Thursday, 31 January 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...16/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

Joining in with Jen at little birdie, here are a some of the moments which have brought me lots of happiness this week:

1. Blue skies and the smell of washing dried outside in the fresh air.

2. Coffee and a new magazine. More importantly, making the time to sit down and enjoy the coffee and magazine.

3. A bunch of daffodils to brighten up the hall table.

4. A magical walk home after a few hours of very heavy snow last Friday night. I took the above photos on my phone. A group of friends and I went out for a curry and when we couldn't get a taxi home we walked. It wasn't far, just under two miles, and I enjoyed it so much. I was wearing a warm coat and boots, and I had a tummy full of hot food so I was quite snug. (I did fall over once, but this is absolutely because I wasn't wearing my wellies, not because of any number of beers that may have consumed.) The snow had all gone by Monday and now, almost a week later, it feels as though it was never here.

I hope you are all having a good week. x

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Eleven Questions

"The Liebster Award is for bloggers with under 300 followers and the rules of the award is that the nominee must link back to whoever awarded them, write 11 random facts about themselves, answer the 11 questions from the award giver, and then nominate another 11 bloggers and make up 11 questions for them to answer. It's a great way for new and undiscovered bloggers to meet new people, get more followers and find some blogs that they want to follow."

A couple of weeks ago Emma at All Stitched Up and Suzie at The view from here very kindly nominated me for a Liebster award. Thank you ladies, you are very kind. 

So, here are my eleven random facts:

  1. I am tall, 5' 11" to be exact, but only have size 6 feet.
  2. I have many, many Breton striped tops, but am still seeking that perfect one.
  3. I love tulips.
  4. I have lived in Leeds for 12 years but am most definitely a southerner at heart, and hope to move back there one day.
  5. I learnt the piano as a child. I gave up lessons when I was 12 or 13 and have always regretted it.
  6. I love the listening to the radio, especially Radio 4, and have it on constantly.
  7. I spent 7 very happy years working in a bookshop.
  8. I have a really annoying habit of completely tuning out of what's going on around me if I'm engrossed in something else. John will be saying "Gill. Gill. GILL!" and I'll be reading a magazine, totally oblivious. It is very annoying.
  9. I grew up by the sea and miss is terribly.
  10. I'll be celebrating my tenth wedding anniversay and my thirty fifth birthday this year.
  11. I once shook Bill Clinton's hand.
And here are Emma's questions:

1. Are you an adventurer or a homebird? Most definitely a homebird, always.
2. Sweet or savoury? I have enough room in my tummy for all food groups.
3. Where is the furthest place you have travelled? To Australia and New Zealand, although it was nearly 20 years ago.
4. Where is the favourite place you have travelled? John and I spent part of our honeymoon in San Francisco and I will always love that crazy, beautiful, hilly city.
5. What is your proudest achievement? Can I have two? Bella and Angus.
6. What simple thing makes you happy? Cuddles from my small people.
7. What was you favourite toy as a child? My Sindy house. I spent far more time tidying it and arranging the furniture than playing with the dolls. 
8. What calms you when life is crazy? I put the kettle on and make a cup of tea.
9. Why do you blog? To focus on and celebrate the good things in life, to share crafty things with like-minded people, to be part of the fabulous online community of bloggers.
10. Do you have a list of things to do during your lifetime? No. You never know what's around the corner.
11. Have you ticked them all off yet? I know that as a child and teenager I hoped I would go to university, meet someone I wanted to spend my life with, work in an interesting job and be a mother. Those things have happened. But I honestly have no idea what is next.

and Suzie's questions...

  1. What is your favourite film? Clueless.
  2. Best holiday memories? As a child we spent many holidays in the Vendee area of France. I remember driving to and from the beach singing along to The Mamas and the Papas.
  3. If you could shadow someone for a day, who would you choose and why? Nigella Lawson, because I think she would be very interesting, and I'd love to have a nosy round her kitchen.
  4. Are your a town or country person? I grew up in the suburbs and live in the city but I always feel very peaceful in the countryside.
  5. What is the best place you have lived and why? Where I grew up, for it's proximity to the sea. But I like where we are now too.
  6. Where do you want to be in 5 years time? I have absolutely no idea but I hope I will happy.
  7. What is your favourite book? To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. 
  8. What is the best thing about blogging for you? Forming connections and making new friends.
  9. Whose style do you admire and why? Anyone who looks comfortable in their own skin looks pretty stylish to me.
  10. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Be nice to everyone because you never know who you'll end up working with next. (And it's very good advice!)
  11. Chocolate or cheese? Again, I have enough room in my tummy for both.

