Friday, 20 March 2015

Morning, Early Riser

"Morning early riser, couldn't you sleep?"

So he greeted me this morning. He's keeping an eye on me- sitting me down, pulling information out of my brain, making me think carefully about what has to be done now, and what I'd prefer to do now. What I can delegate up, what I can delegate down.Whether I'm sleeping. What's going on at home.

He keeps joking that I'll have my own office and department by the summer; I keep telling him I'll be Queen of the Universe by the time I'm 30. He tells me I have a lot of common sense for such a little person; I threaten to punch him for patronising me. I might be small, I tell him, but I can hit hard and pull it out of the bag when I need to. He knows that, he reassures me. He has every faith I'm not going to mess up.

We tease each other, bounce ideas off each other, keep an eye on each other. I value these moments. The half an hour of quiet conversation when the office is nearly empty at 8am. The offer of proper coffee from the little shop across the way- every morning, despite the fact he knows I've given it up for Lent. The giggly conversations while others look on in bafflement. The times he goes to put his hand on my knee and stops himself, or when I go to rest my head on his shoulder before realising I really shouldn't.

It's something. It's always been a thing. And at the same time, it's not a thing. It's nothing at all, actually.
 I'm happy- tired, and busy, and stressed, but happy. And having support from all sides- and knowing I'm loved by a multitude of people- helps. And A. Always A. A, who makes me forget about this and who needs me as much as I need him. A, who deserves only the best things.

Is it any wonder I wake early?

Monday, 2 March 2015

Happiness Is... (Vol 97)

There's literally only one thing I can talk about today. 

On Saturday, my baby brother married his girlfriend of 8 years. I've known A since we were 11- she was in my year at school- and I honestly cannot think of anyone more perfect for him. I don't think I have ever felt happier, more excited, or prouder than I did when I saw A walk into the church in her beautiful gown, escorted by her dad, with tears streaming down her face, and E just looking so unbelievably happy. It was an unbelievably magical day, and I can't believe it has now been and gone.

So this week it's all about Saturday- and happiness is...

... gaining a new sister-in-law, as A officially became part of the family.

... being involved in the ceremony, by delivering 1 Corinthians 13 in a way that was apparently good enough for 75% of the guests to come and congratulate me after the fact.

... catching the moment when JR kissed E on the cheek as the photographer blinked. 

.... hanging out with these little monsters.

... getting on famously with A's brother's girlfriend. She's amazing.

... bashful receiving compliments on my cupcakes. 

... Playing drinking games on the table during the speeches. I do NOT recommend agreeing to drink everything someone says "thank" in a wedding speech.

... the incredible food. I've rarely been so impressed by a starter.

... JR and AS having the most incredible dance off to Star Wars Cantina

... being totally surrounded by family and old friends and godparents

... The sweet table. I decided a wedding was a good time to have a day off Lent

... The INCREDIBLE magician, who made my great-grandmother's ring appear and disappear and totally floored my older brother with it all

... Dancing with friends and family to the most wonderful band ever. Seriously, if you have an occasion in Devon, I strongly recommend booking Jessica and the Rabbits

... Ending the night in a circle, squashed between JR and my aunt, singing and dancing to Hey Jude while E and A swirled in the middle. Just so perfect.

I couldn't be happier for my brother and new sister-in-law, and I hope they have a long and happy life together. 

What's making you happy this week?

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Spelt and Seed Biscuits

I appear to have somehow ended up dating a man who doesn't have a sweet tooth. I mean- seriously?!

He knows I love to bake, and he appreciates basically anything I make for him- he's a massive foodie. But given the choice, he'd always pick a starter over a pudding, salted popcorn over sweet, and crisps over chocolate. 

So when my original Valentine's Day gift for him went slightly awry- I accidentally had it shipped to Devon, rather than my London address- I decided that I would bake something for him. Normally, I'd have done some kind of brownies- maybe with caramel and pecan, or chilli, or with a peanut butter swirl- but bearing in mind A's propensity to pick the savoury over the sweet, I decided to branch out slightly.

