Tuesday 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

So, 2013 is almost over. And although we're (literally) having to take a rain check on our planned family walk tomorrow, we're still going out visiting and spending time with loved ones.

I'm looking forward to 2014 - so many plans, ideas, hopes... who knows what it may bring?

This past year has had its fair share of challenges but there have been lots of great things too, one of which has been writing this blog. Thank you all for reading, commenting and sharing.

However you chose to celebrate tonight (us: a quiet night in with a few celebratory drinks and no real plans to stay up until midnight), have a wonderful New Year.

See you in 2014 x

Saturday 28 December 2013


I hope everyone's having a nice Christmas. We are - and today we headed out for a walk around Dunham. The weather has been wild lately but today it was bright and sunny with no crazy howling winds.

Naturally, we found ourselves in the shop. It was completely empty. I've never seen it so quiet, but I suppose we were out and about quite early. We spent a bit of our Christmas money on a nice Welsh blanket .

Outside was quite busy. I bumped into an old colleague of mine - the Keeper of Archaeology from the Museum - and we had a quick catch-up. It was good to see him.

There were a few frosty places where the sun hadn't reached. I was glad we all wrapped up warm. Joe was the snuggliest though - foot muff, mittens, several layers, hat...

He loved watching all the birds. I've started putting food out for them in the garden at home and we're already being visited by blackbirds, bluetits and two big fat wood pigeons. In fact Jay is in the shed right now, making a bird feeder.

I wore my new wellies. Along with woolly socks and legwarmers.

I also chopped my hair a few weeks ago. Badly. It wasn't a Britney moment - I wasn't mid-meltdown or anything. It was just getting a bit ratty at the ends so I decided to sort it out. Unfortunately I got a bit scissor-happy and took too much off. 

When my mum saw it on Boxing Day she made me promise to book in at a salon and get it done properly. I will. Didn't stop her from grabbing the kitchen scissors and snipping a few bits off herself though.

These look quite spring-like, but we haven't really had a proper winter yet. Although I'm looking forward to 2014. Last year had its low points but in the end we're happy, healthy and Joe makes everything complete.

I've already been doing a bit of organising and decluttering. More on all that stuff in a future post.

In the meantime we're still eating lovely things, staying warm and enjoying time together. Making the most of Christmas.

Hope you're doing the same.

Monday 23 December 2013

Christmas tree(s)

Well, interpretations of Christmas trees. 

We don't have a traditional tree because a) we have an inquisitive toddler and b) I have an allergy. So in the interests of keeping the baubles intact and my not spending the beginning of 2014 on steroids and all kinds of medication, we've got a few alternatives.

First up: the kitchen. No fairy lights in the twigs I collected and decorated, but lots of colourful baubles. Matt, shiny, glittery. Understated? No. Cheery? Most definitely.

I reserved the gold ones for the living room. I'm back on gold after many years of preferring silver. So a few bare branches with little gold baubles. For some reason it remind me of the nursery rhyme 'I Had a Little Nut Tree'.

We have lots of candles and fairy lights on the go too. And I have to say, I don't think the house suffers for the lack of a tree. 

As well as adorned twigs and branches there are bits of greenery in vases and a kitsch little tinsel tree in the bedroom.

And the paperwhites have come good, just in time for Christmas. They look beautiful and smell lovely too.

Hope you're enjoying your home comforts as much as we are.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Christmassy things

Here's Mr Noisy. Still teething. Still not his usual cheery self. But today we braved it and went to Ramsbottom to meet up with my family and exchange gifts. And eat, and drink tea, and buy a few last-minute presents.

I was half expecting a repeat of last week's visit to Hebden Bridge: a lot of apologetic pram-reversing out of shops as Joe objected loudly. He did. But we persevered. And everyone was very nice about it, probably because:

There were some very tuneful carol singers outside the church. Joe tolerated I Saw Three Ships, but drew the line at The Holly and the Ivy. Which was a shame because I like it.

