New beginnings

22 March 2023

It is the time of the Spring Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere (if you are in the Southern Hemisphere you can read my Autumn Equinox post here) that special time when the daylight and darkness are the same the world over because the sun is right over the equator.  As it begins its journey North we will get more sun over the coming weeks, our days will get longer and our nights shorter, its warmth will return.

In the heart of a seed
Buried so deep
A dear little plant
Lay fast asleep

Wake said the sun
And creep to the light
Wake said the voice
of the raindrops bright

The little plant heard,
And arose to see
What the wonderful 
outside world might be
K Brown

Everything in nature is coming alive and awakening, as the sun gains in strength and the days are longer and warmer.  Blossom and catkins will or are, depending on where you live, be appearing on the trees, spring flowers are starting to appear and the animal kingdom are preparing or having their young.

We have spent the last few months, the months of dark of cold resting and recharging.  Now that the days are slowly growing longer and nature is coming alive, we can awaken our inner energy.  We can start to give form to the ideas and plans we have been thinking about and give them shape and direction.

At the time of Samhein, we sowed the seeds of future plans, of thought and ideas which we have been holding on to during the time of dark.  Now at this time of emergence, this time of fertility, we can start to give our plans shape, to help them grow.  If you haven't done so already now is a good time to share those plans with others. 

If it is your thing, a seed meditation is a lovely way to feel connected with the Earth at this time of awakening and emergence.  Get yourself into a comfortable sitting position somewhere outside, if you want to you can close your eyes.  Imagine you are a seed full of life, plant yourself into the warming Earth, feel the water of life falling on you gently until you begin to open up.  Feel you roots growing and reaching down into the Earth, they are soaking up and drinking all the wonderful nutrients the Earth provides  Feel a shoot unfold in the the air, your leaves unfolding and soaking up the suns rays.  You have everything you need to grow, for your well being, you are in radiant health. Open your eyes when you are ready.

The equinox is a time of balance, the night and day, the light and darkness are equal.  Some would say this is a time when the inner and outer worlds we inhabit are also in balance, equals.  We can use this time to look at areas of unbalance in ourselves, be kind to yourself whilst you give thoughts to these to help you rebuild positive thought patterns for your future.

It feels particularly poignant, that the wheel of the year is at the time of balance whilst we are feeling that the world around us is anything but.  It is more important than ever to find a balance in our lives, if we feel ourselves being pulled into a world of worry and anxiety, with actions that make us feel positive.  It is important that we don't feel bad for doing that, we are not going to get through this without this balance.  We will not be able to support and care for those that we love if we are not in a strong and as stable as possible position ourselves.  Make the time to work out the things that you need in your life to keep you positive, whatever they are, keep them near.

This is the time of new beginnings, a time to start new things, to go in new directions maybe strike out on our own to make things happen.  This is a time of hope.

Over the coming weeks as our plans for the future start to take shape, blossoming into reality, like the world around us waking up, our actions will be guided by the positive side of ourselves.  

If you can spend time outside, do so, going slowly, noticing.  Give thanks to Mother Earth for the new growth, the eventual return of the warmth, the transformations that are slowly unfolding around us, for her fertility and abundance.

Feel yourself to be part of that energy and life, bursting from the earth.  In this time of uncertainty I do hope that you can find hope, ways to stay positive and a sense of balance.

Adventures in my Kitchen

26 February 2023

This post comes to you from my kitchen.  We definitely feel like we are slow stepping towards Spring here, the days are longer, the sun is shining more.  It is still bitterly cold and we are still getting frost and the occasional flurries of snow.  In the kitchen we are most definitely still eating the food of winter.  The veg boxes are full of root veggies and will be for many more weeks to come.  I am heading towards the time of being ready to move on from those but know that is still a way off yet.

My kitchen is a small space, 3.7m x 2.8m this has been extended from the original footprint of 2.8m x 2.5m by previous owners removing internal walls.  I have also made use of an under stair cupboard as a pantry which originally would have been in the hall.  I have read in a few places recently that having your washing machine in the kitchen is a peculiar quirk of Europeans, whilst I cannot speak for those over the channel, where I have not visited many private homes, in the UK it is commonplace.  This is because it is often the only place to put it.  Many of our homes were built before washing machines were even a thing so a separate utility room is a rarity, my house is nearly 100 years old and is unusual in my village as it was originally built with an internal bathroom, most of the houses we looked at before buying this one had had a bathroom retrofitted by taking some space from the largest bedroom.  The alternative would be to locate it in the living room or dining room as the hall is not a big enough space, that is the downstairs of my house, so the kitchen is where it sits and always will do.

I am continuing to make full use of my slow cooker, I love that I can throw some ingredients into it in the morning and by the evening we have a tasty meal to eat.  It is really helpful on those days when we are home a bit later and need to eat shortly after we walk through the door.  I have found that jacket potatoes do well, they don't have the crispy outer that you get from the oven but that is a small price to pay with the amount of electricity we are saving.  I wrap each potato in silver foil and place it in the slow cooker, it takes about 3-4 hours on the highest heat on mine.  Being the frugal person that I am I keep the silver foil unwrapping the potatoes carefully each time to allow for that, it lasts about five or six uses.  I bought a new to me recipe book last month and have found a few dishes in there that go well with jacket spuds, pinto bean chilli being our most favourite so far.  We love these beans and I love it when I find a recipe to use them in.

