The lovely Hugh and his lovely shroom recipes…

Hello lovelies, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Here is my picture of Saturday dinner. I don’t often Instagram my dinners, but when I do….

 

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This is the lovely Hugh FW’s Mushroom Tart from his River Cottage Everyday cookbook, which is one of my favourite books in the world.

The puff pastry was on the reduced counter of Tesco for 5p, so I bought it to freeze.

The mushrooms were on offer in Lidl. It would be nice to add wild mushrooms, but I am nowhere near an accomplished or confident enough forager. Besides, it’s not the season.

The parsley is from the garden and, soon, the garlic will be too.

The breadcrumbs are from the scrag ends of loaves it’s too easy to just throw away.

Parmesan is just something we always have in the fridge because, like Extra Virgin Olive Oil, it’s an investment that goes a long way.

We added some Gorgonzola to the adult part because it was in the fridge and we had it to use up .

I served it with a rocket salad. It was absolutely amazing. It would be great for those mushrooms you have languishing in the fridge that have maybe gone a bit sticky and you’re not quite sure what to do with them. USE THEM! They are fine!

If you find supermarket mushrooms rather bland, consider buying some mushroom ketchup , it is, frankly, something your pantry should not be without. Link is for Waitrose, we got ours from Sainsburys’s. Honestly, invest in some. It’s adds amazing depth to so many dishes.

(It’s also nothing like ketchup in consistency, more like a Worcestershire Sauce or gravy browning.)

Unfortunately, we were unable to add said ketchup to the above dish because hubbie dearest had used it all in his various dishes (it works beautifully with meat) but fortunately, it was still amazingly tasty.

Definitely one to try, and one that won’t break the bank; particularly if you can buy your frozen pastry on the reduced/whoops counter or if you are confident enough to make your own ruff-puff, advice on which is included in the above link.

I’m sure it would also be lovely on a pizza base, which can be made easily in a bread machine or with this yeast free easy thin pizza base recipe.

Hope you love it as much as we did!

 

Bon appetit!

 

 

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Magical two minute stir-fry sauce recipe

It’s been a while since I posted any of my kitchen experiments with you, dear reader. There is a very good reason for this – my cooking is generally somewhat underwhelming. I can occasionally create something worth telling you about but, whilst I’m actually a pretty competent cook, I don’t tend to cook things that are particularly interesting.

I think I’m probably guilty of being stuck in a rut dictated by things the children won’t turn their noses up at, and trying to be as frugal as possible with the grocery shop and I do like to cook from stratch as much as I possibly can. I don’t mind using tins of things like mixed beans, chickpeas, tomatoes and coconut milk; but I find that your pre-packed sauces (think Blue Dragon / Sharwoods / Dolmio and their ilk) are just far too cloyingly sweet and chemical tasting.

Now, I’ve never bought pasta sauces because I’ve always made my own, and thanks to the awesome Jack Monroe I can whip up a fairly decent curry – it makes a massive difference having spices that aren’t *ahem* five years out of date, I have discovered; but I have been looking for a sauce that would be good with a stir-fry – it’s the Chinese style sauces that I find particularly sweet and artificial tasting.

 

 

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We’d been up the community garden this afternoon to harvest some of our broad beans and our rather spectacular peas for a stir-fry with some peppers and mushrooms and some of last night’s leftover chicken (our Sunday chicken lasts us three meals); and I really wanted a sauce that was as fresh as the beans and peas were, something nicely zingy and not the same tooth-aching sweetness that you get in a jar or a pouch.

So I started to experiment. I even got my blender out, that’s when you KNOW I mean business.

 

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I dragged all my jars and bottles out of that kitchen cupboard, and set to work….

I chucked the following in my bad- boy shiny red blender:

1 teaspoon of nam pla

2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce

4 tablespoons of runny honey

A rough 3cm x 6cm piece of peeled fresh ginger, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

8 spring onions, chopped

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil

3 tablespoons of white cider vinegar

Generous handful of fresh coriander, stems included

Half a teaspoon of brown sugar

Pulsed it until it looked like it was doing something mixxy-choppy-uppy; then poured that into the lovely glass bowl you see in the photo above, a bowl I’m sure I liberated from one of my less rewarding living-with-strangers houseshares from my days in that London.

