Tag Archives: Women’s Institute

In a Vase on Monday – tea and biscuits

It was Canada Day last week (1st July). celebrating the foundation of the nation in 1867 – it reminded me to look out a vase my former boss Bonnie gave me a few years ago.  The connection is she is Canadian, and the vase was has a famous Canadian landmark.  I have to admit I looked it up, as I’d forgotten it’s called the CN Tower (553 metres 1815 feet). It’s the ninth highest free-standing building in the world.  The vase is abstract and not to scale 😉

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I picked lisianthus, lavender and a chive flower.  I am really suprised I’ve managed to keep the lisianthus alive and thriving. But, their common name gives it away prairie gentian. I’ve been watering the pots and key parts of garden every night – luckily I find watering plants very restful and mindful.  I’d really like some overnight rain though.

The Brits reading this blog, will know that temperatures have been over 25 degrees for over 2 months, and only two small rain showers here in Manchester.  The huge moorland fires at Winter Hill near Bolton and at Dovestones, near Oldham are only a few miles away – the acrid smoke smell hung across the city centre for a couple of days.  The firefighters, Mountain Rescue and the Army still dampening down the peat.  Grim.

Please have a look at Rambling in the Garden hosted by Cathy where people from around the world post their links of the flowers and plants they’ve picked from their gardens.  She has a riot of purple this week – inspiring for me as I love purple plants in the garden.

I think I’ve written a couple of times about Bonnie on my blog. She was a huge mentor in my career, and I often think ‘what would Bonnie do?‘ She has a brain the size of the universe but is always kind, helpful and supportive to everyone she worked with whatever their role and expertise.  She’s still missed around work – She’s happily retired now, walking the hills of Yorkshire and bird watching.  I mentioned her in this blog:

Tea tasting with Cottonopolis WI – July 2018
We had a great meeting hearing all about tea – and tasting some awesome brews.  Marcy from Parched Tea in Manchester came to speak at our meeting – we do our best to support local business and charities.  As well as selling quality black and green teas, she has developed teas for Manchester central library and the Bronte museum in Haworth.

20180703_192535She even has a kettle that has different temperatures – green teas prefer 70 degrees not 100 degrees unlike black teas, like oolong.

I don’t think I’ve written much about my tea drinking on the blog. I love earl grey, lady greys sunshine greys, Empress grey, in fact, most gunpower teas – all drunk black.  I think you might see a theme here – I’m lactose intolerant (I found out over 30 years ago).  My Chap loves strong builders tea with minimal milk – strong enough to stand a spoon in 😉

Our competition this month was to make something flavoured with tea or coffee. I decided on earl grey biscuits, as they’re simple to make.

Earl Grey and Lemon Biscuits

Here’s the recipe – it’s adapted from an American one so it uses cups – Canadians tend to use cup measurements too.  I adapted it a bit as I couldn’t find the vanilla extract.

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) demerara sugar
  • 1 cup (220 grams) Butter
  • 2 cups  plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • about 10 drops of lemon juice (either fresh or bottled) or vanilla extract – according to taste.
  • 1tsp water to help bind the dough
  • 2 Earl Grey teabags – finer the leaves the better.

Notes

  • I used M&S Empress Grey as one of my favourites. Bagged tea is finer so it is better than loose tea for the dough mixture. You could grind loose tea in a pestle and mortar.
  • leaving the dough to cool in the fridge will help the tea infuse into the mixture too.

Method – takes about half an hour

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C or 350­°F.
  2. Mix caster sugar and demerara sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Add in flour, salt, and tea leaves.
  4. Continue to mix until a soft dough forms – it will be flaky and lumpy but
  5. Roll dough into a long sausage shape on parchment paper.
  6. Chill in the fridge for about half an hour rolled
  7. Cut into 3cm thick round shapes and place on baking tray.
  8. OR you can roll out about 3cm thick and cut with a round biscuit cutter.
  9. Bake on a parchment paper on a baking tray for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Amazing – I won! and all the biscuits were eaten – they didn’t look like much but the definitely tasted nice.   Not the best picture as they disappeared so quickly.  I’ll definitely make them again.

biscuits 3Cottonopolis WI meet on the first Tuesday of the month from 730pm at Halle St Michael’s on George Leigh Street, Ancoats Manchester.   Our next meeting is on 7th August when we will be going on a history walk around Ancoats and a quiz.  Visitors always welcome and we’ll have cake.  We’re a friendly bunch.

