Tag Archives: Country Life

Summer’s end

You’ll have to forgive me, dear Reader.  Honestly I only crept through the door in the back of the wardrobe for five minutes for a little peace and quiet and next thing I know, spring has sprung and summer was giving us a last hurrah.  I didn’t mean to stay in Narnia so long but somehow the longer I stayed away, the more I was able to focus on the most important things or rather people in my life.  I’ve been working on a series of new projects at the writing desk and at the farmhouse too so the outside world has been lost to me for a time.  Too often I forget to just enjoy the moment.  Taking an extended break from the blog was not really part of the plan initially but I think it’s helped me to focus on what I do want to achieve and not worry about dividing myself into thousands of parts in order to get things done.  To be honest I wasn’t sure that if the blog was perhaps relevant any more or whether or not it would be missed if it just slipped away quietly.  A crisis of confidence shall we say, dear Reader.  So this little break has made me have a long hard think about where I’d like to be and how I move forward with my writing.  In short it’s been good for me.  Before I knew it, the time whooshed past and I’d no idea what or if I’d missed anything important in the land of blogs and social media and magazine columns or life in little Insta squares.  So thank you for bearing with me.  I promise not to be away again for so long.

I am sure you are wondering what’s been happening at the farmhouse?  Well we’ve had a few new arrivals and we reached our first milestone – 1 year at the farmhouse.  I still can’t quite believe it but somehow this beautiful little plot and house are ours and although we still have a long way to do in terms of renovating it, we are all so very happy.  Oh the things I have to tell you, dear Reader.

Since the ducks arrived, there has been nothing but trouble.  They are bonkers and such excellent time wasters.  Luckily they are so adorable otherwise I’d envisage crispy duck on the horizon.  On the hen front, we lost our lovely Cream Legbar hen Marj and we decided to go in search of another blue egg hen, ending up with Minnie and her husband Winston.

Things didn’t turn out so well with Winston sadly and he began attacking everyone and everything in sight, resulting in drawing blood almost every day from one of us.  The children were too terrified to even collect the eggs.  So he had to go.  With no hope of rehoming him because of his aggression, he ended up in the pot.  Not an easy decision but a necessary one.  I remain ever in awe of our girls that they aren’t horrified by the idea of animals loved and cared for becoming food for the table.  Who would have thought that Margot and Jerry could produce such country folklings?

Then came the geese.  Three plump Embden beauties we thought we’d call George, Lucy and Martha.  As seems to now be the way of all things Margot and Jerry HQ, we ended popping over to see our log man and leaving the wood yard with more livestock.  I seem to be on speed dial for rehoming animals.  Turns out that Martha was actually an Arthur and Lucy more of a Luke.  So we have renamed them the Three Tenors – Luciano, Placido and Jose.  Much more fitting when they offer up a merry honk every time someone appears on the driveway!  They are all looking rather less muddy these days and have been a welcome addition to the pond.  Although the ducks are rather less keen on their daily raids on the feeder and bolshy teenage gosling antics.  We had hoped for the tiny splish of webbed feet when Daisy our most maternal duck sat on her eggs for a week or two.  Overnight, she lost them all to a rather cunning rat or stoat.  A rather sad end to spring but I’ve come to accept that nature is all part of farmhouse life.  We’ve promised Poppy and Primrose an incubator for next year.

The lavender harvest was a wonderful success and I am eternally thankful to all who purchased wreaths and bunches from us this summer.  It’s true what they say about small business owners – we do do a little dance every time someone buys something from us.  I couldn’t have managed cutting rows and rows all by hand without a lot of help from friends and family and it has made me more determined than ever to see this little farmhouse business idea succeed.

I’ve also formed a lovely partnership with the talented Saskia from Saskia’s Flower Essences and this year, she took some of our lavender to distill into oil and hydrosol to make her wonderful Easy Sleep spray.  I’m a great believer in the power of plants and flowers and this has certainly been a hit in our household – think This Works but better.  Saskia has a magic touch.

There’ll be a little more before Christmas with some firelighters and a few other bits and bobs but for now, lavender season is well and truly at an end.  The four of us have breathed a huge sign of relief not to have to pick, make wreaths or handle lavender for a wee while.  Watch this space as we develop a new website for Cricket Lavender next year.

Carrying on the countryside capers, our new kitchen garden has been a stonking success.  I’m quite certain that Jerry and I might not have been quite so grumpy about the back breaking work of turning a patch of turf into a vegetable garden if we’d known just how much one small patch could produce.  We’ve had enough to feed half the village, dear Reader!

