Wednesday, 30 December 2009

101 in 1001 Challenge


1001 in 101 : The Project

It's January 2010 and I am starting to feel as though I am recovering from the depression. I need something to keep me busy, and to help me keep pushing myself and putting me out of my comfort zone little by little. The 1001 in 101 project seems ideal.

The idea is to make a list of things you want to do over the next 2.75 years of your life. Each task must be achieveable and time limited. Since I have recently experienced a very driven stage of my life in which target setting was a daily task, I will prioritise goals that I believe will bring me greater life satisfaction, happiness and self awareness. These may well be trivial to others, but will hopefully help me achieve my biggest goal: to discover who I am now and what I want to do with my life.

More information about this project can be found here:

Start Date: 1st January 2010

End Date: 29th September 2012

The List

Items crossed out have been achieved

Items in italics are underway

See below the list for evidence!

Items Relating to The List

1. To write my list of 101 things and upload to my blog. (1/1)


2. To make 5 phone calls a month. (3/165)

3. To answer the door whenever it knocks.

4. To go on an aeroplane. (0/1)

5. Smile when I want to cry.

6. Clear the credit card (£0/£8,000)

7. Complete a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle (0/1) 

8. Ride on a rollercoaster (0/1)


9. To check my bank balance once per week. (2/143)

10. To dye my hair at least 4 different shades. (0/4)

11. To read a book every 3 months. (0/11)

12. To wear wacky socks every day for a month. (0/30) 

13. To paint my toe nails a different colour every week for 2 months. (0/8)

14. To have a new hair style. (0/1)

15. To visit 3 stately homes. (0/3)

16. To visit at least two art galleries (0/2)

17. To visit at least one photography exhibition. (0/1)

18. To paint at least 50 watercolours. (0/50)

19. To crochet a handbag. (0/1)

20. To write a letter to the me that was in 2000. (1/1) see below

21. To write myself an letter that I will open in 2020. (0/1)

22. Make a will  (0/1)

23. Have a massage (0/1)

24. Have a facial (0/1)

25. See five films at the cinema (0/5)

26. Buy a piece of artwork I love (0/1)

27. Buy false eyelashes and wear them on a night out (0/1)


28. To go to the dentist (0/1)

29. To eat my 5 per day every day for 30 consecutive days. (0/30)

30. Have at least two alcohol free days per week. (3/286)

31. Go 30 days in a row without eating takeaway. (0/30)

32. Go 30 days in a row without eating chocolate. (0/30)

33. Go for five bike rides (0/5)


34. Spend at least 10 times beekeeping with Dom. (0/10)

35. Have at least one date per month with Dom, even if it is at home. (0/33)

36. Spend six weekends away with Dom. (0/6)

37. Send my husband a love letter (0/1)

38. Kiss in the rain (0/1)


39. To start an open diary to Jonathan. (0/1)

40. Take the children swimming 5 times. (0/5)

41. Go camping four times. (0/4)

42. Own a new pet. (0/1)

43. Have a picnic. (0/1)

44. Go for ten walks on the beach. (0/10)

45. Create a piece of art with the boys for the playroom. (0/1)

46. Teach Jonathan to cook five dishes (0/5)

47. Teach Charlie to read (0/1)


48. Give 5 'I saw this and thought of you' presents. (0/5)

49. Send 10 handwritten letters. (0/10)

Helping others / the planet

50. Donate something for charity each month (money, time, items) (1/33)

51. Perform five acts of random kindness (0/5)

52. Donate blood four times (0/4)

53. Plant a tree for each decade of my life (0/4)


54. To learn how to do interstarsia knitting and produce an item. (0/1)

55. To open an Etsy shop to sell my hand crafted items. (0/1)

56. To knit a pair of socks. (1/1)

57. To knit a handbag. (0/1)

58. Make three quilts  (0/3)

59. Knit an item using only double pointed needles (0/1)

60. Make and felt an item for the house (1/1)

61. Dye a skein of yarn (0/1) 

62. Learn how to spin yarn (0/1)

63. Make an item of clothing for myself (0/1) 

64. Make an item of clothing for Charlie (0/1)

65. Attend a craft fair both as a buyer and a seller (0/2)

66. Crochet a handbag (0/1)

Blogland and T'interweb

67. Update my inspiration album once per month. (1/33)

68. Keep a blog of your personal achievements and photography that is updated weekly. Read it and feel good about your place in the world.  (2/143)

69. Leave a comment on someone else's blog every week (2/143)

Home and Garden

70. Hatch duck or hen eggs (in an incubator!) (0/1)

71. Grow at least 10 different sorts of veg. (0/10)

72. Take a course in butchery. (0/1)

73. Slaughter and cook a hen. (0/2)

74. Have cut flowers every fortnight. (0/72)

75. Decorate play room (0/1)

76. Decorate lounge (0/1)

77. Decorate hall (0/1)

78. Finish kitchen (0/1)

79. Make blinds and curtains for dining room (0/4)

80. Landscape / move plants to front garden (0/1)

81. Make new vegetable plot (0/1)

82. Use the Lady Shed for my projects between May and September (0/5)

83. Put all the family photographs up in the hall (0/1)

Words and Pictures

84. To write 10 short stories. (0/10)

85. To upload a photo every week to HPAD group on Flickr (0/143)

86. Make a photo yearbook of our family life at The Cottage for each year (0/3)

87. Make a photo collage of each month at home in The Cottage. (0/33)

88. To organise my photo files every month. (1/33)

89. Take a photo of 30 happy things. (0/30)

90. Arrange Charlie's baby photos into an album (0/1)

91. Take family photos off computer and put into albums (0/1)

Seize The Day!

