Happy New Year!

The cynic in me is tempted to avoid new year’s resolutions. Largely because I’ve never stuck to them in the past and tend to give myself a bit of a hard time when I don’t succeed at things.  But setting an intention is meaningful in itself. Even if it only lasts for one day, you’ve still taken the time to think about what you’d like to change — definitely worth doing in my book.

So even if things go slightly awry as I rush headlong back into real life, here are the intentions I’d like to set for 2016:

  1. Mornings. I resolutely and proudly am not a morning person. My mornings are a hectic rush which usually consist of dragging myself out of bed, losing my keys, not being able to find any clothes that aren’t creased and then nearly missing my train. In 2016 I’d like to change that.  I would love my mornings to be a time of mindful preparation for the day whether that’s heading to the gym for an early morning swim or making breakfast and listening to the radio before walking calmly to the train station. This will be a challenge – it’ll mean going to bed earlier, waking up earlier and putting in effort, but I think the improved peace of mind will be more than worth it.
  2. Yoga. I really really love yoga, but it’s one of the things that gets squeezed out of my life when things get busy or I get stressed. I want 2016 to be the year that I get into better yoga practice and stick with it.  I’m starting with Adriene’s 30 day Yoga Camp – let me know if you’re joining too!
  3. Packed lunches. Ah, packed lunches. You are so much healthier and cheaper than buying lunch every day in Soho. So why am I so terrible at sticking with you? This year, please can we be better friends? I promise to dedicate at least one hour every Sunday evening to preparing you so that hopefully we can make things work this time around.

And to round things off, we started 2016 with a lovely walk to High Force Waterfall at Forest-in-Teesdale. It was freezing (literally — there were icicles!) but great.

Happy new year!

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And finally a bonus new year picture of these three jokers. Left to right my Dad, my little brother and Matt.

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Everything is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

Daytrippers: Whitstable

Sometimes, you just have to get out of London.  So on a clear, crisp October day we got on a train from St Pancras to Whitstable, a small fishing town on the north coast of Kent, and spent a lovely day wandering the crooked streets and crunching along the pebbled beach.  It’s the ideal seaside town for window shopping, with endless tiny shops filled with beautiful things, and we were incredibly lucky with the weather – sunny enough to enjoy a pint (of Diet Coke, in my case) on the shingle outside the only pub on a beach I have ever come across.

It may have been cold enough for me to regret saying yes to ice in my plastic pint glass, but there’s something lovely about being bundled up warm in coats and scarves, looking out at the white horses and listening to the pebbles skittering along the shore with each wave that turns. We finished the day with fish and chips from a painted hut on the shore, followed by hot doughnuts out of a paper bag, complete with sticky fingers and sugary cheeks courtesy of the chaotic sea breezes. So here are some pictures from our day at the seaside – I hope you enjoy them.

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Listening to Sax by Fleur East, Sister Rosetta goes before us by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss and Wildest Dreams by Taylor Swift.

All words and photographs are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Be Thankful

Thanksgiving.  It’s not a holiday we celebrate on this side of the pond, but I’ve seen enough American films and read enough décor blog posts to know the deal. Pumpkin pie, cinnamon-scented candles, turkey, more pumpkins, and that episode of Friends where Rachel crucially misunderstands the ingredients of a ‘traditional English trifle’ and everyone pretends to like it. Oh, and then there’s the thankfulness part. Taking a moment to reflect on everything that you have to be grateful for in your life – a way to end the year with a focus on the positives.

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Although as a British person I am duty-bound to view most US traditions with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned grumpy cynicism (sorry guys!), I really like this one. And in that spirit, I was tagged by the lovely lady over at White Walls and Wanderlust to complete the ‘Be Thankful Challenge’. So here goes.

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Rules

– Share this image in your blog post.
– Write about 5 people in your life you are thankful for.
– Write about 5 things in 2015 that you are thankful for.
– Spread the love and challenge 5 other blogs to take part.

