Saturday 31 January 2015


It's been over a week since I last posted. What started out as flu (with a free side order of conjunctivitis thrown in) left me with a particularly nasty chest infection. On Tuesday my breathing became so bad I went to the doctor and I'm now on a course of steroids along with an inhaler, nasal spray and a few other bits and pieces.

It's been difficult to heed the cheery advice of 'Keep warm and put your feet up', what with having Joe to take care of. I've been exhausted and am only just starting to feel a bit better. But he did have an extra morning in nursery (it would have been two, but they had to close on Thursday because of the snow).

Life seems to stop when you're unwell. All those things you want to do but can't. All those things you need to do (hello, ironing pile). But when you actually get those quiet moments you're forced to sit back and take things slowly. You notice things. Like the emerging shoots when you go outside for a breath of fresh air.

And the pale waxiness of spring flowers on the table as you sit watching the falling snow.

I have managed a few micro-projects: my cream wool scarf is now finished. There's something about knitting when you're not feeling well. It's repetitive and comforting somehow: not too taxing but you're still doing something.

A business card holder made from half an old paperback. Which means there's enough left to make another. I think my stepdad might like one for his study. And I like folding paper.

And for no real reason other than its sheer size: a pomegranate. I ventured out to the market this morning and couldn't believe the size of these things. They were like small pumpkins. I had to buy one. And those colours: ruby and verdigris.

I've managed plenty of reading. Currently I'm halfway through Fair Exchange by Michele Roberts. I love her writing. My mum introduced me to her a few years ago with the book below, and I now have my mum's small collection of novels and short stories. I'd like to add to it.

In other cultural-sort-of news, I've been recording Wolf Hall. I'm looking forward to watching it but it's not Jay's kind of thing so maybe that's one for an afternoon while Joe naps.

Thank you for your get well messages on Instagram. I am slowly feeling better and looking forward to starting the new year properly. And I'll be making a gradual return to blogging, IG and all the rest of it. Ditto emails: I'll reply to them this coming week.

Keep warm and have a lovely weekend.

Thursday 22 January 2015

The week in pictures

Lots of pictures.

We've had snow days, a day trip to Scotland (not for sightseeing purposes - it was work-related, but the wintry scenery was spectacular nonetheless) and now we're all ill with heavy colds. My eyeballs ache. My everything aches.

Joe's struggling and Jay's dragging himself into work each morning but all plans for this coming weekend have been postponed. So for this post: pictures aplenty and not a great deal of chat. I know you'll understand.

Apologies for the lack of captions. Shall we just say the photos speak for themselves?

Snow, trains, Scotland, family.

I shall now count down the minutes until Joe's nap then crawl under a blanket and get horizontal. Sending you early good wishes for a lovely weekend.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Precious Things #5: History

I've got so many Precious Things in our house; it's difficult to choose which to share. But this time around I decided to go with a bit of family history. Of course, everyone's family history is interesting and fascinating to them in particular and ours is no different. Parts of it are well-known, other parts are sketchy and some are missing completely.

I've long been intrigued by genealogy (and enjoy watching the odd episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are?'), and when part of your family history is missing for one reason or another it makes you even more curious.

I would love to find out exactly what happened to my maternal grandfather's family in Poland but from what I can gather it's a tragic story as they disappeared without trace when the Communists took over. Our story since then is almost fully accounted for but there are a few murky areas to explore. Whether that will ever happen, I'm not sure.

I do know that after the war my grandparents were unable to return to Poland. They came to England (Norfolk) then moved to New York for a while before finally settling back here in the North West. 

The medals used to hang in an extremely heavy gilt frame in their front room which explains why the ribbons are so faded. My mum gave me the army paybooks and the buttons from my grandad's uniform. They're very Precious Things; my grandad passed away when I was young and I remember him only vaguely. I know he was an officer; that his family were classed as nobility and that he fought at Monte Cassino. Apparently one of these medals is Poland's equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

I'm not a big fan of militaria or medals but these are special because they illustrate part of my family history. 

