Peekaboo! We’re back!

Oh, hey there, remember us?  Some time bloggers who’ve been a little *ahem* quiet of late?  Well, we’re back!  A touch apprehensive (and with a new look), we’re getting back in the swing of it, so with that in mind, here’s an old favourite, The Book List Post…

waterstones

image via Waterstones

Whilst the kids are climbing on a Saturday morning, aside from watching them dangle off high walls, I’ve decided to take that 90 minutes and spend them on myself, not nip over the road to do a food shop, but to order a coffee and (standard) make a few lists before cracking on with a book.  Mr N chuckles at me most evenings as I have form for smashing myself in the face with a paperback or kindle as I drift off half way through a page (paperback edition of The Goldfinch did me serious snoz damage!!) so I have decided to pick my book up on a Saturday morning instead.  This has some serious non nose related benefits: I am not only reading more than ever – without re reading the same page on umpteen consecutives nights – I have rekindled my love affair with reading after a mini drought, I have had some great recommendations from friends, and I’ve read some things I would not usually have looked at twice in a bookshop but have been passed a copy of and thoroughly enjoyed.  Win win!

Here’s what I’ve recently demolished, with a bit of blurb about each…

bookshelves

image via Pinterest

The Humans by Matt Haig –  After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where Professor Andrew Martin is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, he is not feeling quite himself.  Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels lost amongst a crazy alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton, and he’s a dog…

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel – One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America.  The world will never be the same again.

Us by David Nicholls – Douglas Petersen understands his wife’s need to ‘rediscover herself’ now that their son is leaving home. He just thought they’d be doing their rediscovering together.  When Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey – Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognizable – or her daughter Helen seems a total stranger.  But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Bruton – Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

And my current read…

The Lie by CL Taylor – I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes . . .Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. Jane Hughes does not really exist. Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women. Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves . . .

So lovely people, whilst I already have ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr and ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins queuing up on the bedside table, if you have any hot recommendations for us, please do leave them in the comments below or tweet them to us @MrsN_MrsW – we would love some fresh ones to add to the everlong list of reads!

Mrs N x

Tell me, what’s your cooking Kryptonite?

This year, I have decided, will be the year that I conquer my cookery kryptonite.  I can spend many a happy hour pootling in my kitchen baking, steaming, roasting, pan frying, chargrilling and the like, but the one thing guaranteed to rattle me is yeast… or more specifically, dough.  I was taught how to make bread at school (which was pretty easy on reflection considering they were brave enough back in the day not only to allow us access to sharp objects but to let us use pressure cookers and attempt choux pastry too!).  However like many things I learnt at school, post exams, it has been filed away, forgotten in some recess or other of my brain with the other relics like algebra (!) until called back into action in adulthood, usually to help the Junior Ns with their homework.  Some things bounce back super-fast – I can recall most of my English Lit A level quotes – whereas others, for example the past participle and it’s function in Spanish language, two step equations and their ilk are slower to resurface, and then there’s dough, flatly refusing to be recalled and coaxed back into action.

My good Twitter friend and fabulous shopkeeper, Louisa at Sugden and Daughters (do catch up with her fab blog https://sugdenanddaughters.wordpress.com), also had a bit of a bread block until recently; she has just been on a one day sour dough course with the inspiring Vanessa Kimbell (http://www.sourdough.co.uk).  Our back and forth chattering on social media has led to us setting ourselves a little challenge for this year. And lo! Project #12breadChallenge was born! We have decided to conquer dough and bake a different loaf each month, sharing honest snaps of our successes (and flops) on our blogs and Instagram accounts.

So as January draws to a close, I decided soup night at Nicholas Towers would be the night I got started on my first loaf in a very long time.  I chose a focaccia from the Jamie Oliver stable of straight forward ‘super easy’ recipes.  The middle child decided that she had to help too, so was in charge of measuring and a bit of mixology – because ‘I love science and you always say baking is a science Mummy’ (huzzah! She does listen to me… well, where food is concerned, less so with the request to do homework/ chores!).  After much excitement and willing the dough to rise, it did just that! Blow me, I made a focaccia, and a flipping tasty one at that!  Needless to say, Miss N has taken the majority of the credit for the success…and is propping up her bed with loads of recipe books trying to decide what we’ll make next.

get set, go

It’s *just* ingredients, right?

proving

Proving done, now into the oven…

Finished Focaccia!

