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One year ago today, my husband and I put in an offer on our house, the second one we ever looked at. We weren’t even expecting to buy anything that day; it was our first time house-hunting and we just wanted to see what was out there. We looked at four houses altogether, but we couldn’t stop thinking about this one. Nothing compared. I’d had my heart set on Dundas, and believed our perfect home would be there. I never expected to be so charmed and intrigued by Hamilton, and I never expected our house-hunting experience would be over within hours. I think we got three hours of sleep that night.

We had to wait two months before closing and before we could move in, and it felt like ages. Now it feels like all that was mere weeks ago. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year.

Since I last cooked from my c.1938 copy of Mrs Beeton’s Household Management, I’ve wanted to try another recipe. I marked out a few contenders that didn’t necessitate sourcing a pheasant or a sheep’s head, and today’s lunch was: Carrot Soup with Rice. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients – 2 pints of white second stock, 1 pint of milk, 5 large carrots, 1 onion, 1 strip of celery, 1 leek (the white part only), 1 1/2 ozs of butter, 1 tablespoonful of cornflour, 2 tablespoonfuls of cream, 2 tablespoonfuls of cooked rice, salt, pepper, sugar, nutmeg.

Method – Use only the outer red part of the carrots. Cut all the vegetables into small pieces, and cook them for 10 or 15 minutes in hot butter without browning. Add the stock and simmer until the vegetables are tender (about 40 minutes), then rub them through a fine sieve. Return to the stewpan, add the milk, salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg, and bring to the boil. Mix the cornflour with a small quantity of stock or milk, pour it into the soup and stir for a few minutes, then add a good pinch of sugar, the cream, and the rice (which should be nicely cooked, and dry), and serve.

Time – 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Seasonable at any time. Sufficient for 6 persons.

There were a few things I did differently: 1) I used chicken stock instead of “second stock;” 2) I used flour instead of cornflour/cornstarch; and 3) I used a blender instead of the fine sieve (I did try the sieve, but had no luck).

A little before and after:

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In the middle of this process was that incredible smell of veggies cooking in butter. There really isn’t anything better.

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This is one of my paternal great-grandfathers. A Connecticutian by way of Białystok, he lied about his age so he could enlist in the US Army. He was stationed in the Philippines. Before he died in WWII, he married my great-grandmother and had a bunch of children, including my grandmother. He was killed in the Battle of Corregidor in 1942 and is buried in Manila.

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Two years ago, October’s fall colours were of an intensity that I could only describe as, “eye-gouging levels of orange and red.” This year, that intensity was lacking. My husband and I took a weekend trip to Ottawa recently and noticed subtle tones, rusty oranges and brownish yellows on the way.

At the beginning of the season, this lack of intensity was a little disappointing, but now I like it. It’s more “me,” anyway. I always feel like I come alive in the fall, even though I tend to pursue quieter, slower activities. In recent days I’ve been baking more bread, and am suddenly very interested in hot chocolate. My Netflix account is on a steady rotation through old favourite episodes of Midsomer Murders. I’m never without my Mummu’s wool socks. My life gets a little smaller for a while.

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This may be slow-season-related or not, but I’m going through one of my phases where I want to read nothing but autobiographies or history. I’m currently in the middle of Wait For Me!, the memoir of Deborah Cavendish, the youngest Mitford sister. It’s such a perfect mixture of history and autobiographical anecdotes that I wish I could read it slower. This time of year is about coziness, and there’s nothing cozier to me than history. As a quite liberal mixed-race woman, I don’t wish for the world to go backwards to some nebulous “better time,” but there’s something comforting about events that are set and unchangeable, and small stories of everyday (or, in Debo’s case, slightly fancier) lives without the modern amenities and attitudes most of us take for granted.

A couple of months ago I stumbled upon my dream book in a secondhand book store.