My sourdough starter is still doing well, I thought I had killed it at one point but I threw most of it into the compost bin and fed it up again and it was as right as rain within a couple of days.  I make bread at least once a week, sometimes more, if I have the oven on more often.  I cut the loaves in half and freeze them, that way I always have a supply.  I feel like I have mastered the recipe that I have been using for a while now and am considering others to give us some variety.  I watched a series of programmes about sourdough and have used some of the techniques mentioned in them, I feel like I am slowly getting a feel for the dough, how much I need to kneed it and what it should look like when it is properly cooked.  I am realising that these are skills that are so much easier to pick up if they are passed on rather than read about in books.

I had an intention to make and eat more fermented foods this year.  I haven't got round to making sauerkraut yet but I have had a continual supply of fermented pancake mix to make dosas.  There are hundreds of recipes out there to make these pancakes, mine uses quinoa and lentils with fenugreek powder.  As it is winter I have to leave this mix for a few days to get the fermenting process going, it sits on the side doing its thing.  I am eating a pancake for breakfast a couple of days a week.  I have also made a quantity of fermented coconut chutney to go with them, I am still working my way through the first batch I made this year but it is running low so I need to make some more soon.

These dosas have been a welcome re-addition to my breakfast choices, I am not a cereal girl and I am not keen enough on porridge to have it every day.  I had been eating boiled eggs every morning which whilst quick and easy is not very varied.  I have been making oatmeal pancakes again, a really simple recipe of medium oatmeal soaked overnight in yogurt before adding egg in the morning and frying them up into wee patties.  They are delicious with fruit and as I have a freezer brimming with fruit picked from the garden I have been making coulis with blackcurrants to have with mine, a good burst of Vitamin C which is always good thing in Winter.

I have also re-introduced risotto into our menu, we have it each week now after Alice requested it.  I have been looking for different recipes to give us some variety, apart from the traditional, for us, of just adding peas we have also had mushroom, tomato and mozzarella, squash and chilli and leek and tomato and mascarpone, this last incarnation is very rich but totally delicious.  If you have any vegetarian risotto recipes that you would care to share I would love to hear about them.

I have mentioned salve making on a previous post from my kitchen, I tried two batches last year and both sadly went mouldy.  I don't think the leaves were quite dry enough when I put them in the oil.  I removed a few leaves from my comfrey plant late last year and had them drying in the bowl in the kitchen.  I finally got round to soaking them in oil at the beginning of the year, they will soon be ready for making up into salves and are looking like they will not go mouldy this time, third time lucky, I hope.

That is my round up for my kitchen in Winter I will back again in the Spring, bye for now.

Busy (Gently) Doing

11 February 2023

The last month has flown by and here we are nearly in the middle of February.  I most definitely did not want life to go back to business as usual after the lovely break over Christmas and New Year, that seems like a distant memory now but I would still love to go back to the gentle flow our days had back then.  

Alice and I had a lovely week away visiting friends.  It was a long drive which took most of a day but well worth the trip.  She spend a week with a friend, I stayed a little with her friends parents and also took the opportunity to spend a couple of days with a friend I have known for most of my life.  We met when we were 5.  It's that kind of friendship where we can pick up from where you left off last time we spoke or met.  We haven't managed to meet face to face for eight years but chat regularly on the phone.  I love that so many of the choices we have made in life are the same with out us even talking about it before making them, I sure that is one of the reasons that we have stayed part of each others lives for so long.  My great aunt who died last year at the age of 104 still talked about a friend whom she had known for nearly 100 years.  The friend died a couple of years ago just after their hundredth birthdays, they spoke on the phone every day, I very much hope my friend and I are still doing that in our nineties, if we live that long!  There is something very comforting about a friendship that has lasted so many years.  There is no explaining to do, the shared history is enough.  

Driving to stay with friends was actually my second time away in a month, most unusual for me who doesn't leave my county from one month to the next.  Eldest was on an Archery coaching course over a weekend, it was just far enough away that it would have been a lot of driving back and forth.  I decided to risk it with booking accommodation and wait until a couple of days before, sure enough I found a really cheap property for two nights reducing the driving considerably.  Unfortunately the bargin accommodation turned out to be cheap because the heating was on very very low.  The house despite being a terrace was freezing which we wouldn't have minded except there was no extra bedding in the house and sleeping was difficult in very cold beds.  I think I managed about six hours over two nights, driving home on the Sunday night it was a toss up between a warm car to take off the chill which made me sleepy or a cold car to keep me awake.  It took me four days to properly warm up again and I felt like I was keeping something like a virus at bay too, eldest sadly succumbed later that week and had his first day off college in over a year.

I have taken on some more work hours, it is a temporary situation helping out whilst a permanent appointment is made.  I did not think I have the capacity to work any more hours and I really don't.  It is only an extra two hours a week but it is two hours that I have had to take from other things, two hours, that  in reality I don't really have to give. I knew that, but it is not a permanent arrangement.  There have been many weeks when I have had things on every evening of the week and coupled with busy days and weekends I am meeting myself coming back some days.  But I know it will be ok as it is not forever, I can give it to someone else, I hope sometime soon.  

