The Best of the New Year

Beech tree leaves

Well, we have come out the other side of Christmas and Romjul. I love this point of hibernation in the year, curling up by the fire after getting wet and muddy outside, eating plenty of stollen, pancakes, roast potatoes and such. It feels so good to be quiet and still, to slowly assemble plans for the new year. We exchanged a lot of locally-made or Etsy-sourced gifts this year, so I’m busy searching silk knitting patterns and starting new scribbles in beautiful notebooks.

Etsy NY

For the third year, Tom and I are assembling an alphabet year, choosing for each letter something to do or remember. I’ll be adding a couple things I didn’t quite manage in 2015, like Run 20k (hello turned ankle on Christmas morning) or Wild Camp (how did that not happen?!) Both are things that I am most excited about for the new year. Tom gave me the most exciting gift: a weekend bushcraft course. I plan to full-on Grylls my weekend; make fires, build shelters and learn knife skills. No way will I be missing wild camping for a second year.

Looking down at Rolo in the woods

So, some repeat appearances due for Alphabet 16, with plenty of new ones, most jotted down on New Years Eve, but also some that I’ve been ruminating on for a while. I’ll share my Alphabet 16 list with you next week. Meanwhile, why not jot down your own?

Summer Snaps

Summer holiday snapshots photo collage

It’s been a long luscious summer filled with very little screen time and plenty of fresh air. So many blog posts have popped in to my head, only to be discarded in favour of a walk in the last light. We’ve explored beaches in all kinds of weather, been mountain biking for the first time and walked almost every track in the forest. It’s been a summer close to home, appreciating our local landscape and keeping our eyes peeled for signs reading Land For Sale.

My electronic neglect has rekindled my love of paper and pencil. I’ve picked up old notebooks and bought new art materials, inspired by Jennie Maizel’s most marvellous Sketchbook Club. I love her achievable projects and am delighting in filling every page with shape and colour. I’m cooking up some more offscreen papery plans with Kate from A Playful Day, which I can’t wait to share with you next week.

With the recent rain I’ve got my run back on. Walking in the rain is just no fun, but splashing through puddles at top speed is a different matter. I’m excited about this change to the season. I know I’m not alone in relishing the first golden leaves and chill in the air, even if it means the return to busy schedules for many.

With this, the final week before school starts, we are back to it, making ready for the madness of a new term. It’s been an adjustment and I’ve struggled to get my work head on, still slipping in to August habits (lie-ins, long lunches and the odd afternoon nap.) One August habit I’m hoping to hold on to is my daily yoga. Somehow aiming for nothing more than to turn up at my mat has made it achievable. I think it fully justifies buying one of these.

This week is a gentle but firm nudge, tipping us headlong into the term as we glance back at snaps of this perfect lazy summer.

Cowgirl for a Day

Wendy on Elvis the horse

Rusty horse riding photo collage

When I mentioned to my Grama that I’d like to do some horse riding whilst visiting her this summer, I had no idea she’d go and book a trip for us all to stay on a ranch.

For two days we had our fill of ranch life, complete with horses, wranglers and a hint of NRA support. (This corner of California is definitely a far reach from the slick silicon valley, beach bikini babes, or 70s throwback hippies lining the coast. And when you think of the size of the state, the variety is no surprise.)

We were saddled up and rambling through deserted mountain tracks before you could say ‘yee haw cowboy’ (no points for guessing my cowboy knowledge is entirely based on Toy Story).

Rusty outside the horse riding office

Wendy standing by a horse

Given my Mum’s childhood of riding horses, I can’t believe I’ve never ridden with her before. I loved hearing her stories of wild horses, bareback riding and parading her horse through town. She looked so comfortable with these beautiful animals, I felt a pang of the classic eight year old’s yearning to have a horse of my own (as a child I had to settle for a hamster!)

Rusty chilling by the pool

Rusty panning for gold in the river

When we weren’t riding we were living a deliciously all-american cliche: ghost stories by the fire, complete with s’mores and popcorn, feasting and laughing with the other guests, and even panning for gold. Given what I found I don’t think I’ll be a millionaire any time soon…

View up at redwood trees

A Note from Humboldt

Humboldt holiday photo collage

Summer days spent at Grama’s are always wrapped in that delicious lazy disregard for time, where the big event of the day is going for brunch, and the only decision is which old friend we’re going to visit.

I adored my two weeks in California, so quickly settling back in to the American twang that I worked hard to soften as a young kid new to England. It felt good to drive on those redwood-lined roads, passing familiar signs to Arcata and Trinidad. I soaked up on family time, be it out on the porch with a beer, or down at the logger bar with a tequila.

Humboldt holiday photo collage

I dipped in mountain streams, cycled the back roads of my mum’s home town, and developed a serious addiction to root beer floats. We baked pies, swapped stories and watched the seals and otters in the bay.

It felt so good to reconnect with my family out there, and to enjoy the good aspects of American living. Lots of sweet memories to hold on to as Autumn falls in to our laps.

Selfie of Wendy, Rusty and Marlene

Back on the Bike

Rusty sitting by a bike at Arcata Plaza

My bike was in the shop for my first few days here.  It felt so good to finally pick it up and whizz down the hill in to Arcata, its streets lined with colourful indie shops and the bay stretched out beyond.

Mum and I sat on the plaza and watched the world go by. Nowhere else but Humboldt could I imagine this mix of characters, who fit so naturally amongst the redwood trees, with the smell of grass and good coffee.

Quiet California road

I ride home on the long flat stretch past the lumber yards and pine dust.  The back road to Blue Lake passes through a small valley surrounded by redwoods.

Deer amble across the road, blue jays and swallows swoop amongst the old barns and telegraph wires. The farm gardens grow tall with hollyhocks, sunflowers and tomatoes.

It is ridiculously picturesque. And it’s the route to the nearest town. Not such a bad holiday commute.

Old barn on a quiet road