Archive for December, 2013

December 23, 2013

Happy Christmas!

Well, 2013 has been an interesting year, to say the least. I’ve gone through huge life changes, only some of which I’ve shared here. Life today is pretty good. I’m writing this in a fairy-lit sitting room, while my children sleep peacefully next door. I know that I’ve got some wonderful relationships and lots to look forward to. But I’m tired too. In need of a little break to re-charge my batteries a bit.

And so, I’m taking the advice of Luci at ‘Mother. Wife. Me‘ and having a blogging break until the New Year. A year that I have many plans for. Cycling, yoga, gardening, micro-adventures, maybe a bit of luxury, some volunteering and a lot of learning. I’m hoping to spend some time rebuilding old friendships and creating new ones. I’d like to see a bit of the world I’ve never been to before. I shall play games with my children and go on dates with my boyfriend. It will be a good year. I feel it in my bones.

I’m hoping that this blog will grow too. I have lots to improve and I’m going to state my intentions here and now to join the Big Blogging Bootcamp hosted by Elizabeth at Rosalilium. I know that it will be the kickstart that I’ve been looking for and I’m very much looking forward to it.

So, for now I wish those of you who are celebrating, a very Happy Christmas, and a wonderful 2014 to you all! I’ll catch you in a couple of weeks.

Love from Liz

Potted Christmas Tree

December 22, 2013

Photo of my Week.

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I took this photo in the Alpine House in RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate, where I visited last weekend on my bike. I’ve made the decision this week to re-start my horticulture study with a view to taking my RHS Level 2 qualification in June and I’m really excited about it.

December 20, 2013

Becoming a cyclist.

Last Sunday, I did my first ‘proper’ bike ride on my new road bike. I’ve done shorter bits of riding around Leeds before, but nothing above about 20 miles. On Sunday, we did 35. And most of them seemed to be uphill. Leaving North Leeds towards Harewood, then onwards to Harrogate and RHS Harlow Carr, we made our way along little side roads where possible, keeping away from traffic. Not always possible, of course, and on a couple of occasions I got a little nervous about the closeness and speed of some vehicles passing us. It felt a bit like some of the people driving massive Range Rover type vehicles really didn’t seem to know how wide their car was.

Having said that, the main way I was likely to end up having an accident was from too much nosiness! Lots of terribly nice properties, gardens, allotments and field of ponies to be stared at. None of which I should have been looking at when on a bike, so I had to keep reminding myself to concentrate and look at the road. Whenever we started climbing, I had no difficulty in keeping my eyes firmly fixed ahead of me, as I concentrated on my breathing and making my slow and steady way up the hills. I even managed my first Category 4 climb and did so without stopping, thanks to the support from my fabulous boyfriend. I had a little cry at the top of one of the particularly gruelling hills; cycling uphill into a head wind is not a lot of fun.

But despite the tears, the pain and the jelly legs, I loved the ride. Not least because we had a halfway stop at the poshest cycle cafe in Yorkshire, the famous Betty’s tearoom at RHS Harlow Carr. Not a cycle cafe at all, obviously, but they were as gracious to us in our cycling gear as they were to everyone else in their rather smarter attire. And, despite a bit of stiffness getting going again after a stop, it certainly helped on the way back.

Looking back it seems such a long time ago that I was terrified of cycling. I’d not ridden since a childhood accident, until I was caught up in the idea of trying my hand at completing a Cycletta, which I did on a hired bike. Then came my beloved, but ultimately ill-judged Pashley and now, I’m committed to the idea of being a road cyclist. Not someone who rides for speed, togged up in logo-emblazoned lycra, but someone who rides for fun. Maybe for a bit of touring over longer distances with a pannier and a youth hostel to sleep in. I’m not sure yet, but I’m definitely well on my way towards losing that fear. I’m excited to see the Tour De France come to Yorkshire next year, planning to learn more bike maintenance, booking my ticket for the Festival of Cycling, and fingers crossed, entering the longer distanced Cycletta at Tatton Park.