After you’ve chopped all your veggies and whatever protein you want in your stir-fry and you’ve got your rice or noodles on (do they suit you? Do they?), you can commence with your stir frying – I added a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the starter oil because I didn’t have a fresh chilli to add to the mix. Just before you add your sauce, just squeeze in the juice of a lime. Have a little taste, and add a bit more of whatever you fancy. I was tempted to add gin, but held back. I’m such a hero.

Family loved it, and I didn’t even have to bribe them. It tasted really fresh, but multi-layered and – with a few tweaks – would make a fantastic marinade and even a salad dressing; and it’s definitely something that could be played around with, adding different combinations and new ingredients to suit your own tastes.

 

Clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars

” You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself flows in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars, till you so love the beauty of enjoying it you are earnest to persuade others to enjoy it too.”

Thomas Traherne, Centuries of Meditations, taken from John Lewis-Stempel’s gorgeous Meadowland.

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Bothwell Woods

I have had one of those weekends that I will cherish for the rest of my life, a collection of beautiful, sparkling memories that will stay with me forever.

I’ve been down to stay with my very good friend (no, not in that way) Simon in his beautiful little self-built cottage at the bottom of a hill in stunning Galloway. He calls it a hut, but that really doesn’t do it justice.

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The view from the front step, or as I prefer to call it “Temporary Mistress of All I Survey”.

 

I was there, ostensibly, to help Simon finish building his polytunnel. I would argue, however, that the hard work had already been done and I was just there to hold some plastic, offer words of encouragement, and be bloody useless with a ratchet; and in return I was gifted the most comfortable camp-bed in the world, a purring cat to coo over, the best bacon butties in Christendom, unlimited caffeine and – oh my god – fillet steak. From one of his own cows!

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Polytunnel by coffee-break number 3 (approximately 8.30am. ON A SATURDAY! I KNOW, RIGHT?)

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Polytunnel by the time we finished faffing with it on Sunday morning (it’s all planted and seeds sown inside too, I’ll have you know…)

There is something about the light in Galloway, particularly the evening spring light that bathes everything in a golden glow, touches the clouds, and highlights every single shade of green and brown; making the countryside we drive through look like an exquisite patchwork quilt gently rising and falling between hills and coast. It must be this light that made Kirkcudbright the town so beloved of painters and other artists, the St Ives of Scotland.

As we drove I could feel the stress drop off my shoulders, I could feel myself unwind. I knew what I could expect from Simon’s gaff – no TV, no internet (I was actually proved wrong on this point, O2 now have coverage but I’d prepared myself for a no-phone weekend and switched my phone off), no bleepy-deepy console noises. No traffic or neighbour noises. Just peace.

I hadn’t realised how much I needed peace. Really needed peace.

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Once there, I realised I had forgotten the sound of the birds on the farm he shares. The trees are spruce, predominantly, and of course they attract some different birds to the ones that frequent my garden, or even the deciduous woods I frequent; and the cheerful, gossipy chatterings of what sounded like a million finches made me grin, it’s such a joyous sound.

Simon was very earnestly showing me his raised beds in the uncovered shell of the polytunnel and asking my advice on crop rotation and catch-cropping when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye in the field – a rabbit? No. Too athletic a build. Ears too big. A hare!

(Confession – I am 44 and have never knowingly seen a hare before, so this was a pretty big deal for me, particularly as everyone who knows me well knows I adore them and their pagan imagery).

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my phone on me to take a photo, and I knew Mr (or Mrs) Popoff wouldn’t be hanging around for long, so this is a memory that will have to stay in my brain rather than shared as an image, I’m afraid. (Mr or Mrs Popoff re-appeared several times over the weekend, always in a rush, and always when I didn’t have the means for photography handy, so I am taking that as some kind of sign).

Poor Simon, every time he would be talking to me, I would cut him dead and say ‘Oh, is that a …..? Did I just hear a ……? Oh look over / up there, what is that?’.

