Saturday, 4 December 2021

Little by Little

 

It was a disappointing start to the day. Our original plans for the morning were, unfortunately, cancelled, so instead I busied my way through some household chores. I've managed to conquer the mountain of ironing, complete a small supermarket shop and vacuum throughout, but there is still a lot to catch up with, so I've left any intentions of adding to the Christmas decorations for another day.

The weather has been decidedly end-of-year-ish. Generally gloomy and grey, raining on and off throughout the day, and with the sort of damp chill in the air that goes right through to your bones. This afternoon we wrapped up warmly and walked a short way up a nearby fell to where is now my dad's final resting place. At the foot of a tree, a little way off the main path. It is somewhere he used to walk most days until his health began to deteriorate and I'm sure he would have been pleased with our choice. 

I spent the rest of the day busying myself with writing lists. Gift lists, food lists and most importantly a list of joyful Christmas activities. Some that I would like to do if I get the chance and others that I think I should intentionally make time for, just because. I had hoped to bake some mince pies, but feeling a little wrung out I decided on some flapjack instead - I can make that with my eyes closed :) I also set about making some cranberry sauce and just as daylight began to fade, the house was filled with the delicious aroma of cranberries and port, with a slight hint of spices.

J. X 

Friday, 3 December 2021

Christmas Mantel

 


I've made a start. This evening, the fireplace has been decorated with a few favourite Christmas items, with more to follow over the weekend.

Today, at work, Christmas music filled the air and I spent much of my morning surrounded by kings, shepherds and sheep! 

It's beginning to feel festive.

J. X



Thursday, 2 December 2021

Early December Morning

The sky was beautiful and clear as dawn broke. This was the scene as I made my way to work early this morning. It wasn't freezing, although you'd be forgiven for thinking it was, it had certainly felt chilly enough, and even then I'd been wrapped up well in my hat, scarf and gloves. 

I've spent another morning dashing around, but with just a couple of hours to spare I managed to accomplish everything I had set out to do. I am now stocked up with plenty of Christmas cards, enough brandy for making my mince pies, Christmas crackers - absolutely essential according to Lily, and most importantly, something sparkly for her to wear for the class Christmas party. I feel much better knowing all these bitty things are now out of the way and I can just concentrate on finishing my gift buying and making sure we have the necessary foodstuffs for the day itself. Then once all that is done with, the most important part, simply enjoying the season. 

J. X

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

December

 


Sadly, the snow only lasted a day or so before it got washed away by the rain. But here is another photograph from the weekend when everything looked oh-so-seasonal and just that little bit more festive. 
And I need all the festive cheer I can get at the moment, as I'm trying very hard to get into the spirit of all things Christmas but this year I am really struggling to muster up even the slightest enthusiasm. I need to remind myself that it is still a little while off yet, and I'm sure I'll be feeling a bit more excited as the days go by. I hope so, anyway. 

Last night I hung up the advent stockings, and I noticed the string they are tied up with is wearing rather thin in places - I forget they've been in use for a few years now. I'll have to remember this when I pack them away again in January, so that I'll be prepared for this time next year. They have been put above the fireplace and I expect there will be some more decorations joining them towards the weekend.

This morning, Lily excitedly reached for her first chocolate and once I had dropped her off at school, I made a quick trip into town to stock up on some ribbon, Christmas cards, and wool. I really would love to just take a whole day to myself and get everything I need all in one go, but I have to be content with snatching a couple of hours here and there. I know I will get there in the end, it just all takes that little bit longer this way.

Oh, and while I was there, I might just have treated myself to some mince pies. I'm feeling that little bit more festive already. 😁

J. X


Tuesday, 30 November 2021

First Snow

As the weekend's storm subsided, the weather became decidedly chilly and by Sunday morning the sky had turned overcast and heavy, a far cry from the bright sunshine we had been forecast. I was a little disappointed, having already planned a walk for the day but undeterred we set off anyway, determined to get out for some gentle exercise and fresh air. A few flakes of snow hung in the air but I wasn't expecting them to come to much, any hopes of a decent snowfall are often dashed, usually turning to sleet before even a light covering is settled.