From wonky carrots and mammoth marrows to leaks of another kind and time travel.  As the house renovations rumble on, we experienced our usual chaos when the attic was cleared to make way for new insulation.  Turns out that all our ancient pipes are in desperate need of replacing and as the attic was cleared, a rather large leak was found that we’re lucky hadn’t brought down the ceilings.  Goodness only knows how many years it had been gushing water.  Emergency plumber drafted in, I prayed that our attic related calamities might be at an end.  However, the farmhouse had other plans, dear Reader.  In the space of a few hours, to add to the Cluedo-esque lead piping, we battled with a couple of loose cannon hornets as well as accidentally scooping up two live bumblebee nests.  The silver lining?  A miraculously intact copy of the Daily Mail from 3rd October 1923 was found, complete with front page story featuring a certain moustached German politician by the name of Hitler alongside another headline about a cow rampaging through a village and injuring three people.  A Cow’s Day Out indeed.  The paper has been framed and will be hung in the downstairs loo for posterity, joining another find in the form of  a yellowing edition of The Sun from July 1980 with the headline Russian Spy Plot.  You’ll be pleased to hear that the bumblebees made a great escape too and were collected by a bee man under cover of darkness to be rehomed in a local copse, dear Reader.

In short as you can see, dear Reader, the last few months have been eventful in many ways.  As autumn creeps in, I am back at the writing desk and the house is quiet except for dogs snoring.  Don’t tell Poppy and Primrose but I do miss them when we are back to our old routines of school and work.  However I know that September always brings new adventures, dear Reader and I’m ready for them.

PS – if you’re on Instagram, I’ve started a little hashtag to curate all the mists and mellow fruitfulness of autumn.  I’d love you to join in too – just add #usheringautumnin  to your post and I’ll choose favourites each week to share on a Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll have to call back – I’m in Narnia

I am beginning to believe that the farmhouse has been trapped in its own snow globe.  Never have I had a better excuse to settle in a chair by the fire, read books or play board games with the girls whilst eating endless homemade crumpets.  Is there anything more decadent than licking the dribbles of warm butter from a third toasted crumpet off one’s fingers I wonder?  Don’t answer that.  We can’t all live a high octane lifestyle, dear Reader.  Despite the gradual shift in temperature, everything is smothered in a thick blanket of snow as I write and although I am supposed to be head down at the writing desk today, I find myself clutching a mug of hot tea and staring out of the window at the fluffy white eiderdown covering the farmhouse garden.  I never thought I’d say it but….sadly school isn’t shut.  Jerry has managed to get to London too so I am home alone.  I was hoping for another snow day to be honest, dear Reader.  The last lot of snow ensured days of bombing about on the little tractor round the garden – girls and dogs whooping about like mad things.  I know the snow isn’t fun for everyone and there’s a lot to be said for all the amazing people who have kept everything running despite the so called Beast from the East making life awkward.  A massive shout out to so many farmers who were out with snow ploughs, rescuing stuck vehicles and those who are battling with their livestock in truly difficult conditions.  These are awful lambing conditions.  Just getting water to our hens and ducks has proven tricky when pipes are frozen solid and drinkers ice over in seconds and we haven’t had nearly as much snow as some parts of the country.  It’s not just farmers who deserve our praise either.  The Herculean efforts of doctors, nurses, carers and so many more vital people in the community who have braved the elements to get to work has been awe inspiring.  Our local Facebook groups have been awash with kind souls offering help, giving lifts and taking shopping to those in need.  As they say, not all superheros wear capes.

However, I can’t help but feel that the white stuff has brought a bit of wintry magic our way.  Lazy days are few and far between these days and our first winter at the farmhouse has been memorable because of the snow.  We’ve been living in our own little bubble.  I can’t remember the last time I threw myself into all day baking sessions with my girls, danced round the kitchen to Moana with a tutu on or snuggled up on the sofa under a blanket to watch a film together without something drawing me away from time spent with them.  Snow days have banished any feelings of guilt that I should be doing something else.  Instead of missing out, I have made it my mission to forget the other stuff for a while and focus on making snow blobbies (Poppy’s version of snowmen) and finding the perfect number of mini marshmallows for a mug of hot chocolate.  It’s eight if you’re interested, dear Reader.  With enough wood in the log shed to keep us going and plenty of provisions, the snow has given the four of us the perfect excuse to slow down and shut out all the calls on our time from the outside world.  That and the driveway was rather slippery even with a Land Rover so staying put seemed a far better option than going out when the first lot of snow hit our little corner of Hampshire.  Swathed in layers, we stepped out into our very own Narnia and time was lost.  I may even have eaten a box of Turkish delight, dear Reader.