One of the best things about Simon’s is a) turning your phone off and not having a watch handy (don’t wear one and I don’t think he has a working clock – if he does, he hides it well!) and b) Having to get up in the night to go outside to the composting loo for a wee. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain because you have to get your boots on but…..

Oh. My. God. The stars. It is just absolutely unbelievable, you feel as though you might get sucked into them at any moment as they tower above you, so many of them. You can even see the Milky Way, and you get a dizzy sense of being so incredibly small and utterly overwhelmed by it all. It’s both exhilarating and absolutely terrifying, but breathtaking. Oh! For darker skies back home, even in Wales the volume of visible stars was nowhere near this – I have been to the Highlands and have never experienced anything as gorgeous as the Galloway stars. (About nine years ago, incidentally, we were camping in Creetown (also in Galloway) and saw the Perseids and that was absolutely stunning and worth catching if you are in a suitably dark-skies area – if you click ‘Perseids’ there, it will bring up a calendar of meteor shower events that you can plan for if so inclined).

Oh. My. God. The Dawn Chorus! Sunday was apparently International Dawn Chorus Day . I didn’t know this at the time, but clearly my bladder did, and I awoke just before sunrise to hear the most stunning birdsong. Birdsong is still something I need to learn, but I was able to identify blackbirds, robins, thrushes, a number of finches and tits and so many songs I just couldn’t recognise. I confess I may have sat on that composting loo for a little bit longer than I needed to, letting the sounds rain down on me; both trying to identify the different songs, and wanting to appreciate the full chorus.

So, about the not-knowing-the-time thing. Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful. Wood pigeons coo’d, cows lowed. A cockerel crowed. Small birds chattered overhead. The windchime did its gorgeous chiming in a light breeze. We woke, stretched, put the stove on, made coffee, dressed for working business, drank coffee, went outside, stretched plastic over polytunnel, worked out how to use the odd plastic strips to attach plastic to runners, affixed those (not an easy task!), cut wood for door-frame, adjusted plastic over front and back ends to make taut….

Decided to have breakfast because we’d been working for so long, and it was only 8.10am!

We carried on tweaking and adjusting, and re-tweaking and re-adjusting the polytunnel in between coffee breaks and me wandering off to look at something flying, growing or making moo sounds; and then we decided to head down to Threave Castle to see the Ospreys. It was an utterly stunning afternoon, and the farm silage cutters were out….and so were the red kites. I had seen a kite flying over Simon’s field earlier that day, and wondered if I would be lucky enough to see one again.

I wasn’t expecting to see twelve!

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They are incredibly hard to photograph with a phone!

 

They are so languid and majestic as they wheel and drift on the air streams; to see one is an event – to see twelve of them moving together, working together, gently and proudly circling the fields, watching and waiting quite patiently for their moment of carrion reward was mesmerising. I couldn’t take my eyes of them, and my god, they are beautiful.

We saw the ospreys too, they came onto the scene – though largely ignored by the kites. The female was on the nest, the male was involved in a dog-fight with an interloping male osprey from elsewhere. The kites looked down their beaks at these shenanigans as being below them, and carried on as though they weren’t there.

Volunteers told us that peregrines nest in the top floor of Archibald The Grim’s Galloway bolt-hole of Threave Castle, and they like to terrorise the poor ospreys, but we didn’t see them.

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Back home with cows (gorgeous Dexters) to feed, and a hand-reared sheep (Lamby) to make a fuss of, and an evil bastard sheep (Horny) to avoid; and fast asleep, sun-kissed, sober, filled with amazing fillet beef and absolutely shattered by 10pm – I think that was the best sleep I have had for years. I woke several times in the night, but just had a smug ‘I’m really cosy and happy’ smile to myself and drifted back off.

The morning involved more bacon (for there can never be enough bacon), more coffee, more appearances by Mr or Mrs Popoff the hare, the reappearance of the red kite (singular); and a beautiful accompaniment whilst riddling soil up the hill of a skylark’s song.

All too soon we had to abide by the clock again so I could catch my train home. It went far too quickly; but I think that makes it all the more precious. I have gathered these images, these views, these memories into my heart, and there they will remain.

