Thursday, 13 February 2020

Weathering the Storm

It's been quite a week. I was just beginning to get over my cold when I was hit by the arrival of another virus, which had me laid up over the weekend. I hadn't felt quite right for much of Friday, but couldn't put my finger on what was the matter, thinking that perhaps I was just over tired. Once again it was short-lived although, unsurprisingly, I've spent much of this week feeling wiped out. I'm definitely ready for the half-term break now. Hopefully it will give me the opportunity to get myself feeling well and recovered once again.

Being unwell is not much fun but the arrival of the storm meant we were not going to be having much of that anyway. The wind howling around the house and the rain battering the windows kept me awake much of the night, which was no bad thing, as I was able to notice water dripping through the ceiling and chimney breast! The last time this happened was around seven years ago when there was another really bad storm and rather than being any structural damage it seems to be caused by the rain blowing up and under the eaves, and one of the chimney cowls. Fortunately, there is not much in the way of damage and the damp has already dried out. I was more concerned about the wiring. I was able to isolate the electricity to the upstairs lights until such time the wiring could be checked, and so for a few days we were dependent on the lamps in the bedrooms, which was fine but what would we do about Lily's bath time?
The answer was obvious really. Around the house I have many candles, which have been gifted to me over the years but don't get lit very often, if at all. For once they could actually be useful. Therefore, this week, Lily has been enjoying bubble baths by candlelight, and they have proven to be so popular she would very much like them to continue! 🕯🕯🕯  Perhaps if they are so enjoyable maybe I should try one for myself.
The weather wreaked havoc for several days, during which time I rested, taught Lily to play dominoes and demonstrated how to make (far too much 😆) popcorn. I was relieved when it finally blew over.  Mog had also been unimpressed and had spent her days sat staring out of the cat flap unhappily, venturing out only when absolutely necessary. The sudden quiet came as a bit of a shock, having grown used to the  roar of the wind and the sound of the rain against the windows, not to mention having the constant worry of any flooding or damage, although, as we are forecast another storm this coming weekend, we may need to batten down the hatches once again.
J. X

Friday, 7 February 2020

Under the Weather

I've been in hibernation the last few days. Just before the weekend I came down with a rotten cold and have spent much of this week feeling rather sorry for myself. I've been curled up on the sofa under a blanket, drinking hot lemon and honey, and managed just the bare minimum of housework in order to keep everything ticking over until I felt back to normal again. This morning I think I've finally turned a corner, my eyes have stopped streaming and I have discovered the ability to breathe normally once again 😌
One advantage (if there is one) of being poorly is that I've had Mog snuggled up on the sofa with me. She was the same this time last year when Lily came down with chicken pox, sleeping right by her side. I'd like to think it is genuine concern that something is not quite right, but I'm sure it is more likely down to having a warm human to lie with and a cosy wool blanket. Nevertheless, she has been good company.

The recent turn in the weather has heightened my longing for spring. Bright, dry days and lighter evenings have been a most welcome change from the dark and damp we had throughout  January. I hope this weekend's imminent storm is short-lived and that we can look forward to even more sunshine and blue skies as the month goes on. The snowdrops are out here now and I've been determined to enjoy them while they last. A short walk through the woods and we were greeted by this lovely sight.

Just after Christmas I began making a blanket for a friend's baby, due in March, and I'm happy to say I've finally finished it. It is largely based on this pattern here, although I have made the picot edging less 'spiky' and I used  the Teeny Tiny Stars pattern from Attic 24.

It's not easy to photograph a blanket but I hope you get the idea. I gave it to my friend this week and I'm happy to say she is thrilled with it. In fact, I was really touched when she told me it is already packed in her hospital bag.

J. X

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

It's Marmalade Time Again!

I was unsure whether or not to go to the trouble of making marmalade this year. I have been trying to cut down on the amount of bread I eat, would need to go out of my way to buy Seville oranges and it can be a messy and time consuming business after all, for me anyway 😆. And yet, there is something about the whole process I find enjoyable, the finished product is absolutely delicious, and at least some of the jars could be gifted.

Last Saturday I had every intention of going out for a snowdrop walk but by mid-morning it was clear the wind and rain had set in for the day. It was then that I decided my initial plans would be best kept for another time. A quick trip out to the supermarket and I was soon in the kitchen slicing, juicing and shredding to my heart's content. As I lay the halved oranges on the chopping board I couldn't resist taking a photograph. The vibrant orange colour was in sharp contrast to the grey gloomy view from the window.