92. To make a snowman (1/1)

93. To jump in a puddle (0/1)


94. Cook 101 recipes from my cookery books. (0/101)

95. Bake once a fortnight.(0/72)

96. Eat in a Michelin starred restaurant. (0/1)

97. Make a birthday cake for Dom, Jonny and Charlie each year. (0/9)

98. Make a Christmas cake each year. (0/3)

99. Cook a souffle (0/1)

100. Buy meat from a local butchers 20 times (1/20)

101. Try sushi (0/1)



20. Letter to me in 2000

12th January 2010


Dear Claire, 2000


Blimey, I can’t believe that the ‘me’ I am talking to is 10 years ago, it has passed in the blink of an eye.


If I could reach out through time I would give you a hug, because I can see how vulnerable you are, but you don’t realise it just yet.


Your life is about to change massively. It will all feel very frightening and upsetting but please don’t worry, you are going to have a much, much happier life very soon.


The main piece of advice I would like to give you is that life passes too quickly – do what makes you happy.


You have made some amazing, empowering changes in your life recently. The may seem quite small now, but in the long term they will change your life hugely. Learning to drive was the ticket to freedom. Keep practising, and keep on doing things that make you nervous, like driving on motorways. You have bought freedom for yourself and Jonathan, and you will need to make the most of it soon. Furthermore, doing your teacher training will take you to places you never imagined. It might not be the career for the rest of your life, but it will bring you self esteem, money (and consequently, choices) and you will work with lots of lots of brilliant people who will enrich your life more than you can imagine.


There is someone in your life right now who is very toxic and who is very bad for you. You know who that person is. You are hanging on, hoping that they will change and very sure that you can see elements of a nice person; you are imagining it. You and Jonathan will be much safer, and much better mentally, if you can get away and protect yourself from him. At this time, you will not be able to imagine some of the horrible and selfish things he is doing; it will all be revealed soon and you will be very shocked and hurt. You are not to blame in any way for these things.


You will need to be brave, but you can be. Be true to yourself. It will be physically and emotionally painful, but you need to protect yourself and Jonathan. At the moment he is hurting you in several way, but the bruises heal. He does not have inner strength and envies yours. This is your tool for becoming safe.


The next 10 years will be the best of your life, but you need to get through the next 12 months. Be kind to yourself, don’t spend what you haven’t got and don’t work too hard. Life is short and you are lovely enough already. Live, laugh, love.


Claire x



December 09 collage

Well hello, old friends of Blogland, long time no see! I apologise for my slackness in keeping you updated recently, but it's been a busy, busy, busy sort of time. Also, I am thrilled to say, I have been feeling much more like my old self recently, and that is such a relief I can't tell you. I am hoping that the tablets are finally working effectively at last. I have had 3 good weeks of constantly good days - some anxiety and depression, admittedly, but on the whole days where I did not feel as though my day to day life has been seriously impacted by the depression. I hope you won't mind that I have been out enjoying this feeling and not posting on here.

Christmas 2009 has been and gone. It was an enjoyable Christmas. I wasn't bitten by the festive bug until 2 weeks before the big day, and then oh-so-sweetly. Unlike previous years, I didn't feel the need to run around like a headless chicken making sure everything was perfect, it just happened at it's own sweet pace. Mind you, last year I did twice as many preparations and hosted Christmas for 12 people whilst I was recovering from the flu - as well as running a full time business and working 20 hours per week. Looking back I can hardly believe I kept it going for as long as I did, rather than feeling as though I was a failure for having to stop.

We went to Mum and Dads' on Christmas Eve and came home on the 27th. This passed well enough. I did have a panic attack when some relatives I hadn't seen for years appeared with 10 mins notice on Boxing Day, just moments after Mum acknowledging she'd actually invited 11 guests for tea. However, I managed to control my breathing, let it wash over me, forced myself to go downstairs and got through it. In fact, I actually enjoyed parts of it!

We have had the most amazing weather this December - we had real, thick, proper snow! This meant we were housebound for 4 days just before Christmas but, given the amount of gifts I had to make, this all worked out fine. The children and I drank hot chocolate, watched Disney films and cuddled on the sofa, which was thoroughly lovely.

I finally made 28 gifts, which kept me very, very busy! They all went down very well, and I got some lovely comments. I think the nicest came from Baz, my father in law, who said very honestly "I think this is a lovely present, you've put in so much of your time and effort." Stating the obvious, maybe, but lovely to have that acknowledged rather than the somewhat snidey "aren't you clever?!" No, I don't home make things to make you look deficient. I home make things because I want to let people know I think of them and because I enjoy the process of making them. My Mum gave the most luke warm response, ironically to the gift that took the most time and effort. Fingers crossed the throw grows on her over time.

I wanted to share with you the end result of my freebie Christmas cake I talked about here:

Project 23 : Christmas Cake





the price of 2 packets of marzipan and a packet of gold balls. Everything else came from the stock cupboard. Estimated £3.00.



