Friday 31 December 2021

Last Walk of the Year


Just like last year, New Year's Eve has been spent mainly at home. The tree is still up, but this evening I took down some more of the cards and I expect I will spend a while reading through them all again tomorrow.

This afternoon we went for a walk along the river. We did the exact same walk last year, although the weather had been much colder then. The heavy rain we've experienced recently meant the water was much higher than usual, so we took care to keep away from the edge. That didn't stop Lily from slipping on the mud, however, so a change of clothes was required when we got home :)

Beneath the trees, there were signs of new life if we looked close enough. I always find this reassuring. An early sign of the approaching brighter days. 

The pathway was quiet, shared only with a few others, also taking advantage of the dry weather.

One of the benefits of walking directly from home instead of needing to drive, was that I could enjoy a short break for some liquid refreshment. You probably can't tell from the photograph but the glass is only a miniature - I promise!

This evening, we've had pizza for dinner, followed by some homemade cookies, still warm from the oven. I've made sure to amend my booking for next year's Christmas markets (all being well), I've lit the last of the festive scented candles, and the tree lights are switched on. Unusually for me, I've even watched a film - New Year's Eve! - of course. I'm not sure yet, whether I will stay awake to see in the New Year, but I've highlighted the BBC's Hogmanay celebrations just in case. 

For me 2021 will always be remembered with sadness, but I must not forget the happy memories I've created throughout the year.

All that's left for me to do now is to wish everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year. And then, perhaps, I'll pour myself another Baileys.

J. X

Thursday 30 December 2021


The weather today has been miserable, overcast and gloomy, and it has rained continuously since late morning. It has been so dark recently that even my houseplants are beginning to droop and show signs of lacking enough sunlight - I understand how they must be feeling :) I might need to reposition the ones furthest from the window.

There has been some more removing of Christmas decorations. This time the kitchen and dining room have been on the receiving end of my spontaneous cleaning. The little kitchen tree has been returned to the garden once again and the window garland is back in it's box. I may even tackle the living room tomorrow,  I'll see how I feel. Lily doesn't like it when I pack away the Christmas things, but as she would quite happily leave the decorations up all year round, I won't use her heavy heart as an excuse to leave them up for too much longer. I also worked my way through a large pile of ironing -  seriously, where does it all come from? -  and then I flattened some boxes ready to take for recycling. Neither very exciting, but necessary. 

This afternoon we went swimming. It has been a few weeks since I've been in the water and it felt good to be doing some sort of physical activity that didn't involve being wrapped up in several layers in order to keep myself warm. That said, a little extra heating of the pool wouldn't have gone amiss. It just meant I needed to keep moving, which, after the excesses of Christmas, was not such a bad thing. Lily, of course, thoroughly enjoyed herself and, as usual, it took some persuasion to get her out of the water at the end of our session.

Tomorrow, I expect I'll spend a quiet day at home. At the moment I don't  have any plans but, weather permitting, I can hopefully get out for a walk at some point. 

J. X

Wednesday 29 December 2021

A Restful Day


Fortunately, besides feeling a little tired and achy, I haven't felt too bad following my vaccination. My arm has been a little swollen - unsurprisingly - but I've taken some paracetamol and drunk plenty of water, so I'm sure I'll be as right as rain again by tomorrow.

After yesterday's excitement, I decided a quiet day spent at home might be for the best. Even if I'd had any notion of going out, perhaps only for a short walk, the dark pewter sky and rain lashing against the windows this morning was enough for me to change my mind. It was grim.

Instead, I stuck to my original plan of cleaning out the kitchen and sorting through the cupboards. Never let it be said I don't know how to have a good time :)
Seriously though,  it felt good. I now know exactly what I have in the fridge and freezer , I can clearly see what is in the cupboard, and I'm sure I must have enough wine to last me until next Christmas! 

