Friday, 13 September 2013

Early Autumn Satisfactions

The weather has changed abruptly here in the UK. Last week it was still summer. Now it isn't. It's not  fully-fledged autumn but there's been a definite shift of gear. Some years, summer drifts lazily and imperceptibly into autumn and the shift is much more gradual, other years, like this one, it is startlingly definite. The change has come so abruptly and sharply it's made me adjust my focus rather abruptly and sharply too. Not in a bad way. Actually in rather a good one.

There are particular satisfactions that frequent the early weeks of autumn that sometimes get missed if summer lingers longer.

One, is the rain. I love rain in early autumn because it has a character all its own. It's not the disappointing downpour that can, all too often in the UK, blight a summer's day that might have been a hot and cloudless blue. Nor is it the freezing shawl of a wet winter's day in January when the cold damp gets into your bones and it's almost impossible to get warm. Nor is it the sharply chilly showers of Spring that may be good for the garden but are unfriendly enough to deter being out for long without winter waterproofs. Rain at this time of year has a softness to it. Behind it, is still a curtain of residual warmth, that makes the rain feel gentle on the skin and pleasant to be out in.

The landscape is still wearing its late summer garb; the colours glow in the wet and the horizon wears a soft veil of mist, or drizzle, that is very appealing.

The addition of glassy raindrops makes everything beautiful, even ordinary blades of grass.

I particularly love going to sleep against the sound of rain falling at this time of year - actually I love going to sleep against the sound of the rain at any time of year - and I always open the window a bit wider, to hear it properly in the darkness. Waking up to rain is never the same; I don't know why. But falling asleep to the sound of it, is one of life's great small gifts.

The sudden drop in temperature does mean the wistful putting away of summer dresses but fortunately it also welcomes the getting out of blankets and quilts to layer on beds and reminds me to turn my attention from hooking small, knick-knacky, (I hope I didn't hear anyone say, "useless"!!) things like bottle-covers, bags and toadstools ...

... to larger-scale, eminently Useful blankets and throws. My sea-ripple, begun, I am ashamed to say, over a year ago and ruthlessly frogged in January this year, is now reaching the last few happy rows of completion. And will then be used in earnest.

Happy Days!

And coming to the end of one blanket project, means the possibility of starting another! Happy Days again! Because, as we all know, a girl can never have too many hooky blankets in her cupboards. Particularly a girl, in a house which is dependent on oil-fired central heating, which last year cost an eye-watering amount of money to run and which I have sworn to reduce drastically this year. This means No Heating At All Until We Are Into October and over the winter it will be restricted to operation only for a certain number of hours a day. This gives a new incentive to blanket-hooking - keeps you warm in the making, as will the result, when finished. Wins on all scores. The new heating régime means not just that Mrs T, over the coming months, will mostly to be found under a wholly or half-hooked blanket, but that H, who likes to wander around the house, in the depths of winter as in summer, either in his pyjamas or in a short-sleeved T-shirt atop his jeans, and with bare feet in either case, is going to have to change his ways! A jumper or fleece perhaps? "What's that?!" A pair of socks? "You must be joking!"

But of course even though the mood of the weather has changed, it's not cold yet. Time enough for those who feel actually to wear some warm clothing is treading on some kind of alien territory, to come round to the idea!

In the meantime, it's reminded me to book the chimney-sweep which I don't usually manage to think of until he's booked up for the autumn and order a stack of logs, still going at reduced summer prices with plenty of time for them to dry out before needing to burn them.

The evenings, for the first time, are now dark enough to make lighting a candle or two appealing and a friendly enhancement to the supper table which, instead of summery salads and ice cream, is beginning to see autumnal jacket potatoes, baked long in a hot oven, so that the outsides are properly crunchy, bubbling fish pies with pillows of mashed potato and my old childhood favourite, ground rice pudding. Ground rice seems to be less universally available than it was but it's worth hunting out. Whitworths make it. If you don't like the normal lumpy texture of a rice pudding but happily eat smooth porridge, this nursery pudding is blissful. It has the smoothness of semolina but tastes much nicer. My mother used to make it for me a lot when I was a child and I still love it. You can add a spoonful of jam, extra brown sugar or may be a swirl of thin cream, but I like it just as it is.

For two reasonably generous servings, use 1 pint of milk (any type - I use semi-skimmed), 1 1/2 oz of ground rice and 1 oz soft brown muscovado sugar. (You can use a bit more rice if you like it thicker but I like it quite runny.) Put this all in a non-stick pan and heat gently, stirring, as you bring it to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for a few minutes to let it thicken. Pour into a pretty bowl and eat with a specially nice spoon. Had a bad day at work? Everything a bit stressful at home? Worries preying on your mind? A bowl of this in a quiet corner at the end of the day is extraordinarily comforting.

