Lanterns in the Darkness (Making Space)

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” J.K. Rowling

A couple of years ago, I joined a yoga class. I’ve never been able to meditate but after an hour of yoga I felt mentally calm and physically relaxed, and the class has been a regular part of my self-care routine ever since. During one class, something my instructor said resonated with me when she described the stretch we were practising as “making space in the body”, and I realised I needed to make space in other areas of my life too.

Both at work and in our personal lives, my husband and I often felt like our lives revolved around meeting other people’s needs, and we were sometimes so busy caring for others that we had little time or energy leftover to care for ourselves.

Yet even while struggling under the weight of obligations and in the midst of turmoil, we found solace together in quiet evenings at home taking it in turns to read chapters of the Harry Potter books to each other, or ambling hand in hand along a secluded beach we found (which became our favourite escape), confiding our fears and hopes for the future in each other as the sun slipped beneath the horizon. These intimate and restorative moments sometimes seemed like lanterns in the darkness, strengthening our resolve, and guiding us towards the peace and simplicity we both longed for.


Learning to say “no” to people who were used to us acquiescing to all of their requests (and in some cases, unreasonable demands) was, and still is, a challenge, and it caused some friction as we adjusted our boundaries with them. Yet the most difficult people were always counterbalanced by all the kind and supportive people in our lives who loyally stood by us through the darkest times, and focusing on our relationships with these family members, friends and even colleagues helped us to keep the more challenging relationships in perspective.

As we began to feel less harassed, we set about tackling the numerous little jobs that had been accumulating around our home, gradually decluttering and downsizing our possessions. We felt physically lighter every time we donated a bag of clothes to a charity shop or took a box of stuff to be recycled, and our home became a more pleasant and tranquil place to inhabit.

Now, as the build up to Christmas begins, and the dates in our calendar start to fill up, it would be easy to fall back into old habits, but we’re still finding ways to simplify our lives and make space for ourselves. Have a lovely week.

Three Bean Chilli Recipe

We usually make a big pan of Chilli and freeze a few portions for lazy, midweek suppers.

Ingredients (serves 6):

1 Red Chili Pepper finely chopped

1 Large Onion diced

1 Red Pepper chopped into cm squares

1 Orange Pepper chopped into cm squares

2 400g tins of Chopped Tomatoes

1 400g tin of Red Kidney Beans

1 400g tin of Black Eyed Beans

1 400g tin of Borlotti Beans

Spice Mix:

1/2 tsp of Coffee Granules

1/2 tsp of Sugar

1/2 tsp of Cinnamon

1/2 tsp of Tumeric

1 tbsp of Smoked Paprika

(My chilli tends to be mild and smoky but if you prefer it with a bit of fire, add 1 tsp of medium or hot Chili Powder to the spice mix)



Pour a generous splash of olive oil into a large pan on a medium heat.

Add chili pepper to the pan and cook for about one minute.

Stir in the onions and cook for about five minutes or until the onions become translucent.

Add peppers, mix well and cook for between three and five minutes or until slightly softened.

Add the spice mix and stir thoroughly to ensure all the vegetables are coated, cook for about one minute until the spice take on the consistency of a paste.

Add the chopped tomatoes and mix well. Cook until the tomatoes start to bubble, cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 40-60 minutes until the liquid reduces, stirring occasionally.

Add all of the beans to the pan, mix well and cook for a further 15-20 minutes.

Serve with white rice and tortilla chips.

Review of ‘The Cozy Life’ by Pia Edberg


November arrived bringing the first frosts, sleet and snow of the season to this part of the country, making it perfect weather to settle down to read Pia Edberg’s The Cozy Life with a cup of hot chocolate.

Published in April this year, The Cozy Life appears to have missed some of the attention and publicity that other books about hygge are receiving now. Hygge (pronounced hyoo-gah) is a Danish word with no English equivalent, it is often synonymous with coziness but a more faithful translation might be the sense of contentment that comes from appreciating the simple pleasures of life.

Pia was born in Denmark but moved to Canada with her family as a child, and she describes her own rediscovery of hygge as an adult in this book. Pia’s tone is conversational and enthusiastic, and I particularly enjoyed the interview with her father who remembers traditional hygge in Denmark and describes how it has changed in his lifetime.

