Adventures, baking, book review, Books, gardening, home baking, second hand bookshops

New shoes, veg plot, book reviews, my Sunday Sevens – 16th September

I can wear shoes again!

September and new shoes seem to be forever connected in my memory! Not only did I spend my childhood years proudly walking along pavements enjoying the September sunshine with new shoes but then went through my years of parenting subjecting my children to the same pleasure!

I will admit, like a lot of women, I have so many shoes – most of them of the high heeled beautiful but cruelly uncomfortable variety. One of the lovely things about getting older is that you get a little wiser – so I find myself buying ‘comfortable shoes’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be fun!

My new shoes are momentous -because it is the first pair I have been able to wear since my major foot surgery! I cannot tell you how joyous it feels to wear shoes again –  I am beginning to get my life back! Not only that – I am enjoying long hot showers where I am not dangling one cling film wrapped foot out of the way of the water! Simple pleasures indeed.

On a practical level – these shoes from Gracosy are sublime – the soul is so cushioned my feet just sink in – no uncomfortable jarring. On a sustainable level, my last pair of clogs lasted me over ten years and were regrettably thrown away a few months ago, when the sole finally wore though. I like clogs because they are so easy to slip on and off. I did see my foot consultant this week with a little trepidation –  he thoroughly approved of them!  If you fancy a pair of your own you can buy them from Amazon.


Tea Time

The Bake off is back – I do love watching it – I think Channel 4 have done a good job of continuing the format well. I do admire the bakers – it is hard enough baking but under those conditions – they are inspirational!

I adore toasted tea cakes – but since discovering I have a dairy intolerance I have been a little scared of eating things – so I decided to try Paul Hollywood’s recipe for hot cross buns – and oh my goodness they are delicious! Of course I just added currants to the recipe rather than the crosses and drizzled them with warmed honey rather than sugar syrup. Luckily replacing cows milk and butter with Goats Milk and butter has improved my health! I am not sure if you can see – but the butter was melting on the tea cake when I took this photo – they were still scrumptiously warm from the oven!

little cinnamon buns

E is not a fan of currants – he seems to only tolerate them in Christmas pudding, so I used half the recipe to make cinnamon buns – rolling the dough like a Swiss roll with a mixture of cinnamon, mixed spice, brown sugar and toasted hazelnuts. I put it in a cake tin to rise and this is how it turned out! It was a huge success!

I did not take any pictures of the second batch to show you – the whole process went really well until the baking – where I managed to burn the whole batch and sadly had to resign all the hard work to the bin! I have the attention span of a gnat… I cannot count the number of times the smoke detector has reminded me that I have something cooking – so I have now invented a rule – I never leave the kitchen when something is baking or boiling – our diet has improved from carbon to edible!

Veg Italia book review

I have been pescatarian for over a year –  an interesting journey full of – if I am being entirely honest, an experiment in inedible food. When I was first trying to discover what food was causing problems – I tried lots of vegan recipes – they were expensive and quite frankly, inedible. I don’t want to eat another meal with sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. (White potatoes cause arthritis)  I can’t bring myself to eat any more peanut butter – (Veganism seems to use it for everything!) I cannot swallow anything made with ‘wheat free flour’ – it dries my mouth out, my body simply can’t physically swallow it!

So I have relaxed a little – I am not completely free of migraines but I am having them less. My arthritis symptoms have also reduced – but there is good research about the Mediterranean diet is healthy. A ninety nine year old I knew told me his lack of arthritis was down to having olive oil every day – he was walking proof in my mind and at 99 he had been around longer than any of our so called experts! – I am moving away from the ‘alternative’ foods and more about cooking from scratch.

I bought Gino’s Veg Italia recipe book secondhand – what a refreshingly delight it is! every recipe is tantalisingly tempting. We have had an excellent week – home made pizza, creamy mushroom gnocchi and roasted vegetables. (I think, my rule about not leaving the kitchen has improved my results immensely!) Thankfully the recipes are easy to follow and don’t require a whole heap of gadgetry and tins and jars of stuff! I’ve tried gnocchi before – (with sweet potatoes – too sweet) but Gino’s recipe was simple, created not only edible but delicious food! There is a recipe for home made pasta that doesn’t require a pasta machine or slavish dedication to duty!

A little piece of heaven

If you want to know what your heart’s desire is, notice that gut wrenching stab of jealousy next time because it guides you to what is missing in your life. It is more authentic than the fleeting desire to make origami napkins from your Pinterest feed.

I will admit to having pangs of envy – when I have seen posts of home grown vegetables. I have pined for outdoor space since I moved a couple of years ago. It is odd though, how I got so focussed on my dream of having a garden of my own that it is easy to overlook what is just round the corner. This little plot of land is in a neglected part of the grounds where I live. No-one loves it and while it might be very overgrown and sloping, it catches a lot of sun. So  I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to grow our own veg!