 

Huge thanks to Simon on this, Mental Health Awareness Week for offering me a perfect getaway, and a blissful weekend that I really needed to re-calibrate my brain for the weeks ahead. There really aren’t words to describe how much this time meant to me. And thank you, of course, to Richard my lovely husband-to-be, for making it possible for me to experience this. Love you both to bits xx

 

 

Dirt on my hands and the sun on my face.

This week is National Gardening Week here in the UK, and as you’d expect there have been quite a few pieces in the media on the topic of gardening – many of them are little more than advertising features to sell garden centres and labour-saving tools; but some, like this piece by MG Leonard for Standard Issue, blend two things I am passionate and vocal about – the outdoors, and mental health issues.

Our raised bed at Bothwell Community Garden the first year we opened. It doesn’t look quite that productive at the moment, I grant you.

 

Now, I think we can all agree that telling someone that weeding a raised bed or planting some bulbs is going to magically cure their mental illness would be incredibly unwise – we don’t want to be one of these ‘helpful’ people, as collated by the awesome Amy Jones for The Pool; but I thought it would write a little on how it improves my life, a life that is frequently blighted by severe anxiety and depression.

A quick Google search of ‘gardening’ and ‘mental health’ will bring up a plethora of scholarly articles and rather nauseating motivational memes on how gardening is a panacea for those of us with mental health issues, however – like going for a nice walk, having a bubble bath or getting into a downward-facing dog pose – it’s not as easy as that when your brain is in a place where, for weeks, you have been terrified to leave the house, or just cannot see the point, or only have the energy to function on the most basic of levels to get through the day safely. Those of us who live with this know that mental illness is not a bad day, or even a collection of bad days that can magically be made better by digging some weeds or taking a walk through the woods. It is far, far more complex than that.

I’ve always loved the outdoors. I was fortunate enough to have maternal grandparents who were keen gardeners and loved to involve us children, particularly with harvesting; and a paternal grandmother who was an avid walker and thought nothing of taking us out on eight mile yomps across the Welsh countryside or coastline. Our springs were filled with seedlings, and wildflowers and birdsong; our summers with arms full of sweetpeas, bowls of freshly picked raspberries and sand between our toes and pockets full of shells and pebbles.

Of course, it never seemed to rain and the days seemed endless until I fell, protesting, into bed in the still-light and felt the bed gently rocking with my tiredness.

My childhood smelled of tomatoes, ‘fish, blood and bone’ and boat varnish, and sounded of blackbirds, lawnmowers, waves.

As I have got older, I seem to spend increasing amounts of time reminiscing on my childhood; comparing my youth with that of my children (mostly when I am trying to shoo them off the electronics and out to play) and whilst I can understand that life is different now, and children are different now, I am sad that my children won’t experience nature and the outdoors in the same way as we did. As much as I try to get them outside, the more I’m sure they consider it a temporary, just-about-tolerable disturbance to their screen-time. I’m glad to report that they do, however, enjoy being outside and exploring and learning once they are there, so I’ll take that as a win, thanks.

Those of you who know me of old will probably know that my mental health has been up and down for many years, and I suffered particularly badly with post-natal depression when my eldest was born. It caught me by surprise, I’d been expecting the symptoms to be your typical ‘lowness’ and sadness associated with depression, and for it to happen within weeks of the birth; so I thought I’d been lucky. How wrong I was.

What it actually did was appear as manic, paranoid and quite terrifying behaviour, when I look back on it now; and it hit when he was five months old, probably just as I was letting my guard down. I was like a stressed vixen pacing round her cub, snarling at the world, convinced that everything and everyone was out to hurt us. Every car was about to mount the pavement, the house was going to burn down (ironically when I set the grill on fire I acted so calmly I seemed to watch myself from outside my own body), every plane flying overhead was going to explode and its debris fall on us. I could see it. On a relationship level, everyone hated me. Everyone doubted me. I was hopeless with this tiny baby I loved so much, and everyone was conspiring to take him off me and lock me away.

Looking back on it now, the truly terrifying thing about it was how absolutely normal and rational these feelings seemed at the time.

