..with some of the boring stuff. It has to be done doesn't it, but I try to make it interesting, fun even, thus Fly Lady - common sense and a touch of humour, and Marie Kondo with her interesting philosophy. Both have been invaluable in helping me simplify my life.
With a few quiet days ahead I've decided it's time to take them, gently, to the next level as they say..
Fly Lady reminds me that I am CEO of my life and home (I often think running a modern-day home is like running a small business) so I am in charge here. I already had some of the good habits Fly Lady recommends you adopt, one month at a time: I already made my bed (2 mins), wiped round the bathroom after I washed (another 2 mins). I adopted her Morning Routine and now certainly move more and drink more water. I've made some progress on paper clutter and the habit of decluttering 15 minutes a day is brilliant, but I've never quite mastered Menu Planning so...with my current favourite book and my shopping list (I do always shop with a list) to hand,
I chose three recipes
and went shopping. I have to tell you that as I write the snow is getting heavier which makes me all the more pleased to be well stocked up and have a plan!
Do you have the Menu Planning habit yet? And is it snowing where you are?
My favourite salad - avocado, banana, red pepper, cucumber, juice and grated peel of an orange and chopped brazil nuts. Freshly squeezed juice - carrot, apple, celery, kale, cucumber and ginger.
I wonder if this will counteract the effect of the half packet of biscuits I scoffed earlier? I keep biscuits for visitors, but once the packet is opened....
..to the day.
Sunshine gets me up early and breakfast outside is one of life's best simple pleasures.
I like to keep a packet of these cinnamon buns from Ikea in the freezer. 15 minutes in the oven and they are ready for weekend breakfast or for guests.
Some nice decisions to make,
and a quick wreathe for the door from clematis trimmings.
It will look pretty for a few days. The leaves will soon droop and I shall then lay it flat to re-use later without the leaves but with some autumn berries.
I hope you had a nice start to your day, (or can plan a nice start to tomorrow!)
..I have decided, will be more of a pleasure and less of a chore.
The feeling of having a stock of home made dishes in the freezer is rather akin to having a good woodpile. Deeply satisfying.
I plan to have a smallish repertoire of easy, quick and healthy dishes, to keep a stock of good basic ingredients for a meal for any unexpected guests...I want to be a happier and more relaxed cook, a less grudging cook, a more organised cook, a more respectful and mindful cook, and I have accepted that if I want really good food (and I do) then I am going to have to make it myself.
And enjoy myself making it.
In desperation for some sunshine I have hung this painting 'Harvest' on the sitting room wall. it was inspired by the memory of a very hot and sunny day picnicking in a newly cut field..
The actual harvest here this year has not been a sunny one, but a very wet one. I took this photograph in the rain. Poor farmer!
Kondoing the cookbooks has been an interesting (and emotional) exercise. It has been about so much more than food.
The little Scottish book was given me by three teenage pupils (boys) when I was leaving to teach in England. I was so touched! The others are almost worn out and some were given by friends. Nigella Christmas I have given away - way too much fat, sugar and cream - even for me and even for Christmas!
The Complete Avocado Cookbook (still available) is lovely with recipes for every course including really good salads and this special dessert. Combine mashed avocado, whipped cream, beaten white of egg, chopped dates, honey and the juice and rind of one orange. Garnish with a little grated chocolate....Mmmm
Don't laugh, but I've just ordered a cook book! 5 Ingredients - Quick and Easy Food by Jamie Oliver.
Don't you think I was meant to have this one? It was surely designed with me in mind. Ticks all the boxes. And published just yesterday to coincide with the ending of my review of my cookbooks :-)
The kind of cook I want to be..tomorrow...
What kind of cook are you?
These were all Barry's. I've already donated a lot under this heading, but will keep these in case I actually begin to really like cooking again and want to experiment. Who knows!
Just looking at these is reminding me of some lovely food experiences in different countries. In Sweden, where I shared a little house with two Italian students, Elvira and Titziano, who would have long discussions over the simplest of meals about how they were cooked in their regions of Italy. Elvira cooked a 6 course meal from scratch for our Swedish friends (I assisted). Meanwhile the students back in Manchester were mostly eating Pot Noodles and carry-outs!