After juicing the oranges and scraping out the pith, the peel was shredded and added to the pan. The gently simmering mixture now filling the house with the most delicious aroma. Even Lily commented how nice it was, although you'd never catch her eating marmalade!

At the end of the process I added some brandy to the pan before ladling into eight sterilised jars to cool. The link to the recipe I use is here.

Am I glad I changed my mind and made some marmalade? Definitely. One of the jars has already been given away and I have enjoyed some of it myself, spread thickly on buttered toast. I also used some to bake this marmalade cake which is sooo good. It's deliciously light and sticky, and VERY moreish.

For this I used :

120g Butter
100g Caster Sugar
2 Eggs
120g Plain Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
3 Tablespoons Marmalade
2 Tablespoons Milk

Beat together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring in flour and baking powder with each, finally adding the marmalade and milk. Mix well, then pour into a lined loaf tin.
Bake at 150° for around twenty minutes, then cover with foil and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
Allow to cool in the tin, then drizzle with a mixture of 60g icing sugar, 1 tablespoon of water and 1 tablespoon of marmalade.

J. X

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Winter Weekend Walking

This morning, although I woke to the sound of birdsong, outside it is dark and damp and, unfortunately, it is not forecast to improve any time over the weekend. Last week couldn't have been more different, however, as we were treated to bright, frosty days and (occasionally) warm sunshine. The best kind of weather to go walking.

On Saturday we ventured out to a new nature reserve, to have a look around and see just what it was like. I could find very little information about it online and had no idea what to expect, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover a beautiful wooded area with bird hides overlooking several small ponds. Some of the ground was quite bare around the ponds, and it is clearly a work in progress but I'm looking forward to returning and seeing how it develops. We spent a short time in the hides but our interest lay elsewhere this time, as we were hoping to catch a glimpse of the deer which  reside in the woods.

Can you just about see them through the trees?

We walked the clear pathways, weaving our way through the trees, which occasionally opened out towards the fields where there were platforms and benches to allow us to relax and enjoy the views. We saw pheasants and rabbits, and it was exciting to have the deer run past us many times, only for them to hide away in a quiet place amongst the trees again.
It felt magical to be the only people in the woods and especially to see the deer (I just wish I was faster with my camera). As we were leaving we enjoyed a chat with the manager of the reserve who had just arrived with his camera, hoping to catch sight of the deer as well. We will definitely be going back in the spring.

The following morning I had plans for a slightly higher walk but was unsure about exactly where to go. I changed my mind several times but by Saturday evening had decided on a gentle climb up Helm Crag, which overlooks the village of Grasmere. I've done this walk on many occasions but this time intended to extend it slightly by including the summit of Gibson Knott. It was perfect weather for the walk and, although the path was sometimes icy, it could be easily avoided and the still air meant that, for once, we could enjoy our picnic lunch at the summit and enjoy the views, then we made our way along the ridge to Gibson Knott before returning to Grasmere along the Far Easedale track.

Helm Crag to the left.

On our ascent looking up the Easedale valley.

Sour Milk Gill in the distance.

Steel Fell to the left. A walk for another day.

Gibson Knott from Helm Crag.

Steel Fell again and the Helvellyn range.

Gibson Knott summit.

Looking back towards Helm Crag from Gibson Knott.

Yet she still has enough energy to climb!


Friday, 24 January 2020

Mincemeat Shortbread

I'm going to put the shortbread recipe here for those who have asked me for it (and it's also useful for me to have my favourite recipes in one place). It's handy for using up any mincemeat left over from Christmas, and it's also great as an alternative for anyone who finds making mince pies a bit of a faff.

These quantities were just right for me to be able to use up a half jar of mincemeat to which, of course, I added a small amount of brandy. 😊

To make the shortbread you will need :

130g Plain Flour
125g Butter
60g Cornflour
60g Caster Sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
½ teaspoon Ground Cloves

It's quite straightforward. Just put all the ingredients in a bowl and work together to make a sticky dough. Line a tin with baking paper and push down one half of the dough to cover the base.
Spread with the mincemeat leaving a small gap around the edge.
Between two sheets of baking paper roll out the rest of the mixture then use this to cover the mincemeat, pushing down with your fingers to seal the edges. Don't worry if the dough breaks or tears as it can be patched up quite easily.