If you'd like to read more Precious Things posts, please visit my fellow bloggers:

Leanne at Today's Stuff

This will be the last monthly Precious Things collaboration, but if you'd like to post about any of your Precious Things I'd love to know about your treasures! And this isn't the end - I'll still add the odd one now and then as I really enjoy writing about them.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Fleeting (and flitting)

This is just a fleeting visit. 

We've had a wondrously snowy weekend and spent a lot of time outdoors with Joe building snowmen, making footprints and taking so many photos I don't even know where to begin. Which brings me neatly to today's post.

I've always, always wanted to get a decent photo of a robin. But they're very quick and always fly off before I'm ready. I don't own a zoom lens. So, until yesterday, I was resigned to the fact that it just wasn't meant to be.

We were crunching and creaking down a snowy lane and I was hanging back and photographing the catkins when this little birdy approached me and came very close indeed. At one point he was hovering next to the camera; the rest of the time he can't have been further than a foot away from the lens. In fact he seemed to be following me for quite a while. I took as many pictures as I possibly could (these are just a few).

I know that robins can be quite territorial so maybe he was letting me know who was in charge of that particular patch.

I also know my mum loved robins and wondered whether it was a little whisper that she was around. I don't hold many beliefs relating to that kind of thing, but there have been one or two unusual occurrences of late which have made me wonder. I know counsellors refer to this is the 'bargaining' part of bereavement: casting about for any sign that it's not the end. I remain open to most theories but if something gives you a bit of comfort and hope when you need it, then that's no bad thing.

I came away feeling so excited that I'd got so near to this little bird, and it was him who'd picked me out. I've never seen a robin in such close proximity before and it was a lovely experience.

I hope you're enjoying the weekend and that you're lucky enough to have some snow - it really does make everything seem magical.

Friday 16 January 2015


Note: the above grainy finish was intentional - the light's not that bad here. Well, not at the moment anyway. Although we do keep getting hail showers where the sky blackens, the thunder rolls and you peer out of the window feeling grateful you're not outdoors.

It's Friday. I'm pretty sure I say this every week but: it does seem to have been a long one. I'm definitely getting that 'crossing the finish line' feeling this afternoon.

So, this past week (other than playing with photo editing software) I've been out to playgroups where much tea has been imbibed whilst snuggling up to cranky old heating pipes. I've slithered down snowy lanes in the car. I've been out and about on little errands. I've cooked keep-the-cold-out hearty meals.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have found some colour here and there. But these past few sleety days have been spent hunkering down so no snowdrop-watch for me. Any bright green shoots are being watched from the window.

We've also been feeding the birds a lot and Joe loves to observe them hopping about - they're so much more visible against a backdrop of snow.

Our time indoors has been spent painting and playing with Duplo and diggers. We've been to the library and there are several books on the go (Joe's currently into this one - so much so I keep renewing it). He's also discovered the joys of the fried egg sandwich.

I'm working on a few knitting projects at the moment: a cream wool scarf and a quick-to-make ribbed hat in some pale grey chunky yarn. Other January pleasures: a scented white candle, bath salts, a bunch of paperwhites and episodes of Poirot viewed from under a blanket. I make no apologies for the Poirot. I love it. Oh, and woolly jumpers (hence the picture at the start of this post). Double-oh: the fact that it's still perfectly acceptable to drink Baileys even though Christmas has been and gone. Doesn't matter if you run out of milk; if you've got Baileys then there's really no need to drink your coffee black.

Not that I give Joe Baileys on his Weetabix, you understand. If things get that bad I go to the shop for milk. Baileys is obviously far too expensive completely unsuitable for a toddler.

Book-wise, I'm on Mrs Fytton's Country Life by Mavis Cheek. I've never read her before and it's just a paperback I found on my mum's bookshelf. It's quite well written (and funny) so I'm enjoying it despite the complaints on Goodreads of the plot being a bit formulaic...

Weekend looks to follow the usual pattern: Saturday very busy until mid-afternoon. That's when Joe naps so it kind of forces us to stay home and stop what we're doing. It's actually the perfect excuse to stay home and stop what we're doing. No complaints from me. Sunday we may venture out to look at the steam trains. There's some kind of gala so Joe can get his fill of locomotive action, I can take some pictures, the ducks can guzzle all our saved-up crusts and Jay can spend plenty of daddy time with his boy.

