I’ve been a little absent from the airwaves lately – the world at the moment is getting kind of stressful. As England enters its second lockdown, I can only compare my current mood to that time in Year Eight when my whole form got put on detention and the teacher said it would be five minutes unless someone spoke and then five more minutes would be added. Predictably, two wits decided to have some fun and we all got stuck in for over half an hour of our lunch break. It says a lot about my feelings of resentment at the time that I still remember the names of the two boys responsible 🤣
Having made a conscious effort with my young family to put nobody else at risk, it has been frustrating to see others behave more selfishly. And so here we are again. Lockdown, baby. Sigh. Once again, we’ve ordered our quarantine treats – I’ve broken my book-buying ban and we made an order to Barefoot Bakery. We will be fine – I have seen again and again this year just how fortunate I am, but like many others, I am still feeling definite #coronafatigue 😴
With that in mind, I wanted to focus on the positives. Autumn has been stunningly beautiful and a real positive is how much I’ve been able to be outdoors this year. Several years of working in an office in a city had steered me towards an urban existence – strange given one of my long-running triggers for anxiety and depression has been lack of access to open spaces. In the spring and summer, we watched the goslings and hunted flowers. Now autumn has rolled around and we are embracing that too. Here are a few of our seasonal highlights …🍁🍂🍁🍂
Those who know me know that I have a deep and abiding love for conkers. This year though, I have had a small conker-hunting associate and the two of us were very productive. The Astronaut and I had a fun few weeks of searching through the twigs and leaves, gathering up the best ones and taking them home. After all these years of people asking why I collect up so many conkers, it’s so wonderful to have a buddy who understands and can assist.
I heartily recommend knitting as an outlet for nervous energy and I am so pleased with our pumpkin patch this year. It’s also been our first ever year carving a pumpkin and it’s been really fun to dive in to the season. Who knows what our next Halloween will look like but we’ll have decorations a-plenty – it’s a new family tradition 👪❤️
Baking – Pumpkin & Courgette Bread
My university had a high level of American students and it was through one of them that I discovered that pumpkin bread is amazing. It would however take over a decade for me to go beyond vaguely wishing I knew more North Americans so that I could get more pumpkin-based food to actually tracking down pumpkin puree so that I could make some for myself like a grown up. Actually, I should thank my American friend who made the best ever pumpkin cookies last autumn and inspired me. I have since developed my pumpkin and courgette bread. It’s a big hit with myself and the Astronaut. I found this recipe as a starting off point but have adapted since.
Ingredients (makes enough to fill 2 loaf tins):
2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup flaxseed
2 cups porridge oats
1 cup ground almonds
1 tin pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 grated courgette
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup natural yoghurt
Baking time: Gas mark 6 for 30 mins, Gas mark 4 for 30 mins
As may be apparent, I’m a fairly relaxed type of baker – I have a baking set which uses cups so I don’t have to measure things out any more and I tend to go more with how the mixture seems rather than getting too worried over precise ingredients. Sometimes I find another half cup of self-raising or even plain flour is needed if the mixture is still looking too liquid.
In terms of baking time, our oven is cantankerous at best so I have to put it on the top shelf for half an hour then move it down to the middle shelf to finish off. Another reason why I hate sharing recipes is that oven type really does make a difference. My best recommendation is to just keep sticking a fork in it to check.
As you can probably tell, I am not cut out to be a food blogger. Nevertheless, I wanted to share this here as a few friends had expressed interest. It’s been a regular snack food for us through autumn thus far and I think I have stockpiled enough pumpkin puree to last through to December.
It’s been wonderful to explore the colours and leaves of autumn with my son. This is our first autumn since he learned to walk, plus it is also a poignant reminder of how far we’ve come. Three years ago, I experienced a professional betrayal by a colleague and I remember how the winter darkness really reflected my mood. Two years ago, I spent hours every day walking my newborn round in his pram so he would nap and thought that the sleep-deprivation was going to destroy my sanity. Last year, I had not long started back at work part-time and we were dealing with repeated bugs that the baby brought back from nursery. Now we have a little boy who is a marvel to behold. I feel so grateful that God has brought such love into our lives – lockdown or no, I rejoice in the autumn I am sharing with my cherished little family.