Throughout the book, Pia offers tips on how to create a hygge home using textures, lighting and scents, simple recipes for hygge food and drinks including Jule Glogg (a Scandinavian version of mulled wine), and lots of other ways to add hygge into every moment of the day in any weather or season.

The Cozy Life is illustrated by Pia with cute little line drawings, but the inclusion of a couple of grainy photos brings down the over all presentation of the book.

The book’s greatest flaw is that Pia tries to cover too much in too short a book (140 pages), meaning she doesn’t have space to elaborate on other topics like gratitude and minimalism which she believes are relevant to hygge.

The Cozy Life is a quick read and a good introduction to hygge, but I suspect that there are other books which provide greater depth on hygge and the Danish lifestyle than Pia had space to do in this book.

Autumnal Adventures in the Dark

When the autumn evenings grow colder and darker, I’m often tempted to curl up on the couch with my cat, Mara, on my lap and a book or TV series to while away the hours. As much as I love being cosy inside when it’s chilly outside, autumn has some lovely opportunities to get outdoors during the darker evenings.

The Enchanted Forest

Every year, my husband and I travel to Pitlochry to see Faskally Wood transformed with lights and music into The Enchanted Forest. One of the things I love most about the Enchanted Forest is that the theme is different every year, which means it always seems new and familiar at the same time.

Despite earlier forecasts predicting torrential rain, the weather remained crisp and clear as we meandered round the woods with a warming cup of mulled wine savouring all the sights and sounds of the forest together.

The Enchanted Forest holds a special place in our hearts as it is where we got engaged three years ago, and the well trodden paths around the loch and through the trees are filled with romance and happy memories for us.

Blurry first attempt at astrophotography

On another cold, but cloudless October evening, we went stargazing at the Galloway Forest Park for the very first time. In contrast to the bustling, electronic wonderland of the Enchanted Forest, the dark sky park was almost unnaturally dark and peaceful; yet watching the stars drift across the heavens was no less memorable and romantic.

Once our eyes had adjusted to the darkness, we could see thousands of stars, the Milky Way and even a few stragglers from the Orionid Meteor Shower clearly without a telescope.

Getting outdoors and away from all the distractions of our phones, the TV and internet for a few hours gave us a chance to slow down, clear our minds and reconnect with each other.

As a mild October gave way to a frosty November, on Saturday the 5th (which is Guy Fawkes or Bonfire Night here in Britain), we met friends in Glasgow to watch a fireworks display. Wrapped up in coats and scarves, crunching toffee apples and watching the colourful explosions illuminate the sky, we were every bit as cosy outside as we would’ve been inside.

Fireworks over the River Clyde

The last few weeks have been busy for us, but we’ve returned from all of our adventures in the dark with muddy boots and many happy memories. Have a lovely week.

Tofu Satay Recipe

A simple and quick, vegetarian twist on a takeaway favourite.

Ingredients (serves 2):

200g firm tofu cut into cm squares

1 onion finely diced

1 green pepper diced

1 clove of garlic crushed

1 red chilli pepper sliced

150ml of coconut milk (or crème fraiche, which I use if I have some that needs to be used up, it just creates a thicker sauce)

½ cup of smooth peanut butter



Marinade the tofu cubes in one tablespoon of Tamari Soy Sauce.

Pour a generous splash of olive oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat.

Once the oil is warm, add the diced onions. Cook for about five minutes or until the onions become translucent.

Add the chilli and garlic, mix well and cook for about one minute.

Add green pepper, stir thoroughly and cook for about three minutes.

In a separate frying pan, lightly fry the tofu in a small amount of olive oil.

Add peanut butter and coconut milk (or crème fraiche) to the vegetables pan, stirring constantly to mix everything together. Cook for a couple of minutes, if the sauce is too thick, add up to a tablespoon of water to the mix.

Add tofu to the pan with the vegetables and sauce, stir well to ensure the tofu is mixed in and everything is covered with the sauce. Cook for a further minute, stirring continuously to prevent it from sticking.

Serve with boiled white rice.