Simplifying Life With Food

Family favourite that stretches back decades

A couple of things recently have got me thinking about food (again!), and the stories and memories we all have around it – although I’m always interested in food and need little excuse to think or talk about it, share or enjoy it!

I was talking with my adult daughter about food costs, and how we both create meals in similar ways when we’re short of money – she learned from me, and I from my mum, although we all put our own spin on those lessons from childhood. The tools over the years may change, along with the ingredients, but the basics of thrifty shopping, batch cooking and freezing, using the whole oven, slow cooking, and so on, haven’t changed much since my mum learned (probably) similar lessons from my grandparents.

Home made cake for my youngest son several years ago, what memories!

The conversation awoke food memories from my childhood, connections across time between the 50-odd year old me of today and my childhood self – happy, sad, funny, they’re all worthy of remembrance, because they’re part of what made me.  

When I cook familiar meals from my childhood, the chopping, stirring, and smells are a form of wizardry, culinary alchemy if you will, conjuring up visions of the tiny kitchen of my childhood home.  Here, my sisters and I learned how to peel vegetables and bake, we ate breakfast at the tiny table, especially when my dad was away working.  I can close my eyes and I’m transported back to my seat at our bigger, living room table: setting it for dinner or tea, occasional extra places if we had visitors, waiting for mum to bring the food in.  Mum could make a meal from seemingly empty cupboards – creating healthy (and filling!) meals for three hungry little girls was no mean feat with next to no money! 

There were amazingly happy meals, full of laughter and daftness, where we stuffed ourselves silly, but also ones filled with tension, anger, or sadness, when we were too choked up to eat.  There were favourite meals and treats, and also food that I hated then, and loathe to this day, even with my mum’s amazing cooking skills. Liver and onions? Fried black pudding? Absolutely not! THE best soups I’ve ever had in my life? Home-made raspberry or bramble jam, on freshly made bread? Yes, please! The occasional roast chicken on Sunday, with crisp, slightly salty skin, that we fought over, followed by the rice pudding – whose skin we were happy for our parents to fight over!  

We didn’t have a fridge until I was 11 in the late 70s, so mum bought fresh meat on the day and kept it in cool in the cellar, or sent one of us to the shop for frozen fish fingers just before tea – these were a rare treat indeed! Having a fridge with a tiny freezer meant that she could then shop when she liked, and keep said fish fingers for another day.  Mum sometimes tried other food novelties in the 70s, but we usually preferred her cooking!

Close your eyes and listen to Lemn Sissay’s food stories!

This brings me to the other thing – an interview with Lemn Sissay on the BBC, where he was asked about his life in five dishes.  As a fellow Northerner, a couple of these resonated, but it was the way he wove those food stories around his life experiences at the time of eating each dish that got me thinking. His description of arctic roll was filled with such nostalgia for me, too – have a listen to the interview, only half an hour but it will leave you longing for a chip butty, jerk chicken, or that arctic roll, even if you’ve never eaten them!

If we had to do the same – choose a handful of dishes that meant something to us throughout our lives – what would each of us choose? 

Sharing my friend’s beautiful food along with honest conversation – priceless and memorable

Would you pick the safe, joyful food memories – the birthdays, celebrations, Christmas, weddings?  Or would your choices be more painful, or sad – the mealtime when your parents fought, a loved one’s funeral tea?  The first meal you cooked for a boyfriend or girlfriend, or the first one as a newly-single person? Is one more comfortable than the other?  Maybe we could embrace all of them, surrender to the sad as well as the glad, remember the lost people AND the weddings, the uncomfortable situations AND the laughter. 

Home made mince pies hold lots of memories through the years!

If we sit around each other’s tables, share food and stories, tears and laughter, be vulnerable and authentic, then maybe we become stronger together, more connected.  Maybe keeping the stories inside, unspoken and unshared, gives them a bigger hold over our memories – bringing them into the light of the tea table (yes, I’m a Yorkshire woman and we have dinner around 12-ish and tea about 5!) could diminish some of the pain or sadness when shared with others around that table.

Lemn said that ‘food simplifies matters’, and that neatly sums up what I’ve rambled about a little here – maybe we can’t solve the world’s problems over dinner or tea, but we can share each other’s pain and joy somewhat over a home made meal. I’d love to create spaces for people to come together with me, to share our favourite foods and our unspoken stories – definitely an idea brewing!