Finished Rosemary Focaccia!

So dear readers, what’s your cookery kryptonite? Do you have any top tips or fool proof doughy recipes for me to try with my able assistant?

Mrs N x

What’s your manifesto for 2015?

 

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image via Pinterest

 

Happy New Year lovely people, we trust this finds you all feeling upbeat and rested?  Here in the UK, unless you’ve had your eyes and ears closed for the last week or so, you cannot fail to have been bombarded on all fronts by all sorts of detoxes/ diets/ cleanses/ fasts/ body blasting/ gym bunny/ ab revealing shenanigans which seem to have been devised to make you feel rubbish about yourself and a total failure.  Often this advice doesn’t even come from nutritionists or qualified PT instructors but the fact that some vague celeb loosely ‘endorses’ it means it must be ace…err, sorry but no.  This time last year, we wrote about our feelings on this very topic and infact re-posted our thoughts earlier this month. (http://t.co/SfaNiGtu5j) So, we are going to buck the trend and publish a little manifesto for 2015.  Here we go, in no particular order…

  • Everyday is a fresh start, so start it with a purpose, even if that purpose is simply to not hit ‘snooze’ or drink an entire mug of tea whilst it’s hot!
  • All bodies are good bodies, look after yours, treat it with kindness, nourish it well and it will look after you: you’re pretty amazing, don’t forget that.
  • Move your body daily, doesn’t have to be a workout, just get out and fill your lungs with fresh air with the added bonus that it will clear your head too.  Choose an exercise format you actually enjoy so that you look forward to it rather than dreading it.
  • Focus on the good, positivity shines out and rubs off on others: ditch the draining negative vibes.
  • Look for the good in others, chuck those compliments around like confetti, everyone needs a lift sometimes.
  • Laugh and smile more – it’s the cheapest medicine (cheesy but true, try it).
  • Ask for, and offer, help.  You may be wonder woman, but even she needs a hand some days.  It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s the polar opposite.
  • Learn to say no.  Don’t be swayed, if you can’t or don’t want to do something, say so: you do not have to justify yourself, you’re a grown up.
  • Cherish your family and friends, an unexpected ‘hello’ text will always bring a smile here, try it, it’s lovely to know someone is thinking of you.
  • Always make time for those who make you feel happy to be alive and are always there when you need picking up off the floor and cheering up.
  • Enjoy the small things like cuddles, good coffee, sunshine, good books, a leisurely soak, an awesome workout…
  • While we love a list here, planning can only take you so far (or waste so much time if you are in full on procrastination mode – coloured pens anyone?!): planning is only effective if it is combined with actually doing!
  • Make time for yourself: it’s not selfish, it is essential.  Choose your ‘recharge’ and action it: reading, yoga, a long bath, a run, crafty pursuits, music….
  • Don’t compare yourself to others, especially online – it’s all curated!  Everyone has foibles and down days, we are unique, embrace your individuality.
  • Go on adventures – not necessarily to far flung places, take yourself back to being a child by exploring your local countryside, reengage with nature, use your imagination.
  • Be grateful for what you have: we all have moments of green eyed envy, but flick on the news and be thankful for the troubles you don’t have.

We would really love your feedback on this – it’s always good to share – will you be taking stock and trying some of these suggestions out? Do you have some you think we should add?  Let us know!

