Her Ladyship’s Notebook: We Make our own Faces

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I have a new edition to my modest collection of etiquette and style books from different decades. In TK Maxx last weekend I picked up How to be Pretty though Plain by Mrs Humphry. Originally published in 1899 the book sets out to equip the ‘plain’ girl to make the most of her features and to acquire a beauty by developing good health and a good temper.

Her opening introduction includes the above quotation as she makes her wider argument that, although some people are blessed with naturally attractive features, inner beauty soon spills out into visible outer appearance. An active person nurtures a healthy body, a lazy soul; a slouched position. A kind heart gives warm smiles, a bitter disposition translates into a sour countenance.

And I agree completely with the sentiment. There are many faces that please my eye and soul immeasurably because they are etched with smiles and love. Our faces paint a constantly moving picture of our thoughts and feelings for better or for worse. Taking control of our inner dialogue and aiming to cultivate the higher realms of human character have a much greater impact on a person’s beauty than any outward change of appearance ever could.

Currently I am unwinding by…..

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November is blurring by at a rapid rate. In the last couple of weeks Orla has mastered the art of rolling over, crawling and walking! There is no stopping her now! One of the things I have been really sticking with this month is intentionally unwinding in the evening after Orla goes to bed. The time I have to myself is really precious and I want to make sure I make the most of it, so I have made a little list of evening activities to rotate throughout the week to help me unwind from the day and get me into a sleepy frame of mind.

So, currently I am unwinding in the evening by….

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Reading. I have a lovely pile of reading material to get through which I am taking at a leisurely rate. I am still on Surprised By Hope which I have been reading in small chunks for the last couple of months. I’ve almost finished it now and then I think I am going to hit the fiction and devour some easier reads.

Painting my nails. Like a lot of women I know I have a big stash of nail polish that hardly gets used. I normally paint my nails for a wedding and leave them alone until the colour chips off or even grows out! But for the last couple of months I have been painting my nails once or twice a week in the evening. It is actually quite relaxing. I don’t worry about getting them perfect or doing anything fancy, just a fresh coat of polish makes me feel a bit more put together the next day and it is another way of helping me to sit still in the evening.

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Colouring in. Adult colouring books are everywhere and I was an early adopter. Right now I am using The Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford. I am no great artist and just use either felt tips or pencil crayons, but I really enjoy just working away at a picture whilst listening to an audio book. Right now I am listening to The Stand by Stephen King with Rob. I colour in whilst he plays No Man Sky and we listen to the story together. It’s a nice way of being together and doing individual things all at the same time.

Listening to music. Rob has moved his record player downstairs into the dining room so that we now get to listen to music when we eat in the evening. I have also found that playing music keeps Orla entertained, so when I cook tea I hook up my phone to the bluetooth speaker and dance around the kitchen. Orla sits in her play centre and seems to enjoy the experience. I use Amazon Music on my phone and have been downloading a new track every week for 99p. The last one I downloaded was White Flag by Joseph, which is a band of three sisters with some amazingly close vocals.

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Bible Journaling Getting creative is another great way for me to unwind, and I have found Bible Journaling to be very rewarding. Rob got me a new Bible for this purpose for my Birthday and I have loved turning some of my reflective time with God into a visual piece for me to remember and keep hold of.

Reading magazines This is another treat I allow myself. One magazine a month. I have strict rules about what I read when it comes to celebrity gossip and body shaming so I tend to stick to either the craft or home magazines. But I do find Glamour magazine is a good one for having interesting articles and having a strong feminist slant.

Slaying dragons in Skyrim. I absolutely love the Elder Scroll games and I am currently re-playing Skyrim. This time I am trying to play as a mage, and doing less hacking and slashing and more conjuring and spell casting. I love this game so much, if I have had a tough day there is nothing like a couple of hours of questing to drive all worries from my mind!

These are the activities that are keeping my chilled out and making the most of my baby free time. I find that doing something a bit different each evening also gives me something to look forward to even if it is just painting my nails or sitting down with a hot chocolate (or wine!) and flicking through a magazine!

Cathy’s Kitchen: Paul Hollywood’s Breakfast Rolls

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Today I had a go at tackling one of the Bake Off legend’s recipes, his breakfast rolls. These are like cinnamon roles except they are savory and stuffed with tomato, bacon and mushrooms instead of cinnamon.

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This was a big commitment in the day. With two proves, the preparation and baking time easily exceeded three hours, which makes me skeptical about how you would ever make these fresh for breakfast. You would have to get up at 6am to make them ready for 9!

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The initial stages went well, I made my dough and after a couple of hours of proving had it laid out like a pizza with it’s breakfast themed filling.

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dsc_1541.jpgThen I had to roll it together and slice it up…which is where things got messy! I should have left a border of dough around the edges to avoid spillage, but I didn’t, so I had quite a bit of cleaning up to do!

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By the time I was putting the rolls into the baking trays I had serious doubts with how this bake was going to turn out.They were random sizes and were leaning over at odd angles. They did not look promising!

