Posts tagged ‘family’

January 6, 2014

2014 Resolutions

Happy new year everyone! As we’re a week into 2014, I’m firmly closing the door on the Christmas and New Year festivities (which I’ve totally loved this year) and getting back into the swing of everyday life. The start of a new school term always brings about a return to routines and the end of Quality Street being an acceptable breakfast food, just as I’ve got used to the idea…

Traditionally the start of January is resolution time. Usually I like to write a giant list of resolutions for the year, some of which I manage to complete and some I don’t. I wrote recently about needing to be honest with myself about the things that I really wanted to do and forget the things that I think I should want to do. So, no marathon running goals for me, this year or ever. Although I think that if you want to make changes to your life, you should start them today, whenever today is, rather than waiting for January 1st, there is something tidy about making new starts in a new year, so I do find New Year’s Resolutions somewhat seductive.

2014 is going to be a year that contains many changes. My career, my home life, and the way I spend my time are all going to change, and not all of those changes are my decision. So, rather than trying to control everything, I’m going to try and go with the flow a little more. Which is terrifying to me! But, I think that trying to force things to happen is bound to end in failure. It is important for me to recognise what I can control and what I cannot.

Therefore my list is short, and perhaps a little vague. But here goes:

1 – Study for my RHS Level 2 exams.  I’ve written about this before, and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a while (and really wanted to do) but life has got in the way of my plans. I’m determined to make it happen this time though. And I’m hopeful it may lead to more opportunity and who knows, perhaps a career shift.

2 – Make time. For my family, my friends, my boyfriend. Much of 2013 was challenging, sometimes it was painful and introspective, and it was a year in which my friends all supported me, but I feel as though I gave back little in return. I want to redress the balance and make time to visit my beloved friends and family and support them in whatever they are doing. My boyfriend has a year of change ahead of him too, and I want to be a supportive partner to him as we embrace our future together. (As an aside, I feel far too old to be saying boyfriend, but what’s the alternative? Partner makes it sound like we’re in business together…hmm)

3 – Say ‘yes’ more. And say ‘no’ more. Contradictory as ever…but by which I mean that I want to be brave enough to say ‘yes’ to the right opportunities that come my way, and say ‘no’ to things that I don’t want, need or feel like the right ‘fit’. And I’m not talking specifically about possessions when I say ‘things’, it’s really just a goal about being authentic and true to myself.

4 – Keep cycling. This is a bit of a vague goal, I appreciate, but I have really been enjoying cycling and I want to carry on improving, at my own pace, and just enjoying the ride. I have no challenges, competitions, sportives in mind at all. It will just be me, my bike and my boyfriend by my side.  Though, if you’re in Leeds and fancy a snail’s pace bike ride with a cafe stop in the middle, I’m your ideal companion!

5 – Visit somewhere new. Doesn’t matter where, I just want to keep exploring and having micro-adventures. And I really, really, want to go to somewhere I’ve never been in Europe in 2014. Fitting adventure into everyday life instead of waiting for a big chunk of time is something I’ve enjoyed in 2013, and I want to do more of it.

6 – Move towards being a ‘zero waste’ home. This is a huge goal and one in which I am going to be moving at an evolutionary pace, not aiming for an overnight revolution! On the back of reducing our reliance on the supermarket, the next step is reducing the amount of waste we create – less packaging, which in turn means less recycling. More composting and home-grown food! Which takes me nicely onto number 7…

7 –  Try my hardest to grow as much of our food as possible. 2013 was a dire year on the allotment for many reasons. I paid it a visit over the Christmas period and made a promise to it that I’d try my hardest to make 2014 a great year. Yup, I talk to my allotment. I appreciate that’s odd.

8 – Try yoga. We have a wonderful looking yoga centre near us and I’d really like to have a go at yoga, to benefit my (still too high) blood pressure and improve my flexibility. This is the year in which I’m finally going to do it, instead of just talking about it!

So, there we have it. Only eight things on my list this year. In addition to this are my usual ‘eat well, read more, learn new things’ goals, but they’re so heavily ingrained into my personality that I don’t need to specifically list them. As long as I’m breathing, I’ll be reading…

What are your goals for 2014? And do you have any advice for me in achieving mine? I’d love to hear from you.

