Tag Archives: Autumn Love Project

Autumn love #6: this is my fireworks dance

I love Bonfire Night. One of my favourite British traditions. The smell of woodsmoke on the air, the hot soup and hotdogs, the frenzied flapping when a spark from a garden firework falls into your jumper, the quaint silliness of everyone gathering to celebrate something not being blown up by…blowing a lot of things up: it’s all about as November as you can get. Henry loves Bonfire Night too, as it happens, though that’s because of a favourite episode of Sarah & Duck, rather than because he’s ever been to one. (Teddy is on the fence.)

Of course, you take your life in your hands when you spend two hours in a field on a windy November night. Wet n’ wild. We visited the big display at Aston Tirrold on Saturday night, all wearing hats and/or bear suits, carrying chairs, blankets and chocolates, and deliberately making Henry wear the coat with reflective strips. And I still nearly lost him once or twice.

He was thrilled with his torch. And the bonfire. And the fireworks display, though he agreed to watch the second half only with the proviso that I put my hands over his ears. Timothy carried Teds in the Baby Bjorn, wrapped in more layers than a puff-pastry sausage roll. He wasn’t a huge fan of the firework noise, but then again he’s still too young for Sarah & Duck.

Tonight, on the fifth of November proper, we went outside and lit some sparklers. Having accidentally thrown the first one over the wall, we hit gold with the second. The light comes off in perfect stars; how do they do that? Why is it impossible to burn a sparkler without a) moving it in circles and then b) writing your name? Don’t ask me. It was lovely.

Firework reflections; cold noses

Firework reflections; cold noses

The double-hander

The double-hander

Ah, there we go. Circles.

Ah, there we go. Circles.

Three-eared boy is fascinated

Three-eared boy is fascinated

Extremely serious.

Extremely serious.

Autumn love #3: the pie’s the thing

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One of the advantages of not frequenting Pinterest – apart from having no burning desire whatever to upcycle my plumbing – is that we’re almost done with October and I’m still hugely excited about pumpkin recipes. I scoped out Waitrose a couple of weeks ago for canned pumpkin (there were five tins and I only took three, which I thought was supreme self-control) and it’s been sitting in my cupboard and winking at me since then. Yesterday I finally got an afternoon where the toddler/baby/naptime stars aligned, so we opened the pumpkin cupboard and let those babies run free, FREE.

Pie first. Of course. I unimaginatively use the recipe on the back of the Libby’s can, and a pastry recipe courtesy of my sister-in-law (Fannie Farmer’s originally, I believe, and reproduced below) that is the veritable bomb.

I love every bit of this: stretching springy pastry dough over the pie dish, the mud-squelchy sound when the pumpkin tips out of the can into the bowl, mixing the spices, and – ahem – drinking the left-over condensed milk. From a glass. Don’t judge me.

There was a bit of leftover pastry, too, and Hen made himself a tiny jam roly-poly. Watching him wielding his miniature rolling pin and then scoffing his prize in front of Finding Nemo was the cutest thing ever. Teds would’ve been jealous, but he’s not the type.

The pie’s gone, by the way.

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Pastry recipe:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
3-7 tablespoons cold water 

Mix flour and salt, then add shortening and mix in using two knives, dragging in opposite directions. 

Add cold water until it starts coming together, then roll out on a floured board. 

(Makes enough for a 9-inch dish). 

See here for a step-by-step, from the first time I made it. Happy baking!

Autumn love #2: it must be leaf

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When I was eighteen I used to run a Saturday morning activity once a month, for eight- to eleven-year-olds. What a dream assignment that was: all poster paint and pipe cleaners, and peeling PVA glue off the back of your hand and pretending it’s skin. One October I waltzed home from a lecture, stuffing flame-coloured fallen leaves into a bag, and that Saturday we made autumn cut-and-stick pictures. My little activity group are now the age I was then, which – let’s not think about that, thanks very much. But I have lovely memories of collecting those leaves.

All this is to say that I rather wanted autumn love activity #2 to involve leaves and PVA glue. So when we found ourselves with a spare afternoon in Luton, on Saturday, we headed across for a return visit to Stowe landscape gardens. This might be my new favourite National Trust. Edward slept obligingly in the pushchair, and Henry had a fabulous time. Except when it was time to get back into the pushchair himself, but you know. What kind of outing would it be without a minor meltdown in wellies? It wouldn’t feel right.

Meltdown aside. We got leaves. Tonight, we stick.

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Can’t tell you how good it feels to have a boy back in a bear suit, incidentally. We are our very best selves with a boy in a bear suit. Now we can get on.

Autumn love: a project for the crunchy-leaf enthusiast

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I want to do better with autumn this year. Last year was a catastrophe: pregnancy sickness, rain, dark, and a footloose one-year-old with walls to climb. Do you ever have days where you’re absolutely ready to not be yourself? I was ready for three months, last winter. I was sick of the sight of me. It was exhausting.

No more of that. When autumn’s done right, it’s intoxicating. Woodsmoke on cold air, trees flinging on their best reds, thick jumpers, hot apple crumble. The satisfaction of going out of your way to step on a crunchy-looking leaf, and then finding it’s just as crunchy as you thought it might be, and you’re the conqueror of everything. I was reading Penelope Lively this morning, on old age, and loved what she said about tiny, sharpened pleasures:

I am as alive to the world as I have ever been – alive to everything I see and hear and feel. I revel in the spring sunshine, and the cream and purple hellebore in the garden… Spring was never so vibrant; autumn never so richly gold. People are of abiding interest – observed in the street, overheard on a bus. The small pleasures have bloomed into points of relish in the day – food, opening the newspaper (new minted, just for me), a shower, the comfort of bed.

…It is an old accustomed world now, but invested with fresh significance; I’ve seen all this before, done all this, but am somehow able to find new and sharpened pleasure.

I am a fair way off eighty (someone tell my face), but this seems to me to be a highly sensible philosophy.

So I have issued myself a personal challenge – do at least one autumn love activity per week, during October and November (starting from now, I make that eight). I have in mind things like nature walks, pumpkin-flavoured baking, leaf collages, pyjama parties, and finding some outdoor exercise for myself that doesn’t involve lugging a pushchair. But that’s just me. Want to join in? Feel free to take the image above, or make your own, and let me know in the comments so I can follow along.

On Saturday we went pumpkin picking with Tim’s brother and his family. It was just the right kind of cold, and entirely the best kind of orange. We came back to chilli and cornbread and cinnamon roll cake, and it was as perfect an autumny afternoon as you can imagine.

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I’ll have seven more of these, please. Pass the apple crumble.

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