What five dishes would you choose to tell part of your life story?  I’d love to know – please do share with me on any of the platforms where I have a seat at the table.  Next blog post, or somewhere online, I’ll share five dishes that mean something to me – although I’m sure I could pick many more, as could we all!   

Connect with me on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook, and share your memories!

Endings and Beginnings…

Lots of ends on my final weave pieces!

I’ve just reached the end of the first year of a Foundation Art degree in Textiles Practice at Bradford School of Art – long name for something wonderfully creative! It’s been a struggle at times, with a part time job and family demands to fit in alongside the course, but I’ve got through by the skin of my teeth. I now have a break until September, but I’m still going to be creating art – there’s a summer project for college (fairly low-key), I want to create art for ME, and I feel the need to write again.

Speaking of writing, I entered a competition at Kirklees College where I’m also a student (part of a group for parents) and won second prize – total surprise as I did it simply for the experience! Here’s my entry if you fancy a read – please do feed back in the comments, would love to hear what you think.

I Accept

River’s hands shook as she locked the car door, fingers suddenly unable to manipulate the key.  Fear sat heavy in her stomach like a pound of lead, making her feet drag as she slowly opened the gate to the long path that snaked towards the old house.

She looked at her watch at the exact moment that her phone buzzed and vibrated with a text message. The phone fell from her startled fingers.  Swearing at her own clumsiness, she picked up her phone and saw, “Where are you? We’re waiting! xx” followed by a string of smiles and heart emojis.

River sighed – almost a sob – and forced herself down the path to the door.  Her mind was in spectacular overdrive, screaming at her to run away, warning her there’d be no acceptance here, just like at home, telling her to disappear without trace likes many other times: rejection was to be hers, always.

But hope always keeps a fierce, tiny fire burning inside River – maybe THIS time it would be alright, perhaps THESE people would turn out to be her tribe, finally…

She stood at the door, ancient wood creaking as it warmed in the late spring sunshine, the smell of wild lavender, rosemary, and mint wafting towards her from the madly, deliciously fragrant border.

About to let her dæmons win, she had just turned to retreat towards the gate when the door was flung open and Elspeth hurtled towards her in sheer delight, squealing about River’s new haircut, and how her parents were DYING to meet her, darling…!

Allowing Elspeth to drag her inside, River was suddenly picked up like a child by a huge bear of a man with eyes identical to Elspeth’s – he hugged her tightly, with a hint of tears in his gorgeous green eyes, and pecked her cheek.

Barely had she drawn back in the breath he’d squashed out of her than Elspeth’s mum swept River into HER arms, clouds of flowery perfume accompanying each movement.

Wide-eyed with shock, River gawped at the couple – so different from her stiff, unyielding parents, clinically cold in their judgement of her, and of who she was.

Elspeth’s parents were excited to meet her – yes, the River who’d been cut off by her family for the supposed sin of changing her name and coming out at the grand old age of 30. River, who’d been rejected by those who should have accepted all her differences, now stood in the embrace of her fiancée and her delighted, accepting parents.  There was an older brother, who kept grinning and ruffling her hair like he was HER brother, and a younger sister who demanded to know where River had got her boots.  Last, but not least,  the most beautiful black cat with startling blue eyes – the double of her beloved Shadow she’d had to leave when her parents rejected her for the last time – wound itself around her ankles, purring loudly.

For the first time ever, she felt truly at home, accepted for herself, and part of a family.


The rules stated that the story had to be under 600 words, so I had to edit my original – prompted by an idea during one of Juliet’s writing club sessions. I’ve always loved writing, it’s given me a creative outlet for years when I felt I ‘couldn’t’ paint or draw, but I’ve gained confidence in myself through Juliet’s classes. If you’re curious about doing some writing, pop over to her website – here – for details.

Why not have a go at something creative, something you might not usually consider, stretch yourself a bit? You may be surprised at what happens, or maybe it sparks off something and takes you down an unexpected route, the ‘road less travelled’ and all that delicious uncertainty?! Let me know in the comments, or pop over to my Instagram account or Facebook page?

Can I have a word…?

Worth remembering!

Words have always fascinated me: what we say and how we say it, the phrases we use in birthday or sympathy cards, words spoken in anger or in love, the thousands of books I’ve probably read, our endless interactions on social media with all its pitfalls, from how we encourage our babies to speak to the almost incomprehensible jargon of technical or legal documents.  Words and language are so vital to being human that the deliberate withholding of them is often seen and used as punishment.

