Sunday, 22 January 2017

Freezing Cold In The City

Having an end of December birthday means its sometimes difficult to go anywhere because so many places close down for the holiday and public transport is on reduced service.  This year even more so due to the ongoing train strikes in the south east of the country.  There wasn't a train strike planned for this week-end so we decided to head up to London for the day. Even without an official strike day, there were still problems with the trains, but we managed to get there anyway.

It was absolutely freezing but we managed to find a reasonably priced Thai restaurant for some warming lunch before heading to the Odeon Studios in Leicester Square for a bit of escapism with fantasy drama Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.  Honestly, the seats in that cinema are so cosy I nodded off, until a loud crash in the film woke me up again!

We managed to squeeze in a visit to The National Portrait Gallery before finding ourselves in Trafalgar Square, looking particularly pretty in the early evening with the coloured lights from the surrounding buildings, fountains and traffic.  

One particular stunning sight was the planet Venus shining brightly between Nelson's column and the George IV statue (looks like a spec of dust on the photo below, but it was really bright to the naked eye).  

I'll leave you with a couple of my favourite images

Saturday, 7 January 2017

We'll Take A Cup of Kindness

Wishing you all a (slightly belated) happy new year.  

The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, "We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet", repeated several times in his poem Auld Lang Syne, which is sung all around the world at New Year.  Symbolic of love and friendship in times past and with optimistic hopes for the future, so I'd like to echo these sentiments to you, my readers.

* * * * * * * * *

As January seems to be all about new ideas and healthy starts, my cup of cheer today however, comes from a teapot rather than a bottle.  My tea of choice is milk oolong which is quite difficult to track down, but I found it in Whittards.  It's creamy, buttery and caramel-like and doesn't require milk which means you're not adding any extra calories.  The natural sweetness of it hits the spot for sweet cravings so is a good way of getting back on track if you're trying to cut down or even give up on sugar. 

Friday, 30 December 2016

Tropical Twixmas

Our December garden currently looking very tropical

Twixmas - the period between Christmas and New Year, and it seems to be looking very unseasonal at the moment in our English garden.  On Boxing Day, for the first time ever, I found myself spending a couple of hours working in the garden.  There was a need to get out into the fresh air, burn off some calories and keep the garden under control until we move.  

Winter grass

It does seem a bit unsettling though to be out in the garden in a t-shirt on boxing day.  This was what it was like around the same time 4 years ago ...

The thing is, if we don't have enough frost and cold weather, nature gets confused - the population of bugs and pests in the soil isn't kept under control, some plants start to flower and bud too early, and some creatures wake up too soon, thinking spring is here already.  Is this what global warming means, will all the seasons just merge into one?  I hope not.

It's warm enough for the slugs and snails to remain active - winter flowers used to be safe from night-time nibblers, but not at the moment!

But on the positive side, at least I've had a chance to clear out and compost the veg patch, ready for spring (which the birds seem to appreciate as any lurking slugs become exposed to the surface).

And I've just checked the weather forecast for the next few days - cold, dry weather is on its way - frosty nights and cold, crisp, sunny days, that sounds good to me!

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Post Christmas Reflection and Sherry Trifle

I do hope your Christmas went well and whether you celebrate Christmas or not, that you have managed to have at least found some breathing space during the busy month of December and have found time to relax and find peace and happiness wherever you are.  The end of the year is always a good time to recharge the batteries.

Our Christmas was very quiet this year as lack of annual leave meant us staying at home and doing our own thing.  Mr Cocopopia joined a group down on the beach for a spot of Christmas morning kitesurfing.  He said that the gentle waves and the sunshine on the sea made him feel happy and content - almost a spiritual experience in itself.  

One of our family Christmas traditions was my mum's sherry trifle which she only ever made at Christmas - and it was good (mind you, she was always pretty generous with the sherry, which might have had something to do with it).  Sadly, mum is nolonger with us and I did try to recreate one of her trifles last year and failed miserably.  I decided not to bother this year but Mr Cocopopia had also become a big fan of my mum's trifles and said he would try making one.  Well, his chocolate orange trifle did not disappoint - and is unusual that it contains a thin layer of solid chocolate.  I've already put my order in for next year.

If you're interested, he found the recipe here courtesy of Mumsnet.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Homemade Festive Door Wreath

I've never put a festive wreath on the door before but have always felt that if ever I was going to have one, it would be one that I had made myself, and I'm quite pleased with how my first attempt has turned out, bearing in mind I have no floristry skills and didn't really know where to start.

But start I did, by collecting an assortment of materials:

A plastic ring for supporting plants (which I used for the base of the structure)
an assortment of ribbons
some baubles
some green garden twine
pine cones and fallen pine branches (gathered from the forest)
rosemary, sage, ivy, eucalyptus and lavender sprigs gathered from the garden

Lavender wouldn't normally present itself in a winter wreath but due to the unseasonal warm spell, I managed to find a few sprigs which were still growing and had flowers on them.

Here's what I did ...

I started off by wrapping some red ribbon around the ring and securing it with some twine.  The next step was to start applying the greenery to the ring, starting with the thickest sprigs first, to give a good base, overlapping them and securing them with more green garden twine.

Then I carried on building up the layers, wrapping in some of the softer leaves such as the ivy and the eucalyptus.  The berries were provided courtesy of the ivy and then I added in the pine cones and the baubles.  It was a case of stepping back every now and again and checking that it looked "balanced".

I'm really happy with how it turned out because the plants are all natural and gathered by myself and not only that, the mixture of rosemary, sage, eucalyptus and lavender provides a lovely fragrant and welcoming entrance to the front of the house.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Its Hygge Time Again

Around about this time last year I wrote about Hygge here .  The idea has well and truly caught on now and just today an e-mail dropped into my inbox from Zoopla about homes that have the Hygge factor.  At the week-end I was in W H Smith's and there was a whole promotional section of books on Hygge for that ideal Christmas gift ...

Although in the Northern hemisphere we're now in the darkest month of the year, there's something nice about a winter sunset and getting indoors to light up your home with some comforting and festive lighting.

December Sunset

Lighting a scented candle

Welcoming lights at the front door

Coloured lights outside reflected in uneven glass

Subdued lighting, gently light corners, hidden shadows, unexpected reflections - the perfect background for settling down to some ghostly tales ...

Monday, 5 December 2016

Eye Eye

On Sunday it was one of those cold, crisp days where you just want to wrap up warm and head out to enjoy some winter sun.  We got on our bikes to cycle into Brighton and head over to the Marina for brunch - something we haven't had a chance to do for ages.  On the way through, we had a look at the new i360 which opened in the summer - a new landmark for the city and the opportunity to get up in the air for a bird's eye view.  It's something we really have to do before we move away from the city.

It actually opened in the same year as the 150th anniversary of the opening of the West Pier, which sadly is now in a very sorry state.  (Note - the i360 tower is neither bent nor leaning inwards, it is just a strange and unwanted effect from my camera lens).

On the way back, the London and Surrey Mini Owner's Club had gathered on the seafront for their festive "Donut Run".  

A good excuse to decorate their vehicles in a festive manner, drive their favourite cars, have a catch-up and eat donuts on the seafront.