 

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Are you doing any baking this week? or is it just TOO hot?  I’ll be spending time in the garden, when I’m not watching the tennis, and watering pots in the evening.  I’m going on a couple of courses this week, so I’ll report back on that soon. 

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xx xx xx

 

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My ‘Mindful’ Garden – I’m in the moment

To Dwell is to Garden – Martin Heidegger, (1889-1976) German philosopher

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Physicist and Nobel Prize winner for General Theory of Relativity

With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment – Nhat Hanh (1926 – he’s 91!), Buddhist Monk

For me, Gardening is mindful, being in the moment. It doesn’t have to be me ‘doing’ things, it’s about the scents, the rustle of leaves, the birds, the hum of lawn movers in the distance. For me, when I’m in the garden, I’m in the moment – I find watering, deadheading and weeding relaxing – and planting too. For me, it’s about peace and recharging.

About my garden – it’s small, it’s rubbly soil and north facing; the neighbour’s have huge conifers, which make it even more shady at the end of the garden.

I love it – our small, sanctuary from the hussle and bustle of the world

I’m content in the garden.

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Before I bought my house – Summer 2009

In high summer 2016… some of the conifers on the right have gone now – but those on the left are even bigger 😦

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My garden is a work in progress – like me. I’m 51 – I definitely feel I’m in a new chapter with My Chap (my new husband) holding my hand, metaphorically too. To be fair, he does all the digging and heavy work as I have osteoarthritis. It’s a team effort in the garden.

and there’s always time to eat and relax.

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Many pots planted (and watered), and always Yoda – any season… Yoda (and Star Wars have appeared many times on this blog).

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I love lavender too – it figured very heavily at our wedding in September 2017 (it was our ‘confetti’ too) I have about 20 different plants around the front garden which gets sun all day.

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Lavender and a cabbage white butterfly

Many crocuses and violas too. Always something for the birds too.

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It’s not all purple flowers though – there’s lots of colour around the garden. Orange and yellow life my mood in Spring. I love tulips too.

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Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. Luther Burbank, American Botanist

Meanwhile, you’ll find me in the garden, drinking Earl Grey or a Pimms… you’re welcome to join us if you’re in the area 😉

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What do you do that’s mindful?

Originally, I wrote about what my garden means for me for the April competition at Cottonopolis Women’s Institute. We were asked to suggest our mindful activities, there was a vast range including knitting/crochet, sewing, baking, art or drawing, listening to music, and a few people like me loved walking or being in the great outdoors.

Our speaker in April was Deb Connor – an all-round star who led some mindfulness exercises and stretches. She’s a trained mindfulness teacher, an acupuncturist and is a vegan too.

I’ve been doing mindfulness for a couple of years now – which combined with over 10 years of yoga has really helped my mental wellbeing. I’ll write about this another to

Women’s Institute – Cottonopolis WI

We have such alot of fun at WI meetings, in June we made beauty products from lavender, peppermint and coffee skin scrubs.

Our next meeting on Tuesday 3rd July (730 at St Micheal’s George Leigh Street, Ancoats, Manchester) is tea tasting. I can’t wait.

If you’re local come along…

Let me know in the comments what you do that’s mindful? Do you have a garden? What does it mean to you?

Carpe Diem

love Bec xxx

April #BlurtSelfCareathon from Blurt Foundation – Join in?

Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.
– Deborah Day, Author Be Happy Now

I’m really looking forward to joining with The Blurt Foundation #blurtselfcareathon in April. I really enjoyed doing #blurtmerrycalmness it’s helped my #mindfulness practice, helped my #wellbeing and finding words and photos to represent each word.

