Thursday, 23 February 2012

Homemade Digestive Biscuits

Last weekend I found myself craving something sweet to dip in my tea, but, as regularly happens in this house, there wasn't a biscuit to be found!

I raided the cupboards to no avail, and then I turned to my baking books for a solution. One of the few things that my baking supplies could cater for was digestive biscuits - and even then, I'd have to use oil instead of butter!

Well, the result was fabulous, and we were soon five digestives down and counting. They didn't match up to the shop-bought digestives that we're so fond of (not salty enough, Daniel commented - there was no salt in the recipe, for some reason), so I looked up the ingredients and compared them with my recipe.

The following Sunday I made another batch - the first batch was long gone! - and this time I altered the recipe to make them more 'digestive-like'. Well, it worked a treat - the sweet/salty combination was just right, they had the comforting maltiness of the shop-bought biscuits, and their dunkability was spot on (as tested by us!)! Again I used oil instead of butter, as I thought that olive oil would add to their savoury side, but I think that butter would give them a more crumbly crumb, as these ones are quite crisp.

Still, we are obsessed with these biscuits, and now that I have my own special recipe I can delight in daydreams of handing them to my grandchildren with a glass of milk one day. Until then, Daniel and I will continue to fight over the last biscuit so that I simply have to make more to avoid any fisticuffs!

Homemade Digestive Biscuits (adapted from 'Baking Magic')

100g wholemeal flour
40g plain white flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp rolled oats
1 tsp salt
100g soft brown sugar
8 tbsp olive/groundnut oil, or butter
1 large tbsp malt extract (or if you don't have this, add another tablespoon of oil)
4 tbsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 190C and line 2 large baking sheets.
2. Mix the flours, baking powder, salt and oats in a bowl. In another large bowl, mix the oil with the sugar and malt extract.
3. Add the flour mix to the wet ingredients. Add the milk a little at a time until it forms a dough (you might need a little more milk here).
4. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth, then roll out until about 3mm thick.
5. Cut into rounds and pop onto the baking sheet, then prick them with a fork for authenticity!
6. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.
 7. Serve with a cup of tea.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sunday Morning Snippets

The sunniest Sunday morning this year, surely? I am home alone, having kissed Daniel goodbye for the morning only minutes after I crawled out of bed. A day full of good intentions lies ahead, but for now I'm enjoying one of those rare mornings of stillness, where every moment is so full and so visible that it seems to last for minutes.

I've switched the radio station to BBC 3; rousing violin quartets and rhotic German voices seem to bring into bloom the snowdrops on the roadside through the window. The morning is coming to life in polyphony; the music is somehow visible in the room.

Sunlight is streaming through the windows and skylights, refracting through last night's empty bottles, turning the fruitbowl into a still life waiting to happen.

My book is open on the table, pages splayed fan-like following a leisurely breakfast-table read. Remnants of orange juice and toast left to be cleared, while precious after-breakfast time is drawn out for as long as possible.

A pile of plates and a hoard of empty glasses by the sink; evidence of last night's indulgence, and the early-morning headaches of today. I am already looking forward to standing by the window, up to my elbows in bubbles, soaking in the morning sun while I wash away all traces of too much pizza, beer and pudding.

Generous squares of solid blue when I look through each of the skylights, enticing me outside and into the day. Though I secretly hoped for a rainy day, during which I could get all of my work done without guilt for being indoors, the promise of a brisk walk and sunshine on the top of my head is already refreshing my groggy mind.

A promising Sunday is planned ahead, and by default instills a sense of optimism about the working week to come. Plans to indulge my body and my mind in fresh air, homemade bread, music and yoga mean I can hope to arrive at Sunday evening with excitement rather than gloom about the possibilities of the next five days.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Happiness in a Pillow Case

I'm a true believer in happiness. Having had my own fair share of downs, I realized quite prematurely that happiness is something you create around you, something to carry in your pocket, and is not by any means an end-state. Happiness is not a thing to be achieved, there is no certificate to say "Congratulations, you've done it!"; it's dynamic, to-ing and fro-ing throughout life, dependant very much on state of mind at any one time.

I'm struggling a bit with my happiness levels at the moment, for some reason. I'm nervous about up-coming challenges, anxious about big commitments, and consequently I've been walking around in a blue-grey haze, seeing and feeling a little less clearly than I would like to.

So, I took it upon myself to think of a few simple things that bring me genuine happiness. Things that I can achieve every day, that will contribute to the general level of joy within me. Once I started thinking of things I couldn't stop; finding happiness in the smallest things is infections, and it's something I've made a habit of for a while.

Happiness Found Around the House

Listening to the radio while eating breakfast quietly with Daniel - my favourite time of day, which we never rush.

Keeping the house tidy - even putting laundry away and paring socks (which I hate!) contributes to my general levels of wellbeing. Happiness comes more easily when there are no socks to match up.

