Monday, 31 October 2011

This Weekend.

This weekend we took the train back to my parents' after work. The excitement of the journey home is new to me, having always been picked up when we lived in York (it was always quicker and cheaper to drive that journey). Now I love bustling through Leeds station with my weekend bag, watching the towns fly past on the journey, waving to my Mum/Dad/Brother as I cross over the tiny station platform.

This weekend I took an early morning walk with my Mum, enjoying the countryside novelty of having to walk over a mile to get a paper and visit the bakery. The morning was crisp and the light and colour were perfect. I kept having to chase after my Mum as I stopped to take photos.

This weekend I enjoyed the novelty of a completely lazy Saturday. I baked Yorkshire parkin, ate bagel with poached eggs, read the papers and played word games in front of an open fire.

This weekend we watched Blue Valentine, which moved me with its realistic take on love and made me grip Daniel's hand a little tighter. I couldn't help but fall in love with Ryan Gosling's character just a wee bit. And popcorn; I always forget how much I love microwave popcorn!

This weekend I completed the Worksop Halloween Half Marathon. It was a perfect race, with cars honking as we crossed a road bridge, a brass band playing in the park, autumn colours blending out into the distance, and perfect running weather. Daniel took a few too many photos of Worksop Priory and so my camera was dead by the time I crossed the finish line; crying out in pain from a stich, certain I was about to throw up and 12 minutes faster than my previous best time. 12 minutes faster and a whole lot fitter than I ever imagined I'd be. What a result.

This weekend I managed what I thought was the impossible, and my body wasn't thanking me for it. I treated it with my Mum's sublime Sunday Roast (with the most perfect Yorkshire puds you'll ever try!), crumble with extra custard, a glass or two of wine and a home pedicure.

I'm still reeling from a wonderful weekend. I wore my awesome race tshirt to work today to celebrate :-D

Friday, 28 October 2011

Simple Pleasures.

Dappled sunlight reaching out through woodland.

Greeting a dishevelled Daniel with a hot meal and a cuddle on Monday night.

Falling asleep during my yoga class.
Running downhill, fast.

A mid-week, early-evening bubble bath.

Sipping tea and listening to A Good Read on the radio (and noting down books that I must read!).

Get-well-soon flowers blooming on the windowsill.

My Gran's cheesy-stuffed jacket potatoes for tea.
Perfect autumn scenes on my morning commute.

What simple pleasures have you enjoyed this week?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Veg Box Updates.

This week's veg box was a little more unusual; I confess that I wasn't quite as excited when I uncovered the following selection:

Round black things...beets? Potatoes?

Ok, so I was really excited about the chard, and a three-day chard-frenzy ensued thanks to this post by Becca, featuring a host of amazing chardy ideas!

I also had a pumpkin which I wanted to use, so we made:
Chard and pumpkin chilli, based on this recipe. Really quite yummy!

Pumpkin and coconut curry with chickpeas and chard. Amazing.

Noodle soup with broccoli and chard. (You get the drift!)

The carrots became carrot and ginger soup, and I made up a huge tuscan bean stew with the tomatoes, cabbage and onion, which was accompanied by some of the potatoes, stuffed with cheese and twice-baked, a la my Gran!

And then it was time for the black things! We washed them and they looked like this:

Not black, but purple! 

Then I chopped one in half:


We boiled these mystery potatoes with a sprig of mint, and served them up with a raw veggie salad and caramelized brussels sprouts. I'm not overly keen on potatoes, but these were heavenly - so buttery and earthy. 

If you have any idea what variety these potatoes might be, please do share!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Best Blog Recipes: Eat Live Run's Carrot & Ginger Soup.

I've been following Jenna at Eat Live Run for a long time now, and have tried and loved so many of her recipes. She did a 100-mile bike ride herself last year, and was kind enough to give me some good advice about the wonders of peanut butter before we did our race back in August.

It seems a bit silly to be blogging about carrot and ginger soup, when I could be spreading the word about her peanut soba noodles, carrot cake muffin bars, or Easter hot cross cookies (try them all, really!). But I thought this recipe was really worth talking about because of it's wondrous simplicity.