Five people I am thankful for (in no particular order!)

  • The Boy. My partner in crime, my best friend and the person who makes me laugh most in the world, who seems to be able to fix everything from broken taps to broken hearts and who makes every day better just by being in it. I’m so soppy.
  • My family. Some more of my very favourite people.  Being with them is like being wrapped in a great big blanket and protected from everything that is wrong with the world. They’re quite funny too.  And as my brother once said in one of his more profound moments, “Families aren’t made to be apart.”
  • My friends! All here together because picking one or two favourites wouldn’t seem fair. I love them all for different reasons, and they all mean the world to me. They are the most intelligent, kind and funny bunch of people, and I’m so glad I’ve been lucky enough to collect them along the way.
  • Dan. Perhaps it’s odd to have somebody on your list you’ve never actually met, but I know this person is patient, kind and incredibly good at his job. Dan is the therapist who helped my boyfriend through his serious and very scary struggle with anxiety this year, and I could not be more grateful to him.
  • Everyone reading this. Too clichéd? Sorry. But honestly, I’m truly thankful for everyone who reads my blog, and for the conversations we have in this little corner of the internet about cakes and fairy lights and adventures and everything in between.

Five things I am thankful for

  • My flat. It’s been my first home away from my family, and my first with Matt. It’s warm and cosy and clean and finally feels like home. It’s our safe little nest for the end of the day, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
  • Challenges. My first year after graduating hasn’t been without its fair share of struggles, some of them very big and real and scary. But I’ve faced them all, overcome them, and my life is better as a result. I’m grateful for everything those hard times taught me.
  • My job. I’ve found a job and a team that I absolutely love. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that a terrible job can make you truly miserable. If you hate your job I beg you to leave right now if you can find a way. There is much better out there for you, you just need to find it.
  • Britain. For all of its faults – and there are many – I’m incredibly thankful that this is my home. I’m thankful that I live in a generally peaceful, liberal country where my rights are preserved and protected. I’m thankful that medical care is free and available to everyone who needs it. And I’m also grateful for the wry humour, the conversations about the weather and that wonderful British awkwardness.
  • Language. I love the intricacies of language, discovering new words and unusual sayings, and that feeling of immense satisfaction when you find the right words. I’m also evidently a windbag, given I’ve basically written a paragraph for each of these!

Five nominations

Fuelled by Oats – a lovely positive sunbeam of a blog and blogger

The Thankful Heart – such a fitting blog name, her blog really encapsulates this whole theme perfectly.

Persephone H – a fellow foodie

With all my Affection – one of the prettiest blogs around

A Cornish Mum – this blog has a little bit of everything for everyone

Listening to: Hold my Hand by Jess Glynn, Ashes and Wine by The Civil Wars and Masochist by Ingrid Michaelson.

The words and the images apart from those relating to the challenge are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

An accidental hiatus, 101 followers and a little bit of hope

Well hello there. It’s been a while — oops. I promise I have a good excuse.

Okay — not really. But I have been busy. And, to put the icing on the sheepish cake, I logged back into WordPress yesterday after a period of good intentions paving the way to absolutely no blog posts whatsoever to find I’d missed a bit of an exciting milestone. One hundred and one people are now following ohtogoawandering which, I’ll admit, makes me beam with pride. In some ways, I never set out to write this blog for anybody but myself, but equally it’s nice to know that people enjoy what I create here in my tiny corner of the internet.

And I wanted to mark the occasion somehow: it feels like a watershed in many ways — a new beginning. A moment to look to the next one hundred, and the next few years. And it happens to coincide with other lines in the sand.

I’ve gone from a period in my life where I was really struggling a lot, felt as though I had lost my way and was very unhappy, to a period where I feel like the way ahead is clear, bright and full of promise. Where I feel appreciated, where my hard work seems to pay off, and where I look forward to getting up each morning.