Time taken:

3 hours, plus 3 hours cooking.



Lessons learned:

The most amazing things can be made with the tiniest of budgets. Icing isn't necessary when everyone loves the marzipan best anyway. Rolling out between layers of cling film is much tidier and leaves a lovely texture to the marzipan. Not using all the treacle, fruit, etc makes no difference to the flavour of the cake as long as enough booze is added. This can be cheap booze - I mainly used home brewed cherry brandy.



Satisfaction Rating:

10/10. Cheap, quick and edible!



It's getting on for the new year, and I am spending a lot of time reflecting. It's been one of my toughest years, there's no doubt about that, but it's been an important year nevertheless. I am going to post all my projects over the next day or so, so I apologise in advance if oodles of information and postings suddenly appear. It's really important to me to get all of this creative stuff in one place. Standing on the outside looking in at my life has been a really helpful way for me to get perspective, and it's a habit I hope to continue.

I hope you all have had a wonderful festive season.

Big hugs and lots of love

Claire xx

PS The creative brain is ticking. Now I have worked my way through my Christmas to-do list, I am alive with ideas for projects! It's amazing, frustrating and great fun.


Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Life In Pictures


September collage 




November collage



January 2010

February 2010


Monday, 7 December 2009

Quick Catch Up

November collage
November at The Cottage

Good evening ladies and gentlemen of Blogland. How are you doing? I hope you are well, relaxed and looking forward to Christmas.

So much has happened here in the last week, I really am caught up in a whirl of Christmas preparations. My knitting list feels as long as my arm and I am starting to feel the pressure to get the projects finished. I have completed the Christmas shopping, deep cleaned the house (downstairs, anyway), caught up on Mount Laundry, looked after Jonny when he was poorly, put up the Christmas decorations, been for another drive around Sunk Island, been to pottery - my word, the list seems endless.

It's not been a bad time, really, with a few exceptions. Dom had serious chest pains on the way home from work tonight, so went straight to the doctors - I know it must have been bad for him to do this as he NEVER goes to the doctor unless he's dying. However, all is well and the doc thinks it is a panic attack. That worries me just as much to be honest - he's working 60 hours per week at the moment, although he seems in bouyant spirit. He's happy to carry on as normal, but I really worry about him. And I worry that my illness is putting additional strain onto him too.

On Friday we had rabbot stew for dinner, and it was divine. I have never eaten or cooked rabbit before, but I certainly would again. It was very similar to chicken, but much cheaper. I slow cooked it with carrots, onions, mushrooms and parsnips and made gravy from the pan I browned the rabbit in, stock and flour. Washed down with lashings of home brewed beer. It was oh-so-yum.

The Christmas tree is up, which caused great excitement in Charlie, and typical teenage nonchalance in Jonny. I am a bit miffed because I let Charlie have complete creative free reign and it looks much, much better than my co-ordinated attempts in years gone by. Harumph.

Anyway, it's late and I have stayed up to knit Elijah the elephant as a Christmas present for Charlie. Isn't he a darling? I'm knitting him in the softest bamboo yarn, but it's really splitty and hard to work, so mine is not so good and looks much more like the elephant man. Ho hum.


Oh, and my £300 Ebay target is looking a bit shaky - I have 12 parcels to send out tomorrow and we've made £70. Grump.

Lots of love from East Yorkshire. Tuck yourselves in all lovely and warm.

Claire x

PS - this is a watercolour I've been working on recently. It's not perfect, there's a lot I'd change if I did it again, but what do you think?


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Winter Wonderland (and a sensitive post)

Picnik collage

Well, it's the first of December and we had the first frosts of winter here last night, very appropriate. As has become the festive tradition in this house, I forgot to get the advent calendars again. Whoops.

It's been a truly crap week, so I haven't posted because I haven't felt up to it. Sorry guys. I also haven't taken any pictures, so I am going to post favourite inspiration posts and talk about depression miseries, I hope you like the juxtaposition. See it as black humour.

On the plus side, Saturday was lovely. We went for a drive around Sunk Island (I once accidentally called this Spunk Island in front of a rather prudish friend in London, dear God the shame). As you can see from this map  Sunk Island, literally 5 mins from here, is a huge area of unspoiled land which was once under the sea. It's incredibly flat and likely to be reclaimed by the sea within the next 100 years, so there are very few houses and roads. I have never been anywhere quite like it.

We saw several interesting species of bird including, what I suspect, was the Great White Egret:

Great white egret

This is a very rare visitor to the UK, a migratory bird. The jury's out as to whether they were Great Whites (size of grey Herons, which I am sure these were) or Little Egrets, which are more common but have yellow feet - I am fairly sure the ones we saw didn't. We saw 3, sat in a tree and one fishing in a drain (ditch to non locals; somewhere where all the field water drains to the Humber). This was at Saltaugh Sands where we have previously seen Kingfishers.

We also saw nine - yes, count 'em - roe deer, in three different groups


They all had fluffy white bottoms. We didn't see any stags. The first three were lay on the ground behind a hedge. They were wary of us and looked straight at us with their ears pricked, but didn't run away. We spent a good few minutes watch each other before they got up, stretched and wondered off to eat some of the crops. It's hard to tell what was planted in that field at the moment, but I suspect it's rape seed.

