Relaxing smells

I remember rifling through my mom’s basket of essential oils as a kid. I couldn’t tell you all the things we used them for, but the tactile memory of handling the tiny bottles and twisting of the caps to get a sniff is very much still with me.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to get oils of my own. Maybe because I know how much each milliliter is worth. Maybe because I couldn’t decide what scents to start with. Maybe because I didn’t think I could replace that basket from my childhood.

But I finally did get a handful of bottles, and tonight I mixed eucalyptus and lavender with a bowlful of rice to refill my homemade heating pad. It needs to sit a while and absorb the oils, but I can’t wait to sew it back up and try it out.

An office with a view

Earlier this week my home internet wasn’t working, and I had to decide where to work instead. I considered a coworking space in the area, but their hours are limited to standard business hours and I didn’t want to organize myself (and my commute!) to that schedule. I also thought about walking to one of several comfortable coffee shops nearby.

But right before settling down to work, I had to run a book back to the library — and I realized that my library has wifi and numerous tables to sit at. As it turns out, they also have a very nice view of the river:

Seeing in new ways

At the Manchester Art Gallery this summer I encountered an exhibition called And Breathe…. Part of the gallery’s Mindful Museum campaign, this exhibition invites you to sit and listen to guided meditations as you look at the paintings.

One of the meditations led me to look around a painting clockwise, taking in the colors, textures, and other characteristics without judgment. Another encouraged me to slow down and notice small details. By the end of the visit, I was looking at the paintings in new ways — enjoying the experience of seeing without worrying about what I was meant to see.

Refreshing my vocabulary

Vocabulary has always been my weak point with languages. My Spanish vocabulary was once extensive from years of studying, reading, and conversation, but even though my grammatical knowledge is as strong as ever I now find it hard to pinpoint the words I’m looking for. In learning Farsi, I find myself itching to have more conversation but held back by the limited number of concepts I know how to express.

So I dusted off the Memrise app and have been spending my evenings reviewing all the languages I once knew (Spanish, Catalan, German, Japanese) and expanding my Farsi vocabulary. I could do this all day. 😊

Feline visitors

This kitty likes to come around our garden from time to time, and I’ll watch it from inside, but for the first time today I encountered it while I was out working in the garden myself. I startled it at first as I came around the house, but it quickly decided I was ok and came to say hello.

Cooking throughout the day

I started working my way through some of the new recipes I chose the other day. We had turkey and courgette burgers last night (not actually new, but I’d only made them once before) with roasted brussel sprouts and salad. For today I decided to make the aubergine-wrapped ricotta gnocchi with sage butter. The recipe says it serves 2 as a main course, but just in case it isn’t enough we still have some of last night’s burgers to serve on the side. 🙂

This is one of those recipes that can trip you up if you (like me!) tend to pick out recipes without reading through them. Thankfully, I’ve learned that Ottolenghi recipes sometimes take prep ahead of time — I’ll always give them a quick skim and underline anything that needs to be done ahead so I don’t forget! In this case, the gnocchi can be almost entirely created a day ahead of time, which means if they’re tasty I’m going to keep track of this as a possible party food. But they have to be started about 4-5 hours before you want to eat them, so it isn’t something to make last minute.

I was planning on throwing together the gnocchi batter last night so it could chill overnight, but I forgot. Instead, I woke up this morning and assembled the batter before starting work. After lunch, I grilled the aubergine, boiled the gnocchi, and assembled everything on a baking tray. This evening it’ll be 10 minutes in the oven (and throwing together the butter sauce) and dinner will be ready. When you spread it out like that, it hardly seems like any work at all!

Meal planning with a purpose

My husband and I have decided to try eating low carb again (or at least he has — I might eat high carb lunches to avoid becoming a perpetually hangry monster). But changing our diet means looking at our meals in a new way, without sides of bread, rice, and starchy vegetables to fill us up.

So today I pulled out my favorite cookbooks to pick out some new side dishes (and a few mains that called to me!) that are mostly low carb.

It’s fun to look through recipes with a new goal in mind — foods that previously looked uninteresting or that I had just overlooked suddenly stood out as appealing choices. It also cut down on the overwhelming feeling I always seem to get when I’m trying to choose a new recipe to try.

If you’re curious, here are the dishes that made the list:

  • Aubergine-wrapped ricotta gnocchi
  • French beans, mangetout, and hazelnuts
  • Broccolini with tofu
  • Chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic
  • Parsnip and pumpkin mash (but I’ll use celeriac and butternut squash)
  • Burnt green onion dip with kale
  • Mixed Chinese vegetables
  • Whole roasted celery root
  • Zucchini and manouri fritters
  • Beef brisket croquettes with Asian coleslaw
  • Five-spiced tofu, steamed eggplants, and cardamom passata
  • Kohlrabi salad
  • Fried tomatoes with garlic
  • Sabih
  • Turkey and courgette burgers

What do you think? If you have any favorite low carb side dishes, please share! (Just no cauliflower … it smells and tastes rotten to me.)