This all depends on the extremely changeable weather, of course.

Have a wonderful weekend.

P.S. You may notice a few changes going on around here regarding the look of the blog. That's because I'm working on a new design and it's a gradual process, me not being the most technically savvy of people. Rather than enlist the services of a professional I'm attempting it myself with rather a lot of help (which I appreciate hugely). So apologies if Mitenska looks a bit different each time you visit. It's what's known as A Process (and a steep learning curve)...

Sunday 11 January 2015

Bright (and a bit of brave)

This post is not a cop-out. You see, I'd fully intended to go out with my camera and thermals and find little beacons of brightness in this grey January. But I haven't. Yet.

The wind, the hail, the rain, the biting cold - I've retreated. I've done something which, thus far in my blogging career, I haven't yet resorted to: gone back through the archives. I actually enjoyed doing it, looking at all those pictures and noticing how my photography has changed (progressed?) over the past two years. Seeing Joe as a little baby. Re-living summers and places visited and small pleasures had.

A few blogs I visit have done this recently. I've admired their colourful collages and looked at all those bright hues. I believe there is definitely something to be said for colour therapy.

So here you are. Some of these images and collages may be familiar to longer-term readers. If you've recently found the blog, welcome - and I hope you like looking back through a little pictorial history of Mitenska.

I've been trying to stick to my 2015 plan to be more brave. It's been interesting so far; at least one challenge each day. Yesterday I braved the weather and went to a yoga class with a friend. It was pretty daunting: a room full of very flexible people and us two the only newbies. But the teacher was great, I somehow managed to coordinate myself to follow the sequences and I'm going again next week. I'm even trying a fitness class tomorrow. There's a creche so Joe will be taken care of while I pant and sweat and try to keep up.

I've made enquiries about possible work opportunities, contacted some lovely helpful people (you know who you are) about a possible blog redesign, reached the end of all the formalities regarding my mum's will, and made some important appointments.

Tonight I'm trying a new recipe from one of my cookbooks. It involves mincing chicken so we'll be dusting off the (as yet unused) mincing machine and giving that a whirl. Apparently you shove a slice of bread through first to ensure it's clean then off you go. I quite like culinary contraptions. This could be the start of a short-lived novelty beautiful relationship.

There's also been much reorganising and tidying-out of drawers and so on. 

Last week I brought some of my mum's books home. When I say some, I mean quite a lot. It's an eclectic mix: Polish history, classic fiction, cookery books, scuffed old paperbacks I can remember from being little. I set up a little bookcase in the bedroom to house them all safely and will not be stuck for anything to read for a very long time.

Looks like I've got a bit of momentum going here. And as soon as the weather calms down I'll be out snapping away. But not yet - there's tea to drink and firelight to be cosied up beside.

Thursday 8 January 2015


I intend to write a post, inspired by some of my favourite blogs, on seeking out colour in this the gloomiest of months. At the moment all I can hear is the splash of surface water on the road outside and hailstones hitting the window. My fingers and toes are constantly cold. It keeps raining and when it's not raining it's threatening to. Grey, grey, grey. It may be one of my favourite colours but I do believe in everything in moderation. 

When the sky, the ground and most things in between are the hue of a dirty woollen blanket - well, it gets a bit much. Even for a self-professed pluviophile.

So that's a project for later this week: to get out and get snapping at anything bright and beautiful. In the meantime I'm staying indoors and toddler-chasing and, during quiet periods, indulging in that most January of pastimes: pondering. My most recent post was all about being brave, taking chances, dipping a toe in. And that's what I'm doing.

A risk, a chance, a knock on a door. Every day. And I'm writing each one down (notebook fiend that I am). Not all these things are a big deal; maybe I'll simply cook something different and a bit challenging. One day I may speak to someone new, start a conversation. Yesterday I decided to give Facebook another go and I put a page together outlining my photography and writing then - gulp - set it free. There's something quite daunting about the prospect of people you actually know reading your blog. Which sounds ridiculous considering it's out there on the internet for all to see.

