Sunday, 28 February 2010

Some Good Karma in the Post

This month I took part in my first ever gift swap! The Good Karma Gift Swap hosted by Kaileen Elise.

The theme was "good karma", involving something to calm, something to comfort, something to inspire creativity and something for a celebration.

I was SUPER excited when I got my package in the post!

My package came all the way from Canada, from Jozen at Lola's Girl :-)

Something to calm...

Tea - including my favourite! Vanilla!

Something to comfort...

Some really scrumptious lip balm for my wind-burned lips!

Something to inspire creativity...

A lovely ball of squiggly wool, which will contribute to my next knitting project as I progress with my How To Knit book!

And something for a celebration...

Some vintage earrings - wonderful!

Thank you Jozen!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Thursday Afternoons

I have been craving regularity, routine, evenings to myself without the constant nagging of reading, essays and study. For the first time in my 18 years of education, I've felt that I am ready to stop learning in the academic sense, and start using what I've learned to contribute in some way to the world around me. I've been almost scared of this sudden change of heart; as if suddenly I have found myself on the wrong path, and not knowing whether to continue on my way and see this through, or to turn around and admit defeat.

But here I sit, in my comfy pyjama bottoms, eating a huge bowl of yogurt and listening to a melodramatic play on Radio 4. It's 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon.

This morning I dragged myself to campus for a 9:15 seminar, aching and bleary-eyed. I then sat with 3 academics, discussing the ins and outs of cognitive development, linguistic performance, and the relationship between the two. We laughed, we heard stories of my professor's grandchildren, we drank tea, we talked about an up-coming weekend conference in the Peak District.

I think I'll stick to the direction I'm headed for now. A salary, leisurely evenings and reading for pleasure are all exciting temptations of the real working world, but for now my time is my own, my workwear is sometimes the same as my bedwear, and I have free-reign of the radio station. I'm sure that these commonplace aspects of my life will one day seem like distant, frivolous treats of my student days, while the organic tomatoes in my sandwich and the prospect of an evening spent with a good book will pass me by unnoticed.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Where Did The Weekend Go?

Monday again. By 9:30, too many Monday-esque things had happened to take away the Monday feeling. A reflection of the weekend is in order!

My brother turned 19 on Sunday, so I used this as a good excuse to go back to my family home for the weekend; get laundry done, relax, sleep in my comfy bed, be cooked for and consequently eat too much, and get some country air. I was feeling quite suffocated from being in the city for so long, and as soon as I got out of the car at home, I felt better. The air felt so much cleaner, it even tasted better as I breathed in, and everything smelt so fresh and crisp. It was dark when I arrived back, and it was wonderful to look up and see a sky full of stars, and a perfect crescent moon. Lucklily I don't notice the absence of this night sky in York, because if I did, it wouldn't be such a nice surprise to see it when I get the chance.

The weekend was perfect but for one thing - it went way too quickly! On Saturday we were treated to a huge pan of Aga porridge, one of my favourite things in life! I could get through a whole pan, given the chance - I wonder how lively I would be if I tried it? York is a very flat place, and the terrain at home is incredibly hilly, and so I used this opportunity to get some good training in for what will be a very hilly half marathon. It was the first time I've ever been running with my Dad, who is no stranger to extreme outdoor activity, and so I was incredibly nerrvous about being too slow or too tired. We did a 7.5 mile route, passing through a few towns and villages, but mainly open countryside, and it was wonderful. I never realised how lovely the area can be, given the right light and the right view. The scenery and the company made it quite an easy run, all things considered, and it was great to get to know my Dad a bit better, and to show him that I'm no longer the unfit, moody teenager I used to be!!

Rounded off with a tasty banana-peanut butter recovery-milkshake, it was quite a successful morning!

In the evening we headed out with some family friends to celebrate my brother's birthday at a great local Indian resaturant. I love Indian food, and have started to make my own curries with as much authenticity as I can, but of course it doesn't even come close to a proper Indian curry!

On Sunday we woke up to a very surprising blanket of snow, and a thick sheet of snow still falling. This was perfectly in line with my plan for the day: relax! To me, a good birthday needs a great breakfast, and so we set the day off in style with a special Birthday Breakfast - yogurt, fruit, granola, orange juice, hot cross buns (my bro ate 7 in two days!), jams, honey, pancakes, maple syrup, blueberries! We were stuffed! Mum was cooking up pancakes while also simmering two soups on the stove, making a birthday cake, preparing Sunday dinner and making an egg custard for her brother - what a star!

