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.

‘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.

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.

Home Time is Pudding Time

A couple of weekends ago, I went home. Sadly, home is now not the house where I lived the last ten years of my life- the home I left to go to high school, then sixth form, then university. When I moved to London, my parents also moved house: so going home meant going to a place I’d never actually lived.

But, it was wonderful. I left when the house was full of boxes and looked like a storage unit. And I returned to find that my parents had made it really lovely (of course). And, stupidly, I was surprised to find that, because they were there, it felt like home. It was home. All the home feels were perfectly intact, even if the place was unfamiliar. And home time is, of course, pudding time.

Not just any pudding though. The QUEEN of puddings. Here’s my mum’s recipe (originally from a glorious ‘full- colour’ 1970s cookbook which I forget the name of…) for Queen of Puddings. It’s a wonderfully traditional British pudding, a concoction of milk and bread and jam and meringue. It may sound weird, but trust me, it’s fabulous.  You should make it.

Ingredients

425ml (3/4 pint) milk

2 egg yolks

1 egg

75g (3oz) fresh white breadcrumbs

37g (1.5oz) sugar

(For the topping)

Raspberry jam

2 egg whites

100g (4oz) sugar

Directions

– Preheat oven to 160c (325F)

– In a large saucepan, heat milk slightly and mix in the whole egg and the egg yolks. Fold in the breadcrumbs and the sugar.

– Pour into a baking dish and bake in a bain-marie for around 45 minutes, or until set.

– Spread the top with raspberry jam.

– Make the meringue topping: whisk the egg whites until very stiff, then gradually beat in half the sugar. Fold in the remaining sugar.

– Pile the meringue on top of the pudding.

– Flash bake at 200c (390F) for 3-4 minutes, or until the meringue peaks are lightly browned.

– Serve immediately, and enjoy immensely.

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 Just look at those layers…

 

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Hello! (again…)

Well hello there. Long time, no blog posts! An explanation of my absence seems a little bit pointless for the following reasons:

1) I definitely have not been doing this anywhere near long enough to have a dedicated, ardent following (the thought of which makes me chuckle…)

2) On the offchance that anybody was holding their breath for another post, they wouldn’t be looking too rosy after the last three or so months

3) The idea that I might think that anybody actually hangs off my every word still makes me cringe quite a lot

But, after all that, here’s a short explanation, just in case.

Since August when I last posted, a lot has happened. I hadn’t been home from University for long when I was offered a job (miraculously) and found myself moving to London.

The last few months have been a whirlwind of flat hunting, Ikea trips, adjusting to a daily commute (major shock to my country- girl system), a full-time job (major shock to my humanities student system) and just generally being plunged headfirst into being an adult (of sorts). I’ve assembled my first flat-pack furniture, had my first ever paycheck, paid my first lot of tax (!) and had my first irate conversation with a letting agent (I JUST WANT A SPARE SET OF KEYS… please?).

And, of course, blogging fell very much by the wayside.  Not helped by the fact that for a significant amount of this time I’ve been without internet (read: intense trauma).

But I’m determined to get back on the bandwagon. I soon found myself missing having a reason to be creative outside work. I need to have a reason to write, to think and to photograph stuff and make it all look nice. (Is it bad that I need to blog to remember to do those things? Maybe…) Taking time away, even if it wasn’t deliberate, has made me realise why I started ohtogoawandering in the first place. And that is that it’s first and foremost for myself.

It has always made me cringe to assume that I blog because anybody wants to read what I have to say… A cripplingly British sensibility perhaps, but there we go. And if anybody else happens to like to read my rambles, and see my photographs, then great! I don’t mean at all to sound ungrateful to that tiny band of followers that I do have, even if by this point you’ve seen this on your blogroll and been like ‘Who on earth is that…?’

So here’s to trying very hard to remember to blog, no matter how hectic pretending to be a functioning adult can be.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014

Set to music

‘In memory, everything seems to happen to music.’

These words are spoken by Tom, the character who narrates much of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, as he retells the story of the life with his mother and sister which he has left behind. I studied and performed part of the play during my A Levels, and this line always struck me as fairly spot on. In the play, Tom’s reflection is tinged with regret about the family he has forsaken: the apartment where much of the action takes place has a ‘Victrola’, a wind up phonograph which plays slightly grainy, mournful music. To me it always seemed that this alone could have been the music in Tom’s sad memories: an appropriately melancholy soundtrack.

I too have found that memories tend to play to music, and that, in turn, music tends to bring back memories. Sometimes that’s a lovely thing, but sometimes it has the unfortunate side effect of reminding us of things we’d really rather forget. So I thought I’d share some of my most potent memories in which music plays a central role, or to borrow from Williams, in which things ‘seem to happen to music’.

American Pie, Don McLean, 1976.

My Dad loves music, and growing up our house was always full of a huge variety of sound: a lot of the music I love I discovered through my father, and it’s one of the things I’m most grateful to him for. Don McLean’s American Pie album was one we’d always listen to when my brother and I were eating the porridge Dad had made us before we left for school, and as well as being an awesome song, this takes me back to school ties and the kitchen counter more than anything else. Every day we’d listen from the beginning of the album, and so we never got much further than the first two or three songs!

What’s Shakin’ on the Hill, Nick Lowe, 1990.

Another result of my Dad’s musical influence: I still struggle to listen to this one. It takes me right back to that feeling of being left out of something which you so desperately want to be included in: I think most people experience this at some point growing up, and it’s not a nice feeling! But I guess it always made me feel better that somebody as completely cool as Nick Lowe knew how I felt.

Kiss Me, Sixpence None the Richer, 1997.

During our last years at high school one of my best friends and I used to get off the school bus at the end of the day and head to her house to make milkshakes and dance around her blissfully deserted kitchen before her parents got home from work. I had my first heartbreak at about this point, which took a lot of getting over and I felt awful for a long time afterwards, but it was during one of these dancing sessions that I suddenly realised I felt truly happy again. Every time I hear it that surge of pure happiness and contentment always comes back strong.

You Didn’t Know Me When, Harry Connick  Jr, 1991.

When I first went to university, Dad wrote to me all the time. He also sent me several compilation CDs: this song was included on the first one, and reminds me of my first term in Oxford when everything was new and exciting and terrifying. I used to listen to it on my iPod walking through autumn wind and rain to the library.

Girls Chase Boys, Ingrid Michaelson, 2014.

I loved Ingrid Michaelson’s music from the moment I discovered it: this one is a bit different from her older stuff but I became completely addicted to it during the my last year at university. One of my best friends, who lived above me in college and was too fond of using her speakers VERY LOUDLY also fell in love with it and used to blast it and then text me saying ‘this is for you’, which always made me smile. A nice change given that her noise pollution usually elicited extreme grumpiness on my part! This take me back to writing my thesis, and living altogether in university with so many of my friends for the last time.

Which songs bring back memories most strongly for you?

And by the way, if you’ve read this far, the image at the top is of the noticeboard in my university room in first year: the things I stuck on it still bring back memories of the time that I chose them to decorate my walls. In case you were wondering. Which you probably weren’t. Totally worth reading this far for that, I know.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014