A Season in Pictures: Winter 2022

I’ve tried not to make this post all about food, but it was hard, especially as I’ve found my happy place lately in the kitchen. Cooking is bringing me so much joy, and it’s a pleasant distraction from all the hurt in the world at the moment.  I think YouTuber Brogan Tate summed it up nicely at the start of one of her recent vlogs.  She said (in essence) that if this sort of content – reading books, playing video games, and eating teriyaki chicken – isn’t where you’re *at* right now, then come back to this later.  This is a safe space, a little slice of escapism, so please take only what you need from it.

Reading this Winter…

I’m on a bit of a roll with reading this year. I’ve been trying to read more before bed, and have finished 6 books so far!  Only 34 to go to meet my year’s target, hmm…

The highlight to date has been Olive by Emma Gannon. I’ve been super into her podcasts for a few years now, so thought it was about time I caught up with the books she has released too.  Olive is about a child-free woman trying to navigate some serious life decisions alongside her baby-obsessed friends.  It fits nicely between chick-lit and conversation-starter, so it would make a great book club read.

I’ve just moved onto one of her non-fiction reads about balancing our real identities with our ever-increasing online presence (made even more intense by the work from home push that Covid brought with it).

Gaming this Winter…

Machi Koro has been our favourite game of the year so far! Even though it has been out for a while, we have only just discovered it. Our friends kindly loaned us a copy so I could introduce it to Neil (who also loved it, despite hopelessly losing against me!).

We did play a newer game too, the much-hyped Ark Nova. We’ve been seeing this one sell online for ridiculous prices, so our expectations were sky high! I can’t say it has become a new favourite, but I loved the theme and the idea of building my own zoo. I think Dinosaur World has the edge in this area though (cos, you know, dinosaurs!). The scoring system was very interesting – I don’t think I’ve ever lost a game with minus points before!

I’ve basically not touched PC gaming for months now, opting instead to enjoy all the easy portability of my Nintendo Switch. It has meant I’ve had my games close enough to me that I’ve actually been able to finish some!

Pikmin 3 Deluxe was one of Neil’s Christmas presents to me, and I didn’t touch another game for a fortnight until I had completed it. It had everything I love in a game, though I’m not sure how much I enjoyed the stress of the setting sun, and seeing all my left-behind Pikmin get devoured by night creatures!

Spiritfarer was another game I lost myself in this winter. Emotionally stirring story, open world exploration, crafting, cooking, spirits and a touch of mystery… it was brilliant.

Life this Winter…

Life is good at the moment, though there is an awful lot being juggled! I’m usually happiest when I’m feeling productive – a nice balance of projects at work and time off for dog walks and seeing friends/family.

I have had a few brain blips though. I did have a sinus infection recently, which left me stuck inside nauseous and fatigued for the week.  As introverted as I am, I don’t do well lying on the sofa for too long, so it did give me the chance to use my friend’s amazing ‘void brain’ stickers for the first time in my planner (silver lining, I suppose!). We always referred to lapses of our mental health as ‘void brain’, and I think it is really important to mark these moments in my planner. It is a relief to see they are few and far between these days, and tracking them means I can see patterns and triggers.  If you’re interested in purchasing some stickers from her, comment below and I’ll put you in touch (her Etsy store is a work in progress).

Neil and I have been hitting the house hunting hard. We have a lot of requirements – a garden for two dogs, an office for Neil, an extra room for guests (or future family plans), space for our hobbies (board gaming, VR, books, 3D printing). We’re not asking for much during this crazy inflated post-pandemic housing market, eh? We’ve put in two unsuccessful offers so far, and one successful one that later fell through, and have viewed about half a dozen houses. It’s been fun at times (mooching around other people’s houses) and not too fun at other times (a stormy powercut in the middle of our video call with the bank).

It has been more of an emotional rollercoaster than I expected, but I’m powered by the thought of having a home to call my own.

I’ve made another step towards tackling some of my health problems, and have my first ever hearing aid! It’s been quite life-changing already, and I even get to control the settings with a phone app (how futuristic is that?!). There is a lot I am still adjusting to, like how I sometimes get feedback when my hair moves against it (ouch), and how it seems to be triggering regular headaches.

There are some bits still to smooth out, but the biggest thing I need to learn is the confidence to communicate my needs now I’m ‘officially’ hard of hearing. Just the other day a quiet customer at work wouldn’t remove her mask so I could hear her, despite telling her I was hard of hearing – developing the tools to stand up for myself in those situations will be my next challenge.

Chilly days inside has meant I have been busy crafting again. I made a design from an embroidery kit my sister bought me for Christmas (it now lives in the kitchen around a jar lid)…

… as well as trying my hand at candlemaking! Neil was determined to start making our own candles, as we were spending so much money on Yankee candles from the supermarket! Living in a very animal-filled house, we do like the refreshing fragrance of candles to mask the inevitable wet dog smell that wafts about sometimes. We’re certainly no experts, but we’ve really enjoyed mixing our own scents and playing with the wax (though the waiting for the wax to melt part is pretty dull).

The me of ten years ago would never have believed that one of my favourite activities is cooking. And cold, wintery months call for warm, homecooked food! (Drool face).

Teriyaki chicken is a regular success (messy plating included), and we’ve become pretty expert at cooking perfect medium-rare steak.

I have also enjoyed other people cooking for me too. My friends and I have been working our way around the Japanese retaurants of Devon. This is part of the delicious meal I had recently in Koishii, Plymouth:

I also tried Chinese steamed pork buns for the first time… many of them (my god, they are delicious).

I had this really wholesome experience a few months ago, where a couple of us from work met virtually on a chilly Sunday morning to snuggle on our respective sofas and watch Grave of the Fireflies at the same time. A Covid-friendly watch-a-long! Despite being a huge Ghibli fan, I had conveniently put off the film I knew would hurt my soul, but agreed to watch it with friends just one group chat away. It was the most wholesome way to spend a Sunday morning, though I did need a serious pick-me-up afterwards!

In terms of writing news… I’ve now submitted The Reapers to potential agents! You can follow my publishing journey here. I have 0 expectations, I’m just staying open-minded, quietly hopeful, and enjoying dipping my toe in this mad competitive literary world. One thing I am itching to do now though is to start a new story. I have a rom-com idea for adults brewing, which couldn’t be further than what The Reapers is!

Lastly, this is absolutely worth a mention… I have joined the Encanto fan girl club! I watched the Disney film just recently, and every night since in the kitchen I submit Neil to a playthrough of Surface Pressure and We Don’t Talk About Bruno-no-noooo 🎵  It’s interesting to see a Disney musical do something a little different, where the villain is “just” the overwhelming expectations of your family and community.

How’s life lately for you?

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