I feel like a cyclist now. Really and truly. And to have faced my fear feels brilliant. I recommend it!

Female cyclist

December 17, 2013

Home-made Christmas decorations

We’re starting again with Christmas decorations in our flat. So everything we have this year has either been bought from the Country Living Christmas Fair, given to us by generous relatives or made at home.

We have the two decorations bought at the Country Living Christmas Fair (not shown is a Christmas Pudding fairy, a gift from my lovely mum) on the tree. Alongside those are three knitted characters – Father Christmas, an elf and a snowman. Thanks to my lovely Grandma for those. Then, there’s the decorations we made with the kids. Felted baubles, made with wet felting, are strung onto the tree individually. I also hope to do a felted bauble garland. There’s the wet felted star, made by my daughter, using the same technique as the baubles, but pressing it down flat, then cutting a shape out. I’ve strung pine cones onto fine cotton, attached ribbon bows to the top of each and put them on the tree. And lastly, we have the loo roll fairy, made by my girl without any help at all, who is now sitting on the top of the tree!

Home made christmas decorations

December 15, 2013

Photo of my Week

Brene Brown’s TED talk is one of my all time favourites, and one of the most widely watched TED talks of all time. This book is a fascinating and thought provoking read which I’m loving.

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December 13, 2013

Bringing The Garden Indoors.

Now that I’ve moved to a third floor flat, I am without a garden of my own. This is offset somewhat by my allotment and we have a shared garden, but it’s overlooked by several large trees. This makes for wonderful bird watching – I appear to have become an accidental twitcher – but means that the garden is darkened, covered in leaves, and any plants would need to compete with lots of tree roots so it doesn’t bode well for much growing.

So, to satisfy my green fingers,  I want to bring some of the outdoors into our home.

The first thing I did was plant ‘Paperwhite’ bulbs into little terracotta pots. I have a handful of these around the flat and they’ve brought a bit of cheer and a heady fragrance into our home. Although you can force these in the dark, I just left them in my mother’s greenhouse for a few weeks and they’ve flowered quite quickly. I love that the bright green shoots are mirrored in the green that has grown on the old terracotta and they look wonderful against the pale walls; a touch of next Spring in the early days of Winter.

Paperwhites in pots

I’m currently reading through ‘The Virgin Gardener’ by Laetitia Maklouf again, which has some great ideas for gardening without a garden. I’m going to have a go at growing succulents, as I was really inspired by the Alpine House at RHS Harlow Carr earlier this year. The structure of these little plants fascinates me, and they’ll be a great way to add greenery to our home.

Alpines at RHS Harlow Carr

There will of course be herbs in the kitchen, but I’m on the lookout for the best plants we can have in the rest of our home too. I’m after plants that will last well, help clean the air, cope with the temperatures and look great too.  I’ll be doing a spot of research over the next couple of months, but if you’ve any fabulous suggestions, do let me know!

December 10, 2013

A Month without Supermarkets: end of month review.

Well, our first month without supermarkets is over and generally speaking it was a great success.

We have loved getting our weekly food delivery from Abel and Cole. We’ve really enjoyed searching out alternative suppliers, local specialists and great independent shops close to home, including the local butcher, bakers, and cheese shop. We’ve had lots of successes. And we’ve had a fair few failures – needing milk when the only shop open is Tesco (grr) is a notable one. However, let us not use our plans as a stick to beat ourselves with.

We’ve decided that this is how we want to live forever; to reduce our reliance on the supermarket as much as possible, but to not get over-anguished about those times when we have little choice. Which is usually, as I mentioned in a previous post, down to a lack of planning.  We’ve also changed the way we buy our food slightly from Abel and Cole, so we plan our weekly menu beforehand so we know what will be coming in the delivery, what we will cook with it and when. This might sound pretty regimented,  but actually, creates a lot more simplicity on a day-to-day basis and means for much less food waste.

