Monday, 23 January 2012


i mentioned in my new years resolution post that i was hoping to utilize the downloadable book - one bite at a time. with lots and lots of great tips for simplifying life. i decided to start with something i falter at, but had been endeavouring to get the hang of: meal planning. this has become even more important as we adjust to both of working and being out of the house often for more than 12 hours a day. there's no time for detours to the store, and because we commute by public transport, it's actually not all that easy to pick something up on the way, particularly when the local shop has closed!

i've found a great resource - plan to eat. what a genius idea! it allows you to plan your meals using an online meal planner, you can type up meals that you have in recipe books, or import recipes from online sources. it's really incredibly simple, and once you've added a recipe, it's stored in your online file! this is a paid for service, but the first month is a free trial, so there's no risk. i am LOVING it. particularly because we've simplified grocery shopping. we're now doing grocery delivery. delivery in london is very common, and not terribly expensive. plus i'm already seeing a reduction in our grocery bill simply because there are very few impulse purchases. it fits around our schedule and means that i can shop on my lunch hour and have groceries delivered the next morning before i leave for work! so online meal planning, coupled with online grocery shopping is a huge simplification of my life.

the second 'bite' i took on, i did so accidentally. i had meant to try and start a morning routine - but it wasn't going very well, a series of late nights and variable mornings has lead me to putting the morning routine idea to the side for this month. instead, as i read through the book and this just kind of 'happened' i most noticed it over the weekend.

clean as you cook:  as my mother and sister will attest, and my husband, while i'm a pretty decent cook, i'm not so great about the mess that is created during the 'creative process.' yesterday was a big cooking day. i made this delicious casserole (chicken and butternut squash and pasta and parmesan cheese? yes please!) but that meant roasting a squash and a chicken, which i did early the morning. a practice run at le boy's birthday cake and then the actual creation of the casserole meant for a huge mess. but actually, i cleaned as i went, putting away items as i used them, gathering scraps in a bowl, wiping up spills as they happened, soaking dishes for easy clean up later, wearing an apron. really none of it was hard, but it made the cooking and the clean up a breeze!

some of the tips from one bite include:

• Place a “garbage bowl” or container for food scraps and peelings on your main work surface.
• If you have a double sink, run one side half full of hot soapy water for hand washing and dish rinsing, leaving the other free for washing vegetables or draining pastas.
• Keep a broom and dustpan handy for flour or sugar spills on the floor.
• Have a few clean dry towels on hand for countertop spills and drying dishes.

i've taken the last one a bit further and adopted a 'side' towel, as explained here. such a great thing to do and so easy. what i've realised is that this will mean i have slightly more kitchen laundry each week, but it also means that i'm not stressed about the state of my kitchen.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


so breakfast is an important meal. according some, the most important meal of the day. and really, it does set the tone and the mood. good days for me include a hot breakfast. i love hot breakfast. cereal is on my 'ok, i guess' list of food. rarely do i love cereal, unless i'm in canada and have endless access to vector. something that doesn't exist here. i'm trying to find ways of making hot breakfast easier. many mornings we have eggs, which we love, but i'm picky about eggs. scrambled eggs cannot be hard or chewy in any way. they should be soft pillows of melt in your mouth deliciousness. this is not easy on the time front.

i'm going to experiment next week with both make ahead oatmeal from the kitchn. and freezer breakfast burritos, from a mash up of recipes that i've found online. and i'm going to make a batch of granola from the recipe i've used for a few years, but have neglected to make since we've been married - i think i'm just afraid that le boy will eat all of my efforts - c'est la vie.

but what's been really revolutionary for me? homemade pancake mix. just as easy as the stuff that came out of the box when i was a kid (also not sold here, after all the british definition of a 'pancake' is slightly disappointing - think a cross between an american pancake and a french crepe). from where else but nigella? oh how we love her.


instant homemade pancake mix
from nigella express

i make this once every four times we have pancakes. i store the rest in an airtight container with the directions on the side, when it's time to make pancakes it's simple and easy. le boy prefers these to be served with bacon and maple syrup, but the additions to the batter and the topping options are endless.

for the mix: 

600g (4 scant cups) flour 
3 x 15ml tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 teaspoon salt
40g (1/4 cup) caster (granulated) sugar

to make:
for each 150g (1 cup) pancake mix, add and whisk together:
1 egg
250ml (1 cup) semi-skimmed or full-fat milk
1 x 15ml tablespoon melted butter

heat a pan over medium heat - i add my butter and melt it in the pan before pouring it into the mixing bowl (saving on washing up here!). drop batter onto hot pan, when bubbles appear on top of pancake it is ready to flip over. 1-2 minutes per side for golden brown pancakes.

while cooking the rest of the pancakes i tent the cooked pancakes on a plate with some foil (i don't have a fancy pancake dish, and i don't really want one, but it sure is pretty in the photo!)

