2016: the year of spaciousness

Because there's more to life than work


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September and new starts

IMG_2819Wow, that was a long break from blogging – work and life just kind of overtook me. But September always feels like a New Year to me, and so it’s time to dust off the cobwebs and get going on this again. Truth be told, the blog had been starting to feel a bit samey – having gone through a full year on it, I felt like I was going over old ground and wasn’t getting the same buzz out of posting that I had been. So I’m looking forward to getting started afresh, and sharing the things that bring joy to my life (apart from my OH as that would just get nauseating), which at the moment are:

  • Sewing – new hobby, but am inordinately proud of the messenger bag, tote bag and cushion that I’ve made recently. The curtains could have been a leap too far…
  • Cooking – great recent discovery was the blackberry, almond and cardamom cake in this month’s Simple Things (seriously good) by Signe Johansen. I just used the crushed seeds from 5 cardamom pods as I didn’t have any ground cardamom and it was perfect.
  • Being outdoors – walking in the dunes this year has been such a release (and was the source of the aforementioned blackberries)
  • Reading – recently rediscovered the ‘Merrily Watkins’ series by Phil Rickman and am re-reading them from the start – they are brilliant, hard to categorise stories – they’re often in the ‘crime’ section at the library but in fact are keenly observed stories with a supernatural undercurrent about Merrily’s work as a female vicar and ‘deliverance consultant’ (or ‘exorcist’) in the Welsh borders. Sounds a bit bizarre but they are wonderfully down to earth and believable – do try them if you’ve not come across them.
  • Inspirational stuff – haven’t come up with a better title than this for it at the moment, but I’ll just say that if you like listening to great speakers head for the Do Lectures, and for a great online read you can’t beat Holstee – their theme for September is ‘Balance’ and am so looking forward to reading it.

Happy September everyone!

 

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Unwinding

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I’ve recently reverted to a childhood pleasure: colouring books. This is mainly because of a lovely Christmas gift from my other half of the above book: Secret Garden by Johanna Basford. This amazing book takes colouring to a completely new level – with its minute detail and stunning designs it’s really not aimed at children. Having a quick look around the web today too, it was clear to see that lots of people use it in just the same way I do: it’s a great way to switch off and wind down.

IMG_2692I’ve been using Stabilo pens (pictured on my blogpost here last year) to colour mine and they seem to work really well, they have fine points but also enable you to colour larger areas without leaving too many tide marks. If you’re a frustrated artist looking for something creative and quick, do try this book – I’m planning on framing some of the pages when I finish them as they’re so lovely.

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In addition to my artistic endeavours, I’ve been trying a new scone recipe today:Blueberry, lime and coconut scones from a Jo Wheatley recipe in Sainsbury’s mag this month. They were absolutely delicious, but I had to use almost double the amount of milk stated to get the dough to bind together – maybe my lime was a bit small. I always find that’s a problem when recipes just state ‘juice of a lemon/lime/orange’ as the amount of juice you get varies widely. Beautiful combination of flavours though, highly recommended 🙂

 


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Ingredients for the perfect Saturday afternoon

Sunshine, warm enough to take your jacket off and roll your sleeves up.

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Miles of paths to wander and explore.

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Good company.

IMG_2531Loads of plants and wildlife – rabbits scattering ahead of us, buzzards and curlews wheeling overhead, and dazzling reed beds.

IMG_2536Quick drive home for a cafetiere of freshly ground coffee and a newly made Chocolate Guinness Cake.

IMG_2539Such an easy cake to make – one of Nigella’s recipes – and I follow the recipe exactly except I use half the icing sugar in the topping as I don’t like really sweet icing. It would be a great first cake to make as it’s such a simple technique and tastes absolutely sublime. It’s probably not that low calorie though, so we only make it on special occasions (it’s my birthday this week :-)).

IMG_2542Honestly, make it. You won’t regret it. Unless you are trying to wear something close fitting tomorrow.


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Here comes the sun!

So fantastic to see blue skies this morning, and great mood booster. I have to say I was not in a good state of mind this morning: I’ve just been experiencing that horrible realisation that the hair cut I had on Friday that looked fab in the hairdressers, when washed and styled by me today makes me look like I cut it myself in a fit of temper. Why does this happen?? If any of you have hints on how to make an angled bob lie flat and look like it’s angled, rather than that you just stuck a bowl on your head and cut around it, please comment: I’ll be very grateful.

So while my lovely other half has gone to do the food shop so I could calm down (‘I can tell you’re not really up to it’), I thought a blog post would be just the thing to take my mind off it. So what’s been happening? Lots of cooking good stuff like the garlic and rosemary focaccia he made last week:

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Quite a bit of embroidery – really like the way the black embroidery over the colours makes it look like the leading on a Tiffany lamp:

IMG_2430And some admiring of the spring flowers that are starting to appear in the garden. So lovely to see colour again after all the grey and rain of January.

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IMG_2440The first crocuses are really starting to open out now, and saw the first of the Iris reticulatas this morning too.

IMG_2435These are incredibly tiny – the whole flower is about half the size of my thumb at the moment.

The hellebores are also getting into their stride – I’ve seen people arrange these by floating the flowerheads in a bowl like waterlilies, which is a great idea as the centres are so spectacular and you can’t admire them properly when they’re hanging down.

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Ah. That’s better. Diversionary tactics worked nicely. The haircut will grow out, and it’s not that big a deal in the scheme of things. Shining sun, spring on the way and a partner who’ll do a dull chore on his own to give me some time out – that’s the important stuff that’s worth celebrating.

 

 


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Luscious lemon cake

IMG_2417The baking of the lemon cake was postponed last night, as on closer examination the loaf tin size suggested in Sainsbury’s magazine seemed to have been a misprint – I couldn’t find anywhere on line that sold loaf tins that were 13cm x 7cm, and my small tin was way bigger than that, plus the quantities seemed strangely small. So I resorted to the tried and tested BBC Good Food Lemon drizzle cake instead, and it worked perfectly.

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It’s cooling now and will shortly be demolished by myself and my other half who’s just returned from a long run (and I had a run this morning too, so we’ve earned it. No question.)


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I love weekends

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It’s warm, quiet, the house smells of mixed spice and there are rock cakes cooling on the kitchen worktop. There’s a tickly feeling at the back of my throat as I try to fight off the cold that OH has had since New Year, but a cup of tea and warm cake is making it go away nicely. I had a fantastic lie-in this morning, the food shop is out of the way, and I am mulling over which creative project to go and do next (probably my crewel embroidery that’s been the fave choice so far this week).

Can we have weekends every day please?


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Joys of running

I am loving my running at the moment. I’ve been doing a really slow build programme the last couple of months and am now covering just over 3 miles when I head out. Now I know this is nothing by most runners’ standards, but for someone who couldn’t even get round a 400m track at school, this is an achievement.

One of the things that has made a real difference for me is being able to do it in the middle of the day now that I work for myself (it still feels strange saying that). I find it makes a perfect break after several hours slaving over a hot laptop, and whatever stress has accumulated over the morning has gone by the time I get back.

IMG_2150Of course, it helps no end being able to get out into nature rather than just streets.

IMG_2148The local park is less than 10 minutes away at a slow jog, and most of the way is off-road down a disused railway line, usually deserted apart from the odd dogwalker in the middle of the day and often home to several squirrels.

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So many amazing colours as the leaves give it one last, final blast before winter.

IMG_2151I’d have had to do a lot more than 3 miles though to work off tonight’s tea: cheese, apple, onion and thyme pie from BBC Good Food.

IMG_2156Honestly, I don’t know who thinks up these portion sizes. Serves 10??? Not a chance 🙂