So with Jerry and the girls back to their everyday routines today and my head full of words that desperately need to find their way onto the page before me, I am rather sad to bid farewell to what we hope will be winter’s last hurrah.  The sun is out and great clods of snow are already thudding down from the roof as it warms up.  By tomorrow, the snow will have disappeared as quickly as it came.  It will soon be time to welcome in spring, dear Reader.

A Year to Remember

There’s always an ending and a beginning as the twinkly lights of Christmas are packed away once more.  Lists of things left undone, things achieved and dreams and hopes for the year to come.  Then January sets in and I’ve forgotten all about what it was I wanted to do, what I’m supposed to be doing and the things I should have done by now……including writing this message to you, dear Reader.  You know what they say though.  Better late than never.

2017 was a year of beginnings for us.  We met and fell in love with a farmhouse, decided to undertake the biggest project we’d ever tackled, turned a tired lavender field back into production and generally everyone we knew thought that we had finally lost all our marbles.  Move to a derelict farmhouse you say?  Why ever not?  Now our first Christmas here has been and gone, it’s hard to imagine that just a few weeks ago the farmhouse was still rather more of a shell than a home.  No clean drinking water, no heating, no functioning plumbing….the list is endless.  There wasn’t much of a kitchen either as it had been stripped bare before building work could start.  The steel skeleton was still firmly in place around us and our view of fields also included a few builders’ bottoms.  Not forgetting a bloody great Bake Off tent in the back garden that served as our makeshift kitchen for three months when the mouldy old kitchen was removed and the oak flooring went down.  Disappointingly, it was minus a chirpy Mel and Sue or even Sandi and Noel and it was completely devoid of showstoppers.  Well of the baking kind at any rate.  I’ve never been on safari, dear Reader but I am pretty sure tents in the bush are distinctly more glamourous and less functional.

As the weather closed in and the list of disasters from crumbling chimneys to water pouring through the kitchen ceiling (not once but twice) grew, Jerry and I lost faith in our ability to tackle everything that the old girl needed to bring her back to life.  I can’t tell you the waves of tears wept and a long list of expletives grew as for the millionth time I forgot to shut the curtains before venturing to the loo and remembered that I was visible to all on the scaffolding.  Nothing seemed to be going right.  My poor Pa who is in charge of all our electrics almost had kittens at how unsafe the wiring was (and in some parts still is) in the house.  Then there was the time we had been using the open fire to keep warm whilst we were without any form of central heating and the lovely chap who came to check the chimneys told me that I had been effectively poisoning us all as smoke and fumes were being channelled into Primrose’s bedroom.  Every day became a diary entry of disasters.  Working from home has some serious disadvantages when renovating a house.  Each little detail becomes a mountain to climb so that by the time you reach decisions about door handles or paint colours or whether or not you need a Hobnob biscuit or a Jaffa cake to get through the next hour, you are beyond being given any form of choice.  None of these things are the end of the world but after months of effectively camping in your own home, there’s nothing like a deadline to force you towards getting things done.  What better deadline is there than hosting Christmas and Boxing Day, dear Reader?!

All good things come to those who wait, dear Reader.  There is drinking water coming from the tap once more, there is heating, there is an Everhot, the builders have moved out and we can finally say goodbye to the Bake Off tent in the garden.  Getting the kitchen finished has meant no more cooking on a camping stove (a massive thank you to Alresford Interiors for all their hard work, beautiful carpentry and coping with a complete redesign at the last minute – for all the little extras and more we couldn’t be more grateful) and life at the farmhouse is becoming more and more ordinary again.  Whilst upstairs, bedrooms and bathrooms remain wholly untouched, downstairs is beginning to look complete.  Distressed oak floors in the hallway, kitchen and boot room sit alongside the original parquet flooring everywhere else.  Arts and Crafts colours reign supreme as you might expect – olive walls in the dining room, library red in the study.  The only room that has escaped something darker is the kitchen and that’s because limewash was needed it for its light reflective qualities.

