Be Thankful

Thanksgiving.  It’s not a holiday we celebrate on this side of the pond, but I’ve seen enough American films and read enough décor blog posts to know the deal. Pumpkin pie, cinnamon-scented candles, turkey, more pumpkins, and that episode of Friends where Rachel crucially misunderstands the ingredients of a ‘traditional English trifle’ and everyone pretends to like it. Oh, and then there’s the thankfulness part. Taking a moment to reflect on everything that you have to be grateful for in your life – a way to end the year with a focus on the positives.

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Although as a British person I am duty-bound to view most US traditions with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned grumpy cynicism (sorry guys!), I really like this one. And in that spirit, I was tagged by the lovely lady over at White Walls and Wanderlust to complete the ‘Be Thankful Challenge’. So here goes.

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Rules

– Share this image in your blog post.
– Write about 5 people in your life you are thankful for.
– Write about 5 things in 2015 that you are thankful for.
– Spread the love and challenge 5 other blogs to take part.

Five people I am thankful for (in no particular order!)

  • The Boy. My partner in crime, my best friend and the person who makes me laugh most in the world, who seems to be able to fix everything from broken taps to broken hearts and who makes every day better just by being in it. I’m so soppy.
  • My family. Some more of my very favourite people.  Being with them is like being wrapped in a great big blanket and protected from everything that is wrong with the world. They’re quite funny too.  And as my brother once said in one of his more profound moments, “Families aren’t made to be apart.”
  • My friends! All here together because picking one or two favourites wouldn’t seem fair. I love them all for different reasons, and they all mean the world to me. They are the most intelligent, kind and funny bunch of people, and I’m so glad I’ve been lucky enough to collect them along the way.
  • Dan. Perhaps it’s odd to have somebody on your list you’ve never actually met, but I know this person is patient, kind and incredibly good at his job. Dan is the therapist who helped my boyfriend through his serious and very scary struggle with anxiety this year, and I could not be more grateful to him.
  • Everyone reading this. Too clichéd? Sorry. But honestly, I’m truly thankful for everyone who reads my blog, and for the conversations we have in this little corner of the internet about cakes and fairy lights and adventures and everything in between.

Five things I am thankful for

  • My flat. It’s been my first home away from my family, and my first with Matt. It’s warm and cosy and clean and finally feels like home. It’s our safe little nest for the end of the day, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
  • Challenges. My first year after graduating hasn’t been without its fair share of struggles, some of them very big and real and scary. But I’ve faced them all, overcome them, and my life is better as a result. I’m grateful for everything those hard times taught me.
  • My job. I’ve found a job and a team that I absolutely love. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that a terrible job can make you truly miserable. If you hate your job I beg you to leave right now if you can find a way. There is much better out there for you, you just need to find it.
  • Britain. For all of its faults – and there are many – I’m incredibly thankful that this is my home. I’m thankful that I live in a generally peaceful, liberal country where my rights are preserved and protected. I’m thankful that medical care is free and available to everyone who needs it. And I’m also grateful for the wry humour, the conversations about the weather and that wonderful British awkwardness.
  • Language. I love the intricacies of language, discovering new words and unusual sayings, and that feeling of immense satisfaction when you find the right words. I’m also evidently a windbag, given I’ve basically written a paragraph for each of these!

Five nominations

Fuelled by Oats – a lovely positive sunbeam of a blog and blogger

The Thankful Heart – such a fitting blog name, her blog really encapsulates this whole theme perfectly.

Persephone H – a fellow foodie

With all my Affection – one of the prettiest blogs around

A Cornish Mum – this blog has a little bit of everything for everyone

Listening to: Hold my Hand by Jess Glynn, Ashes and Wine by The Civil Wars and Masochist by Ingrid Michaelson.

The words and the images apart from those relating to the challenge are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Flying saucer cakes – honey & vanilla madeleines

The best thing about creating food, as far as I’m concerned, is making it for other people.  It’s one of my favourite ways to show I love somebody.  When I was about ten, that meant trying to make a pink mushroom birthday cake for my mum, and learning the hard way that you cannot ice a cake when it’s hot from the oven.  As I got older and slightly more handy in the kitchen, it has meant pancakes or scrambled eggs or huge plates of pasta for my hungry brother, and impromptu desserts for whoever is coming around for dinner.  Surprise birthday cakes in sixth form and careful research to find out which baking would most cheer up a friend mid essay crisis.