It wasn't long before it became clear that the snow was here to stay and we were certainly not going to be heading up onto the fells any time soon. We couldn't even see them hidden beneath the heavy, low cloud. Never mind, we would take a walk round to the local National Trust property and through the nearby wood. But unfortunately we couldn't manage that either, as it was closed. Instead we walked a little way up the hill and along the lane. The snow was falling far heavier by this time and I was frequently being used as target practice for Lily's snowballs, when she wasn't on the ground making snow angels, that is. Any time I paused to chat with someone, she made sure to gather even bigger handfuls. Her aim is excellent by the way :)




Dropping down through the field we crossed the large stepping stones over the beck, being extra careful not to fall in. I didn't particularly relish the thought of a soaking in the icy cold water. Fortunately, the stones in the middle were flat and dry, it was on the ones closer to the edge where we needed to be especially cautious. It was lovely and peaceful there, not even a sheep to be seen. 


The final stretch of our walk took us alongside the river. The snow was falling much lighter now and the sun was trying it's best to break through the cloud. We gathered branches and pine cones, which had blown from the trees and onto the path. These will be used to make our festive door wreath at some time during the coming week.

It is the beginning of December tomorrow. Last year I posted a little something each day throughout the month. I'm not sure I will have chance to do that this year but I hope to at least post more often than I have recently.

J. X


Friday, 19 November 2021

Autumn Fading

 


It has been a quiet week for me. I have felt grateful for this, as last weekend went by far too quickly and I really cannot remember accomplishing very much at all. I made four more jars of blackberry and elderberry compote, and a batch of flapjack but I think that might have been it. 
The gloomy, damp days continue but the road gritter, which drove past me on my way to work this week, signalled much colder weather ahead. 


I think it's time for me to be making some firm Christmas plans. Gifts are being sourced occasionally, as and when inpspiration hits, and I already have a few bits and pieces in the cupboard. But I often do this. I get lulled into a false sense of security that I have everything in hand, when in actual fact I find myself rushing around with just a week or so to go, which is not something I enjoy. Much as I don't like starting to plan too early, I also don't like being last minute. I have booked the train tickets for our weekend away, at least, so that's one less thing to worry about. And I'm really looking forward to it, as it will be our first trip away in ages. I'll need to dust off my suitcase.




Here, the trees look very bare now. Many autumn leaves lie fallen on the ground, and once vibrant colours are fading into dirty brown mulch. Still, they are beautiful in their own way. It is as though the earth is gradually winding down into it's long winter's sleep. It won't be long before I'm eagerly checking the forecast for signs of snow. 


It feels to me like it's almost time. Time to offset the gloom with sparkle, fairy lights and festive magic. Candles that lend a warm glow to a room, hot mulled cider, and cosy woollen blankets draped over sofas.

J. X

Thursday, 11 November 2021

November

 

The grey and gloomy weather has returned once again. Not so much pouring with rain but the damp drizzly kind that turns my already unruly hair into something that almost needs it's own postal address. I have an ongoing battle of wills with my curls, one which I don't expect I will ever win, and most definitely not at the first sign of any rain. I can only ever dream of hair that sits beautifully and requires minimal effort to style each morning. I suppose if nothing else, it does at least help me to appreciate the colder days when I can just keep most of it under control beneath a woolly hat.

And it was cold here on Bonfire Night. I had a lovely evening. All the girls were here and after 'feasting' on some pizza we headed out into the garden, where we made a fire in the chiminea. The slightly worse-for-wear pumpkins were lit, marshmallows got toasted and we made the most of watching  fireworks being set off nearby.  We also enjoyed some warming Winter Spice cordial, which might just have contained a rather generous glug of red wine. Oh, and there were some sparklers as well! Thanks to the very generous lady in front of me at the supermarket, who insisted we share the very last four packets between us. I was very touched. People can be so kind.


The following day we went for a walk in the woods with the local Wildlife Trust group. It had been a while since we enjoyed one of their sessions, dates initially clashing with other activities, then the meet-ups were put on hold because of the restrictions, so you can imagine how lovely it felt to see everyone again. It is a small, friendly group and we were soon chatting away as we walked along - usually about the children, isn't that often the way. The day had been forecast to be wet and windy and we had arrived prepared in our waterproofs, but fortunately the worst of the weather held off until we had finished our walk, even leaving enough time for a play on the rope swings and enjoy a drink of hot chocolate beneath the trees. I also took along some of my home made treacle toffee to share.