For some reason, this year, I feel more ready than usual to let go of the Christmas decorations. Everything is beginning to look just a little tired. The wooden snowflakes, which fell over several days ago now, are still lying there waiting to be picked up, and some of the greenery has begun to look far from fresh. I've already taken down the wooden reindeer lights, which were hung beneath the kitchen wall units, and thrown out some of the holly from the coffee table. I expect more will follow tomorrow and I wouldn't be surprised if they don't all get packed away by the weekend. I would probably be tempted to do it now if it wasn't for Lily. 

For now, at least, the candles are lit and I can relax in the glow of the tree lights, while enjoying a glass of my Spiced Blackberry Vodka. We've loved decorating our little tree again this year, but I'm not sure if it will make it indoors next Christmas - Lily is wanting to go bigger!

J. X

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Woodland Wander


Having asked myself on numerous occasions what day it is, not to mention having had little concept of time, I have finally found myself in that period between Christmas and New Year where I have no idea what on earth I'm doing, and I quite like it. In all honesty today has passed in a bit of a blur. I know I have eaten too much chocolate, drunk far too much coffee and not done anywhere near enough housework, but as I'm not expecting any visitors at anytime soon, I will readily overlook that :)

This morning I went for my booster. Now unlike my previous appointments, where some kind, gentle souls very carefully administered my vaccinations, today I was subjected to someone I can only describe as a young child in training, who proceeded to jab me quite forcefully in the top of my arm before I'd even had chance to roll my sleeve up properly. To say I was shocked was an understatement. Even the second volunteer, who was recording my details, was clearly taken by surprise and went out of her way to make sure I was okay afterwards. Not to worry, at least it was quick. I was grateful he had volunteered his services and I'd like to think perhaps his technique improved as the day went on :)

This afternoon, as I was fortunately not feeling any side effects, we took a short walk through the woods and out towards the pond. Even at only 2 o'clock the light was already flat and low, and it felt as though it could have been much later in the day. The path through the woods was very muddy beneath our feet and I was glad we had decided to wear our wellies. The obligatory sticks were gathered and the stream explored before wending our way back up the steep hill as darkness began to fall. Momentarily the sun broke through the cloud casting a beautiful light across the trees. 

This evening, I've been taking it easy, and I won't be long out of bed. Tomorrow, the forecast doesn't look so great, so I think I will take the opportunity to have a tidy through and at least clear the kitchen. It's all looking a bit of a mess right now. 

J. X

Monday 27 December 2021

Back on the Ice

It has been two years since we've been skating but we finally made it back on the ice. Since the last time, Lily has grown in confidence and there was no stopping her. She loved it. 

What a wonderful way to spend our afternoon. 

J. X

Sunday 26 December 2021


Even though I am enjoying a quieter festive season this year, there was still no escaping the gradual build up and and general anticipation. Therefore, my post Christmas slump has landed much earlier than I expected. I've felt exhausted today. Rather than over indulgence, I think it probably has more to do with  having almost reached the end of another chaotic year in survival mode, and now I have finally allowed myself to relax. 

I'm not complaining, however. I've had a lovely Christmas and have spent much of today relaxing and doing very little. There aren't many days in the year when I can actually achieve this. 

We did manage to get out for a gentle walk this afternoon. The weather was a little wetter than had been forecast, so we cut it a little short and went through the woods, instead of up and over the hill. This is one of my favourite routes, as it is little known there, and usually very quiet, although today it was incredibly muddy underfoot. We had to be very careful not to slip. We took a slight detour from the main path to visit a very old Yew tree, which is said to be around 1600 years old! It looks remarkably well,  considering. 

As well as being damp, the weather was very cold, and so we didn't hang around for very long. Returning home, I was quick to warm up again with a mug of hot chocolate, and I also put my Christmas present of some slippers to good use. They are the cosiest pair I've ever owned.

This evening, my Boxing Day tradition of Biryani was much appreciated, and my day was rounded off with a small glass of Baileys. I might have to have a sort out in the kitchen tomorrow, as with all the generous gifts I've been given, it curently resembles a small off licence!

J. X

Saturday 25 December 2021

Christmas Day


And just like that...