Alongside that, we woke up in the UK yesterday to a new government: a less positive change. The fragile hopes of the left wing in Britain were dashed as we welcomed in five years of a conservative majority government. An administration that rode to power fuelled primarily by people’s fear and anger. The leaders of the two main liberal parties in Britain resigned, taking full responsibility for their party’s crushing defeats– their resignation speeches are not easy to watch. It isn’t easy to watch people give their all for a cause you believe in, and then to watch them lose, no matter how graceful their exits.

Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, gave a particularly emotional speech after watching his party lose seat after seat. But tinged as it was with personal sadness and defeat, his message was ultimately one of hope for the future. It struck a chord among a huge number of people: even if Clegg’s political record is far from flawless, he spoke to hope, generosity and liberalism in a dark moment for those who fear another five years of a party whose primary concern is the rich and powerful. And it reminded us that before we turn to the easy refuges of cynicism and anger, the most powerful weapon we have is our hope that things will get better.

It’s that little voice that has always got me through the rubbish times, and it’s that which will preserve left wing idealism. And no matter what your political feelings or your situation, hope is not something to be sniggered at or denigrated in favour of ‘realism’: anybody who has ever changed anything started with a belief that things could change. And they can.

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A bit of an emotional one this time, but it’s something I needed to write. Thanks to each and every one of my one hundred and one followers — I hope you continue to enjoy my blog! 

Listening to: Girl Crush by Little Big Town, I Feel the Earth Move by Carole King, Woman (Oh Mama) by Joy Williams, Word Up! by Little Mix.

The Walt Whitman image is from Pinterest, where it sadly becomes almost impossible to find the original creator. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

‘If I should have a daughter…’

Today it’s Mother’s Day in the UK. Or, to give it its traditional name, Mothering Sunday. Sitting in the pub yesterday evening, somebody suddenly exclaimed that they’d forgotten to post their Mother’s Day card: a phone call would have to do this year. Another of my friends piped up that he hadn’t sent a card at all, because well, what was the actual point of Mother’s Day anyway? Isn’t it just a festival made up, seemingly like so many others, to get us all to buy things in order to say thank-yous that we should be saying all year anyway? Well, yes, perhaps in some ways. When I mentioned what I knew of the day’s history, he was surprised. And interested. I don’t think many people know about the day’s roots, so I looked into it a little more, and felt like it might be an interesting little nugget to share here (any excuse for a bit of history…).

Mothering Sunday started off as the day that people would return to their ‘mother church’: the church in the place where they had grown up, in about the sixteenth century. It later became the day that those ‘in service’ away from home would go home to see their mothers: traditionally, they’d pick wildflowers on the way to give as presents. This tradition then evolved into the day that we know today: a day to say thank you to our mothers. But not just our mothers. At our church growing up we used to give out daffodils on Mothering Sunday: not just to women with children, but to all of the women. Historically, Mother’s Day was always about coming home; remembering the place and the people you came from, and it makes sense that Mother’s Day should still serve as a moment to be grateful for all of the women who have made us the people we are today, whether they are related to us or not. Yes, in some ways it is hideously commercialised, but any day that makes us pause and say thank you can’t be all bad.

So, thank you to my mum, of course, who I know diligently reads my blog. And her dedication and support in that department sums up her approach to mothering in all of my twenty two years. Always there, often in the background, caring and loving and never asking for anything in return. The safest of refuges no matter what happens. Love you mum! And thank you to all of the other amazing women, whether they’ve been in my life fleetingly or since the beginning, who have taught me so much about grace, wisdom, bravery and just getting on with stuff.

And to finish, the indomitable Sarah Kay, on mothers, and the kind of mother she would like to be. A perfect, passionate poem about mothers and daughters. It’s entitled ‘B’. Enjoy!

Listening to: Budapest by George Ezra, 212 by Azalea Banks and Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars.

The poem is of course by Sarah Kay. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

No-bake Caramel and Peach cheesecake. Or, the day I smashed the oven door.