Of course, we were lured out by the evil white stuff - no relaxing as I had intended! I never got the chance to go sledging during the last snowfall (see above about York being flat!), and so Dad got down the sledges and we headed off in hats and wellies to the sledging hill from my childhood. I wish I could have taken my camera, because it was hilarious! I must have been a daring child - I got halfway up the hill and decided it was high enough for me, and shooting down the hill at what felt like 3873mph I couldn't help screaming at the top of my lungs, while the children nearby were speeding down much faster, head first!

We trudged home over the fields pulling our sledges behind us, which felt sort of childlike for some reason. I certainly didn't regret not staying at home with my book and a cup of tea.

Jam sandwiches, the perfect apres-snow lunch!

It was my perfect Sunday, in all. It has left me yearning for family Sundays as a child, and I feel quite sad that I have now left home, and am now in charge of creating my own routines and comforts. Growing up, you never have the chance to notice how special things are; it is just normality, routine, and even a little boring. Then everything changes, and only then when they have gone from normality do these things reveal their true joy, and you realise how important they were in your life. I feel incredibly lucky that I have this chaotic, imperfect home to return to, and that I'll always belong there, no matter how long I stay away. It's too easy to notice the cracks in your family once you grow up, and I have definitely concentrated too hard on these in the past. For now I can't wait to go back again over Easter, and I intend to hold on to this sudden appreciation of how things were until then, and make sure that next time I use it to my advantage; I'm still the same girl who grew up in that house, after all.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Letting Go and Giving Up

I keep up a continuous stream of messages with a very good friend entitled 'Simple Pleasures and General Happiness'. The idea is that, every day if possible, we update with something simple that has brought sunshine into our days. It is inspired by our mentor and love, Mme Amelie Poulain.

Today I need comfort. I knew it would be one of those days when I woke up this morning. And I knew it'd be a day of need when, after finishing a delicious and very large bowl of porridge, I wanted toast and chocolate and endless cups of tea, despite feeling a little over-full.

So, today's simple pleasure was more than just simple; it was (and still is) all the warmth and comfort I needed, with enough 'oof' to stimulate my dulled mind towards some positivity.

A chai latte! Made with half warm milk, half hot water. I only tried this for the first time about a year ago, but have been a fan ever since! If you like warm drinks and some Eastern spice, I highly recommend it - you can buy sachets from the supermarket.

So, onto the real topic for this post - Lent.

I've never given anything up for Lent. This year I wasn't intending to either; I have a good balance in my life, and I felt that in giving something up, I'd be disrupting that balance, and possibly doing more harm than good. I thought a bit harder about whether there was anything I wanted to change, that would present a challenge, and would have a positive outcome: chocolate or alcohol are often the obvious choices for people, but as I hardly eat any of the former, and enjoy the latter regularly but sensibly, I didn't feel this would have a positive result. However, I've been aware for a while of a need to spend less time checking Facebook. I do it as a pointless habit, a way to distract myself from essays, getting ready in the morning, my own life, etc. So, I'm in No Facebook Day 2, and it feels wonderful! I'm using this extra time to communicate properly with the people I care about - emails, phone calls, maybe letters. I also intend to update my blog more when I feel so inclined. 20 minutes a day extra is plenty to have a positive impact on your world and the people you love, I reckon!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Fat Tuesday Fatties

Before I update on all things pancake, here are the beautiful roses bought just for me by my lovely Valentine!

And the special Love Tea. Because I really really do love tea!

I couldn't hold back on the pancake theme yesterday. I saw it as the perfect opportunity to re-visit the time I spent in Brittany 2 years ago, and so put together a Breton-themed pancake fest. My local health food shop provided the buckwheat for my Galettes au Sarrasin, a traditional savoury pancake from Brittany, which was the first and last meal I had when living in Brittany, and many more times in between. I used to buy these galettes from the market every Tuesday and have them for my tea with cheese and peppers. Needless to say, it was quite a substantial trip down memory lane for me, and an enjoyable one.

