Taking Stock – October

Making: my first soups of the season. Roasted butternut and chilli first. I had such a lunchtime soup craving that I was chopping vegetables, with the oven preheating, before 0900 on Friday! Someone was working in London and I had the house to myself. It was such a peaceful morning

While he was having swanky lunch, 500 feet up in the Leadenhall building in the city, I was cosy by the fire eating my soup and chunky sourdough cheese on toast. Bliss

Then the second soup followed the other, quite quickly. I made cauliflower cheese soup on Sunday. It’s so simple, but far more than the sum of its parts!

Here’s how: Use your largest saucepan and sweat a diced white onion in a little oil until translucent. Add a large crushed clove of garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add an extra large cauliflower, which has been cut into small florets, and a litre of vegetable stock. Cook until the cauliflower is tender. Don’t worry that there’s far more cauli than stock, it will all work perfectly. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Whizz with a stick blender (or in a blender when it’s cooled.) Serve with Danish Blue cheese crumbled over or a good handful of extra mature cheddar cheese. I find about 25g of cheddar per bowl is plenty.

I know it doesn’t look exciting at all, but it really is silky smooth and delicious!

Cooking: Chicken & Leek Bake. I don’t buy ready meals, I’ve always cooked from scratch. But weirdly when I was grocery shopping online last week, the store showed me a chicken and bacon and leek gratin thing in a plastic box. Urgh, but it was one of those instant ‘I must make this!’ moments. Then I saw this on my favourite recipe website Chicken & Leek Bake. I always adapt recipes, so mine had smoked pancetta and chicken breasts, not thighs, as that’s what I had in the fridge. And there’s no way I’m ever buying ready made cheese sauce! Mine had a homegrown bay leaf and some dried thyme popped into it. The English (Colman’s of course!) mustard made the sauce absolutely delicious. Perfect autumn / winter dinner. It is going to be made again and again, I predict!

Sipping: jasmine tea from my pint mug

Reading: a week or so ago I read Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road in a day. What a beautiful gem of a book. It was on the library Libby app

Waiting: to feel 100% me again

Looking: forward to seeing and walking beside the sea again

Listening: to Keith Stuart’s The Frequency of Us audio book. I had goosebumps by the end. Super twisty story

Wishing: a personal shopper would just deliver a rail of perfectly fitting lovely clothes to my bedroom. I really need to go shopping. Yawn

Enjoying: crocheting my gingerbread man. He now has a leg too

His arms

Appreciating: snuggling in bed with good books. My current is another ebook from the library, this time on the BorrowBox app. It’s The Never-Ending Summer by Emma Kennedy. I love her writing. I can recommend all her books, especially the non-fiction The Tent, the Bucket and Me. I read until gone midnight last night. This book is one of those ‘just another chapter’ page turners…

I always try to have a physical library book too, the libraries need to stay open. Use it or lose it! My friend made a Cranks Bible potato recipe last week and it prompted me to reserve the book. Should be good for soups too? I plopped it onto my car blanket in the boot yesterday, and sent her a pic. I’ve just realised it’s still out there

Eating: too much sweet stuff. After half term ends, next week I’ll be back to eating fewer treats

Liking: the new series of Young Sheldon

Loving: the anticipation of opening my first Inside Crochet mag in ages. I bought a 6 month subscription with some birthday money

Family apple picking afternoon was good fun

Buying: Christmas cards. I don’t know what it is this year, but I’m getting some things done early

Yesterday’s white sourdough, well greige really as the dark rye flour starter turns it a little murky!
Crusty bread. Mmmm

Watching: nature changing week by week

Managing: one of my favourite 6 mile loops (circular walks) at the weekend

Hoping: for more blue sky days

Wearing: a furry blue top, so warm and soft

Rose hips & Old Man’s Beard

Noticing: even the oak leaves are turning now. Those ferns I showed you earlier in the month have now died back

Following: Lucy’s Blogtober posts. Her visit to RHS Harlow Carr is top, top, top for autumn garden colour. I’m loving the daily diary posts and save a batch to read at one sitting

Sorting: the freezer. I defrosted it on Monday. What a good feeling. I’ve been so dizzy I couldn’t do it until now. It’s looking good now, but apparently the crunchy noise of the door closing on 2 inches of ice on the top drawer is missed!

