Monday, 27 December 2010

Pym and putting my feet up

I've read a lot of Barabara Pym over the last few months and if you haven't had the pleasure of reading any of her novels, I strongly suggest you do. They're a gentle pleasure, mostly set in the late 40's and early 50s and including a large amount of vicars and women of a certain age but she is a very sharp observer of the small things that make up day to day to life and there is a very strong wit running throughout all of her work.
I remember a line in one of her last books "Quartet in Autumn", where one of the characters who is about to retire says something along the lines of "Well why shouldn't I knit, and listen to the radio, read novels and think about my clothes if that's what I want to do?" And having finally reached a quieter period after the last few frantic weeks of sorting out presents, dealing with the snow and Christmas, that, my friends, is exactly what I intend to do.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Simple pleasures

I haven't blogged for a while as a combination of an evil migraine, a rogue bit of gluten causing havoc, the cold weather and the subsequent ME crash have left me largely sofa and bed-bound for the last few weeks meaning that sadly, very little in the way of eating, knitting or reading has been getting done!
Since I last blogged I've had some big news, I passed my MSc with merit and will be starting a funded PhD in January, which is both wonderful and terrifying at the same time! The plan for December is meant to be winding down with work and trying to get myself organised, so as to be in the best shape mentally and physically to start hitting the books again in the new year. Alas, the ME fairy seems to be conspiring against me on this one, as the aforementioned poorliness is leaving me with very little energy at the moment but deep down I know that it is all pay-back for living on borrowed energy for the last six weeks or so. Fingers crossed, I'll be feeling perkier soon and dear old body, I promise I will start looking after you properly and letting you have lots of rest and delicious food!
One thing I have been doing today whilst stuck in bed and struggling to read or write much, is watching Nigella Kitchen on iplayer. I actually don't own any of her cook books and have somehow managed to only catch snippets of her previous series but I've been delighted by this series. I think she gets mocked a lot for her enthusiasm for cooking and eating but as I was watching, I realised that she's one of the only foodies that I've seen or read that genuinely seems to take as much pleasure in eating as I do and for that reason, I have a new found love for Nigella! (Her recipes looked pretty good as well, so if Santa would like to bring me her book for Christmas, I'd be delighted!)
One of the things she mentions several times that really struck a chord with me was the idea that you should take your pleasures where you find them, especially in the simple joys of things like the beautiful golden colour of cooking squash or the feel of cold flour running through your fingers. I watched Amelie again recently which has a similar theme running through it and it got me thinking about how true it is, especially for people with ME or other illnesses, that instead of resenting all the things I can no longer do, I need to start being more grateful for the simple things that I can still do and which do bring me joy. Like the happiness that touching soft, colourful yarn brings or the pleasure that talking to a friend gives you. So I'm curious, what are your simple pleasures?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Northern Harvest

I got my first veg box delivered today. Having liked the idea for ages but having convinced myself I couldn't afford them, I finally decided that I deserved a treat and that a delicious parcel of fresh produce might kick start my cooking mojo again. (Yes, I realise it's slightly weird to view vegetables as a treat but there we go!) I love cooking and am a firm believer in the whole idea that food is healing but lots of commitments recently and the subsequent distinct lack of energy means that I've been eating a pretty unhealthy diet and a cooked meal has been about as adventurous as cheese on gluten-free toast. The resulting bad skin and even less energy than usual can't be unrelated so I'm really excited at the thought of searching out yummy recipes to make the most of this lovely fresh fruit and veg.
I got the delivery from a company called Northern Harvest who do box deliveries of fruit and veg but also a host of other food, all sourced from farms in the Lancashire and Cheshire area. Given that I don't have a garden and an allotment, this is about as close as I can get to really fresh veg!
I've just started reading Denis Cotter's "Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me" which is an absolute delight and can best be described as a love letter to the vegetables he uses in his Cork vegetarian restaurant Cafe Paradiso. Not only does the book have mouthwatering descriptions of his favourite foods, there are wonderful restaurant quality recipes in it as well. It is too my lasting regret that I have been to Cork twice and both times missed the chance to eat there -one day I hope!
The weather has definitely taken a turn towards winter today so I'm looking for hearty warming recipes. What shall I make first?

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Moomins, Monsters and Mitfords

Part of the reason for starting this blog, apart from having somewhere to witter on about my obsessions with food, knitting and books, is to start exploring Manchester more. I've lived here for a year, having spent all of my previous years in London and the South East, but a combination of work, studying and poorliness have prevented me from engaging with all that the city has to offer.

With that in mind, the boy and I set off to Bury Art Gallery at the weekend and discovered Moomins! The gallery is tiny but has a great exhibition of a selection of drawings by Tove Jansson, the creator of the Moomins. The drawings themselves were very fragile so didn't take any piccies but here's one of the little Moomins on the floor pointing you in the right direction!

The gallery also had an exhibition of paper sculptures and my favourite was the swirly spiral made of books pictured at the beginning of the post. A trip to nearby Bury Market resulted in the purchase of some gorgeous local goats' cheese and some beautiful crumbly Lancashire cheese dotted through with sweet red onion. Then it was home for me to munch my way through said cheese, the boy to carve the Halloween pumpkin and to wait for Trick or Treaters!
Whilst waiting, I've been gorging on Debo Devonshire's memoirs "Wait for Me", which was a really unexpected present from some friends. It is fascinating! Not just the youngest Mitford sister, Debo is also the Duchess of Devonshire, friend of the Kennedys and full of interesting insights on how Britain and it's countryside have changed over the last five or so decades.
I'm off to finish it now before getting on with some secret Christmas knitting. Having made the decision to make most of my Christmas presents, I've realised that this is going to take a loooooong time so had better crack on with it!
Thanks for reading and hope you'll join me for future posts on my journey through my thirties x