To cut a long story short, I was lucky. I had an excellent Health Visitor who realised what was happening and got me help, and fast. Group therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, and my very own psychiatrist and community team. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t thank NHS Scotland (and more specifically NHS Lanarkshire) because I don’t think I would be here now if they hadn’t acted as quickly as they did.

By 2008, another baby had arrived; and he was a wake-up. Literally. The little darling refused to sleep upstairs in the crib, or even in the pram top inside the cot in our room. I spent the first four months of his life sleeping on the sofa with him on the floor in the pram top. He liked to take an ounce of milk every half an hour or so, just to make sure I could never sleep. Once he settled upstairs (eventually), he got to the colic age, and would scream blue murder from 5pm until 3am. Every. Damn. Night. Then we both got Swine Flu. I could go on, I won’t.

Strangely, despite (or maybe because of) the stresses of Captain Squawk’s desire to drive me completely round the twist, I was not affected by PND this time round; but I was all too aware that depression and anxiety could hit me again at any moment, and for no discernible reason, as it had since I was fifteen or so.

We were up the Main Street in the village one day, the kids and I; and I was looking in the window of the butcher’s. Quite why, I have no idea – I was vegetarian at the time. There was a poster about a new community garden project to bring raised bed, no-dig organic gardening to Bothwell and a phone number and some lovely photos of the site it was modelled on in Fairlie.

The rest is history.

I plucked up the courage to phone the number, and attended the first meeting, where I plucked up the courage to volunteer to be on the steering committee to get the garden up and running.

Cutting the first sod, 2009. Jim, Ian, Norma, Avril, Bill, Sheena, Me and the kids. These are all still fantastic friends and have taught me so much.

The Organic Growers of Bothwell opened Bothwell Community Garden in 2010, and I’m still there, I’m still on the committee, and I still love it with the same enthusiasm that I did that first, glorious summer. I love to grow food, obviously, but I also appreciate – as a socially awkward introvert – the really lovely friendships I have made with people I would have been otherwise unlikely to have crossed paths with. I doubt they know it, but several garden members have been instrumental in helping to sort my head out in one way or another. The introvert in me should probably hate the thought of a community garden, particularly when one is on the committee and therefore viewed as some kind of fountain of all knowledge; but I actually appreciate how it can shake up my comfort zone, and ‘force’ me to be sociable and to indulge in the gentle chat I hide from but know, deep down, that I need.

There is the physical love of gardening and food growing that MG Leonard describes so eloquently in her piece above; but for me there is so much more. There are memories that make my heart swell. The smell of tomatoes in the polytunnel, always. That’s Grandad, I’m right back there in his garden, behind him as he shuffled in his slippers, rolly in hand, to adjust the windows of the greenhouse to best suit his Moneymakers. The smell of ‘fish blood and bone’ that I sprinkle on my bed as an organic fertiliser, I’m back in my maternal grandparents’ garden ‘helping’ to turn over the soil in the flowerbeds ready for the bedding plants to be planted out. When I walk to the gate past our woodland walk (a small wooded area at the front that we left intact) and see the wild garlic and bluebells and ragged robin and comfrey I am transported back to the Welsh woodlands of my walks with my Nanna.

The yomping, stomping grounds of Burry Port and Pembrey.

I’m back where I was happy, where I had nothing to bother me other than whether it would be sunny enough to go out to adventure tomorrow; and rather than depress me that I now have a life of responsibility and uncertainly, I find that hugely comforting. I can curl up inside my memories like a fox in its earth, safe and content, and even if it’s only for five minutes a day, and I find that massively beneficial to how I process the rest of my day.

Gardening and being around woodland and wildness remind me of stories, resurrect long-forgotten events; trigger the need to tell my children anecdotes about the family they never knew, and a place they haven’t grown up in; the names are strange to them, mythical. The place names are Welsh, and when we go back to Wales to visit family I will often wail that there are now houses on a particularly fine lane for blackberries.

I remember when all this was fields.

The boys like my stories of Wales, of our adventures up hills and along coastlines; of raspberry picking and competitions to ascertain which of us could chew on rhubarb without wincing, of dusk bonfires and being chased by cows. My grandparents live on in my stories, my gloriously happy memories of a childhood outdoors, my hands in the dirt and my face turned towards the sun.

