Dining Room Display Wall

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Rob and I had this project in mind for months, but in the last few weeks we have finally finished our display wall in the dining room.

We had this big blank wall in the dining room that we wanted to fill with some chunky floating shelves and a few of our prints. Rob made the shelves himself from some spare wood that we had and thought they would be a good setting to display Rob’s vintage camera collection. Having a guitar easily accessible is another bonus!

dsc_1900.jpgRob designed two of these prints and the Magpie in the top hat is the work of Jon Turner, one of our favourite artists from Manchester Comic Con. You can check out more of his work here.

dsc_1901.jpgdsc_1902.jpgI struggled to get a good photo of this print (or actually I was too lazy to go and get the good camera instead of using my phone) but I do love this piece Rob made. It reminds us to build our family by design, not by default, and to be intentional with how we want to live our lives. It is a good family motto for us.

dsc_1903.jpgI am really happy with our display wall, as it is full of things that make us happy, photography, music, art and pretty vintage things! There is also room to add more to the display over the years and would be easy to rotate things on the shelves from time to time. I could see us dressing this up for Christmas or swapping the cameras for other trinkets!

Her Ladyship’s Notebook:Warmest Smile

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Sometimes the most mesmerising person in the room is the one with the warmest smile.

– Camilla Morton

A genuine smile is worth a thousand words, and all of them are lovely. Smiles are beautiful even when your lip liner is wonky and your teeth are crooked. Smiles lift your spirit, they invite the world in to share your happiness, smiles spark conversations and open doors into countless friendships.

A warm smile says ‘ I am glad to see you. I am happy that you are here. You are wanted and I enjoy your company.’ They help us to connect with one another in a joyful way.Never underestimate the power of a smile to turn around some one’s day. Smiles are contagious, they sneakily infect people with tiny doses of happiness – even as they are determined to be grumpy.

Beauty trends come and go, fashion rotates on a speedy carousal but  a warm smile is an unchanging marvel of beauty. Never leave home without one.

My February Garden, 2017

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The best thing about my home is the garden, no contest. It is basically a small field with old trees and lots of squirrels. Last year I thought I would get lots of gardening projects done whilst I was on maternity leave. That was a mistaken assumption….I did nothing! But even left to it’s own devices, and even in the latter bedraggled stages of winter, the garden still has lots of treasures to discover.

dsc_1812.jpgDaffodil shoots are rising up, letting me know that Spring is on it’s way. There are also signs that we will have a good bluebell crop this year. I really love all the flowers that appear in Spring and can’t wait to spot the first crocus or snowdrop.

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My friend’s got me this clever bird feeder for Christmas that ‘frames’ the birds. I was desperate to put it up so I have placed it on this tree for now but I think one of our projects this year will be to set up a proper bird feeding area.

dsc_1814.jpgThe primroses are eeking out, pushing aside the dead leaves that I never got round to sweeping up!

dsc_1817.jpgBut even though it is untidy debris, I think the messy lawn is interesting, especially under the horse-chestnut tree where there is a generous scattering of conker shells. Plus the twigs and leaves are good for wildlife, which is very important to us.

I love it when a new animal comes and visits our little wildlife friendly garden, so far we have had; squirrels, birds, a hedgehog, a heron, mice, pheasants, a fox, owls and deer.

I really want to entice a badger to come next, any hints on how to do that would be most appreciated!

What I am Listening to

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‘Whistle while you work’ chirped Snow White as she briskly swept the floor of the little woodland cottage, whilst the deer and blue birds joined in the spring clean.

Instead of a squad of forest critters to help me clean the kitchen, all I have is a one year old baby who likes throwing my biscuit cutters on the floor whilst laughing manically. However, with or without help I have found that connecting my phone to the bluetooth speakers and blasting out the tunes whilst I cook and wash up does really help to make tea time a fun part of my day. So I have been treating myself to downloading a song once a week to add to my playlist.

Here are the latest ten songs that I have been listening to: (Warning: they are nearly all old cheesy songs!). I have added links to the end of each song so you can have a listen for yourself.