Some words are hard to write, but evoke wonderful memories!

We use words and language as weapons, to cut and hurt, but also as a warm blanket in which to wrap the lost and bereaved.  We simplify our talk for children and those who don’t speak our language, and we also take delight in speaking other languages to show that we can communicate outside our own, sometimes narrow, communities. Words have huge power – writers, thinkers, scientists, and artists have recognised that for millennia – but many of us don’t think about this too deeply.

Says it all…!

Our own self-talk shows how powerful words can be.  How many times have you ‘talked’ yourself into or out of something?  I wonder if you’ve ever convinced yourself that you’re an amazing human being, or that you’re totally worthless, just because of the words you’ve used?  I think language is one of the greatest evolutionary developments in humans, and we don’t often appreciate it.

Words make you think…

Humans have developed the most amazing, detailed, precise, descriptive, beautiful, but also bland and terrible words to communicate everything about their lives.  From the humble shopping list, that carefully chosen verse in a card, the resignation letter, scientific research, years’ worth of diary keeping, school or college assignments, love letters, to critical theatre reviews, breaking up with a girl/boyfriend via text message, a letter confirming a medical diagnosis, the best and worst of literature, or cruel and shameful words that can break families or communities – we spill out our hearts, tell our stories, and send basic information with a myriad of word combinations.  Words can change how we think, feel and believe, for better or worse; they can stop us in our tracks or they can offer support and guidance, they can even change or bring down societies.

‘Atlas of the Heart”, Brené Brown

Our choice of words can change how we feel about or approach our personal lives, too. It seems to be a thing at this time of year, when people are thinking about change, to choose a word (or words) to help guide or shape the months ahead.  Using some simple exercises, you can work through a series of words, narrowing your list down to a handful from which you can choose (usually) one word to guide you through the year.  Some people have more than one, have a separate word for different areas of their life, or change them through the year for various reasons.

Very apt for this time of year…

I’d been thinking for a while about how I hoped 2022 might begin and progress, and then, lo and behold, not one but TWO of the groups I’m privileged to be part of both had a session discussing this very thing!  I think the fact that both groups (Juliet and Clair’s WOW, and Deborah’s Impact) thought along the same lines tells me that 1) I’m so lucky to be involved with some amazing, like-minded people, and 2) during these dark, grey months of post-Christmas, we’re all looking ahead and hoping for or planning change – and happy for anything that helps this process!

Some people find this process of choosing a guiding word quick, easy work – they may have been thinking along the ‘right’ lines already, and just needed some focus to enable them to narrow down their choices.  Others may need time to work out where they are right now before they can begin to think about their future, even just a couple of months ahead, and so the mild discipline of following some simple exercise is invaluable.  Neither approach is wrong, there isn’t a wrong/right way with this stuff – it’s more about having some time to think about what matters to you, and how that word can lead you through times that might be challenging.  It’s also about being open to changing your word if it doesn’t serve you, or if your ideas, plans, or circumstances change – don’t rigidly stick to your first word if it’s making you miserable!

You could think around the words you’re considering – see their dictionary definitions, look at words with similar meanings, consider how they might apply to your hopes and dreams for the year, maybe even try them on for size in another language – looking at things, especially words, from a different viewpoint often makes all the difference (rather like people, in fact!).

Shift sideways slightly for the meaning that fits

There’s a saying about a picture painting a thousand words, but if we didn’t have those words how could we begin to describe what that picture is telling us, what we feel when we observe it?  How could we debate its merits with others, or how could we explain the image to someone from a different culture or who can’t see it (whether they’re blind or absent from our viewpoint)?  Then that image becomes something that only the viewer can appreciate, love, hate, or absorb information from.  We need those thousand words then to explain and understand our experiences.  

Does this picture paint a few of those ‘thousand words’?

After all these words, are you wondering whether I chose a word or two to guide me through 2022?!  Well, I’d had an inkling even before I did the exercises in each group, a couple of words have been whispering to me for some time, and finally I heard them.  I keep coming across the following quote:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” Mary Anne Radmacher

I’m usually a quiet person, I observe and rarely put my head above the parapet, and when I do speak out it’s because something matters deeply, so this quote sings to me.  The root of the word courage is Latin for heart – cor – and later the French word coeur, and courage originally meant to speak from your heart, although it’s more often synonymous with heroism or bravery nowadays.  I think that ‘courage’, with both meanings, is a word meant for me – speaking and behaving from my heart and becoming braver in what I say and do in 2022. 

