Friday, July 31, 2015

word of the week #31

I particularly like the fact that in this weeks doodle you can see the outline of my first attempt imprinted on the paper. I decided to elaborate on just writing the word short, partly because it was difficult to make the word itself look short, it just kept looking like snort, so I opted for this rather nautical looking pair of shorts instead. I'm not sure why you would have a patch on your shorts saying short but suspend disbelief for me if you can.

So, my hair is short (seamless link there I'm sure you will agree!). I got it all chopped off, and even more excitingly acquired a sweepy side fringe. We did not get along to begin with but relations are improving. The last time I had a fringe was 11 years ago, at 18, and it was not a great success. The time before that I was two, and so the family folklore goes, everyone mistook me for a boy. So far so good on this occasion, perhaps it is third time lucky. I have not been mistaken for a boy yet, although I have twice been mistaken for a colleague with a similar hair style who sits in the same area as me. Her hair is lovely so I am counting this as a win.

The days are feeling very short at the moment, as my final days at this job count down. There are lots of last meetings, and goodbyes, and finishing off of things, so they are whizzing by. I was out for dinner with good friends from university last night and the three hours there also felt far too short, lost in a haze of wine, food and endless chats.

I went on a run with Millie tonight. I am struggling to regain my pace after a few weeks off. Millie was running in and out of the undergrowth and it was not an enjoyable run getting yanked along the path. After two toilet stops (the dog, not me) when I had been aiming to run without slowing, I wasn't the cheeriest. I finished the run and my time has slowed massively, which is making my ambition to run the 10k in under an hour look increasingly unlikely as it is now less than 8 weeks away. By the time I walked by my parents' house and stopped to say hello my temper was pretty short, my poor mum got a somewhat surly daughter on the doorstep and I told her that the dog and I were not good friends. In typical doting grandparent style though my mum gave Millie a big smile and plenty of treats so I think Millie views it as a very successful trip out.

Having got home and had a moan to The Husband about my run he did good husbandly duty and said lots of encouraging things. I had suggested a takeaway earlier but neither of us really fancied one so he went out to buy us some wine and dinner from Marks and Spencer and I stayed home to get changed. Happily the grump was short lived, and after a dance around the bedroom to this I felt much better (I also messaged my mum to let her know my mood was improved!). The Husband is home now, dinner is ready and so I shall cut this post short too, wishing you all a lovely weekend.

The Reading Residence

Sunday, July 26, 2015

project 365: week 30

200. After our four nights of camping we were looking forward to our first hotel stay very much and an explore of Glasgow. Alas just outside of the city our car started to make some rather unusual noises and so we had to pull over, join the AA (turns out we didn't have breakdown cover, won't be making that mistake again) and await rescue. After some lovely service from a very pleasant man named Ian we got back on our way after a few hours. By the time we arrived at our hotel, we were later than planned, The Husband spotted that Julie and Julia was just starting on television so we curled up with a film, and Millie in the dog bed that was provided for her. It did mean that we didn't get chance to see Glasgow but hopefully that's just an excuse for another trip some time in the future.

201. The final night of what felt like a lovely, long holiday, and this was the beautiful view out of the window of our hotel. These was just a small part of the gardens, which included a large kitchen garden that supplied much of our evening meal. Millie was in her element, and when there was a break in the wet weather we went for lovely long walk before dinner.
202. Millie's face in the car on the way home suggests she was not particularly happy at the thought of our holiday being over!

203. A bit of baking on my last day off, it was lovely to make some brownies, I haven't done any baking for a long time. I also used another shot of the eggshells for a post over on The Monochrome Muse this week.

204. Skies from the bedroom window on Thursday evening. I started reading Wuthering Heights for the first time, and the sight of these brooding clouds seemed like a fitting skyline for the first few chapters.
205. Glad to say that I almost forgot to take a picture as we had a lovely evening with my mum and step-dad on Friday night, as hoped. So here was the detritus from my word of the week doodle that I had left on the bedside table, that I snapped just as I went to bed.

206. We decided to go for an impromptu dinner on Saturday night to somewhere near home we hadn't tried before. Although there were a few problems with the main course all was forgiven when I had this beautiful peanut butter and jelly dessert. I had no idea what to expect when I ordered but it was absolutely delicious.

Friday, July 24, 2015

word of the week #30

Now obviously the drawing was done speedily, what can I say, I was trying to be authentic. This week has flown by. I think partly because I only wrote last week's word of the week post on Saturday, as on Friday we were in the Isle of Skye and 3G was not forthcoming, so this linky seems to have come around a little quicker than usual.