Seasonal change – reasons to embrace Autumn 1, 2, 3…

autumn

  1. It’s pie season – at last! Indulge in some pie loving, savoury or sweet, we’re not fussy!
  2. Warm nights wrapped up in blankets with steaming mugs of tea/ hot chocolate/ mulled cider whatever you fancy and a box set or a magazine.
  3. The return (hopefully!) of decent television after a fair few weeks of meh tv.  Homeland and Downton anyone?
  4. Bountiful hedgerows, get out and forage.  We had a lovely crumble with pears from the garden and blackberries collected on the school run: custard or cream, that’s the question!
  5. Winter duvet time, be gone chilly toes, beds look inviting with thick fluffy duvets and blankets on: perfect excuse to go to bed early with a good book.
  6. Autumn is very much muddy knee season chez Nicholas, however, this opens up a new opportunity for sneaking in a bath or two: Mrs N gets dibs on the first dip in peace, with a cup of tea and lovely bath products whilst the kids watch a bit of TV.  They get round two, posh bath products and clean knees into the bargain – everyone wins!
  7. Unwrapping and airing the winter woolies in anticipation of cooler weather, digging out favourite boots and chasing away the spiders from the welly collection!
  8. It’s still mild out, so get outdoors and see the changes in our landscape.  Revisit childhood by crunching through falling leaves, collecting conkers and berries.  It’s good for the soul.
  9. Spoil yourself by slowing down a bit, you need the rest in the run up to Christmas and all that it entails, be that school carol services, nativity plays, shopping, cooking, cleaning like a mad woman – whatever it means to you and yours, please, slow down and enjoy spending time together…before you know it it will be 2015!!

What’s Your Therapy?

Here at N&W it’s been all kinds of crazy of late with all sorts of things going on, taking up headspace and time which has meant we’ve been a little neglectful of our readers and we are very sorry. Between us we have, as you know, 5 children, 2 husbands, a dog and a cat, all of whom require varying levels of attention…and seemingly endless feeding! The eldest Miss N has just taken her SATs exams, throughout which she was quite the level-headed superstar (no diva like meltdowns), alongside the academia there has been end of season rugby medals x2, a rock climbing competition, new season of cricket starting, many miles on two wheels by Mr N, Mr W has been poorly so no running for him, a Brownie promise, cow milking for the youngest Mr N and Miss W as part of the Farm schools project, tennis lessons, barbecues, Mrs W’s online shop set up…and of course general family life too. Phew! No wonder heads are reeling a little here.

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Image from here

All this got us thinking: what’s your therapy? What do you turn to as your fail safe when your head is full of white noise and jumbled thoughts? We both know that when the noise in our heads becomes deafening, the most noticeable absence in our lives is music: the radio is silent, which as a pair of music lovers who start the days by synchronising the kettle and the radio, seems inherently odd. Generally speaking, music is our constant daily soundtrack, if we pop in on each other and there’s no noise, it will automatically trigger the boiling of a kettle and the question ‘what’s up?’ For Mrs N, cleaning/ ironing/ organising is an instant soother (something inherited from her mum!), exercise (preferably outdoor, whatever the weather) is another head clearer, alongside planning/ list writing and talking things through. For Mrs W, smashing a few tennis balls about is a good tension buster, again with list making and talking things through, usually with a ‘90’s soundtrack and a gallon of tea for good measure!

Go on, spill the beans, tell us what you do to soothe your soul…

Mrs N x

Change Your Mood

Because we’re friends, I’ll share with you that just lately, I’ve been feeling a little fed-up.  A bit flat and ‘meh’.  Do you get like that sometimes?  So, I’ve been thinking of a few ways to get my-self out of the funk and back to my usual self…

  1. Get outside.  We are fans of the great outdoors here at Nicholas & White and sometimes getting outside is just the thing to do, even if it’s a 10 minute walk around the block in your lunch hour.  If you have a bit longer, borrow a dog if you don’t have one of your own, and have a yomp over the fields.
  2. Try and do something out of your normal routine.  You don’t need to be too radical, it could just be that you take a different route to work/school run.  Try and change something.
  3. Get into the kitchen.  There are times when only chocolate cake will do and homemade is the best kind of cake.  Maybe you could try a new recipe?  It’s nice to sit down and leaf through cookery books and try something new.
  4. Light a candle or two.  I’m a fan of delicately scented candles every now and again and there’s no nicer start to the day than lit candles on the breakfast table, well it is the most important meal of the day…
  5. Get some fresh flowers into the house.  Just the sight of spring flowers lifts my spirits and if you split a bunch into jam jars or old milk bottles you can have a few in each room.
  6. Put on your favourite song or album, shut the windows (or open them!) and sing at the top of your lungs, dance around like a lunatic and enjoy it!
  7. Change your sheets.  I love clean bedding – I’m sure it makes me sleep better!
  8. Write a letter or postcard to a friend/relative.  They’ll appreciate it and you might get one back!
  9. Count your blessings.  I’m not being ‘preachy’ but there is always, always someone worse off.
  10. Talk to someone or write it down.  It really does help.  A good friend, partner, family member will always know whether you need a hug, cry or a laugh – sometimes it’s all 3!