This creamy cheesecake is certainly a thing of beauty. But beauty born admittedly of absolute disaster… Every cloud? When one of our university friends was over for dinner a couple of weeks ago I was lifting an apple crumble out of the oven (domestic goddess) and somehow the combination of hot ceramics and oven gloves meant I managed to drop the whole thing onto the inside of the oven door. The inside glass panel shattered instantly into a million tiny pieces (safety glass — great) and we three were left for a moment as if frozen: just staring at what had just happened. And swearing.

Perhaps the most stressful part about renting, especially renting when you’re just starting out and don’t have an abundance of extra money lying around, is that you don’t own most of the stuff that you could potentially break during your everyday apple-crumble-creation activities. And so smashing the oven was followed by hours of sweeping up broken glass, and trying to get the shards out of the door mechanism so that it would actually shut, and then more hours of agonising over how much a new oven door was going to cost… I write this now from the safe vantage point of having had the oven door inside panel replaced at not too extravagant a cost last week, so… phew.

But to cut to the chase, here is what you need to know:

1) I had no oven for a few weeks

2) I cannot survive without pudding

So I made this cheesecake. It was nice. It is not necessary to smash your oven door in order to enjoy it in all of its glory.

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Ingredients

For the base
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g butter
For the filling
  • 450g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tin Coronation caramel (you could use Dulche de leche or something similar )
  • 240ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
To go on top
  • 1 tin of peaches
  • 15g butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar, or more

Directions

– To make the base, simply melt the butter in a large bowl (I just melt mine in the microwave – you can melt yours however you like. How liberal of me) and then add the crushed digestives (I don’t have a food processor so I put my biscuits in a freezer bag and hit them with a rolling pin until they were powder)

– Mix until the butter is evenly distributed, and then grease your tin (I used a spring-form circular number) and press the mixture down so that it forms an even base. I used the flat bottom of a glass to get the base nice and flat.

– Put into the fridge to chill and harden.

– In a large bowl (or a mixer if you have one) beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the can of caramel and beat until smooth and all combined.

– In a separate medium bowl, beat cream and powdered sugar on high until soft peaks form – about 3 mins with a mixer, or about 10 mins + very sore arms if you’re just using a whisk like I was…

– With a rubber spatula, stir about one-third of the whipped cream/icing sugar mix into the cream cheese mixture, then fold in the rest. Make sure it’s all combined, but avoid over-mixing.

– Tip onto the base and smooth the top with a spatula.

– Cover tightly and refrigerate until firm, 3 hours (or up to 2 days).

– For the decorative caramelised peaches, first line a baking tray with grease proof paper.

– Empty your tin of peaches into a sieve, and rinse under cold water, then pat dry with kitchen towel to get rid of as much moisture as possible.

– Heat the butter in a frying pan, and when it’s hot lay the peaches in carefully, so they’re not touching each other. Sprinkle enough brown sugar over the top to cover each piece. Cook for about 2 mins, then flip them over. Coat the new side with more brown sugar, and then flip again.

– One the peaches are sticky and somewhat caramelised, lay them out on the grease proof paper. Let them cool completely.

– Arrange on the top of your cheesecake however you like before serving.

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Listening to: Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars, Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran, Places to Go by Leftover Cuties, Completely by Caro Emerald.

Recipe adapted from this one from The Food Charlatan: I changed the base (her crust required an oven…) and used tinned peaches rather than fresh because it’s what I had, as well as making a few other tweaks.

