The Moon / Reasons to be thankful

I’ve just spent ages staring out of the window at the full moon. I find it utterly mesmerising – magical, even – that from all the way down here it’s possible to see the light and shadows of its surface. It makes me feel so small, but in a good way – like there is so much more to this universe than my tiny mind is capable of fathoming, but that somehow that’s okay, because in accepting that I also accept there is so much more possibility, so much more breadth of experience; so much more life to behold.

Today has been a GOOD day, for the following reasons:

1. I finally had my physiotherapy consultation at the Crystal Palace sports injury clinic and have been referred for a course of NHS physio treatment in Clapham, starting Wednesday. The recovery starts here…

2. I edited one 750 word story, wrote a new 1,600 word story and submitted both to competitions whose deadlines were today.

3. I received an email from the editor of my favourite magazine saying they would consider my recent pitch (but warning me they’ve received a lot of similar subject matter of late – which is totally fair enough and will only serve to make me more inventive in the future :))

4. The sun was shining brightly and warmly all day long – it’s finally starting to feel like summer is just around the corner and I LIKE it!

5. I spoke to two extremely special people in my life, who made me feel amazing and who I love beyond words.

6. I managed to cook a delightful supper (albeit from a recipe, but shhhh, don’t burst my bubble) of aubergine stuffed with chorizo, tomato, spinach and ricotta. NOM.

7. It’s a full moon – and as I said above, I just love a full moon (maybe I was a werewolf in a previous life).

Just wanted to share the above really. Because it’s all too easy to forget to stop and look around once in a while at all the wonderful things and people that we’re blessed with in our lives – and to appreciate each and every one of them for the richness that they bring.

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Life half full

It is nearly half past twelve on ‘Writing Monday,’ and thus far I have achieved the following: A five kilometre run around Clapham Common (to offset the weekend’s beer and chocolate indulgence in Bruges); the weekly shop in Sainsbury’s; a clothes wash; a top-to-toe clean of the entire flat AND the preparation of a slow cooker gastronomic delight (lamb stew, since you’re asking) for two friends who are coming for dinner tonight. I have also, it would seem, entered into a stand-off with a lederhosen manufacturer in Germany (not a sentence I ever thought I’d write), as the product I returned last week via airmail (due to their mistake in sending the wrong size, I might add) has thus far failed to arrive, meaning that they are now withholding the replacement (in my correct size) until it does. This is a particular problem as said item was ordered for my impending birthday party, which makes swift resolution of the issue significantly more pressing. Given my recent track record with Royal Mail (two of five letters sent by my mum never having arrived), I know which side my money would be on if it wasn’t for the fact I’m already exorbitantly out of pocket from making the purchase in the first place. I could not be kicking myself more for not sending the damn thing recorded, but since they offered me free coloured contact lenses instead of agreeing to pay the return postage cost and the postage was ten pounds via regular air mail and twenty via recorded, I opted for the former – evidently a big (and costly) mistake.

Anyway, I digress. The point I’m trying to make – more to myself than to anyone else – is that it’s nearly half way through Writing Monday and, whilst the level of productivity today has seen is certainly impressive, not one bit of it has had the slightest thing to do with writing. If I was a professional runner, chef or cleaner the past few hours would at least have been lucrative. As it is, I am none of these things. No, for one day each week I am a freelance writer – a freelance writer who is very good at doing anything except the thing she claims to love. In the past ten minutes I have even abandoned my computer again to go into the roof and fix the window so the wind no longer whistles through it (though as that was, in fact, something that needed doing in order to avoid losing my concentration whilst writing that’s technically allowed, no?). To surmise, today I’m feeling mostly useless and frustrated at my own inadequacy. I may have managed to post a blog for every day of the year so far, but in terms of cold, hard cash I’ve hardly covered the cost of the lederhosen dispute with my writing, let alone made enough to pay myself a wage for Writing Monday. Still, I’m writing now, aren’t I? Even if it is only today’s blog? And anyway, we writers write for the love of our trade rather than out of any serious belief we’ll ever earn a crust from it….don’t we?

Right, enough with the negativity and introspection. All is not lost. I’ve just remembered this picture I took in Bruges yesterday and it’s buoyed me considerably. Half the writing day may have been wasted but it was wasted doing necessary things. And now there’s still a glorious half day remaining to make up for lost time. The only question now is what to write about…

Return of the domestic goddess

Love it or hate it, we all turn into grown-ups in the end and today I think I may have officially made the transition. Why? Because today, instead of having a long lie in and spending the day loafing around in my pyjamas watching old episodes of Don’t Tell The Bride (don’t judge me) and eating Hagen Dazs out of the tub, I was up at 9am to clean the flat from top to bottom before heading to a dentist appointment, returning some time later with a bag full of ingredients for a slow cooked lamb tagine. I also stopped off at the hardware store on the way home to purchase a new draining rack, a soap dish and a pair of tea towels. And, if the garden shop on the high street hadn’t had such a pathetic selection of stock I might have brought back a plant or two for the flat – dare I say even herbs in a window box? What has become of me?

There’s probably no cause to worry just yet that my youth has finally forsaken me. Rather, this is the yin and yang principle at work again, redressing nature’s fragile balance after a couple of days of hedonistic fun at Carnival. And, being completely honest, Don’t Tell The Bride and a grab bag of roast beef flavoured Monster Munch *may* have featured somewhere on today’s itinerary…What can I say? Whether young or old, old habits die hard.