And that’s how I came to make madeleines for the first time.  My boyfriend has been talking for a while about a kind of cake crossed with a biscuit which he remembered from holidays in France.  It took some googling to find out what he was referring to, but it turned out to be these little golden cakes — denser than a sponge, but lighter than a biscuit. And so I set about working out how to make them, then putting two into a tupperware each evening for him to take to work the next day.  What can I say, I love through cake.

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Traditionally, madeleines are made in a special tin which creates delicate little shell-shaped cakes.  But let’s be honest, I have neither the space nor the money to buy a whole new set of trays.   One day, I will have a kitchen straight out of a Lakeland Plastics catalogue.   Today is not that day: I have two functioning cupboards in my kitchen, so adaptability is the name of the baking game here.  I took a gamble, made my first batch in a cupcake tray, and it worked just fine.  They may not be as refined as their French cousins, but I kind of enjoy their spaceship stylings.  This version is delicately flavoured with vanilla and honey, and although I do ostensibly make these for M, they don’t all make it to his lunchbox…

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Ingredients

  • 100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 1 whole egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions

– Preheat oven to 190c (170c fan oven or gas mark 5).

– Use a tiny amount of the melted butter to grease a 12-hole cupcake tray (or a madeleine tray if you have one) and use a sieve to dust lightly with flour.

– Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Put the butter, egg yolk, honey and vanilla into a separate bowl and whisk together.

– Using a hand held whisk, whisk the two egg whites until stiff.

– Fold the butter mixture into the dry ingredients until evenly mixed, then gently fold in the egg whites until thoroughly combined.  Be careful not over mix (you want to keep the volume in the egg whites).

– Divide between the moulds and bake for 10-12 mins until golden brown and firm to the touch.

– Leave to cool in the moulds for a few minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

– Dust with icing sugar before serving, if you like.

I haven’t tried it, but I feel like these would be really fun to decorate with smarties, chocolate chips, coloured icing and strawberry laces, to make them look like actual spaceships. That would definitely be a legitimate use of time for a twenty-something, right?

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Listening to: Overwhelmed by Rachel Platten, Stutter by Marianas Trench and Girl by Beck.

Edit: 10th July 2016

My mum bought us madeleine trays! These ones are kind of prettier – I even dusted them with icing sugar…

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This recipe is from the BBC Good Food website.  All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

‘If I should have a daughter…’

Today it’s Mother’s Day in the UK. Or, to give it its traditional name, Mothering Sunday. Sitting in the pub yesterday evening, somebody suddenly exclaimed that they’d forgotten to post their Mother’s Day card: a phone call would have to do this year. Another of my friends piped up that he hadn’t sent a card at all, because well, what was the actual point of Mother’s Day anyway? Isn’t it just a festival made up, seemingly like so many others, to get us all to buy things in order to say thank-yous that we should be saying all year anyway? Well, yes, perhaps in some ways. When I mentioned what I knew of the day’s history, he was surprised. And interested. I don’t think many people know about the day’s roots, so I looked into it a little more, and felt like it might be an interesting little nugget to share here (any excuse for a bit of history…).

Mothering Sunday started off as the day that people would return to their ‘mother church’: the church in the place where they had grown up, in about the sixteenth century. It later became the day that those ‘in service’ away from home would go home to see their mothers: traditionally, they’d pick wildflowers on the way to give as presents. This tradition then evolved into the day that we know today: a day to say thank you to our mothers. But not just our mothers. At our church growing up we used to give out daffodils on Mothering Sunday: not just to women with children, but to all of the women. Historically, Mother’s Day was always about coming home; remembering the place and the people you came from, and it makes sense that Mother’s Day should still serve as a moment to be grateful for all of the women who have made us the people we are today, whether they are related to us or not. Yes, in some ways it is hideously commercialised, but any day that makes us pause and say thank you can’t be all bad.

So, thank you to my mum, of course, who I know diligently reads my blog. And her dedication and support in that department sums up her approach to mothering in all of my twenty two years. Always there, often in the background, caring and loving and never asking for anything in return. The safest of refuges no matter what happens. Love you mum! And thank you to all of the other amazing women, whether they’ve been in my life fleetingly or since the beginning, who have taught me so much about grace, wisdom, bravery and just getting on with stuff.