It will mostly run on Instagram, but I thought I’d do some over view posts here too.

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I’ve got lots of ideas of what pictures to take and what I want to write about to fit with the daily theme. I find that having a concept to think about each day, makes me think more mindfully. I do know that taking photos, being outside and being in the moment helps me enormously with my anxiety and living with chronic pain from arthritis

Background

I’ve done a couple of these photo prompts before:

  • December 2017 – #blurtmerrycalmness
  • January 2018 – #savouringJanuary@gabrielletreanor – Gabrielle writes about wellbeing, slowing down and self care, being in the moment, mindfulness advice for overthinkers (like me). I really enjoyed this photo prompt too but I’ll write about this another time.

Want to get involved with #blurtselfcareathon?

I’ve been discussing the #blurtselfcareathon on a peer support group on Facebook and some people were a bit stuck about what photos to take and what to write about.
So I thought I’d write a post showing some of my photos for the December prompts. I hope you find it helpful.

My advice

  1. You don’t need to post every day – there’s no pressure with this.
  2. If you want to keep things more private there are closed facebook pages – or just email yourself
  3. It’s your selfcare – do it your way 🙂
  4. It’s can be a good idea to look back to see what you wrote – and see how far you’ve come.
  5. in some ways these photos prompts are a bit like a diary/journal
  6. For me taking photos are part of my self care but they don’t need to look ‘instagramable’ or ‘touched up’. It really doesn’t matter what photo you use to represent your ideas.
  7. have fun with it 🙂
  8. go at your pace – catch up or skip days if you want to.
  9. Have a look around the hashtag

Here’s the prompts for December 2017 – #blurtmerrycalmness

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In a Vase on Monday: Violet (not Blue) Monday in Manchester 

‘Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk https://www.samaritans.org/missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary’ Professor Brene Brown, University of Houston – a social work academic with expertise in courage, vulnerability and empathy.

It’s not #BlueMonday in Manchester, or anywhere else, today; it was made up to sell holidays and products. It did reminded me of Blue Monday by New Order, one of my favourite Manchester bands. Happy memories of gigs over the years too. But all the emphasis about negativity with ‘Blue Monday’ certainly doesn’t help people, so I liked the idea of #brewmonday promoted by the Samaritans (www.samaritans.org/)- have a brew with friends and talk.

It has been raining heavily most of the day, but the clouds cleared briefly, so I dashed round the garden looking for flowers, the hellebores are showing no signs of flowering, there were just a few shaggy flowers on the perennial purple wallflower. There was just a solitary viola tucked away – I decided to pair it with an small bottle which contained Manchester Gin, the flower still has raindrops on it. The quote jumped out at me too – sums up my thinking on looking for the positive in small moments. I try to look for the positive, in the small things in life, as well as the big things.

I’ve had violas appear many times in my Vases on a Monday, we had violas at our wedding too. Oh and by the way, my favourite Manchester-made Gin is Manchester Raspberry – lovely especially with fresh raspberries obviously :-).

Do have a look at Rambling in the Garden where Cathy hosts In A Vase on a Monday – where gardening bloggers from around the world add links to their vases. Always beautiful, interesting or unusual – including plenty of southern hemisphere bloggers who brighten my days in the depths of Winter here.

Adventures around Manchester this week

We had are first meeting of the year at Cottonopolis WI (Ancoats, Manchester) I paid my subs, voted on the resolution shortlist, and heard about the activities for the year. It was lovely to see everyone and catch up on news. I didn’t finish my piece of bunting but nearly there – I’m very slow at sewing. I’m looking forward to more adventures #IamWI #InspiringWomen.

Join us for a brew and cake if you’re local. We’re going to meet on first Tuesday evening of the month – so it will be #brewtuesday not #brewmonday, but you get the idea. I

I’m continuing with #selfcare, daily mindfulness, and yoga classes twice a week. I’m reading more about selfcare too. We’ve been walking every day despite the weather.

