Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

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but the fire is so delightful!

We woke up this morning to a thick frost on the ground, a deep mist in the air and a temperature of -4. It’s dark when we leave for work in the morning and it’s dark again by the time we arrive home in the evening, and with the exception of walks around the park during my lunch break to get some fresh air and absorb some much needed Vitamin D from the sunlight, life seems to move indoors at this time of year. Over the last few weeks, time in the garden has been reduced to crunching across the frozen grass to deposit kitchen waste and wood ash in the compost bins, and refilling the bird feeder, but we’ve been enjoying lots of cosy evenings in front of the wood burning stove with our cat stretched out across one of our laps or in front of the hearth.

It was just under a year ago that my husband and I moved into our little house, since then we’ve been gradually transforming it into our dream house, and I thought I’d share a few before and after photos of our living room.

I think it’s fair to say that the house wasn’t exactly a blank canvas when we moved in, and I suspect that the bold colour schemes, imposing floor-to-ceiling furniture and odd DIY features probably put other prospective buyers off as it made the rooms looks cramped and dark.

The previous owners had bricked up and plastered over the old fireplace, but we’d always dreamed of having a wood-burning stove, and although the stove we chose is small it really packs out the heat. Opening up the alcoves on either side of the fireplace gave us plenty of space for our books and a shelf for the TV, and I even re-purposed some of the toadstool decorations we made for our wedding as cupboard door handles. I’m a late convert to white paint, but I can’t deny that it makes the room look much brighter and more spacious.

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We knew it would be a bit of a project, but it’s been wonderful to see our ideas come together, and we feel very lucky to call this little house our home. We still have a long list of DIY projects to complete, but for now we’re savouring the warmth and cosy glow of the fire on these long, dark winter evenings. Have a lovely week!

September’s Golden Glow

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There has been an avalanche of gold and amber leaves in our street over the last week, and every day the sun seems to hang a little lower in the sky on my morning and evening commute. September is always a busy month for us, and this month has swept by in a blur of happy anniversaries, birthdays and annual traditions.

Every September, one of my closest friends hosts a get-together in the countryside. Over the years, we have become good friends with the other guests despite most of us living so far apart that we only see each other a few times a year. Our annual weekend get together is something we all look forward to, and it’s always a relaxed and wonderful time spent enjoying delicious food, rambling walks along the Solway Firth and long conversations with old friends and new around the fire-pit as the stars twinkle above.

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In August, my grandmother was in hospital for a procedure that was not without risks due to her age, yet she recovered in time to celebrate her 91st birthday this month. I feel very grateful to have had my grandmother all through my childhood and well into my adulthood, and while she is still fiercely independent, I can’t help noticing that she’s slowing down a little bit more every time I see her, which makes the time we spend together very precious.

At home, the cooler evenings have given us an excuse to light the wood-burning stove. My husband – a modern man in every other respect – relishes the opportunity to get in touch with his inner caveman and takes great pride in his ability to create fire, while our normally lap-loving cat Mara has firmly established herself on the hearth.

As the calendar edges towards October, it has been a lovely month full of family, friends and cosy moments, all suffused in September’s golden glow. Wishing everyone a lovely weekend. X

Review of ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ by Meik Wiking

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We are in the midst of fairly significant renovations in our house at the moment, and with tradesmen unblocking the fireplace in the living room and scrambling over the roof to fit a chimney, I’ve retreated upstairs and out of the way with my cat and The Little Book of Hygge for company.

Over the last couple of years, the Danish concept of hygge has taken the world by storm. Yet there has also been something of a backlash against it, with some criticizing it as xenophobic and the latest marketing ploy to sell mugs, rugs, all manner of knitwear and books on the subject.

While hygge is often synonymous with cosiness, especially during the colder and darker months of the year, Meik Wiking defines hygge as a feeling of safety, relaxation and contentment that can be found in any weather or season. For many of us who lead busy lives, part of the appeal of hygge is the chance to slow down, set aside our worries for a while and indulge in simple pleasures.

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The Little Book of Hygge is packed with a mix of research and personal anecdotes, which makes this book better suited to dipping into every now and again than binge-reading. There are whole chapters devoted to candles and lighting, Christmas (the most hygge time of the year), a dictionary to help you work out your hygge from your hyggeligt, a few Danish recipes (though I was a little disappointed there were more recipes for meat than cake), and various other aspects of a hygge lifestyle. The presentation of the book is lovely with beautiful photos and illustrations generously scattered throughout.

With tradesmen thudding and thumping around above and below, it’s been hard to concentrate on reading, but The Little Book of Hygge left me imagining – and looking forward to – lots of hyggeligt moments once the renovations are complete, like sitting in the garden in the sunshine over the summer, huddling around board games with friends on rainy days, and reading in front of the fire on cold, winter nights. Have a lovely week.

Peaceful Midwinter Days

December passed in a merry blur as my husband and I squeezed too many catch ups with family and friends from near and far away into too few days around Christmas, along with trips to Christmas markets and the cinema to see A Street Cat Named Bob, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

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Christmas with Mara

On Christmas Eve we drove to the little town where my parents live, singing along to Christmas songs on the radio, with our cat Mara curled up at my feet in the passenger footwell. There was no lie in for us on Christmas day as Mara woke us up bright and early demanding her breakfast; she’s a creature of routine and her body clock is unerring where feeding times are concerned.

Fortunately my family and in-laws only live a short car journey apart so we’re able to spend time with both sides on Christmas Day. We visited my husband’s family in the morning to exchange gifts and catch up over mugs of coffee, before returning to my family and Mara.

