We’ve been cooking again, really cooking. It has been glorious. Finally trying new things, creating delicious dinners, odd but tasty leftovers and everything in between. Partly this is because we’re trying to be a little more frugal so cooking at home is the way forward. Partly this is also because for my birthday this year I received three wonderful cookbooks. I love cookbooks and often flick through them for inspiration but I recently realized that I was getting into the habit of falling back to cook what I knew, rather than trying new things. So new recipes from new cookbooks it is.
The Jewelled Kitchen by Bethany Kehdy This is a beautifully written book with fabulous images to accompany the recipes. Recipes from across the middle east which I really like and inspiring flavours and colours.
The Lebanese Kitchen by Salma Hage This is almost as much a reference book as a recipe book. Full of a huge number of recipes, some variations on a theme but all simple, straightforward and most importantly delicious. I made a lamb and aubergine stack last weekend which was yummy.
Ottolenghi by Yohan Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi I’m sure everyone has already heard about this but this cookbook is a delight. Full of great flavour combinations in the recipes, straightforward, good instructions and beautiful mouthwatering illustrations.
We went West for Christmas. It was good, for us both. Although the weather was not all that California weather is meant to be (read pissing rain for many of the days we were there) the enforced inside time and relaxation was a blessing.
Due to the terrible weather we spent the first day in the California Academy of Sciences. They had an amazing coral reef aquarium with the most beautiful array of fish. I could have watched it for hours.
Of course there is the bridge, which is as spectacular in real life as it is in your imagination. And it really was that grey for many of the days… Although there’s something about dull, low grey and mizzle which makes me feel so cosy.
Our friends took us in search of sunshine and find it we did. We even found some Elk. Who knew there were Elks in Northern California, certainly not I. Speaking of Elk we also saw Elephant Seals and hummingbirds (so very amazing).
And then the last day spent in a blaze of sunshine, seeing the city on foot and enjoying the colours and contrasts that this city provide, old vs new, green space vs urban sprawl, poor vs rich.
I’m sure we’ll be back.
J and I have been a couple for 10 years now. 10 years of time spent growing up together, learning about each other, working together, celebrating, commiserating and becoming the people we are now. It felt momentous that moment when we ticked over into double digits.
It’s been another whirlwind year, so much going on since last year and more big changes to come. Thankfully though before the changes we get to relax a little, we are heading off to San Francisco for Christmas and some down time. Time to re-connect, to forget all the stress and crap we have to deal with and to get on with enjoying being together and exploring somewhere new.
I do wonder what the next 10 years will hold and I am looking forward to finding out…
The time has come for us to return to London. We move back in January. Two months. In total we will have lived in the US for 27 months, during which we have experienced some of our toughest times and some absolutely wonderful times, we’ve met many amazing people who I hope will be lasting friends. It was absolutely the right decision to move here and experience this and now it feels like the right time to do the return journey.
There’s a lot to think about of course. Moving country is not easy, as we have learnt, even if you’ve lived there before. We’re going through another period of pretty big change and trying to work it all out again. We’re going back to something which is so familiar and yet viewed through a new perspective and I imagine possibly also so changed from what we left. I’m excited though, the new opportunities this brings, the friendships we can re-kindle, the city I love I get to live in again. London here we come…
Last weekend we went out exploring with a friend. We’ve been to a Virginia vineyard before, last summer, and thought it was about time for another trip. This time we headed further, out West to the beginnings of the rolling Shenandoah hills. It is just beautiful and peaceful out there. Lots of green, wide open spaces, no sirens, no car horns, relaxing.
We chose to go to DuCard vineyards on the basis that they had a singer performing that afternoon. The singer was Curtis Prince, he had a lovely voice and was playing the kind of songs you want to listen to on a warm spring afternoon with a glass of wine in your hand.
The vineyard is small but the setting is just lovely and the wines were good, plus as an added bonus a lot better than the ones we had tried last year. We especially enjoyed the rose and the Popham Run Red, both of which we bought a bottle of to enjoy at home.
If you ever are in that neck of the woods I would thoroughly recommend a visit, even without live music, a glass of rose on their patio with the sun gently warming you is well worth the effort.
I had never tried making banana bread until last month. I had also never been that convinced of its worth. However with some very black bananas, a cold weekend and the help of Smitten Kitchen I gave it my first shot. It was goooood.
I tried it again a week later, with the recommended brown sugar and added pecans and to be honest it was even *better*, I wasn’t sure it could be but it really was. Now when we get bananas I shall hope that some get left until they go good and soft and then I can have the excuse to make this again. I would especially recommend it for breakfast spread with greek yoghurt.
I’ve just got back from a work trip to Europe, I managed to combine it with popping over to England to go to a wedding and then surprised my mama for her birthday. It was rather lovely. During my brief trip I went for a walk with my parents, we were lucky, the sun was shining and spring was beginning to show its face. It reminded me how beautiful England can be and how nice it is to tramp around in the countryside and see life beginning to get going again with the longer warmer days.
Today it is nine years since I sat in a university halls room with J and declared that since we were acting like a couple we may as well ‘officially’ be one. This was the days before Facebook and the change of status being the announcement of where one was in one’s relationships.
I remember back then thinking that since I hadn’t been in many relationships and as J was very lovely I might as well go for it and see where it went. Likely it would only be a month or two right?
Well, more fool the young me who thought that. All these years have passed and he still makes me smile more than anyone else. Still cares for me, makes me feel special and I look back on that day and think about the punt I took and how it was a jolly good one.
Here’s to the next nine years…
When I was back in the UK in September my big sister was also visiting. She also lives overseas. So I got to see both my nieces and my nephew and of course my sister and borther-in-law. Not only was it wonderful to see them but it also gave us an excuse to explore the area we grew up in afresh. Near where I grew up is a picture perfect town called Bibury. It is the epitome of a classic Cotswolds village and it was so lovely to stroll around it in the autumnal sunshine.
It has a beautiful river flowing through it, plenty of chances to watch the swans glide by and observe the ducks quacking for food.
And then there’s the trout farm, where you get to feed the fish and watch them go crazy and leap out of the water to be fed. I never imagined that could entertain me for quite so long but it can…
If you’re ever in the Cotswolds I would highly recommend a visit to Bibury and if you’ve never been to the Cotswolds then go, it’s beautiful, even if I am slightly biased
We grew up with a medlar tree in the back garden. I never ate these fruits I just knew what they were and that the tree gave the best shade in the summer because the leaves were so dense.
They’re an odd fruit, similar to a quince in that you have to leave them to ferment/decay (blet) before you can eat them. They were always a portent that autumn was coming. So returning home recently it was lovely to see the medlar tree in full fruit, a reminder of home and the changing of seasons.