The long hot summer….

I sit on the sofa, iPad connected to the mains, Educating Rita on the telly, and I contemplate my summer to date. Other than my surjourn to Center Parcs, and that was tad odd, it’s been quiet.

I’m missing one fat holiday, that’s what I’m missing. But alas its not happening. Saving for the house continues, so the sacrifice comes by way of cancelling my annual budget blowout somewhere on the Med. I never realised that the annual holiday was more than some bourgeoise concept that has been drilled into our psyche. It’s more cathartic than that. It’s a way to really escape the pace of life that drives us all to those moments when you could cry, scream or shoot someone. To get away from those reminders of what awaits come Monday morning, to slow the pace right down. I don’t think I have achieved that this year, I’m still on the treadmill of life. I don’t mind, so much, but I need that thing to work towards. The break.

So what do we do about it? We plan. And I am a man with a plan. The answer? Boston, Massachusetts. This December, I’m heading to the East Coast for some seasonal warmth. Well, no, it’s gonna be freezing, but there will be boutiques, department stores, Christmas trees, twinkling lights, hot dinners, red wine. Also known as bliss. Must sort this itinerary out, ASAP.

I have replaced karmic joy with retail madness. Cookbooks have been purchased. Anna Del Conte, Marcella Hazan, Thomasina Miers, Nigel Slater and the queen of my world, Ina, all have new entries on my shelves. Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking has already reshaped my world. Instructive, interesting, and a myth breaker. Julia Child never considered Italian cooking to be an art form, and I can see what her beef was in a way. Marcella tells us that the western palate can over complicate matters somewhat, in that we add a dash here, a pinch there, a squeeze of this can’t hurt, perhaps a sprig of something else. Italian cooking is telling us to keep our cast light. A tomato based pasta sauce needs only one herb to flavour it. We don’t need competing demands. And nowhere have I seen red wine vinegar added to a pasta sauce.

I have also gone a bit potty with Nordicware accessories in TK Maxx. I am going to be using one of them this weekend so stay tuned for some baking brilliance coming your way. I can take no credit of it all comes out amazing.

This weekend Pete and I took my baby Daphne to my own personal oasis. I am certain I have said it before but I will say it again, there is no more blissful place in this world than Chatsworth House. It is gorgeous. The sun was blazing, the breeze blowing, the boys well rested. We took the Girls Aloud boxset, packed up the car, and took the pooch for her first day out. We discovered she had a taste for sheep dung, which turned my tummy more than once, and headed to Edensor to buy some coffees and sandwiches for a packed lunch by the river.

For a few hours, it was just endless beauty. Green, lush, expansive. Cows, sheep, deer. Despite the fact the Chatsworth brand is something of a, pardon the pun, cash cow itself, it remains a place of charm and quintessential Britishness.

It feels rather embarrassing to say it, but it truly was the most perfect day. It was nothing special in particular, but it was everything. I loved it. It was simple, uncomplicated, and everything you want the British summertime to be.

I baked some banana cupcakes on Sunday. I tell you, I’m getting there with that stuff. Moist, versatile banana sponge with cream cheese frosting. I ummed and aaaaahed over peanut butter frosting. Next time perhaps. 26 cakes came out that Kitchenaid bowl, far too many for Pete and I. Took some to work, and avoided temptation to eat 4, had one this afternoon. I did good. Magnolia Bakery really does deliver everytime, unlike I’m sad to say the Hummingbird. Plus I managed to ice 24 cupcakes with the same amount of icing sugar in the frosting as I would following the HB recipe. That says it all, calorie counters.

So I have recently made myself a decision. I need to get braver with my baking choices. Banana cupcakes wasn’t a huge diversion, I accept, but it was a new recipe. So I need to enter a brave new world of baking. Any suggestions? I’m thinking of keeping it seasonal and have loads of blueberries in. Let me know, folks.

Anyhow, that’s all for now. Blog later folks. Xxx

– If ever in doubt, just ask yourself- What Would Ina Do? You can bet your bottom dollar it would involve Hydrangeas and Homosexuals

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