Thank you to Quirky Interiors for our beautiful bespoke brass splashback too – the pictures don’t do it justice.

We haven’t finished by any stretch of the imagination.  The kitchen walls are still a bit bare.  Bathrooms will have to wait so washing hair with the aid of Tupperware boxes remains de rigueur for 2018.  The hallway still has its 1968 Laura Ashley wallpaper and I can’t wait to rip off the carpet on the stairs but perhaps not just yet, Jerry tells me.  We’ve already had more than one disastrous afternoon where we lost a cat under the upstairs’ floorboards.  Window panes in our leaded light windows have been replaced and new guttering and replacement roof tiles have seen us finally dry inside the house.  A shiny new boiler now heats the house after almost a decade without heating and cosy woodburners have ensured that even on the coldest days of winter, our little farmhouse has stayed toasty and warm.  I’ve also realised that I am far more resourceful than I ever thought I was.  Being able to bake bread and make pizza in a gas barbecue is a skill I may one day need in an emergency.  I’m not sure what sort of emergency….but you never know, dear Reader.  I think that Jerry is breathing a sigh of relief that my Ebay and salvage yard addiction is having a little break too.

Our clutter is at home here.  It belongs.  The furniture fits and as I wander through each room switching on lamps in the early evening, I feel as though at long last that I belong too.  Something which makes me very happy indeed, dear Reader.  We needed this house as much as it needed us.

A lot of amazing things wouldn’t have been possible without the help of lovely friends and our amazing farming neighbours who have given up time to help with fencing and much more besides.  They have rescued me from drowning under the weight of many a practical catastrophe and made us feel extremely welcome.  There is no doubt in my mind that they think me completely mad almost every day of the week and that they may well regret inviting me into their WhatsApp group dear Reader, but I’m ever so glad that they live on the doorstep and hope they don’t mind too much when they get a distress call from the mad lady at the bottom of the lane.  I’m glad too that in my own small way, I’ve been able to help them with their some of their plans for the future too.  Their festive farmers’ market before Christmas was one of most marvellous things I’ve been involved in organising in a long time – a huge thank you to all the lovely producers, suppliers and farmers I called on to come and make the day so special.  I can’t wait to see what new ventures are afoot for all of us.

So what does 2018 hold for us you might ask, dear Reader?  Well I think that we may have already hit the ground running….  We’ve started to resurrect the old pond which silted up years ago.  It will be given a new lease of life with our latest arrivals at the farmhouse.  It’s amazing how quickly the monsoon weather of late has helped it fill up again and although it looks more like the Somme than idyllic wildlife pool now, we have hopes that it will soon be rather more picture perfect.  However, I digress.  The mention of new arrivals will not have escaped you.  Well, you know how things always seem to happen to us by accident, dear Reader.  I promise they really do.  I’ll prove it.

One minute I am talking to our local log man commenting on his lovely geese and the next, I am receiving texts not about our log delivery but about ducks that need rehoming.  To cut a long story short, we are now the proud owners of 2 Runner duck drakes (Ferdie and Francis) and 4 Khaki Campbell ladies (names still being debated).  See what did I tell you?  A complete accident.  We won’t even mention the fact that I may have discussed goslings as well but mercifully, it isn’t spring yet and Jerry has a little more time to get used to the idea of those.  To be honest, he really didn’t take a lot of convincing when it came to the ducks and they have proven to be the best farmhouse addition yet as far as we’re all concerned.  They are definitely Jerry’s favourite.  Walking wine bottles – what could be more apt for our household?  The four of us can be found pressed up against the kitchen window most mornings just watching their ridiculous duck antics.  The perfect antidote to anyone’s January blues I can assure you.  So with ducks on the pond, some news ideas involving the lavender field, the gentle baa of some sheep on the horizon, a kitchen garden to plant up and a finish line to cross at the writing desk, it would seem that 2018 is shaping up to be a busy one already.  Oh it’s a quacking start, one might say……  I just hope you’ll still enjoy following us on our country living journey.  I hate to say it, dear Reader, but it seems that these days Jerry and I are much more Tom and Barbara that we ever imagined we’d be.  A belated Happy New Year to you all.