Third most impressive was two kestrels, at different points. There are several of these locally, we even had one in the garden last year. We get lots of barn owls too, although you tend to see them more in spring.


We also saw curlews, pheasants, avocets, lapwings  and oystercatchers. I've arranged them into this little collage. Yes, it was an amazing, very relaxing day out and about in Spunk Island with my lovely husband and sons. The boys were as riveted as we were, especially when they got to look at the boats and squelch about in the mud.

On the down side, I have been feeling seriously suicidal again. I haven't been sleeping - I've frequently started the day at 2am. It's in those dark, lonely hours that I have been wondering if it wouldn't be better for everyone to just slip away quietly, like a star fading into dawn.

The agony is that I am actutely aware of the pain it would cause my family, and so I feel trapped. I feel as though I haven't even got the basic human rights that most people have. 

Don't panic, but I have been researching ways to do it. How to tie knots, what doses are needed etc. This upset Dom hugely and we had a very tearful Thursday evening. It's very hard to explain. Firstly, it's a bit like having a mosquito bite - you're compelled to scratch and you're not entirely in control of that scratch. Secondly, I actually find the research helps. The impulse is very frightening and not something I can control. By moving it into the intellectual, reasoning part of the brain, I find I can manage it in a much more  controlled way. For example, it'll take over 600 Piriton to finish you off - you'd have got bored and grown a beard by the time you got through that lot. Slashing your wrists is not good for someone whose main lifeline is crafting; if you sever your tendons then essentially you can lose use of your hand permanently. You can see what I mean. Whilst the impulse is strange, what I find is the reality is a) too horrible to want to inflict upon myself and b) I find that the things I am deeply disturbed by are not as awful as you might imagine. For a long time I have had a dread of bodies, injuries, being the first on the scene sort of thing. Weirdly, now I think I could handle it. It sort of helps me look in on myself from the outside, rather than being consumed by the fear.

That sort of sums up my week. To be honest, since Thursday its been much better. I spoke to the counsellor at length, and they don't think I am ill enough to be referred to the Psych team - which is reassuring and frustrating in equal measure. I want to stop feeling like this. But then I only want to go through this once, so I need every moment of experience to learn all that I can.

I am in the midst of Christmas knitting and can't wait to show you what I have made. I am really enjoying it. I have this weird sort of life - really deep lows, and a perfect stillness, better clarity than I have had for years. Honestly, deep down, I feel as though I am getting to the root of me. It's taken me a long time to get this far, but the more I experience it, the more I know this is a process I have to experience and I will end it a permanently changed person. I am hibernating, and I am observing. It's uncomfortable at times, but I am surviving.

Thanks for checking back on me, I hope you are OK too. I think about you often, and I am deeply touched on those who check in on me regularly, even when I haven't updated for a while.

Love and hugs

C x

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Touching the bottom

The Jesster, looking intruded upon.

Hello gang, how are you doing today? Well, I hope? I am sorry I haven't posted for almost a whole week - where does the time go? I have been in a pretty crappy place, though, so I haven't been it the mood for blogging.

G'ah, everything feels so horrible at the moment. It's dark and cold, the end of a horrible month and the end of a horrible year. Dom is really very busy at work and is getting stressed out. The kids are fighting like cat and dog. Charlie has so overwhelmed by school, he is being really naughty - full of tantrums, chucking things around, hitting people and things (even at school, which I am ashamed of.) It just feels like he'll do anything to get a rise out of people, me especially. This starts, without fail, at 6am, and he will whinge, jabber, complain and shout until the moment he goes to bed. He has even started wetting the bed again, so I am up changing the beds a couple of times per night. I am worried about him. He's like a coiled spring, and I am not sure what I can do to get him to unwind.

Dom, I think, is getting very frustrated with my illness, the kids and the state of the house. He wants more support and I don't blame him. My inlaws are also getting very frustrated with my illness. I AM GETTING VERY FRUSTRATED WITH MY ILLNESS. However, I can't change it because other people have got fed up. Dom said at the weekend that he wasn't going to help me out anymore, because it wasn't doing me any favours. I can understand his thoughts, they used to be mine, but I actually feel very, very isolated and hurt.

I am not sleeping, and have started the day as early as 2.15am some days. This is not helping matters at all, and I am sure, is behind my  bad feelings.

On Saturday night I woke up wanting to end it all. I just want the pain to stop. I emailed the Samaritans, who were helpful. The emergency website the therapist gave me is no longer working.

I am frustrated so I am going to stop this post. I am sure I will get through this, but I don't know how. I don't even know where to go for help at the moment. I just want to touch the bottom, so at least I know I am moving upwards again.

Sorry for the depressing post, but I promised at the beginning it would be a 'warts and all' description of depression. Fingers crossed for a better day tomorrow.

Take care, speak soon

Claire x

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Today is offically a holiday - tell your friends!


Last year, I worked my nuts off getting Christmas sorted. I try to think of original and thoughtful gifts; I make a lot of them. I handmade decorations and baked a lot in advance to freeze. Nothing came from packets - everything was homemade. I did all the shopping, wrote all the cards, had 10 people round for dinner on the big day, friends before and afterwards ad family staying for 4 days. I was really looking forward to it.

