Resolutions

1. Relax more. In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t really relax much. Even when I’m sitting down, my legs are jiggling away – I don’t even notice until whoever I’m sitting next to whacks me! When I’m off work sick, I see it as a great opportunity to get annoying household tasks done, like washing the bathroom floor and cleaning out the fridge, rather than lying on the sofa like normal people. I feel the need to jampack my weekends and nights after work with seeing places and people and all that results in is making me feel stressed and exhausted rather than enriched and fulfilled. So, this year I am going to force myself to relax more. If I don’t get to see that play this week, it’s ok! If I can’t manage to fit in catch ups with all my friends at least once a month, they’ll still know I love them! If I don’t get time to swing by the latest exhibition at my favourite museums, tant pis! I’ll survive! I need more tea, sit downs and biscuits in my life. I don’t want to underestimate the importance and pleasures gained from relaxtion. Even if it does have to be enforced!

2. Write more. Writing my blog brings me so much pleasure. I love the process of setting down my thoughts on whatever it is I’m writing about; crafting the words, creating the imagery, bringing to life my feelings and emotions on the page. I also love the interaction with those of you who are so kind as to enjoy reading what I write. That is such a joy. However, I want to branch out and write more. I have always wanted to write a novel, or a book of essays, or a biography, but I let my fear of failure hold me back. This year I am not going to let that happen. In all the spare time I’m going to have from relaxing more, I’m going to make a concerted effort to plan and write something that could go somewhere…and I’m not going to hit the delete button on anything I write!

3. Read more classics. I watched the wonderful BBC adaptation of Great Expectations over Christmas. I’ve known about it airing for ages as my one and only claim to fame is that my brother in law is Douglas Booth’s (Pip) personal trainer – and I found myself mesmerised by the setting, the characters and the brilliant storytelling. It reminded me of how much I love his writing, but I haven’t picked anything of his up since finishing university in 2007. Also, as you know, last year I re-read Persuasion, and that was the first Austen I’d read in quite some years too. I have let my reading of the classics slide significantly since leaving my official studies of English Literature behind and I want to put a stop to that right now. 2012 is going to be the year of Austen, of Dickens, of Bronte, of Trollope, and of Gaskell. I can’t wait! (I will be starting Mansfield Park at the weekend, by the way – get ready if you want to join in!)

4. Cook more adventurously. I always make my dinners from scratch but they’re never particularly inventive – roast potatoes, some form of vegetable, some form of meat, or sometimes I’ll go crazy and make a lasagne or a toad in the hole or a broccoli cheese or something along those lines, but it never gets more exciting than that. This is mostly because I hate faff and I’m always worried that if I try a new recipe, it’ll go horribly wrong and then dinner will end up being beans on toast. However, this week I have already branched out – I made Rachel Allen’s bacon and potato gratin on Monday night, which went down a treat, and tonight I have made mexican bean burgers, based very loosely on this recipe as I didn’t have an egg or any coriander or any salsa (I made my own) or any bread to make breadcrumbs. In case you’re interested I added red onion and garlic. They were delicious! The ease and fun of trying new things this week has given me loads more ‘kitchen confidence’ and so my Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and my Rachel Allen cookbooks are going to get a lot of use this year!

5. Finish my quilt. I first posted about making my quilt in 2009. This was back when I still worked at the glorious V&A and was part of the team putting together the Quilts exhibition. I’m in the exhibition book – my hand, my quilt…we’re both in there, looking like we’re having fun. Little did I know that 2012 would tick around and that quilt would still be unfinished. I’ve done a lot, and it is nearly there, but I really need to push myself to get it finished. I have a sewing machine now which means I can bind and quilt it myself too, so I really have no excuse. After all, my new relaxed self should have plenty of time to stitch hexagons together this year!

51 comments

  1. I started Mansfield Park yesterday and I’m enjoying it so far. Love your quilt, I’d love to be able to do something like that. I have to admit that your comment about forcing yourself to relax made me smile – I find relaxing all too easy. Which is why nothing ever gets done!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that Joanne! Brilliant! Joanne, if I can make a quilt, anyone can – trust me. I am not a crafty person in the slightest. Give it a go! I wish I could be more like that…and I wish I could care less when I don’t get stuff done!