How did I get out of my flatness?  I went to a farm for the day with my family to see baby lambs, I went through all my cookbooks and tried out a couple of new things, I chatted with Mrs N (who ALWAYS knows what to say) and I wrote a list!  I’m still having the odd feeling of being stiflingly overwhelmed but I’m doing ok.

How are you?  How do you sort the head and heart out when feeling out of sorts?

Mrs W xx

The Sleep Quest…

A little food for thought today, concerning that old buddy Sleep. For those of us with children to care for (or just struggle to drift off), sleep is often seen as the Holy Grail, the unattainable prize and yet…think about it for a little longer and there could be something fundamental missing. No, not a set of amazing linens/ blackout curtains/ total silence; but that little word that is so often associated with children and sleep: routine.

Seriously, think about it, each day we run the gauntlet with the kids of the witching hour: tea – bath – teeth – bed – stories – cuddles – lights out – sleep. OK so it doesn’t *always* go that smoothly (occasional carb induced chaos springs to mind), but we all know what is coming next because it is a routine we are accustomed to. What we are trying to achieve is a gentle wind down, relaxation and a peaceful sleep. So, why don’t we nurture ourselves as adults the way we would our children? Sleep eases so many ills, it allows the immune and nervous systems a chance to repair and reboot, it helps our body regenerate, it enhances your mood leaving you energised in the morning (well, generally it does, on tough days there’s always caffeine!).

Image from here

Image from here

It has long been said that we should kill our screen and tech time at least 30 minutes before bed and that in an ideal world, mobile phones shouldn’t be in the bedroom either – even on silent Mrs W! Usually for Mrs N the pre bedtime routine involves making sure her dishwasher is switched on, the kitchen is tidy (nothing worse than coming down to find last night’s pans still in the sink) checking homework hasn’t been left lying about, that school bags and shoes are where they should be. On a really organised night, there may be packed lunches sitting waiting ready in the fridge! Now, a more purposeful evening, ‘The Ideal’, would involve a lovely bath, spiced hot milk or camomile tea and some reading pre sleep. Now obviously the dishwasher still has to be dealt with and the other jobs too, but it’s more about a bit of planning (and a bit less TV if we’re all honest), so that we can lull ourselves into a relaxed state of mind ready for a good sleep.

The beauty of creating a relaxing routine for yourself is that the routine itself can become therapeutic, and, because you have spent a bit of time doing something that is solely for you, if your sleep is disturbed you will still feel fairly refreshed in the morning as you will have slept deeper due to the relaxation process pre dropping off: deep sleep is quality sleep – even if it has been shorter than you would have liked. The joy of having a good bedtime routine is waking up feeling recharged and energised, when we are happy we respond rather than react – a win win in our book.

Do you have a bedtime routine? What works best for you, we’d love to know so please share!

Old image via White Company

Old image via White Company

TV Time

Image via Speckyboy.com

Image via Speckyboy.com

Mrs W gets very excited about Christmas TV.  The trailers start being shown and she gets slightly annoyed that she can’t put them on her generic satellite tv planner straight away – what if she misses one?!

There is of course the seasonal radio and tv programme lists and both Mrs W And Mrs N have fond memories of highlighting favourite shows or circling with a red pen.

These days, there is the added secret world of the red button too – Mrs N kindly alerted me to a Sherlock special being shown on there on Christmas day with the series then starting on New Years day.  *faints with excitement*  The red button is a whole other world of tv with all kinds of extra bits and bobs hidden in your tellybox waiting to be explored – a bit underused in the W household except for Glastonbury coverage and Wimbledon.

