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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A break in the Lakes

IMG_2546We had an overnight stay in the beautiful Lake District to celebrate my birthday, and were lucky enough to get two dry days on the run.

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We ate some fantastic food (can highly recommend Troutbeck Tearoom for superb soup, quiche, cakes and coffee with wonderful views – the picture above of Windermere is just along the road from them) and also had a lovely walk up to Alcock Tarn near Grasmere yesterday.

IMG_2553This was on our path and is apparently the smallest packhorse bridge anywhere in the Lakes. Really beautiful walk, you could see for miles from the top, and there was still plenty of snow around on the high hills, though it felt like spring in the woods and valleys.

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IMG_2561Great to be out in the fresh air and feeling the sun break through the early morning mist – we were away for less than 36 hours, but it felt like much longer. Perfect midweek break.


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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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On making time

Title of this post is quite ironic really as my poor OH has just spent the last half an hour trying to get WordPress to upload my pics – don’t know if any of you have had problems with this in the last week or so, but looking at the forum it seems I’m not alone with this glitch. Photos keep vanishing and reappearing on my site. But they’re back for now…where was I? Ah yes. Making time.

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IMG_2496If a sunny Saturday morning isn’t a good reason to create some time, I’d like to know what is.

IMG_2497A bee floated by me as I took the photo above and the garden was full of birdsong.

IMG_2498Laptop & weekend work schedule abandoned, we headed for the woods and the sea:

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IMG_2504The storms here on the north west coast haven’t been as bad as many other parts of the UK, but there’s still been a fair bit of coastal erosion. The dunes in particular have seen some dramatic ‘blow outs’ – in one place the sand had virtually covered a small wood and it was extremely weird to be wading about in sand amongst the tops of its branches…

IMG_2505It’s hard to tell scale here, but this ravine is about 50 feet deep, amazing wind sculpture on the sides, looks like sandstone until you touch it and realise it’s actually still just sand.

IMG_2506Clear skies across to Wales – and so much sand blowing along the beach that we felt like we’d been scoured by the time we got back to the woods.

January and February have been busy, exciting and rewarding months, but what I need more than anything right now is some calm, settled weather, sunshine and longer days, and a gentle glide into spring.

 


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Quiet Time

IMG_2373This past week has been soooo relaxing. It’s been great to get up when we like, eat when we’re hungry, and get out and enjoy the weather between storms. We had a fantastic walk down by the salt marshes on Boxing Day where the sky was just full of different flocks of birds – think a lot of them must have been sheltering there from the gales.

IMG_2367Yesterday we headed up to the Lakes. OH had some Christmas money to spend and his eye on some new trail running shoes, the ones he plumped for eventually are indeed things of beauty.

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It was perfectly clear with lots of snow and ice on the highest mountains: discretion was definitely the better part of valour and we admired from a distance, choosing instead to wander on some of our favourite lower paths.

IMG_2377This is down near Friar’s Crag in Keswick, one of our regular walks. We both love the huge pine trees down there, although sadly they’ve had a bit of a battering in recent years from the high gales that sweep down the lake to this little outcrop.

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IMG_2379The light looks like summer, but the wind was stingingly icy, and we only lingered for long enough to take the photos. In summer, we can sit here for ages looking out at the water and hills…this is one of my favourite spots in the world. It was also a big favourite of John Ruskin: this place was his earliest memory and there’s a memorial to him here which you can see if you click through on the link.

IMG_2378Even the roots are beautiful!

It feels easier and easier to slow down the more time I take off…I want to try and hold on to this feeling when I return to normal routine in a few days time, and remember to allow myself space for regular pausing and appreciation. I’m really looking forward to 2014 and what it holds.

Later edit…OH insisted I add a pic of his new shoes – they are rather beautiful!


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Merry Christmas!

I’ve just hit that wonderful ‘pause’ point where you know there are no more ‘to dos’ to get out of the way and just nice stuff lies ahead. This Christmas season has been great for me as I’ve had a long run up to it – for years now Christmas hasn’t felt special at all and I think a lot of that was because I generally worked all day on Christmas Eve and was back at work on the 27th…not much time to get festive really. Being my own boss this year has enabled me to have a proper break, and along the way a lot of the sparkle and magic has returned.

Dramatic sun and showers today:

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Shortly after this a huge hailstorm hit – and then straight after we had sun again. We headed down to the beach and dunes for a walk. Staggering to see the damage from the St Jude’s storm the other week – an entire jetty has been picked up and thrown about 100 yards away at right angles to its original position. Thee are tree trunks and masses of debris everywhere – will be interesting to see how the dunes recover from this reshaping next year.

I always think it looks so odd to see snow on sand:

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The wind was icy, so we headed to our favourite coffee shop for a cake and a warning brew (plus a very welcome tot of port!) before home to finish wrapping the presents and make the tiramisu ready for tomorrow.

IMG_2361Merry Christmas everybody!