Sunday, 22 November 2020

Looking for the light

Thank you, thank you for all your comments. We are all good and the anxiety levels have definitely subsided over the last couple of weeks. As so many of you said, it is what it is and we just need to get on with it. I can cope with not going out to cafes, restaurants and the like, it's not being able to see and hug friends and family I find the hardest. I am a hugger. Thank goodness for WhatsApp and Zoom. 

Focusing on the positives always helps, counting my blessings and feeling thankful for what we have. Looking for the light, both literally and metaphorically, is lifting my spirits. 

Last weekend it rained a lot and I switched on all the lights in the kitchen, turned on the radio, and I made my Christmas cake.

I always follow the recipe in Nigella's Christmas book, it works every time. Now the cake is cooked and tucked up in an airtight box in the garage for the next six weeks, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I think this year I am going to ice it. I am going to go all out with royal icing to look like snow, tiny trees and reindeer decorations, edible glitter, the lot. I don't feel like being tasteful or restrained this year. It seems like many people are choosing to decorate for Christmas much earlier than usual, do you think so too? Personally, I will wait till December, but if putting your tree and some fairy lights up now makes you happy, then go for it I say. Especially after the year we've had. I am feeling much more organised about Christmas now actually; I've made a decent start on shopping, bought cards, stamps and a Christmas pudding. I've even remembered to buy chocolate coins for the advent calendar. How about you? Are you welcoming Christmas earlier than usual this year? It's hard to get excited about the day itself when we don't even know if or when we will be able to see family, but I think it's important to have something nice to look forward to.

We went for a walk in the woods last weekend. During two days of stormy weather we managed to be out for the hour when it stopped raining and the sun came out. The leaves were glowing in the sun and it was just gorgeous. We all felt so much better afterwards - never underestimate the power of some gentle exercise, fresh air and vitamin D on your mental health.

Mince pie baking has commenced in this household. Last weekend Angus made these with a roll of ready-made pastry and had a lot of fun in the process.

Yesterday I decided to be brave and have a go at making my own pastry. I prefer sweet shortcrust in mincepies and this recipe worked beautifully. I was a bit nervous about getting them out of the muffin tin but actually they came out really easily - no leaks! Next time I would increase the amount of mincemeat though. 

I get a bit obsessed with lighting at this time of year. It's so important to have pools of warm, twinkly light around the house, especially when it's a gloomy day.

We recently installed some plug-in wall lights in our bedroom. 

When I say we I mean John. The light they give for reading is just perfect, bright but warm.

This one has discovered the Harry Potter books and is gripped. Each weekend we watch one of the films (currently up to the third) in front of the fire and it's very cosy. The rule is he must have read the book first - it's proving very motivating.

We went for a walk this afternoon and, despite the mild temperatures, the light definitely felt different to a couple of weeks ago.

It's starting to take on that blue-ish, wintry quality that I associate with December not November.

It's hard to see, but if you look closely at the horizon line on the photo below, under the band of orange cloud, you can just see the sea.

Excuse the photo (I zoomed in a lot, stretching the camera on my phone to the absolute limit) but you can just see the tankers lining up on the horizon in The Solent, waiting to come in to Portsmouth.

I'd never noticed that you could see the sea from up here. Probably too busy taking photos of sheep.

Monday, 9 November 2020

Lockdown 2.0

Well, here we are again, back in lockdown here in the UK, except this time it's a lot less enjoyable. John and I are still at work, I still have a 4000 word essay to write, and the children are both at school. My anxiety levels are currently just below "panic" status - there just isn't enough TIME to do everything I need or want to do. Christmas, usually a time of anticipation and joy, just feels like something else I need to get my head around - I haven't even baked my cake yet! - although I have started some online shopping. Elements of lockdown last spring felt almost like an extended holiday, with all four of us pottering around the house, gardening, going for walks in the sunshine....less so this time. I'm sure it's the same for you.

Some things that are keeping me going during this turbulent time:

Comfort television, things like the Great British Bake Off, Midsummer Murders, Miss Marple...nothing challenging or upsetting (you can always watch the news for that) just lovely, cosy TV.

Cooking, always cooking. Turning all the pumpkins I bought before Halloween into a soup - if you roast them you don't need to peel them.

Crocheting socks. This is my current obsession. 

This is pair number two. I am currently working on pair number three using up all the leftover yarn from pairs one and two.

Planting bulbs. It's so easy and they bring such joy when they pop up in the spring.

Watching the light move around the house, creating beautiful shadows.

Nesting. For me, taking comfort in the idea of home, cleaning and sorting, buying new towels and some cosy bedding, cherishing the four walls we live in and letting letting your home look after's one of the biggest antidepressants. If we're going to be stuck at home for the next four weeks we may as well try to enjoy it.

Little rituals, like a steaming stack of buttered pumpkin pancakes and a hot coffee for breakfast. Again, taking comfort in the familiar.

Carving a pumpkin with this one over half term. We drilled holes in it - it was so much fun and so satisfying - until the drill got clogged up with pumpkin.

I added the slashes which looked good for a couple of days until someone (everyone is blaming the dog) accidentally trod on the pumpkin and, the structural integrity of the walls impaired by excess drilling and cutting, the whole thing collapsed.

The first frost. Waking up to a still, crisp, sunny morning after days of rain all through half term felt so uplifting. Our neighbours recently chopped back a huge, dense fir which is planted between our back garden and theirs. They literally just chopped it right across the top, along a horizontal line, no attempt at pruning or shaping. No messing. It does, however mean that we can now see the beautiful trees in the distance from the bedrooms at the back of the house. 

Rainbows always help.

Getting outdoors as much as possible, especially into the woods.

This is Stansted House, a favourite local walk, looking rather lovely and a bit like a painting.

And yesterday we had our first visit to the beach since the summer. It was incredibly misty and a strangely warm 15 degrees C, but still beautiful.

How are you all doing? What are your strategies for coping with a second lockdown?