Ok, if you're still with me, my eleven questions are:

1. Who would play you in the film of your life?
2. If you were to go on a picnic, what would your picnic basket contain?
3. Do you have a favourite song?
4. What is your favourite season, and why?
5. How would you spend your perfect day?
6. What do you usually eat for breakfast?
7. What is your most irritating habit?
8. What is the best gift you've ever been given?
9. What would you do with £1000?
10. When was the last time you did exactly what you wanted to do?
11. Early bird or night owl?

and I would like to pass the Leibster Award on to these blogs - some old favourites, some new to me, all very enjoyable - do pop over and say hello.

I do not mind at all if tagging/blogging awards is not your thing and you'd rather not take part - I wont be offended. Just take my nominations as a sign that I enjoy visiting your blogs very much.

Monday, 28 January 2013


When you are looking for a recipe, where do you look first - inside a cookery book or on the internet? 

Last week I decided to have go at making some marmalade and did what I always do in these situations - I went through all my cookery books looking for recipes. I am often inspired by something I see online but it's my books I turn to for the nitty gritty. I gathered together the titles with references to marmalade then sat down with a cup of tea and read them all, trying to work out which would be best for a beginner. I could have just googled "marmalade" but then I would not have been able to touch and handle and open all those books with their pages of inspiration, with their splashes and spills reminding me of past cooking sessions. I don't have a tablet or netbook, my kitchen is very small and I'm a messy cook. For all these reasons, I prefer to cook with a book propped open next to me. If I spill something on it, I wipe it off, and I don't keep having to re-open a screen when the screen saver comes on and it all goes dark.

I often find the planning process one of the most enjoyable aspects of cooking; the reading, the thinking, the list writing. In this instance, it was also more enjoyable than making the marmalade. I couldn't find Seville oranges anywhere (I used navel oranges) and couldn't face driving across Leeds to Waitrose in the snow. The orange peel is much too thick (slicing the peel took AGES) and it's a bit too runny. I didn't have time to boil it for longer because I had to go and collect Bella from school. I'm sure this happens to all the best chefs.

Oh well, it still tastes nice. I'll chalk this one up to experience and my next batch will be much better.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


The Danes have a wonderful word which is hygge. The nearest English language translation is cosy but it does not really capture the many meanings of hygge. It is pronounced hoo-ga, I believe. It describes an atmosphere of warmth, cosiness and comfort and a feeling of peace and well being. It means relaxing and spending time with friends and family, eating and drinking, firelight and candlelight. It can be used as an adjective, verb or noun. I think it is a wonderful word, a word which captures all that I want to celebrate during winter.* Of course, it helps that I am captivated by so much Scandinavian design and culture (how is it possible that after all the hours of Danish crime dramas I've watched I am still not fluent in the language?) and it is at least one word of the Danish language I will know when we visit Copenhagen in April. That, and tak (thank you).

We have been very cosy today. Last night we ate in an Indian restaurant and watched thick snow fall all through the evening and, when we couldn't get a taxi home, we all walked. It was magical. When I woke up this morning I was excited for the day to begin. We went out in the fresh snow and threw snowballs in the bright sunshine. I spent the afternoon crafting, crocheting, baking, drinking many cups of tea. Bella and Angus played with the train track, drew pictures, watched DVDs while snuggled under blankets.

It was a good day.


For those who asked about Yorkshire Pudding and roast potato recipes - I will ask John what he did and try to write a post. His ego will be suitably flattered, I am sure! I hope you are all enjoying your weekends. Hello new followers - you are most welcome! I will try to pop over to your blogs this weekend and say hi.


*Incidentally, you can have a hygge atmosphere is summer too - a picnic or barbecue with friends and a few beers would be very hygge.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Roast Beef On A Thursday Night

We saw a joint of beef in the shops this morning, half price. John, whose day off it was today, said "Shall we have a roast tonight?" I said "Err, ok then." And so we did.

John cooked the whole thing. He is never happier on his day off than when he's pottering in the kitchen. And I do love to see a man in an apron. The meal was a triumph. The meat was rare and tender, the potatoes were crispy, he made proper gravy from scratch, the Yorkshire Puddings rose so much they burst out of their tins. 

