Easy Does It

Maybe you have sprinted enthusiastically into the New Year with a drive and force like no other and if that is the case then my hat goes off to you but if like me you are feeling a sense of easiness and a gentle start then this is ok.

According to the experts, a lot of people have approached the New Year with a slow introduction. Wanting to rest more and feel like they need time to approach their year with no rush or desire to race anywhere. As we are in the middle of Winter it makes sense to want to feel cosy, and feel like hibernating. The nights are dark, the weather can be super cold, and making yourself happy by lighting candles and eating something comforting is a nice way to live right now while you contemplate your year ahead.

As we have nearly reached a 2-year mark in the pandemic, it has had an effect on all of us in one way or another and the news being thrown at us daily that this virus isn’t leaving anytime soon is having an impact on the way we are planning our year. Lots of us have been forced to work from home again which can feel isolating if you were just getting used to being in an office and socialising at work.

With all this in mind, I do believe that giving yourself little treats or comforting things to enjoy is the key to getting through January. Reading positive things like the Positive News website offers a feeling of hope and keeps you informed of the amazing things happening across the world.

Instead of pushing yourself to start New Year resolutions that could have a short lifespan you could think about starting a journal. It has been proven scientifically that writing down moments and feelings actually improves your memory. Sitting and contemplating your day and how you feel can help improve mental health too as it allows you to focus on your self care, set goals, improve self-confidence and help reduce stress and anxiety. Journalling isn’t just for your thoughts though as you could write a fitness journal or a gratitude one to keep your mind in a positive light. There have been some great food and garden journals written and even sketch ones that can stretch your creative mind to jot down illustrations and doodles every day.  You could journal about your children and the little things they do to make you giggle and their milestones which we sometimes forget about as years go by. The song they loved at a certain age, the first album they bought, the first time they were inspired by someone in the public eye!

Whatever journal you are keen to explore remember there is no pressure, just drawing or writing a few words a day will feel beneficial and uplifting as well as a perfect chance to connect with your mind and your body.

Cold and wet is how I would describe Portsmouth at the moment which has inspired me to keep making nice hot drinks for that cosy feeling throughout the week. After a few rounds of tea, I tend to move on to caffeine-free drinks as I don’t like to consume too much caffeine in a day. Have a look at an old post from last year here with some great recipes for hot drinks to either make at home or take in a flask with you on your travels. At home, we have created a Hot Chocolate station in the living room for when we feel the need for something comforting. It might sound cheesy but this really has put smiles on our faces throughout the first week of January.

For me, I love pottering at home, making plans for my next interior project, big or small and I love to be in the kitchen. I like to look at recipes new and old and think about how they make me feel. This time of year we sometimes have leftover food that is overflowing into a new month where Christmas has gone and we are wondering what to do with these bits sitting in the cupboard.

I did quite a lot of baking over Christmas and really enjoyed the comfort of relaxing in the kitchen. If you have a lot of fruit leftover from making a Christmas cake you could use that to make a Bara Brith which is a lighter fruit loaf, using tea. I always like to use a good quality tea like Yorkshire Gold (as I love tea) but you can use any breakfast tea bags you have! it lasts a few days in an airtight tin and can be a nice afternoon treat to have with a cuppa while you are powering through work.

The recipe I use is my tried and tested Mary Berry one from years ago before she was back on the telly. It is so easy to make and I have been making this for well over 16 years, trust me it never fails.

BARA BRITH by Mary Berry

Ingredients

375g mixed dried fruit

250g soft light brown sugar

300ml 1/12 pint strong hot tea made with two tea bags

300g self raising flour

1 egg beaten

butter for greasing

1kg loaf tin

Instructions

Put the dried fruit and sugar in a bowl and pour over the hot tea.

Leave to soak overnight, or 8 hours.

Heat the oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2.

Line a loaf tin with baking parchment or use a loaf tin liner.

Add the flour and beaten egg and stir with a spoon till mixed through.

Bake for 1.5 hrs to 1.45 hrs or until it is well risen, firm to the touch, and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Peel of the baking paper or liner and serve sliced with or without butter.

If you have any Baileys left on your drinks trolley and are happily plodding through dry January you could make this Coffee and Baileys slab cake which is moist and is lovely to make for a long walk along the seafront or the countryside and even for a late afternoon treat. I made this a few times for friends and family and it received a good response.

Coffee and Baileys Cake 

I love the Roasting Tin books and if you are inspired you can buy them from Pigeon Books as they sell the whole range!

Ingredients 

175g unsalted butter and plus more for the tin.

160g soft light brown sugar.

3 free-range eggs.

175g self-raising flour.

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

2 teaspoons of good instant coffee (like Nescafe Azera) I used Nescafe Gold Blend and worked fine.

25ml boiling water

50ml Baileys

FOR THE ICING 

75g Icing sugar

30ml Baileys

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 160 oc fan/180oc/gas4

Line and butter a roasting tin or baking tin roughly 28cm x 22cm with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Then whisk in the eggs one by one. Stir in the flour and baking powder, then make up the coffee with boiling water and stir in the Baileys.

Tip this into the cake batter and gently stir until the mixture is smooth.

Transfer the cake batter into the lined tin, then bake for 25 mins until the cake has risen, firm to touch and a skewer comes out clean. Let it cool for 5 mins in the tin before gently lifting out, with its paper to cool. 

Once the cake is cool, mix the icing sugar and baileys together to make a thin pourable icing. Drizzle it over the cake and let the icing set before serving.

Everyone tends to go crazy on the cheese buying front around Christmas, don’t they? If you have lots of cheese left over you could use it to make some awesome toasties to have as a brunch or wrapped in foil to get out in nature. Did you know just 15 minutes in nature helps your mental health and is scientifically proven to lower your blood pressure? Amazing isn’t it? So step away from your desk, prepare a toastie and head out the door for a 15 minute power walk.

Look at these cheese toastie recipes here.

Finally, if you have some cheese and dried fruit left over, think about turning them into fatballs for your tweeting friends outside. This time of year is brutal for birds and they will love you for feeding them with these easy to make, high energy and nutritious fats that birds require to survive.

Just put grated cheese into a bowl, or grate the cheese. You can add some lard too and grate that but never add any cooking oils to bind ingredients as this can harm the feathers of birds.

I used the left over grated cheese just going out of date and then I added some bird seed and some left over sultanas.

Take a small handful and just keep pressing your palms together until the ball is formed. You can either use string in this process by building the ball around it or just make the balls and add to a feeder.

By helping our feathery little friends you could attract some lovely species and when the weather is rubbish it is great to admire and watch all the wild birds that might arrive and tuck into your homemade snacks!

Whether you are powering through January on a mission or just tootling along looking for inspiration and hope, I wish you a great year ahead. Look out for more posts coming on all cultural things happening, as well as wonderful artisans and creatives being featured on the website! Use the search tags on the right to explore more of the website on various topics and make sure to tune into the podcast.

Featured Image – Cosy Nook Candle Co which is a fab place to buy candles and from Devon.

Places to buy candles to keep the comforting vibe going

Compass Candles 

Cosy Nook Candle Co 

Coastal Remedy