Then, guess what? 5 days before Christmas I got the flu. I honestly felt like dying, I don't think I have ever felt that ill. But I hauled myself up out of bed on Christmas Eve and, ever the martyr, made sure that Christmas went ahead as I had planned.

Whilst I was in the kitchen cooking dinner, I realised that everyone else was having fun and, having done the lion's share of the preparations, I was still working my nuts off, even though I wasn't well. And I felt a bit resentful.

This year I am making lots of changes. I am only going to do the things I want to do. And one of them is this: I am going to take lots of secret mini holidays in advance, to make up for all the extra effort. I think you should do the same. Email this page to all your girlfriends because I am, officially, giving you permission to have a mini holiday. It could be today, or any day, a whole day or just 10 minutes - but you must do something you enjoy, and you wouldn't ordinarily do. I am looking forward to hearing what you get up to!

I have already been to town and bought myself a few treats. I am now firmly planted on the sofa where I will stay until school time. I have:

New reading material


Coffee and chocolate


Fuzzy friends


Hooky loveliness (I'm crocheting together mum's throw before startig the border. It's at the pre-blocked ugly duckling stage)


Christmas shopping to do


(oh how I am tempted by the free apron)

and there is also a snooze to be enjoyed once I have finished chatting with you.

Given it's the middle of a difficult week at the end of a difficult year, it's raining horizontally and it's windy and cold, I have also decided to treat my boys. Although they will not know about my own treats, oh no.

When Charlie and Jonny come home from school, they will have a tea of boiled eggs, fresh from the chickens, with squirty cream topped hot chocolate, their favourite:


Unbenown to them, the pain au chocolates they grieved over this morning when they thought they were Daddy's, are being saved for a special pudding for two special boys:


Let's not forget a special Daddy, of course. I have not been easy to live with recently, and this is a little way that I can say 'thank you'. Once Jonny and Charlie are in the land of nod, Dom and I shall be enjoying a little treat that I picked up from our local market this morning:


Moules mariniere, with freshly caught local mussels and crusty bread to mop up all the delicious, garlicky sauce. Not forgetting a nice bottle of plonk:


 I have to dash now and begin my hectic schedule. Have fun with yours and, if you do nothing else today, treat yourself.

Lots of love and hugs

Claire xx

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

End of an era


I am amazed by this time of year and I feel compelled to record it. I don't think I have ever paid much attention to late autumn before. We're on the cusp on winter; it won't be long before Christmas dominates and we all think of frost and snowmen. I can't get over how much the seasons have changed here in the last ten days.

It was a beautiful, crisp, cold dawn this morning. The weather is pretty but brittle.


The leaves have pretty much gone from the trees, thanks to the strong winds we've had over the last few days.


The tall trees at the end of the garden are almost bare. We only tend to get pigeons, doves and sparrows visiting the bird table.


The bright red leaves have fallen.

It's been a stressful 24 hours; I have been up since 3.15am. Yesterday we found out that we were personally liable for a business debt amounting to £3,800. Luckily we just about have the funds to pay it, but we're going to have to be really, really frugal over the next 12 months and I am worried.

We were advised by the professionals representing us that we would not have to pay this debt. We followed their advice to the letter. Essentially we have been caught out on a technicality caused by my inexperience. However, the company involved have been very threatening, we've had baliffs show up at the door without warning (not following the usuals procedures, just trying to put the frighteners on me). It's been very scary, especially for two people who are financially very prudent and afraid of debt. Right now, I think it's very unlikely I'll ever run a business again.

I haven't been able to tell you before, but this is why I have double locked all the doors and kept the windows and blinds shut over the last few weeks. We have all had a secret knock, so that I know who is at the door. I have been deeply afraid.

As well as the upset I feel an odd sense of relief too. Another chapter is closing. The bailiffs won't come knocking again. I can finally put this sorry mess behind me and start to lick my wounds.

Dom was amazing. I was afraid he wouldn't come home last night. I was so frustrated and ashamed with myself. However, he did come home, and he held me and didn't judge me. We had a quiet night watching the television. He was calm, understanding and not in any way judgemental. I know he finds the concept of debt frightening too, so I really, really appreciate his thoughtfulness.

Charlie was poorly again too; he came home from school and pretty much slept from 4pm - 7am. He's been so tired and overwrought since school began in September that I hope this long sleep is the start of him regaining his equilibrium.

I am OK, don't worry about me. I feel cherished and lucky. I feel loved. I love to see that, whatever the personal disaster, the sun rises and sets and the leaves still fall from the trees. It makes me feel small and, right now, that is what I need. I need to feel part of the universe, a small cog in a giant machine, rather than someone in control.

I'll leave you with my favourite picture of the day. Today I will sleep, watch Midsummer Murders, drink tea and eat soup and start to stitch together my Mum's blanket. I will be thankful for all that I have, which includes all you amazing people who pop in to see how I am doing every day. It really means the world to me.


I hope you find your own peace today. Love and hugs.

Claire xx


Monday, 16 November 2009



It's a dark, cold, rainy day here at The Cottage today. This is the view from my kitchen window.

I am enjoying it more than you might imagine, actually. I realised this morning that winter is important for the natural cycle of things - the ground becomes wet, the plants rest and gain energy to burst forth in the spring. The cold makes us appreciate the warmer, longer days of summer. Yes, winter feels like a good metaphor for my experiences at the moment.