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

a collection of thoughts.

life is ticking by here. it is how it should be. here's what i'm thinking.

  • bright lipstick makes your face look better - even when you are looking haggard (which is how i was this morning) 
  • i need to treat this recovery and rehab stage in the same way i'd treat a training programme for a marathon - with dedication and focus and realising that it will take up a lot of my 'free time' 
  • knitting and reading are two of my favourite things in the entire world. 
  • i feel better with lots of water in my system. 
  • work (finally) got a microwave, and despite the concerns of microwaving food that float (no pun intended) around, i love the variety that has been added to my lunch selection
  • shopping the sales makes me wonder why i ever buy anything full price? 
  • wool for the latest baby blanket has arrived (no, not for us)
  • february is shaping up to be a month of parties and entertaining and i cannot wait. 
  • i love the quiet simplicity of january. 
  • i am hitting up a local department store on my way home to buy some amy butler fabric on special, a.b. and marvellous should watch the post! 
  • two adults generate an enormous amount of laundry - what happens when you add children? 
  • nothing perks me up like freshly painted fingernails. 
  • the this american life app rocks my world, and keeps me entertained on long tube commutes, get it. 
  • i've just discovered the joy of using the steam room at the gym post workout, how have i missed this for so long? 
  • god has redeemed so much in such a short space of time - and i am in awe of it all. 
  • looking forward to date night with le boy tonight - we're doing sausage rolls from here (love this recipe!) and starting this series. snuggle time on the couch here we come! 
  • i think i'll pick up some hyacinths tomorrow, my office needs a spruce up, starting with some colourful and sweet smelling flowers. 
  • i need to decide on some houseplants, let's get something growing. 
  • i'm starting to think about what i'd like to do in the garden this summer. 
  • curtains are begging to be stitched - perhaps tonight before dinner? 
  • getting back into a routine is more difficult than i realised. 
  • i need to go to bed earlier. 

Monday, 9 January 2012

new year.

2011 was a big year for many of our peeps, us included. we saw good friends return stateside. we welcomed babies, we looked on with love as men and women we'd been friends with for years said 'i will' and walked into the glorious mess that is marriage. 2011 was full of travel and good things and new experiences and joy and sorrow, above all, it was busy. very busy. but new year's weekend, blessedly, was not.

stateside friends returned for an (all-too) brief time, and as has happened so many times, parents of our good friends opened their home and their hearts to a gaggle of us. my love-tank was so filled at the end of that weekend, my stomach groaning from the unbelievably good meals that seems to just appear, as if by magic, from the kitchen. it was a weekend in the countryside, complete with sheep grazing in the pasture outside our bedroom window and talks of old memories and new blessings and how christ is working it all for good while standing in kitchens and warming ourselves by the aga. it was walks along the rolling hills in wellie boots while we recounted the goodness of our god, while we mourned the broken parts of lives, while we longed for a completeness that will always seem a little elusive this side of majesty. it was tea and card games and immense, joyful laughter, because these people are your people, they understand you, and love you regardless. it was a quiet weekend, and the perfect start to the new year.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

be it resolved.

i love a new year. really, i love a new anything. but there's so much promise in a new year isn't there? 2011 will be difficult to top in terms of big life events. this time last year we weren't even engaged. but i'm hoping that 2012 might be quieter.

i'm hoping to settle into our house, to watch more movies and read more books, listen to more music and podcasts. i'm looking to invest more deeply in our marriage and in my relationship with jesus. i want to have time to spend with friends and to develop new friendships. i want to give my full attention to the areas of service the lord has placed before us - leading a home group and participating in prayer ministry. we hope to travel and i would like to be intentional in that - knowing what we are seeking from those experiences.

i want to rush less and be more present for life. i read ann voskamp's book, one thousand gifts, while convalescing, and it's true: nary an hour has ever been added by rushing. i want to live fully in each moment - seeking his will for my life in the mundane and the exciting.

i will continue to set intentions every month. but my overarching intentions are divided into three areas and each month i'll endeavour to update on where i'm at.

mental: read twenty-four books - twelve fiction, and twelve non- fiction.

physical: run a half marathon by the end of 2012 - i'm using this as a barometer of my recovery, plus the half is a very do-able distance.

spiritual: memorise 24 scriptures

and for this month i'm specifically working on simplifying - le boy starts a new job next week! this is a massive answer to prayer but it does mean big changes for us and a revamp of how we order our days and our mornings specifically. in addition, i need to get to the gym four or five times a week for rehab, i have regular dates with friends and i have a home to keep, and a husband to feed and pay attention to. i'm hoping to use this resource to assist with simplifying life. (and there's a discount until january 10!)