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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 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

November 21, 2013

World Television Day: BEDN #21

It’s World Television Day! Hurray for that. I love telly. I don’t have one though. My dad, upon hearing this news, was aghast. He told me I wasn’t being fair to my kids. What Dad didn’t consider was that with Netflix, the various online catch-up channel options and the DVD player on my laptop, we don’t actually need a TV in order to watch programmes or films. Plus, y’know, I don’t let them watch it all the time, because they will get square eyes. That’s definitely true, because my mum told me…

I remember one of my friends at high school didn’t have a TV and it was never really an issue because in their huge, bustling family life there was always so much happening. Her father eventually capitulated in order to watch an Olympic Games (I dare not try to remember which), but I seem to remember the TV was on loan and went back to the shop the minute the Closing Ceremony was over. Life then went back to its usual busy reality and I don’t really think the telly wasn’t missed. TV or not, I was always a bit envious of my lovely friend and her big, yet close-knit family. And the fact she had a proper clothing allowance and so was able to go shopping without her mum from a much younger age than I was! Anyway…

TV for me these days is a bit of a hit and miss affair. I have several shows that I adore, but rarely watch a whole series from beginning to end. I get easily bored, and life often gets in the way of the TV schedule, and then I forget to do the whole on-demand thing in time. I even missed the start of the new series of Borgen. (I’m definitely going to catch up with it though, so no spoilers!) And I’m probably the only person I know who still references episodes of Friends like they’ve just happened. Seriously. From the window of our new flat I can see a woman in another house regularly hanging out of a window to smoke, and the other day I said that we were watching her as though she was Ugly Naked Guy. See? Never grows old…

Mind you, neither will The Good Life, and that ended roughly around the same time I was born. Other series I’ve seen from start to finish are an eclectic bunch that includes The West Wing, Buffy (but not Angel, for some reason) and The Darling Buds of May…Hmm. An odd collection there.  I have a lot of fondness for The Big Bang Theory and How I met Your Mother too, but I’m not chasing every episode down. I love a good crime drama and am really looking forward to watching David Suchet bring Poirot to a close later this year. Nothing beats a bit of Sunday night Agatha Christie in the winter evenings. A gentle murder mystery after a giant roast dinner feels like a terribly British way to spend an evening.

The one type of TV show I don’t really watch is reality TV. It means that I have to abandon Twitter on a Saturday night because my entire time line is filled up with stuff I don’t understand. I’m not utterly against reality TV, I’ll admit I watched the first series of Big Brother as much as the rest of the world did. But I just know that I only have one life, and so if I’m going to spend some time of it in front of the telly, then I’d rather be watching a great film, well-crafted drama, or a teenage vampire slayer save the world, than cringing on behalf of some misguided individual who thinks they can sing and is basically being encouraged to make a fool of themselves in front of millions. It’s all just a bit too much schadenfreude for me.

The list of programmes that (according to the rest of the world) I should have watched is legion. Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead. I only managed a handful of episodes of The Wire and I never even watched The Sopranos. One day, when I’m really old, poorly or bored, I shall hope to come across some vintage channel that will allow me to make up for this sacrilege. Until then though, I shall carry on referencing Friends as though it’s box-fresh, missing most of the great programmes, and watching the odd episode of comedy. Life’s too short to spend it all watching telly, as much as I love it…

November 6, 2013

National Stress Awareness Day: BEDN #6

So, today it’s National Stress Awareness Day, apparently. I had no idea.

However, stress is something I have a very good knowledge of. This year has probably been one of the most stressful I’ve ever had and I’m actually quite proud of how I’ve coped through it. I’ve even recently written a post about managing stress, which you can find here

But overwhelmingly, the reason I’ve coped better with my stress this time is that I’ve been here before. Nearly eight years ago (which is a bit of a shock, as it means I’m not the teenager my brain often tries to convince me of) I had a bit of a meltdown. I’d just moved house, and I was planning my wedding, and then I got a promotion at work. The combination of living through what are commonly held to be amongst the most stressful things you can go through, all at once, conspired to send me spiralling out of control, like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

The worst bit was at work. I’d got to a point where I felt like I should know the things that I didn’t know. And so I was too embarrassed to ask the questions that I really needed to ask. I struggled, and bluffed, and panicked and just about held it together for a while and then, everything collapsed and I ended up being signed off sick and prescribed medication; Prozac.It was a really horrible time. I felt as though I’d let so many people down, family, friends, colleagues, and I thought I’d made a fool of myself too. After several months away from work, and some counselling, I made a phased return to work. Then I found out I was pregnant.  Still on Prozac, I was told that I had to come off it straight away, rather than the recommended gradual reduction. So, then I struggled with dizziness, nausea, and general freaking-out, as my body came off the drugs overnight, and emotionally I was riddled with fear that I’d somehow damaged the new baby growing inside me. All good fun…

