2016: the year of spaciousness

Because there's more to life than work

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Inspiring reading

I love books – I have library cards in 3 separate counties (well, you never know when you might need a book when you’re out and about, right?) and have a room in my house devoted to them, but I found my addiction went up a notch when my other half bought me a Kindle for my birthday last month. I’ve always been adamant I didn’t want one, as I love the feel and look of paper books, so what changed my mind? Briefly, Project Gutenberg. If you have an e-reader and haven’t heard of this, go and have a look. It’s a mind-blowing resource of all out of copyright literature – free of charge. This includes most literature written before the early 1920’s – fiction and non-fiction, and just browsing the author lists throws up some amazing sounding titles (‘Tobogganing on Parnassus’ anyone?)

Last night I downloaded ‘The Enchanted April’ and am really enjoying it – the story of two downtrodden middle-class housewives in 1920’s London who throw caution to the winds and rent a castle in Italy for a month to the shock/disinterest of their respective husbands. The descriptions of their first day in Italy with the sunshine, warmth and flowers is just beautiful – and then I looked out the window and realised it was pretty nice here too, so went for a walk.

Our local park always has a fantastic display of crocuses in spring, and even though I knew they’d been out for a while I hoped the cold weather might have made them last longer. It had!


I go and see these every year and they still take my breath away. It must have been a huge job planting all these originally, but the display they make each spring always seems like the fanfare that kicks off the growing season.


Enchanted March, I think.


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It looks like spring!

Well it might look like spring, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Wall to wall blue sky this morning so we headed off for a walk down to the marshes near our house and the beach. The marshes are part of a big RSPB reserve, and are always full at this time of year of huge flocks of birds – lapwings, geese, gulls, ducks and lots of other breeds that I don’t recognise but which draw in huge crowds of twitchers (bird watchers, for the uninitiated) from autumn through to spring. The views were fantastic right across to the distant hills which are still covered in snow. But wow, it was cold. The wind is coming straight from the East and it can’t have been more than a degree of two above freezing. Found a lovely sheltered hollow behind one of the large dunes and saw this blackthorn tree just coming into flower.

IMG_1080This is about a month late I reckon – they usually start flowering around the end of February round here, but it’s been so cold this year that they’re only just starting to catch up.

Came home and baked a rhubarb cake, only to help myself thaw out, honest.


Such a pretty raw ingredient!


Ready to go in the oven…got the recipe from this month’s The Simple Things Magazine, which I absolutely love, completely antidote to the ‘buy this!’ message of most magazines.

One hour later – we’ve got an appointment with a warm cake and some freshly brewed coffee!


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Sharing the energy

I’ve had a really busy few days with work and not had time to post. However, I’m not feeling exhausted/stressed or many of the emotions that I have felt in the past after a hectic period of work, but rather exhilarated and positive. The reason for that is that over the last 2 days I’ve been spending time with a huge variety of people – of many different ages, backgrounds and nationalities but with one thing in common: wanting to make a positive change, either to themselves or to the world. I don’t think I heard a grumble or moan the entire time. That sort of energy is amazingly beneficial to be around, and you find that energy begets energy – a real positive circle.

How often do we surround ourselves with people or things that make us feel bad and then wonder why it’s so hard to create the change we want to see in our lives? I’m not suggesting a blind ‘let’s ignore the negative’ approach, but rather taking a conscious decision to maybe shift ourselves to a seat away from the annoying colleague who always grumbles about their kids, the weather, their customers – or whatever the equivalent is in your life. Try and spend more time with the things that boost your mood.

It doesn’t always work mind you. I’m bouncing with energy at the moment, but it’s having no impact whatsoever on my cat.


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Staying in the moment

One of the practices I’m trying really hard to implement right now is that of ‘being in the moment’. As one of life’s natural control freaks, I spend a lot of time trying to think through all possible future scenarios and trying to avoid potential (but usually unlikely) disasters. And of course the result of that is experiencing worry and anxiety about things that have never even happened. I have got very tired of my tendency to do this, and am trying instead to remind myself that the only thing I have any control at all over is what I’m doing right now, at this very moment. I can’t alter the past, I can’t predict the future. So how instead can I approach the present moment?