Now we’ve got into something of a routine when it comes to food, and made our main decisions about where we buy our food from, the next thing we really want to tackle is the amount of waste and rubbish we create. As I said, planning a weekly menu ahead makes for less food waste, but also we’re looking at packaging too. Recycling is obviously one way to deal with packaging waste, but it shouldn’t be the first ‘r’ in waste reduction. Reducing the amount of packaging we bring into the house in the first place should come before that.

So, that’s our next step. We’ve bought a bokashi system to help us deal with the food waste and we’re looking at ways to reduce packaging and rubbish.

I’ll share our progress with you in a further post – but if you have any tips to share, please add them in the comments!

December 9, 2013

Beefayre Candle

At the Country Living Christmas Fair, I came across a lovely company called Beefayre.

Beefayre sell a range of beautifully packaged skin care, candles and honey, pollen and propolis. At the Christmas Fair they were selling a special winter collection that smells perfectly Christmassy. However, I decided to treat myself to a Bee Garden (Watermint & Rosemary) candle, which has a lovely delicate scent.  I’m burning it to relax in the evening. Although, generally speaking, both mint and rosemary have an uplifting, energetic scent, this version is gentle and I’m really loving it. The UK produced candles are hand poured natural wax (no petrochemicals here), with a 50 hour burning time – and you can also use the warmed wax as a massage oil.

I really loved the glass jar that the candle comes in, which will still be beautiful once the candle has finished, used either as a tumbler or with a tea light dropped into it. Different scents have difference images on the glass, so a collection together would look fabulous. The rest of the packaging is cardboard which can be composted or recycled, which is really pleasing to me, as I’m trying to reduce the amount of waste we produce at home.

Bee Fayre candle

As well as being beautiful products, free from nasties like parabens and sulphates,  the company also give 3% of all profit to bee conservation and research too, and are supporting a great collection of charities such as Buglife.  I can really see it becoming a favourite brand for me and I really recommend you take a look, as all their products would make Christmas gifts too.

PS: On a recent visit to a wonderful local store, Chirpy, I saw they were stocking the aforementioned Christmas candles – so I might treat our home to a few for the festive season too!

December 8, 2013

Photo of my Week.

Pink bar tape

Pink nails and pink bar tape: the perfect ‘Margot and Barbara’ combination…

December 6, 2013

Hello road bike!

As you may remember, I recently sold my Pashley Princess, after a long, painful time deciding what to do. Rather wonderfully, I have been given a road bike on a long term loan and I love it.

Riding a road bike after a Pashley is such a different experience. To start with, it felt a bit as though I was constantly on the verge of tipping over the handlebars, despite everything being set up properly, purely because I was used to the ‘sit up and beg’ style of the Pashley. Getting used to the different handlebar style, the brakes, the gears, (and the tiny saddle!) took a bit of time, but now I feel as though I’m flying. I’m clearly not flying, but actually travelling at rather more sedate pace, but still compared to the Pashley, it’s seriously speedy!

Road bike

Walking down a very muddy bridlepath!

Sometimes, and I know this is weird, I develop a relationship of trust with a machine, even though I know it’s not sentient. I feel that way about my little car, and now I feel that way about this bike. I know that for some serious road cyclists this bike is considered a bit of a workhorse, a winter bike, rather than one that is built for speed. It’s not carbon fibre, for a start. But for me, as a novice, that’s what makes it so special. It’s the Welsh Cob of the road bike world! And, given my love for the Welsh Cob (for those of you who are not horse lovers, the Welsh Cob is a beautiful but study native pony) then this feels exactly the kind of bike I should be riding.

I’m so incredibly grateful for it and really looking forward to spending some time building up my fitness so I can ride for longer. At the moment, I can manage 25 -30 miles with a much-needed stop for cake. In my defence, it’s hilly round here! With the Tour de France coming to Leeds next year, I am hoping that the momentum around cycling that is building up in advance will be maintained beyond, and Leeds will become a place that’s great to cycle, for sport, for commuting, for families. And I’ll be there, on the Kona Honky Tonk (silly name, splendid bike) with a grin on my face…