Friday, 29 January 2016

Making it feel like home

It is grey and blowing today.  Eight o' clock in the morning.  The wind lashes the yew tree.  I look through my bedroom window at the rain blowing in rippling curtains across the valley.   Ian has gone to work.  The house is quiet, apart from the noise of the wind, and dark, too dark to see without the lights on.  I pad downstairs in my slippers and go round turning some lights on in the kitchen and the sitting room.  The dog greets me with a wagging tail.   Sadness snatches at me but I turn away from it.  Today is mine to make.  I hear my mother's voice "I think to myself, what can I do to make this a good day for Graham and for me, and then I do it".  So simple.  So complicated.

So how to claim the day, how to make it feel like home?  Breakfast first.  A cup of tea in my favourite mug and scrambled eggs.  The rhythm of making scrambled eggs is soothing.  I could do this in my sleep: the little pan on the hob with a knob of butter in it melting while I beat two eggs, swirling the butter in the pan to cover the bottom and then in go the eggs, stirring them, bringing them together and tipping them out onto a blue and white plate.  It takes no more time than it would take to make a bowl of cereal.  I sit at the kitchen table, eating my eggs, drinking my tea, the dog leaning against my leg.  What shall we do today?

Making it feel like home has to start in the kitchen.  I decide to have a go at making Erika's gluten free bread recipe which Ian, after a lot of research, found on this site.  We ordered all the flour substitutes online and they have all been sitting in the pantry waiting for me to get my act together enough to try the bread recipe.  One of the downsides of having been making our own bread for so long is that our normal recipe has become another thing that I could do in my sleep.  Attempting a new recipe with a long list of  ingredients and a method quite different from the one I am used to just looks such a faff that I keep putting it off.  But suddenly the house settles around me, warmer, lighter, snug against the blowing wind.  I put on my apron and turn on the oven.  The kitchen hums gently.  I feel myself come together, curious, interested, ready to go.

I follow the recipe exactly and, when the loaf eventually goes into the oven, I sit with a cup of tea, reading my emails, checking Instagram, content.  This house needs activity and so do I.  Whether it is anything to do with more than four hundred years of being a farmhouse at the centre of a life filled with work I do not know, but the house needs to be lived in and lived in actively and busily.  It sulks when you go away.  Coming back into it after an absence feels cold and dark.  The house needs fires and cooking and light and people doing things.  With the bread cooking and the kettle boiling the house feels warm and comforting, like a blanket.  Sit for too long looking through the window at the rain and the house turns its back on you.  Get on with it, it says under its breath.  Do something, live.

The bread is totally delicious too.  It is six months since I went gluten free and I had decided that I feel so much better for it that it is fine to live without bread.  I have two slices of this new loaf with salty Welsh butter and then a slice toasted with a poached egg for lunch.  Oh my goodness, how I have missed bread!  Other attempts at making gluten free bread have produced a dry, tasteless, slightly too sweet loaf, like stale brioche.  This is good.  This tastes like bread and has a texture like bread.  I will experiment a bit more with the recipe and perhaps try a little less honey and a little more salt for a more clearly savoury loaf, but it is good.  In fact it is so good that I was too busy eating it to take any photographs.


And as the day darkens again it needs fires, and lamps and Ian's company, making it feel like home.


Tonight I will go to yoga and then use  BBC iplayer to catch up with Michael Wood's brilliant "Story of China".  What have you done to make today a good day?

57 comments:

  1. Ahhh I loved this, Elizabeth.
    Of course, I am just starting my day. It's just past 0815 and I have walked the dog, made a shopping list for tomorrow night's dinner party for eight. I've boiled an egg and eaten it, brewed coffee and sipped it, and I've read a little. It's time to rise up and get ready for work - still two years to go before I can change things around and perhaps walk the dog in the daylight!

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    1. Ah how close lives are, on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. I hope your dog walking in daylight time comes soon.

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  2. What a lovely and comforting post. I especially like the parts about the dog. I don't have one, but I do love them. Your mother gave such good, practical advice. We have wonderful weather here and I'm going to take a walk. I think that's a perfect way to improve a day.