Before putting in the oven I also covered mine with some dried cranberries and flaked almonds.

Bake at 150° for around 40 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool then cut into slices.
J. X

Saturday, 18 January 2020


Since the beginning of 2019 turned into a rather worrying and stressful time, I feel like, so far, this month I've been a little on edge and expecting a potential problem to present itself.  Foolish, I know, as no amount of worrying can prevent anything bad from happening and only serves to leave me feeling tense and wrung out, and I'm also relieved to say that, so far, the year is ticking along very nicely indeed.

Following a lovely festive break, I've settled into my stride once again with work and running the home. The Christmas cake is all gone now and I baked some shortbread using up a half jar of mincemeat I discovered hiding at the back of the fridge - it was delicious!

Most importantly, I've spent lots of time outdoors. I've been taking part in RED January, which is an initiative to get active every day throughout the month, and so far it's going well. I might have thought otherwise when I found myself soaked through to the skin while running in the pouring rain last Saturday evening, but I'm feeling much better for it and it's so good to be doing something just for me.

On Sunday we went for a gentle walk up Sale Fell, which overlooks the top end of Bassenthwaite Lake. It's a walk I've been meaning to do for some time now - one of many! - and with the weather on our side, for a short time at least, it was just the right distance and height to enjoy this short stroll, while still being able to enjoy some beautiful views. It was rather windy at the summit, however, we didn't hang around up there for very long.

I have noticed the afternoons drawing out ever so slightly and I'm looking forward to ever increasing hours of daylight. My houseplants, which were beginning to look rather sad, have all been moved to the kitchen windowsill in order to get as much light as possible and it's beginning to get a little crowded there, especially with the recent addition of some hyacinths which are just starting to open up.

On these cold dark evenings I've been keeping busy with a new crochet project. A small blanket for my friend who's baby is due in March. I hope to share the finished results very soon.

Later, I'm going to enjoy some time catching up with some blog reading but, as we're forecast a bright and frosty day here, I'm off out to enjoy a walk in the woods first.
Happy Saturday!

J. X

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Welcoming the New Year

I've enjoyed a lovely festive season and all too soon find myself at the beginning of this new year, curious as to what it may hold. It's been the time of year when time stands still and I've struggled to remember what week it is, let alone what day but I've enjoyed every moment.

Christmas day itself was spent with family and we played games, ate delicious food (the BEST roast potatoes!) and laughed a lot. I've possibly eaten far too much chocolate but isn't that always the way.

In sharp contrast to the excitement and joy of Christmas, Boxing Day was a much more relaxed affair with a leisurely morning spent walking through the woods. The air was cold and damp but after our walk we soon warmed up with a hot chocolate enjoyed on the cafe's outdoor terrace. We were even joined by a cheerful little robin.

In fact, we've enjoyed quite a few walks out these last two weeks, which I've really enjoyed. I always like to get out and blow the cobwebs away, especially when it can be so easy to hunker down at this time of year.  Last Sunday we climbed Raven Crag, above Thirlmere. It's not an area I've ever visited before, although I'm sure I'll be returning very soon, as there is so much more to explore. The steep climb up the through the pine trees behind the crag, opened up at the summit platform to reveal the most beautiful view over towards Clough Head and Helvellyn, with the occasional  views of Skiddaw visible through the trees during our descent along the forest tracks .

The following day was much more overcast but it didn't deter us from walking up High Rigg. This is only a small fell but we took the long route over Wren Crag and along the ridge before reaching the summit, then dropping down to enjoy our lunch beside the beautiful little church at St. John's in the Vale. Disappointingly, the low cloud meant views were limited but it was enjoyable nonetheless and it was lovely to see another robin perched on the bench in the churchyard.

On New Year's Eve I kept my promise and took Lily ice skating. The bright, sunny weather made the perfect day for it, and the ice was full of people joining in the fun. It didn't feel too busy, however, it was just right and, although  Lily didn't feel quite brave enough to skate without holding on to either myself or the side of the rink, she had a wonderful time and I get the impression we will be going again next year.

New Year's morning was spent the same as last year, cooking sausages by the lake, reflecting on the previous twelve months and constantly reminding Lily not to paddle so deep that the water goes over the top of her wellies! Whatever the coming year has in store, some things will never change.
Happy New Year.
J. X