise about what each particular gift had done to enhance my world (this was especially difficult with an elephant toothbrush holder!!).  Each note had to be different and sincere...As I've mentioned before in this post, the art of letter writing is flagging but despite my indifference as a child, as an adult now I quite enjoy the time to sit down with my new 'thank you' cards and express my gratitude.  Here are some cards that I'm particularly liking at the moment:
Cupcake inspired



Japanese Cherry Blossom

Friday, November 18, 2011

Constant cravings

An alternative to 'soap on a rope' is soap in felt!
As it gets nearer to Christmas I start keeping my eye open for presents that are a little bit different; however, my problem is that when I see all these gorgeous things I want to buy them for myself which is not the idea at all!  One of my favourite on-line browses includes Anthropologie which to my delight has recently opened two stores in London - one in Regent Street and one slightly closer to me in the Kings Road.  A recent trip to Chelsea saw me spend way too long in their Kings Road store, it is a treasure trove of goodies, from clothes, candles to an assortment of household goods.  I could have spent a LOT of money in there and plan to take a trip back to stock up on a few things.  Here are some of my current favs...

'Rediscovered cutlery'

I love this vintage inspired tin

EMBROIDERED books - yes, really! So beautiful

Clutch for happiness

What can I say? I like lists!!

Just because it's so sweet and reminds me of my Grandfather's typewriter

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A brief thought

So true!!!  I've been thinking about all my old friends - especially Lizzie.  To all my friends near and far (Em in Oz!) Thank you all for the laughs, the shoulders (they've had a fair soaking over the years!), the straight talking, the lunches, where would we be without our oldest and dearest friends who stick with us through thick and thin...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Weekend Moments

This weekend I was determined to find time and space to relax.  We had quite a busy time planned, but mostly involving eating, drinking and catching up with friends, so all good.  As it has been so unseasonally warm, on Saturday evening, we put up a gazebo, (complete with fairylights, of course) lit the firepit and sat outside til nearly midnight listening to music and winding down.  Here are some of my weekend moments - hope you had some good moments too!  Let me know what you've been doing this weekend...