Even my morning cuppa quote is rather suggestive of courage!

I’m considering a second word, too, and I’m still working through this one.  It’s somewhere around joy, happiness, contentment, beauty, glorious, but I’m still absorbing what these words mean to me before I decide.  I also want (need?) it to work with ‘courage’, so I have a little work to do yet – I’ll let you know how I get on!

I’m curious about your guiding words for 2022 if you’ve chosen, could you share in the comments below? If you’re not choosing one/any, that’s perfectly fine, it’s not for everyone and we all have our own way with words!!

Sun, Sea, And Fear…

Beautiful Newquay!

After several months, maybe more, of various sorts of stress it was wonderful to spend last week in Newquay (Cornwall, UK, for international readers), and get outside in that marvellous coastal fresh air! I’ve wanted (needed?) some sea air for a LONG time, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

There’s something about being near the sea that’s very different from other outdoor environments: even in a coastal town with traffic the air is somehow cleaner, fresher; the light is clearer by the coast, no wonder so many creatives and artists feel drawn to places like Newquay in order to paint/draw/write/make; and being so close to the sea itself is truly awesome, in the proper use of the word. Renoir, Monet, Hokusai, Turner, and so many others depict raging seas, catastrophic storms, or heroic sea battles, whilst Turner and Monet, plus artists such as Beryl Cook, have also immortalised more ‘seaside’ images of our fantastic coastlines.

Many a poem has been written about the sea, from Samuel Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner‘, to John Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever‘ (one of my favourites!), and Ariel’s song from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest‘. As with artists, there’s something that pulls writers and poets again and again towards the coast, that digs deep into the heart of island people who have a love and healthy respect for the beauty and power to be found at the edge where land and water meet.

Almost tropical!

I have the sea in my blood, as do many Brits I suspect: my dad and his father were both Merchant Navy men through and through, spending all their working lives on the sea, and both grew up near the sea; and my other grandad spent time in the Royal Navy during WW2. Some of my best days out/holidays as a child were spent by the sea – although we went many places, the sea definitely had me even then. However, as a poor swimmer and a fearful child in general, the sea has also always held a tiny dread for me: what if I get taken by the current? what happens if the ship sinks? and all the other nightmares we tell ourselves as scared little children, when we can’t swim, or we’re far away from home.

Part of that fear is totally normal and healthy, of course. It makes us cautious of getting too far out of our depth when we’re paddling at the seaside or taking our first sea swim. We wouldn’t last long if we disregarded the lifeguards’ or RNLI advice on how to be safe on the beach or out at sea. But that fear also grows disproportionately, and stops us from enjoying ourselves in this best of environments, can result in us being terrified of exploring even safe areas of the coast, frightened to have a dip in the sea (although in our often-cold seas that’s sensible!), or taking a boat trip.

Last week, during our trip to beautiful Cornwall, I was very brave (for me) and did things I’m usually fearful of doing. We went to Go Ape one day (a tree-top climbing adventure setting) and I clambered about on rickety rope and wood paths between the trees, 20 feet in the air. I was terrified at some points, and came close to panic at going further along the worst stretches, but had to continue so that my 14 year old (who’s also rather nervous of similar activities!) wouldn’t see just how scared I was. It was an important lesson for me. Firstly, that logically I knew I was safe, being tethered by a harness and strong ropes, and secondly that I could manage long enough to show my son that we CAN do hard or scary things, at least for a short while!


Second Big Thing was going out early one morning, alone, to sit and paint in Newquay harbour. I’m getting better at calling myself an artist, but perfectionism still gets the better of me and insists that I’m not really, and that I have to do the work over and over, to practice before doing the ‘real’ piece. I’ve also had a lifelong fear of being alone, so just leaving the guest house and walking to the harbour, even in daylight, was a Big Deal! Well, I sat there in the cool air, drew a few basic lines in pencil, and then PAINTED STRAIGHT AWAY!! I know it’s a normal thing, but sitting there, drawing straight from life, no second chances, trying to capture the changing light and the way the sea was gently rolling in and out, drew me in and I forgot that I’d gone out alone, no one was holding my hand and telling me it was ok.