Christmas dinner has become a team effort in my family as we all do something to lighten the load of whoever is hosting it, whether it’s setting the table, preparing the starter or washing the dishes afterwards. As we gathered around the dining table, my grandmother insisted everyone wear the paper crowns from their crackers as we tucked into a three course Christmas dinner, while Mara circled like a shark under the table searching for scraps. Boxing Day was also spent surrounded by family, chatting and picking at leftovers.

It is always the cosy togetherness with family and friends that I look forward to and appreciate most during the festive season.

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The Kelpies by night

My husband and I started 2017 with a trip to Falkirk with a couple of good friends for a refreshing New Year’s Day walk around the Kelpies. It was a cold, clear evening, and I loved breathing in all the hope a new year promises in the chill air.

Back in our own home now, January tends to be a peaceful month, providing a much-appreciated lull after the busyness that precedes it. Life seems to slow down at this time of year as the world outside hibernates.

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Cosy mornings with Mara

On the coldest, winter mornings, Mara crawls under the duvet and flops down on her side between us, purring like an engine and revelling in being warm and close to us. While the short days and long evenings provide the perfect excuse to stay cosy at home together, playing with Mara or letting her snooze across our laps while we read, write thank you cards and finish off the last of the cheese selection.

Taking down the Christmas decorations seemed more poignant than usual as we are moving soon, yet with change and upheaval on the horizon, I’m grateful for these peaceful midwinter days. Wishing everyone a happy New Year!

Christmas Magic

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Merry and bright

Every year as the days of December rush towards the 25th, I hear people fretting about how much money they’ve spent, how long they queued for this years must-have sold-out-everywhere gift, and how stressful hosting Christmas dinner is. Yet sitting peacefully at home suffused in the cosy glow of the twinkly lights and glinting baubles on our Christmas tree always reminds me to slow down and appreciate all the little moments that make this season so magical and meaningful.

Putting up the Christmas decorations and decorating the tree is one of my favourite festive traditions. Unwrapping the baubles we’ve collected over the years always brings back memories and each trinket seems to have its own story. The newest addition to our collection is a simple wooden piece I found while my husband and I were on holiday in New York earlier in the year. This year I also made some simple decorations by baking slices of orange, which brighten up the tree and add a touch of traditional style to it. The combination of citrus and fresh pine needles also gives our home a subtle and natural festive fragrance. Luckily, our cat Mara doesn’t try to climb the tree or bother the baubles, though she occasionally gives the lower branches an experimental nibble.

As TV shows and social networks fill up with images of happy families in festive jumpers, it seems like there are impossibly high expectations for Christmas. Yet the reality is that life doesn’t stop for Christmas: families bicker, couples separate and people get ill, just as they do at every other time of the year. Within my own family, over the years there have been two deaths in December and one in January, which always gives the season a bittersweet edge as I remember and miss those who are no longer here, while feeling so grateful and fortunate to have my loved ones around me at Christmastime.

I can’t buy Christmas magic, but sometimes I find it in the simplest moments: wrapping cold hands around warm mugs of Gluhwein at the Christmas market, catching up with friends around a crackling fire, snuggling up on the sofa with my husband and Mara to watch our favourite festive films (It’s a Wonderful Life, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol and While You Were Sleeping), and of course, gathering around the table with my family to savour a three course feast on Christmas Day itself.

Slowing down at Christmas makes all these cosy moments with the people I love most stand out clearer in my memory, like twinkling lights set against the darkest month of the year. Wishing everyone a peaceful and very happy Christmas!

Review of ‘The Cozy Life’ by Pia Edberg

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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.

Time spent with cats is never wasted…

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It was around this time last year that my husband and I adopted our cat, Mara, from a rescue centre. We had just returned from our honeymoon when we decided to get a pet, both of us had cats growing up and missed the energy and routine that pets add to a home.

The cats I had growing up were all rescued: Peach and Lucky were kittens abandoned in a sack on a construction site; Oscar was the runt of a farmyard cat’s litter, he was suffering from a respiratory infection and was left behind when his mother moved her other kittens from one barn to another. Despite having a difficult start in life, all of our rescue cats became such loyal and trusting members of the family that I was determined to give an “unwanted” cat a safe, loving home when my husband and I decided to get a pet of our own.

Although we knew very little about Mara’s background we took a chance on her because she seemed timid but curious and affectionate in the re-homing centre.

Mara has become such a big part of our little family that it’s hard to believe it has only been one year since we adopted her. From the cheerful chirrup when we arrive home from work to the impatient whine at feeding times and the rumbling purr when she’s content, the affectionate nuzzling and playful scampering, stretching across our laps for a snooze or curling up at the bottom of our bed to sleep every night, Mara has made a significant impression on our home and our hearts.

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Bedtime stories…

It’s been so rewarding to watch Mara start to trust us, settle into her new home and slowly overcome her timidity. Nowhere is this more evident than in her playfulness, Mara has progressed from hiding under furniture with all but her two front paws hidden swiping at her toys to scampering, pouncing and leaping after her toys in the middle of the floor with fearless abandon.

I learn so much from observing Mara, she lives in the present moment, she doesn’t ruminate on the past or worry about the future; and I’m always inspired by the pleasure she takes in the simple comforts of life such as companionship, food, play, rest and a warm, safe home.

The thought of coming home to a hug from my husband and nuzzles from Mara is enough to help me keep all the daily stresses and struggles in perspective. The quiet, cosy hours we pass together always fill me with a sense of peace, contentment and gratitude. As the autumn nights grow longer and the weather gets colder, I look forward to the three of us spending many more evenings snuggled up together. Have a lovely week.