 

 

 

A New Chapter

It’s Midsummer’s Eve and instead of saluting the sun’s last hurrah on the longest day, I’ve finally sat down to pen all my news to you at the kitchen table, dear Reader.  Except the kitchen table isn’t where it used to be.  To be honest, the kitchen isn’t the same kitchen I penned the last post from either.  You’ll have to bear with me, dear Reader.  I realise you haven’t heard from me in a little while.  It isn’t that I’ve dropped off the planet or heaven forbid, moved back to the Big Smoke.  No fear of that, I promise.  It’s just that everything on the writing front has had to take a bit of a back seat in the last few months as life required rather more input from me on the organisational front than I’d hoped for.  Let’s just say that there is a very long winded version of the whole saga that has been selling and buying a house but I thought you might enjoy the tale a whole lot more if I opted for a more succinct retelling. After all, it might take me all year to fill you in on the nitty gritty (really it was quite a rollercoaster ride) and I’m sure you’ve got better things to be doing like finding the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset with a large gin and a good book.  Trust me, dear Reader, it’s time to turn the page and begin a new chapter.

So you will have gathered by now that we are no longer living in the cottage.  In fact, we bid farewell to our beloved old timbered friend a couple of weeks ago.  Saying goodbye to the village and house we’d come to love was no easy task especially as Poppy can only remember life in the country – memories of London are few and far between for her even when Primrose and I tell tales of Richmond Park and Monty the pup.  It has seen many firsts for her as well as for us and out of all of us, I feel she is the most at home amongst fields rather than bustling streets.  To be honest, we’ve all changed.  I hardly recognise the Margot that left London four years ago these days.  Country life has been the making of us.

With barely any time to reminisce on memories made in our first foray into country living, the cottage was sold and new owners were chomping at the bit to move in.  Cue the first problem dear Reader…..  Nowhere to move to.   We’d already ruled out a fair few houses and buying was fast looking like it wasn’t going to happen.  “Rent”, all our friends exclaimed.  However, the prospect of trying to find somewhere to rent with the more boisterous half of Noah’s ark (yes, you, spaniels) needing a roof over their heads was enough to send me hiding in the under stairs cupboard with a bottle of gin.  Why was finding somewhere to live proving so difficult you might ask, dear Reader?  You see the problem was that we’d already fallen in love, dear Reader.  Hook, line and sinker.

A little house left for years tucked away down a farm track with 3.5 acres of knee high grass surrounding it.  A house which the girls and I passed every day on our drive to school, wondering who lived there and why no one wanted to buy it.  I can’t lie to you dear Reader.  When we finally decided to go and see it, it was love at first viewing.  The house had Jerry and I giggling like school children – the wood panelling, the leadlight windows, the beech trees, the original Edwardian taps.  I could go on.  It was like that magical moment when you know you just click with someone and you are rendered deaf and blind to the world around you.  In our case, it wasn’t someone, it was something.  The problem or should I say problems…?  We couldn’t afford it and it was a wreck……(and I do really mean that – the house had been shut up for nearly 5 years).  Oh and let’s not forget the final fly in the ointment, the vendor wouldn’t accept our meagre offer.  In the end after so much toing and froing with the agent, there was nothing to do but walk away.  So we did, despite some awful soul searching, gut wrenching conversations at 3am over nearly three months to see if somehow we could make it all work and trying everything in a desperate attempt to appeal to the vendor’s better nature.  I can’t tell you how much I cried.

However it seems that Fate had other plans.  Nearly four months after our final offer had been rejected, just at the point when we’d almost given up hope of finding anywhere to live, the house came back to us.  In fact, the timing could not have been better – that day we’d lost out on sealed bids on another wreck nearby (well you wouldn’t expect Jerry and I to be interested in anything habitable, would you?).  Utterly despondent when the agent rang, it took me a little while to realise she wasn’t joking!  The saying ‘When one door closes, another opens’ couldn’t have been more true for us. In this case, the door that opened was rather a pink one.  The rest, as they say, is history, dear Reader.

So that’s where Jerry, the girls and I find ourselves.  Sometimes you stumble upon mad things in life and sometimes there are the mad things that seem to gravitate towards you screaming “Do it, do it, do it”, dear Reader.  Well that certainly seems to have a habit of happening to Jerry and I…  Selling a perfectly lovely home to buy another isn’t particularly mad in itself, that is unless the house you are buying has no working kitchen, wet walls, leaky roof, dry rot, bathrooms unchanged from the Edwardian era, a condemned boiler, oil tank and gas hob. It’s amazing what you can easily gloss over when you fall in love, isn’t it dear Reader?