The view…

…and my version

My third Big Thing last week was actually going INTO the sea to swim around a bit with a lovely friend who moved down to Newquay several years ago. She’s a big advocate of stepping out of your comfort zone, of trying something different, and of sticking two fingers up at fear. On more than one occasion, she said to me, “What would you do if you weren’t scared?” Spot on, my friend! I’ve spent large parts of my life so far being too scared to try: in case it goes wrong; in case no one likes it (or me); what if I don’t like it, and all the rest.

Glennon Doyle speaks about doing Hard Things, whatever that looks like for each of us. In a similar way to my friend’s comment, she encourages us to try a little bit more, to face that uncertainty, and to accept that, yes, it may well go wrong. So what? Didn’t kill you, did it?! Most importantly, did/do YOU like it, and do you now have the confidence to try again, to push a little further?

That’s what this week has taught me, or rather opened my eyes to – that the things I’ve always feared aren’t as bad in the doing as in the imagining of them. I know I’ll slide backwards – progress isn’t linear, after all, but I’m choosing to believe that I am moving forward much more than I’m moving in reverse. My week of sun, sea, and a tiny dose of fear has been just what I needed to re-awaken my creativity, and inspire me to write, make, draw, and paint.

To this end, I’ve appropriated part of our garage as my dedicated art/creative space. Hubby’s stuff and cluttered shelves have been sorted/tidied/swept as needed, I have a couple of re-purposed filing cabinets to store a lot of my art materials, and have moved in an old table to work on, and even got brave enough to put fairy lights on hubby’s motorbike to soften mechanical look of the garage! It’s a work in progress, and I’ll post some more, updated photos next time, but starting the work is the Big Thing. I felt a little fearful in taking up space – literally and metaphorically – as I’ve absorbed a decades-old message of women being small and quiet, but that little voice in my heart is speaking a bit louder, boosted by the lovely Juliet and the others at WOW (see Juliet’s site for more info if you fancy joining us!)

New art space taking shape…

…means glamourising the stuff I can’t move!

What is YOUR summer gifting you this year? I wish you the courage to face your little fears like I’m trying to do – and I think succeeding a bit, too! – and the excitement and realisation that it IS worth facing them, because on the other side are wonderful things!!

Let me know via the comments – I’d love to know what you all think!

You can join me over on Instagram, too! Find me at yorkshire_wellies.


Drinking in the beautiful autumn sunshine

After a shaky start to last week (being rear-ended by another car, insurance ‘phone calls, sorting my car to the garage, trip to A&E to record whiplash etc…), things just had to get better, and so they did. The 13 year old finally re-started school, the weather continued to be glorious, I had happy post from Karen (beautiful earrings that I’d bought) and Andrea (surprise book in the post), and managed to get out for TWO decent walks this weekend!! Oh, and said 13 year old’s football team won their match on Sunday! Now, I’m aware this week may go totally pear-shaped to compensate, but I’m hanging on to these blessings for now, in case I need to remember them to balance out any lesser days.

Beautiful hand made ceramic earrings by Karen Howarth

Maybe balance is what we could be striving for, instead of aiming for heady highs and dreading valley-deep low times, especially when our lives are subject to such uncertainty at the moment. Gentle ups and downs in life may be easier to flow with, and certainly they’re gentler on the mind and body than ecstatic lifts and catastrophic dips in my experience. I cope much better with moderate waves, rather than tsunamis of emotion and experience, definitely much better for my mental health which has been very rocky at times, to say the least! That said, the sort of natural ecstasy you sometimes experience in nature just can’t be beaten: that overwhelming bliss you feel in your special place, be it woodland, a wide open field, up a mountain, or at the coast. I find that if I take the time to drink in that experience, to breathe in (literally and metaphorically) the sights, sounds and smells, rather than rushing the day, then it’s easier for me to ‘come down’ from the experience, and not crash and feel down or saddened that’s it’s at an end. Laura, a mindful yoga teacher and passionate advocate for getting outside as often as possible, started a new class today, incorporating a short walk and some mindful time in one of our many local woodland areas. The rain didn’t detract from the pleasure of consciously walking through the woods, I think it even added an extra element – the pattering of raindrops through the leaves is incredibly soothing on a very deep level. For once, I didn’t take photographs (which I always do outside), but took the opportunity to simply be, to feel and hear my surroundings – highly recommend it, especially if you’re feeling out of sorts or unbalanced in some way.