 

 

Starting to unfurl

 

I wake each morning to the sound of the blackbird’s song. A song of future promise, of the seasons to come; but also a song of the past, hardwired into my brain over so many spring-times.

Whenever I hear the blackbird, I am instantly transported to the back garden of my family home in West Wales. I’m five or so, lying under the heavy canvas of the old tent my mum has erected for me to play in. It’s afternoon, I’m alone – I assume my sister was having a nap and my mum was busy in the house – and it’s hot. I’m smelling freshly cut grass and that familiar, comforting tent smell that even now I love so much; I’m watching the dappled shadows of the hedges dance on the roof of the tent; I’m hearing the blackbird and the low thrum of a petrol lawnmower in one of the gardens behind us.

I don’t know why that particular memory stayed with me so clearly; I can only assume that it was one of my life’s defining moments; maybe a subtle change in my cognitive abilities caused by some brain pathways meeting, who knows? It’s burnt into my memory now, and I cherish it. I can still smell that tent, feel the ground beneath me, see the shadows bounce and flicker on the canvas as though it were yesterday; and whenever I do I feel instantly wrapped in comfort and warmth.

When you suffer with anxiety, stress or/and depression; turning your mind off from the constant worry of the ‘what if?’ scenarios can be exceptionally difficult. Brains tend to race from one stress to the next, sometimes cycling rapidly and sometimes bringing sufferers to their knees with worry and despair, particularly if a situation appears to be, or indeed is, out of our immediate control.

Let’s face it, at the moment the world – and Britain in particular –  is not a great place for your average anxious depressive. If we’re not worrying about our children, climate change, the housing market, job security and the NHS; we can always fall back on the rise of the far-right across the West, Trump, Russian intervention, terrorism and Brexit for things to keep us grinding our teeth and wringing our hands into the wee small hours. Happy days!

One of things I learned several years ago in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and more recently when I studied Mindfulness starting with this free online course is that in many instances, worrying changes nothing. There is a massive difference between looking realistically and practically at issues that affect us and doing our best to make contingency plans; and moithering and fretting about things that, in reality, we have very little sway over.

I’ve no idea who said this, I have seen it attributed to everyone from Gautama Buddha to Ernest Hemingway (though to listen to the internet, Hemingway was responsible for 98% of earnest – see what I did there? – psychobabble memes) but

Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.

And thus, on Friday evening, I decided to dedicate my long weekend from Friday night through to Tuesday night (I’m on a three day week this week) to relaxing, going with the flow, and doing only things that made me happy. It was a rare weekend with only one or two plans in place, so seemed an ideal time.

The ‘rules’ went a bit like this:

  • If you want to do something (within reason!) do it.
  • Stop when you want to stop, whether that’s after five hours or five minutes.
  • Put your foot down nicely, and only do things that make you happy. If you don’t think you’ll get anything out of it, then be polite but firm and say no. Obviously, keep an open mind and assess what you might gain from it before saying no – that stint of volunteering in the rain might lead to an interesting conversation or the start of a new friendship; or that trip to Lidl might lead to 30% off a real nice cheese….you get the idea!
  • Be mindful of what you are doing, and make a point of looking for the lovely in whatever you’re doing; whether that’s pride at the increasingly large pile of beautifully ironed clothes or a freshly weeded vegetable patch; or drinking in the beauty of your surroundings whilst out for a walk or appreciating a fantastic song on the radio.
  • Write things down to look back on. I have a small journal I carry around and write down things I am grateful for each day.

 

Saturday was a stunning day, we woke early and lay in bed bathed in spring morning sunshine and drank coffee and chatted before heading off to our local environmental group’s Spring Clean. We’ve done this for years as a family, it only takes an hour or so of our time but when there are enough of us it makes a huge difference to the village and it’s a lovely way to meet new and interesting people.

