Monday 31 December 2018

End of the Year

Just like in the words of the song, we had ourselves a merry little Christmas and I really hope you did too. Thank you all so very much for your good wishes. We enjoyed a relaxed day at home, just as I like it and Lily had the best time. She received some lovely presents, including some roller skates, a dolls house and lots of books. The house has been in a complete state of disarray this week, with toys scattered everywhere and, as is usual, some of her old favourites have made a reappearance. The chaos is probably not helped by the fact  I use the excuse of the decorations being up to avoid doing all but absolutely necessary housework.

This time between Christmas and New Year has felt rather indulgent. Lazy mornings spent at home, followed by gentle afternoon walks, wearing woolly socks and muddy boots. It hasn't been cold, in fact it has been quite mild for this time of year, but the air is damp, so we've made sure to keep well wrapped up. Twinkling fairy lights adorning  small cottages with smoking chimneys, lent themselves to a cosy, festive feel. We've been through the fields, through the woods and down by the sea - where it was slightly more blustery than we were expecting, but it felt good to blow away the cobwebs. Taking along some mincemeat slice and a flask of coffee containing a splash of brandy was a special treat.

The week before Christmas, I took advantage of an excess of vegetables on offer at the supermarket, so on Boxing Day we enjoyed some very tasty homemade  parsnip soup. Usually, I add some cumin or curry powder but this recipe called for thyme, which gave it a really delicious flavour. I expect I'll be making more like this in the weeks to come, as the weather turns colder. 

Tomorrow we greet a new year and today I've been looking back at 2018 with fond memories. Often, I am eager to move on and leave behind the ups and downs of the previous  year, but not this time. Looking back through this blog reminds me of all the adventures and fun times we've enjoyed this year and I feel very blessed.

As I look ahead towards 2019, I would like to wish you all the  things I hope for myself and my family during the coming year. Thank you all for visiting and for your continued friendship.

A very Happy New Year to you all.
J. x

Monday 24 December 2018

Christmas Eve

Last week was a flurry of Christmas activity. Carol services, a pantomime, a party and carols around the tree. In between times I had all good intentions of finishing the gift wrapping but, just as expected, I only finished it earlier today.  Not that there was a lot left to do, it was just getting the opportunity to do it, if you know what I mean.

Once school finished on Friday, we were able to relax and enjoy a little weekend break in Chester. It has become somewhat of a tradition to take some time out  just before the day itself and visit a Christmas market. Last year we were in  York and, although much smaller, Chester market was just as delightful. Sitting and drinking mulled wine in the cold evening air soon had me feeling festive. We walked the city walls and even managed to squeeze in a visit to Santa before he had to dash off and get ready for his busiest time of the year.

Since returning home we have been finishing our Christmas preparations. I have been baking up a storm in the kitchen and we now have fresh bread, mincemeat slices and gingerbread cookies (which are disappearing at an alarming rate.) The gingerbread house has already been eaten.

As is usual for us, late this morning, we took ourselves off for a walk to get some fresh air. And what a beautiful morning it was - there had been a hard frost overnight and it was a bright, sunny day. The grass was white with frost and Lily skated across the frozen puddles declaring she was the Ice Queen. Further on, through the fields, she was trying to get up close to the sheep to wish them a Merry Christmas. Suffice to say they were not terribly impressed.

This evening there is a star shaped gingerbread cookie and some wine left under our tree for Santa and, of course,  a carrot for Rudolph. Our bedtime story was 'Twas the Night before Christmas and the house is now quiet and still but, I  know, tomorrow it will be filled with joy and excitement.

I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.
J. X

Thursday 20 December 2018


There can be no mistaking that we are now just a day away from Midwinter. The days have been dark and the weather so gloomy, we have been desperate to seek out as much daylight as  possible. This last week, more than most, we have endured a run of grey skies and damp misty mornings. In fact, on Monday morning it was so very dark, Lily was questioning the time we were setting off for school. A  low mist hung in the valley and it seemed as though it never managed to get light all day.

The weather has also been wild.  I never did get around to making a festive door wreath but I'm not concerned. In fact, if I had hung one on the door, I would have  been amazed for it to have withstood some of the howling gales and lashing rain which have been battering us here in the north. The kind that keeps you awake at night hoping all the roof tiles will still be intact by the morning. Small branches have been scattered across the  roads and I even had to stride over a fallen tree earlier in the week.

At the weekend, we went for a walk through the woods. This short circular route is one of our favourites, possibly because it was one of the first ever walks Lily managed all by herself when she was a toddler and also because it is close to home. Even when the weather isn't so great, we can be back home, warming our toes by the fire before we know it. It all seems quite effortless now, seeing as little legs keep growing all the time, but it felt good to blow away the cobwebs and there is still beauty to be found there, even in these darkest of days.