  1. A Star is Born By Disney, Hercules. This full throttle Gospel tune is great for an energetic and private kitchen dance party.
  2. God of Miracles by Chris McClarney – I am learning this for the worship team at church. Good faith building song when you are searching for miracles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpdGTzRXk64
  3. Simply Irresistible by Robert Palmer – Ah, an 80’s classic that requires you to power strut and pose with big hair and a bigger personality. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrGw_cOgwa8
  4. Winter Light by Linda Ronstadt – This is the song that plays at the end of the Secret Garden. It’s ethereal and whimsical and perfect for frosty mornings when you feel that Spring won’t be far away http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPgNbtqb40k
  5. Send me on my Way by Rusted Root – And this is from then end of Matilda. You can see how my music tastes are very strongly influenced by movies that make me happy. Whenever I listen to this I find myself murmering ‘on my way, on my way’ for the rest of the day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGMabBGydC0
  6. Dela (I Know why the Dog Howls at the Moon) by Johnny Clegg – And this song plays in George of the Jungle which I watched last weekend and remembered how much I love this very silly and completely underappreciated comedy. And whilst this song is very cheerful and upbeat, the words are also beautiful. ‘Dela’ means ‘content’ so the chorus is actually saying ‘Content, content, I am content when I am with you.’ I think that is lovely. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggDNKrTsKv0
  7. Drive by The Shires. I love this English Country Duo and this song is from their second album, My Universe. This song makes me what to go out and do something.  It inspires action and adventure. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkT-OIZkoMI
  8. Twist and Shout by the Beatles. Sometimes you just can’t go wrong with a classic, and I love taking Orla’s hands and assisting her to ‘shake it out, baby!’ which she finds hilarious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-VAxGJdJeQ
  9. Fever by Elvis Presley featuring Michael Buble. I never knew men could be sultry until I heard this duet. Each line is performed in a succint understated way and the voices are mixed together perfectly. This is a song that slows you down, like the first sip of a night cap. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUGHQQGm7tk
  10. White Flag by Joseph. I have had this song on my playlist for a while but it has come to mean more to me since the Women’s March that was so inspiring. It is all about ignoring the voices telling you to ‘keep it down, now’ and to keep fighting on for what you believe in. It’s a good for soul song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3kXDMPwfMc

Cathy’s Kitchen: Chorizo, Chilli & Chickpea Casserole

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Since going back to work I have had to become more organised in the kitchen. Rob and I tend to land back from work at half five which is also the exact time that Orla gets extremely hungry for tea. Every minute counts as we race around to get something on the table so I have been on the look out for more recipies I can make in a batch and then warm up quickly on the nights when we are rushed.

I made this at the weekend and it is absolutely delicious and really easy to make! The recipe is from the Step by Step Cook’s Encyclopedia which is a fantastic big book with photographs of every step you need to take in every recipe. It’s great because you can see what it should look like as you go. This is the first recipe I have tried from the book and I will be trying out more now that first one was so successful.

20170206_134612.jpg The first steps involved frying onions, garlic and pepper in chilli flakes, which are things I normally have in the cupboard anyway. Good start.

20170206_134654.jpgYou then had to add chorizo, chopped tomatoes and chickpeas. I saved more cooking time by using diced chorizo, which I didn’t even know existed until Rob came home with it after scouring Morrisons top to bottom and not finding a whole chorizo anywhere.  The good thing with these packets is that it would be really easy to add chorizo to a dish that needed an extra something, could spice up a chicken casserole, or even go into a winter salad.

dsc_1827.jpgI let it sizzle away for half an hour whilst the rice cooked, it smelt great as it gently simmered! I added a handful of rocket leaves just a few moments before I dished it out into bowls on top of rice.

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I loved the taste of this and I normally have all of these ingredients in the house so I think this casserole will become a regular feature in my kitchen. It has just the right mount of spice to give you a lift on cold days but it is not too spicy. Orla loved the rice and kept going back to it for more chickpeas!

It also made enough to use on two nights and took just over half an hour to make which is ideal for us as a family right now. I remember being disappointed with Jamie’s 30 Minute meals because unless you could peel and dice a butternut squash in 30 seconds then you could never make the meal in half an hour but this really was a triple threat of a quick, tasty and easy meal.

 

Book Bag: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

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Autumn has finally arrived in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina, heralded by a strange old man appearing with a beaten-up suitcase. He has stories to tell, stories that could change the lives of the Waverley women forever. But the Waverleys have enough trouble on their hands. Quiet Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies, but it’s nothing like she thought it would be, and it’s slowly taking over her life. Claire’s wild sister Sydney, still trying to leave her past behind, is about to combust with her desire for another new beginning. And Sydney’s fifteen-year-old daughter Bay has given her heart away to the wrong boy and can’t get it back.

From the author of the New York Times bestselling sensation GARDEN SPELLS, FIRST FROST is magical and atmospheric, taking readers back into the lives of the gifted Waverley women – back to their strange garden and temperamental apple tree, back to their house with a personality of its own, back to the men who love them fiercely – proving that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

Some books you read for the plot; you are desperate to find out what happens next and what happens after that, and how will it all end? But, some books you read to enter in to another world for a little bit and witness the peculiarities of the people who live there. That is what reading Sarah Addison Allen’s books are like for me, it’s like going on holiday and people watching from the local cafe’s window.