The day before our week away I picked up my glasses to read a recipe and realised that one of the lenses was missing.  I looked everywhere for it and all these weeks later it has still not turned up.  I hadn't worn them much that day except to drive Alice to her piano lesson.  I am pretty sure it was in the glasses then as wearing them without it made my eyes feel very odd, but who knows, maybe it wasn't there then.  I prefer to wear glasses for driving, I am right on the legal limit in my country, I don't have to, but feel safer when wearing them.  Luckily I had an old pair which were a similar enough prescription for driving.  I wear varifocals and the long sighted bit was not, reading and close work has been a bit of a challenge.  I had had my eyes tested recently and decided not to upgrade my lenses after that as there was only a minor change.  I now have two pairs of new glasses, if a pair breaks I mow have a spare.  It is the first time that has ever happened to me in thirty plus years of wearing glasses, hopefully it is the last.

I have finished reading two books already this year.  One I started last year so not sure that really counts but if I carry on at this rate I will double last years count.  Both books were non-fiction history books, one about Roman Britain, Under Another Sky was a interesting account of Roman remains across the country interwoven with the legacy of that time period both on the lives of subsequent generations and the built environment.  The other book was closer to home, Ring of Stone Circles is about the neolithic and Bronze Age stone circles and henges of the county where I live.  I knew that we had a lot, but I had no idea that they were quite so numerous, they are less well known as in other parts of the country.  My village has a rich history from this period although sadly the evidence has been mostly destroyed by road and railway building.  I love that both of these books has a useful glossary in the back listing the places they visited.

Alice and I have started going for a longish walk on a Monday afternoon each week, we have not always been blessed with dry weather but have decided we will go whatever the weather.  I prefer to walk at this time of year, going out in the rain is not always my idea of fun but there is nothing quite like returning home lighting the fire and warming up after a bracing walk in horizontal rain.  Inspired by my recent reading we have visited an Iron Age hill fort, two henges and three stone circles amongst other places.  We have just finished a project on Geology and have plans to do some geology walks locally too, we also live in an area rich in many different and interesting rocks.

We have also celebrated Burns Supper with our Explorer Scout unit, Imbolc with friends, helped plant over 1000 trees, learnt how to coppice, made a bird feeder, participated in the RSPB Big Garden Watch, finished sewing a rucksack, knitted socks, a hat and some mitts.

The busyness has calmed this past week as Alice had picked up a virus of some sort which has kept us at home all week.  She is all better now but I really needed that time at home to reset.  I managed an afternoon nap and some time on the sofa on more than one evening.  I have hit the weekend feeling more relaxed and am now ready to tackle another full on week.  The peaks and troughs of life flow on.

Listening to your intuition

03 February 2023

This week is the half way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, the time of Imbolc, a time to celebrate the start of the earth awakening as we are starting our slow journey back towards the sun,   It is still very much Winter so we may not feel it at the moment but our temperatures will start to slowly rise, this will bring with it the wonder of nature that is new life, the sap will rise, unseen by us, inside the trees bringing with it new energy.

Wish for the Fields
Night is dark and cold and long,
Winter's hold is still so strong.
But beneath the earthen crust
underneath the frozen dust
Life is growing, moving, thriving
roots are drinking, resting, striving
Buds are swelling on the trees
In the hives still sleep the bees
But moving, humming, strumming, sing
Soon we all will welcome, Spring
M. Johnson

The days are very slowly beginning to lengthen, have you noticed how it is a little lighter, from one week to the next, particularly in the evenings?  It really feels like we are heading towards the time of Spring when that starts to happen, doesn't it, that extra light gives us hope and prepares us for the warmer temperatures that we know will come in the weeks ahead.

During the dark time we have looked to our inner strength to grow and support us.  It has helped us to release our fears, a journey that we started at Samhein by bringing them into focus and recording them, leaving them behind, maybe you did this in the flames of a fire.  We have been resting and recharging over Winter, now is the time to truly say goodbye to and cleanse ourselves of those thoughts that give us doubt and lessen our intuition, releasing our fears can help us on that journey to make peace with them, making space for us to welcome in new plans.  We can then start to use our inner strength to bring forth our visions as ideas for the future.

The Earth around us will begin its slow journey of waking after its rest in the coming weeks that take us to the Spring Equinox.  This is a time of new beginnings, the buds will soon appear, small shoots will poke their way through the soil, you may have already seen these, the snowdrops are just starting to appear where I live.   As the nature spirits begin to stir, waking from their long sleep and seeds long buried and beginning to wake and shoot; this is a time for us to sow the seeds of new plans and new beginnings, those that we started to think about back at the time of Samhein and have been starting to give shape to since the Winter Solstice, over the coming weeks our seeds of a new beginnings, plans, learning or adventures can start to take more shape.

I like to think
That, long ago,
There fell to earth
Some flakes of snow
Which loved this cold,
Grey world of ours
So much, they stayed
As snowdrop flowers
Mary Vivian

If it is your thing, doing a Rising Meditation at this time of year can be an amazing way to feel connected to the earth and to absorb its rising energy.  If you get yourself into a comfortable standing position, perhaps with bare feet and/or closing your eyes if you want to.  Staying still, feel the ground beneath you feet, feel its energy, feel that energy flowing into your feet, up your legs into your body, into yours arms, your fingers, up your neck and into your head.  Feel that energy flowing through you, strengthening you, holding your hand, guiding you in the direction that you want to go.  Think about your positive qualities, those things that you are good at, you are an amazing person, you can use these qualities you value in yourself in the year ahead, they will serve you well.

We can also use this time to cleanse our lives physically too, maybe giving away possessions that we not longer have a use for or perhaps stopping an activity or job that we find draining and get no pleasure from and that we have the ability to change. Decluttering our homes is a really rewarding thing to do, if it feels like a huge task, start with one small area, or a cupboard, take your time and don't try to do it all at once.

