I live with someone who is allergic to yeast. This is a relatively recent discovery, a mystery solved through long trial and error that now feels like the scientific breakthrough of the century. Cutting out yeast has solved the mystery of the overblown hangovers, the mystery of the inconsistent energy levels and many, many more, and has generally just improved everything – the scientific breakthrough of the century, like I said.
The unfortunate consequence of this (all of the most important discoveries have their downsides) is that we no longer eat bread – him because he is allergic to it, and I because it makes him jealous and I feel bad. I don't really mind this in general (after all, Novak Djokovic went gluten-free and then won three consecutive Australian Open titles, which has to be an endorsement of some kind) but it has led us on a strange quest to discover as many yeast-free alternatives as possible.
This has mostly involved tortilla wraps (there is now no end of things we can achieve with a toasted tortilla), but yesterday I finally got round to baking soda bread, which as it turned out was the most satisfying yeast-free option yet. It looks, smells and acts like bread, requires no proving and virtually no kneading and tastes, well, better probably.
I used Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe, which can be found here.
The attributes I admire in others are invariably the things that I am most deficient in: the ability to order in a restaurant and be understood first time, to self-motivate to go running in the cold, to make decisions about haircuts, to make decisions in general...
A bob is a decision. It's a risky purchase that you can't take back to the shop. When I see a girl with a bob, I think (admiringly): 'That girl has made a decision'.
Images via Pinterest: 1. The Locals; 2. Yvonne Kone; 3. Zara People (original source removed);
4. Lee Coren (via Miss Moss); 5. The White Pepper
4. Lee Coren (via Miss Moss); 5. The White Pepper
This inability to make decisions runs in my family. My sister recently spent two weeks solid trawling through online camera reviews to help her decide (or to decide and then undecide) which one to buy her boyfriend for Christmas. The Christmas deadline for this was probably the only reason she bought one at all. No deadline = no decision. Just endless internet research.
I try to get round this by booking hair appointments well in advance – creating a deadline – in the hope that by that far-off date I'll be forced into choosing one way or another. It has never worked before (I continue to have pedestrian hair) but I keep on trying.
After all the internet research and the thinking and the pros and cons lists though, the funny thing about hair decisions is that even if you do end up with a haircut you hate, it's hair, it's there, it grows, and you just find a way to get along with it. In the end, it's just not that important really, I guess.
There's something about these clementines that seems so out of place in snowy January.
Outside it is a snowy slushy mess (England does not handle snow well) but here are the colours of the hot summer Mediterranean, with leaves still attached as if you've just picked them off a tree as you passed by. Everyone knows that clementines are at their best in December and January of course, but these just seem to be from another world.
I often sit in the sun in summer and find it strange that I can't recall what it felt like to shiver through January (and vice versa), and my only explanation for these clementines is that they have been sent from the future to remind me what it feels like to be outside and warm in July – a little encouragement and a hint of sun to come, I hope.
Boarding school birthdays were always the very worst, if I remember correctly – I think the six birthdays I spent there have all gathered together in my mind and made me rather dislike birthdays in general now.
One year though my mother baked me two chocolate birthday cakes and had them couriered over from the island to the boarding house door in time for supper. There were two because every girl had to have a slice each, and the fact that one of the cakes had sunk in the middle made no difference whatsoever.
This year, I asked for and received baking supplies: spatulas, a pudding bowl, and a russian doll of cake tins of various sizes – so I baked a birthday cake of my own.
There's likely some kind of peculiar rule about baking a cake for your own birthday... but I went ahead anyway. The result is that I'm nearly certain that pulling an over-the-top three-tiered chocolate birthday cake out of the oven almost makes being an extra year older worthwhile.
I hadn't actually noticed this before, at least not to such a degree, but this year, November has arrived and brought the Christmas floodgates crashing down with it. Come November 1 and Christmas trees are springing up in city centres and Christmas dinner advertisements are sparkling their way through television breaks – and it all just feels a wee bit too early for me.
The thing that annoys me about this is not actually the transparent consumerism of it all, but is in fact the amount of time that starting Christmas in November shaves off the best season of the year – autumn (of course), which is a season that should really be made the most of for as long as possible, in my opinion.
As an antidote to all this, I recently went on a little trip to Westonbirt Arboretum, the UK's national arboretum, to surround myself in some autumn leaves and long shadows for a while.
One of the unexpected highlights of keeping a blog such as this one is that it often provides a very accurate picture of just how long things last. At the moment I'm looking for some brogues/loafers/oxfords, to replace my previous version, which have finally given up the ghost after precisely 22 months (one month of which was in New York, notoriously tough on shoes) – quite a good record for a pair of shoes from Topshop in my opinion.
It seems to me that brogues have come a long way in 22 months, actually. When I wrote my original post on brogues in 2010, I sat my slightly menswear-inspired loafers beside Ben's proper, serious brogues and there was a clear demarcation between my shoes (for girls) and his (for men). Twenty-two months later, and this seems much less the case.
Twenty-two months have passed and now our taste in shoes is hilariously similar. I'd wear his if I could.
All the fascinating historic brogue details that I wrote about back in 2010 (the British Long Wing, the Austerity Wingtip) all exist on these more feminine brogues, even if their meanings remain just as little-known and obscure. What I like best about them is how they seem so much sturdier than girls' shoes often are – these look as though they might even last forty-four months, plus a month in New York.
I've felt totally disconnected from everything Internet lately: a combination of hearing too many murmurings about Instagram and the death of the blog, doing a lot of very uninspiring work, and the darkening evenings, I think.
Darkening evenings bring other benefits though: perfectly warm-toned autumn light, real and serious appreciation of coffee that isn't iced, the most exciting and unpredictable vegetables of the year, and walking to expensive areas of the city, and peeking in – something I always seem to do when the seasons change.
I don't really think of myself as someone with habits, but autumny walks to expensive places seem to be one that I hadn't really realised I had until I flicked through my blog a little way, and found myself doing exactly the same thing last spring.
I guess nothing cures feelings of disconnect like tried, tested habits do – and nothing makes a habit more obvious than a personal blog does – which is one of many reasons why full-fledged, text-featuring blogs beat Instagram every time – for me, anyway.