A riot of brambles framing Castle Hill

As I was looking through previous photographs, and deciding which to publish here, I noticed how many of my shots are balanced in different ways. There might be balance in the amount of sky versus greenery, trees versus fields, coastline versus sea, colour versus shade. There’s often a bit of variation – I seldom plan the ‘perfect’ shot – but there’s something about a shot with even amounts of light and dark, or using the ‘rule of thirds’, that feels and looks ‘right’ to me. Sometimes it’s not obvious why a shot works, I’m unsure quite where the balance is, but you just have a gut feeling that it’s ‘right’.

WW2 anti-aircraft artillery gun posts near Castle Hill

Balance is also part of my yoga classes with Laura, and pilates with Jana: literally balancing on one leg, doing exercises on each side of the body to work muscles equally, and breathing deeply to balance your mind. And we all know about balanced eating, of course, even if we don’t always choose to do it! How about balanced working? That work/life balance that’s been the talk of recent years? Maybe you got yours to the right level for you and your family, and then Covid has blown it all out of the water. Has working from home blurred the lines between work and family too much, have you found yourself working until silly o’clock for your paid job because you had to help your children with online schooling, or become drawn into domestic tasks instead of the paid work you really needed to do? It’s become much harder for some of us to balance all these demands, because we’re at home so much, there are few demarcation lines between what’s paid work, and what’s home and family time. And just as we saw those compartments becoming clearer again our part of Yorkshire has had a tighter lockdown imposed, and now government tells us we need to return to working from home again – talk about becoming unbalanced!

Maybe these occasions are opportunities to breathe deeply and practise standing on one leg (literally if you fancy it!) before we get to that panicked stage where our minds and bodies have gone past the point of balance. There’s a distinct imbalance in our social connections right now, due to the restrictions we’re living under, leading many people to experience prolonged and severe loneliness for the first time in their lives. My friend Wendy, a respected psychotherapist, social worker, and wellness expert, talks about loneliness on her blog, even going so far as to describe it as “one of the least understood consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic.” Juliet, of The Curious Creative Club, very aptly describes these momentous times as a roller coaster in her current blog post, and talks about how to keep connected in different ways, as we can’t currently do things the same way as we were doing six months ago. She encourages us to look for other means of connectivity: Zoom calls, WhatsApp or Messenger chat groups, various social media groups and pages. I feel that this goes some way to address the imbalances we’re currently experiencing due to Covid, the lack of real, face-to-face contact with anyone: from the doctor (telephone appointments only) to my part-time job (internal exams being done differently, therefore no invigilation work), friends’ soirées cancelled (can’t go to someone’s house at the moment) to WOW meetings via Zoom (closed venue and some members shielding). As many of us are struggling with various aspects of our unbalanced lives, and we’re living with a high degree of uncertainty regarding the future, maybe we could also see this moment as a rebalancing in itself. Perhaps we’d become so used to rushing around every day, to filling every minute to the brim and seldom being still, that this sudden pause is the swing of the pendulum, and instead of feeling panic we could accept some of the space to steady our personal see-saws.

I wonder what weights you could identify and shift from one side of your scales to the other? Could you step outside into your garden for 10 minutes to have a break from your computer screen every hour or so, to balance all that artificial light with some natural daylight? Or maybe tweak some of your work hours so that you can have half an hour with your children when they come home from school? Perhaps you feel like getting up from the kitchen table-cum-desk at lunchtime, and having a kitchen disco to bring some feeling back into your legs?! We’ve forgotten what it’s like to be part of something natural, to balance being inside a modern ‘cave’ with getting outside and letting our inner caveman or woman feel the sun and rain on our skin, to re-set our systems and feel refreshed.

So my first ever challenge to anyone reading is to note where you feel your life may not be balanced for you (ignore that pesky comparisonitis!), and try one or two tiny ways of addressing that deficit. I’d love to know how you get on!

Vibrant purples at the coast

Summer Breeze

Hello again, welcome to August and belated happy Yorkshire Day from my little corner of it! August weather is different from July; it feels fuller, somehow, like it’s breathing more deeply whilst there are still long days filled with light. The days can be warm and close, nights not much different unless there’s a breeze. These days instantly bring to mind Seals’ and Crofts’ song, ‘Summer Breeze‘; even if we don’t grow jasmine in Yorkshire you can close your eyes and almost smell it.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time outdoors this week with those summer breezes, which has been wonderful despite the raging hayfever that’s the payoff! A group of us from our WOW Wednesday accountability group met up at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the day it re-opened (Wednesday, very apt!), and it was so good to see them in real life, instead of via a computer screen. I even managed to get to my 10,000 daily steps in well before tea time! I’ve really let that daily target slip a lot during lockdown, and felt quite anxious about not meeting it for a while (all the “shoulds” trying to bubble up to the surface!). I let go of that sooner than expected, a sign to me that I’m realising that some of these things that we beat ourselves up about don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things.