All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Five signs that you’re a twenty-something home for the holidays

1. You’re suddenly drinking a lot of tea. On average 30 cups a day. Every self respecting Proper Home has tea constantly on tap. In my house, a mug just somehow appears in front of me every 15 minutes.
2. You know those sibling(s) that you get on really well with when you’re living in different houses and have actual adult conversations with about your lives via phone? Well as soon as you’re back under the same roof you’ll soon find yourselves reverting to squabbling like you’re 11 again. And wrestling. And pouring huge vats of mincemeat over each other.*
*not really
3. All of the skills and abilities that allow you to survive normally evaporate as soon as you pass the threshold of your family home. ‘I’m pretty sure I have no idea how to actually use a washing machine… Do I have to put the powder in before I turn it on, or…?’
4. You have a really weird miscellaneous collection of your possessions still in your bedroom; a combination of things too big or too random to make it into the thingstotaketotheonebedroomflat pile. The same goes for clothes. ‘Oh it’s fine, I won’t take many clothes back, I have loads still left there.’ Yes, yes you do. But they’re all things that you didn’t take with you when you moved out for a reason. Mainly bobbly jumpers and misshapen leggings, bras six sizes too small and those brightly-coloured tights you thought were a good idea when you were 14. They’ll look great at that family dinner party.
5. You’re eating foods you’d unthinkingly filtered out of your diet. Roasted meats? Things that require a food processor? You mean you can fit more than one baking dish in that oven? THREE DIFFERENT VEGETABLES FOR DINNER?

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Ballerinas too early for music: a Friday poem, instead

I didn’t feel like a photograph today. So here’s a poem instead- one that I think is as near perfect as poetry can be. It’s perfectly melancholy and beautiful at the same time. I’ll let it speak for itself.

Daffodils

Ted Hughes

Remember how we picked the daffodils?
Nobody else remembers, but I remember.
Your daughter came with her armfuls, eager and happy,
Helping the harvest. She has forgotten.
She cannot even remember you. And we sold them.
It sounds like sacrilege, but we sold them.
Were we so poor? Old Stoneman, the grocer,
Boss-eyed, his blood-pressure purpling to beetroot
(It was his last chance,
He would die in the same great freeze as you),
He persuaded us. Every Spring
He always bought them, sevenpence a dozen,
‘A custom of the house’.

Besides, we still weren’t sure we wanted to own
Anything. Mainly we were hungry
To convert everything to profit.
Still nomads-still strangers
To our whole possession. The daffodils
Were incidental gilding of the deeds,
Treasure trove. They simply came,
And they kept on coming.
As if not from the sod but falling from heaven.
Our lives were still a raid on our own good luck.
We knew we’d live forever. We had not learned
What a fleeting glance of the everlasting
Daffodils are. Never identified
The nuptial flight of the rarest ephemera-
Our own days!
We thought they were a windfall.
Never guessed they were a last blessing.
So we sold them. We worked at selling them
As if employed on somebody else’s
Flower-farm. You bent at it
In the rain of that April-your last April.
We bent there together, among the soft shrieks
Of their jostled stems, the wet shocks shaken
Of their girlish dance-frocks-
Fresh-opened dragonflies, wet and flimsy,
Opened too early.

We piled their frailty lights on a carpenter’s bench,
Distributed leaves among the dozens-
Buckling blade-leaves, limber, groping for air, zinc-silvered-
Propped their raw butts in bucket water,
Their oval, meaty butts,
And sold them, sevenpence a bunch-

Wind-wounds, spasms from the dark earth,
With their odourless metals,
A flamy purification of the deep grave’s stony cold
As if ice had a breath-

We sold them, to wither.
The crop thickened faster than we could thin it.
Finally, we were overwhelmed
And we lost our wedding-present scissors.

Every March since they have lifted again
Out of the same bulbs, the same
Baby-cries from the thaw,
Ballerinas too early for music, shiverers
In the draughty wings of the year.
On that same groundswell of memory, fluttering
They return to forget you stooping there
Behind the rainy curtains of a dark April,
Snipping their stems.

But somewhere your scissors remember. Wherever they are.
Here somewhere, blades wide open,
April by April
Sinking deeper
Through the sod-an anchor, a cross of rust.

This poem is taken from Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes, 1998. All credit to him.