It's a Sunday, and so I wanted soup (shameful creature of habit that I am). I'm on my own; I didn't really want to cook; in fact, I wasn't really in the mood for eating. I wanted something quick, comforting and involving carrots, as we had a bunch in the fridge from the veg box.

I made carrot and ginger soup a while back and I wasn't altogether happy with it. The consistency wasn't good, and the ginger was too sharp - I think it was even one of those rare occasions when I didn't actually finish my meal! I tend to divert from recipes and not measure things correctly - this can mean the difference between soup and baby food, but still I won't learn! So this time I checked up on this recipe, which I had noticed a while back, and followed it reasonably strictly!

I was tempted to add celery and garlic, but held back. I did add lentils (!!), but only because this was my main meal for the day, and I wanted it for lunch in the week, too.

Amazing how such simple combinations can make something so delicious. Including the lentils this meal has only six ingredients. It took minutes to throw together, left minimal washing up, and sat simmering happily while I had a shower and tidied up. Blend, make toast, season and you're ready to go! The coriander adds a real warmth and takes away some of the sharpness of the ginger. The consistency is lovely and thick, really comforting for an autumn evening. But, the sweetness of the carrots is the main event - they need no celery, no garlic, and no chili; perfect just as they are.

And there's plenty left for the week!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

This Weekend.

I had this weekend completely to myself, as Daniel has gone to Ireland for a few days. I haven't had a weekend to myself in a long while, and have been looking forward to some solitude for some time.

The weekend started with a fantastic run in the Saturday morning freshness. I was slightly nervous after being ill last week, and did have a 'moment' where I almost lost my head, stomach and legs, but a few hundred yards later and all was well again. I got slightly carried away, and the short tapering run that I had planned in preparation for next week's half marathon became an 8-mile lung-buster. Amazing all the same, and finished off with a peach and treacle smoothie as a reward!

That afternoon I met a friend in Leeds for some shopping. The city was crowded and so vibrant, with music playing on every street corner, craft stalls and foot carts. We were carried along in the crowds, which was exhausting, and a new pair of Dr Martens and a new dress later we decided it was time for a drink. For me, Starbucks is one of those secret pleasures: I hate the place as a standard, but tempt me in with a Chai Tea Latte and I'm a big hypocrite with a frothy top lip! We drank and chatted for ages, as streams of people hurried in and out of the shop. Coffee shops are one of the few places where I find that time can really stand still; I'd happily while away half a weekend in a decent coffee shop, given the chance!

I spent my lone evening on the couch, with noodle soup and my favourite film in the world. Top that off with a peanut butter hot chocolate and I was swooning in a sleepy stupor.

Sunday I had allocated as my designated solitary day. I made pancakes for breakfast, and sat for ages reading, munching, sipping tea.

I then got dressed and set out into the day, with no more than my walking boots, camera, and enough change for a bottle of water and a chocolate bar. I knew I wanted to walk, but I had no idea where to, so I climbed up Baildon Moor to the top of Hope Hill (the highest point in the area), and sat a while observing the landscape. It was so good to feel the wind blustering through my jumper while the sun warmed my face; not the crisp autumn day I had hoped for, but still a weather to be ingested as thoroughly as possible. I picked a direction and a vague path, and headed out into the unknown, down the moor and then upwards towards Ilkley. After a couple of hours the clouds started to thicken and the world seemed to turn very dim. Having lost an obvious footpath, I decided to head back for some lunch - I had been walking for over three hours.

On Hope Hill
Walking was such therapy, especially as the weather started to turn. I wrapped my coat around me and strode, almost angrily, over the rocky terrain, through squeeze styles and over step stiles. I let my mind melt into the fresh air, letting go of the week's grievances, and the sadness still breaks me in two when I leave it hidden for too long. I arrived home fresh and blustered, legs aching and stomach growling, sinuses and chest almost sore from so much fresh air.

It's been a quiet, lilting weekend. Being alone takes some of the structure out of the day, which in some ways is good, but bad in others. It's so true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I love having the chance to cradle myself in lovesickness every now and then; I thrived on it when I was a teenager, so the odd dose here and there as an adult is something to enjoy!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Simple Pleasures

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have more money. Don't we all, in fact? But, when it comes to wishing for things, apart from the occasional new cardigan, CD or recipe book, material goods just aren't on my radar. In fact, I can go as far as saying that, right now, I am rich in everything I wish to be rich in; life is abundant, whole, and fulfilling. There is adventure, there is comfort, there is love and company and purpose. I can't imagine needing anything more that what I have right here. And the moment that I realized that was truly awesome. (I believe it was while walking through a carpark in the rain at around 7:45 one weekday morning, chatting to a colleague about life. The moment sticks with me now.)

