Winter wanderings

Winter WanderingsWinter is a strange season as it bridges the gap between the year’s polar opposites. While spring, summer and autumn all have a unique flavour that is usually predictable from beginning to end, winter embraces many emotions and characters. It is the only season where the mood and mindset change dramatically in the middle. At the beginning, the warmth, hope and joy of Christmas are all-consuming and they wrap up the year, offering time to reflect on the highs and lows of the past 12 months. But the season’s end welcomes in a New Year which, although cold and often marked by post-Christmas blues, is also ripe with possibility. For me, January often ends up as a strange month without any discernable purpose, so if you’re like me, here are some ways to stay in the moment through the whole of this coming winter.

  • Food & Drink: Toffee nut latte with chocolate hazelnut loaf
  • Bake: Snickerdoodles & Pflaumenkuchen
  • Places to visit: Germany
  • Play in the snow (if we get any!)
  • Do some Christmas crafts – most of mine involve Cinnamon sticks!
  • Watch lots of movies: The Holiday, Miracle on 34th Street, Muppet’s Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Love Actually
  • Experience a Christmas market – Köln Weihnachtsmarkt is just perfect
  • Buy a calendar for the New Year
  • Start on some New Year goals – make plans for the year, book tickets to shows and search out new restaurants
  • Go to a museum – it’s low season in January so much quieter and you can take your time
  • Go to coffee shops and watch the world go by
  • Have a long hot bath with candles and a good book
  • Prepare for spring – get ahead of the game with a pre-spring clearout
  • Make the most of the slower pace of life by sipping wine (or, my preference, G&T) late into the night with friends, dreaming about what the year ahead might bring

Winter may be the odd season out, but it can still bring joy if you live it in the moment!

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Autumn jaunts

IMGP0491bMy favourite season of all is fast approaching. For me, Autumn (September to November) is the perfect temperature, the perfect speed of life and the anniversary of me meeting my hubby. For me, Autumn is synonymous with joy. If you’ve lived life in the moment in spring and summer, here are a few ways to make sure the delight of this new season doesn’t pass you by.

  • Food & Drink: Pumpkin spiced lattes & Butternut squash… everything!
  • Bake: Chocolate torte with autumn leaves
  • Places to visit: New England
  • Walks, walks, walks
  • Splash in puddles (who says this has to be confined to spring?)
  • Wake up early and go for a sunrise walk
  • Drink Baileys hot chocolate while watching November 5th fireworks
  • Make S’mores
  • Gather acorns and pine cones ready for Christmas decorations
  • Take a photo surrounded by Autumn leaves – or throw them in the air!

Probably because a school calendar is hardwired in my brain, Autumn for me is still a time for new beginnings, a hopeful fresh start as the temperature too becomes fresher. We’ll see if any new challenges or opportunities arise for this favoured season.

February – Preparing to Launch

P1010712aThe fleeting month of February was surprisingly filled with quite a few events and learnings.

On a very small (but exciting for me) level, I de-seeded pomegranates for the first time and realised how much of a delicious addition those ruby seeds are to my lunch, which became healthy and budget conscious this month.

We had a fantastic day with my family and in-laws at the start of the month to celebrate my hubby getting baptised. It was such a wonderful evening, filled with truth, promise and dedication. It made my soul smile.

We also went to a great friend’s wedding and saw her and her new husband celebrate the start of the next stage in their lives together. It was beautiful, joyful and I was so thrilled to share it with them.

February has of course been interwoven with rugby, with the Six Nations tournament filling most of our weekends. Yet somehow in between cheering England to two victories out of three, I also spent a precious Valentine’s Day morning with my Daddy over a long breakfast. I am so thankful that I have two such inspirational men in my life.

The second Tuesday in February is traditionally Shrove Tuesday, better known in the UK as ‘pancake day’ – the day to get rid of all unhealthy produce in the home before Lent begins the following day. We were treated to a spectacular dinner – it was the first time this particular friend has cooked for us and he set himself a high standard! The gorgeous meal was followed by copious (wheat-free!) pancakes. The best filling, in case anyone was wondering, is banana, nutella and vanilla ice cream. Divine.