WOW Wednesday on tour!

I spent a chunk of Saturday afternoon in the garden, pruning the apple tree back and other tidying jobs. I know, I know, winter’s the time for pruning fruit trees, but it had become a real liability to itself and that part of the garden, so the deed was done. We filled a large shopping bag with the apples that were worth saving (big enough and not eaten or bruised), so some good has come out of the ruthless cut. There are also some bigger twiggy branches saved for kindling next winter. I feel there’s a parallel here with the way you might choose to cut stuff out of your life that’s not serving you well, in order to make your life healthier for you; the pruning may hurt, and makes things look and feel worse for a time, but you come back stronger, bearing more fruit, and having deeper roots to weather storms, just like my apple tree. Have you noticed anything like this if you’ve made what a drastic change somewhere in your life? Let me know how it felt, and whether it led to permanent changes for you.

Before the chop…
…and after!

I’m currently reading ‘The Source’ by Dr Tara Swart as part of my ongoing revamp of my life; it’s an excellent read that sits half way between a scientific book on how the brain works and a coaching/self improvement book. As a psychologist, I find the neuroscience totally fascinating, and it’s well-blended with examples from her practice, and ways to put this knowledge into action in your own life. She talks about brain plasticity, how your brain is still capable of change at any age, it’s not just the province of babies and children. Dr Swart suggests ways to practise stretching your brain in order to effect positive change amongst its neurons which, in turn, can affect your life as a whole, thus enabling you to change any areas in which you feel you are lacking. I’m aware that I’ve previously mentioned books I’ve read and courses I’m following, and it might come across as all theory and no action. My friend, Juliet, of The Curious Creative Club, once told me it was time to do less reading and more ‘doing’ (think I’ve said that before, too, memory of a goldfish!), and I am ‘doing’ as much as I’m reading, it just takes time and I’m daring greatly in little ways for now. I’d love to hear about any books you’ve read that you found profound, meaningful, or plain helpful in any way; I’m always looking out for my next good read!

I’ve got a few hours a week delivering for a local florist (another way of being outdoors), which means I have to talk to complete strangers when I deliver their flowers, which is a big thing for me. Maybe showing up needn’t be the grand things you see your friends doing; maybe, for now, it’s getting comfortable talking to strangers, going to unfamiliar places, doing things just outside your comfort zone instead of miles outside of it, until you’re ready to up the ante. Michelle Cowan, a fellow WOW Wednesday-er and sales/growth expert, has introduced me to an up-and-coming graphic designer (another ‘stranger’ for me to talk to!) to work with on a logo for Yorkshire Wellies. This enterprise will be more than a blog before long, so I’d like a new identity for it all, and it’s exciting and scary in equal measures!

As part of improving/changing parts of my life, I had blood tests done yesterday for coeliac disease and iron deficiency – prompted by my suspicion of problems tolerating wheat-based foods and other issues. Coeliac disease runs in my family, so it’s worth doing. I’ve felt quite poorly over the last few weeks because of eating so much bread and pasta, it’s such a relief to cut it out again – roll on plenty of ‘real’ food! Summer’s a good time for me to get into the habit of eating well, when I fancy salad, fish, veg, and loads of water. I feel so much better when I eat this way – more alert, less lethargic, and generally better all round. Consequently, I feel more positive mentally, more creative, and much more open to change and new ventures. I’m also taking advice from another WOW member, Sue Salmon, a medical herbalist, on how to improve my gut health, which brings me neatly back to Tara Swart who speaks about gut instinct or that inner voice, as does Juliet in her recent blog post. I’m ready to listen to my inner whispers again, and get out my paints, find a book to write in, or finally get going with my sewing machine again – can’t wait!

What are you going to do with your August? Have you managed to book a little holiday somewhere, are you taking a break from working from home, or maybe you’re going to do a bit of life stocktaking and look ahead just into the autumn? Do let me know!!

Blue Yorkshire skies!