Later on, the Rotary Club took over and put Band Aid on at ear-splitting volume. The man in charge of the speakers was very flustered. Everyone was standing around with their hands over their ears.

It's not quite Christmas yet but I'm really looking forward to 2014. I have to think positive: it will be the year I get to move back home. Joe will pick up a reet broad Lancashire accent ;)

The market was packed with people buying their trimmings for Christmas dinner. They were all queuing under the leaden skies with baskets full of sprouts, parsnips and potatoes. In fact by the time we got there they'd sold out of Maris Pipers completely. And if that doesn't sound like something a very old lady might report, I don't know what does.

I bought some chestnuts. Which means I'll be looking up how to cook them. Jay suspects I need an open fire a la Nat King Cole, but I'm sure our oven will do the job very nicely. I'm also planning to make some mulled wine later (must rifle through the cupboards in search of spices).

Last night we dropped Joe off with his grandparents for a few hours while we bought a few things from M&S. There's a gargantuan one not too far away on a retail park, and surprisingly it was fairly quiet. Toys and books were all 50% off which was good. I bought some nice things for my little niece and a couple of rolls of lovely vintage-style wrapping paper.

And a bottle of prosecco to celebrate Jay finishing work for Christmas. Once Joe was snuggled up in bed we had a drink and relaxed.

Oh, and I've already spent my Christmas money. I'm currently a Girl of Slender Means, what with staying home with Joe. I don't really miss earning a nice salary and constantly buying things. But it's nice to treat yourself. These days, that's restricted to birthdays and Christmas. It makes you think hard about what you'd really like. You have to wait.

I did. I put these on a secret Pinterest board. I looked them up online. I admired them for a long time. And today I went into the riding shop and made a purchase. 

Expensive, but worth it. I love them. And very festive: red and perfect for splashing about on sleety walks. They should last me for many years to come.

Hope you're enjoying the season...

Monday 16 December 2013

Better not pout

I was actually going to call this post 'Mistletoe and Whine' but felt a bit mean. We went to Hebden Bridge at the weekend to buy some presents and generally soak up the festive cheer.

Sadly, Joe wasn't feeling in the least bit cheery. His back teeth are coming through, he's full of ANOTHER cold and he complained the whole time. Which took the shine off things somewhat.

Having said that, he liked the toy shop (below).

He also cheered up when we sat in the square eating chips (fried in dripping - we were in Yorkshire) and the pigeons landed and assaulted each other in the hope of getting a morsel.

It was a gloomy day but the sun came out now and then. Fortunately we wrapped up warm. And the chips helped enormously.

We browsed a lot and bought a few goodies. I visited my favourite flower shop and marvelled at the displays, and Jay bought Joe his first 'proper' teddy bear (the traditional type) as one of his presents.

We had a wander around the Heart Gallery (above) but unfortunately Joe really ramped it up and we scuttled back out, mortified at our having shattered the peace and quiet in there. Silly I know. It was just one of those days where he was only happy if we were on the move. The joys of parenthood!

There's a little shop I love and the lady there sells all kinds of vintage things, including lots of functional items and kitchenalia - definitely a weakness of mine. The photo at the top of this post, of the narcissus paperwhites, was outside there too. 

We bought some lotions and potions from here. It's so very Christmassy in there - all sparkle and perfume and luxury. Actually, Joe paused for breath and allowed himself to enjoy it. Although I noticed Julie Andrew was singing 'Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down' in the background.

So maybe the soundtrack to Mary Poppins could be one of his stocking fillers...

After a long drive home over the moors, we put the little one to bed for a nap and ticked a few more gifts off the list.

And later on we ordered a curry. The health kick can begin in January February.

Friday 13 December 2013

New traditions

Cards all written (and since stamped, addressed and ready to post).

It's been a restful Friday - Joe was with his grandparents all morning so I had a daytime bath (the luxury!) and took it easy after the mad rush to get him up, fed, changed and ready to go.

