A Little Spring in My Step

A Little Spring in My Step

We’re just home from a wonderful holiday in Iceland (which deserves a separate post) feeling thoroughly refreshed and inspired, and enjoying a few days at home before we return to work.

This weekend it was warm enough to sit outside sipping our morning coffee for the first time this year, and it was lovely to notice all the changes that have occurred in the garden while we’ve been away.

Before we left the tulips were still green with only the tips hinting at the colours hidden within, and just a week later the first petals are starting to unfurl. Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a haphazard gardener so I forgot to write down the varieties of bulbs I planted, and the only tulip I can identify with any certainty is ‘red riding hood’ because of its distinctive leaves.

Elsewhere in the garden, the primroses are appearing, and I’ve cut some of the hyacinths that were toppling under their own weight and put them in a vase on the mantelpiece.

Of course, the best part of coming home is being reunited with our cat, Mara, who stays with my dad whenever we go on holiday. As much as we love travelling, Mara is such a big part of our little family and so many of our daily routines revolve around her that we miss her terribly while we’re away. For her part, Mara is very much a family cat who loves nothing more than the three of us being snuggled up on the couch or in bed together. Luckily, Mara is such a sweetheart that she never holds a grudge and is always full of purrs and affection when we return.

It’s good to be home again after a lovely holiday, enjoying the sunshine and preparing for the week ahead with a little spring in my step. Have a lovely week. X

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Spring bulbs and seedlings

 

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Our windowsills have been even more crowded with plant pots than normal as the chili, courgette and squash seedlings jostle our houseplants for space. I never know when to start sowing seeds as it’s not unusual to have frosts in April here, and there’s a risk of seedlings outgrowing their pots before it’s warm enough to plant them outside, but I sowed the courgette and squash seeds on the Spring Equinox. All the green and yellow courgettes have surfaced, but unfortunately only one each of the hunter and uchiki kuri squash seeds germinated.

It’s an awkward time of year in the garden, as we’ve been hard at work but there’s little to show for it yet, except for a few daffodils and hyacinths providing a welcome splash of colour.

In a rare week without snow in February, we hired a tree surgeon to cut down the three fir trees at the back of the garden. Part of me thinks cutting down healthy trees is heinous but having spent an exhausting afternoon digging up their shallow but tough and far-reaching roots, I’m glad to be rid of them, and we’re planning to replace with them with apple and willow trees.

We’ve turned the compost, and moved the compost bins to a location that gets more sunlight as they were in the shade before, it was a messy job but less smelly than expected.

Over the Easter weekend, my husband built a fruit cage to prevent our feathered friends from stealing all our berries. He’s recently added a Japanese wineberry, a blackcurrant and another blueberry to his fruit bush collection. We’ve also planted two more crowns of rhubarb (holstein blood red and champagne) to keep the mystery rhubarb my mum gave us company.

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Mara surveying our efforts in the garden

When I first started my blog, we didn’t have a garden (though it was something we both dreamed of), and I had no idea how much writing inspiration I would find in our little garden, nor how much I would enjoy reading about other people’s gardens. Our garden is very much a work in progress, constantly evolving, and although it’s been hard work at times, gardening has brought us so much pleasure and a real sense of achievement. Have a lovely weekend. X

Review of ‘Soulful Simplicity’ by Courtney Carver

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Before Courtney Carver was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, she thought exhaustion, stress and debt were all normal parts of life, yet her illness became a catalyst forcing her to evaluate her lifestyle and choices; since then Courtney has started a blog Be More with Less, and become an advocate of living simply to increase happiness, health and love.

In Soulful Simplicity, Courtney explores how the myth of more keeps us trapped, indebted and unhappy. Shopping becomes a distraction and a way of numbing uncomfortable emotions like boredom, sadness, frustration and disappointment, and many of us fall into the marketing trap that somehow a new phone, car or pair of shoes has the power to change our lives, change how other people see us, and change how we feel about ourselves. Yet no matter how much Courtney bought, it was never enough, and it wasn’t until she started de-cluttering, downsizing and simplifying that she learned to appreciate what she already had, and what really mattered in life.

I’ve never been someone who lives to work, and my career is well below my other priorities like family, friends, health and hobbies, yet the reality is that many of us spend as many waking hours in the office with our colleagues as we do at home with our loved ones. Unfortunately, we can’t all give up our jobs to become full-time bloggers, but Soulful Simplicity offers useful advice on how to cultivate space, time and calm in a culture that promotes the idea that happiness can be bought and confuses busy-ness with productivity.

I started reading Soulful Simplicity during a period of acute stress when both my husband and mum were struggling with ill-health, and Courtney’s message that sometimes less is more really resonated with me and inspired me to examine how I spend my own time and money. Have a lovely week.

Pottering around with houseplants

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Winter still hasn’t given way to spring yet in our part of the country, and another snowfall at the weekend prevented us from making a start in the garden, but I’ve been pottering around the house tending my little collection of houseplants instead.