Instagram #savouringJanuary2018

DAY 14: JOY. There’s joy in the ordinary days (#onehouroutside a walk around our neighbourhood) and the unique days (our wedding day last year). But as Brene mentions, don’t just chase the extraordinary….

15 January 2018 – Our shoes from our wedding day and on our walk around Monton

DAY 15: BEAUTY I chose the photos below, revelling in the beauty of flowers in small places and vast. I need time outdoors, in the garden, in the woods, in the wild countryside and by the sea. I’ve said this many times in this blog – it’s vital to my selfcare and my routine.

We visit Bodnant often; we got engaged there in June 2016 in the Rose Garden. Bodnant is owned by the National Trust. It is near Conwy, in North Wales. It’s a stunning garden anytime of year, with views over Snowdonia.

15 January 2018 – Bodnant Gardens, Colwyn Bay – beauty of flowers in small and grand places

I’m enjoying following #savouringJanuary2018 as it’s reminding me of what matters to me, goals and time to reflect. I’m still working on my CompassYear goals – small steps.

It’s not too late to get involved in the photo prompts with Gabrielle Treanor on Instagram (@gabrielletreanor).

See what I pick next… For Day 16: OLD…..

Follow me on Twitter: @becinmonton Instagram: @becinmonton

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Monday 15th January is however, Martin Luther King Day, in the USA (his birthday), so I’ll leave you with an MLK quote which resonates with me…

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do keep moving forward’ Martin Luther King (1929-1968)

We all need to continue with Martin Luther King’s work…

Keep going, keep moving, keep growing,

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What are you planning this week?

The weather is looking horrible here in the North West so I don’t think there will be much gardening – but I’ll be crafting.

Carpe Diem,

Love Bec xx xx xx

Spread kindness like confetti – International Kindness Day 

Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world. Annie Lennox – singer 

If you’ve been anywhere near the Internet, or the news, today you can’t possibly have missed that it’s International Kindness Day.  I don’t know about you but I try to be kind to people, ‘stand in their shoes’, ‘treat people as you’d like to be treated yourself’… I don’t always get kindness back, but hey that’s their problem not mine.  But, what I do know is being kind, helps me be a better person.  It also helps when the world around us looks dark, whether it’s Trump, Brexit or people breaking laws.

13 November 2017 – Spread kindness like confetti

One of the best things I found today was the 2017 Kindness Advent Calendar from Helen at Make Today Make Today Happy. Have a look!

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Happiness – one week & five things that helped #3

The weather took a major turn for the worse this week (12-19 May 2017) – it’s hurled down for most of the week, the garden certainly needed it – everything was really parched. But, all the rain meant I didn’t get into the garden much, let alone anywhere else. I’ve also been feeling very tired, and arthritis pain is high.  However, I’m continuning to note down activities, people and things that make me happy or I’m grateful for.

As ever, major thanks to Suzy from www.fromthefringe.co.uk who hosts this weekly gratitude link up.  I think she’ll recognise the lighthouse, as she lives around the corner from me 🙂 Also to Emma from www.misspond.co.uk who inspired me to blog and also writes regular posts on Happiness.  Thank you ladies. One of the things, I love about blogging is meeting (usually virtual) new friends, finding a community and developing a network of people all around the world. I’ve been very grateful for them all these last couple of years.