September might not be the best month to begin – but I noticed a dark patch under large trees that barely gets any light – might just be the ideal spot for a mushroom patch,  we are just coming into mushroom season. Ever since I went on a camping trip with a Bear Grills guy who took us to pick field mushrooms for breakfast – I have longed to repeat the process. Those mushrooms felt like food from the Gods, not just because they were fresh but because they were the work of my own hands!

The Law of Angels book review

Oh joy of joys to discover a new author and a while new series of books! I purchased Law of Angels by Cassandra Clark from a charity shop while we were on holiday in Porlock Vale. The mix of historical medieval fiction – a daring nun, mystery and suspense was a temptation I could not resist! How glad I am that I give in easily to temptation – especially in book form – this was a pleasure to read! Little did I realise that this is the third in the series – but the story holds its own.

Cassandra immerses you in medieval society much easier than all the historical books I have been ploughing through recently. Set in York during the days running up to the Corpus Christi – I felt I was discovering more about the period while being thoroughly entertained.  A nun might seem an odd choice for a gun-ho sleuth but it was quite a liberating role in the 13th Century. Hildergard is her own woman, I liked her as a character – she is just really nosy if I am honest a bit of a Jane Marple with a little more daring do! Hildergard’s home is burnt to the ground, she is kidnapped twice,  ends up close to two terrorist bombings, and still manages to save York’s Mayor from being blown up. Its all well told with enough action and pace that kept the pages turning well past 10 o’clock!  (with my attention span that is praise indeed!) In order to avoid the usual book hangover, I ordered the first in the series when I was just over half way through.

I am determined to read more – I just have to gag the Calvinistic Shrew Mildred,  my inner critic,   nagging me that reading is time wasting… I should be doing so many other things.

It is reading before going to sleep that has really helped with my insomnia – so I am truly thankful to Cassandra Clark!



a husband's secret, arundel, ballet shoes., Books, illness, Kim's Bookshop, ladybird books, Liane Morriarty, reading, second hand bookshops, tea shops

Armchair Adventures

Aren’t bookshops the greatest? Just walking over the threshold is to step into a shop full of possibility and adventure. Waterstones is very good but for real bibliophiles you cannot beat Hatchards  in Piccadilly – I have never actually reached the top floor of their shop it is so big! 
My favourite shop is called Kim’s bookshop it is in Arundel (there are other branches in nearby Chichester and Worthing). I told the young student (he looks like an aspiring writer) that his shop was a travel agent rather than a bookshop as they sold adventures on every shelf! He thought that might be a good selling campaign!  I like Kim’s it because it sells mostly second hand books; there are no promotions or big names, simply categories and books covering every possible nook and cranny, the penguin classics are on the stairs and require negotiations if other customers wish to pass the narrow creaky stairs. I have to bend down to reach my beloved Scott F Fitzgerald, but I have most of his books already! 
Here all books have equality, without the promotions or trends, it feels quieter and peaceful somehow and reminds me of my childhood Saturday mornings spent at my local library where the middle aged librarians maintained a strict silence and were feared,  even by adult customers. There is a quiet reserved atmosphere in the shop, conversations are hushed so that the only sounds are the rustle of pages turning. 

Perhaps Kim’s brings back fond childhood memories, there is the feint smell of aged paper, musty, yet comforting, where old  childhood friends sit on shelves: Ballet shoes, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden. I would escape into this safe world as a child, where all problems were resolved with happy endings, good always overcame evil, and people were generally kind and those who weren’t were obviously bad, like the White Witch in Narnia. 

I spy set of ladybird books, with their beautiful watercolour depictions of idyllic family life in the 1950’s, and I a reminded of the sweat and toil as my 5 year old self tried to make sense of the big markings on the page to read out loud to my teacher.  They are criticised now,  for re-enforcing middle class values and stereotyping! So different from the schoolbooks my children read, where the principle characters were asian and had very strange names – Biff and Chip! I wonder if our education system has begun to over think things. 
I digress, I have been suffering from a rather nasty bug this week, so have been camped out on the sofa, wrapped in a patchwork quilt, the dog resting at my feet while I have been whisked away to Australia by the talented writer, Liane Morriaty and her book The Husband’s secret. I picked this up second-hand – what a gem it is! It isn’t often that I find myself transported within a few pages,  when that happens I tend to read everything the writer has written. (What Alice forgot is making its way to me through the postal system as I write).  The lives of three women are interweaved so cleverly, the secret does seem to be something that would be difficult to resolve; however, Liane cleverly weaves her tale, unfolding a few surprises; she does deliver a very satisfactory ending. Well worth a read – I won’t say too much because I don’t want to spoil it for you. 
As I have been very good, I am feeling a little brighter and will hopefully be fit enough to leave these four walls and visit Arundel today: Kim’s bookshop beckons alongside the lovely teashop Lulamae’s. Happy Sunday!