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We were delighted to see the ponds absolutely chock-full of frogspawn and tadpoles…

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It was such a glorious day, we decided to go on a grand adventure; so we organised a couple of daypacks (always best in Scotland to pack for all eventualities, so we never go anywhere without waterproofs and food and a flask of coffee) and headed North, to Pitlochry. The town itself was buzzing with people, so we decided to drive up to Moulin and then walk back into Pitlochry along the route towards Black Spout; it was warm and the air was full of birds and blossom and I could feel myself start to unfurl, like a new leaf. It was magical.

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We stopped for chips on the way home from a lovely wee chippy just outside Stirling, this chips-in-the-car thing is becoming something of a family tradition after one of our grand adventures; but we eat pretty healthily the rest of the time so I’m not going to stress about a fish supper once every blue moon.

Sunday, being Mother’s Day, meant I was Princess for the day. Kid One had bought me a lovely rose scented candle and some pencils, and Kid Two had bought me a very sweet felt ‘Twitter bird’ key-ring from the Mother’s Day stall at school. (I had given them the money for this, so I actually bought my own presents, but we shan’t dwell on that minor point!). We went to Hobbycraft for supplies for this week’s Beavers’ craft activity, Bunny Bums for Easter and I was proud to go in for tissue paper and card and leave with tissue paper and card and not 56 balls of yarn, some silk paints and a polystyrene life-sized giraffe. We then spent the afternoon up in Airdrie visiting the not-husband’s mum, and we greatly appreciated her keeping an eye on the boys for a cheeky half hour so we could nip off to Morrisons and do the weekly shop without them, which was bliss as our children turn into maniacs the moment they enter a supermarket. The rest of the day was delightfully chilled out, and involved snoozing, The Archers and a delicious dinner followed by a walk and a truly stunning, blazing red sunset.

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Monday dawned gloriously – what a joy to wake to blue skies and birdsong – so I walked the kids to school and, rather than be fooled by my body telling me it’s tired and wants to go back to bed as usually happens on my days off, I decided to do the 5km circuit down past the entrance to Bothwell Castle , into Uddingston and home. It’s a route busy with walkers, and it was wonderful to share smiles and hellos with people as we passed. I listened to Radio 4, and just let the news wash over me – there is not much I can do to stop the triggering of Article 50 or hasten a second independence referendum, but I can remember to smile and say hi to people I pass.

I got home full of beans rather than feeling the exhaustion I have been feeling after the school run recently, and I went on to attack the ironing pile which has been getting somewhat out of hand. Though I did not quite reach the bottom, I have yet to find an undiscovered tribe living amongst the Minecraft t-shirts and odd socks, so I think I may have just taken action in time.

I spent the rest of the day pootling – I did a little crochet, a little embroidery, a little reading (Kevin MacNeil’s ‘The Stornoway Way’) interspersed with green tea drunk on the back step in the sun as my sheets dried on the line, and then decided to go up to the community garden and get our raised bed weeded and the strawberries tidied up and, my god, it was glorious.

I am so looking forward to getting growing this year, I found it hard to juggle my time last year what with my returning to work and my anxiety issues; and this year I am determined to make far better use of my time and remember that I view time spent in the community garden as a relaxing treat rather than a chore.

I decided to finish off a delightful Monday with a proper girlie pamper. I’m sure those of you who know me will agree that I am not the most feminine of creatures and can usually be found in a parka and wellies looking like I’ve slept in a hedge; but I am partial to the odd treat from time to time and I had just lavished a whole £12.00 on myself buying some Vitamin E creams and some face-packs from Superdrug whilst the boys were in Game at The Fort on Sunday morning. I locked myself in the bathroom, ran a bath full of bubbles and set about beautifying myself with an exfoliating face-pack, a body scrub, a soak and a read of the lovely Breathe magazine followed by a damn good moisturising. I came out as pug-ugly as I went in, naturally, but I was softer and smelled delightful.

It has been an absolutely lovely few days, despite having done nothing particularly special or even spent very much money; it was just time doing things that make me happy – even ironing gave me a great sense of satisfaction that I’d done some (and listened to Woman’s Hour at the same time, yay multi-tasking!). The key, I think, was that I chose not to worry about the things I cannot change. Whilst I cannot actually change many things, what I can choose to do is change the way in which I respond and react to them.

Welcome to British Summer Time. I hope you are unfurling too.