Books · Flowers · Friendship · Happy · Hope · Inspiration · Nature · Writing

A Six Step Starter Plan / Winter Warmers

I don’t know about you but 2022 , well, I can’t decide if it got off to a slow start or is just flying on through.

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago but had a few technical issues (the format of the photos changed and I didn’t know what to do!), anyway, I decided just to post it. After all, so much of it can apply at anytime. Hope you have a good day!

Sometimes I think I have magpie tendencies. I like nothing better than to gather together bright shiny strands from all parts of my life. This then, helps me to build a sort of collage picture of hope.

I don’t think I’m alone in finding January and February a bit challenging but this is the recipe I’m using right at this very minute to help me and I hope that in some way it may help or inspire you too.

  1. Taking a look around the garden and spotting this sedum popping through.
  2. Lighting candles and then taking time to read.
  3. Going to the Zandra Rhodes exhibition – an absolute explosion of colours, pattern and inspiration!
  4. Listening to a podcast. At the moment my favourite is Viv Groskop’s, ‘How to Own the Room.’
  5. Writing, of all kinds.
  6. Going for a walk.
Me at the Sandra Rhodes exhibition

At times like these, when the dark winter days are slowly, slowly changing to the brighter days of spring I remind myself it can be a good thing to think small to get started with. Progress doesn’t have to be big to be effective. So it was interesting for me to read the title Anya Hindmarsh chose for her autobiography: ‘If In Doubt, Wash Your Hair’. In fact it made me laugh as, over the years, I’ve developed my own wee routine for those days of doubt.

So here it is, my six-step plan. For the days when I wake up and don’t know where to begin.

Any order.

  1. Brush my teeth
  2. Have a shower
  3. Go for a walk
  4. Do the dishes
  5. Make a pot of soup and then eat a big bowl of it!
  6. Phone a friend/ family member.

These indoor hyacinths had an amazing fragrance

Is there something you would add to make it super-duper seven step plan? (Or should that be ‘souper-duper’?)

Bonus soup recipe – with thanks to my Mum and most, likely, the Woman’s Weekly.

  • 2 mugs red lentils – rinsed
  • 1 onion – diced
  • 5 carrots – peeled and diced
  • 2 pints of water
  • 2 tins of Heinz tomato soup

Optional: fennel seeds, celery – any old vegetables you have to hand.

Put everything in a large soup pot except for the tins of soup. Cook for 45 minutes, add in the tins of soup and heat through and it’s ready to serve! This also freezes very well.

  • Book: ‘Do One Thing Every Morning to Make Your Day’
  • Poem for Every Night of the Year’ Edited by Allie Esiri.
  • ‘Hawkeye’ by George MacKay Brown.
  • ‘The Moon Sister’ by Lucinda Riley.
  • TV: BBC iPlayer: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Song to dance to: Madonna – ‘Hung Up’.

NB. Please note that there are many great organisations out there ready to help. There is a really helpful list

here.

Inspiration · Nature

Appreciation

Sometimes your own advice comes back to haunt you.

It’s been a particularly tough time in my life recently and I have been seeking ways to cope with this if not quite being able to make sense of it. Keeping busy seems to me the best way at the moment,

Buoyed by the sight of a Tawny Owl near our house the night before, I was ready for a bit of a change and a wildlife adventure. Our destination for the day was Morven*, near Aboyne in Aberdeenshire.

I was hopeful, though not entirely sure that I’d get to the top but I thought I’d give it a good try. Blue skies above, an eagle circling, what a wonderful way to begin. I would say it was sort of a gentle start, following the path up to the ruins of an old house. Who had lived there? What stories would they have had to tell? What was the grinding stone used for?

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is thumb_img_7828_1024.jpg

Onwards and upwards, panting already, breaking the silence. To be honest, the next part felt like a bit of a slog, like the hard work that sets in after your initial enthusiasm, when you just have to knuckle down and get on with it. This was when I was offered my own advice back to me – ‘chunk it’ – well, there you go. It was all I could do. This was a 300m, contours on the map squished together, steep section, a one foot in front of the other slow progress.

But now I have learnt that it doesn’t matter how fast I am. We were well prepared in terms of food, water and clothes, had plenty of time to complete (or not!) the climb and so I took my time. There were frequent stops to ‘take in the view’.

Stopping to sit on a rock for a snack, the scenery was stunning. I gazed, entranced, at the patchwork of fields stretching into the distance. September and many of the fields ploughed but still golden. Three grouse appeared, heads bobbing above the heather and letting their presence be known. Solitary bees, the occasional butterfly. One tree by the path to provide some welcome shade.