As I’ve thought about this more recently, I’ve found that many of my favourite pastimes involve that ‘being in the moment’ – I’m fully engaged in what I’m doing, but also relaxed, and am also using more than one of my senses. Knitting was one of the ways I chose to reach that state of tranquillity today. I only learnt to knit about 4 years ago, and started because I’d read in a magazine that it was a good way to relax. How right they were. I’ve grown to absolutely love it, and have made some good friends at my local knitting group (and no, we’re not all old ladies. Haven’t you heard that knitting is in again?). Knitting is great as a mindfulness activity on so many levels:

  • Touch – you’re feeling fantastic yarns go through your fingers with every stitch: cool silks, fluffy angoras, velvety alpaca…
  • Sight – the range of colours is just stunning and a delight to look at
  • Sound – the rhythmic click of the needles as you work is soothing
  • Mind – you have to focus on what you’re doing or you can mess up the pattern, but there is often a sequence of repeats that your mind and hands settle into. This allows you to do other stuff too – I love listening to plays or dramas on the radio as I knit. If you haven’t discovered Radio 4 Extra then you’re missing a treat.
  • Creativity – you’re making something completely unique. You can play around with different yarns, colours and stitches to create something that’s just right for you or the person you’re knitting it for. At the moment I’m making some really snuggly fingerless gloves – I thought winter had gone but having seen the reports on the news today of the 20 foot high snowdrifts not far away, I’m sure they’ll be getting some use pretty soon.IMG_1069

How do you stay in the moment? I’d love to hear your tips.

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Alternative plans

Wow! This greeted me when I got up this morning!


As I live by the coast, it’s rare we get snow, and even rarer to get it when spring was officially launched yesterday. So I decided to pass on getting out and about today – plus I had some fairly complex writing to do so knew I needed to focus. Relied heavily therefore on the brilliant online alarm clock to set regular breaks (it sounds just like the end of class bell we used to have at school) so that I came up for air and didn’t get too bogged down. Seeing as outdoors wasn’t looking too welcoming, I grabbed my handweights each time I had a break and chipped away at the mission that is trying to eradicate my bingo wings. They’re not that heavy – each weight is 2.5 pounds -but it doesn’t half warm you up doing a few tricep curls (that’s probably not the correct term. I’m no expert here.).

Like to do a slightly more luxurious meal on a Friday if I get chance, so potatoes dauphinoise was calling to me tonight. Creamy, cheesy, velvety…snow falling outside – happy weekend everyone!


Sorry…we ate it all or I’d offer you some!

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Running free

Today’s been a really good day! I went for not just one but two runs! In case that sounds too impressive, I should probably qualify it by saying that they were just round my block (a whole 0.7134 miles – thanks http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/!) But that’s nearly a mile and a half, and the second time I did it without stopping, so really pleased. Had a very intensive day slaving over a hot laptop, so that slap of fresh (sorry, icy) air at lunch and before tea really brightened me up – and only took about 10 mins each time.

I do like the idea of taking regular exercise breaks when I’ve been hunched over typing for too long, but often find it hard to tear myself away. Doing the runs at bigger punctuation points in the day made sense, and seemed less daunting than finding a bigger chunk of time for a longer run – I haven’t managed to fit one of those in for a while. Plus, research recently has shown that shorter bursts of exercise can be more effective than prolonged ones – so a definite winner http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/02February/Pages/Short%20bursts-of-exercise-good-for-heart.aspx

Last year I was about to give up on running – no matter how much I practiced, I never could build up the ability to run more than the space between 2 lampposts without getting out of breath. Then a blood test showed I was highly anaemic and I started taking iron tablets – and have never looked back. Having had asthma for more than 20 years I assumed that had been my problem – turned out there was just so little iron in my blood there was nothing moving oxygen to my lungs.

So I enjoyed getting these on again today, and hopefully it won’t be so long before we head out together again.