It's been a lovely couple of days. This Christmas was never going to be easy for me, but with some careful consideration and little in the way of expectation, it has turned out to have been one of the most relaxed and stress free years I have known in a long time. Just what I needed, in fact. 

Following a gentle afternoon walk, the annual family Christmas Eve buffet was a huge success, and I think I may have eaten my own body weight in cheese. Baked camembert with homemade cranberry sauce, and some crusty bread for dipping, a cheese board and some of my courgette chutney, followed by some freshly baked chocolate Yule log covered in Baileys buttercream -  delicious! Excitement levels were high, so it was gone 11pm before Lily finally fell asleep, and I wasn't far behind.

I was awake all too soon. Mog had been keen to start the day and expected me to keep her company. I didn't mind really, it was lovely to drink my coffee whilst enjoying the quiet of the early morning, as I knew it wouldn't remain that way for very long.

The usual frenzy passed me by this year and our morning was a calm and unhurried affair. Presents were exchanged - all of them having been thoughtfully chosen - and, along with many others, Lily was thrilled to receive the one gift she had been hoping would be under the tree this Christmas morning. I'm calling it a success! Our roast dinner was cooked in as simple a way as I could manage and it was incredibly tasty. This afternoon, we went out for a lovely, albeit very chilly, walk down by the river, arriving home just as darkness fell and in plenty of time to call in on family and wish them a Merry Christmas. 

This evening has been spent mainly with my feet up and enjoying a glass of wine. Now, I think I might just treat myself to another mince pie - It is Christmas, after all.

J. X

Friday 24 December 2021

Happy Christmas!


"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" 

J. X

Thursday 23 December 2021

All Wrapped Up


I've only just gone and done it! After spending a half hour locked away in my bedroom, all the presents  are finally wrapped. Now I can rest easy knowing the hardest part is over with. With a little one in the house, keeping the magic alive for as long as possible isn't always easy, but it will be worth it to see Lily's eyes light up on Christmas morning.

I woke earlier than usual this morning. Something disturbed my sleep shortly after 4am and then my mind started to wander to what I needed from the supermarket, what else needs to be done before Saturday, and what do I need to remember to take out of the freezer. There was nothing else for it, other than to get out of bed and write myself a list. Fortunately, an early start also meant I could get to the supermarket before the rush, and so I was back home with everything on my list by nine o'clock. What a relief, I really don't enjoy shopping, even less so when it is busy. And better still, I managed to fit everything I needed into the fridge freezer. It took a bit of rearranging, but I should now have enough in there to last me until next week.

After my second coffee of the morning, I set about clearing the huge pile of ironing, before topping up the bird feeder and cleaning our walking boots, which was quite a job in itself - somehow they had gotten filthy with mud yesterday. 

This afternoon I baked some mince pies. This is a sure sign we are getting closer to the big day. Mincemeat shortbread is my preferred choice and it is so much easier for taking with us when we go walking, but on Christmas Eve only a proper mince pie will do. 

And of course, I had to try one, just to make sure they tasted delicious. 

J. X

Wednesday 22 December 2021

A Short Walk From Settle

I often feel a sense of relief when we pass the winter solstice. Just the knowledge that our daylight hours are now increasing, even though it will be a while before it becomes apparent. That first moment when it becomes noticeable gives me a little boost, as these dark winter days take their toll after some time.

Yesterday, we returned to Settle. We hadn't been back since the end of August, when the Flowerpot Festival was taking place, and I really wanted to walk the short loop from the town over to Sugar  Loaf Hill.  The weather was similar to the previous day. It was chilly and overcast but the air was still and, most importantly, it was forecast to remain dry. Initially, the path climbed sharply from the market square with views overlooking the town and the hills beyond, before levelling out where we reached the dramatic Warrendale Knotts, complete with a small cave to explore.

Being surrounded by hills, Lily discovered the area lent itself well to echoing her voice, therefore the words 'bottom', 'underpants' and 'bogies' could probably be heard from quite some distance away :) Sugar Loaf Hill itself was quite uninspiring - I didn't even take a photograph! But it was a really lovely walk. I'm sure the views would have stretched further on a clear day, and the limestone scenery made a pleasant change from our usual Lake District views.