Getting: organised for winter

Coveting: a new stick blender. Mine ground to a halt a while ago

Only 11th and apparently Christmas displays had already been a go-go for 2 weeks

Feeling: determined to do more garden pruning before the hedges are cut back on Tuesday

Hearing: the gentle ring of tinnitus

Banana & Walnut cake

Remembering: making the bird and other little things when I was new to it and absolutely crochet obsessed (and I didn’t have a wooky hand which now holds me back.) I recently came across this photo of my noticeboard in the first Little Room, it made me smile

How’s your October been? Are you ok? What are you making, cooking, watching and reading?

Taking Stock – February

Making: a bit of progress on my Coast Blanket, 3 more rows and I’ve finished another block.

I’ve done another 18 row repeat of my (probably not going to be a) dishcloth too. I just have the last 4 rows of plain knitting to do and it’s done. It’s frustratingly slow. Ah well. I’m glad I can still do bits and bobs Actually I have noticed bloggers I’ve followed for years, mentioning their tendon issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and such. All the crochet and knitting has caught up with us! Take it easy and don’t do too much in a sitting. BE CAREFUL

Cooking: olive focaccia. Last night I tried a third recipe, another sourdough recipe. This trebled – it was absolutely huge! It didn’t even look like focaccia. My starter is super powered. We hardly made a dent in it, but it tasted great. It also had massive air holes which was quite fun, but I’ll be going back to my first recipe which uses predictable commercial yeast. And looks like focaccia!

Sipping: on Saturday before dinner – Vagabond, a pale ale made by Scottish brewing geniuses BrewDog

Reading: Hungry by Grace Dent. I heard her on this podcast and immediately borrowed the ebook from the library, using the Libby app. So good. So good. I can’t put it down.

Waiting: Yep, we are all still waiting in England. I’m waiting patiently and feeling quite chilled.

Looking: forward to a holiday. Fingers and toes crossed!

Listening: to Madonna’s ‘Dress you up’ on the radio

Wishing: just to drive out of county. As soon as we’re allowed I’ll be off in all directions! Coast, National Trust places, shopping, museums, London, cafes, theatres, cinemas, short trips, long trips…I’d better check our cars over and make sure the tyres are up to all the driving. In the meantime I’m walking every day and enjoying it.

Enjoying: sunshine streaming in the windows. I woke at 7am and the room was full of delicious golden light.

Appreciating: birdsong, winter flowers, beautiful views, friendly people

Eating: lentil dal. I made what turned out to be my best ever. Just on the spur of the moment because I fancied some for lunch. Red split lentils, coconut milk, stock, onions, ginger, garlic, spices, fresh green chillis and a few chopped tomatoes. YUM

Liking: Taskmaster on 4OD still. We’re working our way through old series on 4OD. We take it in turns to choose. It never fails to make us roar with laughter. S2 now.

Loving: Lupin on Netflix, it’s French with subtitles. Don’t let that put you off, it’s fantastic. The story, the twists and music and …. Just watch the first episode and know that I’m winking at you

Buying: new walking trainers. I’ve gone through a pair in less than a year, as I walk so many miles

Managing: fine, thanks!

Watching: birds coming to the feeders. Love the cheeky aggro of the starlings raiding the mealworms and the hyperactive nervy blue tits

Hoping: for family gatherings

Wearing: scruffs

Following: changes in nature, loving all the greenery and shoots appearing

Noticing: much lighter earlier mornings and later afternoons

Sorting: socks. Wool walking socks shrink in the wash. When they’re all different ages it means I’ve got shorts, mediums and larges.

Getting: motivated with monthly goals. I’ll be reviewing them at the end of March and I’ll be setting new in April

Bookmarking: podcast episodes by searching for favourite comedians and listening to a range of shows

Coveting: summer evenings by the river with cider and a nice meal

Feeling: calm but keen for normal life to resume …

Hearing: the kitchen clock ticking

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What were your highlights of February? Was it good for you?

Plans for March?