::intentions for january::

- read the meaning of marriage, by tim keller and a room with a view, by e.m. forester
- gym four/five times a week
- memorise acts 20:32 and choose another scripture and memorise.
- complete four bites from one bite at a time.


2011 will definitely go down as a memorable year.

amongst other items the following happened:

january: we got engaged in hong kong

feburary: i tore my ACL while skiing in france. we celebrated our engagement with our london friends and marvellous flew over for the party.

march: we celebrated the first wedding of the year

april: we were in canada for easter and wedding planning and a bridal shower, and i had a piece published on (in)courage. and a quick trip with mom to florida.

may: engagement photos and sailing.

june: we found our house and i got a proper road cycle.

july: a fast dash to finish work, move house, attend wedding two of year, and head to canada.

august: we got married! and honeymooned on hilton head island, sc.

september: we found our feet and started this thing called married life. we continued to walk through a jobless period and we so enjoyed being in london.

october: i blogged for 31 days - i loved it, although it was challenging!

november:  we settled into our home and i had knee surgery, marvellous was over for a week to love on us and make sure it all went smoothly.

december: we stayed in one place and loved it. we enjoyed every moment of advent, had a tree and i even got stockings made!

we are astounded at how god has moved through this year. how he has redeemed, is redeeming brokenness and planting fresh seeds in ploughed up souls. we are surrounded by incredible friends who have loved us through some very difficult moments, who are family to us. we have made it through the most fraught and most joyful year i've ever known. we praise his holy name for answered prayer in our marriage and in le boy's recent contract! we are immeasurably blessed and so so grateful that we learned this lesson because of lack. 2011 has been good to us, we look forward with hopeful hearts to 2012.

and a partridge in a pear tree.

i'm a bit behind, but here goes.

we decided to spend christmas just the two of us. we've had an enormous amount of travel this year, and with money short and limited mobility due to surgery six weeks earlier, we just wanted some time to be at home and be together. we are so glad we did! we realise that this probably won't happen very often and actually, sharing our first christmas together, just us, was such a special time.

to say this year's christmas was catagorized by food would be an understatement. we basically ate our way out of the house.

but shall we start at the beginning?

christmas morning was wonderful. we woke up and had our coffee in bed while we opened our stockings. santa was oh so good, bringing cute note cards, a 'keep calm' mug and a book i'm so glad to read - the meaning of marriage by tim keller - love it already. knew that i would!

christmas morning church is a tradition that we started last year, reasoning that with overseas family we might be frequently travelling during the period, but we'd always be able to find a local church. this year it was special to worship at our (new) home church and enjoy a church filled-to-the-brim with small children, oh so excited about christmas. we remarked that it was a fantastic way to remind ourselves of the reason for christmas - christ - and we hope to keep this tradition alive in our family!

we returned to begin the preparations for the feast and open our under-the-tree presents. it was a year of abundant blessings, our offerings were small, our hearts flung open, our bellies were FILLED.

i set to preparing the dinner that ended all dinners. and once it was all in the oven. we headed out for a walk.

prawns on a bed of winter greens with horseradish cream - i substituted prawns for scallops in the recipe, mainly because my fishmonger was all out on christmas eve, but we liked it so much it's getting a second chance at a birthday dinner in six weeks time!

king of his castle.

roast partridge, pheasant and guinea fowl - why go traditional when there's only two mouths? this was stunning and seemingly more appropriate and still an enormous amount of food!

the very best roast potatoes - use goose fat, it changes everything. and i'm not exaggerating at all.

for dessert we had lava cakes, i wasn't thrilled with them. partly they didn't end up as chocolate lava in the middle, partly the oven decided to stop working in the middle of them baking and partly we were just to filled with food to appreciate anything. lesson learned, in future, i'll go for a pre-cooked, light dessert!

the evening was topped off with watching the classic - national lampoon's christmas vacation, love it. and then suffering from a serious case of 'christmas-itis' we went for a midnight walk through our neighbourhood. it was so lovely to see houses lit up and trees in bay windows and the streets completely quiet, save our footsteps and the jingle bell on the collar of the cat that tried to follow us home.