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But twenty minutes later they looked much more appealing! All golden brown and puffed up. I let them cool down for a bit and then went back to sample one, and they tasted….

a bit bland. I couldn’t believe it. Three hours of work and they tasted just like your standard bacon sandwich, but rolled in to a ball! What a waste of effort! Next time I will just buy a loaf from Morrisons and have a standard bacon butty. Much less work; same good taste!

Maybe over people have had better luck than me but I don’t think this will be a recipe I will be repeating. Sorry, Mr Hollywood!

 

Five Places I Want to Visit For Christmas

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It’s been a tough couple of weeks in our household. Orla has been teething and then caught a virus which means she has been sleeping even less than usual, which means I have been sleeping less than usual!

And then this morning my car refused to start so our day of activities has been cancelled, which might be a blessing in disguise as I feel that a relaxed cosy day at home might be just what we need. Orla must think so too because she has just gone down for an unexpected morning nap! So, I am taking the opportunity to grab a little blogging time!

And right now I am looking ahead to the Christmas season where hopefully we will all be a bit brighter and a bit more energetic. Here are five places I want to visit this Christmas season:

  1. Manchester Christmas Markets

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It’s been years since I last went to the Christmas Markets in Manchester and I really fancy it. I want to get all wrapped up, eat too much food at the stalls and pick up some Christmas decorations.

2. Haworth Victorian Christmas, Saturday 3rd December

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Haworth are amazing at their themed weekends. We have been to their 1940s events and their Steampunk weekend. The amount of people who dress up and the shops that theme their stores is really impressive. I really want to see them do their Victorian/Dickensian Christmas weekend. Haworth is one of those beautifully kept villages that turns up a lot in period films and dramas. I was watching The Railway Children this week and it makes an appearance in there, I really would love to walk down it’s cobbled high street when it is in full Victorian Christmas glory!

3. Hartbeeps Christmas Party

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This one is more for Orla, but one of the baby classes we go to is holding a big Christmas party in December with lots of songs and sensory play, and adorable costumes. It will be her first Christmas party!

4. Lancashire Day & Christmas Lights Switch On, Nelson, Saturday 26th November

A day to celebrate Lancashire and Christmas? I am there. According to the banners around Nelson there will be markets, entertainment, bands and festivities all done in Lancashire Style! I will definitely be checking this out!

5. Carol Service, The Mission – Nelson,  Sunday 18th December, 6:30pm

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I love the carol service at our church. It is one of the highlights of the year for me. The music, the atmosphere and the spirit of the service moves me every time. In a really busy season it is a moment of peace and reflection that anchors me to what Christmas is really all about. Last year these girls did an acapella version of O Holy Night that produced goosebumps and tears in equal measure across the building. I can’t wait to see what this year’s service will hold!

 

 

The Book Bag is Heavy!

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I was due to write up a Book Bag post today according to my Blog Planner, but I am surprised to say that I haven’t finished a book since the last Book Bag post. Feels a bit shocking to write that!

The reason is that (limited reading time aside) I am still slowly working through this book called Surprised by Hope.

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It is all about what Christians really believe about life after death, and about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a lot more interesting and exciting than good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell, and I am really enjoying looking over some of the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith.

As I am not ready to do a book review I thought I would show you instead my pretty bookmark that I am using whilst I read this borrowed book. (If it were my own book I would just be folding down the corners!)

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Isn’t that lovely? I picked it up from a little Art Gallery running from a beach hut at Clacton-On Sea. All of the artwork in there was produced by a club of artists who meet every Wednesday in the local Methodist Hall. They seemed to be a really tight-knit community from speaking to a couple of the sellers and the art work was really good. In the end I decided I had to get something and opted for this bookmark.

And finally I thought I would give you a glimpse at my ‘reading pile’:

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Here are all the books I have got lined up, just waiting to be read. It has gotten so big that I am putting myself on a book ban. No more books until I get through this lot!

Burnley Literary Festival

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I just found out last night that Burnley is holding a Literary Festival from Saturday 29th October to Monday 7th November. I am so excited that my home town is dedicating a week to books and poetry, and literary arts!

You can find a full program of events here. But here are the bits that I want to check out:

Pop-up Reading Lounge – This will be open throughout the festival in the Charter Walk Shopping Centre and will be a place to relax and read a book and where there will be readings, recitals and performances throughout the week.

Burnley Book Exchange – Also in the shopping centre there will be benches full of books that you can swap with your own favourites!

Writing a Thriller with Liz Flanagan & Tara Guha – Two novelists and friends from either side of the Pennines in fascinating conversation about writing a thriller and the current popularity of psychological thrillers. In the Central Methodist Church, Thursday 3rd November, 6-7pm.

Roald Dahl Day  -Friday 4th November Burnley town centre will be alive with Roald Dahl celebrations. From street performers and pop-up storytelling carousel, to Dahlicious family photos, a reading group and a Charlie & the chocolate factory afternoon tea party

Those are the things I am hoping to get to but I have spent a good half hour reading the program of events and there is absolutely loads going on! There are workshops on creative writing, crafting, comic book writing and illustration. There are talks from authors and poets, and open mic nights for people to share their work. And there are performances too from local theatre groups and UCLAN students.