This post really isn't about how amazing my life is - that would be rather arrogant and tiring; I suppose it's about how amazing life is, in general. Life without the gadgets and 'stuff' cluttering up our hearts and minds. Life without the next episode of whatever waiting on Sky Plus. Life without stashes of magazines telling me what I should be wearing right now and not next week. Someone, I forget who, discussed this on Thought For The Day recently; the abundance that is all around us, regardless of whatever dip or bump the financial crisis is going through, and however poor the headlines tell us that we are. We are often much richer than we might think; it's easy to see that when you don't have quite enough spare change to get the train back home on a Friday (thanks, Chris!), and so I'm rather glad that I am living my own age of austerity, just as my parents and grandparents have had to in the past.

What this brings me to is my friend Becky, who moved to Spain on Monday morning. For the past couple of years, Becky and I have been gathering and sharing what we call 'Simple Pleasures': moments that inspire or take your breath away, comfort or heal. Moments that Amélie Poulain might stop to write down in a notebook.

Simple Pleasures started when I found myself dancing naked to Lust For Life by Iggy Pop one morning, after a particularly hard Life Spell. I was so full of joy at the simple pleasure of life that I sent Becky a message to tell her that I was dancing naked to Lust For Life by Iggy Pop, and thus our exchange of Simple Pleasures began. Moments of simple but complete abundance.

Becky has only been in Spain for 5 days, and already I am finding myself gathering these moments and not able to share them. So I'm going to share them here, spreading the abundance of life as far as I can, I hope. If you have had your own Simple Pleasures recently then please do share; there is nothing better than reading how rich life is in its complete simplicity!

Lying in a lavendar bath, lit by candlelight, watching a storm through the skylight in the ceiling

Four deer bounding ahead as I run through a clearing in the early morning

Knitting in silence on the couch

Receiving real letters from friends

Wrapping up in a hat and scarf for the first of the winter frost

Sleeping through the alarm in a winter duvet

Being bought flowers to brighten a grey day 

Perfect basmati rice

A whole yoga class balancing quietly on one leg

If you haven't already heard of Small Stones, I think this is a very similar thing to our Simple Pleasures. Rachel introduced me to this, and it's so good to see that so many people are embracing the small things.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Being Hard on Myself

This week started with a lot of good intentions, and as these have somehow all unravelled into bits on the floor, I'm struggling to not beat myself up about what almost seems to be a 'wasted' week.

Monday morning at work began with a healthy to-do list. Over the recent weeks I've felt myself becoming quite unproductive, and this list was my new start, an attempt to grasp back some of the enthusiasm I've felt over the past year since I started working.

Then there was running, yoga and strength training. I'm working on a more balanced exercise routine, adding weights, squats and core work into the mix to try and reach a level of all-round fitness. With a half marathon next weekend, I was looking forward to really getting into this, doing strength work in the mornings and enjoying runs in the local woods after work.

And finally, there was the good intention to be still and do not a lot. To read and write, to sit and listen to music. To sit and sip tea for the simple pleasure of sitting and sipping tea.

And then I got ill! And the whole thing has collapsed into a bleary, sickly heap. The way that illness grabs and takes hold, forcing you to take what you can from the day and forget the rest, has meant that these good intentions have fallen through completely! Time off work means scrapping the to-do list and working with a must-do list, catching up on trillions of emails and making sure that no one is let down. Sickness has left me empty, quite literally, struggling for the strength to even walk up the stairs or down the road. In turn I have been nibbling through anything and everything my body is pleading for - this so happens to be chips and beans, chocolate biscuits, and porridge with copious amounts of honey. Vegetables are sitting soggy in the fridge, waiting patiently for their turn in the kitchen: maybe tonight is the night.

