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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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

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 · butterflies · Friendship · Happy · Inspiration

News

Today I wanted to write the word ‘butterflies’ and found myself writing ‘beautiful’.

I have been on the search for positive news, heartwarming stories like that of musician Paul Harvey whose son recorded him improvising a song and now Sir Tom Hunter has donated a million pounds to split between Music for Dementia and The Alzheimer’s Society. (It’s worth reading the article right to the very last line!)

Rogie Falls this October – the beauty of Scotland.

Listening to an interview with Richard Osman from ‘Pointless’ I loved the fact that he mentioned there are ‘nice people out there’. It’s true, it’s just not often that the news chooses to focus on this. Why is that? Why is the news skewed to all the negative stories? Why was the one last positive story at the end of the news laughed at and finally removed?

Why don’t we demand that the news is more balanced, after all, aren’t we all trying to find more balance in our lives?

Reading the book ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn reminded me of the kindness of strangers. It was heartwarming while at the same time it did make me stop and think, am I that stranger?

The days grow colder and darker and we search for warmth, can we help spread a little warmth too?

I am reading ‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell and ‘The Children of Castle Rock’ by Natasha Farrant.

Friendship · Inspiration · Seasons · Thank you

Inspiration

The other morning a lovely friend asked if I had written a blog post recently, in case she’d missed it.

Well, I hadn’t. The question, and the discussion that followed, inspired me though. I did have something I wanted to say, to share.

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I wrapped up warmly and  watched a blackbird as he sat on a branch eating rowan berries. I listened to the cracking of ice on a puddle when I couldn’t resist stepping on it.  Then I went home to switch the kettle on for a hot cup of tea.

Reflecting on this I realise all the senses are covered apart from smell. Well, I think it was too cold!

Still, I have actually baked our Christmas cake – super early this year for me – and the smell of it baking was a real treat. This preparation, the making of the cake, is filled with hope.

As was planting the Hyacinth bulbs at the weekend and even, for my first time ever, planting an Amaryllis bulb. Watching Carole Baxter in the Beechgrove garden has inspired me and I thought I’d give it a go. Watch this space!

So a simple question about this blog has made me reflect on so many things, made me be grateful for friendships and realise how much hope there is at this time of year.

I wonder, what inspires you and gives you hope?

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Molly hasn’t been sent to the corner. She has just found a new place to sit in the kitchen where her paws won’t slide on the floor. (She is of course hoping to get a treat!)

 

 

Books · Dogs · Inspiration · Trees

Inspiring Dog Days

Sometimes it’s dark, rainy, cold, dreich, miserable and you just don’t feel like going out for a walk.

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Molly and her new favourite toy.

Then again, if you’re a dog owner, you don’t have much choice! Maybe that’s a good thing. Yes, there is no such thing as bad weather – just the wrong clothes, I’ve heard it.

Still, say you do go out for a walk, there is beauty in the darkness.

Shape, form. Twisted trees, reaching on and up towards the light. Droplets balanced on pine needles. The surprise sighting of a heron crouched and tucked up tightly beside a nearly obscured pond.

 

Every time I go for a walk I find some different aspect of nature to think about. I want to learn more about the world around me. The birds I hear singing, what are they? The clouds, what type? Are they Altocumulus, Stratus, Cirrus, Cumulonimbus? Fabulous names to match stunning patterns.

I return home enthused, of course this is another excuse for me to indulge my love of learning and books!

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I hope you do get a chance to go for a walk today.

Then, when you come back home, switch the kettle on and settle down with a cuppa – here are a couple of book recommendations for all nature lovers, with links to my reviews on GoodReads.

 

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd    Findings by Kathleen Jamie