Those last few days of our holiday seemed to dissolve at an alarming rate, as they so often do when time off draws to a close. Having said that, those days back at work that were making me glum on Wednesday also passed in what feels like a matter of hours, and I can't quite believe it is Friday evening already (and am also slightly ashamed at how speedily the brownies I made that night have disappeared too, although I am consoling myself with the thought that I did give some away as I stare at the empty tin).

The job that I am doing is coming to a close in the next few weeks too, as the role was only for a year, and so I return to my previous position, albeit in a different location soon. As a result, these last few days at work feel very precious as I race to get things finished off, and to say goodbye to some wonderful colleagues I have met over the last twelve months. The year seems to have flown by, and although I am looking forward to moving back to my normal job, I will also miss the people and the work. 

Most speedy of all, however, is this post. It is my wonderful mum's birthday today (Happy Birthday to you - the most incredible, kind, and loving woman that I am so very lucky to call my mum), and so The Husband and I are now off to spend the evening with her; hopefully the speediness will stop, and we can spend a leisurely evening with lovely company, lovely food, and lovely celebrations, just what weekends are made for.

The Reading Residence

Thursday, July 23, 2015

recipe: white chocolate and almond brownies

Having decided I wanted to bake yesterday, the post-holiday baking cupboard was fairly bare and I struggled to find a recipe. I wanted something chocolatey, cookies or brownies, but didn't have any milk or dark chocolate, only white, and the only caster sugar I could find was a rather crumpled bag of the golden variety hidden at the back of the cupboard.

I scoured recipe books and then discarded them, disgruntled, when my search was fruitless. Even my trusted BBC food website didn't have a recipe to meet my somewhat specific requirements. In the end I typed cocoa powder, white chocolate, and golden caster sugar into Google, and this recipe from The Happy Egg Company appeared.  It ticked all of the boxes and so, after catching up with some blogs I decided to go and bake a batch based on the recipe. If I was more organised blogger I would have a picture of a box of their eggs, and I do quite often buy them, but not this week, so eggshells it is.

During my hunt for recipes this article came up, who knew there was so much brownie debate. For what it's worth, my view is that brownies should be dense and chewy with a crunchy top. I don't want a brownie to be like a cake, I definitely prefer them to to be fudgy and rich. I also think that they should have plenty of chunks in them, the bigger the better, and so I often bash my chocolate with a rolling pin to make large pieces rather than chopping it.

I also added almonds for some extra texture, though these could have stood chopping in half, as the whole almonds were a little big and tended not to slice well when the brownie was cooked. The recipe included a decorative drizzle of white chocolate on the top, but I decided against that. Partly because it looked a bit delicate, and I tend to think of brownies as being simple and stodgy rather than fancy, and also partly because I was being lazy.

Perhaps I should have done the drizzle, as brownies are impossible to photograph well, or at least these were, with my amateur skills, hence the photos of broken egg shells and Millie looking longingly. It was an easy recipe, one bowl only, and took a matter of minutes to make. They turned out exactly how I liked them too, a lovely crisp crust on top, and warm just out of the oven they were delicious, without being too rich. This makes about 20 good sized portions or 30 mini ones, depending how you like to cut them, or in my case, plenty to break off a piece when no one is looking and still have enough left to share with the family.

White Chocolate and Almond Brownies
Adapted from The Happy Egg Company

Makes 20 large servings, or 30 mini ones, Prep time 15 minutes, Cooking time 20-25 minutes


50g butter, softened
350g golden caster sugar
4 medium eggs
75g unsweetened cocoa powder
100g self raising flour
100g white chocolate, broken into chunks
75g whole, blanched almonds, chopped in half
1 tbspn milk


  • Preheat oven to  Gas mark 4, 180°C, 350°F. 
  • Line a 23cm x 33cm baking tin (or similar) with baking paper.
  • Combine butter, sugar, eggs, flour, cocoa powder and flour in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until it forms a smooth, thick batter.
  • Add the white chocolate, almonds and milk, stir well to distribute the chocolate and almonds throughout the mixture.
  • Pour mixture into the tin and place in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer or knife inserted into the brownies comes out clean. The brownies should have a firm, crusty top.
  • Allow to cool in tin for a few minutes and then turn onto cooling rack. Slice and enjoy warm or cold.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

find my way home

(Stereophonics - Maybe Tomorrow)

We are home, since yesterday. There has been a lot of washing. There has been the wonderful sleep that only comes from your own bed. There has been an evening with my parents and my grandad, a lovely home-cooked meal thanks to my mum, and sharing our (excessive) photos. There has been much laughter, recalling our trip, Millie's antics, lots of lovely memories.

