Sunday, 12 February 2017

Walk 1,000 Miles - Weeks 5 & 6

The best-laid plans don't always work out and my plan to walk on a daily basis certainly hasn't during the last two weeks.  I've had one of those viruses which is still lingering and has resulted in my feeling breathless and coughing with the slightest exertion.  

At the moment, I'm trying to take the time to feel better and not worry about weekly totals.  If I feel like a short walk, I'll take one and if not, I'll wait until I feel well enough to resume the 1,000 mile challenge.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Everyday Joy

Joy has been a bit thin on the ground for more than a week because I've been fighting a virus.  In an effort to boost my intake of fresh vegetables, and at the same time enjoy something that has some flavour, I made tabbouleh from The Little Book of Lunch.  This is a recipe that I've been intending to try for ages, but never actually did until now.  Although I cut down on the onion, I think that it still requires less, as even a third of a red onion is a bit overpowering.

Marie Soderberg's book arrived at the library and so I've been reading a bit more about hygge.  The cover of this book is a joy to behold and I found a couple of recipes inside which I plan to try at a later date.

Last Wednesday morning dawned with a dusting of snow on the trees.  I was actually awake long before dawn due to my cold symptoms, but I must admit to feeling more than a little relieved that I didn't have to go anywhere and could stay at home under a blanket.  There is definitely something joyful in being cosy and at home on a winter's morning.

In the kitchen again at the weekend and I finally perfected my raspberry scones.  I discovered that the secret to a successful scone is to use frozen berries rather than fresh.  They are delicious with a cup of tea and I'm still enjoying them because I'm the only one who likes raspberries and I put them in the freezer to reheat in the oven whenever I fancy one.

Back to the weather and this was yesterday morning.  We got home just as the weather turned nasty with freezing rain frosting the trees - suspended water droplets on every branch.  What a relief to be warm indoors again!

Monday, 30 January 2017

Seeking Joy in the Ordinary

A cup of tea in the afternoon, enjoyed from my china tea set.  Why is it that tea always tastes better from a china cup?

Savoured with a freshly baked oatcake, still warm from the oven.  Baking is something that I always enjoy and quiet time in the kitchen, spent mixing ingredients to produce something which is wholesome and delicious, is never time wasted.

Recycling a Lyle's treacle tin - with such an iconic brand, how could I throw this away?  This one is so brightly coloured and cheerful on these dark winter days and I'm going to use it as a pen holder.

Not quite wearing my heart on my sleeve, but the next best thing ~ heart socks.

And not forgetting the Year of the Rooster which started on Saturday with the arrival of the Chinese New Year.  I've read all kinds of good forecasts for this, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Walk 1,000 Miles - Week Four

Another challenging week with unfavourable weather and the continued absence of my walking partner.  I actually walked further than I thought, completing 27.32 miles in six days (I took Sunday off).

As the progress tracker is based around four-weekly totals, I have now completed the first month with a total of 105.08 miles.  The new walking week has started and I'm now at home with a virus brewing, so I don't know if I will get much walking done this week.

(The strange dappled effect to this photo is due to the fact that the sun is shining through the somewhat speckled windows ~ I don't anticipate the arrival of a window-cleaner any time soon, as it is -11 C this morning and the wind-chill is -17 C.)

Monday, 23 January 2017

Seek Joy

In keeping with my theme for 2017, I am writing another post on Joy.  It had been my intention to post about this a couple of days ago, but I've been slow to take the photos for my post.

I've been busy in the kitchen and using my chicken timer ~ how can I not feel joy at the sight of it?   It cheers up even the dullest of days. 

Earlier last week, I received my Chiltern Seeds' catalogues in the post.  There is something joyful about browsing through seed catalogues during the dark days of winter and dreaming of spring days to come, even if they are still somewhat distant.

My Union Jack Filofax - call me old-fashioned, but I still like to write things down, rather than relying on an electronic calendar.  At the beginning of the year, there hasn't been a lot added to its pages beyond the usual birthdays etc, but I am sure that this will change.  I also like the fact that I can buy refill calendars for this and continue to use it year after year.  

Discovering Emily Bronte's poem:

High Waving Heather
Emily Brontë
High waving heather, 'neath stormy blasts bending,
Midnight and moonlight and bright shining stars;
Darkness and glory rejoicingly blending,
Earth rising to heaven and heaven descending,
Man's spirit away from its drear dongeon sending,
Bursting the fetters and breaking the bars.

