Taking my joy from… 9

Neolithic stone circle on flat plain surrounded by hills in the Lake District.
Castlerigg Stone Circle

Someone once said you can tell just as much from a writer’s quiet periods as you can from when they write a lot. For me, it usually means I’ve been busy or haven’t had much to say. I do try to follow this wonderful advice when engaging my inner editor, whether during a conversation, social media update or in my writing:

  • Does this need to be said?
  • Does this need to be said by me?
  • Does this need to be said by me, right now?

I don’t always manage, but when I do follow it, I find my interactions much more satisfying and real, somehow.

Time for what is bringing me joy right now:

  • I am excited about a new series of blog posts I’m writing, all about my favourite places in Leeds and Yorkshire. It started as one blog post, but quickly got out of control in the draft stage. I’ve broken the content into several posts, including wonderful things to do in Leeds, as well as easy day-trips from Leeds to beautiful countryside walks, market towns, other nearby cities like York, and my favourite places to eat. Stay tuned!
  • Pop culture has been super nerdtastic lately, with Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame. I needed a little escape, especially from British politics. Perfect.
  • Recently watched Knock Down The House on Netflix. Wow! All.The.Feels.
  • My boy Tom at Hive Hair Salon has been taking care of my new-ish platinum hair, and I love it so much!
  • While in the Lake District, we visited Castlerigg Stone Circle and I was thrilled to read that Coleridge and Wordsworth had visited a mere 220 years earlier. This Canadian English Lit major never gets tired of how much history (over so many centuries!) I stumble across over here.
  • Finally, check out Street Food on Netflix. First, make sure you have lots of food in the house or you’ve ordered something delicious.
Advertisements

Taking my joy from… 8

It’s Saturday! Make that Caturday!

I’m supposed to be gathering up my information for my UK tax return. Instead, I’m writing a blog post.

How was everyone’s first proper week back in normal? I had a great break, but normal feels nice too. All that holiday pressure has vanished. Leeds swiftly put its Christmas decorations away so it’s like the holiday never happened.

Roll on winter. It’s time to read those books people gave you as gifts, pour a glass of something nice, grab your favourite blanket, optional cuddly pet, and stay home.

To that end, everything bringing me joy right now has a cosy, hibernating quality. There are no trips on the horizon, and for once I’m ok with that.

  • I don’t often come across a novel that I completely fall in love with, but when I do I simultaneously want to share it with everyone I know, while not wanting it to ever leave my shelf of treasured books. Happily, I can tell you to buy it yourself or suggest borrowing it from your local library. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is so very, very good. It almost doesn’t matter what it’s about – the writing is that beautiful. If you are having trouble understanding how to ‘show, don’t tell’ in your own writing, read this book.
  • Outlander has had some uneven episodes/seasons, but the last few episodes have been knocking it out of the park and remind me why I love this show.
  • A co-worker suggested the game Bananagrams as it’s nice and compact for travelling. Although we bought it as a Christmas gift, we’re totally going to buy it again for ourselves. It’s an anagram game, so this word nerd was all over it. Plus the tiles have a lovely feel – I couldn’t stop touching them.
  • Finally, I am so freakin’ glad that Catastrophe is back, but so sad that it’s the final season.

Taking my joy from…7

Sycamore Gap Hadrians Wall

Autumn, with its crisp air, crunchy leaves, and hide-and-seek sunshine, is here.

Yorkshire definitely knows how to put on a good, lingering autumn, with lots of chances to wrap up in cosy knitwear, and pull out favourite chili and stew recipes for slow-cooking Sundays.

In Toronto the fall season starts with sticky, humid t-shirt weather, brief interludes of chilly jacket weather, and – far too quickly – intrepid Torontonians are back to zipping up parkas, wrapping thick scarves and pulling on gloves and hats.

Long live invigorating jacket weather, and having fun with layers!

Other things bringing me joy:

  • Because I am all about English and Scottish history these days, we recently took a road trip further north to what I kept accidentally calling ‘Northumbria’ (a medieval kingdom), but what are actually the present-day counties of Northumberland and Cumbria. We had a peaceful walk on the beach at Bamburgh Castle, a quick gaze at Hadrian’s Wall (Sycamore Gap is pictured above), and a stunning drive home through the Lake District. My mind thrilled to all the history, and my eyes soaked up all the splendor. Trips like this are why we moved over here.
  • After several months of bingeing, I’m all caught up with the podcast Rex Factor, where Graham and Ali review all the kings and queens of England (1st series) and of the Scots (2nd series). They’re partially responsible for my current obsession with history and I’m totally psyched to see them live in a few weeks.
  • It was very cool to tag along when Jeff was the guest of the lovely John Marley on his bi-weekly radio show, ‘Jazz on Tempo’ with John Marley on Tempo 107.4 FM. Although Jeff’s interview was live and is now lost to to the gods of ephemera, you can tune into future episodes of John’s show on alternating Monday nights from 8 – 10 pm (GMT+1). I know we will be listening tomorrow night – John’s fantastic and supremely knowledgeable about all things jazz.
  • Always love a good thrift-bookstore find. Most recently it was picking up The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook for a couple of pounds. I’ve already taken the pumpkin pie recipe out for a spin when we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving. It was a hit, even with English friends who’d never had it before.
  • I’m glad I’m part of the world’s population that can experience audio frisson – and for me it’s always in the same place in certain songs, no matter how often I listen to them. (one fave: AF607105 by Charlotte Gainsbourg, with my goosebumps appearing on cue at 2:27)

Taking my joy from… 6

cheeky gin and tonic

Well.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had lots of things to be happy about, but life has been busy, with good stuff, great stuff, and a lovely smattering of not-so-great moments that, while uncomfortable, have been talked out over wine with friends and shifted into their proper perspective: to serve as excellent counterpoints to make happy news and events even more awesome.