Our house is a long way from becoming one of the lush urban jungles to be found on Instagram, and I’ve killed more plants than I’d like to admit but I’ve gradually collected and nurtured a little selection of succulents, ferns, fittonia and, of course, a seemingly infallible spider-plant. Decorating the plant pots was a rainy day project – though like all my crafts they’re a bit rough around the edges.

As our cat, Mara, is a nibbler, we only have plants that are safe for pets, and the ASPCA provide helpful lists of toxic and non-toxic plants.

I’ve had no luck at all propagating succulents, but I’ve had much more success propagating spiderettes from the spider-plant. I’ve already given one to my dad, another to my best friend, and I’ve just potted up a few more to give to a couple of friends and my husband, who wants one for his desk at work.

Determined not to repeat some of the rookie mistakes we made last year, I’ve started our courgettes and squash plants off inside. I’m also attempting to grow chilli peppers from seed; the cayenne seedlings have already surfaced, and I’m hoping the poblano will sprout soon too.

Meanwhile in the garden…

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Have a lovely week! X

 

Review of ‘Finding Gobi’ by Dion Leonard

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I can’t remember when I first heard about the ultra-marathon runner from Edinburgh who bonded with a stray dog he found while competing in a race across the Gobi desert in China, but I was delighted when I found out he’d written a book about their story.

Something that struck me right from the start is that it was the little dog who chose Dion out of a hundred other runners, not the other way around. Mile after mile, the scruffy stray he names Gobi keeps pace with Dion, and little by little he starts to enjoy her company as she gallops along beside him, at times Gobi’s presence helps him push through the pain, exhaustion and boredom of long distance running. A real turning point in their relationship comes when Dion stops to carry Gobi across a river that is too deep and fast flowing for her to cross, even though he knows it will cost him time and probably his position in the race too. By the time he crosses the finish line, seven days and 155 miles later, Dion has resolved to bring her back to the UK with him.

Roughly the first third of Finding Gobi focuses on the ultra-marathon, and the rest describes all the challenges of trying to bring Gobi back to the UK. I don’t want to spoil it, but this story ends happily and their reunion and eventual return to the UK is that much sweeter for all the obstacles and setbacks they faced along the way.

Dion, a bit of a loner by nature with a fair bit of emotional baggage from his childhood and adolescence, is humbled by the outpouring of generosity and support from friends and strangers alike who donate money to the crowd-funding campaign he starts or give up their time to help him directly. It is Dion’s commitment to bringing Gobi home that drives the campaign, but it’s the kindness of people from all over the world who make it possible, and in turn make this story so heart-warming and memorable.

Although my own furry, four-legged companion is of the feline variety, there were so many aspects of this story that resonated with me. Human relationships can often be complex, yet our animal companions offer us their love and trust unconditionally, and no matter how we may see ourselves they accept us just as we are. Yet even more than that, Finding Gobi demonstrates that somehow animals also have the ability to bring out our very best qualities – from commitment and co-operation to kindness and compassion.

Have a lovely week. X

Scenes from a Snow Day

Clusters of yellow and purple crocuses on the verges and the steadily increasing daylight throughout February had us optimistically organizing our seeds into the order they should be planted until a cold snap from Siberia submerged our garden under a foot of snow.

The Beast from the East arrived here on Tuesday evening bringing icy winds and snow to our part of the country, and causing travel chaos, school closures and widespread disruption across the UK. I chose to work from home on Wednesday rather than risk driving through the snow, and by mid-day my husband’s office had also been closed due to the inclement weather – though he had to walk half the way home as all forms of public transport were either severely delayed or cancelled. As we were effectively snowed in, we both worked from home for the remainder of the week.

This week has been a contrast of wrapping up in coats, gloves and boots whenever we venture out into the bitterly cold winds and deep snow drifts to feed the birds or stock up at the supermarket, and savouring the warmth and comfort of our home. We’ve kept cabin fever at bay by reading books, watching the birds in the garden and playing board games together with the wood burning stove lit and the radio playing in the background.

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It’s felt like a long winter, and I’m very much looking forward to spring when it arrives but I’ve enjoyed having some unexpected cosy, hyggeligt time with my husband and our cat. This week, I’ve been grateful that I have the option to work from home, the nearest supermarket is within walking distance and as always for the warmth and shelter of our little house. Hope everyone is safe and warm. X

Feeding Frenzy in the Garden

 

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Just tapping out a quick post before settling down for the evening as I’ve been working from home today because soft, powdery snow has been falling almost constantly since early this morning bringing widespread disruption to our part of the country. Yet while I’ve been safe and warm inside, our feathered friends in the garden have been out and about foraging for food, and it’s been lovely to look up from my laptop every so often to watch the birds visiting the feeding station and snowflakes swirling in the wind. Have a lovely week. X