The menu:

Traditional French Onion Soup, made with local Yorkshire onions!
Galettes au Sarrasin, with spring vegetables and cheese
Sweet crepes, with sugary toppings!
Posh French wine

with a musical accompaniment from Tetes Raides.

Preparing the first galette!

The first crepe is always doomed to fail...

A flippin' failure! (note pancake lying on oven top just off shot, and kitchen chaos!)

A tag-team of pancake chefs!

My 6th (and final!) pancake - banana and golden syrup! Yummmm!!

Sugared out, we slumped with wine in front of University Challenge. That was a real cookery marathon!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Way to a Girl's Heart

So wonderful to see people celebrating love all over the world! How can so many people be cynical about Valentine's Day? This year I have my first blue-eyed valentine. He surprised me after work, arriving in the pub with a bouquet of roses and a box of Love Tea by Pukka (cannot WAIT to try it!), and causing quite a stir amongst the customers!

But today is extra-special for us both, as today is also our one year anniversary! We have been reflecting a lot on the blossoming of our relationship, such an exciting time in my life, and those feelings have grown over the year; our relationship has never ceased to be exciting!

One year ago today, I was frantically searching my CD collection, as I had been invited to an 'LP Night' by someone I considered way cooler and smarter than myself (whether this was a correct judgement remains to be seen :-P), and there was a lot at stake: I had to impress! I took a good mix of music; bluesy Hijack Oscar, some Karl Jenkins to remain true to my classical heritage, and then the classics - Mountain Goats, Neutral Milk Hotel and Fleet Foxes. I remember what I wore, I remember the odd and quite unpleasant smell of university halls, and the refreshingly clean musk of Tiger Balm in his room. We ate flapjacks, drank wine, ate cookies, drank cider. And we listened to amazing music and talked for hours and hours. Hours and hours and hours. Listening to Bon Iver in the early hours of the morning, exhausted from the time and the alcohol, we had our first kiss, so awkward and clumsy and still incredibly vivid in my mind. He walked me home as the birds were waking up and the sun was rising. And I had that feeling that everything was changing; everything was about to become even more exciting!

And it continues to be exciting. The past year has been amazing, in the most simple way. A day to celebrate love is a wonderful idea - everyone has someone to love, whether it be a partner, a best friend or family, there is no rules stating that real love is exclusively romantic love. The best moments of life are almost always shared with other people, and with these other people it is possible to revisit the best parts of life whenever we want or need to. So tonight will be spent eating leek risotto (my first 'meal for two' choice), apple crumble, drinking wine, reflecting and planning. The simple things are always the best :-)

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Future is Unwritten

I have had such a busy week! I feel like I haven't stopped! There is a long list of emails to respond to, cleaning to do, reading to catch up on...

Due to a seminar being re-scheduled, I was able to indulge this morning, and had a pre-breakfast run, followed by a nice slow breakfast for two. I love having someone to talk with while I eat my porridge!

I'm currently in the process of trying to map out my future. Not an easy task! I never had any specific ambitions before, but suddenly I have enough ambition to last me a few lifetimes! I have skills, some of which are quite specific, and I want to use them. I want to use my degree, and I want to use my Master's degree. I know I want to work with books. I know I don't want to have a desk job. I want to work with people. I want to do something that reflects how hard I've worked to get this far.

So, I am applying to publishing companys galore! OUP is my dream, and if it would set up an office in the North, even better. In the mean time, librarianship might just be the right thing for me. Larkin was a librarian. I love libraries. Working every day in a grand, ancient library, like the one in Kafka on the Shore, would be my idea of a blissful existence. A place where people go to learn, to think, to be quiet, to reflect, to find inspiration.

Currently, the future feels bigger and closer than ever (makes sense, I suppose!). Before, my goals were quite short-term: get A levels, go to University, get a degree. But now, there is no structure, it's all there, right ahead. Scary stuff!

The weekend is almost here, and I have entered 'weekend mode' a little too early. Should be studying, really. This weekend is particularly exciting, as Sunday is much more to me than Valentine's Day. More on that later though! The next two days will be spent reading, cooking, relaxing, maybe some shopping....and Daniel will be appearing on national TV - celebrity indeed!

Have a great weekend!!!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Fresh Flowers

These simple pink flowers have been helping to carry me through busy, tiring days more effectively than caffeine and sugar ever could.