Here are five things that helped bring me happiness this week:

1. Hen Do arrangements 

Officially, according to tradition (recent tradition, mind you), I shouldn’t be organising my own hen do – but I am.  It’s because I have friends from various parts of my life work, locals, friends from uni, women’s institute and friends I met for random reasons over the last 30 years. My two UK bridesmaids have a lot on in their lives at the moment. One lives in London and is doing a Masters. The other is local to me in Lancashire, but she has a very hectic family life, busy life and her own 25th wedding anniversary do to arrange.   I thought I’d get the ball rolling so I asked everyone what they might want to do… So I’ve done a survey – I want to give people a chance to get to know each other, potter around Manchester, and also have some fun.  No dressing up, no tackiness, no clubbing (I’m too nackered). I am quite sure an Afternoon Tea will be involved 🙂

2. A visit to Salford Angels Women’s Institute 

I’ve been a member of Cottonopolis WI (since it started in January 2015), we meet in Ancoats, just north of Manchester city centre, on the first Wednesday of the month (7.30pm). Do come along if you’re a local. There’s always cake 🙂

I’ve written a few times about WI means to me; the fun, camping, adventures and excellent meetings and speakers – it’s most definitely not jam and Jerusalem – it’s been a campaigning organisation since its inception in 1915, lobbying for equal pay, The WI were founding members of both the ‘fair trade’ and ‘Keep Britain Tidy’.

One of the great things about all the new WI’s around Great Manchester is we do lots of joint activities and people attend other WI meetings – so I know ladies all over the city.  So on Thursday I went off to see the Salford Angels and had a lovely evening, with plenty of cake.

3. A walk around our neighbourhood – Monton in Salford

My Chap and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood after we’d had our tea. It’s something we do often in the summer evenings. We have a good look at all the flowers and plants in front gardens, noticing plants for our garden.  It was lovely to chat about this and that, nothing complicated or heavy, just a good chat and a laugh or two.

We are lucky to live in Monton, in Salford. It’s very green place, the Bridgewater Canal is at the end of my street, Worsley Woods are a mile, or so away, and there’s a couple of golf courses (not that we play – but there are many footpaths).  There’s even a parkrun at the end of our street.

It has a lighthouse that’s 30 miles from the North Sea (it’s really a garden shed) – just another reason why Monton is a bit quirky.

Red and white lighthouse, with two canal barges by the Bridgewater Canal

19 May 2017 – the lighthouse by the Bridgewater Canal, at Monton, Salford -30 miles from the sea!

4. Lunch with my pal C

I had a great time catching up with my good pal, hearing all her news and discussing my news – it really lifted my spirits. She’s a good listener. I’ve known C for over 12 years, we shared an office at work. She’s an IT geek and I’m not 🙂 Our birthdays are a couple of days apart, we usually go out to celebrate our birthdays, involving cocktails. Annual trips to Manchester Christmas markets, days out to Dunham Massey. Shes part of the Cottonopolis WI posse too – and obviously, she and her husband will be at our wedding in September.

5. My Gardening magazines arrived

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know I love our garden and gardening.  Ive been a bit lax about take part in In a Vase on Monday recently, but I’ve got my eye on some margarites for next week. Bloggers get involved from all around the world. Their beautiful flowers lift my mood when I’m feeling low. This link hosted by Cathy at:

This week my Gardeners’ World and Royal Horticultural Society Magazine arrived. I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking through deciding what we might plant, or if money and space were available. The Gardeners’  World is very accessible for beginner gardeners like me, the RHS one helps with plant pests, plants that might suit our shady, north facing soggy back garden – and Latin plant names too.

We’ve been to RHS Tatton Park garden show most years (we are going again this year), but I only got around to joining RHS last year.  I can’t tell you how excited I am that the 5th RHS garden Bridgewater will be a mile or so from our house up the canal (hence it’s name). It’s great for Salford in so many ways, not least employment and training. Watch this space, as it develops – work has started, it opens in 2019 – the plants need time to grow 🙂

What have you been grateful for this week?

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xxx

This weekly gratitude post covers:

  • Week 3 – Friday 12 May – Thursday 19 May 2017
lavender in pinkster gin bottle with autumn fruit jam

In a Vase on Monday (not) – luscious lavender and jam at Christmas 

As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul. Anonymous

Merry Christmas everyone – I’m late to the party as usual for in A Vase on Monday; I’ve been wiped out with flu all week confined to bed, which messed our Christmas plans a bit.