But still, I'm trying (and only semi-failing) to not be too hard on myself. Until this week I hadn't been sick in 12 years, and it's possible that my body is calling out for something much more important than top marks in my job, or stronger core muscles (though my core muscles could in fact have benefited...we don't need to go there). Without questionning staying at home in my dirge of germs, I was able to lie quietly and enjoy real and whole restfulness. Eating what I fancied when I fancied it, sitting on the couch every few hours for a change of scenery, listening to radio documentaries and reading much-treasured children's stories; this was wholly a practise in being kind to myself. I managed to be still and not do a lot, while also starting work on a new knitting project. Maybe this week hasn't been quite as unsuccessful as I had imagined.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Veg Box Updates

This week's veggie box did not disappoint!

Winter broccoli
Pointed cabbage

I was especially pleased to get a good ol' broccoli, as it's my favourite of the greens and I thought I wouldn't be seeing it again until the summer! I didn't know there were different seasonal varieties, but this was delicious, and the flowers were much bigger than usual thanks to the weird heatwave that we had a couple of weeks ago!

As this was a very busy week we weren't too adventurous in the kitchen with this one, sticking to simple and familiar dishes that wouldn't take up too much time!

We used the carrots, broccoli and leek in a simple butterbean stir fry, served with delicious wild red rice and topped with yogurt.

The cauliflower was saved for a Friday night curry, which also included chick peas, carrots and homegrown tomatoes. It was divine, and the homemade naans (which were unbelievably easy to throw together!) were just incredible. I highly recommend having a go at these!

I wasn't so sure what to do with the purple kohlrabi, and after a bit of research it seemed that this is best in coleslaw-type salads rather than being cooked up in a hot meal. Since it's been so cold recently, stew was the only option for Monday night, so I threw the chopped kohlrabi, cabbage and remaining carrots in my casserole dish with some mixed beans, paprika and rosemary. The cooked kohlrabi was definitely tasty enough, but I did have a sneaky raw piece too which was absolutely divine, almost apple-like. Yum!

Monday, 17 October 2011

This Weekend.

This weekend The In-Laws descended, filling our weekend with activity, food and conversation. It was a perfect opportunity to explore the area with our still-fresh eyes, and I think it's fair to say that I finally fell some way in love with my new surroundings.

Having tried my best to be the Hostess with the Mostess all weekend, I am now utterly gazumpft, and definitely incapable of putting together a decent few paragraphs of words. Instead I shall leave you with some photos of our stunning surroundings, taken during what seemed to be the start of that real, perfect autumn I've been hoping for.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Bad Day at Work?

Maybe you could try getting soggy and covered in mud, preferably in flourescent yellow? I find a run through the nearby woods works a treat, especially in the rain.

Or how about some woodwind music? Something fast-paced, dynamic, dramatic. Plenty of double-tonguing and the occasional painfully high note to please the neighbours?

If that fails, this super-hot boyfriend lentil chilli (choose your own syntax here) should work a treat. Serve with pearl barley for extra goodness, and lots of grated cheese for an extra feel-good fix.

Music can serve every mood. For me, a bit of Joanna Newsome works a treat, especially with low lighting and some space to be still.


 Otherwise tea and cake is always a good choice!

Well...that has certainly worked for me!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Veg Box Updates

Last week, we had the following veggies delivered direct to our door:

Romano broccoli
Russian kale
White cabbage

Here's how we served up these organic treats this week:

Daniel stir fried the kale with garlic, ginger, chilli and chickpeas, and served  it with a mix of brown and wild rice. Very tasty.

After a long Saturday of revision for Daniel, I treated him to a Romano broccoli (actually a cauliflower!) pasta dish, with garlic, lemon and cheese. Deeeelicious!

I made a leek, parsnip and apple soup; perfect after a rainy run (and great for lunch the next day)!

I made a 'coleslaw stirfry': strips of cabbage, carrot and apple, thrown in the wok with chickpeas, raisins, garlic and ginger, and served with a sweet and sour vinegarette sauce. I had my doubts but was very happy with this one, and it was great as a cold salad for lunch the next day.

I also cooked up a huge batch of winter broth, ready for those inevitable cold evenings when I don't want to cook: cabbage, apple, carrots and split peas, spiced with ginger, chilli and cumin.

A really tasty week, and we still have plenty of potatoes left (I'm not a big potato-eater so I may leave those for Daniel!)!