There has been much relief that I chose to take an extra day off work, it has helped the holiday feeling last that little longer. There has been a lunch out today, pizza and pasta and wandering round the shops.

Tomorrow there will be work, for me at least, The Husband has a few more days off, lucky him, and I am trying not to feel despondent. There will be the weekend soon enough, there will be more holidays. There will be baking tonight, I have been moping around this afternoon, moody at the thought of our precious time together coming to an end, flicking through recipe books and discarding them all, but I will bake.

It has been a lovely holiday, the scenery, the space, the time in quiet companionship travelling side by side, The Husband driving, me navigating, the dog dozing on my lap, trying to make sure her nose was touching The Husband's arm too, never wanting to be too far from either of us. It has been a lovely way to mark three years of marriage, being silly, holding hands, facing (minor) adversity (car breakdowns, poorly dog, wind battered tent - all easily rectified in the end), exploring the world together. And then, of course coming home, to washing, and unpacking, but to the familiar, our little space, with family near by, and everyday life. It is a beautiful thing to realise that returning to normality brings just as much joy as escaping on an adventure, it is something to be grateful for, a life loved.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

project 365: week 29

193. A beautiful afternoon tea at The Roxburgh in Edinburgh. It was a lovely few hours. I bought The Husband a driving experience day for his birthday last year. He came to book it recently and couldn't find a suitable date before the voucher expired. Next thing I knew he had logged on and exchanged it for a voucher for champagne afternoon tea and we had just enough time before it expired to fit in a treat during our holiday. I definitely married a good man!

194. I don't know how this will work on the blog but I have spent a lot of time taking panoramic photographs during our visit, it felt like the only way to even try and capture the incredible vastness of the scenery. I loved this shot of Lunan beach.

195. Millie looking like a very regal beagle at Dunnotar castle on our anniversary.

196. Our idyllic camping spot at Glenesk, a beautiful location, and a lovely evening (discounting the flies!).

197. That is our kite flying high over the Cuillin mountain range as we walked on the beach at our campsite at Glenbrittle.

198. A sneaky picture through the car window snap as we drove through Skye, Millie wasn't sure what to make of the cow!

199. The lovely view from our camping pod near Glencoe. It was fabulous to have a roof and electricity after a few blustery nights under canvas, and we had a cosy night in watching films and enjoying the sights through the window.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

word of the week #29

As I'm writing this having just left a campsite it might seem as though not much has changed in the last week. In fact, this has been a week full of extremes and experiences. We have travelled over 900 miles, and The Husband has clocked up over 24 hours of driving.

We have visited the thriving city of Edinburgh and then camped at Glenbrittle in Skye, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean and feeling as though we were on the edge of the world. There was a four poster suite for our anniversary followed by a night in our tent seeking refuge from the flies and then the rain.

I have worn a dress and high heels to dine on a tasting menu, sharing a bottle of wine and also had beans and bread out of a mess tin wearing walking boots and waterproofs. We have had a beautiful afternoon tea with champagne, and eaten fish and chips out of the wrapper sat in the tent.There has been glorious sunshine, torrential rain (just as we were walking Millie) and blustery winds that threatened to take the tent off its pegs.

The views have been incredible, vast expanses of water and towering peaks filling the skyline. In turn I have felt very small and very humbled.

It has, occasionally, felt like an endurance test, especially when we needed to shelter from the elements in our rather small tent with The Husband, myself and the dog. We have laughed rather than cried though and thinking back on the last week I remember lots of fun, adventures and I am glad we are lucky enough to have a few more days to go. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

project 365: week 28

186. Gathered some roses from the garden to put in the kitchen. Loved this one, reminded me of Alice in Wonderland where the roses were painted red, looks like someone has been spraying it a different colour. 

187. A new book to start the week, making the commute much more enjoyable having this in my bag.

188. Walking to the train station with a colleague, couldn't resist taking a quick snap of this, looming directly ahead.

189. Travelling home from London, doing crosswords and enjoying the views.

190. Almost forgot to take a photo, so this is The Husband and I playing the Eggheads game online!

191. The road trip begins. Setting off, music on, beagle curled up in my lap, The Husband driving, for our holiday in Scotland.

192. I adored Melrose Abbey, the architecture, the history and the glorious light. Fabulous place to spend a few hours, dog friendly and a really interesting audio guide. Although this is a phone picture it was lovely to get the proper camera out too, for the first time in ages, and have a play.

Friday, July 10, 2015

word of the week #28

Apologies for the drawing but I am sat in a camping chair peering at the increasingly grey clouds, so my artistic skills are even less apparent than they usually are!

