I have a family gathering convening in my flat on Wednesday so have spent a happy evening menu planning (the afternoon mostly involved hoovering - which doesn't make me quite so happy). There should be 7 of us so it's a chance to cook something magnificently calorie laden for a pudding (quite possibly a pecan pie), use a selection of all my favourite pots and pans, and generally have some fun in the kitchen.
It's rare that I cook for more than 2 or 3 people these days - the long boozy dinner parties that were a fun part of being single/child free/robust of liver/in charge of my own working hours have mostly gone along with my 20's. I would regret that more if I didn't have vivid memories of some horrible hangovers. Still it's a kind of cooking I enjoy for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the menu planing.
Those glorious few hours spent happily browsing make up for the more mundane chores which precede a visit from family who will quite happily point out deficiencies in my housekeeping (fortunately candlelight will hide a lot). My flat currently smells of a heady mix of bleach, furniture wax, and Diptyque's Epice candle (ridiculously expensive but it smells so good - and can fight of bleach for goodness sake) so an effort has been made. The most depressing thing about housework is how once you start you always find more to do, and there are almost always better things to do. My family (and this is probably fair) have such low expectations of my domestic abilities that when my mother saw some washing powder specifically for wool she asked (with genuine shock) if I had bought that myself? It took quite some time to convince her that I had, and what's more knew what to do with it.
Meanwhile the cookbooks... I've sifted through lots of them, devised plans and fantasy menus, finally settled on something that my increasingly decrepit oven can probably be coaxed into coping with, tagged plenty of things to go back to and generally been inspired. The Sarah Raven books (marmalade ice cream) have been something of a rediscovery. I've not had a proper look through for a while so had forgotten just how appealing they are. 'Persiana' is excellent for good tempered, low maintenance, dishes with robust winter beating flavours (pork with some sort of pomegranate sauce). I have lists, I have a plan, and have done enough cleaning; they are after all my family, they know what to expect!
(I don't live in filth, honestly I don't, but my attitude to housework veers towards that'll do or it'll wait rather than house proud.)