The final weekend of February was brimming with music. We saw one of my best friends sing in the choir for Bach’s St John’s Passion (which, unbeknown to us in advance, also featured a great friend of ours as the tenor soloist!) and then I played in the second day of a charity Beethoven marathon, playing all of his symphonies over a weekend. We played through the seventh and eighth before performing the ninth to a small audience.

Somehow, between all of this time with friends and family and among such momentous occasions as baptisms and weddings, February has been a time of preparation. It has been a time to be still, to look ahead, to prepare for what we know is coming: My husband is going part-time in March to fulfil another of his passions, writing; my job is likely to change quite heavily in the coming season; we will be doing lots of work to our lovely home to restore it to its full beauty but in the middle of that, we have a refreshing two week holiday on the beautiful islands of Hawaii to look forward to.

February has served us well, giving us times of joy but allowing us time to take stock and prepare our hearts for the launch of a new season of change and discovery. My heart is almost ready for some goals again, to commit to new challenges and new experiences. Perhaps the Hawaiian sunshine will inspire me at the very least to write a little more and record in slightly more depth how our lives are starting to blossom once again. Let the adventure begin!

Goals in limbo

I’m still not quite at a place where I am happy to set myself monthly goals. They were really fun and motivating at the start of last year but being present in the moment and simply appreciating the people and blessings I already have in my life have become my priority for this season. I do have goals for 2015 as a whole, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t, but I’m not quite ready to go back to setting myself monthly aims. There’s simply too much going on in the rest of my life to add in extra ambitions. They would become a burden, rather than the motivator for change that I love them to be.

That said, there are a few things I would like to do more of in the coming months and these I am happy to commit to writing because they can be achieved without much time or effort and could perhaps even encourage me towards a place where monthly goals are back on the agenda.

More brunch – 2015 got off to a great start with Eggs Benedict brunch but it has hardly happened since and that’s such a shame. Brunch is such a weekend delight.

Switch out my wardrobe – About 18 months ago I spent some time (as one of my goals) figuring out my style, what suits me and what makes me feel good. I have made quite a lot of headway in making sure my wardrobe is filled with those items but I’m not there yet and it’s still in the back of my mind. So I’d like to get rid of the items that don’t quite fit or aren’t quite me and slowly refill my wardrobe only with items that give me joy to wear.

De-clutter – Whenever my mind is cluttered and I don’t feel like I have space to process or room to achieve ambitions, creating space in my physical environment helps. I’ve never been particularly attached to possessions and regular de-cluttering reminds me of what is really important in life – certainly not ‘stuff’!

Bake and read – For some reason, being in a time of limbo has meant that I have had inclination neither to bake nor to read, both of which I usually love and find incredibly relaxing. So while I wouldn’t naturally pair these two activities, I’d like to do more of both.

Just four things, but four things that will hopefully spur me on towards a place where change, new challenges, new experiences and a productive time of growth are a natural and innate part of me once again.

Inspiration versus Envy

At what point does something that is intended to inspire, morph to provoke envy?

I really quite like Pinterest. I wouldn’t say I love it and I certainly don’t hate it so I’m somewhere in the middle. I go through phases of spending hours on the site and then won’t look again for months. Partly that’s because I find it difficult to pick out the posts that inspire me and spark my style or creativity; partly that’s because I am very conscious that too much time spent on it and I begin to wish I had more money to carry out some ideas or I start to become envious of those who seem to have limitless time to create beauty.

There is definitely a line when my heart crosses over from excitement to try out new ideas, to descending into an obsession on the material or a sense of disappointment that I don’t have what I see (or the time to create it).

Pinterest can quickly clutter my mind with too many ideas and it fills up the space I would usually use to process those ideas. A few concepts at a time that I can make my own and put into action works much better for me.

I want to be inspired. I don’t want to spark a discontentment with what I have or what I can achieve so I’ll start small. A few little projects at a time and I’ll see where I get to.

Empty room

A friend of ours is moving in with us in just under three weeks time and he’ll be lodging with us for about six months. In preparation of his arrival, hubby and I spent one rainy Saturday afternoon clearing out his room, which we had been using as a spare room/storage space/laundry drying room. Everything that we stored in that room was well hidden in the cupboard, in the chest of drawers and under the bed. You probably wouldn’t even notice how much was in the room until you moved a person in and they had their own stuff to fill those spaces.