But I did it. People 'liked' it. Some will have clicked 'like' without even looking at it. That's OK.

There's something good about trying something a little bit daunting each day. And it gives you a sense of achievement too, a 'to do' ticked off the list. I'm hoping it turns into a habit. I'll stop short at 'addiction' - I doubt I'll ever be an adrenaline junkie or even a thrill seeker. But seeking out new things, pushing yourself that tiny bit further and finding - to your surprise - that you can do it: that's got to be good for your self-belief.

Yes, I'm aware that things will occasionally fall flat or backfire. But I also think that most won't. So there's a bit of optimism for you in the bleak not-even-there-yet Midwinter.

P.S. Thank you to the people who contacted me regarding iron deficiency. I know the cause of mine and I'm taking measures to deal with it. And I'm feeling far better than I have in ages.

Sunday 4 January 2015


So, here we are: a new year upon us and the festive merrymaking packed away (well, in this house anyway - I've never been one to hang about once it's all over). The tree's outside, no doubt gratefully breathing in lungfuls of chilly air and soaking up the moisture. The ornaments are neatly boxed up and stashed away in the attic. The fridge is once again home to green leafy things.

For many, tomorrow marks 'back to work' proper. Jay's going in and it'll be just me and Joe again through the day. But hopefully I won't find that quite so exhausting. I had some blood tests done over Christmas and it seems I'm iron deficient. Which certainly explains some pretty grim symptoms: palpitations, daily headaches, brain fog, dizzy spells and a constant feeling of grinding fatigue. I was so used to it that I thought it was 'just me' - my body's default setting.

Not so. Our local lovely health food shop had one bottle of this left in stock and after the best part of a week I'm feeling so much sharper and, well, awake. I know red meat's the best form of iron (as well as other things I do eat often) but I'm not a big fan. So, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for 2015.

I know lots of bloggers like to start a new year with a single word which encapsulates their hopes and plans. I prefer that to an exhaustive list of resolutions, although there's nothing wrong with writing down your goals. I've given this word thing some thought and - of course - struggled to narrow it down to just the one. But I think I've got it: Brave. As in, Be Brave.

Life for us at the moment is in a state of transition and we have many decisions to make, particularly regarding buying a house (where?) and what we want to do long-term. We know where we'd really like to be, both literally and figuratively, and I think we both know, particularly after last year, that life is indeed short. I'd hate it to fly by and to look back with regret. You see, I'm not one for taking risks, I live in constant fear of failure and I crave security. But without doing anything too irresponsible I think we should just go with our gut instincts and try. If we fail, so be it. Better to have given things a go than forever look back wondering what might have been.

So as this year goes on I'll share a little here and there of our plans and (fingers tightly crossed) progress.

Being brave also applies to my creativity: to blogging (writing in an honest way, without worrying too much about whether I'm keeping up with trends or about how I come across). To other writing: memoirs and notes (which I'll expand on in a later post); to my photography and artistic endeavours. I'd love to give the blog a bit of a facelift. I'm a true aesthetist. I love to make things look beautiful. Whether that happens (what with my limited technological knowledge) remains to be seen.

I think I could maybe push myself a little more in terms of getting 'out there' with my photography. Instagram is fun but I far prefer my camera to a phone. My social media activity needs a bit of re-evaluation too. Twitter's OK for reading here and there and keeping informed, but I rarely put anything out on it myself. I mean to keep my Tumblr account up-to-date with photos and am considering a Facebook page too (I don't like Facebook very much, truth be told, but it is useful for local contacts).

And Pinterest. Ah, Pinterest: how I love thee. And how much time I waste while away gazing at beautiful pictures. It's research, OK? It inspires me. But maybe I should set a little timer so that those sessions can be kept to a reasonable length.

So, a new calendar. A new sense of purpose. A new year. I'll keep drinking my green tea (surely I'll actually start to enjoy the taste at some point) and trying to use my time effectively: making time for creativity, pushing myself forward and peeping out from the little corner I hide in. Being brave.

If you have a word you've chosen, an affirmation or a goal for this year: feel free to share it here. If you're keeping it quiet, I get that too. Here at Mitenska I like to do a bit of both... 

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