I haven't blogged for a few days. Charlie and I had Norovirus last week - yuck! Also, I really loved my last post, especially the picture. And I didn't want to spoil the picture and the optimistic sentiment with more tales of depression.

So, I have put together a collage of inspiration. These are clippings from magazines that inspire me - largely Country Living, but there may be others. Many of these pictures were snipped out months ago, so I am afraid that I cannot give sources.


I like the idea of having an online source of inspiration. If you're experiencing depression, I really would recommend starting a blog. It allows me to see my life through outsiders' eyes. That's really helpful, especially as it allows me to focus on the positive. I look at lots of other blogs too, and this helps me feel part of that community. However, the idea of an online scrapbook, that I can dip into when I need a lift or an idea, really fills me with inspiration. I am not very good at creating scrapbooks as I don't like cutting pictures out from magazines, I like to keep them whole. Taking photographs feels like a good compromise.


Dots are really doing it for me at the moment - dots and stripes. Can you see the multicoloured buttons on the red coat earlier? Oh, that gives me a thrill. However, it's a silk coat, price on application. Which means it is way, way above my budget! I have a black mac, and I am considering putting multi coloured buttons on that. What do you think? The other mums in the playground think I am a bit eccentric anyway, and I am tempted to do it just to spite them..

Don't you just love the lime of the scarf and the pom poms? And the dotty books? Ooh, my fingers are itching to get on with something... Look at the umbrellas on that book cover! I so want a pretty umbrella for Christmas, mine is plain black and very uninspiring. Look at how a pretty umbrella could brighten up a day like today!

In depression news, I had my first session of CBT last Thursday. It went well, I liked my counsellor and I found it thought provoking. However, I am finding it difficult. She has given me some workbooks to work through before next week, and I am finding it really tough going. I am finding that don't actually want to talk about the depression much, I would rather ignore it. Self pity is an easier state of mind than challenging one's fears.

I am suprised at how I feel, to be honest. I thought I was completely up for getting better. Now I am not sure whether I have wallowed enough. I am starting to see little green shoots of recovery, I just want to quietly cherish those for a while before ramping it up to challenge the big problems. I still feel private, retreated. I feel as though I am starting to wind down now; the idea of winding myself back up is frightening.

I find it hard to acknowledge these feelings. It's easier to just think 'sod it' and do what I have always done. I am trying not to, though. I have deliberately answered the door and made phone calls over the past few days. I am not sure the relief is as instantaneous as the books describe, but I am still going to keep trying, because I don't know where this will lead me. I just have to put my faith in the system, which isn't the easiest thing to do.

I hope you are well and making the most of these cold days. I am thinking of you.

With love

Claire x

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Autumn Sunlight

Autumn leaves

I have so much to tell you about, lovely readers. I hope you are feeling good today. It's gorgeous here, cold blue skies and warm, golden sunlight. The leaves are falling in the breeze. Such a lovely break from the gunmetal grey days of November.

I didn't take the photo above, obviously. I still have a lot of credit left over at from before the magazine crashed. I don't like to use bought images as I think half the joy of blogs is the honesty of photographing your own life. However, this image has a sort of metaphorical touch, which I think is appropriate, so I hope you'll forgive my choice.

I don't want to jinx things, but I have noticed that my life has been imbued with a gentle glow. Suddenly, I am noticing beautiful things all around me.  I noticed them before, but I didn't feel them. Now I notice that I am starting to feel with my heart as well as my eyes. Which is a wonderful, amazing development.

I've had quite a lot of good days recently. The good days outnumber the bad. It's not that I have suddenly become Mary Poppins, far from it. There are still times of anxiety and fear in each day. But, on the whole, I have more perspective. It started from the simple decision to open the curtains one day.

I feel very blessed with my home. My pace of life has changed, I really have slowed down and am starting to look into the moment and ignore long term plans. This is a momentous change for me. Each time I clean, I feel lucky (madness, isn't it?) I take great pleasure in cleaning my nick nacks and rearranging my shelves. I am planning where my Christmas decorations will go, and how I will wrap presents. Last night, I needed some bread from the freezer in the garden. I spent a good long time looking at my home from the outside in, admiring how warm and homely it looks. It was a real surprise. I breathed in the soft light, the lovely bits and pieces, the comfortable cushions and blankets. It's not perfect - it's certainly not a showhome, but it's cosy. I was dreading this time of year, but actually I feel as though the scales have fallen from my eyes. I wrap myself in blankets, cook jam and cinder toffee, cakes and bread, and I spend my days making gifts and looking after the people I love. I feel very lucky.

Forgive me for the fluffy post, but this is a significant recognition for me. Rather than looking down the hole wondering how deep it is, I seem to be looking around and noticing it's not as ugly as I thought. Hopefully soon I will be looking upwards and making planning how I can get there.

Lots of love and big hugs.

Claire xx

Monday, 9 November 2009

Noticing the small things


Hello lovely reader, how are you today? I hope all is well with you and you enjoyed your weekend. Mine was surprisingly bright, actually.