Anyway. I survived. The baby survived. Thrived, in fact, despite an early arrival.  She’s seven on Sunday. And I’m still living a life that’s a bit like Alice In Wonderland, though these days the character I identify with is the White Rabbit, as I’m always late…

I’ve mentioned above about my post that identifies lots of tips about stress management and if you’re struggling yourself, then I think it would be a good read for you. But more than anything, my number one piece of advice for anyone struggling with stress is this:Ask for help.We’re always expecting so much of ourselves, and quite often asking for help feels like an admission that we’ve somehow failed at life. These days, if I can feel myself getting really strung out, or notice my tell-tale signs (crying all the time, waking in the night and not being able to get back to sleep, lethargy, lacking interest in exercise, over-eating and drinking) then I ask for help. And I’m at the front of the queue when it comes to asking the ‘stupid’ questions, those ones that you think you should already have the answers to. I’d rather do that than face the alternatives. And chances are, someone else is relieved that you asked the question that they wanted to ask too!

So, do, ask for help, from family, friends, colleagues or your doctor. The one thing you really mustn’t do is try to struggle on alone. You’ll find that so many other people will empathise with you and so many people have been in a similar position. I wish you lots of luck and peace.

November 5, 2013

Bonfire Night: BEDN #5

My daughter, who is seven on Sunday, has regular homework from school and the last thing she had to do was research Guy Fawkes. Whilst I’m somewhat dubious about explaining what treason is to a six year old (and very thankful she never got to the ‘he jumped to his death to avoid being hung, drawn and quartered’ bit) I am glad that, at the very least, she knows a little about the history of Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night as it’s usually called now. But then these days, how many people are actively celebrating the failure of a Catholic assassination attempt of a Protestant King? I doubt anyone is…

In truth, I like the idea of a celebration of light in the Autumn anyway, irrespective of history. There’s something at the very heart of the human condition to want to create light in the dark, and to do that with friends, family and great food around a roaring fire with added sparkly fireworks is a gorgeous tradition. I’ve already witnessed beautiful Diwali fireworks from the window of our new home this weekend, and now it’s my turn to add to the light in the darkness. One this I won’t be doing is lighting one of those big paper lanterns that are released into the sky. I’ve seen the damage they can do to wild and farm animals, so they’re best left alone, I think.

I’ll be with my family celebrating at home, with fireworks managed by Dad, food cooked by Mum and sparklers waved by me and the kids (with gloves on, and a bucket of sand handy!) and I’m really looking forward to it. As I’m on holiday from work all day, I shall be preparing the food with my Mum and I’m really looking forward to an evening of relaxed fun.

How will you celebrate? Go to an organised display? Celebrate at home?  Or do you prefer not to celebrate and ignore it until it goes away?

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November 4, 2013

Food, Glorious Food: BEDN #4

I’m starting to type this post with a stomach full of fluffy oven-baked potato, lashings of butter, a spot of parmesan and cracked black pepper, and a glass of red wine. Simple food, cooked with love, and completely perfect for Autumn.

We moved home on Friday, and I thought I’d share a couple of photos of our new kitchen. It’s not huge, but it is very sunny and, not shown in the photos, it has a table and chairs too, so we can sit and eat at the table together. Eating at the table as a family is such a huge memory of my own childhood and one that I hope to pass on to my own children. Its a time to catch up with each other, share stories, make time. And as such, it’s more important than what is on the plate in front of you.

Yellow kitchen aid mixer

Sunny little kitchen…

Having said that, what I eat is important to me, and has been at the forefront of my mind since our decision to quit using the supermarkets for a month (at the least – the way things are going it might be a permanent decision!)  We’ve set up a regular vegetable box delivery with Abel and Cole, which I really like because of the flexibility they allow with making changes to what we have delivered. As I have an allotment, very often the food I am getting in a veg box is the same as that I have grown, so to be able to say ‘no’ to various things when I’ve got a home grown glut is very helpful!

Kitchen

Freestanding kitchen unit. Spot the ‘moving-in’ Nutella glasses of prosecco!