He'll be working all through this weekend so it was nice to be able to do this today. It elevated a cold, grey, slushy, mid-week afternoon into something special.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...15/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

Joining in with Jen at little birdie, here are a few of the things that have brought me happiness this week:

1. The school run. I never thought I'd say that! When I collect Angus at lunchtime I usually drive but as the roads have been bad this week we've been walking everywhere. Yesterday, instead of rushing there and back like I usually do, we walked really, really slowly and Angus sat on the sledge, then he pulled it along, then I pulled it along, and I admired the snow and the blue sky and we chatted and it was perfect. A lovely example of just being in the present moment.

2. Choosing rainbow yarn to make a rainbow baby blanket - my fingers are itching to start some crochet.

3. Blue skies always life my spirits and we haven't seen many these last few weeks. The contrast of the white snow and brown branches against the sky was beautiful.

4. The smell of banana bread baking in the oven. It doesn't look anything special, but trust me it smelt so good.


I hope you are all having a nice week. Hello to new followers - it's very nice to have you here and you are most welcome! 

Monday, 21 January 2013


Apologies if you've had enough of photos of snow. It's just still quite a novelty for me! Remember all that heavy snow that most of England had on Friday? Well, it fell on West Yorkshire last night.

This morning we woke up to six inches of fresh snow.

Bella's school was open so she, Angus and I walked there. It was totally silent and still, so different to a normal day. Just the occassional swishing sound of the odd driver trying to get along the slushy, slippery roads. 

When it was time to collect Angus from nursery John and I took the sledge. Next to Bella's school there is steep playing field that is perfect for sledging. Angus loved it.

I had quite a lot of fun too if I'm honest.

 Angus travelled home in style.

They closed Bella's school early and this afternoon that same hill was packed full with children, and the air was filled with the echoey sound of laughing and shrieking as they raced down the hill and dragged thier sledges back up again. There was something in the air, something joyful and celebratory. 

If you don't have to be anywhere or do anything, if you can just give yourself in to the snow, then it's pretty amazing stuff.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A Wintry Weekend Away

Just after Christmas we booked a weekend away in a little cottage in the Yorkshire Dales - a chance for us to have some of that lazy, cosy family time that everyone else seems to have between Christmas and New Year. Typically, heavy snow was forecast for that very same weekend. We dithered all week about whether we should go away or not. We checked the weather constantly. Each of John's weather apps on his phone gave a different forecast. We knew snow would come on Friday but when? Midday? Four pm? Would the roads be ok? Were we completely stupid to attempt to drive into the Dales (high up, hilly and cold) and what if we got stuck?* We are not an adventurous family.

But when the snow held off we decided to go. We received permission from Bella's school to collect her early and left in plenty of time to arrive before it got dark. Laden with bags, blankets, boots, a sledge, a shovel and a sack of grit for a journey which should only take one and a half hours, we set off. 

Of course, it was all fine. Better than fine. There had been snow earlier in the week but the roads were clear. The village was picture-postcard idyllic. The local lady who let us in to the cottage reassured us that the roads are usually cleared quickly in bad weather (I bet she was thinking - these city types, honestly, a bit of snow and they panic...). John lit the open fire - eventually - and I sat in front of it with a jigsaw and a glass of red wine and went into a state of bliss. 

We ventured out to a nearby town, had a pub lunch, we explored the village, made footprints in fresh snow. We returned home to the cottage and read the paper, worked on the jigsaw, stoked the fire, ate, drank hot chocolate, drank red wine...we rested. We came home today to find that, while the Dales had remained snow free over the weekend, Leeds had not. We continued our holiday state of mind and, after a lunch of soup, went into the garden to build a snowman and have a snowball fight. It was joyful, it really was.


*While main roads are usually gritted during snowy and icy weather in the UK, side roads are not. It's not common practice (or law) for people to drive with snow tires in the winter so 4 inches of snow usually results in general traffic chaos. It's really quite embarrassing how badly we cope with snow in the UK!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...14/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

Joining in with Jen at little birdie, here are a few of the things that have brought me happiness this week:

1. Snow! It's still an unusual enough occurrence here and, Southerner that I am, I get quite excited. We had a couple of inches on Monday and what's left has been frozen solid by days of hard frosts and sub-zero temperatures. More is promised over the weekend. The kids would love to build a snowman.

2. My ski-jacket. I bought this a few years ago when we had our first really cold winter. I have never skied in my life but when I put this on I am so thankful for it's warmth, especially when I'm trudging to and from school.