If you have absorbed the rising energy of the earth, try and make time to feel that rising energy again over the coming weeks; use that energy to bring your seeds of new plans and beginnings into being.  As we emerge from our restful state, as we absorb the energy from the Earth may our actions be guided by the reflective, feeling and caring side of ourselves, the path of our heart where we follow our dreams and deepest wishes.  May we pledge to ourselves to listen to the path of our heart and to our intuition, the inner voice we often quieten with our doubts, but which is so often a voice of wisdom.

Memories to Treasure

04 January 2023

As we enter a New Year ready to be filled with memories, I, like so many bloggers, have been looking back at the past year.  I sometimes write A peek into my day posts, I thought it would be fun to use similar prompts to look back at last year. 

Outside my window

I am so blessed to live in a beautiful place, I will never tire of the view from my window.  Each and every time I open my curtains to greet the outside world, I never know what I am going to see.  A grey dull day with low cloud obscuring my view, a cold and icy winter morning which is slowly waking up, the moon still shining brightly catching the first rays of winter sun, the green haze of spring or the beautiful colour palette of autumn.  Every single one catches your breath with its beauty.

We finally got new neighbours, they moved in a year, almost to the day, since our previous neighbour died.  We were a little baffled as to why it took so long for renovation work to start as we had thought the house had been sold back in February.  It turns out the sellers never sorted probate, to transfer the house to their names, after their mother died three years ago.  It seems they were selling a house that did not actually legally belong to them.  By mid August it was all sorted and renovation work started in earnest, for two months there was a lot of noise and bustle but all is quiet now.  It is bittersweet to have different neighbours, we are glad someone is living in the house, but it is tinged with sadness as a reminder that our beloved neighbour is no longer with us.  We really noticed last Winter that the heating was off, our house was noticeably cooler the heat drifting into the unheated space next door, our house is the middle of a terrace

It felt like we had four proper distinct seasons last year.  Sometimes spring, summer and autumn can all feel the same as the temperatures don't rise enough to distinguish summer from the seasons either side, the extra hours of daylight the only differentiation.  The warm and sunny summer meant that my garden produced plenty of vegetables for us, we don't have enough space to be self sufficient, but there is nothing like a home grown salad freshly picked and eaten immediately.  We found a CD with photos of the garden when we moved in, I had been searching for those pictures earlier in the year and finally found them when we were decluttering last week.  A computer died on us about sixteen years ago and took two years worth of photos with it, luckily we had shared many photos with family members so we got them back but had clearly not got round to putting them back on our current PC.  It made me realise, seeing those old photos, how much work we have put into our garden .

The dramatic rise in energy bills has galvanised us into increasing the number of solar PV panels we have in an attempt to reduce our bills slightly.  We already have solar water heating panels on the roof of our house which fill it front and back so we are making use of the garage and workshop roof for solar PV panels.  We already had a few up there which have been using to provide electricity for the garage and workshop, but we are in the middle of installing an array of 24 panels to give us a greater supply.  We have a friend who is an electrician who is going to wire them into our mains feed so that we can supplement the supply we pay for. It may also be time to find a suitable place for a small wind turbine which we have talked about for years.

I am thankful

I have had so many things to be thankful for this past year, I am sure I could write a post entirely about that.  We had a wonderful family gathering in March, our first in years.  It was lovely to spend a few days with my niece, all my nephews, siblings and parents, I very much hope we can find a time to do it again this year.

I continued to embrace rest and pausing during the year, making more space for it in my life.  I started off taking afternoon naps, something I shall continue this winter, it felt good to have this as part of my hibernation.  Even when lift got crazy busy in the summer there was still time for pausing, a different kind of rest to that which I was taking in the Winter but a rest none the less.  This is a legacy of lockdowns that I want to continue with for years to come.

I have some wonderful friends in my life, their friendship has carried me through many a time this past year, when I needed a listening ear there was always one available.  Those tough moments in our life are always so much more bearable when we have someone to help us through.

In my kitchen

I started making sourdough again, creating a starter and keeping it going.  I watched a lovely series on the internet which gave me a new found confidence and improved my loaves no end.  

In those weeks when I have a little more time to plan our menus I have made sure to get out recipe books that I have not used for a while to search for old favourites that I have forgotten about.  What that reminded me is that I am making recipes from those books.  When I cook something often enough I can then cook it from memory so those books which I don't think I am cooking from are getting used all the time, from my head. 

The slow cooker has become my new oven and gets used far more, a bonus as it is so much cheaper than turning the oven on.  I have had a couple of fails but in the main I have managed to wing it to adapt oven based recipes to great success.  What that means is that I have to be highly organised on the rare days that I do use the oven to make bread and cakes neither of which I have tried in the slow cooker as I am not sure if that is possible.  Perhaps that is something I should look into for this year.

I have created

Almost all the creating this year has felt like it was for fundraising, with the exception of several pairs of socks, I have knitted one hat, a pair of mittens and two jumpers which is a very short list of finished projects for me.  I did not do much fundraising knitting just a mountain of dish cloths, it is a little slow to be a good use of time in relation to the funds you can raise.  Small items tend to sell better, we have found, even small knitted items take time.

It is the same with sewing, I completed one project, a basket, which was a present for a friend, I started but have not finished a picnic blanket, and Alice and I have started making her a rucksack.  Fundraising sewing was making needle cases out of old felted jumpers and scraps of fabric from my stash.  