I am grateful to their delicate simplicity; glad I didn't choose tulips and daffodills instead. They are peeping out from their buds curiously, watching me go about my day. Even as the first leaves start to wilt, they retain beauty in their bedraggled flowers.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Solitary Bliss

I love having someone to share my weekends with, lazing around, drinking tea while listening to the radio or reading the paper. I love having someone make my breakfast for me, allowing me a little longer in bed, sharing the best day of the week, allowing it to pass unhurriedly, without any commitment to being there at that time - no deadlines or tasks to fulfill. Saturday is the only day in my week where I have nothing timetabled in that I have to do, and so I savour it, and don't allow myself to give my Saturday time away to anything I don't want to do.

But I also love the (now rare) occasions when I have the mornings to myself, without being distracted by company. Daniel is in London at the moment, and so I had Friday evening, and now Saturday morning, to myself. I find myself indulging in things which normally I wouldn't bother to do, and every now and then, this is such a treat! After a cool evening jog through an incredibly busy city (leaving me more frustrated than energized!) I treated myself to a long yoga session, followed by a bath. I never bother with baths unless I'm in my parents' house, where the bath is white and clean and so huge I don't even need to bend my knees. But I have some amazing Lush bath products from Christmas, which I used to their full joy (wow - the little bath soaks in the muslin bags are divine!), and even painted my toenails, which have been hidden and forgotten since October, when sandal season finished. I had time to cook a jacket potato in the oven - one of life's best treats, when the time allows, and then sat with a huge mug of tea to finally finish watching the last three episodes of Flight Of The Conchords, which I borrowed from my friend in summer and must return! My favourite way to pamper myself is to go to bed early with a book and a hot chocolate, which I did, at 10 o'clock!

Waking up early this morning, I treated myself to more duvet-reading, in no hurry to get up and start the day, no one to chat with, no one to make tea for (but of course, no one to make tea for me either!). Porridge, tea and Tolstoy is in fact a wonderful start to a Saturday.

More self-indulgent plans for the day:

- A nice long run
- Shopping in Marks and Spencers for unnecessary treats
- Buy flowers for myself (inspired by Kaileen Elise's most recent to-do list)
- Baking!
- Lots and lots of tea

And Daniel will be back this evening to eat cakes and (hopefully) drink wine with!

Monday, 1 February 2010


Ahhh feeling super good today! I spent the last few days in a grump; the weather was amazing but my glands were swollen and I was tired and heavy. Daniel managed to drag me out of my miserable mood on Saturday with a crisp walk to Bishopthorpe, a village just outside York, where we admired posh houses, ruined churches and the first snowdrops of the year! As a special Saturday treat he cooked me a veggie fry up, too, which certainly provided me with at least a week's worth of protein!

Despite all of this, I was still frustrated with my lazy body, it was so out of step with my mind!

But today is a new week and a new month, and I got a new, bright mood to go with it when I woke up this morning! Glands have returned to their normal positions, limbs feel as if they belong to a human rather than a robot, and my step was springing around the supermarket! And so I used this new cheer to fulfill some virtuous potential!

- Last week I signed up to do the Keswick Half Marathon, taking place on 2nd May (11 weeks and 6 days away!). I have devised an intensive training programme to get me back upto pace with my running, and more besides! Today was the perfect day to begin, so I wrapped up and set off for a nice slow four mile jog (exactly in line with my training requirements). The sky is clear blue, the air is still and fresh, the ground is sparkly with frost. Lovely!

- Still in my running gear, I performed the monster task of cleaning my hob! It has been looming, and worsening, for an embarrassingly long time. But now I have a sparkly kitchen once more!

- I found out today that I have been accepted onto a volunteering project, which I applied for a while ago. I will be helping set up and run a project called YOUth Voice, working with young people to discuss current issues, and leading to a big debating day in summer. Exciting!

- Last night I made an INCREDIBLE ginger and parsnip soup (my best yet, I must say!). There is more for lunch, with homemade spelt bread.

All of these things (and a few more things which are lovely in their normal existence and so won't go on my virtuous list) are contributing to a bright, sparkly mood which I intend to hold on to until spring gets into full swing and brings me back to default cheery mode. The winter has been cold and long and tiring but I have my fingers crossed that spring is peeping round the corner!