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    1. The practical advice on how to live is the best gift ever!

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  3. Our surveyor told me that old houses like yours and mine do physically need to be lived in. The walls, made from the natural materials of the earth, hold moisture and it is our fires, our cooking and our activity that creates and holds the warmth within. Go away in winter and the cold and damp very quickly take hold.

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    1. The house itself a living creature, that needs cuddles like our rescue cat.

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    2. You are both so right! I live the idea of the house as a living creature too. Certainly feels like that round here.

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    1. Thanks Gwen. It is pretty cosy with the fire lit!

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  5. Thanks - a very mellow read to brighten a dull January late afternoon. The gluten-free bread sounds great too.

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    1. Mellow is good and if it doesn't just happen you have to work at it!

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  6. Such a homely post, detailing the kind of routine that we all go through every morning and which creates a comforting rhythm. I'm glad you've found a recipe for bread which tastes good. It sounds like you had a very cosy day at home.
    Cathy x

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    1. There is an interesting balance for me between a comforting rhythm and feeling in a rut. Need to walk the fine line!

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  7. Sounds a wonderful day - love the eggs on the blue and white plate. And the dog.
    Yes, we should celebrate the quietly domestic and revel in it and feel lucky we are not running off to work.
    Making a happy home is a tremendously important thing. I read an article recently about resume (CV) skills and eulogy skills. I think it is better to polish the latter. Have a lovely weekend. The snow is melting here and it is our granddaughters' party. (Both born Feb 1 but three years apart!)

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    1. My brother and I were born on the same date, two years apart. We sheaths rather enjoyed sharing our birthday and greening special!

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  8. Perfect winter post, full of warmth and cosyness and a life savoured every day. For me, the best bit of every day is the time spent walking the dog in our gorgeous countryside often with my little camera in my pocket. I never forget to relish a life that allows me this luxury. Having just acquired a new puppy, I am so busy looking after him that just keeping vaguely on top of things seems a huge achievement!

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    1. I am very aware at the moment of how lucky I am. Perhaps this is one of the results of losing people. It makes you very aware of what you have.

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  9. Having not visited recently I read most of this as if you'd moved and are re-establishing a new sense of homeliness somewhere else. (You haven't have you?) Very blowy here but my garden is sheltered so it's only when I go up to the sea that I notice the changes.

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    1. Still in the same place Esther. Perhaps what I am doing is reconnecting with it after a couple of years spending a lot of time away with my father.

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  10. It sounds wonderful. Really homely and loving! Enjoy your evening. xx

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  11. That's a good question. I made a beef stew for supper and we both had a beer. Does that count?

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    1. It definitely counts. It is the small things that matter in making a good day.

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  12. I feel exactly the same way as far as baking g.f. bread is concerned - I mainly used one particular recipe before going g.f. free and could just about make it with my eyes shut.

    I am sure that recipe makes a delicious loaf although I doubt I will make it - not at present anyway.

    There is one particular loaf that I can get in the supermarket that I like (although it is better toasted.

    Perhaps one day I may try yours.

    Right now it is so hot and humid that even the thought of making bread makes me feel exhausted.

    Have just blanched sweetcorn bought at the Growers' market, removed it from the cobs and frozen it is parcels to give us delicious corn over the winter months.

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    1. I've spent quite a long while just going without bread Susan. I haven't really found any of the commercial varieties that I like very much. I won't have lots of this but I will probably bake one every few weeks and freeze some!

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  13. That sounds like a perfect day to me. I don't eat bread very often, but when I have a fresh cooked loaf, I wonder why I deny myself this pleasure.

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    1. I used to eat lots of bread until I went gluten free. Now I will probably not have much but I'm delighted I can have some!

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  14. Thanks for your quiet inspiration today. My day is just starting. Your words encouraged me "to make it a good day" and I will do just that! My list includes some cleaning and baking, some sewing and walking, and little things to make this a homey and warm place on a wintery day.

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    1. I like your list. It is so often the small matters of the everyday that make for a good day.

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  15. A good wood burning stove makes an old house feel like home.

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    1. Definitely! Don't know what we would do without our wood burning stove.