Before heading back downhill towards the lane into Settle, we stopped at a sheltered spot to enjoy our lunch. It wasn't long before the cold began to set in and I was thankful for my flask of hot chocolate - it seems to be becoming a habit! I had brought some hand warmers with me, but for some reason they didn't work and it was ages before I could feel my fingers again, even with my gloves on. Arriving back in the town again, we had a look around at the many beautiful festive window displays and the delightfully decorated tree in the square, before returning to the car.

Edited to add, I forgot to post this charming 'Twelve Days of Christmas' display in an old telephone box, which we passed by on our way back into town. Although, I think one of the geese may have flown away :)

Finally, late last night, I made a start on my Christmas wrapping. My initial intention of wrapping as I went along didn't quite go to plan. Next year, maybe :)

J. X

Tuesday 21 December 2021


Peace, love and light. Solstice blessings. 

J. X

Monday 20 December 2021

A Big Rock!

When i woke early this morning, the field behind the house was frosted and white, yet in the short time it took for me to drink my coffee, the temperature had risen quite dramatically and it had all but thawed. Quite a contrast from the previous day's bitter chill.
Breakfast eaten and with a light lunch packed, we were soon on our way towards Rosthwaite, a small village in the Borrowdale valley, and the start of our walk today.

The path led us away from the River Derwent and rose steeply through the trees, before opening up on the fellside with views of the village below. Light wisps of cloud hung low in the valley and the air was perfectly still. It was so very quiet there, the only sound we could hear was the barking of farm dogs far below us.

It didn't take long before we reached the summit,  and it was there that  we sat and enjoyed our lunch. I could see Keswick in the distance, although the view was missing several of it's distinguishing fells, all hidden beneath a bank of cloud.

After retracing our steps back to the car  we drove a little further along the road to somewhere Lily had been most excited to visit. I mean, who needs the fun of an Edinburgh Christmas Market when you can have the sheer joy of a huge rock! The Bowder Stone. It is not known if this is an erratic or if it has broken off from the Crag above. What is known,  however,  is the awe in which it is viewed by a certain eight year old - we had to climb up those steps at least three times, and it's a lot higher than it looks! 

After a little rest, and a delicious slice of the mincemeat shortbread, we walked down to the lake shore, where Lily spent some more time practising her stone skimming skills. 

This evening I've enjoyed a glass of Baileys, some Quality Street and a well earned rest. And I still haven't wrapped any of my presents!

J. X

Sunday 19 December 2021

Jack Frost Nipping at My Nose

It was still incredibly cold when I woke this morning. As I crept quietly downstairs and into the kitchen, my head was turned by the brightness of the full moon shining in through the window. It was beautiful. The Cold Moon, a sign of the approaching solstice, and with it the ever increasing daylight hours. I sat alone and drank my first coffee of the day, before checking the bird feeder, then hanging up the laundry to dry.

Just as I had promised, Lily's bedding was changed. Every Christmas she likes to use the same Santa and reindeer duvet cover that she has had for years now, and I must admit even I think it is quite cute, especially considering I'm not a fan of the bearded one! I've also bought some new fitted sheets with Christmas trees on. They're brushed cotton, so are extra cosy.

Mid morning, we wrapped up well and went out for a walk. Even in our hats, scarves and gloves it was all we could do to keep warm. The grass and leaves crunched beneath our feet, as I wrapped my scarf around just that little bit tighter, slightly regretting my decision not to wear my salopettes, as the cold air seeped through my jeans. 
A short stop off at a nearby cafe provided me with an opportunity for a quick warm up. My icy cold fingers grateful to be wrapped around a steaming mug of Hot chocolate. 

Any respite was shortlived,  however, as the return to the car was just as chilly. By this time my nose had turned pink and my fingers were going numb. I should know by now, that my body does not deal with cold weather very well, as when I got home it took me an age until i was feeling properly warm again. Thank goodness for cosy sofas and warm snuggly blankets.