I'm happy to say the Nativity went well. Lily remembered her line and gave a beaming smile of pride when she delivered it. I was so very proud of her too as, even though she was nervous, she was brave enough to put herself forward for it in the first place and played her part beautifully. What a star!

The last week of the school autumn term has finally arrived and with it has come a deluge of Christmas activity. There is some event or other happening every day and, along with my own Christmas preparations, I am doing my very best to avoid feeling pressured and becoming overwhelmed because, no matter how hard I try, it is so very easy to fall into that trap at this time of year. 
Therefore, on Monday I took myself off for a walk. I had the morning to myself and usually I would have spent the time tidying the house or wrapping presents but I made a conscious decision to take some time out, to switch off and relax for a while. It had been a long time since I had been for a walk all by myself. Not to go shopping or even to work, but a walk for the sole purpose of walking, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy it.
It was a dark day but, as I headed up the hill away from home, I broke free of the mist clinging to the floor of the valley and, as I reached the narrow lane, the silence was welcoming. I briefly lost myself in the stillness of the morning, only to then jump out of my skin at least three times as squirrels suddenly scampered across the path in front of me! So much for relaxing, but I made a new friend....

My Christmas preparations are all but complete now. There is just the small matter of gift wrapping and the food to buy, so I am sure it will all be sorted in time, although, there is a strong probability I will have forgotten something. Once the weekend arrives, however, I am looking forward to relaxing and enjoying this festive season.
J. X

Thursday 13 December 2018

Festive Sparkle


Cards have begun landing on the door mat regularly so, along with a planned visit to the Christmas market at the weekend, what better time to get our festive sparkle on.
The weather has been so damp recently that, during the week, I had already brought the tree in from the garden to the back porch, so it could have plenty of time to dry out but by Friday evening, following a very busy week, we were so exhausted we decided to leave any decorating until the following morning. We wanted to take the time to enjoy the occasion, taking out the now familiar baubles from their boxes and hanging them on the tree, then adding to them the newly discovered decorations bought for Lily each Christmas. This year she chose a cute little polar bear.
I say 'we' but, to be honest, I hardly got a look in. And, as for savouring the moment, Lily was so excited that as soon as the lights were on the decorations were hung in no time at all, although I may have needed to adjust her work ever so slightly, to even things out a bit. 😉

Our festive excitement continues to increase and as well as delivering the first of our presents, on Sunday we had great fun visiting the Christmas market in Manchester. There is always such a buzz in the air at these events, everyone enjoying themselves, the enticing aromas coming from the stalls and the wonderful array of Christmas goodies but, oh my, it was busy! Although it would have been lovely to stop and eat some of the delicious treats on offer, we thought it best to take some time  out from the hustle and bustle and ate instead at a nearby restaurant. This proved fortunate for Lily, as our lovely waitress was kind enough to give her a fairy light necklace, which, as it turns out, is just the greatest thing ever when you are five years old.

This coming weekend is the Nativity and, once again, Lily is to be an angel, which is fortunate for me as she still has her costume from last year. All week long she has been practising her one (but VERY important) line, which is 'Hark! This is the first Nowell and we're hailing the Heaven-born Prince of Peace. So come. Let us adore him.' which is better than at the beginning of the week when she thought it read 'So come. Let us order him.' 😊

I've written all my cards now, although I suspect there will be one or two I have forgotten - isn't it always the way? I still haven't made my door wreath but I hope I will get the opportunity this weekend. How are all your preparations coming along? X 

Saturday 8 December 2018


Here  we are in December, and all I can think is how fast the year has gone. It feels like no time at all since I was getting ready for Christmas last year. It has been a busy week here and I'm relieved we've reached the weekend, so I have the chance to catch my breath. I use this time to get on top of chores and prepare for the week ahead but at this time of year, it is even more important than usual to find a balance, make time for fun and put a bit of magic into the season.

The advent stockings were hung in good time and Lily can't wait to reach inside for her chocolate snowman each morning. She was more than a bit disappointed, however, that she didn't wake up to snow on the 1st of the month and has been looking out for some every day since. So far, December has only brought us wet, windy and gloomy days. The weather has been far from festive and hasn't really lent itself to cheer and joyfulness, so we've been creating our own. We've been baking, doing festive jigsaws, reading Christmas stories and enjoying bit of crafting. Lily has had fun with our new Christmas stamps and I treated myself to some cute reindeer lights which, at the moment are the only decorations we have on display, besides my new Nisse. This is the crafting I mentioned.

Having watched a few tutorials online I decided to have a try at creating one myself. It had been ages since I'd done anything like this but I found it quite straightforward and fairly quick to make up once I'd got the hang of it.  ðŸ˜Š
You need coloured felt, some white embroidery thread, beads and a small amount of wadding and rice  to stuff them with. There are many tutorials to work from and can be adapted to suit your own style.

I enjoyed making it so much, I made two more in  different sizes. They look very sweet on the fireplace and, of course, are perfectly safe for when small hands decide to play with them.

