Clean plates and good intentions

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Throwing stones into crashing waves is some of the best fun you can have (my brother, niece and nephew).
Throwing stones into crashing waves is some of the best fun you can have (my brother, niece and nephew).


Thank you so much for your kind comments and good wishes for my mum. She did make it home before Christmas and even managed to come to us for lunch on the day itself which involved a few strong men/boys, a wheelchair and ropes (we’re on a steep slope), a good sense of humour and a few stiff drinks once she was safely ensconced. The signs are positive for a good post-op recovery this time. Fingers crossed.

Well, Happy New Year to you! I hope you’ve had a wonderful festive season. Ours has been a bit of a whirlwind, to be honest. BC (before children), I used to love the peaceful days after Christmas Day when there was nothing much to do. Back in those days before life was stored on a phone, I would settle down to transfer dates to my new diary and calendar and enjoy the feeling of being ready for the year ahead. If I had time off work, I would go out to eat, meet up with friends, lounge about. Nowadays, this time is all about seeing relatives and friends (ours and the children’s), entertaining and cooking (cooking, cooking), hosting get-togethers and socialising. We’ve had non-stop house-guests and it’s been non-stop eating and drinking. I do love to see everyone but this year, more than ever, I feel the need for a breather. I am knackered. I have eaten my bodyweight in mince pies, Christmas cake and chocolates, eaten too much meat, drunk alcohol every day for over a week (which my poor liver is not used to) and I’m totally over the festivities.

We had 11 people for lunch today, so I concocted a warming carrot and parsnip soup (*recipe below), using up veg from the bottom of the fridge, and David made crusty wholemeal rolls. For dinner I made Jamie Oliver’s fabulous veggie chilli. This is a firm favourite of ours and I often substitute butternut squash for the sweet potatoes and use different beans. It’s one of those meals that is easy to bulk up if needed and any leftovers freeze well.

Come Monday morning, the house will be empty apart from me and the animals. I will be clearing the decks: the tree and all the wilting greenery outside for composting; decorations back into the loft; laundry into the washing machine; furniture back where it should be. I don’t make new year’s resolutions as such – I’m rubbish at sticking to them – but I have a large room to decorate, crochet to master, two pieces of furniture to finish painting, garden borders to clear, plants to move in case there is a cold snap, new planting plans to make and (this is the biggie) a new job to find.
How about you?


* Carrot and parsnip soup (serves 10)
a good glug of olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 level teaspoon ground coriander
1 very heaped teaspoon ground ginger (add more if you like)
approx 8 large carrots, peeled and chopped
approx 5 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 litres vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper, to season
pouring cream, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat, and cook the onions and garlic together for about 10 minutes, stirring, until translucent (don’t allow to brown). Add the spices and stir well to coat the onions. Add the carrots and parsnips and cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Pour in the vegetable stock, stir well, bring to the boil and reduce to simmering. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the chunks of veg are very soft. Remove from the heat and use a stick blender to whizz together to form a velvety soup. Season to taste. Serve with a drizzle of cream on top (unless you’re being healthy) and plenty of crusty bread to mop it up.