A Dinner Back In Time

I just love living in an older house. I often wonder about who has lived here before us, what kind of lives they led, what these walls have seen. In particular, I wonder who this house gave shelter to in the war years. Did a housewife live here with her husband, or was he young enough to be away fighting?

Sometimes as I am walking back from town, I realise I am retracing the steps of whoever lived here before us, and I imagine a housewife with a basket on her arm, going home to cook the supper.

Tonight I made a dinner which would have been familiar to her – a Woolton Pie inspired dish.

I peeled and diced a variety of vegetables – you could vary these, they are just what I had:

1 each of leeks, potatoes and celery sticks.

2 each of carrots and parsnips.

I sautéed in a little butter, then covered with boiling water and stirred in a teaspoon of marmite (I hate marmite on its own but it is useful in cookery).

I set them to simmer gently for 15 minutes, and made a small amount of white sauce. I melted a knob of butter in a pan, stirred in 2tsp of flour, and then added milk slowly, stirring well until I had a thick White sauce.I seasoned with white pepper, nutmeg, and oregano. It would have been dried mixed herbs but I had used them up earlier.

When the timer for the vegetables went off I drained them (saving the liquid for soup making) then stirred in the white sauce. I added a small amount of leftover cooked chicken which I had roughly cubed.

I divided this mixture between two individual enamel pie dishes and a ramekin, then sprinkled a little cheese over the top. I added short crust pastry lids, made three slits in the lid of each with a sharp knife and then glazed with a little milk. I baked them in a hot oven for 15 minutes. They were delicious,mbut I think the oven needed to be a touch hotter or they needed 5 minutes more to get the pastry a richer colour.

I love dinners like this, taking a recipe as inspiration and following the thread of your thoughts and inspiration to make it your own.

I was inspired by this blog and recipe today.

I wonder what my wartime housewife housemate would have thought of it?

At Last

At last, the clock has chimed, the year has turned. I can breathe again. The pain isn’t any less, but I can say now that I lost my baby last year, not last month. I lost my Dad last year. I can start to look ahead again, move forward.

2016 was a hard year for me. I dread to think how many hours Carl worked, how much time we lost.

But the sun rises and sets, the moon rises to watch over us through the night, the stars twinkle, and then the cycle begins again. Gently, slowly, we are ushered in to a new minute, a new hour, a new day, a new year, a new life.

This year is going to be a slower, simpler, more joyful year for me. Of paring back so I can more fully embrace and enjoy what remains. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking and learning lately. Celebrate the Rhythm of Life has widened and deepens my understanding of Steiner Waldorf philosophy and the importance of rhythm in our lives. I feel like I have spent the best part of a year drawing that information in and percolating it, and that now it is time to start living it.

I was laying in a candlelit bath just now, thinking of all the good things which lay in the year ahead. All the things I want to do with my little family, the meals to cook, the celebrations, special days, little happy moments to create. While I was thinking ahead over the year a thought came unbidden into my mind. It seemed to rise up from somewhere deep inside me.

This will be my love letter to the new year.

No resolutions for pounds lost or saved or miles run or things given up. I will take this gift of a fresh year, and use it well. This will be my reason, my all. To write a song of seasons melding into each other, of quiet cups of tea savoured and sipped, of chubby little starfish hands being stroked, of strawberries being picked, of candles being lit. A litany of breathing in her smell, warm from the bath. Of serving summer salads and roasted winter roots. Of hot baths and cool iced tea. Autumn leaves falling. Daffodils dancing in the breeze.

Join me in living and loving this year to the full?

Full

I was reading this lovely post when I should have been doing any other number of things, and some words stood out…my head is full.

Oh how ai identify with this, and I suspect many others of us too. My head is full of presents to buy, when they need to be wrapped and dispatched for, cards which have not yet been written, an address book unlocated, which evenings are busy, which evenings are left to do everything left to be done…

My head is full.

It is odd, I feel squeezed by the pressure this year, and yet stretched thin too, all at the same time.

I made air dry clay stars last year. I can definitely recommend doing it.minhave some air dry clay, bought for ornaments that won’t now get made this year. Instead of what I had planned, I will be making something different with Jessica…I have in mind some salt dough tea light holders.