This evening, I finally got around to baking a tray of mincemeat shortbread. I had originally intended to bake some individual mince pies but as we will no doubt be going out walking later on in the week, some slices of shortbread are far easier to wrap up and take with me. If, indeed, it lasts that long ;)

J. X

Saturday 18 December 2021

On a Cold and Frosty Morning


Yesterday, I spent much of the evening resting on the sofa, enjoying a glass of port, this last week of work before the Christmas holidays began had been joyous and exhausting in equal measure. But it wasn't without disappointment, as last night I made the sad decision to cancel our trip to Edinburgh to visit this year's Christmas markets. I must admit, it wasn't an easy decision, as I had been looking forward to it all year, having booked the hotel way back in January when I naively assumed the current situation would have vastly improved - how wrong could I have been! Having deliberated over my decision for some time, once it was reached, I felt relieved. Proof if ever was needed it was the right choice in the end. Never mind, we will still enjoy ourselves, just closer to home. And fingers crossed, we just might get there next year, although I have a feeling things will get worse before they get better.

Anyway, this morning dawned unexpectedly bright and frosty, a pleasant surprise. I discovered this as I tiptoed outside at 7am to top up the bird feeder. Two more fat balls into the cage and some clean water replacing the solid block of ice which had formed in the dish. I will need to replenish the bags of seed this week, as it looks as though the chilly weather might be with us for a while.

After a warming breakfast of porridge and compote, I took myself off for a walk alongside the river. By this time a low mist had descended over the fields and the sun had all but disappeared. Previously muddy footpaths were frozen beneath my feet and the evidence of recent storms was apparent, as I needed to make a couple of short detours to avoid fallen trees. 

It was so quiet and still there. The river flowed almost silently beside me, the fields stood empty of cattle, now that winter is almost upon us. It felt good. Restorative even. I had spent most of the last week working indoors and, although tired, the lack of any form of exercise  had left me feeling restless and twitchy. 

At the halfway point I turned away from the riverside to return along a track which ran closer to the road. A little robin kept me company for a while, jumping from post to post on the fence beside the path. Here, I quickened my pace, as by this time I was ready to return home again. The mist hung low over the fields and even though I was wrapped up well, I was beginning to feel the cold.

I've spent the rest of the day catching up with the housework and I've promised Lily I will put the Christmas duvet covers on tomorrow. Then, who knows, I might finally get around to making those mince pies.

J. X

Friday 17 December 2021

Christmas Countdown


It's been a wonderful, magic filled and incredibly busy day, but it's time now to relax. 

J. X

Thursday 16 December 2021

Cinnamon and Cloves


Much as I have thoroughly enjoyed working this week, I know that by tomorrow afternoon I'll be relieved to finish for the holidays. I feel exhausted. My decision to drop off a Christmas card 'only fifteen minutes out of my way' after Lily's swimming lesson this evening, and at the end of an already long day, was not one of my better ones, so I won't be long out of bed. The recipients were not even in, so I just had to put it through the letterbox. I should have just posted it in the first place. I'll know better next year :)

This morning I was reading Sue's blog, when she happened to post about one of my most favourite things to eat - shortbread. I love it. And I meant it when I commented that I would happily pass on any type of cake or biscuit for  piece of good shortbread. For something so simple it really is delicious. And I also meant it when I said I would then have to bake some for myself, which I did, except I added a generous pinch of cinnamon and cloves to mine, just to give it a Christmassy flavour. I'm glad I remembered to pick up some more at the supermarket last week, as I've recently been adding it to my compote and I will also be using it in my mincemeat shortbread when I finally get around to making it next week. I always associate both flavours with this time of year.

This is the recipe if you would like to bake some yourself. 

Tomorrow is the last day of the school term, and that means Christmas parties. Lily is so excited and will be wearing her 'something sparkly' for the occassion. I've sent all my cards, I've bought all my gifts. Now I'm looking forward to having the time to relax and make the most of the festive season. 