I love, love, love the photo above. It's a moss covered rock by our pumpkin patch in the garden. The new habit that I am currently trying to learn is to notice detail. Look at the textures on this rock. It looks cold, slimey, rough and furry, doesn't it? I wonder what critters call it home? How much it's surface temperature varies? How and where it was formed? I know for sure that it has resided in Liverpool, London and now Yorkshire because Dom and I have transported this pile of rocks whenever we have moved house - I wonder where it was before? And how old it is? I don't know about you, but I really enjoy feeling very small. Thinking about how old things are always helps.

This morning Charlie and I were looking closely at spider's webs. There were two perfect specimens on the handles of his slide, and we spotted a tiny one on the railing at school. One of the other mums scoffed and said there were hundreds and, anyway, they looked better when "visited by Jack Frost." I don't doubt icy webs look beautiful, but dew drop laden webs look amazing too. I hope to teach Charlie to notice all the miracles around us that it's easy to overlook and pah! to the other mother; her loss.


We had a lot of fun over the weekend as we visited some old friends of ours, Martin and Naomi. They had a bit of a shin-dig at their house, with fireworks and sparklers. The children loved it, but I think the grown ups loved it best! Dom and Martin shuffled the kids into the house and then spent a good long time trying to blow up a pumpkin with fireworks, the big kids. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the wine and, oh my, the delicious food. There were hot dogs and onions, chicken soup, jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw, apple cake and dough nuts - all very much on a help yourself basis. I just love winter comfort food, and Martin and Naomi's home is always so comfortable and so much fun. It was just what I needed and it's perked me up no end. Naomi has had problems with depression in the past, and so little more than a few words, an understanding look and some acknowledgement was enough. It's wonderful to feel so accepted with so little fuss.

I hope you had a good time too, and you're feeling warm and cosy now these winter days have settled. If not, pour yourself a drink and enjoy a virtual hug from me. I get you.

The battery on my camera has run out, and I can't find the charger! Quel disaster! I don't have pictures of crafting, other than to say I am working on the crochet joining strips for mum's blanket. It's quick but a bit bland, so I am looking forward to getting my teeth into something else. I can't wait to show you Baz's scarf, I am so pleased with it. You'll love it.

Catch you later

Claire x

Thursday, 5 November 2009


Lucy, the amazing talent at Attic24, has a lovely way of marking the passing of the months - she puts together a collage of her photos. I have pinched the idea as I think it's lovely. Also, I find that looking at my life from an outsider-in perspective really helps me notice and appreciate the lovely little things that could so easily pass me by.

Anyway, cheers Lucy, and please visit her site. You will not be disappointed.

I give you October, 2009 at the Cottage:


Remember, remember the 5th of November...


Good morning one and all. I hope you are OK today. I'm fair to middling, but I'll come onto that later. It's a gorgeous morning here is East Yorkshire - it's quite warm, actually (15 degrees) and sunny, with a heavy dew and mist. The fog buzzers on the Humber haven't been going regularly yet, but they soon will. The locals call the mist a sea "roake" - a word I'd never heard of until last year.

The pictures are of the Cottage garden this morning.


The boys are excited about bonfire night - we may go to a display at the local pub, Barn Farm, where we went last year. They both have a yearning for marshmallows that we apparently ate last year - how do children remember such things?! The pub has a HUGE pile of firewood that makes me laugh whenever I pass, it's literally the size of the two storey pub, although it's set well back in the field behind. A few weeks ago, a sign appeared outside the pub saying "firewood wanted for bonfire" then, the next time I passed this mountain of sticks and pallets had appeared from literally nowhere. Next, a rather pained sign saying "NO MORE WOOD!!!" appeared. It really makes me chuckle.


Personally, I am a bit out of sorts. I have actually had quite a good week, and I nearly posted on Facebook yesterday saying "Claire thinks she might be turning a corner." Do you think that jinxed it?! Hmm, me too! The house is a complete hole and it's getting me down, although I still feel fluey so have spent a lot of time on the sofa. I had a night of nightmares last night - does anyone else get these on SSRIs? I haven't had one for weeks, but these were real corkers, the sort you just can't properly wake up from and shake off. Dom was lovely, he woke up properly and just held me. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love that man.

When I wasn't dreaming that I was being chased by someone with a knife, or that everyone secretly wanted me dead and was plotting my murder, or that I was hiding behind a door whilst someone was chopping it down with an axe, I dreamed that I was an undercover policewoman pretending to be a stripper. The main things that worried me were a) uncomfortable stilettos, and b) the fact I was wearing a big 80s style multicoloured wig and I was worried it would fall off and my true identity would be revealed. I have to say, though, my flat stomach was something to behold, even though it was Tango orange. I wish I could rerun that part of the dream, I don't think I have ever seen myself with a flat stomach before.

There was also some other weird stuff, I could see shapes changing and morphing into other shapes and flashing lights. I really was afraid I was going mad, but deep down was wishing it on myself. Looking back, I must have been dreaming or at least semi-conscious, but it was disconcerting. If anyone can analyse dreams, please let me know what you think...

