With the clocks going back last weekend, plunging us into sudden darkness, the first hard frost of the year and my first spot of geese flying south all in the space of the week, it definitely feels as though we’ve reached the Autumn/ Winter transition point. I love spotting these small changes and enjoy the anticipation of log fires, hearty soups and coat weather. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though; the last of the leaves are still to fall and I’m enjoying the colourful landscape before red and yellow leaves give way to stark bare branches and winter berries. November is a hectic time at school but between marking and planning I’m hoping for a spot of nesting and hard-earned hibernation. Here are some things I’m looking forward to this month, with a bonus, Bonfire-appropriate Rosie Makes.
November means Thanksgiving and although the holiday is often conflated with materialism these days, particularly a certain Friday, I like the sentiment it inspires. Celebrating the things you’re thankful for is a great idea and we should stop to take stock more often. Just now I’m thankful for my new books from amazing Perthshire second hand bookshop, the Birnam Reader; my Autumn adventure to Dunkeld with Al last week; holiday shopping treats with my Mum; my new White Company candle (Winter will always be my favourite); Cox Orange pippin; my cosy bed; pumpkin pancakes and colleagues who make me laugh. What are you thankful for just now?
Start thinking about Christmas :
I know, I know – it’s only the start of November! I’m not encouraging you to get your decorations out quite yet, just start thinking of a few things that can make your December less stressful, with more time to cherish the best of the festive season. Getting organised with present purchasing – or making, if you’re that way inclined – will not only leave you feeling smugly organised but will help spread the cost, reducing the impact of the busiest financial season too. If you’re a baker then I’m sure you’ll already be poised ready for stir up Sunday: the traditional time for making mincemeat, Christmas pudding and cake. All three will taste all the more delicious for the weeks maturing. Make sure you take turns to stir and make a wish each, as well as adding a lucky sixpence.
Savour the last of Autumn:
Getting organised for December shouldn’t come at the expense of savouring Autumnal goodness though. Go for an Autumn walk during the first frosts, gather botanical finds to decorate your home and spend an afternoon making jam from the last of the hedgerow’s bounty. Hawthorn persists well into November and the berries make a delicious ketchup, while gathered odds and ends you’ve saved in the freezer can be made into a flexible hedgerow jam. I’m a bit late with my sloe gin this year as someone had made it to our patch before us and completely stripped the bush (forage responsibly people!) so I sourced some at Edinburgh Farmers’ Market instead. Take part in the #myodetoautumn hashtag challenge to savour the last of the season using my weekly prompts!
It’s not for no reason that November contains so many celebrations of light and fire, whether a bonfire for Guy Fawkes’ Night, or lighting candles for Diwali. Many cultures have their Festival of Lights at this time of year, symbolising the importance of holding on to the light through the long, dark months to come. Look for local celebrations or free fireworks where you live or simply light copious candles and watch from the comfort of your living room window. We are lucky to live near the Meadows where there are plenty of free shows. There are few more comforting things at this time of year than listening to the whizz and bangs of the Catherine wheels and rockets from the comfort of your own bedroom!
Get explosive in the kitchen:
I promised you a Bonfire-appropriate bonus Rosie Makes so without further ado, here’s my recipe for cinder toffee. The confectionary comes under many different names, depending on where you are in the country – essentially it’s the innards of a Crunchie bar: sweet, caramelised honeycomb. In Scotland and the North of England it’s called cinder toffee and is one of my Granda’s favourites. I have fond memories of visiting live action museum Beamish with him where they have an old-fashioned sweet shop, and where my Granda and his sweet tooth were in their element. It’s surprisingly simple to make using just three ingredients. Keep a close eye and let the bicarbonate do its magic – recipe via Gill Meller.
Lay out a non-stick mat or lightly oiled baking parchment and a baking sheet. Melt 75g caster sugar with a pinch of salt in a heavy-bottom pan over a medium heat. This will take about 6-8 minutes until it is just melted but still light in colour. Give the pan a shoogle every so often and be careful it doesn’t burn.
Add one teaspoon of bicarbonate to the mixture in a single sprinkling motion and work it in quickly.
It should froth and expand, stir for a few seconds before pouring it onto your prepared receptacle. Leave for 15 – 20 minutes until firm, then break it into smaller pieces.
Non-baking images via my Everything Looks Rosie Instagram October.
March 20th marks the official start of Spring, with the Vernal Equinox signifying the moment when day and night are roughly equal duration around the planet. Longer, lighter days are coming and I am so ready for the clocks to Spring forward. Still, March is a funny in-between time; while the Internet is going Spring mad, there’s still frost on the ground in the mornings and dreich days to contend with. That said, the extra daylight makes a world of difference and those budding daffs are a sure sign that Spring is fighting back. Here are five ways I’m making the most of March.
Heading outside: I love nothing more than a walk in the woods, whatever the season, but there’s something extra special about spotting the first signs of Spring in the woodlands: daffodils are just opening here, while crocuses and snowdrops are going strong. Make sure you wear layers and bring a flask of something warm to drink and a snack to keep you going. If that fails…
Bring spring inside: if it’s miserable like it was at the weekend, bring your own Spring! branches from the garden ready to burst into bloom, bulbs in jars or buds in tiny vintage bottles. I attached mine with wire to my empty swag (after Christmas), inspired by the Welsh House on Instagram. If you’re buying, think about the planet and opt for local – the bunch of blooms Al got me for Valentine’s from my favourite Edinburgh florist Rose and Ammi are (roses aside, which I’m drying) still going strong, especially the hardier hellebore and wax flowers.
Host a Spring Celebration: there’s plenty to celebrate in March, what with International Women’s Day today and Mothering Sunday on the 26th. It’s the perfect excuse to have a Spring tea party or Sunday lunch, with themed, seasonal produce and decorate the house with Spring-like props – eggs, bunnies and lambs are all mandatory as we head towards Easter next month…
Spring Cleaning: just as suddenly the instinct to nest arrives in Autumn, the urge to Spring clean gets me at this time of year. I find cleaning quite therapeutic myself, and a good clear-out at the start of the season can be incredibly cathartic. I had one in the late Autumn, but my shelves and my wardrobe are definitely ready for another! Remember to donate old clothes – I never chuck anything, one man’s trash and all that – and it’s good for one’s thrifting karma. Just don’t undo your hard work by bringing half the charity shop home (she says, innocently…)
Listen to nature: I’ve not lost it completely, I promise. As well as the changing light and new growth, my Spring instincts are always roused by the birds at this time of year. Pay particular attention at dawn and dusk: if you’re lucky enough to be woken by birdsong, take a moment to just lie, listen and breathe. It can do wonders for an over-stimulated mind. I’m no bird watching expert but I’ve also noticed the birds start building their nests here, and they can get increasingly bold as they fight for territory. Why not go sketching or bird watching? Fun with or without kids!
What are you doing to embrace March?