The next section thankfully wasn’t quite so steep. The joy of being able to walk on the almost flat, being able to look up and about at the beautiful countryside. A lull before the next storm right enough.

Ah, but of course, there had to be, a false summit. Just when I thought I had reached the top, there was more to come. I didn’t think I could do it. This was time for desperate measures – an early lunch and a chance to regroup. Time for a bit of much needed encouragement.

I’d got this far. I knew in my head I could do it. This time I could see the summit, the real one that is. Slowly, slowly, one step at a time and we got there.

I felt like Maria in The Sound of Music – I wanted to sing if only I had the breath left!

In the distance were hills I’ve climbed, some recently, some long ago, Bennachie, Clachnaben, Mount Keen, Lochnagar. I’m not so sure I could get to the top of some of them nowadays but I’m mighty chuffed I have done in the past and have some cracking memories from those times. Now it was definitely time for a few windswept selfies.

And so to the descent, not all plain sailing. There were a few times I stopped to use my Seek App – was that an excuse for a break? Tiny yellow flowers of Tormentil and delicate lavender coloured Devil’s – bit Scabious growing at the mouth of a clear stream enticed me. Why, when they are so pretty do they have such harsh names?

Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis
Tormentil – Potentilla erecta

So, not by any means the highest hill out there but a real test for me, could I take my own advice? Could I chunk it? Well, yes, I could but I was very, very grateful for all the help along the way. And now, onwards, through the dips, the slogs, the plateaus, enjoying the highs and battling through the lows and appreciating all the support. Thank you.

*Morven is a Corbett – a Scottish mountain over 2,500 and under 3,000 feet.

I am reading.

The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

The Pure Heart by Trudi Tweedie

Birds · Books · Dogs · Garden · Happy · Trees · walking

A Spring in My Step

I had a hair appointment on my birthday! It felt like a fantastic present particularly now after this latest lockdown. My hair was the longest it’s been in twenty years. It was definitely time for a chop.

Perhaps I was thinking about hairstyles as I looked out my window this morning? A bit of a wind today and the Laurel bush is waving like a shaggy monster from The Muppet Show. The breeze is rippling through the bronze tint on the Beech hedge and the bobbed Kilmarnock Willow is showing off streaks of green through it’s mane.

Green tinted Kilmarnock Willow

Each year I have the discussion about when the leaves will appear on the trees. I always think Spring comes earlier than it actually ever does – perhaps too optimistic? So I look out of my window to check what’s happening in the garden and every morning I try to read a poem. ‘A Child’s Song in Spring’ by Edith Nesbit summed up exactly what I was thinking one day.

Signs of Spring are coming and a blue tit is nesting in the bird box hopefully kept warm by our dog, Molly. Having brushed Molly, we put the fur from the brush into an old bird feeder and recently spotted the birds collecting it to line their nests. In no time at all the feeder was empty. Molly is one very well groomed dog these days!

Well groomed Molly keeping me company as I write this,

I recently downloaded an App: Merlin, which is helping me to identify the birds I see in the garden and out and about. I love the way their calls and songs are available to listen to as well. To top it all I was totally delighted to receive a pair of binoculars for my Birthday. I had a sudden flashback to childhood and trying to use my parents’ binoculars and now at last, I have my own! So with the App and the binoculars, I’m pretty sure the pair of birds who scurry around our garden are dunnocks.

So with my newly cropped hair, my binoculars in hand, I’m off for a walk with a spring in my step. Here’s to life as a twitcher!

I’m reading ‘Golden Hill’ by Francis Spufford and ‘Flight’ by Vanessa Harbour. Still reading Muriel Spark’s autobiography.

Picture Book Review

Head over to my Picture Book Review Pages for great recommendations.

Latest Review – ‘I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End’ by Emma Perry and Sharon Davey.

bees · Hope · Inspiration · Reading

Chunks of Positivity

I’ve heard people say ‘Monday washday, Friday fishday’ or similar versions all my life. Now, I am a person of routine. I like a routine, I like knowing what I’m going to do when I get up in the morning.

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A sunflower from our garden – photo from this blog – four years ago already.

With that in mind, I’m not the only one in our family who looks forward to January for the start of the new series of ‘Death in Paradise’! All those bright colours on our screens in the midst of winter, heaven. Not only that, it means on a Thursday night at 9pm I sit on the couch with a cuppa and know I’ll have an hour of escapism and sunshine and probably a laugh or two.