J. X

Wednesday 15 December 2021



My day began very early, as it always does. Mog was slow to stir, still feeling a little sorry for herself, having eaten a mouse which disagreed with her! I enjoyed my coffee in the quiet of those early hours, without so much as the gentle hum of the central heating boiler in the background. An hour or two of calm before heading out to work. It's been a busy week and I'm looking forward to enjoying some time off after I finish on Friday. 

Just as I had hoped, a quick trip into town and I've completed my Christmas gift buying. I admit, it's a relief. I don't have many people to buy for but it feels good to know I have one less thing to 'worry' about. I don't get caught up in the frenzy at this time of year, I'm just not a natural shopper and if I'm not careful I can find the whole thing quite stressful. This is something I have simply refused to get on board with these last few years - first world problems at their best. I'm going to see if I can set aside some time to make a start on the wrapping tomorrow, as I would quite like to have it finished in time for the weekend. 

This afternoon I planted some hyacinth bulbs into my copper pot. Six bright green shoots, with the promise of some beautiful scented flowers in the coming weeks.  I did intend to display some sprigs of holly in the centre of the dining table but, for now at least, this is where I have put the bulbs, as a reminder that, 'If winter comes, can spring be far behind?'

J. X

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Putting My Feet Up


It has been a gentle sort of  a day, and as such it has been most welcome for this time of year. A time to recharge and restore. Uncomplicated and routine. I've hand delivered some more of my Christmas cards, taken a trip to the post office to send those which are for friends further afield, and collected an online gift order. I only need to go into the town tomorrow to find one more present, and I can relax, as then there will only be the food to sort out. 

More cards are arriving each day and there are already several presents beneath the tree. This year it looks like I'll be set for wine and chocolates :)

J. X

Monday 13 December 2021

A Very Berry Christmas


I was awake early this morning and immediately I felt a slight sense of panic. I was feeling exhausted, a little bit shivery, and my neck and shoulders ached. You can probably imagine what I was thinking. Thankfully, it was just a few moments later, that I realised my tiredness was probably because it was still only 5.30am. I was shivering because the heating doesn't come on until 6, and my neck and shoulders were aching as a consequence of my mildly aggressive use of the hacksaw yesterday. Suffice to say I was feeling  lot more 'with it' by the time I had finished my coffee, and the aching lessened as the day went on. 

Today's 'festive' has been the making of more blackberry and elderberry compote, and finally straining the spiced blackberry vodka that has been quietly resting at the back of the kitchen cupboard for the last three months - I had almost forgotten about it! It seems such a long time ago now that Lily and I went foraging for those fruits, way back in the middle of September, but the vodka, especially, is always worth the wait. The length of the steeping process works out perfectly for Christmas enjoyment, and the added cinnamon and cloves help give it a delicious festive flavour.

It was 'such a pity', therefore, that I didn't have enough bottles. I ended up needing to pour myself a small glassful. Well, I really wouldn't want to waste any :)

I've finished decorating for Christmas now. I just need to cut some more holly for the dining room, but I will leave that until next week, so that it stays fresh. Oh, and I've finally made a start on my gift wrapping!

J. X

Sunday 12 December 2021

Christmas Trees

I had a rather un-festive start to my day, which involved a supermarket shop, cutting my replacement drain cover to size (the last one blew away in the recent storms), and then, just to top it off, I needed to clean the drain pump filter on my washing machine, after it had stopped mid cycle with a drum full of water. Thankfully, after taking an age to empty the machine manually, the problem was quickly rectified and the offending hair tie removed :)  

I've spent a little while tidying and clearing today. I know it won't be long before the clutter begins to accumulate once more, but for now, at least, the house is looking a lot better. The dining table is visible again, which will come in very handy for when I commence the gift wrapping. I feel quite organised this year with my wrapping paper, ribbons and tags etc. all neat and tidy in their own box. Although, I'd be even more organised if I was actually putting them to use!

This afternoon we went out to visit a charity Christmas Tree festival. It is an annual event where you can buy tokens, which you then donate to your chosen charities as you view the trees. It is always lovely to see the displays and it raises some much needed funds for worthy causes. 

I will leave you with some pictures of my favourites. 

J. X