J. X

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Getting Prepared

It finally happened at the weekend, I began to think seriously about Christmas. Not so many years ago it would have all been organised by now. Lists would have been made weeks ago, most gifts would have been bought and wrapped and cards written, ready to be posted. I'm glad to say I have a far more relaxed approach these days and enjoy the season all the more for it. And yet, although I favour the more laid back view, there is still quite a bit of organising to be done, with the build up usually far busier than the day itself.

Whilst thinking about food and drink, my thoughts turned to making a Christmas cake. Not unusual, you might think, but I've never really been a fan of fruit cake (don't even get me started on marzipan) and for that reason it's been years since I made one. Maybe my tastes are beginning to change, but I think it was mainly to do with the whole process of making it. It has kind of got the festive season under way for me and lets not forget the wonderful enticing aroma which wafts around the house while it's baking. I'm really pleased with how it's turned out and I can't wait to decorate it now  but, of course, the proof will be in the eating.

It was a pottering kind of a weekend, catching up with chores, a quick trip into town and making Christmas plans but these fell by the wayside slightly and we just had to get out for a walk. We decided on the nearby deer park and our early arrival meant it was lovely and quiet, save for a handful of dog walkers and, of course, the deer. The trees are mostly bare now and the branches made for some impressive silhouettes against the wintry looking sky.

Back on track, I set to and made the Christmas chutney. It's simple to make and tastes so delicious with it's festive flavours. I'm really looking forward to enjoying it with my cheese and biscuits.

So, I've done it. I've made a start. This week I really need to turn my thoughts towards gift buying and I mustn't forget to set up the advent stockings - I often get caught out with this and find myself faffing around at the last minute. 

Christmas Chutney 🎄🎄🎄

Olive oil.
150g shallots, finely chopped.
2 pears, peeled and chopped .
1 large red Gala apple, peeled and chopped.
2cm fresh ginger, finely chopped.
175ml apple cider.
35ml white wine vinegar.
2 tablespoons lemon juice.
125g brown sugar.
1 star anise.
1 cinnamon stick.
1 teaspoon mixed spice.

Gently sauté the shallots in the oil. Add the pears, apple and ginger and stir through, cooking for another couple of minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for approximately 50 minutes. Pour into sterilised jars.

J. X

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Feeling Chilly

Thank you so much for all your good wishes on my last post. I'm relieved to say my sore throat is all but gone and I'm feeling much better.
Since the weekend, the temperature has plummeted here and the damp in the air only adds to the feeling of cold. I've been rummaging at the backs of drawers and cupboards for woolly hats, scarves and mittens and I'm pleased to report that the central heating is holding it's own - for now at least. I hope I haven't just jinxed it as I do not relish a repeat of last year.
The days are becoming darker now and the lack of sunshine is taking it's toll. I'm trying to remember to take care of myself  but it's the time of year when there is so much going on that time for myself is easily overlooked. As usual, it is something I need to prioritise.

This wasn't the situation at the weekend, however. The sun was shining and the weather was glorious - hardly a cloud in the sky. It is always a wonderful feeling when the good weather days and the weekend coincide with one another.
On Saturday we went for a gentle bike ride out towards the nature reserve. It had been a while since our last ride so we didn't cover many miles but we contented ourselves with the sea views and watching the gliders taking off and landing, one swooping so close, right above our heads.

I knew the forecast for Sunday was just as good, so had already planned for an early start to Gowbarrow Fell. The route begins by Aira Force and is a clearly marked, well trodden path, just the thing for a relaxed morning walk. We followed the path up through the waterfalls and around the side of the fell turning up sharply in order to reach the trig point on the summit. On the way back down we walked around the eastern side of the fell and were treated to the spectacular views of the lake opening up before us; the late autumn sunshine warming our faces and allowing for the removal of our jackets.
We found the perfect spot for our picnic - a row of rocks which appeared like a bench, overlooking the lake. However, my day was complete when, on return to the café at the car park, I enjoyed one of the best cups of tea ever! I know, I'm easily pleased. I'm not sure if it had been the fresh air and exercise that increased my satisfaction but it tasted soooo good. Although it had only been a gentle walk, this cup of tea was so welcome as tiredness suddenly overwhelmed me. Lily, on the other hand, managed it with ease and had even skipped most of the way!

While collecting Lily from school this evening, I noticed the roads through the village had been gritted,  most of the autumn colour has gone and the tree behind the house is now completely bare. This week I could really do to have a last tidy  up of the garden before winter and put away the outdoor table and chairs. I can't think that in a little over a week we will be entering the last month of the year but I'm getting ready to look forward to Christmas and all the excitement it will bring.


Edit. The gate in the second photograph holds cast iron British birds in military camouflage. It forms part of an art installation which is a war memorial on the site of former practice trenches used for training soldiers and cadets during the first and second world wars.