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  16. I love the question, "What can I do to make this a good day?" Such a simple question and such an excellent one. Just reading this today (Sunday) and we are shut inside in grey and windy weather. We'll take the dog out for her walk in a bit, fight the wind and drizzle, and then come back gladly to a fire, lamplight, and all the good smells of our favorite family chili (you would call it chili con carne, but for Americans, it's just 'chili') recipe simmering on the stove. It's the first time we've made it in the UK and I can't think why we waited so long. Your bread sounds fabulous - will you be sharing the recipe?

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    1. It's a great recipe Caroline but it's not mine! The link should take you to Erica's blog where you would find the full recipe and lots of others.

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  17. This post is really a delight! I'm far from my home today, and yet feeling rather at home here in Rome, because my daughter's here, and because I've settled into my hotel room -- and maybe because I feel at home in blogs like yours, with the smell of bread nearly wafting from the screen (does the gluten-free still have the wonderful aroma? I'd guess so, as that really comes from the yeast, right?0

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    1. I think the smell of gluten free bread is good but it doesn't quite have whatever it is that makes the new bread smell divine. Still, fabulously better than no bread!!

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  18. when you find a gluten free recipe that works it can really make your heart sing. I'm off to look at that one right now x

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    1. Hope it worked for you! I'm very glad to have found something worth repeating!

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  19. It's fun happening to have one's email open when you are replying to comments - and seeing all the notices coming in.

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  20. Ours is a different sort of house built of modern brick, but it's all that happens in it that makes it a home.

    I have a morning ritual involving stove top porridge, that gets the day off to a good start.

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    1. I am a strong believer in the importance of the daily ritual.

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  21. I think even modern houses need to be lived in or they get cold and damp, but it is particularly true of older places with thick stone walls. Delighted to hear that the bread turned out so well, that will add a whole new set of pleasures back in to life, for which, hurrah. Sometimes we all need to take some time to pootle around and do life-affirming stuff.

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    1. Yes to pootling! How sad that Swype doesn't know it exists!

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  22. Hello Elizabeth. You've written such a lovely post about the home and how a house i.e. bricks and mortar, so to speak, needs to waken with life and activity. At this time of year, when everything is so bleak and cold outside, activity around the 'hearth' is so important. Cooking is part of that. I'm glad the bread was delicious, I've yet to master gluten free bread and pastry and I would love to do so for a dear friend of mine.

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    1. Yes you are so right about the hearth. In summer you can look outwards. In winter we need warmth and light from inside until the sun heats up again.

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  23. Glad you managed to make your day good, not easy in this stormy, wet, dull weather either. The bread sounds lovely and I wish I had a real fire to toast my feet infront of :) have a good weekend

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    1. I would hate to be without a real fire. I just love them!

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  24. A life in the day of ... You! This was so lovely to read. I cannot wait to light the stove, cook dinner and spend the night in our new old cottage. Thanks for the link to the bread recipe.

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    1. Thank you! It's good to think of people all over the country and beyond focusing on food and warmth.

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  25. A really lovely post. I have been busy, getting the family out to work and school, doing the school run, then walking the dog in a cold, blustery wind. Home for a cup of tea, and a bit of blog catch up reading, but like you, I don't like to sit still during the day. Turning cold now and time to put the fire on and start the daily chores. I daren't make my own bread, as I can eat a whole loaf in a sitting. Delighted you have found a good gluten free recipe. X

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    1. Oh yes, I can eat a loaf at a sitting, no problem!

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  26. Great post! Yes, good English tea and an egg is a great way to get the day started. I have to go to work this afternoon (yes, on SuperBowl Sunday!!) but I spent the morning with my handsome husband, having breakfast and chatting. Makes it soooooo hard to go to work after such a cozy start to the day!

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  27. Hi! What have a done to make it a good day? I woke up! That is always a good start. I have caught up with my laundry, cleaned my kitchen, planned dinner and am looking forward to sitting down this evening to watch the latest episode of Downton Abbey which I missed last night due to the Superbowl!

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  28. Well as I have to lot of work to do I'll definitely ask essay kings write me an essay. That will let me free some time. Besides I think I'll visit my parents this weekend.

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