Seasonal Living: Ideas for January

Welcome 2018! December disappeared into a blur and whirl of seasonal activity and despite managing to share some of it with you all over on Instagram, blog posts remained in draft and I never did manage to post one. Still, there are there, so I shall update and publish in due course.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the blog, and you guys though, and what direction I want to take this place in. One of the things that always seems to resonate most on Instagram are my seasonal posts – I don’t think I am alone in wanting to lead a slower, more intentional life with less in it, so I thought I’d start the new year with a sort of round up of the some of the seasonal things I’ve been endeavouring to embrace this January so far. These are some of the things I have found helpful; I’m doing my best to embrace a positive mindset and have always found posts like these from other people to be inspiring. Let me know what you think… (and if there’s anything you’d add).

 

Nourish:

Now is not the time for starvation. The winter equinox may have passed and the days are getting longer but this is still mid-winter. However, I don’t think it is a time for excess either. I’m trying to use up things combined with looking after myself – use up those bath salts, or, if you don’t like them, get them out of the house. Don’t like bath oils because they make you feel slimy – get rid of the bottle. Etc. A slow start to de-cluttering and organisation in the build up to spring arriving. I am trying not to buy anything unless I know for certain we don’t have any others (so no soap, toothpaste, shampoo etc – I am going to try and use up or get rid of everything from the huge basket that came with us from the old house and still sits sad and lonely by the end of the bath).

Listen to your body and how it reacts to the season:

I’m still learning about lunar cycles and the effect that daylight/darkness/temperature has on our bodies. During dark cold nights I am embracing candles, firelight, cosiness and making the most of the cold air and darkness to sleep as best I can given I have 2 under 5. I recently discovered the Botanical Candle Co and can’t get enough… the Lavender & Petitgrain has been burning non-stop since M brought me one back from our new local farm shop & cafe. Rather than berating myself for spending too much time in hibernation mode I am wearing my vintage winter nightgowns, have bought myself (birthday money!) my first grown up cushion (all our others I have made – but this one is pink velvet!) and am trying to get to bed earlier and delight in the fact that a late sunrise means I don’t have to get up specially early to see it. I am opening the window in the morning to let the fresh air in, and trying to remember to breathe and stretch to gently wake up.

(This is the view from my bedroom – the left hand photo is sunrise this morning, 8am).

During the day time I am embracing the Scandinavian cliché that there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor attire, and getting outside – be it a weekend afternoon on the beach, or a brisk 5-10 minute lunch time stroll. I know we are super lucky to have the beach and countryside here, but even in London there is plenty to see and do in a few minutes outside – there are loads of hidden gardens, church courtyards and even museum grounds in which to take a quick stroll.

Embracing the slow change of the seasons:

It is mid-winter but the seasons do not just change overnight, every day there are tiny steps and signs – buds, green shoots, warmer sunshine, stronger sunshine, reminding us that the world will come back to life. I’m actively trying to add in activity: a short run, a short surf, yoga classes – but the slowflow kind which is appropriate to my body and this time of year. It is also about looking after my body, trying to listen and slow down.

Gently embracing multi-tasking:

One of my favourite tips to roll out when asked about multi-tasking is to do something whilst the kettle boils. I have now added to that whilst the bath runs; it is pretty amazing quite what you can do in that two minutes.

I have also started weeding out clothes which are too small, past their best and so on whilst I sort the washing. I have a bag in the spare room into which I sort things – the special things to pass on, the worn out or simply too small things to go to the charity shop; it doesn’t feel an endless task when done slowly. I also do a quick scan when I replenish the children’s drawers with clean clothes. They have one drawer each and it is pretty easy to see what is never been worn due to lack of fit etc, so I periodically do an audit. We use the Mari-Kondo folding method now in all our drawers with things lined up by type and so on, so it is super easy to note what has not moved in months. (Division of chores – I hate washing up, he hates laundry. We both win, and get to be in charge of our respective things).

Celebrating everything and anything:

Well, maybe not anything, but trying to mark seasonal changes and events – both as an excuse to be more deliberate about things I enjoy, liking eating together, but also to learn alongside the kids. We celebrated the winter solstice as a family with a quiet candlelit meal (nothing elaborate) and talked about what this meant; science, religion, the works. Anything natural and vaguely pagan seems appropriate down here which gives plenty of options. There was also obviously new year, and then I celebrated my birthday at the weekend, so there have been lots of candles needed recently. 

Look back at the year past & also plan for the year ahead:

Close off uncompleted things – things which are still worth doing, move to this year’s list. I think I finally started to get bullet journaling and am trying it as a new way to organise both me and the family. I always find a little reflection good, and I’m enjoying doing some guided reflection on 2017 and also trying to select my word for 2018 (more on that in a new post). I am trying not to let the fact its taken me ages worry me, and just keep going at my own pace. (My tax return on the other hand really should be prioritised, and is in fact the first task on my January task list in my new bullet journal.)

Flowers:

Floral faffing is perhaps one of my favourite things, so I am trying to indulge in that as much as possible. One of my wishes for this year is a cutting garden, so I am trying to learn how to make that work, as I need to execute that now so it is ready for the summer. I am also enjoying seeing the seasonal flowers appear, and still learning what the year looks like in Cornwall, flora and fauna wise… Gorse seems to flower all year, but I am not sure I have consistently seen daffodils and snow drops over the Christmas period anywhere else. A magical place – we might not have had snow, but we’ve made up for it in light and sight.

