Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Year of pleasures #10: Hanging out the washing

Photo by Logan (better than my effort!)

The sun shone long enough at the weekend to put some washing on the line instead of on the clothes horse in the hall.

It was a lovely five minutes of quiet pondering, basking in the warm sun, admiring my tulips which have burst into life in the past few weeks and just enjoying the spring.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Year of pleasures #9: trips home

I had a bad blog week last week and skipped one, I promise I'll be good from now on!

I live quite a way from my folks, not in American terms I guess but it's a good five-hour drive from our home in London to theirs in Durham, south east to north east - definitely too far to pop round the corner for a cuppa! So I don't get to visit very often, especially with the price of train tickets and two kids in tow.

It means that when I do go home I try to squeeze in as many people as possible. We were up for less than 48 hours last weekend but we still managed to see my parents, my brother, my gran and uncle, two of my close friends and our closest family friends too! It might have been a fleeting visit but it was full of laughter, slightly chaotic but lots of fun.

I've lived in London for ten and a half years, and before that I was at uni for four; Hull and Arizona will always feel like home to me too. But Durham, where I grew up, where my family comes from, holds a special place for me. I love going home, back to my mum and dad, to the house I grew up in, the places I grew up in. And it's more than that: the north east is part of my identity, central to me. I've always thought that home is the place I feel loved, that it could be anywhere on earth as long as I'm with people I love. But I never feel more at home than when I'm there.

Lent: A progress report

Sorry sorry sorry, I've been poor at blogging this past few weeks. Avoiding cake clearly gives me nothing to write about! Thought I'd give you a status report to get me going again.

I've actually surprised myself by sticking to Lent so far. Not that it's been too hard! It's not like I'm actually addicted to cake so I'm not having cravings the way I would if I'd given up, say, cigarettes. And I'm not having to avoid cake-based social situations the way I would if I gave up alcohol - I even managed lunch at a cake shop yesterday without having any! Yay me. And a weekend at home for family birthdays without eating cake, if only because there wasn't one (highly unusual in the Heslop household).

There are two reasons I've managed to avoid cake so far though.

1) There are myriad alternatives to cake that still fill the cake-shaped hole in my belly - so far I've had chocolate bars, caramel shortbread (biscuit), scone (savoury), rice crispie cake (not baked) and baklava (may be called a cake in Greek but as far as I'm concerned it's a pastry). I've not even had to resort to the emergency brownie option (borderline cake).

2) You don't have to observe Lent on Sundays. This amazing nugget of information came from my brother, who heard it on Songs of Praise (clearly an authorative source), and has been verified by at least one independent source since, so it must be true. From now until Easter, Sunday will officially be known as Cakeday in this house.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Let them eat cake (but not me)

Lent. Ah, Lent. I've written before about my strange attachment to giving something up each year. Maybe it's like setting a personal challenge, seeing how long I can abstain. Or maybe my willpower is so weak I need an added pressure to force myself to be sensible!

I thought about giving up alcohol again - I think it's the only time I've actually succeeded at Lent, if you discount the first half pint a couple of days in when I forgot I wasn't meant to be drinking - but I only have a couple of glasses a week, so it wouldn't be much of a challenge.

A few years ago I gave up sweet things, but the category was a bit broad and there were far too many caveats for my liking. So this year I've narrowed the field and I will be giving up cake. Yes, cake.

I know, I know, I eat so much and blog about it so often that surely there is no hope of success! But have faith, dear reader, Lent is after all only 40 days. I'll just have to avoid birthday parties and wear dark glasses when I take Ella to cafes. Easy...

Year of pleasures #8: Pancakes!

An easy one this week - savoury (butternut squash with courgette and Chinese leaf) or sweet (lime and sugar, sharper than lemon) I love pancakes.

I love the ritual, the simplicity - weighing and measuring, mixing, pouring, spin the pan, toss, done. Simple to make but change the filling and the possibilities are endless.

And I love the greater significance, the tradition, Shrove Tuesday, emptying the pantry before Lent. More ritual.

Happy pancake day!

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Haberdashery

I found another lovely teashop last week while I was out with Ella, this time in Crouch End (branching out!). The Haberdashery, on Middle Lane, has a really retro feel, a great selection of drinks (dandelion and burdock and beers as well as tea and coffee), delicious muffins (baked in little flowerpots) and a nice selection of handmade goods and art for sale, too. They even sell Ella's Organics baby food so definitely wee one friendly!

It was a bit of a random visit - James McAvoy was in there with his little boy and the owner was being interviewed by a reviewer, so I did a good bit of eavesdropping! - but even on a normal day I'm sure it still has the same relaxed, welcoming vibe. We'll definitely be popping in again next time we go for a wander.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Year of pleasures #7: Snowdrops

Flash of green and white
Tiny harbingers of Spring
Heralding the sun