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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Spring outing

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Confession time: I bunked off yesterday (technically I’m not sure I can bunk off as I’m my own boss. But you know what I mean) and headed to one of my favourite bits of the countryside (see our visit last spring here) to enjoy the fabulous spring weather. We ran and walked around Beetham and Silverdale on the Lancashire/Cumbria border, an enchanting part of the world full of ruined towers, beautiful little villages and woods that run right down to the sea.

IMG_2721Our route took us past stately homes…

IMG_2727panoramic views…

IMG_2734hundreds of spring flowers…

IMG_2728and a real live fairy door!

IMG_2729Isn’t this the cutest thing you ever saw? It was just to the side of the path by a viewpoint known as the ‘Fairy Steps’ – a very narrow path up a limestone cliff – legend has it that if you reach the top without touching the sides you’ll see a fairy/get a wish. We didn’t manage it, but we did get to see the door. I would have loved this when I was little, and to be honest it quite made my day yesterday too 🙂

IMG_2730After that we headed downhill at a brisk rate for soup and cake at the utterly phenomenal Wolfhouse Kitchen. This cafe is tucked away in a quiet corner between the woods and the sea and serves the most wonderful cakes. Indeed it was so good that we forgot to take any pics of them in our greed, went for a three mile walk afterwards to walk off lunch, went back again for more cakes and coffee and forgot for a second time to take a picture. I had a rhubarb and vanilla friand first, and then a plum, marzipan and vanilla cake. OH had a strawberry, lemon and almond bundt – twice.

No, we didn’t need to eat much when we got in yesterday evening.


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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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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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Recharging my batteries

It’s Friday afternoon, I have a host of work that I should be doing, but I know my brain is tired. So I’m stopping. Doing stuff I enjoy, that engages my senses, reduces the stress response – and returns me fresher and brighter afterwards. So on the agenda is:

Embroidery – I’ve been working on this kit since Christmas and am so enjoying doing this for the first time in years.

IMG_2399Stroll round the garden – looks like it’s going to be an early spring this year with a few flowers already out like hellebores,

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IMG_2405heather,

IMG_2402and the silvery seed pods of honesty just hanging on.

IMG_2411A little light baking – I’m planning on making a lemon drizzle cake from this month’s Sainsbury’s magazine.

Reading – currently enjoying ‘By Blood’ by Ellen Ullman, unsettling and gripping tale of someone who overhears sessions with an analyst in the room next door…

A long, hot bath with the luxurious smellies I got for Christmas.

Browse through the blogs I follow.

Spot of meditation…

I feel better already – what have you got planned to help you wind down this weekend?


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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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The happiness of lemon cake

Yesterday was a truly horrible day. The sort of day where everything seems black, pointless, futile…I think most of us have been there at one time or another. After a slightly better night’s sleep (and am sure the series of broken nights I’ve had this week hadn’t helped my mood at all) things seemed a bit brighter this morning. I got some simple work tasks completed, got some emails out of the way and then – my lovely other half asked if he should have a go at making the lemon and cardamom cake I’d had marked out since last weekend but hadn’t had chance to make.

I didn’t need asking twice!

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So many things about this cheered me up – the fact that he was thoughtful enough to try and create a treat for me when he’s not that into cake baking (okay, he’s partial to cake too, he’s not totally altruistic!), the fantastic scent of lemon and cardamom drifting through the house, the collaboration on the tricky bits (‘What’s this maize meal stuff in the ingredients…why can’t they say polenta then if that’s what they mean??’), the anticipation of warm cake after my lunchtime run – they all combined perfectly to lift my mood considerably.

Lemon cake + run + lovely OH = Happiness, for today at any rate. And really, the here and now is all that matters.

IMG_1944(For those of you who want to try it the recipe is from Tamasin Day-Lewis’s book ‘Good Tempered Food’. The only thing we changed was to reduce the cardamom to 1tsp – but I think the full amount would have been okay too.)