One of the reasons I was so excited to move to England was the ease of travel to so many places I wanted to visit and revisit. The reality, however, is that the intensity and focus of teaching means that, by the time holidays roll around, all I want to do is sleep. I’m getting a bit savvier about how I plan holidays now, with at least a few days to rest before jaunting off to see and do.
And while running to make a train to Cambridge immediately after school on Friday isn’t the smartest way to start my week off, I’ve basically spent the past five days resting and relaxing. I’ve spent time in the garden, read books, baked scones and cakes, had a fondue evening with Paul, watched films, knit on my seemingly endless Mitford sweater, chatted to family, made plans for the summer, and just had a lovely, leisurely week.
While I do love autumn, I have to admit that I’m finding November more trying than I remember it last year. It’s dark when I’m headed in to school, it’s dark when I’m headed home, and the darker it gets, the more I think of the sunshine at home. I find myself turning on all the lights I can, and when I find a sun patch, staying there and basking in it until it goes away. My cats would be proud of me.
I think there’s just something about this month that makes me homesick. This is the month of Thanksgiving dinners with family, Thanks+Giving potlucks with friends, the Macy’s parade, massive shopping sales, crispy red and gold leaves, Red Cup Day at Starbucks, and when Target puts out their Archers Farm mint hot chocolate.
Since that line of thinking leaves me nowhere, I’m doing my best to warm up November. Today I stayed near the stove, basking in its warmth, making some pumpkin chocolate chip muffins to make my lunch box a bit more cheerful. I watched a sunset and picked a few apples from the tree in the back garden. I commiserated about the dark with one of my housemates, who is Australian and also missing the sunshine. I strung fairy lights in my room for the first time since college, broke out the good tea from Fortnum & Mason, investigated my book haul from over half-term, binged on Bach, and lit all the candles I could find.
This weekend I buy cocoa and make a batch of soup, collect some more acorns and leaves for my window bowl, and hopefully begin my annual reread of Mrs Miniver. What do you suggest to warm up November?
I know that the new year starts for most people on January 1st, but for me, it’s always been the first day of school. Now that I’m teaching, this feels even more the case. I’m in a new place, in a new town, in a new school, with new students, and all kinds of new things to learn and teach. It’s all very exciting, except when it’s also a little “aaaaaaghh-ish!”. Fortunately, there’s always a weekend right around the corner when that happens. This past week was a bit rocky, so it was lovely to just flop on Friday night and not have to deal with anything that smacked of newness!
By Saturday, I was already feeling more myself, and a day spent shopping and walking around a rainy London only helped. It takes an hour to get into London from my new home, so I wanted to cram as much shopping as I could into the day. I walked up and down Oxford Street, browsing through the enormous John Lewis, popping into shoe stores, walking into anything that looked interesting, getting a few things at Boots, and eventually ending up at Gap, which seems both weirdly familiar and yet very different to the store I know from home. I eventually found some really lovely things for my home, so I walked into Marylebone to visit Daunt Books, something I’ve been wanting to do for ages. The store is beautiful and temptingly stacked full of enticing books, but it’s the travel section that bowled me over. I love how it has been arranged by regions and countries, with biographies and memoirs stuffed into their relevant countries. I snapped up a small book on Copenhagen and ran through the rain to the Nordic Bakery for a warm and spice-filled cinnamon bun and an enormous latte, and read my book and munched while I sat out the worst of the downpour. (Many thanks to Miranda who first recommended the bakery!)
I’ve spent the rest of the weekend just trying to relax and clean and get ready for the week ahead: lots to do. Fortunately, so many of the new things in my life are also quite lovely. Like my generous, apple-donating neighbours.
I meant to be very efficient this weekend and get lots of things done. Sadly, I had the energy of a flobberworm and things didn’t work out quite as planned. It was still a good weekend, though, peaceful and with nice bits in it. Paul did energetic things in the garden with a lawnmower while I sat in the doorway and thought about bees. Or I did until I really noticed the hover mower – the thing actually hovers. He was lovely enough to turn it over and explain how it worked when he realised I was interested. It is seriously cool, like The Jetsons, only without space grass! We had ice lollies from an ice cream truck (the Fab is not up there with the Cornetto), I became hooked on the original ‘House of Cards’, spent time curled up in bed with knitting and books and a new magazine, wandered about the garden, caught up with a good friend on Skype, made a lemon loaf cake to celebrate the announcement of the new Who (hmph), and to quote Paul, I loafed, lazed and lounged. I did all three excellently.
Every now and then I have a desperate need for food from home. Sometimes it’s understandable, food I ate a lot, like breakfast burritos, and sometimes it’s really damn weird, like Dr. Pepper slurpees, which I rarely ever drank (and basically doesn’t count as any kind of food product past the age of 9). This morning I just really craved Tex-Mex, but it’s too warm for grilling fajitas or baking empanadas, so tostadas it was. When Paul got home, I fried the tostadas and we dug in. Kudos for him for (a) eating it with his fingers like a proper Texan, (b) trying everything, even the limes and jalepanos, and (c) basically being a really good sport and humouring me.
I know I’m biased, because this is the food of My People, but this is a really fast and easy dinner to make in the summer when it’s just too hot to be in the kitchen for that long. And better still, everything but the tostadas can be made ahead of time and popped in the fridge until you’re ready for dinner. In spite of the fact that the tostadas are fried, and there is never enough cheese to please me, the meal is actually not too heavy for hot weather. Black beans for protein, lots of garlic, tomatoes and lettuce and limes, and since I don’t like sour cream, I blitz together Greek yogurt with cilantro and garlic to make a cream sauce. The tostadas only take a few minutes to fry, and if you get bored, you can pop the bubbles as they come up.