It feels a bit odd writing about lavender at this time of year – it has been a very odd year in many ways – and I don’t just mean the weird weather.  I’ve been back at work over a year, in a new role too, but it takes just about all my energy to do my job and run the basics of life – hence my rather intermittent blogging.  Thank goodness for my Chap who is truly wonderful and takes care of me every day.

Lavender is one of my favourite plants – I adore its scent as well as the flowers.  I have about 15 plants around my sunny, front garden – varieties include Munstead, Hidcote, Vera (White) – They thrive in the fairly rubbly soil.  I’ve got some other lavender in the back garden in pots on the deck – under the conifers that overhang from my neighbour’s garden.  So as you can imagine I was thrilled to find some still flowering in  December – despite the very wet and windy weather we’ve had in Manchester.  I picked these on 23 December 2016.

lavender in pinkster gin bottle with autumn fruit jam

In a Vase on Monday – lavender in v small gin bottle with my prize winning Autumn fruit jam

I’ve written about lavender quite a few times on the blog, but I think this is the first time the flowers have appeared in a vase alone.

As usual, I am joining in with Cathy from Rambling in the Garden who hosts this link up – she has a simple, beautiful, vase of snowberries and rosehips – it looks very wintry and festive.  I do love looking at flowers, plants and vases from around the world – it definitely brightens by days – and my mission for next year is to pick, photo and post more often about the plants from my garden – and be more prompt on Mondays even though Cathy says it doesn’t matter if I’m late.

Women’s Institute prize winning jam – yes really
My jam won ‘tastiest jam’ at our  Women’s Institute weekend away in September.  I am staggered still, as it’s only my second attempt at jam and there was ALOT of competition. We had a wonderful time in the Cheshire countryside at a Scout camp at our Big Weekender – do have a look at the photos :-). I was very chuffed to win this badge 🙂

apple blackberry raseberry jam

Autumn fruit jam (blackberry, apple, raspberry, blueberry, red currant) – a prize winning jam


Recipe – Autumn Fruit Jam

I used 900g mixed soft fruit which included:

  • about 300g v tart blackberries from garden
  • two big Braeburn apples – cored, peeled and sliced
  • about 200g blueberries – only about 20 from garden, most were from a well known supermarket 😉
  • about 250g frozen raspberries from the garden
  • handful v v tart red currants from my garden

and 800g  jam sugar (this has more pectin)

Method

  • I put blackberries and apple in first in my maslin pan, added the raspberries and blueberries and topped up with redcurrants.
  • I added the sugar slowly and ensured it melted first, then added a bit more.
  • I simmered and stirred, everything slowly stunned to mush.
  • Keep going til you get a ‘rolling boil’ – the liquid went darker and the bubbles look thicker.
  • To check the jam will set I used the frozen plate method
  • put plate in the freezer – take plate out when ‘rolling boil’ – splodge a blob of jam on the plate – push it to see if jam wrinkles then it’s ready
  • I’ve also got a jam thermometer but i prefer the plate method.
  • My chap ladled the jam into the jars – jam funnel much easier.
  • Jars and lids were washed and ‘cooked’ in oven to sterilise them.
  • pour the jam in when still warm 🙂
  • I’ve made chutney for years but jam is MUCH quicker to do.
lavender in a very small Pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a very small Pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a small pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a small pinkster gin bottle 

If you’re wondering why I picked a Pinkster gin bottle – it’s because it’s flavoured with raspberries 🙂 and these bottles are from gin explorer boxes that come monthly for my Chap from me. It’s a really great way to try out new gins.

The Christmas gin fairy might just have brought a full size bottle too – shame I’m still feeling far too rough to drink anything apart from peppermint tea.  But it’s not all been bad, I’ve been checking out wedding photographers. I’m on the mend slowly, but that’s been the recurring theme of 2016.

I hope you’ve all have a lovely, relaxing Christmas break and that 2017 is a really good year for you.

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xx

 

*I wasn’t asked to write about ‘gin explorer’ and I pay full subscription price for each box.