I have declined a social invitation today with the inlaws, which I am feeling relived about. They were very understanding - my mother in law sent me a text this morning saying she loves me, which I was very touched by. They have been fabulous. She and Dom had a disagreement about my treatment last night, and that has thrown me. He is of the opinion that I should be out and about and trying to act as normal. She is of the opinion that I should rest and take my medication at the same time every day, regardless of how woozy it makes me feel. They are both right in parts, and I try to do both things. I rarely go out, to be honest, and that's the way I like it. I know it worries Dom. But when I do have to drive, I try to go out when I'm not woozy (usually late afternoon) or take my tablets when I get home (approx 3 hours later, which you could easily do once a week with a lie in, for example, and not worry about.) Anyway, for whatever reason, I feel a bit got at. I just want everyone to leave me alone. I don't know when I will be back to normal and, to be honest, I've given up hope in the medical services. I worry that my family are frustrated with me but I don't have the answers. I have never had depression before. I have never lived this life before and, mostly, I can't be arsed to think about it. So I upset people. Gotta love the depression.

Anyway, I fear I have whittered on too long today. THANK YOU so much for listening, you have no idea how much it helps. Blogging, and reading other blogs, keeps me plugged into the world in a way I can cope with. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

All the love in the world

Claire xx

PS I've had a disaster with the scarf, and may need to unpick several rows. Will report back tomorrow.


Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Winter is a-coming


Hello ladies and gents of Blogland. How goes it for you today? The weather has been odd here - darkness almost like night and heavy rain, then bright sunshine. And it's cold. Are you feeling the cold too?

To be honest, I had forgotton that I actually quite like this time of year. I always think of winter with dread. A couple of years ago I convinced myself that I had Seasonal Affective Disorder, but that was before I was prepared to acknowledge that it was common-and-garden depression. A lot of the blogs I read are mourning the loss of summer light and colour - I love that too, but I also like these dark days more than I remember I do.

This evening it's dark and cold outside. Charlie is tucked up all snug in bed. Dom is working in the kitchen. Jonny is watching a film, and I am on here talking to you. The house smells of a winter fragraced candle and the lights are dimmed. We are eating pumpkin soup and freshly made bread. The whole place looks and feels cosy. I am happy to wear socks, drink hot drinks, wrap up in blankets and light the fire. My only sadness is that we can't have a real fire in our sitting room as we have no chimney. There is one in the playroom, but that's not as comfortable and cosy.

I've got  a stinking cold though - how are you getting on with the winter germs? My tonsil is still swollen - it's been 3 weeks now - so I made an appointment with the doctor for next week. That's right - I used the phone today, TWICE! I am very proud of myself, even if I did cringe and hide when someone knocked on the door. Baby steps count. I am happy to chalk up the progress and ignore the weak spots.

Also, I want to show off my Christmas cake that I made yesterday, infusing the house with a warm, fruity, spicey aroma. Hmmmmm.


My main priority was to make something that cost as little as possible - and I am really chuffed with this one - it was free! Technically that's not really true, as I had to buy the ingredients in my cupboards in the first place, but it was adapted to include only things I already had in stock. I even managed to get the ready made icing from our local Co-Op for 29p!

It is loosely based on Mary Berry's classic Christmas cake.

  • 625g sultanas
  • half a jar of cocktail cherries, chopped, plus the liquor
  • 200g dried apricots, snipped into pieces
  • 50g (2oz) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
  • about 10 dried prunes, chopped
  • 150ml (¼ pint) Stones Ginger wine, plus extra for feeding
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 250g (9oz) soft margarine
  • 250g (9oz) dark muscovado sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 75g (3oz) blanched almonds, chopped
  • 50g walnuts, chopped
  • 225g (8oz) plain flour
  • 1½ tsp mixed spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

    You need to begin this cake the night before you want to bake it.


    1) Measure the dried fruits into a large bowl. Mix in the ginger wine, the orange juice and the cherry liquor and leave overnight.

    2) Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees centigrade, 275 F or gas mark 1. Grease and line a 20cm deep round cake tin with a double layer of greaseproof paper. I also greased a couple of muffin tin holes so I could make a couple of mini Christmas cakes, for testing (obviously very important!)


    3) Measure the flour, spices, margarine, sugar, eggs, almonds and walnuts into a large bowl. Beat well with an electric whisk for 2 mins until the cake mixture is a light coffee brown colour.


    4) Add the soaked fruit and fold in well until properly combined


    5) Pour into baking tins. Last year I used muffin tins for mini Christmas cakes, and these worked brilliantly (although icing 12 individual cakes was a bit labourious.) Cleaned, empty baked bean tins would also work well. If you're cooking one large cake, double layer the top with greasproof paper. This isn't necessary with smaller cakes.


    6) Bake in centre of preheated oven for 4 - 4.5 hours. For individual cakes start to check after approximately 90 minutes. It will feel firm to the touch when cooked, and a skewer will come out clean.

    Allow to cool in the tin, then put into a cake tin. Pierce with a fine skewer and slosh on a couple of tablespoons of booze of choice weekly until Christmas.

    The final result was a tangy, apricotty, nutty cake. It hasn't matured in flavour yet, so it'll be interesting to see if the spices become more developed. It isn't as dark and treacle-y as some Christmas cakes I have made, but personally, I prefer it this way.

    Keep me posted on any changes you make if you attempt your own store cupboard Christmas cake. I love to hear how you're keeping the Christmas costs down.

    Time for me to go now, and spend a happy half hour browsing my favourite blogs - you can see them by clicking the list in the left hand bar.

    Take care of yourselves, and see you tomorrow.

    Claire xx

  • PS Cadbury's Caramel Bites. To die for. Just try them.