And to finish, the indomitable Sarah Kay, on mothers, and the kind of mother she would like to be. A perfect, passionate poem about mothers and daughters. It’s entitled ‘B’. Enjoy!

Listening to: Budapest by George Ezra, 212 by Azalea Banks and Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars.

The poem is of course by Sarah Kay. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

The Friday Frame {9} Wedding laughter

I managed to capture this fabulous moment at my cousin’s wedding: my mum and her two sisters, and my cousin’s slightly overenthusiastic glee at trying to take a photograph with the three of them. Wedding dress + wine + giddiness of family all being together for the first time in ages = high chance of overbalancing, apparently. Photographs like this, the ones between the posed shots, really are the best.

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All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Set to music

‘In memory, everything seems to happen to music.’

These words are spoken by Tom, the character who narrates much of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, as he retells the story of the life with his mother and sister which he has left behind. I studied and performed part of the play during my A Levels, and this line always struck me as fairly spot on. In the play, Tom’s reflection is tinged with regret about the family he has forsaken: the apartment where much of the action takes place has a ‘Victrola’, a wind up phonograph which plays slightly grainy, mournful music. To me it always seemed that this alone could have been the music in Tom’s sad memories: an appropriately melancholy soundtrack.

I too have found that memories tend to play to music, and that, in turn, music tends to bring back memories. Sometimes that’s a lovely thing, but sometimes it has the unfortunate side effect of reminding us of things we’d really rather forget. So I thought I’d share some of my most potent memories in which music plays a central role, or to borrow from Williams, in which things ‘seem to happen to music’.

American Pie, Don McLean, 1976.

My Dad loves music, and growing up our house was always full of a huge variety of sound: a lot of the music I love I discovered through my father, and it’s one of the things I’m most grateful to him for. Don McLean’s American Pie album was one we’d always listen to when my brother and I were eating the porridge Dad had made us before we left for school, and as well as being an awesome song, this takes me back to school ties and the kitchen counter more than anything else. Every day we’d listen from the beginning of the album, and so we never got much further than the first two or three songs!

What’s Shakin’ on the Hill, Nick Lowe, 1990.

Another result of my Dad’s musical influence: I still struggle to listen to this one. It takes me right back to that feeling of being left out of something which you so desperately want to be included in: I think most people experience this at some point growing up, and it’s not a nice feeling! But I guess it always made me feel better that somebody as completely cool as Nick Lowe knew how I felt.

Kiss Me, Sixpence None the Richer, 1997.

During our last years at high school one of my best friends and I used to get off the school bus at the end of the day and head to her house to make milkshakes and dance around her blissfully deserted kitchen before her parents got home from work. I had my first heartbreak at about this point, which took a lot of getting over and I felt awful for a long time afterwards, but it was during one of these dancing sessions that I suddenly realised I felt truly happy again. Every time I hear it that surge of pure happiness and contentment always comes back strong.

You Didn’t Know Me When, Harry Connick  Jr, 1991.

When I first went to university, Dad wrote to me all the time. He also sent me several compilation CDs: this song was included on the first one, and reminds me of my first term in Oxford when everything was new and exciting and terrifying. I used to listen to it on my iPod walking through autumn wind and rain to the library.

Girls Chase Boys, Ingrid Michaelson, 2014.

I loved Ingrid Michaelson’s music from the moment I discovered it: this one is a bit different from her older stuff but I became completely addicted to it during the my last year at university. One of my best friends, who lived above me in college and was too fond of using her speakers VERY LOUDLY also fell in love with it and used to blast it and then text me saying ‘this is for you’, which always made me smile. A nice change given that her noise pollution usually elicited extreme grumpiness on my part! This take me back to writing my thesis, and living altogether in university with so many of my friends for the last time.

Which songs bring back memories most strongly for you?

And by the way, if you’ve read this far, the image at the top is of the noticeboard in my university room in first year: the things I stuck on it still bring back memories of the time that I chose them to decorate my walls. In case you were wondering. Which you probably weren’t. Totally worth reading this far for that, I know.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014