There are parcels yet to arrive some yet to be ordered.

And yet, the tree is up. Tomorrow we will be doing a lovely Christmassy activity with Jessica. We have been to carol concerts and Jessica asks every morning if it is ‘my Christmas Day yet?’.

It just feels like so much to do and so little time to do it in. The thing I most want for Christmas this year is to just sit down quietly by the lights of the tree with a new book and a cup of tea and half an hour to enjoy them in. The scent of a freshly peeled satsuma clinging to my fingers as I turn the crisp pages. 

My neck feels a little achey and tense all the time these days. I hadn’t realised how utterly impossible it is to get anything done with a 2 year old. When I do have a clear day, I don’t, because I have her with me. While she is jolly good company, she also I strapped herself and wiggled out of the pushchair in John Lewis and ran amok…in the very expensive cosmetic section. I needed a lay down after that. On my list it was written as ‘perfume – JL’. If only it had been that simple!

I am sitting here now while Carl bathes Jessica, and I cannot for the life of me decide where to start. Tidy up the toys? See how far I got down the list today? Message a friend about tomorrow? Carry on crocheting the three soft toys which will be Christmas gifts? Start writing cards? Check on my long list of amazon orders? I think I am paralysed by overwhelm.

So I will make a cup of tea, and try and remember to breathe.

I love the whole season of Christmas, but sometimes, it builds up to such a big thing in your mind that it is hard to remember that after all, it is just one day, spent with family and friends. People who will forgive you if you don’t get done all that you hoped to. 

If you too feel you have too much to do….pause for tea, please.

December Evenings

The evening is like a match which has been pinched out win damp fingers, somehow slightly smokey,hazy and fizzled. It has been misty all day, and now the mist is hidden by or has evaporated in the wake if eveningfall, leaving behind only smeared fingerprints of dampness on the pavements and windowpanes.

The orange glow of the street lights make fuzzy halos and seem to cast more shadows than light.

Here and there, people have their lights on but curtains open, so you can peep in as you walk last and see their Christmas decorations. I love these little glimpses into other peoples homes. They remind me somehow of windows on an advent calendar. It cheers me too, to see homes with advent wreathed on their doors. 

Jessica is exhausted from nursery and then soft play, and has fallen into a crotchety doze. I should wake her, I should. But I will listen to her snuffly breathing as I sit in a room lit only by the lights on our Christmas tree. The kettle has boiled, and a cup of tea awaits. I hear cars going past outside, the slickness on the road sticking to their wheels. They are going places, busily. My Tuesday is always busy, I get Jessica to nursery for 7:45 then on to an office where I do some freelance admin, and then back to collect her, and then on with the rest of our day. So this little pause is welcome. Sip, reflect, sign, settle. There are cards to be written, gifts to be ordered and wrapped. Gifts to be made. But just for now, my mind which feels like a well shaken snow globe is going to be allowed to come to a whirling rest, just for now.

Flaneuse

Ahh, the French have a way with words, do they not? I am sure I have shared the story before of the Frenchman who came to my desk to join the library, and told me his name was ‘gee-bearrrrr’. He almost purred it. When I picked up his application form, I had to smile when I saw he had written ‘Gilbert’!

And so, although not a direct translation, flaneuse sounds so much better than ‘Jack of All Trades (Master of None) which is what I think I may be.

I am not fishing for compliments here, more evolving an understanding of myself. I crochet, I knit, I do a little embroidery, a little sewing, dabble in card making…the list goes on.

But I don’t have one grand passion which defines me, which acts as a shorthand for the essence of me.

I think of Lucy of Attic24, I immediately think of colourful stripey crochet. Emma of Silver Pebble is intrinsically linked with her beautiful silver jewellery, cast from nature. Sarah of Mitenska has a beautiful atyle and again is inspired by nature for her beautiful prints and line drawings. Sharon Blackman has a glorious folk art fabric collage style. Her daughters Georgia and Alie work with patterned surface design and flowers respectively. 

But me….as I say, I dabble. While I know that of course the women above don’t do their one thing exclusively and nothing else, they do have that one thing that they have made their own.