This week has been busy, lots to do at work, lots to do at home preparing for our holiday, and generally feeling like time was short.

I have been trying to stop having unrealistic goals, trying to stop aiming to do far more than is possible in the time available. I've been trying to stop neglecting the blog and have managed to do a few more posts than usual.

I've been trying to stop ignoring the good things and have been enjoying doing a daily post on Instagram celebrating three good things and embracing the happy stuff. I've been trying, albeit with limited success, to stop being quite so focussed on what other people think, when I realised recently just how much of my thoughts are preoccupied with worrying about how others perceive me.

It has still been a productive week, things have got done, progress has been made. There have been slow evenings with Grandad, new recipes, pottering in the garden. Presents have been wrapped bags have been packed, and work has been done. Now, sitting in the evening light, next to our tent, Millie by our side, it is time to stop looking at my phone and enjoy the life going on beyond the screen.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

recipe: broad bean, leek and pancetta carbonara

broad bean carbonara pasta

In a bid to use some of the fruits (or perhaps that should be vegetables?) of our labour, I took to google to find a recipe that involved broad beans. I had a quick search on the way to the shops, The Husband was driving I hasten to add, and found this recipe on BBC food. I always start there and can generally find something to fit the bill.

broad bean carbonara pasta

Having bought a few ingredients at the supermarket to help me fashion something vaguely similar, it was then time to pod the broad beans. I have to admit I've never done this before, and luckily I double checked and realised that the pod needs removing but also that larger beans need to have the white outer shells individually removed too.

broad bean carbonara pasta

It was quite therapeutic, although the pods didn't yield as many beans as I thought. I did spot this recipe for making fritters from the pods which sounded delicious, but they were quite furry on the inside so I'm curious as to whether that is normal or whether it's a sign they were picked a little early. I couldn't see the fuzzy insides working well being frittered but perhaps I am lacking in culinary imagination. So onto the beans, the smaller ones (of which there were many) didn't need shelling, but the larger ones were boiled for two minutes in boiling water and then placed into cold water where they all gently split open, and the shells slipped off to reveal the bright green beans inside.

broad bean carbonara pasta

The low volume of beans meant that I raided the fridge and happened upon some leeks which were drafted in for emergency meal bulking. They were a successful choice and made the dish feel more substantial without being overpowering or making the dish too heavy for the summer.

broad bean carbonara pasta

I didn't use Parmesan because we had some cheese already open, but I've included it in the recipe because I think it would have worked well. The original recipe didn't have garlic, and used a lot less cream, but I was pleased with the final version and think that the recipe worked. I've said that it serves three to four, as it probably would serve four but The Husband polished off enough for two people when he commandeered the leftovers for his dinner on Monday night.

broad bean carbonara pasta

Broad Bean, Leek and Pancetta Carbonara
Adapted from BBC Good Food

Serves 3-4 people, Prep time 10 minutes (plus shelling broad beans), Cooking time 20 minutes


400g fresh ribbon pasta (e.g. tagliatelle or pappardelle)
85g pancetta lardons
100g podded, shelled broad beans
2 medium leeks
2 cloves garlic
2 egg yolks
100ml single cream
2 tbspn wholegrain mustard
100g parmesan
salt and pepper to season


  • Slice leeks and boil in salted water for 3-4 minutes. While leeks are boiling, fry pancetta and garlic in a large non-stick pan.
  • Once pancetta is cooked, drain leeks and add to the pancetta, along with the broad beans. Boil pasta in a separate pan, and continue to keep the pancetta mixture on a low heat.
  • While the pasta is cooking, whisk the egg yolks, cream and mustard together in a bowl, and season the mixture well with salt and pepper.
  • When the pasta has cooked, add a ladle of the pasta cooking water to the pancetta, broad bean and leek mixture. Drain the pasta and add this to the mixture too.
  • Combine the pasta with the pancetta, broad beans and leeks and pour over the egg mixture, stirring gently over a low heat until well mixed. Add half of the parmesan to the pan.
  • As soon as the mixture is well combined, spoon into bowls and top with the remaining parmesan

broad bean carbonara pasta

Monday, July 06, 2015

the year in books: july

brave new world

'The Savage nodded, frowning. "You got rid of them. Yes, that's just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them… But you don't do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It's too easy."'

Another slow month, and the first of my five classic books. I hit a slightly rough start with this one as there were a number of introductory essays both by an academic and then by Huxley also. I think I should have avoided these and read them afterwards, as it gave me a particular perspective on the novel that probably framed my reading of it. It also meant that I had passed a good few days of commuting reading the book without actually starting the novel so it felt quite slow going to begin with.