I think it did me good after a stressful few days. You may have noticed that my previous post has been removed. I don't regret writing it and I appreciate the helpful comments, but you also need to know when to let things die down. Words have since been had. The situation isn't entirely resolved but... time to move on.

We're off to Hebden Bridge tomorrow for some relaxed Christmas shopping. And browsing. And lunching.

It's becoming a new family tradition for us. I hadn't thought about that much when I had Joe, but we're creating new traditions as well as upholding the old ones and it's fun.

Have a nice weekend whether you're staying at home or going out :)

Wednesday 11 December 2013


This week's Nature in the Home: Garlands.

You know I already have a few pine cone ones around the place (and am seriously considering spraying them gold). But I like the little leaves that light up otherwise grey, bare shrubs. So today I went for a wander with Joe. And this time I remembered my secateurs so no thumb injuries ensued.

I cut some more greenery to replace the frazzled stuff I collected a week or two back. Joe kept trying to grab it from under the pram but his mittens put a stop to that.

We spotted a few bits of colour. It was a chilly day and the sun was very low in the sky so we were glad to get home for some cheese on toast.

Anyway, while Joe crayoned - on the table, as it turned out - I stitched some tiny leaves and berries together and strung them up. They looked nice in the afternoon light. I doubt they'll last very long but they only took a few minutes to make - and I enjoy scouting around for new things to decorate the house with.

I've got a busy hour or so planned. Jay's brother is coming over when he finishes work so there's lamb in the oven (coated with yogurt and cumin). I'm going to do chickpeas with coriander, parsley and feta - you make a flavoured oil with red onions, chilli and garlic to pour over it, recipe from here.

There are a few houseworky things to get done then a nice relaxing evening ahead. Maybe a drink but then again, I was out last night for festivities with my colleagues from the shop so maybe not.

Oh, and here is the plate I won from Polly. It arrived in one piece and is very sweet. Thanks, Polly!

I'd just like to thank you all for your lovely comments recently. They've been extremely helpful and I appreciate them all. More importantly, I hope they've maybe helped one or two others who find themselves in similar situations. 

Nothing like sharing experiences and wisdom, is there?

Monday 9 December 2013


We went to a 40th birthday party on Saturday evening. Joe came along (naturally) and there were lots of other parents and children there.

I saw someone I haven't bumped into for a while. She's part of the group I opted out of, although I actually like her very much. And yet I still came away from the party feeling... flat. She was full of questions about whether I'd got a job yet, and when was I going back to work, and wasn't I a bit concerned that Joe wouldn't 'come on' quickly because he's not going to nursery.

She also asked what we'd bought him for Christmas and went on to list the very many things they'd bought for her little girl. There seemed to be some assumption that, because I'm a stay-at-home mum, we must be desperately short of money. She suggested I buy him things from Home Bargains.

All in a friendly, helpful way.

The fact is that we're not struggling financially (no more so than many people at the moment).

Joe has lots of lovely things: bought, made, given. Like the little Polish money box which has his great grandad's buttons from his army uniform inside.

And crayons. We like crayoning.

And little things found at flea markets.

And a new jumper from his auntie in cheery red.

He loves his string of jingle bells (hanging on the tree in his room).

And how sweet is this little toadstool night light? It used to belong to Jay when he was little. It has tiny ceramic mice living inside it.

Anyway, I was annoyed with myself after the party. Annoyed that I felt the need to explain and justify my decision to stay home with him. Annoyed that I let other people's well-meaning comments get to me. Because Joe's coming on very nicely, thank you. Our finances are our business. And staying home with him is my decision. We live simply, are happy and our choices are ours, just as other people's choices are theirs.

I'd love to have more friends who understand that. In the meantime I'll stay away from those who make me feel bad about myself.

Joe's Christmas will be merry and bright and full of little things which show he's loved.
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