3. We've booked a holiday! Well, more like a short break. And one without kids, even better. 

4. I am thrilled to report that I've upgraded my tired old phone with it's useless camera for something a bit fancier. We've had lots of fun exploring the world of apps and asking it what the temperature is in Copenhagen and other such nonsense.

I hope you are all staying warm and having a good week. The good thing about the snow is that it distracts me from the January blues. Yesterday it was sunny and the combination of the sun and snow meant that the house was filled with bright, pale light. Lovely.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

A Chunky Knit Cowl

I meant to say on Sunday, but was so tired and scatterbrained I totally forgot - I really did enjoy reading all your comments on how you banish the winter blues. So many good ideas and lots of common sense too; crafting, stocking up the freezer, reading seed catalogues (I loved that one!), bringing spring flowers into the house, fairy lights, adding plants and greenery, an early morning walk, patchwork, cosying up with books and films, drinking up the leftover Christmas Baileys, casseroles, puddings, hot chocolate, bowls of hyacinths, pre-spring cleaning, walks in the snow, a post-Christmas treat or indulgence like new perfume, bunches of daffodils and, finally, bird watching. Wow. I feel happier just thinking about all those things! And what I like is that none of those ideas is expensive or difficult, not like booking a sunny holiday or starting a crazy new diet and exercise regime, they are just simple ways to make the most of winter on the greyest of days.

Thanks also for your comments about Adventure Ted, and the "tyranny" of these nursery/school toys. I'm so glad I'm not alone in my snooping tendencies. I was relieved to hand that bear back to the nursery staff yesterday, I have to say!


So, to today's business...I have knitted a cowl, and I have to say I am rather happy with it. It is not without it's imperfections and the odd loose stitch, but I think it's the best thing I've knitted so far. Mainly because when I put it on, I think...oh! That actually looks quite nice! I just love the bumpy moss stitch. If I make any more I will definitely buy (and learn how to use) some circular needles. My cowl is a long rectangle sewn together (I know, the shame) but I think it would be practically perfect if I could figure out how to knit a seamless version.

For those interested, I used UK size 12 needles and one and a half balls of Rowan Big Wool in 100% merino wool. I cast on 24 stitches then knitted in moss/seed stitch for approximately 88 rows or until the scarf was about 76 cm or 30 inches long. 

And, now that we've had some snow and the temperatures have dropped, I am wearing my chunky, cosy cowl every day, tucked snugly inside my ski jacket and can report that it it toasty warm.

Edited to add: When I said I used UK size 12 needles what I should have said is I used size 12mm needles. A kind reader pointed out to me that UK size 12 needles are in fact very fine, and definitely not what I used here! I will get the hang of this knitting thing eventually...

Sunday, 13 January 2013


On Friday Angus came home from nursery with Adventure Ted, the nursery bear, and a little book for us to fill in with our own photos and descriptions of how we spent our weekend with said bear. I'm not sure what this says about me, but the first thing I did was look through the book and see how Ted had spent previous weekends and see what was expected (and i was hoping for a glimpse of the inside of some peoples houses too, if I'm honest). When Bella brought home Looby Doll last year, Looby's accompanying book was full of tales of outings to expensive theme parks and adventure playgrounds. But luckily Ted has simpler tastes, and previous weekend activities included swimming lessons, trips to the supermarket and the park, family get togethers and lots of playing. Phew.

By complete coincidence, we actually had plans this weekend. This is most unlike us - anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that our winter weekends consist mainly of hibernating in the house with some occasional baking or crafting thrown in. But this weekend has been busy, oh so busy.

On Friday night some friends came round for dinner. It was lovely to see them but I did feel tired and hungover on Saturday morning and not exactly Ted-tastic. John was working so Bella, Angus and I took the train into Leeds. We met a group of Bella's school friends and their parents in McDonald's, fed the kids, then went to the pantomime. We got home about 8.30, very late for us - the kids are usually in bed by 7pm. Today, I took the kids swimming this morning, and to a bookshop this afternoon. We stopped in the cafe and refuelled (coffee for me, smoothies and cake for them). They chose a small book each; a sticker book for Bella and a title about planets and outer space for Angus, a topic he is captivated by at the moment. Then home for tea, bath, bed. 

I am exhausted. I need another weekend to recover. I don't know how those families who spend all weekend out and about visiting places cope. I did manage some knitting in between outings. It's coming along well, I'll show you soon. Oh, and it's started to snow a little.

How was your weekend? I hope it was more relaxing than mine!