I’ve brought into the house all sorts to brighten up the place – the highlight has been the seasonal scented narcissi I ordered from Scilly which arrived on 30th December, just before our visitors, so the whole house was filled with spring during that period. Obviously what is available depends on when you order; mine lasted for pretty much two weeks – the ones in colder rooms even longer. I also bought some Cornish primroses in pots which have been brightening up our windowsills and were a bargain at 3 for £2 from our local greengrocers. You don’t have to spend any money though, as I also have been foraging the hedgerows and garden; if you don’t have either, a plain coloured supermarket bunch of tulips split into smaller bunches will brighten the place just as much too.

*Post in collaboration with Pines and Needles

On the 1st day of Advent my true love sent to me… in a rather confusing mix of Christmas carols, I am delighted that December is here. Our first Cornish country Christmas in on the way – something I have been dreaming about for a long time.

Those that follow me on Instagram, specifically IG stories will have seen that I have been trying to get super organised this year – for a couple of reasons. (1) less stress so I can enjoy having a house full for 10 straight days once our guests arrive, and (2), spreading the cost over several pay checks!

Last year we decided to get our tree at the beginning of December so we could enjoy it for as long as possible. You can read my tips for looking after your real tree and reasons a real tree is actually a sustainable option, on that post if you like.

So here’s a question for you. What do Meghan Markle and I have in common (aside from roughly our age)? Yes, you guessed it – we have the same excellent taste in Christmas trees. We were super pleased with the tree that we got last year, so we were very happy to work again with Pines and Needles this year.

After years of dragging home a tree from a corner shop, or latterly the Pines and Needles stand at a pub in Highgate, we felt rather spoilt having the tree delivered last year. A friend asked us whether we minded not being able to choose it, and, horses for courses, felt what we lacked in choice we made up ten fold by not having to drag it home. Of course, now we have a car, things are simpler, but it is still a treat to not have to go out. Also, I am doing what I can to reduce choice – so working with what was delivered was somehow quite nice.

Pip of course thought it wonderful that a tree appeared inside overnight. We kept it in the garage on the day of delivery where it was nice and cold, then after the kids were in bed opened it up, gave it a good shake and then popped it in the stand with a good drink of water overnight. By the morning, the branches had unfurled and the room smelt amazing. Pip actually gave the tree a hug she was so delighted, and declared the tree to be called ‘shine’.

In preparation for the tree’s arrival, on Stir Up Sunday, along with cake and pudding, we also dehydrated a bag of oranges that we cut into slices, so we could then string these onto butchers twine and use as decorations. Really easy to do, and I think makes a lovely effect:

  • Put oven onto about 80C.
  • Slice oranges to about 5mm
  • Lay directly on oven rack (place a tray on next rack down to catch any)
  • Pop into oven and leave for a good few hours
  • Turn occasionally
  • Don’t forget about them, as they do go burnt eventually!

Somehow the mix of decorations we have has evolved into a mix of vintage, a series of Scandi Tomte/Nisse that I have brought back from visiting Nordic friends, and quite natural looking gold/burnished metal baubles, with a few more sentimental ones in there too. I have started a collection for each of the children, they get a new one each year of their choice, so when they leave home, they will have 18 (or maybe 30) each as a start for their own trees.

Pip and I decorated the tree the next evening – listening to Christmas music and only marginally falling out over the placement of a robin. The fairy that she made at nursery went on the top – we saved some of her homemade decorations for a smaller tree for the landing that I am going to let her decorate and I saved my most precious glass vintage baubles for our counter top vintage tree I inherited from my grandparents – which I put up just for the actual Christmas period on the dresser. Buster was very interested in the main tree the next day when he woke up to find it decorated, and spent ages lifting off the smaller birds from the bottom, declaring “bird”, very pleased with his efforts…

If we don’t forget to water every day, it should last up to Christmas! My next job is to re-arrange some of the decorations where Pip enthusiastically hung them within her reach, and to figure out a solution to make the base look a little less bare.

What’s everyone else doing this year? Tree? No tree? Inverted one? Minimilist scandi on the wall affair? Do tell!

Thanks to Pines and Needles for sending us a 6ft Nordmann Fir.

1 November. In Cornwall, tradition says that not only it that this is the first day of winter, but some say it is the start of the new Celtic year. Marking half way between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice, today felt lighter and brighter than any in the past few weeks. The harvest has ended. Winter is coming.

Since moving here in bright stark August, which truth be told is my least favourite month of the year, we’ve been adjusting, settling into our new routine. Whilst August made the most sense to move as Pip was between school years, it always felt like we’d arrived just as something was finishing, not starting. Cornwall is so very seasonal, so it is no surprise to me that I have been drawn to and inspired by the changing light and rhythms outside our very door. We don’t have a religion, but I am called by parts of the pagan calendar, which seems to make so much more sense to me.

Autumn has often seen some of my darkest days and my lowest points and this year has been no exception. But what has surprised me is the effect of the days. Yesterday, 31 October, halloween, sanhaim, allentide, call it what you will, felt like a door was closing. I found myself sitting on the cliff near my office sobbing uncontrollably. In amongst the swirling voices inside my head a whisper came: one step at a time. Keep moving. So I did… marching along the cliff path, drawing in deep breaths of clear clean salty cold air, and lifting my heart to the sun.

Racing home last night after work, I made it in time to carve the pumpkins and for Pip to go out trick or treating in the village with her Dad. Buster in bed, I had half an hour to myself. I lit candles and stood in the darkness, taking stock and thinking. The house, warmed only by our fire, and lit only by candles, felt still, cool and peaceful. Clear. Inspiring.

This morning, even Buster slept in past 5.30am, as if even he had slept better. As I drove to work over the moor, the light was incredible. I have no idea whether 1 November really is a new year but I like the idea that it is, or could be. In my heart, anyway.