The autumn stock take: a three month pause

Today is the festival of Samhain, now more commonly called Halloween of course. It marks the beginning of dark, cold days and is a day of the year when the veil between the worlds is thin, and we can communicate with the dead. It is marked by bonfires, and now, a lot of chocolate.

I’ve been in Milan for two days, and am flying home this evening to join friends for a Halloween celebration dinner. I wanted to make festive dessert but work has called me away so now I am just going to join in.

Back in June, I posted this list as a way to remember the summer. I enjoyed filling it out so much I’ve done one for autumn too. Today seemed the most appropriate day to post it.

Making: a new shawl. I bought beautiful wool over the summer and finally found a pattern I like, that is not too advanced for me!
Cooking: squash squash squash. Roasted, in soup, in breakfast. All the squash.
Sipping: tonic water. I’ve embraced a three month dry spell for health reasons. So far, one glass of red wine at the one month mark, and another yesterday while at a work dinner in Milan, but otherwise nothing alcoholic. What have I discovered? Alcohol contributes to my anxiety and lack of energy, and feelings of self worth. Now if I could just find a non-alcoholic red wine that doesn’t taste of grape juice, that would be super.
Reading: The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth. The Testaments. The last Elena Ferrante novel. Starting: Where the crawdads sing.
Looking: at all the colours in the trees as they change from green to orange, to gold, yellow and brown.

University of Milan looking autumnal today

Listening: to a lot of Muse, Mumford & Sons, Kodaline, and Bastille. All writing music.
Wishing: for the light to return. I know it is only seven weeks until the shortest day but November is often the hardest month because it is so dark. December is fine – everyone gets their festive jig on, there are lights in every window, and holidays to plan for. But November is a slog.
Enjoying: time in the mornings for reading. I am not a morning person, having always preferred to get up at the last minute and rush out of the house, but recently I have been wanting slower mornings. More time. Space to breathe and drink coffee and write notes and read. So I’ve set my alarm for half an hour earlier. I’ve got out my Lumie light lamp to help wake me up. And it is a wonderful half hour, or 45 minutes if I can manage it, when I can sit on the couch with my coffee, a blanket to ward off the chill, Pan Cat bounding about, and a book or journal article.
Waiting: for frosty clear mornings, cold breath in the air and blue skies.
Liking: the 13 life-learnings of Brain Pickings.
Loving: the world of Lyra created by Philip Pullman. The Secret Commonwealth is just ace.
Buying: mostly groceries. I am learning to embrace minimalism in other parts of my life but food shopping is still something I do to excess. I’ve just bought a massive wedge of Parmesan in Milan airport, for example.
Watching: Downton Abbey. I watched up until mid season three originally then just couldn’t anymore. But now I am enjoying it. Also Bake Off.

Autumnal display at Chelsea Physic Garden

Hoping: for calmer, less busy days ahead.
Needing: to focus on book writing through this winter. So I am trying to find pockets of time in which to work – like train journeys, early mornings…
Wearing: boots. And my winter coat is out of the cupboard.
Following: the changing season on the allotment. Courgettes have just about come to an end. The cosmos is still flowering. Onions have come up, and the purple sprouting broccoli is looking strong.

Changing colour at Chelsea Physic Garden

Noticing: my improved mood and better sleep from jogging sessions (couch to 5k) or longer swims (now in heated pools).
Sorting: the pile of office-related paperwork, books, articles and mementos currently skulking in the corner of our bedroom.
Getting: strawberry runners into new earth. My strawberries have made so many babies I’ve had to start new strawberry patches. Apparently strawberries make less fruit over time so I am trying to ensure all the new plants have somewhere to grow.
Saving: for holidays next year. And house renovations. And cookbooks.
Bookmarking: ‘strength training at home’ exercises.
Coveting: Flavour Flours by Alice Medrich and the revised Tartine by Liz Prueitt and Chad Robertson. I want to experiment more with non-wheat flours in my baking and these two books look wonderful.
Opening: the tiny greenhouse cover whenever it is nice enough to get outside to check on herbs, radishes, tiny peppers that are protected inside.
Giggling: at Pan Cat. Still. She makes me laugh all the time. Others are charmed by her when they see her out on her lead. She is just pure joy.
Hearing: robins calling in the garden.
Obsessing: over the new His Dark Materials series that starts on BBC on Sunday. It looks totally gorgeous. I cannot wait to see it come to life.

Pan Cat hiding out among the brassicas

Borrowing: books from the library. I love my local library. You can request books for a small fee, they have a great selection of cookbooks and get new ones all the time, and the staff are lovely.