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Despite the name, Mrs Beeton’s Household Management isn’t my dream book because I yearn for the upper echelons of hausfrauness. I discovered an older version of the book in 2008, and since then I’ve been interested by it from a historical perspective. It was the first book to present recipes in the format we know them today, rather than the ingredients and process all together in a long, linear paragraph. And it provides a fascinating snapshot (if nearly 1,700 pages can be considered a snapshot) of a time when people made morning calls, managed servants, and served beef tea to sick people.

There’s no definitive statement of when this particular edition was published. A previous owner has written her name and the year 1944, but certain things made me believe this was already a few years old when she got it – references to “The War,” and nothing written about rationing, for example. Based on dates I found in the “Legal Memoranda” section (god I love this book), my best guess is that it was published in 1938 or very early 1939.

Following are several photos I took while doing my first couple of flip-throughs. I think I’m going to need a few months to really appreciate everything!

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mb16Another reason this is my dream book is that old recipes are a particular interest of mine. I love when they’re startlingly out of place with modern tastes and patience levels (there were a surprising amount of recipes involving sheep heads and brains, for example).

I couldn’t resist trying at least one recipe from this book. I chose to make “Buttered Eggs, Indian Style (Oeufs Brouillés à l’Indienne).” Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients – 3 hard-boiled eggs, 2 raw eggs, 1/2 an oz. of butter, curry-powder, salt and pepper, browned breadcrumbs.

Method – Cut the hard-boiled eggs across into rather thick slices, place them in a well-buttered gratin dish, or china baking-dish, in which they may be served, and sprinkle over them about 1/2 a teaspoonful of curry-powder and a few grains of cayenne. Beat the raw eggs slightly, season with salt and pepper, and pour them into the dish. Cover the surface lightly with browned breadcrumbs, put bits of butter here and there, and bake in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes. Serve as hot as possible.

Time – 10 minutes. Sufficient for 4 or 5 persons.

And here’s how it turned out (pardon the lighting; it’s no longer the good photographing-your-breakfast time of year):

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It was actually pretty good! There was nothing very complicated to it, and it was different, but not as out there as Veal Olives, Baked Bullock’s Heart or Mushroom Ketchup.

oct11-01 oct11-02 We picked a road and drove straight east almost as far as it went, almost to Niagara Falls. We had hot apple cider in travel mugs and there were hints of orange and red in the trees.

Then, Thanksgiving dinner with family. We do our big occasions potluck-style these days, and it always works out so well. People bring Tupperware for the inevitable leftovers, we tell our stories loudly, and we are always sleepy an hour after dessert, no matter what time it is.

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On Friday, my husband and I set out in search of apple cider and a hike. We found the former, but the latter proved more challenging thanks to the nearly constant rain. We did find a trail and venture out a few metres from the car, where almost every picture turned out blurry and useless, except for maybe this one:

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The trees were still quite green, and it was t-shirt weather. Three years ago I was wearing a jacket, scarf, and Wrist Worms. And you were allowed to walk around in the Badlands then, too. But one thing remains the same: I don’t understand how to be photographed.

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The next morning I woke up to hot cinnamon apple cider, cider and pumpkin donuts, and strawberries (because I felt like an apple would be pushing it).

And despite appearances, I don’t eat my donuts with a fork (though I’ve never actually tried it; for all I know, it could be better)!

Jonna filled the teakettle in the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, looking at her own face, she thought with sudden bitterness that it couldn’t go on like this, these short stories that were never finished and just went on and on getting rewritten and discarded and picked up again, all those words that got changed and changed places and I can’t remember how they were yesterday and what’s happened to them today! I’m tired!

- Tove Jansson, Fair Play

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It seemed to happen all at once, this colour and coolness. My husband and I had patio beers with some friends on Saturday, and barbecued in our backyard with other friends on Sunday, and now this. It seems cliché to be this excited for this particular month and the season it shows off so well. But really, fall is the most Me the world ever is.

I’m especially excited to experience these changes in a new city. I’ve never seen it in full colour, and I’ve been looking forward to it all year.

Some signs of fall from inside my home: A glut of apples, my Mummu’s wool socks, waking up in the dark, and a pull towards slow, reflective books like Tove Jansson’s Fair Play.