The woodland floor was a thick carpet of golden leaves and in some places it became quite tricky to figure out the direction of the path. We had a lot of fun trying to catch the leaves being blown from the trees, but the blustery wind meant they were travelling much too fast for us on this occasion. Perhaps we should count the one that landed slap bang in the middle of Lily's hot chocolate. She wasn't very impressed :)

At home, I feel like I could use another week off to catch up with everything that I've fallen behind with recently. Earlier this week I did, at least, manage to finally clear the wild flowers from the garden and ensure the bird feeder was thoroughly cleaned and filled, in anticipation of receiving lots of visitors over the colder months. I also managed to sweep all the leaves  from the porch, although I'm sure it will have filled up again by the end of the week. 🍂🍂🍂

J. X

Monday, 1 November 2021

Rainy Days and Pumpkins

 


Once again, thank you so very much for all your lovely messages. I cannot begin to express just how much it means to me knowing I am in your thoughts. I will reply to you all very soon, I promise. With each day that passes my heart feels just a little bit lighter. 


So, my time off didn't go quite to plan. For obvious reasons I cancelled our planned trip away. It wouldn't have felt right, and in all honesty I wouldn't have been able to enjoy myself. It was a shame really, as the weather on the east coast looked to have been much brighter than at home. To say it has been a bit wet here would be an understatement, and my heart goes out to those who's homes and businesses have been affected by flooding yet again. Wind and rain lashing against the windows has been the soundtrack to much of the week, standing water covered many of the roads and any unnecessary travel has been avoided.


Because of this I have been mainly hunkered down at home and unusually for me I've hardly ventured out, preferring instead to stay cosy and dry indoors. We did, however, go out just for a short while, so that we could choose our Hallowe'en pumpkins and I spent a very productive afternoon carving them. It never ceases to amaze me how I manage to do this without somehow causing myself serious injury, although I suspect it's very much down to good fortune rather than my knife skills. 
And I didn't let anything go to waste either. The flesh was quickly turned into some delicious spiced pumpkin soup and the seeds were gently tossed in olive oil before roasting them in the oven. They taste so so good, and are very moreish. If you've never tried roasting them before, I can definitely recommend it. Just be careful not to eat them all in one go. 





At the weekend, and during another brief respite from the unrelenting rain, we put on our boots and set out to enjoy just a small part of what autumn has to offer. The leaves are changing rather rapidly now and with the sun making a brief appearance it was wonderful to spend some time amongst the beautiful seasonal colours. I would like to say we enjoyed kicking through the crisp fallen leaves, but disappointingly they were far more soggy than they were crunchy - still pretty though, especially in the bright sunshine.


Last night we welcomed some delightfully scary looking characters at our door for Hallowe'en, and you know it really did feel so good after the quiet of last year. During the evening many chocolates and sweets were given and received. I always end up buying far too many but they never seem to last long in this house. 


I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this here before, but Hallowe'en is also a special day for another reason. It is the day I officially adopted Mog! It has now been six years since Lily and I drove to the animal shelter and brought her back home to live with us. 
I think she's happy to be here. 

J. X



Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Gently Does It

I would like to thank everyone who left such kind and thoughtful messages on my previous post, and also to those who contacted me directly. It means so very much to me to know there are virtual arms wrapped around me just now, and your words are held most dear.



It's a difficult time and although outwardly I appear to be continuing as usual, I am finding it a monumental effort to complete even the most simple of tasks. In fact, without the routine of my working week, it has become increasingly difficult for me to find the motivation to attempt very much at all. This is fine, however, and all part of the process, no doubt. It's just taking a bit of getting used to, going completely against my usual 'get on with it' attitude. I'm learning to go with the flow and prioritise the basics, such as cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry but, importantly and most unlike me, I am resting whenever I feel the need. 



With the weather having been gloomy and miserable of late, it was with great relief we were able to seize the opportunity for a walk on Monday morning. That I could manage - literally putting one foot in front of the other. I can think of no better way to clear my head and switch off for a while. Gentle exercise and fresh air are the best forms of therapy, in my opinion, and I did feel so much better for it. Returning home feeling tired but relaxed, and my heavy heart just that little bit lighter. 

J. X


Monday, 18 October 2021

Hot Sweet Tea and Rest

 


When I took these photographs at the beginning of last week, I was blissfully happy to be out walking again. The fells are looking beautiful just now, as the rich autumn colours begin to take hold.





I was still feeling under the weather, but I always say some fresh Lakeland air will help with most ailments, and the walk itself, although scenic, was not over strenuous. On that particular day it was just what I needed.



I had been trying to take care of myself as much as possible but by Tuesday evening I was completely floored with this cold. Then two days later, very sadly, my dad passed away. 
If I am quiet here for a while, I'm sure you will understand.

J. X