In Hong Kong, where Jennie and I ate in a restaurant where no-one spoke English. I still don't know what we were eating, but it was delicious and we struggled a bit with the chopsticks before I noticed that all the other customers - all Chinese - were using knives and forks. I think they were having a gentle laugh at us...
Venice: breakfasts standing up in a tiny bar on the street, Cyprus: the tenderest meat ever, cooked overnight in an outdoor oven over scented wood and then cooked by the sun all of the next day... New Zealand: Death By Chocolate....What a nostalgia trip these books have prompted!
I'm off to dig out some photographs now.
What are your favourite food memories?
Starting from the bottom here - I learned a lot from Zoe Harcombe's Stop Counting Calories and Start Losing Weight and will keep the recipe book of these two for a few recipes which have become favourites, and one of my principles is not to count calories, or to totally eliminate any one food group.
French Women Don't Get Fat I have written about on 10.9.14. Sorry I cannot get the link to work :-( (There are a lot of posts under Simply Eat if you have time to browse!) Her light-hearted joie de vivre approach and emphasis on the pleasure of food makes the recipe book a keeper.
Lean for Life is my current favourite. Although I have given up trying her too-intensive-for-me six week programme I will incorporate many of her ideas and love her positive can-do attitude to health and fitness, and the recipes are lovely.
I will donate the top two as again I have taken on board what I want from them. I have adapted the 5:2 diet to have mainly vegetable juices on one day a week, two if my weight has gone up a little (there is a weight beyond which I will not go...)
I'm lucky to gain only a couple of pounds now and then, but I'm pretty careful about only eating good, real food.
I just don't want to spend much time cooking it!
Meanwhile, the sun shone for a few hours today and the second brood of five baby swallows are about ready to leave the nest above the studio window. Yay!
I'll part with Quick Breads (I've found some nice Polish breads at the supermarket that I really like). Super Fast Food I have borrowed and may buy - lots of what I call assembling rather than cooking, and very healthy. (I still juice every day.) Carluccio's recipes don't sound so simple to me and I'll donate this one and stick to going to his restaurant when I can! Nigel Slater often uses slightly uncommon ingredients not easy to find here, but I shall try using these two books more. I'll donate the next two and keep the Jamie's - though the one recipe I tried and really liked (Blackened Chicken San Fran Quinoa Salad) took a lot more than 15 minutes!
The freezer is filling up....and it's still raining.
When I looked at the stacks of cookery books (see yesterday) I knew without a doubt that these were the ones which sparked most joy! I have made a mere two recipes from this collection, but I love them and they have inspired many a Primrose Picnic, Christmas feast, pretty table setting and dinner for two.
Life mostly demands that we be practical and sensible and efficient, but this collection shows me for the romantic and fanciful soul that I am.
Food is about a lot more than fuel.
I'll be keeping all of these.
Do you have any cookbooks in this category?
Click on the pictures to dream bigger.
A think about the cook book collection. We all liked to give Barry cook books of course, but I did buy some for myself over the years. Mostly of the 'dream' kind with wonderful pictures..
Books with simple, easy or quick in the title would have been bought by me! For when I did take my turn (and I occasionally did) and for when Barry was away.
As were diet books.
There are some about foods from other countries.
And some I am calling the 'sentimental' category.
In true Marie Kondo style I will consider what I want my cooking life to be like, then see which of these books spark joy.
Barry died 18 months ago today. By some strange twist in time or in me it feels more like 18 weeks. Sometimes, if I forget and then suddenly remember, it feels like yesterday.
Thank you to Lotta who suggested, when I was moaning about seven more days of rain, that I needed a fun seven day challenge!
I decided to batch cook each rainy day.
This is a big move for me. I don't really like cooking though I love good food. You may know the story of Barry expressing an interest in cooking, and me teaching him all I knew and leaving him to it. (I knew quite a lot and could cook pretty well, I had just got tired of it I think.) Barry became a skilled and adventurous cook and gradually took over all the food shopping and cooking. Win Win! We both loved it!
It's hard to cook when your heart is broken.
And this is a lot of cook books for someone who hardly ever cooks....
..have the family midsummer barbecue on the beach? The forecast isn't good but it's not looking too bad...