Chopping vegetables - sometimes just preparing a healthy meal helps to boost my mood. Enjoying the colours and the smells of the food I'm preparing, and of course the prospect of eating it, is all part of the mealtime pleasure.

A hot shower - I could spend forever in the shower, and I think Daniel sometimes worries that one day I might (we're on a meter). Some favourite soap and delicious hot water can quite literally wash the blues away!

A quiet cup of tea - forever the solution, but sitting quietly with a cup of tea, thinking of nothing in particular, is a wonderful way to clear the mind and take some time for yourself.

A good stretch - does anything feel better than a really good stretch? In the morning, at work, while cooking, waiting for the bus, before bed: this little trick is a portable solution to relieve the blues!

A lovely made bed, ready for some sleeping - tempting at all times of day, but the promise of a cosy night's sleep is a great therapy, even in the morning before leaving for work!

Do you have any simple tips for promoting happiness? Please do share!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Note To Self.

Note to self.

Everything doesn't have to happen all at once. Be more patient; enjoy the big changes one at a time.

There are some things you just don't like. Maybe it's time to stop trying to like them?

You don't need to fit into those jeans anymore. Remember: jeans that are baggy now were once tight, and before that you didn't even dare try on a pair of jeans! Your perceptions might have changed over time, but your huge achievements will always remain.

Friends always cheer you up. Talk to friends more.

Get to the pharmacy and fix your dry skin. Small errands can make a massive difference!

Eat more fresh spinach. Life is too short for frozen spinach.

Dreams do actuallycome true. The proof is in that man making you chamomile tea in his dressing gown over there.

Fitting in would mean selling out. Stick with who you are - the people you love the most like you that way.

Eat more slowly and enjoy mealtime conversations. Those are always the most precious moments in the day.

Write more - you love to write. Preferably with a hot chocolate or a cinnamon bun. Or both.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snowed In

After a day spent walking around in the cold yesterday, today I am happy to let myself be snowed in.

A day spent in men's pyjamas, drinking fresh coffee and reading; the sort of Sunday that I allow in my daydreams, but which in reality often leaves me restless and annoyed at myself for missing out on the day. But today the world outside my window is shot in black and white, and however appealing fresh air and a stretch may be, I am tiring of the cold, and tiring of arriving home wet, numb and reluctant to be outside ever again.

For me, this sort of day takes practise. Practise at balancing indulgence with necessity. But the busier my weeks get and the less time I spend reading, writing and sitting with a mug of tea, the less reluctant I am to avoid these extremes of downtime. Tomorrow it will all begin again, and I'll be grateful for those chapters of my book which would have otherwise remained unread.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


January has come and gone, and what a January it has been! This year has been pretty massive so far - massively exciting in places, and massively difficult in others. It's also been massively windy and rainy, here in our hideout just East of the Pennines.

In the last 31 days things have changed like I never would have believed - two things in particular are really keeping me up in the air right now (more on that soon, I'm sure), and I've found that my mantra for the year - to make it awesome, that is - is really giving me a boost when times are just too tough.

In fact, I've already learned an important lesson from this; that unhappiness is an opportunity to change, and sometimes the darkest days are what it takes to make things better. There have been some dark days this January, but without them we wouldn't be considering the things we are considering now, or making the exciting plans that we are making.

So; 2012 so far has been a really positive one. I've made some positive personal changes, and realized some things about myself that are driving me forwards into a future I wasn't sure about only a month or so ago. I feel more considerate towards myself, and am enjoying sitting and relaxing in bed with a book on regular occasions. I have flossed almost every day, my yoga practise is getting deeper and more meaningful (we did meditation in last week's class, which was amazing), and I am writing in my diary a few times a week, to the detriment of my blog, but I'm ok with that.

January led me to decide what needed changing, and to make some baby steps towards those changes; now I want to make sure that the changes are established and nurtured throughout February. Hopefully the days will get longer and warmer soon, and the world will feel a little fresher and a little less grey, but until then I am happy to cosy up in our flat with Daniel, reading like crazy, writing down thoughts rather unartistically in my diary, and enjoying yoga, running and flute lessons as pendulums in my week.

In February I intend to get earlier nights and earlier mornings, spend more time enjoying my breakfast and less time worrying about getting to work early, and start to focus on one thing at a time. I find myself doing a whole collection of things in one go (tonight I cooked tea, checked my emails, made tomorrow's lunch and wrote part of this blog post all at the same time); I want to focus my energy on one thing at a time, whether that be washing tomatoes, sending a quick hello to an old tutor, or spending time with Daniel, catching up on our days. Things always seem blurry when I don't focus my attention fully towards one task, and it makes me edgy and uncomfortable.

So there we have it. A simple, good February, with plenty of quiet time and plenty of focus. Normally I dislike this blueish-grey month, and wish it gone before it's even here, but what a negative way to look at it that is. We have been blessed with an extra day in 2012, and that's one extra day to direct life onto a fresh course; one extra day to make the year something special.