We were lucky enough to invited to join some home educating families on a few day courses to make jewellery, willow baskets and a stained glass hanging it was lovely to be able to have a go at these things, guided by a professional, without having to buy in all the equipment ourselves.  I have long realised that are a lots of things I would love to do but simply don't have the time to devote to them all, so attending a day course is a great compromise.

We made a mountain of clay Christmas decorations most of which sold, they were a great return for the time and cost of making them, a three pound block of clay made over a 100 which we sold for 50p - £1 depending on the size.  We have also made some daisy chains which did not sell at Christmas markets but hopefully will sell at stalls in the coming months.

We also did a lot of needle felting, this is another creative project that does not take a lot of time and has a good return for the cost of making them.  We felted numerous hearts which we made into garlands changing the colours with the seasons as we went through the year.  For the Christmas markets we made small star garlands.  We have sold about 30 heart garlands (that was 90 hearts in total) and ten star (that was 50 stars in total).

I have been

I haven't travelled a great distance this year despite driving many miles a week, it is all close to home.  We travelled in March to our family gathering that I mentioned above, we accompanied Cameron on his D of E expedition in a neighbouring county and returned there a few months later to assess another group both of which were a lovely few days of exploring the area with Alice.  We visited my mother in law twice once in the summer and a second visit that ended up being squished between Christmas Day and a commitment on the 29th.  The arrangements for both of these visits were less than ideal, I am not sure where the communication is breaking down but I have realised I need to be more on it with making sure that they are nailed down water tight at the earliest opportunity.  When you get invited for Christmas and then get told in December that that does not include Christmas Day as other arrangements have been made, as they also have on the 29th, a one full day visit is a rather short and expensive, for a 600 mile return journey.  

We had a wonderful family holiday a few miles from home, I realise that my intention to blog about that did not happen, lost in the busyness of the summer months.  We have become very last minute about organising husbands time of work, usually shoe horning it at the last minute between other commitments.  I am thinking that it would be better if we got some dates in the diary now and then other plans can be made round them, family life needs to come first.

I am remembering

My beloved Great Aunt who died earlier this year at the age of 104 and a half.  She lived a seven hour drive from me, not a journey I managed to make that often.  Our annual visits for the last thirteen years have been an important part of our year.  I have missed making that trip this year.  She was the most wonderful story teller remembering times in her life from so very many years ago.  Her memory never faded, my memories of her will never fade, she is our link to an earlier very different time.  I am blessed to have a photo of her as a toddler with my granny and their mother, my great grandmother, taken in 1920, it used to sit at the top of the stairs in her house so is also a memory of my time spent with her.

I had been blogging for ten years this year an anniversary that passed me by in February,  I have had several long pauses in that time so I may only have about five years worth of posts.  This is post number 906.  I love reading back over old posts, not just to see what we were up to but so that I can see how much my writing has changed over that time.

I have read

I am not one for keeping lists of the books I have read, I have no idea how many books I have actually read this year.  Looking at the books in the house I was not quite sure what I have finished reading this year and what I might have actually read last year.  I did not visited a library in 2022 so I know that if I have read a book it will be in the house somewhere.  What I can say with confidence is that I did not read a single work of fiction this year.  Highlights for me were Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life by Karen Maezen Miller, Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard, Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake and Mothers of Invention by Katherine Marcel.

Around the house

We have done very little work inside the house this year, a couple of new shelves and other tweaks.  I wanted to do more decluttering in 2022 and boy did I manage that.  I went round the house slowly room by room, removing things that we had not touched for years.  Cupboards and other spaces were emptied out and sometimes completely reutilised as the entire contents were no longer needed.  There were many spaces that were not touched or need revisiting this year too.  Decluttering is an ongoing job and one which I am loving doing.

Along side the decluttering I am still using the same method for keeping the house clean that I started at the beginning of 2020.  I often take breaks when the whole family is home but as I know I will be picking it back up again when the holidays are over it matters not that the house is ignored for a few days or weeks.  The premise of this method is that you have daily jobs, thirty minutes a day on one room a day for four days of the week and then one day a week when you focus on a deeper clean on one of your rooms on rotation.  My days of the week and the jobs I do are very different from the inspiration for this method but they work for me and that is the important thing isn't it.  I very much had a love hate relationship with house work before finding this inspiration, I wanted to do it but hated the tasks so never got started.  Breaking it down like this is perfect for me which is why I am still doing it three years later.  It is now a habit and an integral part of my morning routine.

Favourite quotes 

I am a sporadic collator of quotes, I have a few that I keep in the front of my diary and transfer from year to year.  I did not write many down this year, I thought I had more but this is all I could find.

We can't change our history but we can change our relationship with it.  

These are words that I have read on repeat this year to remind myself that things that happened in my past were not my fault.  Like a big hug, which we all need sometimes.

The thing that screws us up the most is the picture of how it is supposed to be, what if we deleted that, the idea of that, and we just looked at what is and found it to be enough.

I heard these words on a podcast and pressed the rewind button so many times to listen to them again and again before realising that I needed them to be written down.  They were spoken by Glennon Doyle.  These words have reframed things for me completely and when I find myself reverting to the unachievable picture these words pop into my head as a reminder that that is a less than helpful place to go to.

Enjoy the little things in life because one day you will look back and realise they were the big things.

