Doors are symbolic of both travelling away, and coming home. They are suggestive of transitions; of returns; of possible new worlds, and of dependable old loves waiting for you. And sometimes, they are also particularly beautiful. I seem to be forever taking photos of doors.
I adore lemon curd, and blueberries, and cakes made with Greek yoghurt. It’s summer here (although sometimes it appears that the Weather Gods didn’t see that memo); and so blueberries are fat and in season. A few weekends ago, I turned dozens of lemons into four bottles of lemon curd. Looking in the fridge, then, it seemed only natural to use the excess lemon curd, blueberries, and rainy day, to create something glorious and summer-like: a Lemon Curd & Blueberry Cake.
I adapted the recipe I found here, changing some aspects to suit my mood, lack of desire to face the supermarket more than once when I discovered I had only one egg, and laziness which meant I didn’t want to zest a lemon. I also wanted more more more blueberries and lemon curd. My own personal version, then, went something like this:
- 175g softened butter , plus extra for greasing
- 120 ml Greek yoghurt
- 4 tablespoons lemon curd
- 1 egg (the original recipe called for 100ml of Greek yoghurt and 3 eggs – I only had one egg in my fridge, so I improvised with some more yoghurt as a binding agent)
- 200g self-raising flour
- 90g castor sugar
- 90g golden sugar
- 150g blueberries
- 140g icing sugar
- juice of 1 lemon
Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees celsius. Grease and line whatever cake tin you have (my expat lifestyle at the moment means that I own one; this cake was not going to be a loaf cake for me). Place the yoghurt, lemon curd, flour, egg/s, sugars, and butter into a mixing bowl and quickly beat into a batter.
Scrape half into a prepared tin. Sprinkle half the blueberries over the top; place the remainder of the batter into the tin; and sprinkle the remainder of the blueberries over once more. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or so, until it is golden on the top and a skewer pointed into the middle comes out clean.
Cool entirely in the tin (I left mine for several hours as I got enough energy to go out for a movie). Once completely cool, tip out onto a serving platter and ice. To ice, mix together the icing sugar and the lemon juice, until you have a thick, smooth icing. Pour onto the cake and let the icing drift over the sides. If you like, decorate either with edible flowers, or with icing-sugar flowers.
It was the perfect rainy Sunday night dinner, with a strong cup of black tea to cut across the sweetness and acidity of the cake, and several episodes of The West Wing. The blueberries ooze juice, and little by little, this spreads purple colouring into the cake. It was surprisingly and deliciously lemony, and I can definitely see the cake being served at a late spring/ early summer garden party.
The weather is unpredictable at the moment: sunshiney blue-skied patches, followed by days (like today) when the heavens open and gales whistle around my little apartment. These days make me long to hibernate. I lose all energy for anything other than watching The West Wing boxset and drinking cups of tea. Today I am taken by the idea of making a Lemon Curd and Blueberry Cake; but that would involve leaving the house to get flour and icing sugar, and baby, it’s cold outside.
But some days like this, I like to revel in the rain. Last week there was a day that was truly tempest-like. There was more rain in that one day, than fell in the entirety of July and August last year. The winds were gale force. Trees fell across tram-tracks. And I put on these little joys:
and I went puddle-jumping.
I bought these in Edinburgh about a year ago; I was smitten as soon as I saw the chickens.
I imagine myself in years to come, trampling around in the mud, feeding my chooks and using their eggs for a new variation of a Lemon Curd and Blueberry Cake, still wearing these Gumboots. But on Tempest Day 2011, I instead waited until I finished work for the day, and then channelled my inner-child for jumping into large puddles of rain.
It made me incredibly happy. It made me feel free. And it made me feel grateful for the rain, which so often I look at as an inconvenience. I might put on my Chicken Gumboots now and go to the supermarket for that flour and make that cake.
This is a website to celebrate possibilities, creativity, & the little joys.
Often, it is small things that give our days their shape. A good meal, a good book, singing at the top of your lungs, or listening to a storm batter down on your house (from the safety of your warm bed!) – these are all things that are at once ordinary, and extraordinary. There should always be a space to discuss & enjoy them; and that is the aim of this website.
In times when we cannot control big things, we can always celebrate small things. Little joys provide us with huge possibilities.
I hope that the little joys collected here give you some happiness, & grow more joys of your own.
Why the ampersand?
The ampersand (&) in the title is there to suggest something else, some other possibilities. Instead of being closed and whole in itself (“The Little Joys.”), the ampersand in the title represents openness, possibility, and a bigger whole in which the little joys are part. The “hanging sentence” that the ampersand creates is deliberate and allows you, the reader, to fill in the blank with your own lives and desires.
The word “ampersand” is, by way of etymology, a contraction of “and per se and”, meaning, “and (the character) and by itself”. Traditionally, when reciting the alphabet in schools, any letter that could also be used as a word in itself – such as “A” or “I” – was preceded by the Latin phrase per se (meaning “by itself”). Moreover, it was also common to recite the “&” symbol at the end of the alphabet, so that the recitation was “X, Y, Z and per se and” (that is, “X, Y, Z, and by itself, &”. This became slurred into “ampersand” and the term became more commonly used in around 1837.
So, the ampersand represents both individuality and community: the letters that form words in themselves, as well as being part of bigger words. Similarly, the little joys in life are whole in themselves but cannot be extricated from the bigger whole which is our lives.
Also, I just (very much) like ampersands.
All photos, unless credited otherwise, have been taken by me. The Header of the website shows a “Pink Suzy” from the gorgeous Orlando di Castello Cafe in Vienna (on the far left); alongside a plate of Bavarian Sugar Cookies and a Button Bag, creations of my own kitchen and craft table.