All down the mountain sides, wild forest lending
One mighty voice to the life-giving wind;
Rivers their banks in the jubilee rending,
Fast through the valleys a reckless course wending,
Wider and deeper their waters extending,
Leaving a desolate desert behind.

Shining and lowering and swelling and dying,
Changing for ever from midnight to noon;
Roaring like thunder, like soft music sighing,
Shadows on shadows advancing and flying,
Lightning-bright flashes the deep gloom defying,
Coming as swiftly and fading as soon.

I read this poem and I was immediately transported to the wild, open moorland of Yorkshire.  It has been calling me and I've returned to it time and again during the last week (the poem, not Yorkshire, but I can dream).

And speaking of Yorkshire, I discovered this short film about the Yorkshire Dales and felt that I had to share it.  I watch this and my heart soars as I recall happy times spent there.


Sunday, 22 January 2017

Walk 1,000 Miles - Week 3

Three weeks in and this has been a challenging week.  With the continued absence of my walking partner (due to aforementioned knee injury), and milder temperatures, I opted to walk outdoors.  Whilst it was nice to get some fresh air, once again; I paid the price in terms of wind-burn.

I've also been feeling the pressure to perform in terms of distance, which is quite ridiculous and takes all the fun out of walking.  Why do I feel the need to push myself to walk that bit further every day?  This started in week one, when instead of just completing the minimum daily distance, my walking partner said 'Let's do another lap' and before we knew where we were, we were walking an extra two laps.  Where does it end?  Reading some online postings, I've found that I'm not alone in suffering from performance-related anxiety!

This week, I've completed  25.41 miles, bringing my running total to 77.76 miles.  It feels good to break the 75 mile barrier, but my plan from now on is to pace myself and not turn this into a competition.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The Long, Long Life of Trees

I recently enjoyed reading Fiona Stafford's fascinating book The Long, Long Life of Trees, in which she gives detailed descriptions not only of the history of some of our best loved trees, but also the story of how they fit into culture, art and folklore.

Trees shape our lives and our world.  I thought that it would be interesting to reflect on three of my favourites.

How could I even contemplate a list that didn't include the oak tree?  Majestic oaks have been a part of our history and culture for generations and some of the oldest oak trees live beyond 1,000 years.  Just imagine the stories they could share if they could speak of their history!  I love them for their distinctive leaves and the little acorns which appear in autumn.  Great oaks from little acorns grow.  I love the sheer grace and majesty of the oak's soaring height.

One of my favourite broadcasts was The Oak Tree on BBC Radio 4.  It was a fictional history of an thousand year-old oak tree in Northumberland from tiny sapling to grand old age.  This programme was first broadcast about ten years ago and until fairly recently, was still available.  I had listened to it each autumn over the years and enjoyed it immensely, but sadly, it is currently unavailable.

Another of my top three is the horse chestnut.  This tree has such spreading boughs and beautiful leaves which provide a shady spot in which to sit on a summer's day.  In spring, it is in blossom with the most wonderful white candelabra and in autumn, green spiky globe appear which ripen and fall off and split open to reveal their treasure within - shiny brown conkers.  Conkers always remind me of crisp autumn mornings, going back to school and the conker fights which took place in the school playground.  Simple pleasures at a time before technology took over the lives of children from a young age.

My third choice is the apple tree, or more specifically, the Bramley.  How I miss Bramley apples!  Apple trees generally don't have a long life in comparison to other trees, but what bounty they produce.  The Bramley is the perfect cooking apple and my favourite apple dessert is apple crumble.  Perfectly cooked apples with a hint of sweetness (but not too much, as the crumble topping contains sugar) and a crumbly topping made with brown sugar for that slightly caramlised consistency.

I suppose my list is incomplete without mentioning an eating apple too (although this may be considered cheating, as it is another tree!). Anyway, my choice is the Cox's Orange Pippin, which is yet another apple variety which I greatly miss (although I was fortunate enough to come across some a year ago - what joy!). It has an aromatic intensity and depth of flavour which is second to none.  Other apples pale into insignificance.

My dream is to one day have a house with a garden which is large enough for a small orchard of Bramley apples and Cox's Orange Pippins.  I can't imagine anything better than being able to step out into my garden and pick my own apples and then store them safely away from any passing mice, to enjoy during the cold, dark days of winter.

What could be more perfect than a chair by the fire, a good book like The Long, Long Life of Trees and an apple to munch whilst I am reading?