After about six hours of sorting, rearranging and piling up items and boxes to be thrown out, given to charity or moved, the room was free of our belongings bar some empty storage boxes. Our entire hallway was full of things to throw away – we even had to carve a path through the piles to get from one room to another – and we had a suitcase worth of clothes, toys, CDs, jewellery and other miscellaneous bits and bobs to take to a charity shop.

Neither of us could believe just how much stuff had been in that room, when on the surface, it had already looked empty.

Some larger items like my husband’s guitar case, found new homes quite easily, while others required the moving of the fridge to create a new space to tuck away. Despite the fact that you would barely notice we had got rid of so much, knowing that there was so much less meant that to me, the flat looked tidier, less cluttered and more homely.

Possibly even more excitingly, we ordered some new furniture for the spare room and I’m so looking forward to seeing it when it’s all put together. Sadly the delivery of the furniture won’t be for another few weeks so I’ll have to wait a while to see the final fruits of our rainy Saturday afternoon.

 

 

Soaking up summer

summerThe air is changing again, this time to a hopefully warmer climate with long days of sunshine and seemingly endless hours to relax and soak up some much needed Vitamin D. Just like spring, there are ways to enjoy this season (which I consider as June to August) that are unique to the characteristics it brings on its breeze, so even if you’re not off on a summer holiday, here are some ways you can make the most of this summer.

  • Food & Drink: Pimms, cider, salads and BBQs of course!
  • Bake: Grasshopper pie for Wimbledon or an avocado chocolate cake
  • Places to visit: Colorado
  • Go for a long walk at dusk
  • Make Sprite floats… or Coca-Cola floats if you prefer
  • Go on a road trip in the sunshine
  • Pick fruit! Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries…
  • Find a waterfall and watch the sunlight make a rainbow
  • Watch a movie outdoors (local venues often have a temporary outdoor theatre in the summer – worth watching out for!)
  • Paint in the park
  • Have an evening picnic in the park after dinner, just for drinks and dessert
  • Sat outside at a pub with friends in the evening with a cold drink
  • Make ice cream and smoothies
  • Eat breakfast outside – only in the summer months are those early hours warm enough for this. Make the most of it!
  • Go punting (my favourite is to go from the Cherwell Boathouse in Oxford)
  • Listen to the dawn chorus. It’s light and warm when the birds start their singing and it’s quite something to hear them!

No-microwave Popcorn

Collage - popcornI very rarely notice that we don’t have a microwave. We defrost food in good time in the fridge, we heat milk on the stove for hot drinks and we reheat leftovers either in the oven or on the stove. The only time I mind that we don’t have a microwave, is when I feel like fresh popcorn. Until, that is, a friend in Ethiopia mentioned they were making popcorn on their stove!

Why I hadn’t thought of this before, I have no idea, but it’s so simple! Just take some very hot oil and some popcorn kernels, put the lid on(!) and wait until the popping dies down to less than once every 15 seconds. You can take a sneak peak to see how it’s getting on, just be warned that you might have some excited popping kernels hop out of the pan!

Then, add your flavour – just sugar or sugar and salt is great. We tried cocoa and sugar (chocoholics as usual) but it wasn’t as good. Trying out new flavours is half the fun but I’ve yet to find my perfect combination.

It was fun though and we’ll definitely be making more!

Spring things

I adore the seasons, all of them, even if my favourite is Autumn. I love that just as one season is coming to an end, I’m perfectly ready for the new one to arrive. The change is good for me; I am refreshed by the shift in the air, the temperature, the mood and all that they represent.

I always try to make the most of what makes each season unique, so as spring approaches (and to me, spring is March-May), here are a few ways to make sure spring and all that it brings, is enjoyed in the moment.

springthings

  • Food & Drink: Elderflower cordial on a picnic
  • Bake: Mini-egg cupcakes & creme egg brownies
  • Places to visit: Northern Ireland, New York and Paris
  • Decorate the house with tulips and daffodils
  • Go to see some lambs
  • Visit a garden centre and plant something new in a windowsill box
  • Take a photo under a cherry blossom tree
  • Empty your handbag and restock only with what you need, not what you’ve accumulated!
  • Do a spring clear-out (if not a spring clean!)
  • Put on some wellies and splash in puddles