You can bake it in the oven, if you like, once the mixture has come to the boil - 20 minutes or so in a greased, oven-proof dish at 170 C, but this gives it a "skin" and I usually prefer it simply done on the hob and eaten straightaway, hot from the pan.

Small satisfactions but an enjoyable part of preparing to adjust happily to the turn of the year.

Wishing you lots of your own early Autumn satisfactions!

E x


  1. I do love the Autumn nothing better than jacket potatoes cooked in the oven. Your crocheted toadstools are super cute.
    Clare x

  2. How lovely to remember to enjoy the changing seasons not just to begrudge the damp, I love your pictures of the raindrops

  3. Enjoy your autumn! We have long summers and winters but very short springs and falls here. I have a rice pudding recipe I love, but it is time-consuming to make. A little different from yours -- mine is drier and grainy -- but I love the subtle taste and it is one dish I won't make for company. I save it for just our family so we can eat it all ourselves:)

  4. Dear E
    Beautiful autumnal photos. It has become autumnal suddenly, but there is still lots to enjoy. The garden seems relieved to be getting some rain. I love the colours of your sea ripple blanket and am full of admiration for this project.
    Best wishes and enjoy your crochet!

  5. Oh now I love your description of the rain - it's so true. And the fact that we have been forecast driving rain and gale force winds tomorrow has got me quite excited about hunkering down and baking! Glad to see your ripple is nearly finished - I've just picked up mine again after over a year and desperately want to get it completed this time. Hooray for Autumn! Jane x

  6. You're a woman after my own heart ... I always loathed semolina pudding and loved ground rice ... and I like it best with a blob of blackcurrant jam!

    And yes to falling asleep to the sound of falling rain :)

  7. It's raining here too and I just arose from a nap right smack next to an open screened door. It was delightful.

    Hmmmm....the toadstools seem pretty useful; that's where you will find your pins, otherwise they would be lost...or worse yet...underfoot. :-) And goodness they make a happy display.

    I am at a loss of words for the scrumptious sea ripple, except that I wan't to cuddle under it with some porridge (with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top )whilst hooking away at yet another blanket.

    Warmth and coziness exudes for this post, E.! Have a good weekend.

  8. Love the cute toadstools and that ripple is beautiful, the colours are so soothing. Enjoy Autumn, we are experiencing Spring but I relate with regard to the socks and jumper problem with the children! The rice pudding sounds yummy!

  9. As evocative as ever.

    As I write this, the rain is lashing across the windows, and the thought of lighting Autumnal candles is a cheering one. Would be good if I had some ha ha! Will be done for next weekend in readiness for the storms that are apparently due...

    Your ripple blanket looks beautiful, can't wait to see it!

  10. Yes, you are so right - falling asleep to the sound of rain is comforting, but waking to it is downright depressing. One of the many reasons I love this time of year is for the shift in meals, swapping salads for soups and planning pies, stews and puddings for the weekends.

    And those little toadstools are extremely cute! x

  11. I'd never thought about the different feeling created by rain at either end of the day, but you're absolutely right. Reacting to the sudden change from summer to autumn, I've started to knit a woollen alternative to a synthetic fleece though I fear it may be winter before I finish. But in these "shall we light the fire tonight or is it not quite cold enough" evenings, it's good to have something to keep my fingers busy and keep my lap warm while I knit. Today the sun is shining between showers, just to tease us.

  12. Hi. I relate to your post completely. This past weekend was cool here in NC and I cooked a leg of lamb, sweet potatoes baked with honey, and cauliflower--food I'd typically not choose to eat in the summertime. I also made your cherry strudel (sp??) recipe, using some frozen cherries. I've made this dessert several times now--it's real hit. I love the almond-based crust. I need to try the rice pudding, too. My kids might eat it, since it doesn't have the disturbing (to them) tell-tale bits of rice. I made a batch of yogurt and some applesauce, too. (I stayed in all day Saturday and cooked and cooked--trying to decompress from a hectic week!)

    I hope to post to my blog this coming weekend. I might even have a finished sweater to display by that time. Also, I'd love to see some pictures and info. about your yogurt making. I need to find some recipes for yogurt, as I've been making copious amounts and the rest of the family isn't exactly enamored with the results of my efforts. All the best.


  13. hi elisabeth,
    as i this write raindrops knocking on the window and chicken soup cook on the stove.
    your crochet toadstool are sooooooooooooooooooo cute!!!!!
    wish you a cosy time,
    liebe grüße,regina

  14. You choose the prettiest of colors. Love those blues and purples.

    Rice pudding...thanks for reminding me. Yammers.


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