I would really recommend having a look at their website and booking on to a session or two, especially if you are going to have bored kids with you over half term. I am so proud of my home town for putting on something as ambitious as this and I really hope it is a great success for them and for everyone involved. I am certainly planning on getting to as much as I can!

 

 

Who needs Spas when you have Mums?

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Bit of a different post today. I just want to write down something lovely my Mum did for me last week. I am so grateful for the little things she does for me and it strikes me that I often use blogging to record the nice things in life; meals out, pretty clothes…etc. But the things I am most thankful for are just the simple moments with the people I love, and I should make more effort to record and remember them…

Like this one….

It was my birthday last week. I was spoiled with gifts and thoughtful cards but I hadn’t really planned any Birthday activities or celebrations. Our next few weekends are already booked up with things and I am OK with having a low key birthday, especially as I am thinking I might have a big do next year for the big 3-0!

On the morning of my Birthday I awoke to kisses from Orla and a pile of presents from Rob! Then after Rob had gone to work, Orla and I went to see my Mum.

I got talking to Mum about how worn out I was feeling. Orla is still a terrible sleeper and some weeks it really takes it toll. I said how, for the first time in my life, a spa day actually sounded appealing. The idea of going somewhere quiet for a couple of hours just to relax suddenly seems exciting. But it is expensive! Especially when you have to pay for the whole day when I know that I would only want a couple of hours.

My Mum said something along the lines of; ‘well why don’t you try having bubble baths at home with candles and books?’ She knows me well!

‘I don’t have time!’ I moaned, ‘By the time Rob is home and we have had tea, there is only half an hour before we have to do bedtime, and then once she is asleep I don’t dare run a bath in case it wakes her up…and…’

Then Mum interrupted me and said, ‘why don’t you have one now? There is plenty of hot water, I have bubble bath and a stack of books from the library.’

And that is how I ended up having what felt like the most luxurious bath at 11am on a Thursday morning for my Birthday. It was heavenly! Mum looked after Orla, who was thrilled to have play time with Grandma and I enjoyed an hour long soak!

I know it was only a little indulgence in the grand scheme of potential Birthday treats but it was exactly what I needed; an hour’s brake from Mummy-responsibility, a chance to rest all my muscles and to let my mind go on holiday with a good book!

I then felt refreshed and energized to take on the rest of the day, and I am so grateful for my Mum for just providing what I needed when I needed it most! She is the best, and my role model in how to be kind to people.

Thanks Mum!

x

Autumn Lanterns

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Short blog post today. We have a Horse Chestnut Tree right next to our garden that is covering the grass with a ridiculous amount of conkers. Which is a dream come true! Our own personal supply of conkers!

Except we have so many and are too big to be having conker fights in the playground, that I’ve not been sure what to do with them. For a couple of weeks I had a jar full of them sitting on the dinning room table.

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Then this week inspiration struck and I decided to spruce up a couple of candle lanterns with an Autumn theme, like so;

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So pretty!

The lanterns were £12 each from Wilkinsons last year. I absolutely love the home section of Wilkinsons. There are so many lovely things! Then I filled them with conkers and added a sprig of berries from our dogrose bush. It’s really simple but it has brought a touch of the autumnal feel in the garden into the house, and I love it!

Her Ladyship’s Notebook: Noisy Fashion

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Today’s quotation leapt out at me the other day when I was reading The One Hundred by Nina Garcia:
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Now, I own a fair few bangles but I hardly ever wear them now due to the impracticality of them. They do make a lot of noise and they make typing difficult, and I can never get a coat on gracefully over them!

But this line had me thinking that maybe I should embrace the noisy impractical things anyway. I like the idea that the clatter of bangles as a loud announcement of your stylish arrival!

Since becoming a mum I have been very practical about what I wear. All my jewellery is sitting unused in a box, my heels are under the bed collecting dust, all my pretty dresses are hanging pristine in the wardrobe whilst I wear breastfeeding-friendly jumpers and jeans.

I am itching to indulge again in impractical fashion, and I think an arm full of clashing clattering bangles might just be the place to start….

Memory Verse: Deeper Waters

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Jesus said:

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This verse seems well timed for me this week. Last night I hosted a Bible Q&A evening at my church and it was really fun. We had a small panel and looked at half a dozen questions submitted from our church congregation. The questions included ones like:

  • Who decided which books to include in the Bible?
  • How do you know they tell the truth?
  • Free will or predestination? Help!
  • Why does God seem to do so much killing in the Old Testament?
  • Isn’t the Bible just filled with rules and regulations? Why can’t you have fun?
  • Prove to me that God exists.

It was fantastic to explore these questions but I felt like I could spend hours talking about each one of them, it was so hard to keep the night moving and not dwell too long on one topic.

So it feels special today to come to this verse and be reminded that the whole of Scripture still has it’s purpose and place in our lives, even if, as I looked at last week, we are not under an obligation to obey the law. My head is still buzzing today with thoughts and ideas and I am aware all over again at just how rich, deep and mysterious the Word of God. It is like an Ocean with more life hidden away they deeper you search.