Mrs W is most excited by (don’t judge) Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, Call The Midwife amongst others.  Mrs N’s household is looking forward to Top Gear, Gangster Granny and a few good films.

We’re both very much looking forward to Kirstie’s Crafty Christmas and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces at Christmas and Death Comes To Pemberley.  There are also all the wonderful Christmas cookery programmes too…

Just need to make sure there’s enough room on the planner as neither Mrs W or Mrs N have any intentions of festering on the sofa this holiday.  Nothing better than a good watch of the telly whilst ploughing through the ironing eh?!

Mrs W goes to the Vintage Fair

This Sunday, Mrs W took herself off to a vintage fair in Yardley Hastings run by our lovely friend Sally of One Fat Hen.

It was a beautiful morning and dressed in her favourite Poppy dress and cons, Mrs W fitted right in.

Mrs W's clean dress and not so clean cons

Mrs W’s clean dress and not so clean cons

She was greeted by 2 beautiful bay window VW campers in the yard outside with people selling their handmade goodies.

What better place to shop than out of a bay?

What better place to shop than out of a bay?

All the stallholders were friendly and willing to chat – it was a really nice atmosphere.

The fair was busy inside with an array of vintage and upcycled goods for sale including these 2 finds that Mrs W may have treated her-self to…

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A nice cup of tea and a slice of cake after the browsing and Mrs W headed home.  She stopped in at Sugden & Daughters (also in Yardley Hastings) on the way though and came out with these little beauties…

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There’s an advent candle waiting to go into the enamel holder…

Do you like to shop for vintage things?  Mrs W loves the thrill of finding just the perfect thing – it fits in with her slightly haphazard house and mind!  Or are you more of an organised shopper who knows exactly what they want or need?  We’d love to hear from you – what’s your best find at a vintage fair?

Hobbies and Pastimes – what’s stopping you?

Hobbies and pastimes: they’re things kids do right?  As an adult and a parent ‘spare time’ for such pursuits when there’s a pile of laundry/ lists as long as your arm/ chores needing completion, it seems somehow selfish and self-indulgent to let your mind wander to what you could be doing were it not for the aforementioned, let alone actually doing said activity!  However, by dipping a toe back into the waters of pleasurable pursuits and hobbies we can in fact open ourselves up to being even lovelier and more talented than we already are: how great a concept is that?!

As children, we often take part in a whole raft of activities such as swimming, tennis, hockey, climbing, dance, crafting, arty pursuits, rugby – the list is fairly infinite – but as we grow up, these pursuits often fall away, replaced by the mundane but necessary pulls of day to day living like ensuring there is food to eat and the sheets are clean…work etc.  What would *actually* happen though if we dared to carve out a little ‘personal time’ for a hobby or an activity?  Would the world stop spinning on its axis?  Would we drown under the laundry mountain? Of course not, so why can’t we gift ourselves that precious commodity of time?  Is it because if we aren’t working or striving to achieve then we are caring for and nurturing our families or wasting precious time watching mindless dross on TV (justifying it by ‘doing the ironing’): have we actually forgotten how much fun hobbies were?

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

This lead me to wonder, is it because *shh* we’re so darned critical of ourselves?  You know those times when you have professed ‘oh I couldn’t, I’m rubbish at, I don’t have time to, I couldn’t possibly, I’m too busy…’  How about changing the way you talk to yourself ‘well I haven’t tried it for years, but let’s give it whirl, it might be a giggle’…let’s face it, sometimes if we spoke to our friends in the critical way we talk to ourselves, we’d be Betty No Buddies wouldn’t we?  As adults is our fear of failing what holds us back in a way that isn’t really present in our children.   So, what is it that you are secretly yearning to do? Do you write stories? Want to swim once a week? Learn a new craft? Cook for pleasure rather than necessity? Knit? Read a book in peace (and not just the same page over and over, but consecutive ones!)?

Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to make a list of things you would like to do/ try, then bin off the old excuses and give something on your list a whirl…for fun…you may even enjoy it!

Let us know what you’re plotting: we’re making our lists.