These days, I’m taking my joy from:

  • Days – no, weeks – of absolutely perfect weather. Blue skies, never ending sunsets, gentle breezes, lots of sunshine. And now that I have a little outdoor table and a couple of lawn chairs, my front garden is now the most exclusive place in Yorkshire for a cheeky gin and tonic, or splitting a bottle of wine.
  • Related to my first point and the photo gracing this post, it’s been over a year since I bought a set of 4 pink plastic tumblers from Flying Tiger and they still make me happy every time.
  • Binging old seasons of The Great British Bake Off on Netflix – especially because Jeff is just as enthralled as I am!
  • Grocery shopping at the new Aldi – it’s nice to finally have a big, good, affordable grocery store in the village.
  • Day trips: They blast the cobwebs out of my soul, make me glad to be alive, and fill me with gratitude for being around so much beauty and craftsmanship.
  • I’ve talked about Nigella’s Chicken Mango and Chilli Salad before, but it is so delicious and perfect for warm days that it bears repeating.

Taking my joy from… 5

IMG_5511

Winter can be charming if you look at it a certain way. There’s less pressure to be social, and I can’t think of a better time of year to pick up a book, make a cup of tea (or pour a nice whisky), and listen to the wind howl. It’s a time for dreaming, planning, and quietly working on projects. Here’s what’s been making this chilly season A-OK with me:

  • This Scheepjes gradient yarn, World Scoop Whirl in Licorice Yumyum – is slowly being knitted into a simple poncho, with hopes that it will be ready by spring. I can’t wait until the yarn starts to change from white to silver, and then to a rich purple.
  • Yotam Ottolenghi’s Curried Lentil and Coconut soup. I’m obsessed. I want to cook it for everyone. And I can, because it’s vegan for god’s sake.
  • I don’t think I’ve raved about The Good Place yet. Such a good show, with lots of great dialogue and fantastic sight gags that reward a re-watch. Netflix.
  • Also being a mega nerd by re-watching Battlestar Galactica –  it’s been perfect for getting over a nasty bout of bronchitis. Amazon Prime UK
  • Picked up Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients – Quick & Easy Food and binged his Channel 4 programme. I have been extra busy lately, so the simple ingredient lists and quick techniques are really winning me over.
    • If you would like to watch Channel 4 online in Canada or the US, there are lots of fantastic VPN options out there – my favourite is TunnelBear.  Phil, if you’re reading, it will work for the BEEB as well.

Taking my joy from… 4

IMG_5504It’s the shortest day today. The sun will set in Leeds at 3 forking 46 pm! I’ve almost gotten used to it, especially if I distract myself by staying busy around dusk. I also have a little ritual of lighting candles and these days, the Christmas lights too, of course.

I’m still riding the Christmas high the way a hawk uses warm air currents to stay aloft, and I can smugly say my Christmas shopping is finished. This is less admirable when you understand how short my list is and how convenient online shopping makes things. And I know I’m not alone when I confess that I’ve picked up a few wee things for myself as well.

  • Top of the list of things bringing me joy is this Luchador Ice Tray from Kikkerland. I was scanning HomeSense for silly gifts under a fiver for a family game, and found this offbeat bit of awesomeness. I had been looking for the perfect soap mould for ages, as I need tiny soaps for my downstairs loo and I think these guys will be the perfect size, and will make me happy every time a fresh soap is needed. Also, I just love Kikkerland products – every time I’ve simply had to get a little something, it usually ends up being something they’ve designed.
  • My annual night in watching Love Actually. Naysayers, leave it alone. I like it!
  • I can’t reveal any secrets, but there’s been a giftie or two that I’ve bought for loved ones that I simply cannot wait to see their reaction. I love finding perfect gifts, even when mere hours before I had no idea what to get until hitting the shops. I really should have more faith in stores making it ridiculously easy.
  • My home office window looks out over our street. The other day I saw a couple walking home while lugging their Christmas tree, and the smiles on their faces was the essence of the holidays, right there.
  • Jeff has been playing Christmas carols to prep for gigs, and right now he and a friend are jazzing up Silent Night on their guitars – it’s beautiful.
  • And finally, one more impulse buy while out shopping. I love these so much, and they look beautiful during the day too:IMG_5496.jpg

Well, my darlings, it’s near enough to the Big Day to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! If you’re in charge of cooking, may your turkey be moist and succulent, your dressing just sagey enough, and remember it’s ok if some of your sides get a bit cool while you’re juggling everything. As long as the gravy is hot, you’re golden. And make someone else do the washing up.

Taking my joy from… 3

IMG_5467

Harewood House

It’s now early December, a glowing time of year. I’m finding it ridiculously easy to take my joy these days, and I hope you all are embracing the season in your own big or little ways. Our Christmas season is always pretty chilled out – my family and friends have never really gone overboard, which makes everything a bit more sane.

So these days, I’m taking my joy from:

  • Christmas lights and decorated shop windows – in Leeds city centre, in Chapel Allerton, any other town or city I’ve visited lately has been filled with festive fun and has my heart brimming. Bonus points for the rare snowfall in quaint, charming Knaresborough last week.
  • Indulging my inner kid with a chocolate advent calendar. So far I haven’t jumped ahead. So far.
  • A bit late to the party on this one, but This is Us has me hooked. All the feels!
  • Spotify’s Christmas Classics playlist – just a nice mix of the Christmas songs you didn’t know you wanted to hear.
  • Victorian Christmas at Harewood House – this was a beautiful day out, made even more fun by sharing the day with good friends, surprisingly mild, occasionally sunny weather, and the wisdom to visit on a quiet Monday morning.