Sunday 4 February 2024


January was a quiet month, a month for hibernating and recharging social batteries. After a very wet and windy Christmas we had a really cold, dry spell at the start of January which was a welcome change. We lit the wood burner at home most nights and put the winter duvet as well as woolly blankets on the bed. I wore my thickest jumpers to work, scraped frost off of the car every morning and the sun shone through smeary windows into the house. 

We went on some local countryside walks, some old favourites, others new to us. I love the sparseness of the landscape at this time of year, the muted colour palate of brown and grey. I love the way you can really see the shapes of the trees and plants without their foliage. I find it calming.

We have watched a lot of TV. I have worked my way through a few different series (Fool me Once - disappointing, Lessons in Chemistry - excellent, Slow Horses - also excellent) and we have watched films together. Ziggy also occasionally enjoys a bit of TV. I have also been listening to audiobooks and podcasts when crocheting in the evening. It seems to take me ages to crochet anything lately, hopefully I will have something to show you soon.

Weekends have, for the most part been quiet and domestic. Our routine is usually food shopping, washing, housework and errands on a Saturday and baking, batch cooking, ironing and a big walk on a Sunday. If I have school work to do (most weekends) then that can be anywhere between 2 and 6 hours on a Sunday.

We have pottered in the kitchen a lot,  made soups and stews.

Candles have become a daily pleasure. These beautiful ceramic tea light holders were a lovely surprise: my friend Kate, who lives in Australia, had sent them to me for Christmas. They arrived late and I found them round the side of the house, in a soggy cardboard box. Luckily they didn't mind a bit of soggy packaging. 

I bought my first tulips of the year. I saw some in the shops during December and was tempted but there seems something wrong to me about tulips in December, but January is fine. I always try to hold off on the daffodils until February. I have no idea why. I just like to enjoy the season I think. 

Food has been of the comfort variety. Decadent hot chocolate (a Christmas present) infused with spices and not too sweet, which is good as the kids won't steal it.

Porridge with the last of the mincemeat from Christmas stirred through, with a little brown sugar and orange zest. 

The most delicious hearty minestrone soup which was great for lunches all through the week. 

Another soup, but this time using up all the sad, scraggy bits of veg in the fridge.

Sausages and mash for dinner.

Orange and almond cake for snacking. I burnt the top slightly, but it was still really good. 

I have been reading and reading So far this year I have read two very enjoyable romantic fiction titles (The Christmas Book Club and The No-Show) and the very enjoyable but much more challenging Spilt Milk. I am now reading Confess and listening to I'm Glad My Mom Died, for my next book group. I managed to read 30 books in 2023 and this year I'm aiming for 36. Three a month seems do-able. 

As well as all the reading, resting and nesting, I did manage one day out in January. I met my friend Debora in London for the day, a sort of tradition we've started in recent years.

We went on an architecture tour of The Barbican Centre and it was fascinating. Having someone guide you and point out things you might otherwise have noticed is really worthwhile.

I am looking forward to February. It is short month and contains half term, pancake day and my birthday. All good things.

Tuesday 2 January 2024

December, Christmas and New Year

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope you had a good Christmas and, if not a good one, perhaps just one which was peaceful.

December was a mixed bag really. I had pretty horrendous toothache (and a horrible cold) during the last week of term and the first week of the school holidays which pretty much ruined the build up to Christmas for me. I don't remember much about that week: between the painkillers, antibiotics and lack of sleep I wasn't really with it. It will be the only Christmas in which I did not drink (antibiotics) and lost weight (stress). Days where I had planned to make decorations or bake were spent crying on dental receptionists. Finally, on 23rd December, I got an emergency filling and, since then - touch wood - we are ok. Not fully better but no longer in white hot, stabbing, breathe-through-it pain. Of course, I brought all this on myself by bragging to John about how I had not needed any dental work for 20 years so I only have myself to blame.

But! in amongst my dental woes there was a lot to celebrate in December. We did some nice things.

In early December, my mum and sister and I went to a Winter Fair, in West Sussex, on the last really cold day we had. (We had had a very mild, wet and windy December this year.)

We went last year and loved it so much we went again this year too. It is an excellent place to do some Christmas shopping with lots of independent sellers and everything so beautifully presented. 

That afternoon, John and I went into Chichester to do some Christmas shopping and had a very productive couple of hours. Then, that same evening we went to my parents' for a big family meal to celebrate my mum turning a big birthday. 

The next day we put up the Christmas tree. The kids avoided all the tedious tree-straightening and light-wrangling and swanned in at the end to hand a few decorations on the tree. 

All in all a very good weekend, 

While at the garden centre, I grabbed a pink poinsettia. I love these plants. I know red is more traditional but the softer pink appeals to me more. It's still doing remarkably well one month later. I think this is because our living room is one of the cooler rooms in the house and, since it has been so mild, I haven't lit the fire much. I've also only watered it a couple of times.

The following week, I was in London for the day for my book group Christmas meet up. Every year we try to get together. Last year we met in Oxford, this year it was London. We go shopping, have some lunch, a few drinks. It''s lovely.

My friend Abigail, who set up the book group, gave everyone one of these Christmas tree ornaments. 

As the month wore on, I added more decorations to the house, wrapped some presents, kept putting on foot in front of the other until we broke up on the 15th.

Bella made John and I the most wonderful Christmas card with a picture of Ziggy on it.

We were back in London again for Bella's birthday. All she wanted to do, more than anything else, was go to some shops on Oxford Street then go to this restaurant called Bone Daddy for lunch. They make ramen which is her favourite thing to eat.

Then we celebrated Bella's birthday at home with cake and family.

I don't have any photos of the week leading up to Christmas except this one, on Christmas Eve, of the gammon joint about to be boiled in cider before being smothered in mustard and marmalade and roasted. It was good 

Christmas Day was quiet. I often feel quite cooped up on Christmas Day and the dog walk is the best bit. Ziggy wanted to get very involved in the unwrapping of every single present.

John and I cooked a good roast dinner. We ate late in the day, about 5pm. 

I made a pavlova wreath which everyone was too full to eat. I wanted Christmas pudding but no-one likes it but me. 

Boxing Day was brilliant fun, eleven of us my my parents' with lots of game and fun. 

And then we are into the best days of the year. Those beautiful in-between days between Christmas and New Year, where everything slows down a bit.

Time to enjoy Christmas presents.

Time for jigsaws and Christmas cake. 

For lazing on the sofa.

For walks and matching hats.

Even this walk, in which the heavens opened as we were 3 miles into a 4 mile walk, and we all got drenched, was beautiful.

And this takes us up to New Year's Eve.

We went for an exceptionally blustery walk - more of a stagger really, it was hard to stay upright - on the beach with our friends.

Then there was a late pub lunch followed by an evening spent playing games, eating and drinking. 

It was a good way to see in the New Year. And now I am back at work, already getting back into the routine of it all. I have no resolutions, and absolutely no intention of doing anything like Dry January or some new diet. Just feeling very thankful for what we have. Happy New Year.