Jerry and I knew that the house needed a lot of work but we weren’t expecting a lack of running water for the first few days after we moved in.  I lived in fear of needing the loo!  We’re not even on mains water, dear Reader.  There’s a borehole and the water comes from the nearby farm. To add to the long list of things to fix, said water tested positive for E.Coli so it’s bottled only for the time being.  Never mind the fact that we’ve nothing but a camping stove and a gas barbecue to cook on.  Getting to sleep proved rather challenging on the first night too as visitors with hob nailed boots were jigging in the attic. Squirrels I prayed thought.  Only squirrels.  When the plumber arrived to fix the water tank the next morning, it turned out to be more of the other sort of rodents leaping about up there – you know, the ones with long tails, dear Reader.  Still, it seems that Poppy’s dreams of living in a caravan are coming true finally – it’s just that this caravan is not the shiny VW one she was imagining, it’s a large static one with brick and flint walls.

You’re probably thinking that we are entirely mad and you’d be right but bizarrely none of this seems to bother Jerry and I that much.  We have found home.  The girls are blissfully happy.  I watch them building dens in the new garden, making houses for faerie queens, climbing trees, taking turns in the wheelbarrow chariot and I feel so blessed that we have been able to make this happen for them.  It will take more than a lot of our blood (I’ve already been attacked by brambles just trying to free the windows that were stuck fast), sweat and tears to get the house working again and we’ll have to do much of it ourselves but it is all worth it when I see Poppy and Primrose enjoying their new surroundings.  As for the Monty and Dora, the cats and hens?  Well they have died and gone to heaven.  Not literally of course.  It’s all new to them too.  None of them have ever known such space from just outside the back door.

To be honest, I know it sounds awfully twee but we simply couldn’t be happier, dear Reader.  So you’ll have to forgive me for taking so long to pen this post but I’ve been waylaid by my new surroundings.  Each time we uncover something new from under thick layers of dust, peeling wallpaper or overgrown shrubbery, I feel the same way I felt when I walked into our new hallway for the first time and I just can’t stop pinching myself.  Lucky, just doesn’t even cover it.

So it’s time for a new chapter for Margot and Jerry.  Time to really turn our hands to the good life with all this lovely land we’ve now acquired.  I hope you’ll follow us as we attempt to graduate from haphazard bumpkins to full scale smallholders. Well, that’s the plan, at any rate, dear Reader….  Wish us luck!

Baby it’s cold outside

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Lights are going up, the radio is booming out the first of many festive repeats, the aroma of fir is in the air.  I’m resisting the urge to use the ‘C’ word, dear Reader.  I simply can’t even think about all things festive just yet.  With no news on the house front, deadlines, the end of term looming and Poppy’s birthday very firmly on the horizon (she wakes every morning with a countdown of days until the big 5), my mind rather resembles the inside of the Old Curiosity Shop at the moment.  Too much to do and so little time.

Everywhere I turn of late, we seem to be being encouraged to embrace a perfectly Danish feeling of ‘hygge’.  Well…who doesn’t love the idea of curling up in a chair with a good book in front of the fire, dear Reader?  However, I can’t help but wonder if, for me, it’s not so much the cosiness of woollen blankets and steaming mugs of hot chocolate that I need to be encouraged to find, but more a sense of remembering to take time to stop and simply enjoy things.  This will be our last Christmas in the cottage.  That is a strange prospect in itself when the future seems so uncertain.  I hate not having a plan!  Maybe it’s fate’s way of slowing me down, dear Reader.  Maybe it’s alright for life to be on hold?  With the button firmly on pause, once the rush to get ready for Christmas is over, maybe I will stop and appreciate all the things which are really important.

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Long walks drinking in the views, cooking together, roaring fires, good books, reading to my girls, giggly chats over a glass of red with a good friend, holding hands with Jerry and remembering to moan less and appreciate my lot a lot more – all the things which seem to be easily brushed aside in the full steam ahead of Christmas.  Simple pleasures, dear Reader.

I’d better focus otherwise I am in danger of seeping into Boden catalogue territory at this rate.  So now that the weather has finally taking a turn for the frostier and December is on its way, I’ll be trying to find some my own hygge both inside and out.  Once I’ve stopped furiously tidying for viewings, of course.  Amazing what you can shove in the dishwasher when you’re in hurry to hide things, dear Reader.

The following ‘cosy’ finds seem a very good place to start.