Domestic goddess

After a year and a half of paying for a cleaner and barely lifting a duster or a mop I’ve today discovered something incredible: I have an inner domestic goddess, and she actually rather enjoys cleaning.

There’s something very satisfying about rolling up your sleeves and getting busy with the hoover and the Mister Sheen. Not only does putting in a bit of elbow grease give you a sense of pride in your own home, it’s also pretty good exercise. What’s more, giving the place a good going over is a cleansing process, setting you up for the week ahead. In fact, now I’ve done it for the first time in a long while I can’t believe I wasted so much money getting someone else to do it for me.

Tomorrow I’ll be continuing the domestic goddess theme with my first attempt at a casserole cooked in the new slow cooker. Move over Nigella, there’s a new cook in town. And she’s becoming unrecognisable even to herself…

Mother’s Day, mighty roasts and Malbec

The surprise Mother’s Day visit didn’t get off to the best of starts when I arrived home from the supermarket to find half of the dessert ingredients contained an ingredient Mum’s allergic to. Fortunately I cottoned onto this in time to avoid Mother’s Day being memorable for all the wrong reasons, and managed to claw victory from the jaws of defeat by pulling off a pretty decent two course meal (which, since you’re asking comprised pancetta-wrapped tilapia fillets with new potatoes, sugar snap peas and a lemon and caper sauce, followed by baked peaches stuffed with a mixture of amaretti biscuits, brown sugar, lemon zest, butter, almonds and pine nuts – the latter two ingredients being removed in Mum’s portion in order to avert severe anaphylactic shock.

With Mother’s Day celebrations ticked off the list I trekked from Weybridge to East Dulwich (via two trains and one rail replacement bus service) to meet friends for lunch at the Bishop, a delightful public house on Lordship Lane which was just what the doctor ordered for an afternoon of catching up, scoffing, quaffing and watching a spot of rugby. The staff are friendly and attentive – in particular Chris, the charismatic Manager for whom no request is too much trouble – and the food is quite simply divine. After a series of underwhelming Sunday roasts in similarly underwhelming pubs I felt I’d hit the jackpot today, with a gorgeous cut of prime beef served alongside a mound of fresh vegetables, crisp roast potatoes, a giant Yorkshire pudding and an individual gravy boat and portion of horseradish sauce (being a horseradish addict this last detail particularly delighted me). The Manager’s recommendation of a glass of Malbec was the perfect accompaniment, and a few bottles and several desserts (top tip: The chocolate pot is to DIE for, and I don’t say that lightly) later we rolled out the door feeling sated and content.

And so to the weeks ahead; ten more working days in my current job before a trip to New York and the start of a new job and part time freelance career. After two years of living miles apart my boyfriend has just moved to London for four months which couldn’t be more perfectly timed. Things are changing and it’s about time too. In the words of Orange, the future’s bright.

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Food glorious food

I’m not a natural cook, but stick me in a kitchen with some simple raw ingredients, a recipe book and a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio and I’ll have a damn good crack at producing something that’s half way edible. Without a recipe I’m rather less confident, with a vastly reduced repertoire consisting mainly of, well, spaghetti Bolognese. But to me it doesn’t matter what I cook, it’s the act of cooking I find enjoyable. The problem is that I, like many others, rarely make the time to do it.

The sad fact is when working all the hours God sends its often cooking that drops off most peoples’ registers. And who can blame them? If you’re routinely trooping through your front door after nine o’clock each night the last thing you feel like doing is deboning a sea bass and whipping up a pomegranate and red wine jus. Far easier to whack a frozen ready meal in the microwave, or even grab the nearest takeaway menu and slump onto the sofa.

But the funny thing is that if you can find the strength to drag yourself into the kitchen and create something from scratch, it has an oddly therapeutic effect. I don’t know whether it’s the act of cooking itself – chopping and grating, seasoning and tasting – that is so soothing or the fact the time spent doing it creates much needed space for your brain to relax. But whatever it is I believe that cooking is good for the soul.

And then there’s eating. I’ve often posited that I would be an exceptional candidate for a career in competitive eating, such is my love of (and inability to produce normal-sized plates of) food. Diets have never held much sway with me, for I come from the school of thought that suggests food is one of the great pleasures of life. Why should we deprive ourselves of what we love?

As long as you’re not stuffing yourself with saturated fats at every opportunity the occasional treat is fine – my particular weaknesses being chocolate and Big Mac meals on a hangover (I am eating chocolate as I write this). Everything in moderation, including (and yes, I know this is boring) regular exercise is the way to lead a healthy and contented life – not existing on Ryvita with a hot water and paprika chaser from dawn until dusk. Where’s the joy in that? I’ll take an extra roll of back fat over shoulder blades so sharp they can cut through glass any day of the week.

Now where’s that takeaway menu…

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I couldn’t write a post about my love of food without referencing this bad boy: The Breakfast Burrito, which weighs about the same as a newborn baby. The first time I ordered one of these on Koh Tao I was told most people can only manage half. Needless to say I ate the whole thing in minutes and returned most mornings afterwards to do the same. It was, in short, an artery-hardening lump of wickedly delicious ingredients, and if it shortened my life by a few months (as I’ve no doubt it did) then all I can say is that it was very much worth it. So there.