That’s not to say I can’t change or adapt but there’s a real security in a routine and more, there’s the possibility to get things done, to achieve. Timetables, there’s a reason we have them and it’s been hard having that taken away from so many of us.

So, even if I’ve have had to make a new timetable for these days, I’ll give it a good go and try to stick to it.

In saying that, last week’s routine went slightly to pot (still made the Thursday night slot though!) but hey, tomorrow’s always another day.

Exciting news for me is that I’ve signed up to take an online course about beekeeping run by our local beekeeping association – watch this space! With that in mind, and my love for collecting collective nouns, here’s a link sent on by Rae Cowie – thanks, Rae!

Summer visitors!

Looking for a great idea for a gift, can be tricky at times like these, hope you don’t mind me saying but we’ve loved the gift vouchers we’ve been given for Kiva over the years – it is definitely the gift that keeps on giving. Big shout out to all at Book Moon for starting us off on this.

My final link for today is from The Novel Points of View Blog with practical advice on keeping going, a little at a time. I’m going to try not to say my favourite line here -‘chunk it’ – ah well, had to be done!

If you’ve got to the bottom of this post, thank you and sending warmest wishes to you and yours for staying safe and healthy.

I’m reading ‘Muriel Spark, The Biography’ by Martin Stannard, ‘The Boy with the Butterfly Mind’ by Victoria Williamson and ‘A Poem for Every Night of the Year’ edited by Allie Esiri.

I’m listening to the Feel Better Live More podcast with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee talking to Joe Wicks about positivity.

Picture Book Review

Head over to my Picture Book Review Pages for great recommendations.

Latest Review – ‘My Nana’s Garden’ by Dawn Casey and Jessica Courtney-Tickle

Books · Flowers · Garden · Happy · Latin names · Tea

Kaleidoscopes

I took a long hard look at my website recently, wondering if now was the time to make dramatic changes. Is it too muddled, are there too many themes I wondered? After all, there’s this blog; Picture Book Reviews, Gardening, Latin names for flowers and Cup of Tea Books. Quite a variety. But no, not at this time. This is me. This is who I am. A person of many interests and this Blog brings me joy and time for reflection and the opportunity to merge these interests. I hope it will bring you a moment or two of calm too.

Thank you for reading and wishing you a safe, healthy and very Happy New Year!

I am reading Americanah by Chimomanda Ngozi Adichie and Friend Me! by Sheila M. Averbuch

Hope · Nature · Seasons · Senses · Trees

Joy – that old Chestnut!

Wow, wow, wow! Joy! Outside my window trees are being planted. This has made my day!

My dog walk used to take me past a row of huge trees near my house. I loved watching the leaves appearing in spring; appreciated their shade in the summer, the gorgeous colours of autumn and their signal that winter had arrived. Listening to the birds singing would start me in the process of resetting myself so that when I arrived back home I was calmer, fresher and more relaxed than when I left. Then they were chopped down. The depth of emotions I felt surprised me. Feeling powerless and not knowing what else to do, I asked if I could have a section of one of the felled trees.

Looking right at home, ‘that old chestnut’.

‘Here you go, no problem. It’s an old chestnut.’ And a log was heaved into the boot of my car. I had to wait for my sister to arrive to help me lift it out it was so heavy. After lying beside the car for a while it has found a home in our garden (thanks to my husband and a wheelbarrow!) – as a step so I can fill the bird feeder above it and, hopefully, a place for insects to hide underneath. Part of a very mini stumpery.

Perhaps a little good has come out of it?

Alongside the trees, there’s a beech hedge being planted. I have a little beech tree that grew, from a seed blown by the wind, in our raised vegetable bed. I did try to dig it out to move it to a better spot but it’s roots are pretty solid.

Like life, like fiction, putting down roots came up (down?) again as I read the latest Novel Points of View Blog about moving house. We’ve lived here in Aberdeen for seven years now, no I don’t have itchy feet but I am amazed. This is the longest we’ve stayed anywhere at all since we left home as teenagers. To be honest, I have my fingers tightly crossed we’ll be here a lot longer.

On a positive note and, I do love a coincidence, as I thought about writing this blog a friend told me about the River Dee Trust and their campaign to plant a million trees in the Cairngorms. To raise money for this they are selling beautiful buffs – they would make super presents and would be very light to post too – just thought I’d mention it!

Well, to finish with one more tree, Christmas trees!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a safe and a Happy 2021!

I am reading my Secret Santa gift from a fellow bookworm; ‘Hawkfall’ by George MacKay Brown and ‘Beetle Boy’ by M G Leonard.