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Cold hands, warm heart.  The perfect warm mittens from Hygge and Fur will make sure that the only ice I encounter will be clinking in my G&T.  You can find all sorts to keep you warm this winter on Hygge and Fur‘s site which recently featured in House and Garden, including a rather lovely pom pom bobble hat I’ve got my eye on.

Walking the dogs this time of year always leaves me wondering if I’ve left my toes behind at home.  Enter The Warm Welly Co – a chance find on Twitter which has literally transformed frosty walks for me.  The Warm Welly Co produce neoprene-lined wellies for both adults and children that don’t cost the earth and will keep your feet warm and dry, even when you’re still chasing down a runaway spaniel after an hour in the woods.  FACT.  I love that this fab company was started really by accident by a family of farmers in Cumbria who needed warm wellies to keep the children’s toes warm and toasty during lambing.  Father Christmas will be delivering a couple of pairs for Poppy and Primrose this year too.

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Some of you will know that I’ve been working really hard on a slightly longer project which I hope to be able to share with you soon.  So alongside the obligatory large mug of tea on wintry mornings (and late evenings) at the writing desk, I’ve been donning these beautiful cashmere fingerless gloves (Fagin style) from Turtle Doves. Photo evidence below shows that I have loved them so much that I’ve already covered the label with a leaky pen incident…..literally I’ve slept in them since they arrived, dear Reader. One of the loveliest things about Kate Holbrook’s Shropshire based company, Turtle Doves is that their British design and manufacturing ethos focuses on using textile waste to create beautiful new handmade garments and accessories.  So ALL of their products are made from recycled cashmere and they collect cashmere from charity shops, textile merchants and even offer a ‘free gloves in exchange for your jumper’ service.   What’s not to love about that, dear Reader?  Gorgeous items galore on their site, all fit for under the Christmas tree.

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I can’t take the credit for this next find but it is probably my favourite ‘hygge’ item this winter. Anyone who knows me well, knows that when I’m not writing (or chasing after small children and/or spaniels), I can usually be found reading.  My marvellous friend Florence introduced me to this one – Florence has an amazing knack for always being able to source the perfect gift.  Her site, Blue Bowl, is an utter treasure trove of present heaven, ideal if you’re in search of something for that ‘hard to buy for’ person on your Christmas list. (Florence recently shared new children’s subscription, Scoop with Primrose, a monthly magazine aimed at little book worms aged 8 and up which is SOOOOO much better than what the newsagent has to offer for this age group – needless to say it was right up Primrose’s street). Margot’s bookish find this winter?  Slightly Foxed, a beautifully put together literary quarterly publication which marries great writing from celebrated authors and passionate book lovers in equal measure.  Having recently devoured all five books in Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet chronicles, I have been in dire need of new reading material and I love that Slightly Foxed’s issues reveal a whole host of titles, interesting and sometimes long forgotten just waiting to be discovered or reread in an age of pulp fiction.  This is the London Review of Books for fireside book worms – unadulterated bookish pleasure on every page and almost certain joy for those of us who love the gems to be found in the hallowed spaces of independent bookshops old and new and cosy libraries.  The specially commissioned covers on each issue are a delight in themselves.  A subscription to Slightly Foxed is definitely top of my Christmas list, dear Reader.  Thank you to Jennie for the bountiful bookish ‘hygge’ delivered by the postman – it is not often he gets a whoop!

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Their collection of Slightly Foxed Editions make wonderful gifts too – utterly unique.  Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s Terms and Conditions, recently reviewed in the hallowed pages of Country Life, had me in stitches.  A must for those who have experienced life as a boarder.

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Last but by no means least, the perfect accompaniment to simple pleasures.  Gin.  Of course, I’ll be needing something to sip as I read by the fire, dear Reader and I think I’ve stumbled upon just the thing.  Thank you to the lovely Jane Devonshire for introducing me to Andy from Hampshire’s Gorilla Spirits whose Silverback Gin with No9 Cardamon tonic is simply perfect for a large G&T. With a base of British wheat spirit and warm spices and notes of sweet orange, coriander, acacia blossom and lemongrass, it is a remarkably moreish number.  £1 from each bottle also goes towards supporting The Gorilla Organization which works at the very forefront of gorilla conservation in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo.  I am hoping that Father Christmas remembers to leave a bottle of Silverback Gin under the tree this year.

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Now it’s over to you, dear Reader.  There’s a frost on the ground, a jingle of bells in the air and smoke wisps curling from the chimney pot.  What will your simple pleasures be this winter?