In addition to that, since moving here we’ve bought bread and delicious cakes from Crust & Crumb, a local cafe/delicatessen, and spied a great local fruit stall that we’ll be paying a return visit to. Hunting around our new local area of Chapel Allerton in search of non-supermarket food stockists is a great way to get acquainted with the area. It looks like we’ll be spoiled for places to go out for food too!  I’m feeling really lucky to live in a place with so much independent retail. Next on the list of places to buy food from in Leeds are Millie’s, a family run food store in central Leeds, the Leeds Bread Co-op and obviously the Leeds Market. I’m going to find out when all the farmers’ markets nearby take place too. There’s nothing quite as pleasing to eye or stomach as a wander round a good farmers’ market!

But, most of all, I’m looking forward to cooking for family and friends again, and inviting them to sit around the table with us, break bread, share stories and create new memories.

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October 25, 2013

A month without supermarkets.

Last month, I had a bit of a meltdown in the local supermarket. I’ve written before on the paradox of choice and how, sometimes, when faced with too many options, I go into some kind of paralysis. When forced into a supermarket, I often find myself wandering aimlessly round  as though drugged, then like the proverbial deer in the headlights, standing in front of an entire aisle of soup, unable to drag myself away, nor make a decision about which to buy.

And that’s precisely the reason that I’m quitting them. That, and the knowledge that half the world doesn’t have enough to eat and the other half, well, me at least, is deliberating over what seems like an endless variety of food.The balance is quite clearly off and it makes me uncomfortable. I want to have a better feeling about my food than I do now.

So. What to do? Well, I’m about to move to a new area of Leeds which has an array of small independent shops. I’ve just started getting a weekly veg box delivery again. And I’m determined to make the most of my allotment produce. All of these things add up to one answer. Stop going to the supermarket. See what other suppliers are out there; the Leeds Bread Co-op that delivers locally, the farmers’ market, Leeds City Markets, Handpicked Food Hall, and a myriad of other folk. I want to know where my meat comes from, try raw milk, eat seasonally, cook more, meet the people who produce the food that I’m buying and eating. I don’t want to be that person that I become when I’m in the supermarket, making choices like a zombie. This isn’t about me being a ‘foodie’. I don’t really understand that term anyway; surely everyone who eats is a foodie? This is about making more sustainable choices, being comfortable with what I’m eating and enjoying myself. Fewer, better options feel better for me than the vast warehouse-style supermarkets that just make me uncomfortable.

It’s also not an exercise in deprivation. I’m no Jamie Oliver with his unthinking ‘ buy ten mangetout from the market’ type comments. I appreciate that this is going to take more time and is likely to cost more money. I also know how completely fortunate I am. Believe me, if I worked awkward shifts or had a very tight budget, I would stay in the supermarket, without question. I am grateful that I can make this decision.  I’m also hopeful that perhaps I’ll waste less food, use less packaging and appreciate what I’m buying, cooking and eating a bit more.

So, my statement of intent: For the whole of November I  will make sure I don’t step foot in a supermarket. I’m very hopeful that my lovely boyfriend will join me in this challenge. I think he will. As long as we find a decent beer shop! Who am I kidding, I shall need that too. At this moment in time I can only think of one problem. I need fishfingers. So, I need a non-supermarket place to buy or a great recipe to make fish-fingers. Otherwise my lovely, incredibly fussy, four year old boy will starve. Any ideas on that?

During the month, I’m going to blog about the places I find along the way. I’m also doing the Blog Every Day in November Challenge with Rosalilium, so November is going to be a busy old month on Margot & Barbara. If this month works out well, then the plan is to keep going to the end of 2013. And then, who knows. Can we get through the whole of 2014 without Tesco? Sounds good to me…

 

Bloggers: Fancy joining in? Let me know, and we can link up. 

Readers in Leeds, are there any places I should try? I’m thinking of independent food growers, producers, shops, markets etc. Let me know! 

October 18, 2013

Apple Day and Countryside Live.

Apple Day is one of my favourite annual events, first launched by Common Ground back in 1990. Celebrating the rich variety of apples we have in this country, ‘local distinctiveness’, landscape, ecology and the importance of provenance and traceability in food, this is a day that I absolutely love. Apple Day itself is on 21st October, but you’re likely to find events over most of October up and down the country, including cookery demonstrations, apple identification for those of you with unknown varieties in your garden, games for children to have fun with, growing tips and orchard tours. Common Ground no longer manage an Apple Day calendar, because their original intent was always that it took on a life of its own and became part of the seasonal calendar as much as any Harvest Festival might; a naturally occuring part of every October.  I, for one, will always celebrate Apple Day in some way or another.