Taking Stock – January

Making: freeform crochet pieces. Having a play around with scraps of DK. Also I’ve been trying Russian Joins versus Magic Knots to make a scrappy yarn ball. Magic knot wins, but not by much. I think I’d rather darn ends and make small motifs with scraps. Or donate to a school for craft. The knot is too hard to hide in crochet. Have you tried either, or freeform?

Cooking: Cullen Skink with homemade cheesy rolls. Delicious dinner!

Sipping: Vanilla & Macadamia coffee. Hawaiian coffee I was given for Christmas

Reading: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd, still…. I keep reading and reading, but I never seem to get to the end. I don’t know what’s happened to my reading speed. It’s a pretty good book, though quite dark so don’t read it if you’re not feeling in good spirits

Waiting: still waiting

Looking: at all the hellebores, snowdrops and croci that are appearing everywhere. They are a welcome sight!

Listening: to Taylor Swift’s Willow on the radio

Wishing: for a dry weather, blue skies and sunny day again SOON

Enjoying: Friday baking sessions. During January I’ve made focaccia, cornbread, stem ginger & sultana fruit loaf, cheesy rolls and lucky dip cookies

Appreciating: having a comfortable warm house in a quiet area

Eating: 30 plants a week. It’s quite fun listing them and seeing how well we’ve done. I’ve been reading and listening to Tim Spector guesting on a few podcasts to talk about gut health and diet

Liking: Simon Mayo’s announcement that he’s coming back to hosting a Drivetime show in March, on Greatest Hits Radio. I’m hoping there’s no, or at least few ads though, my listening loyalty depends on this to a large extent

Loving: crocheting and knitting regularly

Buying: Daffodils, they’re £1 for a bunch for instant sunshine, delivered with my groceries. “Hello there!” I say when they open.

Ah these went to the Great Compost Bin in the sky garden the next day and were greatly missed. Until the next bunch was delivered a few days later…

I’ve been in two shops in four weeks, one was the P.O. I miss museums, browsing large Sainsburys, local pubs, going to London, walking by the sea, travelling on buses and trains, going out for lunch with friends, buying new clothes, buying freshly made sushi …. the list goes on

Managing: to stay steady and plod on. We will get through this. I’m so sorry though for those who have lost their lives and their people who are grieving

Yes, we’ve had proper snowfall! This is a dodgy looking Snowhare we made the weekend before last. Enjoyed driving to visit my Social Bubble person and seeing lots of snowmen (and an impressive snowdog) on verges and by front gates

Watching: It’s a Sin on All 4. The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. Taskmaster series also on All 4. We’re taking it in turns to choose past series. At the moment I’m watching and cringing / laughing as the series features someone I used to know when they were a child and babysat occasionally…!

If you fancy a silly, fun film then try ‘Tag’ a film on Netflix (or for a small price it’s on Prime)

Hoping: they vaccinate a second time soon. Three family members have had the first so far

Wearing: my favourite fleecy top

Following: the ShantyTok thing on TikTok. I’ve always enjoyed a good sea shanty

Noticing: the lingering daylight at 5pm, it’s definitely lighter later

Sorting: receipts

Getting: a pint of whole milk every week for porridge. It’s a game changer

Bookmarking: recipes. Always the same answer. I made a chicken orzo pasta bake last night, based on one I cut out of a magazine last year. As always I tinkered with it and added lots more veg too

Stem ginger & sultana loaf – lots and lots of sultanas, it was chock full

Coveting: FREEDOM

Feeling: restless for a long walk later. A 5-6 miler. Please don’t rain (as forecast)

Hearing: the heating clicking

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I’ve been adding to this list during January, but hadn’t got around to writing it up properly. Oops!

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What are you up to? (Particularly if you’re in the UK, or somewhere else where there’s also a longterm strict Lockdown. Are you managing to stay steady? What’s occupying you?)

People’s spirit and steadiness here in the 1940s has always been lauded. But what’s struck me lately is in the midst of great uncertainty, fear and loss, people are generally so uncomplaining. People are being stoic and carrying on as cheerfully as they can. It’s made me feel so proud of my friends and community.