I adore the town of Bascom with it’s jumble of family histories and reputations, appreciation of food and it’s sensitivity to the magic of the seasons. After reading Garden Spells a couple of years ago it was lovely to come back and gaze through the window once more of the Waverley house. It was refreshing that the ‘happy ever afters’ were still in tact and that the drama did not revolve around the sister’s love life. Instead Claire and Sydney were battling with their next big dreams, Claire can’t work out what she wants from her business and Sydney is desperate for a new baby whilst also feeling a growing distance with her teenage daughter.

Saying that, there is still enough plot to keep the book going with high school fights, a mysterious stranger up to no good and a flighty young woman who is as wily as she is vulnerable all causing trouble for the Waverley sisters to deal with. But at it’s heart this was a most comforting read. I saw in an interview that Sarah Addison Allen wrote this just after battling cancer and wanted to return to safe ground in her writing, which is why she wrote a sequel. I was moved by that and I think her appreciation for the loved ones in your life and knowing where you belong comes through very strongly.

The writing once again feels like a soothing lullaby, reeling you into a comforting dreame land. And when I finished it, I put it on my shelf and thought  about how I would probably visit Bascom again in the summer, on a hot day, when Orla naps and I can spread a picnic blanket out in the garden and take my book and once more take a little holiday to the world of Sarah Addison Allen.

Orla at One

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This time last year I was less than a month into motherhood. I was sleep deprived, exhausted and completely intrigued by this tiny little baby in my arms. What would she be  like? What is her temprement? Will she have a favourite colour? What will make her happy? Will she ever sleep? (Answer to the last one was ‘yes, but not until 11 months!’)

Now a year on, the blanks are filling in and it feels like every couple of days Orla reveals something new and wonderful about herself. This is what I can tell you about Orla at one:

  • She tells stories I can’t understand but they all end in a happy screeching cheer
  • Dances by bobbing her knees or bouncing on her bottom
  • Sleeps through the night….well, almost
  • Has two bottom teeth
  • Has an infectious and rambunctious laugh
  • Eats everything, especially if it is on your plate instead of hers
  • Loves animals and tries to follow any dog at the park
  • Snuggles when tired
  • Knows the word ‘elephant’
  • Nods her head when you say ‘yes’
  • Says ‘Daddy’ and ‘Mummy’ and ‘yesssss’
  • Gives ‘goodnight kisses’ every evening.

What a star!

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Eight Reasons to Shop at Booths

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Booths is a Lancashire based supermarket that in the last couple of years opened a branch in Barrowford, and has become one of my favourite spots this last year. Their specialty is quality local food and a good range of wine and spirits, similar in feel and price to M&S food but with more of a Farmers Market feel.

Here are the reasons why I love Booths:

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  1. Free daily hot drink for card members when bought with food.

Whilst doing a supermarket shop can be expensive in Booths, the prices in the cafe are brilliant for the quality of food you get. My mum and I often go and order two soups and two hot chocolates, and one cake for lunch and get change back from a tenner.

The free drink with a Booths card (which is also free) is a great deal. I remember one evening last year when I was heavily pregnant and tired and had half an hour to kill in town before meeting Rob. I went to the cafe and spent 60p on a KitKat chunky and then took my free hot chocolate to a sofa by the window and watched the rain fall onto the park opposite. It was bliss!

2. The baby friendly cafe layout!

Whilst we are talking about the cafe, I have to say it is an absolute haven for mum’s with babies, in fact there is often at least half a dozen mums there every time I go. The cafe is spacious, with plenty of room in between tables to maneuver prams and high chairs without disturbing other customers. There are three sets of big comfy sofas that are great spots for breastfeeding and there is a play area for toddlers too. I’ve found a lot of cafes have become out of bounds since having Orla, simply because there isn’t enough room for us, so to find a spacious eating area is fantastic.

3. The cake selection makes my mouth water

Mini Blueberry Loafs, big fat Chocolate Fudge Cakes, bright pink macaroons the size of the palm of your hand are just some of the delights in the cake stall. I think I may have sampled the whole sweet menu by now. I love it all, and they often have a tray of samples about which empty very quickly!

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4. The Afternoon Tea for Two actually feeds three people!

I love an afternoon tea and Booths do a lovely generous one that requires you to have extra napkins to wrap up the left over cake to take home! Card Holders also have the option of upgrading to free Prosecco with theirs instead of Tea!

5. Their selection of wines and spirits make for good presents

Rhubarb flavoured gin, anyone? Pink Champagne? Since Booths opened Rob and I have kept our drinks trolley well stocked with a nice mix of our favourite tipples!

6. The frozen fish pie keeps me going on too-lazy-to-cook days

On days when cooking is one step too far and ordering in is one sin too many, Booths fish pie comes to my rescue. It is so easy to just put in the oven and wait an hour. If I am feeling a little bit virtuous I may also boil up some peas to go with it. Easy peasy comfort food.