A friend shared these words with me as she had found them to be a comfort to her.  She didn't write them and I have seen them written elsewhere too.  In the last few years I know that I have changed my focus a lot and one of the things that gets more of my time is those seemingly little things.

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.

I went on a course many years ago, which spent some time looking at the impact of our actions on others.  I don't remember much about the rest of the course but that part has continued to stay with me.  I always try to be careful about the words I use around others to ensure that I don't cause harm or hurt, I also accept fully when I have done that to others.   I have been on the receiving end of messages that were written in this vain in this past year, if I had written a reply immediately it would have come from the heart not the head, writing and speaking when emotions are running high is never wise and invariably leads to pain.  Pausing and reflecting is the only way I can respond rather than react.

I have learnt

I rekindled my Duolingo account, after a long hiatus, at the end of 2021 after watching many films in Swedish and wanting to learn some of the language.  I managed it for a few lessons and then my limited knowledge of the intricacies of grammar in English meant I had to stop so I switched back to French.  I am lucky to have an old Duolingo account which was set up in 2012 so I get to make as many mistakes as I like as I have unlimited lives, you have to subscribe to get that on an account now.  I received some stats at the end of November which told me how much I have learned in the previous year, I don't remember receiving this before or maybe it was switching to the app on my phone that meant I was a lucky recipient.  Duolingo is learning done in isolation but alongside millions of other users worldwide, you can, if you want, be a part of league tables but I found them to be too distracting so turned them off on my profile.  I was somewhat surprised to learn that I was in the top 6% of language learners on the platform, I didn't think I used it that much with only a lesson per day, I spent an astonishing 4756 minutes (that is 79 hours) learning 1422, new to me, French words.  The few minutes each day add up it would seem.

When Alice secured a place as part of our County's contingent to travel to the World Scout Jamboree taking place later this year I knew that we were in for many hours of fundraising.  I had organised very little fundraising before so it has been a steep learning curve for me and all my fellow parents.  I think by the time we have raised the full amount we will be experts in what works and what doesn't.  The things that you think will be big earners have turned in to big flops and those that you cannot imagine will raise much end up being the best and easiest.  We are nearly there and need to keep going this year to get to our total, I feel sure we can do it and I know I will miss this part of my life when we get to that point.

Not long before Alice secured her place to attend the Jamboree I stepped up to become a Scout Leader myself.  My unit is the one for older teenagers, 14-18 year olds, we call them Explorer Scouts in the UK.  I have been volunteering on and off for this unit for the last twenty odd years but doing a little bit now and then is very different to being the leader.  I am so lucky to have the support of two very dear friends both of whom have years of scouting experience between them.  It was very time consuming at first as I often had to look things up before doing anything, I also wanted to set up my own systems which again takes time.  They always say that your first year in anything new is about learning and your second is about consolidation, this definitely rings true with me and I feel so much more confident with what I am doing now.  There have been moments when I have wondered what I have taken on but I know that learning about this role and learning about fundraising and all the time that consumes, at the same time, was not ideal but I am through the other side now.

I have long wanted to have more spontaneity in my life and be ok with it, to not be controlling and planning everything to be totally watertight.  Life is not like that.  I tried a bit more spontaneity in our lives over the summer last year and it felt ok, in fact it felt more than ok, it felt good.  I really enjoyed the flow our lives had at that time.  I know that I could not be like that all the time and that is ok too, the balance of a bit of it now and then is enough for me.

I have listened

I love listening to Podcasts, they are my own curated radio station these days.  I cannot remember the last time I switched on the radio to listen to a programme.  I could not have imagined writing that a few years ago when the radio was my aural wallpaper from waking up to going to sleep.  I listen to huge variety of podcasts from current affairs such as politics, the environment, LGBTQ+, book reviews, comedy, music, my local countryside and many more besides.  Stand out favourites this year were the wonderful candid interviews on Call me Mother, I hope there is another series this year.  The monthly seasonal podcast released on the first of each month As the Season Turns, it is a cornucopia of interesting information about the natural world.  The fascinating and witty Stories of Scotland which explores Scotland's nature, culture and heritage, each episode is completely different but well researched and a joy to listen to.  I am so grateful to all the folks who give up their time to make podcasts available to us completely free, I donate to some of them to support their work which I hugely appreciate.  

I have not listened to as much music this year, I have some downloaded on my phone but tend to listed to Podcasts when I am driving.  I listed to Spotify at home but don't have it on my phone so can't have it on when out and about.  I often have Spotify on in the evenings when I am reading things online.  They kindly created a playlist for me of my 101 top listen to songs this year, all six hours 35 mins worth, I think some at the bottom have probably had two or three listens, so it is stretching it a bit.  I don't know how many hours I listened to those at the top of the list as I don't have the mobile app, but I do know that my top three songs were, Painter by L├ąpsley, Roses by George Taylor and Burned by Love by Juke Ross, I know that I listened to these alot, they were amongst a set of songs that I found towards the beginning of the year and made up, along with fifteen or so others, into a playlist which became my go to songs in the evenings.  The artist that featured the most in the list was Blanco White closely followed by Tones and I, two completely different musicians both of which I love.

I am looking forward to

The diary is already looking busy for the coming months, weekends are filling up fast, we blocked out some time to travel to spend with friends who live way south of us, an old school friend for me and a friend who has moved there for Alice, we are looking forward to these days with them.