I actually don't do a lot of savoury baking. Pastry- yes, but I'm just as comfortable working with sweet shortcrust as I am plain. Scones- I'm a plain-with-cream-and-jam girl. But savoury biscuits are so simple, and these are so good, that I'm pleased A's weird tastes won out. And it was a double bonus that I had all the ingredients for these to hand, particularly considering I was suffering with a ridiculous hangover after a few too many drinks with my work colleagues the night before. 

These are excellent to the point that I'm now going to make them at every opportunity- they're going to become my new staple hostess gift, presented in a pretty jar alongside a hunk of cheese and maybe some chutney. Because you should absolutely serve these with cheese- preferably Mayfield or Delice de Bourgogne, which are our new favourites. The Mayfield works well with a fig chutney, but the Delice de Bourgogne should be left to sing on its own- and sing it does. Honestly, the stuff is incredible.

And a note on ingredients. I'm not usually wildly prescriptive- much more a "use what you have" kinda girl. But for these, whatever you do do not use plain white flour. It will make for the most boring biscuits ever, and it's just not worth it. Spelt flour is great, but if you have rye or even just wholemeal flour to hand, I'm sure they'd work well too. I'm now trying to think up variations too- I think wholemeal flour with chopped walnuts would be excellent, or maybe even adding in some sundried tomatoes and parmesan. Hmm.

Spelt and Seed Biscuits (makes around 20)

150g spelt flour
100g mixed seeds
85g salted butter
2-3 tbsp water

Rub the butter into the flour in the same way you would if you were making a crumble- that is to say, until it looks kind of like breadcrumbs. Stir through the seeds to distribute evenly. Then add 2-3 tablespoonfuls of water slowly to pull the mixture together into a dough.

Dust a (clean..!) work surface with a little extra spelt flour, and roll the dough out- you want it to be about half a centimeter thick. Then cut out into rounds (or stars, hearts, gingerbread men...), pulling the dough back  together and re-rolling to use it all up. 

Space out on lined baking trays (I got about seven on each- they don't spread much but do space them apart) and bake at 180C for around 10 minutes. 

Allow to cool, and either top with cheese and eat them immediately, or package into pretty jars to give as presents. They keep well for a few days in an airtight jar, if they last as long as that.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Happiness Is... (Vol. 96)

As I sat in the sun on Sunday, hands wrapped around a poorly made but still perfect cup of tea, I realised I'm in a very good place at the moment. I smiled up at A, who was squinting at me in the sun, and felt so full of life that it was hard not to clap my hands with the pure joy of that moment. 

Sundays should always feel like that, shouldn't they?

After a dreadful day at work on Friday, this weekend started with (too many) drinks with my favourite work colleagues, and rolled into a luxurious, relaxing weekend. It was absolutely exactly what I needed.   Life goes in peaks and troughs, and I'm aware this is a peak- but I'm very willing to enjoy it while it lasts. 

Anyway. This week, happiness is...

... the first snowdrops. On Sunday, we went for a long stroll around the Rookery at Streatham Common, and in the White Garden I spotted my first snowdrops of the year. I love snowdrops perhaps more than any other flower for the simple reason that they are the first real reminder that there is indeed a season other than winter. Here comes the sun indeed. 

... Sunday night period dramas. Did anyone else watch Indian Summers last night? QI mean, it's no Downton, but I think it will fill that void nicely.

... homemade eggs benedict. A is an excellent cook, and we appear to make a pretty good team in the kitchen too. On Sunday morning, we whipped the most incredible eggs benedict- toasted muffins, smoked ham, poached Burford Brown eggs, and homemade hollandaise. We were talking about it for most of the rest of the day. 

.... shared hangovers. After a night of excessive wine (and excessive cheese on toast when I got in) on Friday night, I woke up on Saturday feeling rather worse for wear. Fortunately, my housemate S had been to a work black tie gala and was feeling equally as dreadful as me. Well, they do say that misery loves company, and we both felt better knowing that someone else was feeling a bit grim too. 

... putting chocolate on my porridge. As a hangover treat, I made myself Leon inspired porridge, topped with banana, walnuts, and a good grating of dark chocolate. Well it was a Saturday...!!

... Oh, and giving this space a little refresh!! What do you think of its kind of updated look?!

What's making you happy this week?