Every night I fall asleep to the sound of the ocean. Not the real ocean, sadly, just recordings I can stream through YouTube, but it is enough that those recordings were the ocean once, washing gently across some distant shore. It’s either that or a (mild) tropical storm, because the distant rolls of thunder and lashing rain make me feel warm and cosy and far away. White noise in general makes me feel calm in a way that total silence never can. I never sit in totally silent rooms in libraries, for example, it’s just too disconcerting somehow. I like hustle and bustle to remind me there is life outside of my own mind and the object of its immediate focus.

Moments of calm, like deep and restful unmedicated sleep, often prove elusive to me, but their pursuit is a greater priority this New Year than dieting or rushing to the gym. Sleeplessness and anxiety are a vicious cycle because the one aggravates the other indefinitely. View Full Post

Firstly — apologies for the two-week absence. What with a hectic new job and a whirlwind trip to the UAE (I’ll tell you all about that sometime. It was a hundred-miles-an-hour trip) there really hasn’t been a lot of time or energy for baking. I’m rarely home in daylight hours so photography is impossible, and my little time at home needs to be directed towards sleep.

Today, though, I’m in PJs all day, drinking hot coffee and eating fresh cookies. And I know what you’re thinking: if there’s one thing this blog really doesn’t need, it’s another cookie recipe. But hear me out. Firstly, you can never have too many cookies. Secondly, these are Christmas cookies. Yesterday was my official playing-Christmas-music-for-the-first-time-this-year day, because although I normally try to restrain myself until 1st December, when you’re still crawling down the M1 late on a Friday night, knowing that there’s still the underworld of TFL to deal with once you actually make it back to London, you need the emotional comfort that only Christmas music can bring. Which means that for me, Christmas season is here. And therefore the Christmas recipes can start to come.

If you’ve been hanging around these parts for a while now, you’ll recognise the basic recipe. It’s my go-to for cookies. Because why fix what ain’t broke?

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It’s the first of September, and that makes it officially cookie season. I know what you’re thinking: cookies don’t have a season. Cookies are for all year round. And that’s true – but isn’t there something slightly autumnal about cookies?

Maybe it’s because freshly baked cookies — so fresh that they crumble as you hold them and burn your fingers and tongue — always remind of the fall semester I spent at Princeton. The campus there had an underground cafe serving free tea and cookies during certain hours of the afternoon, and again late at night; there was nothing better on chilly autumn days — especially when it was -10 celsius outside and the icy wind cut like daggers against any exposed skin — than to come in out of the cold, stamp the snow of our boots, and warm our frozen hands with steaming mugs of tea and buttery cookies. We English girls may have balked at the way the Americans made their tea, using warm rather than just-boiled water and adding honey to English Breakfast, but they certainly know how to make chocolate chip cookies. View Full Post

It’s over.

The birds are so loud, so chirpy, so alive, and I wonder, as I sit here in my summer dress, watching the world go by, have they always been so happy? Even the air smells fresher to senses that are free. How long I have waited to feel the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair without the overwhelming burden of guilt. I can listen to the bells of Oxford and appreciate the richness of their chimes, the depth of their tones, without feeling panic at the onward march of time. There is nowhere I have to be,  nothing I need to do. And it is summer at last, and the world is alive and rejoicing with me. There can be no greater contentment than this.

The last few weeks have been rougher than any I’ve known in my privileged life. I’d forgotten what it was like not to feel exhausted to the core, to wake without feeling sickening dread at the thought of the day ahead, to sleep at night without bad dreams. I’ve watched strong men and women snap in two, perhaps irreversibly.

So when we flowed out of the exam schools onto the street on Friday after our last exam, all two hundred odd historians bearing their red carnations, I have never felt such tangible relief. In a surreal, exhausted daze our friends near blinded us with champagne before thrusting bottles into our eager, shaking hands; paint and silly string and glitter and flour and foam were pelted from all angles and confetti rained from the sky like one enormous street party. I couldn’t stop laughing and laughing and laughing; the sun came out and the cheering and the laughing and the popping of party poppers and champagne bottles was so loud, so raucous, so giddying; euphoric to the point of madness. I stumbled back to my room, shedding glitter and silly string across the ancient quods, and washed my hair three times but couldn’t get it glitter-free. I drank more champagne and played loud music and threw all my papers up in the air and watched them flutter to the floor as the late afternoon light poured through the windows. I went out and celebrated properly, and then slept for twelve hours straight.

My eating until that moment of emancipation was erratic at best. Granola bars, along with coffee and gin, were a staple of my diet. They’re just so quick to make, keep for days, and can be eaten in thirty seconds behind a bookcase in the Bodleian. I made them so many times and in so many different variations that I can safely say these are the best. They hold together well, they’re the right sweetness and the right flavour, but of course you can adapt the add-ins to suit your tastes and what you have on hand. Whilst I can’t bring myself to eat them again for a long time yet, I did manage to recreate them for those unfortunate souls who still need study fuel, or anyone who just needs a good, tasty snack that’s solid enough to eat on the go. View Full Post