They've been wrong before so you never know.
Finish cooking the food (can't believe Jamie says this takes only 15 minutes!).
Try to get the stain out of the jacket. Should have worn an apron.
Checklist - champagne, glasses, napkins, picnic quilts, umbrella, midge cream.
Look at the weather forecast for the ninth time.
Look up the glen. Uh-oh.
We ended up indoors with a log fire and pretty decorations (thanks Jennie) and had a lovely feast then donned wellies and sweaters for a walk on the beach.
Family, friends, food and wine, laughter and good conversation.
Last weekend In my search for something different I had a lunch of haggis in filo pastry with a whisky sauce, vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and strawberries, a small glass of wine and a coffee, served on fine china by charming staff, surrounded by amazing flowers (not all real but the lilies were) and lit by chandeliers! All for £19.50. I just love the over-the-top grandeur of The Dome.
Well, once a year :-)
Then a quick tour of Harvey Nichols shoe department..
These shoes made me think of Cruella de Ville. £650.
See more amazing shoes at unbelievable prices here.
Have you done anything just for fun lately?
Can you think of something fun for this weekend?
Three carrots, two small apples, one small pear, cucumber, celery, spinach, kale and ginger..
Phillips Viva Collection juicer 700W XL feeding tube, Easy Clean.
One for now, one in the fridge for later or in the freezer for a day when I don't have time or am travelling. I do this about 9 days out of 10 and have supermarket fresh pressed juice for the 10th day.
For me the incentive to get healthier began with my eyes.
I am an artist and when the optician told me I had macular degeneration and gave me a leaflet saying it was the leading cause of blindness all I could think was 'No. Not my eyes. Please not my eyes.' I waited for her to tell me what would be done but she was very quiet (and wouldn't look me in the eye. It must be hard to tell someone this I guess). So I asked what could be done and she said there was no cure and no treatment but I could try eating more colourful vegetables and take a supplement called Macushield that was thought to maybe slow down the process. And, she added, if there was a sudden change in my sight to get myself to the hospital straight away.
Mercifully the degeneration has been quite slow, but to cut a long story short, I recently thought if eating more vegetables is the only thing on offer how can I get the maximum amount of vegetables into my body? I browsed the web and chanced on this health retreat! I thought about it a lot (I'd never been on any kind of retreat and thought I couldn't afford it), but after some months and at a rather low ebb I gulped at the price, and went ahead and booked it in January this year.
I think it may be the best money I have ever spent.
I made the decision that if I was going to be blind I was going to be slim and healthy and energetic and blind!
There is at least one very healthy mouse living in my compost bin and loving my juicer as much as I do. I lifted the lid to find it sitting up looking at me as if to say What have you brought me today then?
I wonder what Sue Blackwell would make of it. I can imagine a cross-section of the bin with elaborate tunnels and apartments and a whole family of mice living in warmth and luxury....
Do you remember this?
I printed it out some time ago and have just put it on a wall in a more prominent place. It speaks (in my favourite Quaker phrase) to my condition....
Grilled halloumi, with watermelon, blueberries and spinach - eating a rainbow. Yum.
Yay! I wore the new trousers (comfortably!) yesterday to a preview of Cowal Open Studios
The trousers are quite lightweight so just in time to get a few wearings of them before I need warmer ones. And an incentive not to put that weight back on before next spring/summer as I do like them and feel nice in them.
The show at The Creggans Inn features a work or two from each of the artists who will be opening their studios at the end of September. If you will be in the area it is well worth a look especially if you think you won't have time to visit all the studios - this might help you choose which to go to. (I am not taking part this year.) The Creggans do good lunches too.
I still have two fast days (today and Wednesday) of the 30 day challenge... How is your challenge going?
Don't stop yet!
I think I will continue with the 5:2 - eating lightly on two days of the week. It is said to have many health benefits and I feel good, and energetic on it.
..your bathroom scales need a new battery?
When you step on and off them four times and get four different readings!
So did I really lose those two pounds? My waistband tells me I lost something...
How often do you weigh yourself?
And have you lost any weight?
Gardening for several hours in hot sunshine today must have used up a few calories.
An artist seeking a simpler life - (but not too simple!)