We are in the process of finding another big house to rent for a few days for another extended family gathering, we need fourteen beds so they are few and far between.  I very much hope that we get something organised again as it was such a lovely long weekend last year.

A few plans for 2023

I don't usually make resolutions for the year, or come up with a word, although I love to read about others doing both, they don't work for me.  I have a few intentions which I am hoping I can make into habits or make happen this year.

I want to make time for my friends, to arrange calls or meeting up face to face.  I always think this will just happen but time drifts by and it doesn't, life is such that I need to be more intentional about making this happen rather than just hoping it will.  My visit to my old school friend is the start of that.  I have already made contact with few other friends whom I don't see or speak to often to see if we can arrange a date for a catch up chat.

Alice had a hard year last year with her oldest friend going off to school which was difficult enough but much exacerbated with a total lack of support extended to her, from them, as she worked through that transition.  She started to feel ready to make new connections at the end of last year and we tentatively started attending a new group.  We have reached out to a new family and hope that we can meet in the coming weeks, she is nervous about this, the lingering effects of last year's events.

Alice and I started doing sewing every week at the end of last year and once we have completed the project we are currently working on we want to make clothes.  I got a book of patterns for Christmas and am looking forward to doing this with her during the year.

I have mentioned my morning routine earlier in this post, another part of that is my daily yoga practice.  On the days when I need to be out of the house earlier I don't manage to fit this in as I am not prioritising it.  When one day becomes three and then more, I really notice the ripple effect of this on the rest of my life.  I want to make sure that I don't miss more than one day in a week during the year this year.  I am also going to restart a journal this year as I know that this will help me to support my yoga, amongst other things.

My last intention is another thing that I have neglected and that is making and eating more fermented food.  I regularly used to make sauerkraut, chutney and pancake mix amongst other things.  I have a lovely fermented food recipe book which I want to start looking through every month to inspire me to try new things.  I know that my gut is in a much healthier place than it has been in the past, my Chrohns Disease has been in remission for 18 years now, but it it is important to look after your gut all the time not just at those times when it needs a bit of extra support.

Thank you so much for reading this very long post.  Thank you to all my lovely readers and those of you that have commented in this past year, I am grateful to you all.  I very much look forward to reading along with you all in 2023, which I hope is a year filled with memories to treasure for you all.

I will leave you with a poem to start your year:

May love and laughter light your days and warm you heart and home,

May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam,

May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures,

May all life's passing seasons bring the best to you and yours.

Drifting with Purpose

29 December 2022

The Winter Solstice slipped by this year without me turning up in this space.  I have moved into hibernation mode slowing down as the earth has slowed around me.  The busyness that Christmas can bring into our lives feels like it pulls me in the opposite direction of the one that I want to be taking.

We spent the solstice as we usually do, with a walk up a local hill to watch the sun setting.  After a week of beautiful sunsets the day itself was grey and gloomy the only sign that the sun had set was the gloom getting darker.  It was still as magical, sitting at the top of the hill looking down at the lake, the lights of the houses twinkling in the gloom.  It is where I wanted to be a that time, an important place, one where we have watched the sun set for all, bar one, of the last ten solstices.

We made a list the following day of all those jobs that need doing but there is never quite the time for, it is our holiday list to be worked slowly through until the time when work and college are calling again and life goes back to that.  We have cleared out several spaces in the house, getting rid of things that we no longer need.  It is a good time of year to remove things from our lives, from our homes or from our minds, letting go of thoughts that are unhelpful, that influence us in ways that leave us sad and unhappy.  A clearer mind is so calming, we are more productive, we sleep better and we can manage our day to day life more efficiently.  I love this act of reducing, when you know that things are coming into the house, a house which is small and fairly full, there has to be some space made to allow those things in.  I find a cluttered space overwhelming, it is a constant process to keep our house less cluttered.

I also find this time of year overwhelming and have worked hard, over the years, to reduce the overwhelm.  I have said no to so many offers of things to do this December, to ensure that we had more breathing space, and this year has been almost perfect.  I am not sure what would have made it more perfect other than going to a country where Christmas is really low key.  I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Christmas.  We spent the day itself out on a long walk, it was not the best conditions but we rather like our long walks on Christmas Day as it gives us a chance to park and walk in places that we would not normally visit.  We live in a very touristy area and there are some beautiful places which can be teeming with people in the warmer months but on a cold wet Christmas Day are pretty much empty.  We had the car park to ourselves.  Breakfast was large and hearty, so we only took snacks with us to eat whilst out, tea was prepped in the slow cooker alongside breakfast so we could eat when we got home.  We had filled the wood burning stove too so we came home to a toasty warm house with wonderful smells of tea filling the nose as we opened the door.  

Present giving was low key, a couple each before breakfast followed by a few more when we were home and fed.  Husband and I tend to give gifts to each other through out the year so we don't give each other presents at this time of year, we give the children something they want, need, to wear and to read at this time of year.  We had a small bag of gifts from my parents.  We had also been sent some presents from friends we have not seen for a few years as COVID has stopped us meeting up.  We were rather surprised to be sent these, we randomly get presents from these friends and as much as we appreciate the thought they are rarely anything we want, only Alice did well out of those, the rest have boosted the fundraising stock and the present cupboard.