7. Free Samples

Booths embraces the free sample marketing technique. Sometimes there are tiny squares of chocolate orange tiffan on the cafe bar, and sometimes there are cheese samples by the deli. And most excitedly of all, they sometimes set up a big barrel by the wine shelves with a generous array of whiskys to sample with a sales person to talk you through the different options. Delightful!

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8. The Booths Christmas Book

The Booths Christmas Book appears late November and is the grown up equivalent of the ARGOS catalogue, it is just page after page of delicious festive treats beautifully laid out. The book is so wonderfully made that I can’t bring myself to throw them out. I still have 2015’s on the kitchen shelf! I know it is only a catalogue inciting you to buy more things but it is also a thing of beauty – like a Christmas Food Pinterest board that you can hold and wander through at your leisure!

 

Her Ladyship’s Notebook: On Black Tights

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Aw, how I love a good pair of black tights. They look great with heels, pumps or boots. You don’t need to shave your legs or paint your toes to wear them. They offer a protective layer against shoes that rub and against the cold. And they show off the leg whilst looking demure at the same time!

Black tights are my staple at work, I wear them nearly year round and begrudge the months of June, July and August when it feels a bit wrong to wear black tights, even if it is still freezing outside.

I love today’s quote from Nina Garcia’s book; The One Hundred, which goes through the one hundred items of clothing a woman “needs” to have in her wardrobe. Some of her choices are undoubtedly questionable; animal print? No, thank you!  But I agree with her one hundred percent on the magic, the wonder, the allure (spoken in a Miranda voice) of the wonderful and very-British staple of black tights!

Aside: I am completely guilty of thinking a short skirt will become instantly acceptable if partnered with black tights! Until I read this I thought I was the only one who did that!

 

2016 Reading Summary

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Flicking through Pinterest and my new favourite internet distraction; Mumsnet I have seen a few book reading challenges for 2017 with goals of reading 50 books this year, or taking a vow to not buy new books in 2017 and only read the books you already own.

It got me thinking about my own reading habits so I scanned through all of my Book Bag posts of the last year to see how many books I read in a year. Here are my findings:

I only finished thirteen books! I am normally a quick and avid reader but Orla’s arrival and sleep deprivation seriously reduced the time I could spend reading. No more long soaks in the bath with a book or basking in the garden with a pile of reading by my side. Here are all the books I read in the last year:

  • Rosie Hopkins Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgon
  • Bounce; The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed
  • The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth,
  • Mr Mercedes by Stephen King,
  • The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan
  • Fables Volume 12; The Dark Ages
  • Nurse Heatherdale’s Story by Mrs Molesworth,
  • Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer & Eric Geiger
  • Breakout Churches by Thom S. Rainer
  • Fables Volume 13; The Great Fables Crossover
  • The Great Christmas Knit Off by Alexandra Brown,
  • Off to the Lakes by Jessica Lofthouse
  • Surprised by Hope, by Tom Wright

Nearly half of my reading has been non-fiction. Six out of the thirteen books I read were non-fiction. I am quite pleased with that, it was my goal a couple of years ago to read more non-fiction to learn new things. At first I struggled finding things to interest me but now I really enjoy reading non-fiction. I think the trick is finding very clever people who are passionate about their field of interest and have a desire to share that with others. Academics writing for academics is very dull but writing fueled by passion is always interesting even if at first the subject matter is a bit foreign to you.

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5 of the books were loaned by friends. It’s great sharing books with friends, it means that you have someone to talk about the book with! I love having a good natter about a good book, or a good moan about a frustrating one! Sharing books also helps you to understand your friends more; your reading choices reveal something about you and if someone shares a book with you then you know they are sharing something they found interesting, or uplifting or helpful. It is special to them and they are sharing it with you. It’s a beautiful thing!

I bought 6 books last year. I would suspect that this is an above average spending on books on my part. I normally use the library almost exclusively swapping three books every three weeks but with less time for reading I couldn’t keep to the deadlines and ended up buying more books to read in my own time. Usually I only buy books if I am confident that I am going to read them repeatedly. Speaking of which…

7 of the books are definite keepers that I will be returning to. They are mostly the fiction ones. As much as I enjoy non-fiction I don’t have the same desire to re-read them as I do with actual stories. Although the Elements of Eloquence is the exception to that rule, I loved that book! The ones I would happily read again are:

  • The Great Christmas Knit Off by Alexandra Brown,
  • Nurse Heatherdale’s Story by Mrs Molesworth,
  • Mr Mercedes by Stephen King,
  • The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth,
  • Rosie Hopkins Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgon
  • Fables Volume 12; The Dark Ages.

I will be interested to do a reading summary again in a year’s time to see if it is wildly different from 2016!

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