At a party, they have a distinct thing they can say they ‘do’. I haven’t found that yet for myself, but I want to. I sometimes think perhaps if I chose one thing I already do and expand on it…but I feel instead I need to dabble more, and see if I can find the thing to make my own, or hopefully, the thing which makes me its own.

Alas funds are low and time is short these days, so while I would love to book on to as many courses and workshops as I can find, I suspect that won’t be practical.

I’ll have to find other ways, but oh, how I am looking forward to. The main thing for me is to get out of my head, out of thinking about things and doing them. I want to end the year with things I have made and created rather than just thought about. I am hoping to join Lucy of Attic 24’s blanket crochet-along in January. I like the idea of starting the year doing something creative and while my hands are busy my mind can be planning other creative endeavours.

Because that is the thing…I want to grow my wings and go from following patterns to creating things. That is the spark that I am hoping to kindle.

I do have one more thought forming. I have been following a wonderful website called Mothering Arts, and I would love to train with them at some point, and lead nurturing groups for mothers. 

Mothering leads me to another thought. I took Jessica to storytime at Foyles this morning which was lovely as always. I happened to park our pushchair by the pregnancy and birth section. There were 60 books in it. Sadly 1 in 5 pregnancies end with a miscarriage, so by that reckoning there should have been at least 12 books on miscarriage…there wasn’t a single one. 

Darning A Life

The moon was smudged behind a veil of clouds on Thursday evening. It glowed through, and it seemed to me that it looked like the sky had worn think letting the moon shine through.

So it feels to me like sorrow has worn and ripped a hole in my soul this year. Where there should be a baby growing, to love, there isn’t. Where my Dad should be, he isn’t. It is as though every time I have wiped my eyes, I have stretched the fabric of my soul a little thinner. 

When I carry that heaviness in my heart, it seems frivolous almost to suddenly notice the heavenly pink of a sunset, or the acid yellow of tiny leaves scattered against a dark path. But it is these tiny joys which I use to try and stitch my soul back together again.

It will be a long journey, learning how to love with my losses, and learning how to find my sparkle again. But every tiny joy, every little happy moment is another stitch.

I am fortunate to know some amazing women who have listened to me, shared their own stories, and made me realise that there is life beyond. The hope they give me is the fabric I weave into my darning.

I have promised myself that next year I will spend rediscovering my sparkle, gathering happiness like a magpie, putting myself back together again. I hope with all my heart I will be lucky enough to be pregnant again, and that this time it will result in a new baby. But this seems other to that, somehow. I don’t want to put a new baby as the focus of my life, as it may never happen. I can’t control it. But I can look for joy every day. I can cultivate happiness. I can try new things, rediscover what makes me happy, and find new things which make my heart sing. I can stitch and darn every day.

When I am finished, if I ever am, I know this season of my life won’t ever go away. This isn’t invisible darning, to be ‘good as new’. This is darning which later on I will be able to run my finger over, feel the bumps, and say yes, I remember. 

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with golden lacquer. The mend is celebrated rather than hidden. That is what I hope to achieve here. 

I won’t always be blogging about this, I don’t want to dwell. But for now, it helps to pin my thoughts down on the page. If someone else should happen to go through what I have, and my words give them any degree of comfort, I will feel happy indeed. If I can lend my needle and thread, I will happily do so.

Something I read, and I can’t remember where to credit it is that some women can find some comfort in knowing that their baby knew nothing but love. That seems like a good place to start darning to me.

Hope

These days feel dark to me. The sun never seems to rise, before it is setting again. The light is hazy,myself somehow glaringly, blindingly bright too.

Brexit, Trump, Aleppo, the world news is sad and scary and it feels unrelenting.

Losing my Dad, losing my baby, my own world seems awash with grief still.

And yet, and yet. There is always hope. Sometimes hope makes fools of our hearts, but sometimes it is just enough to keep us going. I spot a beautiful cobweb and feel glad, glad that I noticed it, that I can still see small snatches of joy. 

I read this beautiful little essay, and it spoke to me deeply. Please, do make yourself a cup of tea and read it. Reading it made me feel better. What to do in dark days? This writing tells you what.

I love the imagery of a pair of scales, with us all pouring out daily good deeds,bright thoughts, drops of kindness….and one day, it will take just one more drop, one more kind word, one more helping hand to tip those scales.

Happy thought, indeed.