Once I got properly into the story it was a compelling read, and from the point at which the population of savages was introduced it became a particularly thought-provoking exploration on the nature of civilisation. I loved the references to Shakespeare written into the text, and somehow thinking of the setting and context of his plays heightened the contrast with the modern world presented by Huxley.

It wasn't a pleasant read, and as with many dystopian novels, it's power came from the fact that it didn't seem to be an entirely implausible vision of a not too distant future. It was interesting to see, though, that while many elements of the world Huxley described felt recognisable, at the time of writing, the incredible advance of mobile and computerised technology was not foreseen, and they are notable by their absence in the world he has constructed.

The progression of the plot was not surprising but still managed to remain engaging. I felt like I wanted to know more about what happened after the point at which the novel ended, but in some ways the impression it leaves is embodied by how you continue to wonder about the world beyond the final page.

For this month I will be reading The Girl Who Just Appeared by Johnathan Harvey, which is a find from the unread pile on the bookshelf that sounded appealing.

Linking up with Laura's The Year in Books project.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

project 365: week 27

179. Despite Millie never, ever, ever being given food from our plates, this is still the situation I am faced with every meal time. Within minutes of sitting at the kitchen table she nudges her way under my arm and uses her ridiculously long tongue to try and scavenge some food. This action shot was too funny to not share.

180. A view of London on my trip down there last week. Not many more trips to go, as my secondment finishes soon, it will be nice to not have the long journeys but there will be things I will miss about my trips too.

181. Porridge for breakfast before a great day in work. 

182. Beautiful roses in bloom. Lots of them have opened up now, so I may even gather a few together for indoors, the scent is so powerful.

183. After the storm, the garden was full of scattered petals, as though nature had been throwing confetti. These bedraggled peonies still looked beautiful somehow.

184. On a late night walk with Millie, I love that the sun is still shining at 10pm. Spotted this beautifully coloured feather, thanks to Millie sniffing it out, jewel-like amongst the grass.

185. As we put our tent up in the garden, as a test run for the holiday, I couldn't resist taking a snap of the rose bush in full bloom.

Friday, July 03, 2015

word of the week #27

Admittedly a little seasonally premature, but there has been much excitement this week in the form of our first few mouthfuls of home-grown food. Last weekend we had a few freshly picked mange-tout with dinner, though letting them grow a little longer results in beautifully sweet peas that I have now got into the habit of eating straight from the pod as I potter about the garden.

There has also been a single ripe strawberry, although a few more are just on the edge. I am toying with whether to let them ripen a little longer in the hope that I will have enough to actually constitute a bowlful, or whether to pick them as quickly as I can so that they don't get pilfered by some eager wildlife.

It is good fun this gardening lark, although one of our hanging baskets has well and truly given up the right after the extreme conditions of the last few days. As I wrote that the lightning started up again so we will see how they are looking in the morning. I've now got plans for a few home-built planters to house wildflowers, and to grow some cut flowers. I love that our garden is quite neat in design, it is very much how I hoped it would look, but I like the idea of a bit of unstructured, overflowing colour, and I thought some containers or large planters along the fence would be a good way of introducing it. The Husband has obviously got the bug too, because no sooner had I mentioned it than he was planning a split level affair with room for even more fruit and vegetables.

That might well be a project which only comes to fruition next year, but for this year our small rations of hand-picked vegetables, and the huge roses that are bursting out in unison are bringing us lots of happiness indeed.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

first things first

The first of July.

The first time this year I nearly forgot about this post. I can't quite believe that July is already upon us, it seems that June passed me by altogether. 

The first day at home after a few days of working away. After a long day and a late arrival home last night I was a little bleary eyed today, and the evening sped by. Hoping to feel a bit more enlivened tomorrow.

The first strawberry eaten from the garden. It had ripened yesterday, and I got very excited by the picture The Husband sent me of the single bright red fruit as I travelled home. Unfortunately today it looked slightly disheveled, as though some creature or other had had a nibble from the side. I was determined not to miss out on the momentous tasting, so I sliced off the untouched side, gave it a good rinse and thoroughly enjoyed it. Next, to get The Husband to try one, he is not a big fruit eater but I made him promise to at least try everything we grew. Also the first signs of  a bus on the aubergine plant, it has never stopped looking bedraggled so I will be thrilled if we succeed in growing one.

The first meal outside this week, it was only toast, but it was lovely to sit in the garden, admiring the flowers and with Millie curled up.

The first thunderstorm in a while, and  it is much welcome. The heavy, humid heat was getting ever more oppressive this evening,  the rain bouncing off the pavement and the lightning filling the sky feels like welcome relief.