I quite often go to RHS Harlow Carr on Apple Day. They don’t seem to have an Apple Day event this year, but they’re doing  a week of ‘Sensational Autumn’ activities for half term which look great fun. Other Apple Day events across the country include those run at several National Trust properties, such as apple pressing and other activities at Beningbrough Hall in Yorkshire.

This weekend is also Countryside Live, at the Harrogate Show Ground on Sunday. As well as  a display of apples and apple variety identification, there will be lots of other seasonal goodness, show-jumping and other equine classes for me to reminisce over, a myriad of other activities from sheepdog trials to chainsaw carving and the addition of tractors and animals will ensure that my kids have a great day out, so we’re going to spend Sunday there. Do come and say hello if you’re visiting too!

Many apple varieties remain unfamiliar to most of us because we’re presented with a pitiful selection in the supermarkets. Apple Day is a chance for us to redress that balance, find a bit about our local area, and the amazing heritage of fruit growing that we have. Do have a look to see if there’s an event near you!

Apple Varieties

September 30, 2013

Time for Myself.

Saturday began with an argument. My children’s ‘whimsical’ approach to getting ready to leave the house, combined with a once-an-hour train schedule left me feeling exhausted and combative. I often find myself saying ‘put your shoes on, put your shoes on, put your shoes on’ like a stuck record (ah, vinyl) and it feels as though the mere idea of wearing shoes to leave the house has never entered their mind before, such is the response I get.

Anyway, suffice to say, we caught the train (which helped me out by being delayed) and by the time we’d reached the station, the kids had completely forgotten about our argument and were giddy about the journey. I left them in town with their daddy and returned to an empty house.

Once I got home, I immediately started on my never-ending, relentless ‘to-do’ list. I put some laundry on, sorted out a cupboard of kitchen stuff, tidied all the toys away, and was in the middle of unloading the dishwasher when I realised I had an enormous headache. And so, I sat down. And exhaled, for what felt like the first time all day. I stayed sitting in that kitchen chair for twenty minutes, listening to the quiet and taking a breath.  Gradually, other noises came back. The birds in the hedge outside. The cars on the motorway in the distance. The tap dripping into the kitchen sink.

At that moment, I decided not to do one single thing more from my list. Instead I spent the whole afternoon and evening just taking some time for myself.

I started with tea and the latest issue of Kinfolk, which is a beautiful, uplifting and inspiring read.

Kinfolk magazine, Emma Bridgewater mug

Then, I filled the bath with hot water and bubbles and took a cup of tea and a frothy novel (The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp) into the bathroom for a leisurely soak. There are few things that feel quite as decadent to me as mid-afternoon bathing. After slow, almost languid ablutions and the application of a coat of Chanel ‘Dragon’ red nail polish on my toenails, I then spent a bit of time reading through my RHS study notes, with yet more tea, followed by an easy, uplifting film – Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – and noodles.  At about 9pm, I took myself off to bed with cheesecake, more tea and yet another book. It was simply a lovely afternoon.

As a gardener, I know that the first rule of all gardening is this: Look after your soil.

Gardeners, especially those of us who grow fruit and vegetables, know that we cannot keep taking, taking, taking from the soil and expecting the same results. We must put something back. The right nutrients. A bit of TLC. And, in some cases, we can give the earth a fallow year and a bit of a rest. And I do this. I make sure the soil on my allotment is well cared for. I add nutrients, change crops each year, and allow the soil to rest from producing. But, I don’t give myself the same attention. I expect myself to do all the time. To produce, create, deliver, and run about constantly. Without putting anything back into myself.

If I want to be healthy and have the energy to run around after my children and not be so exhausted, then I need to eat healthily. I need to get enough rest and sleep. I need to exercise to keep myself in decent health.

If I want to be creative, and to write better, then I need to read. If I want to become more accomplished in my chosen subjects, then I need to study and to find the space to learn and take on new ideas. Not just to produce all the time. In fallow periods, I need to slow down and make better use of that breathing space, so that when I do have inspiration, then I know what to do with it.

And, I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of those I love.  An afternoon off might not sound like much. But it’s given me a bit of peace and re-charged my batteries ready for when I need to be able to keep busy, to look after my children, do my job and, yes, to tackle that damn to-do list as well…