Boxing Day saw us packing up and heading south to visit my mother in law, we joined the roads with thousands of others, we naively thought it would be a good day to travel, that the roads would be quiet.  I guess the rail strikes have effected folks travel plans and everyone took to the roads.  A four hour journey turned to six and half as we met accident after accident.  We only had one full day together before we returned home with an equally long journey extended by yet more accidents.  In the twenty odd years we have been driving south to see parents I don't think I have ever seen so many cars on the roads, I know I don't go far on the roads these days but they did seem a lot busier than normal. 

We have returned to work on the list, there are now three remaining, all the large ones, they always get left till last don't they.  I have some work to catch up on, those jobs that there is never time to do normally so a similar list to our round the house jobs.  It is good to start a new season and a new year feeling like you have cleared up the clutter from the previous one, it gives me the space and time to do some thinking and planning.  I love the slowness of the days at this time between Christmas and New Year, they are drifting with purpose.

We are slowly heading towards New Year my favourite time at this time of year.  We are hosting friends this year, an open house with food and drinks.  I am not sure we will make it to midnight, the last few years we have toasted the New Year in earlier and headed to bed, it is the being with friends that matters more to us than doing things at the 'right' time.  I am loving these slow days with all my family at home, full of moments to treasure.  I hope your days are full of those moments too.

Our Advent

08 December 2022

Alice and I started off this week making our version of Speculaas adapting a recipe that we have been using for years to ensure that our gluten free and dairy free friends could share them.  The resulting biscuit dough was far too moist to be rolled out but Alice was adamant that she still wanted them to be star shaped.  We managed to find an entirely unconventional way to cut them and get them onto a baking tray without squishing them too much.  Making these biscuits have been part of our Advent for years, a tradition that I am sure I will continue long after the children have left home, they are so delicious and don't last long.  I am hopeless at remembering to take photos of food when I have cooked it, when I went to the tin to take a photo there was one small star remaining, one of a couple we made at the end when we were running out of dough.

This time of year can become crazy busy with invitations, things to do, places to be, presents to buy.  There is so much more going on and it can be so easy to say yes to everything without thinking about how we can fit everything in.  Last year we did things differently, I did no planning beforehand and just went with the flow and it worked well, we did not get overwhelmed with 'too much'.  I have planned things this year but with plenty of space for pauses and rest which will not get filled up, it is all too easy to fill in the spaces isn't it, so you end up dashing from one thing to another.

A few weeks I got out my collection of Christmas books and stories, along with previous years plans which I always keep to make planning each year easier.  I love the stories that we read and share each year, last week we read The Glass Angels by Susan Hill a delightful story set in the 1940s shortly after WWII, I still remember the first time I read this story but even after several years of reading it has not lost it's charm.  We have a focus for each of the four weeks of Advent, following an idea that I read on the internet years ago.  I am sure what I do, what we do, is nothing like that original idea but it is important to make these things are own to make them work.  If we try and follow what other folks are doing we are setting ourselves up to fail which is never a good start for things.

Advent for me is a time of moving through the darkness to the return of the light, a time to seek out the light in everything and keep it gently glowing.  It's a time of inner searching, of anticipation, of inner quiet through all the busyness of life and all that this time of year brings.  It is a path to finding balance and peacefulness in my life, not just at this time of year but at all times.

In week one of Advent, for us this was last week, we focus on the mineral kingdom the physical foundation of life, the ground we stand on and the basis of our ever changing existence.  We think about our connection to the earth and what that means to us.  It is a time for us to think about any changes we should be making over the coming year to be ever mindful of our effect on our beautiful earth.  We live in a geology rich area so we took a walk locally to investigate the rocks, this has kindle an interest in Alice to learn more.  I did a geology project with Cameron at a similar age so I already have some notes which I can use again, I am looking forward to repeating some of the wonderful geology walks we did back then.

This week we have been focusing on the plant kingdom, a kingdom that like us, but unlike the mineral kingdom has life.  We have been thinking about all that we receive from this kingdom, the nourishment, the beauty, how it is life sustaining for us and it in turn is sustained by the earth, wind, rain, light and warmth from which it creates a balance of growth and decay.  We have been celebrating the bounty of this kingdom, showing gratitude towards the growers who invest their time and resources in providing food to sustain us.

Next week we will be focussing on the Animal kingdom with which we share our capacity for movement, will be reminding ourselves of our relationship with this kingdom, of our appreciation all that they do for us and our need for continued compassion to all animals.  In the last week of Advent we will be focusing on Humankind and our relationship with each other and the world around us.  We will be giving thanks to the friendships and people who have nourished and supported us this year.  We will be thinking about those who are struggling at this time.

Amongst all the stories and poems we are sharing we will be observing St Lucia day next week making Lussekater buns, making wreaths and sharing food with friends, celebrating the Winter Solstice by hosting a small ceremony and watching the sun setting, making some small gifts and decorations, spending time with extended family celebrating a significant birthday, baking and eating mince pies, and putting out extra treats for the birds as we have very cold weather forecast.  I managed to get all my cards made last week but have only sent out the International ones and those that I am hand delivering so far.  I hope to write and send all the others by early next week, we are currently experiencing lots of postal strikes so if I don't send them soon they won't make it in time.  

We have pared back our focused learning time for this month, focusing instead on the time of year and all that it holds for us.  Some of things we were due to have been doing with others have been cancelled, or we have not attended as Alice was not well at the beginning of last week.  My plans may not always come to be but they are only a plan, something we hoped to do if we could, if they don't happen it is not the end of the world, whatever we do will be good enough.

I hope whatever your plans look like for this time of year they are good enough and that you have space to pause and rest somewhere in there too.