  2. I’ve ordered a rather good looking edition of Mansfield Park from Amazon and have just been advised that it has been dispatched – then I discovered that I already have a copy of this book on the upstairs bookshelf, hidden away with Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey – how foolish do I feel! Still, I’ll definitely be read to start reading at the weekend whichever copy I start with.

    Love your resolutions, I’d love to start quilting I have lots of fabrics that would be just perfect, if I could only find the time to get it going .

    1. There are worse crimes than book duplication! I do that all the time, don’t worry! So glad that you will be reading along, and you’ll have no excuse with two editions to choose from!

      Thank you – well, you just have to start. Then it goes from there. The way I look at mine is that it’s a labour of love. On the other hand you could machine sew it and then I bet you’d be able to get something made pretty quickly. It’s only the pesky hexagons that take forever!

  3. What fine resolutions these are, Rachel; all realistic and all will make you happy. What more can one ask for? I’ve learned that one can still have fun in life, see many fine things, go many fine places, and keep in touch with friends, but, keeping it all in balance is so important. Simply, we don’t have to do everything that comes our way. Your quilt, I agree, is beautiful. With your new sewing machine, I know you will finish it and do even more fine sewing. Lots of luck. Can’t wait to read your first novel.

    1. Thank you Penny! And such good advice as always – I definitely need more balance in my life! I rush around far too much! I’m glad you like my quilt…I am determined to have it on my bed by this time next year!

  4. I’ve picked up a copy of Mansfield park! Just need to finish my current book and then I’m with you. Who are you going to write your biography on? I think that sounds super exciting. And Yey to tea and biscuits! X

    1. Fantastic! Look forward to having you reading along, Chuck! Not sure yet…I’d love to write one about Dorothy Whipple but where to start?! I think that would be a full time job! Tea and biscuits are happiness itself! x

  5. Beautiful quilt, and wonderful resolutions! I do have one question about the cooking …what is a “toad in the hole?”

    1. Thank you Susan! Oh! I forget that is an English thing. It’s basically yorkshire pudding with sausages in it – you cook the sausages for ten minutes or so first then when the pan with the sausages in is really hot, you add the pudding batter (savoury, like pancake batter) and bake it all in the oven until the batter rises and goes all crispy and the sausages are all hidden inside the pillows of delicious crispy-chewy-soft batter. It’s perfect comfort food!

  6. The “burgers” look great, but how much (in cups) is 100 grams of crumbs and 150 ml of yogurt? (Like Susan in TX, I’m in U.S.A.)

    1. Hi Linda, I just looked it up for you – apparently 100g of breadcrumbs is 1 3/4 cups and 150ml is a 3/4 cup. Hope you decide to make them, they’re so delicious!

  7. this sounds like a fine list of resolutions and just the right amount. My favorite of course is “relax more”! I’ll drink to that.

  8. What wonderful resolutions, Rachel. I wish you the best with all of them and look forward to reading about all your reading adventures in 2012🙂 happy new year!

  9. Great resolutions, all of them. I’m really in favour of ‘write more’ and I think that writing actually is a way of relaxing, so you will be killing two birds with one stone. Can’t wait to read whatever it turns out to be as I’m sure, given the great pleasure imparted by your blog, I will enjoy it tremendously.

    1. Thanks Harriet! Yes, you are completely right – I do find writing very relaxing actually so hopefully that will help me. Oh Harriet! That is so kind – let’s hope I can manage it!!

  10. I just wanted to say that I chanced across your blog just before Christmas reading your book reviews (Austen, Niffenegger (sp?) Alcott in case you were wondering) and instantly became a fan. You write beautifully and I think you should definitely pursue this avenue! Then I saw your quilt, realised you were part of the V and A exhibition (that I desperately wanted to go to but alas! didn’t) and became quite uncontrollably but momentarily jealous. I love quilts and books and especially together!
    Good luck with your resolutions for 2012 – I wish I could read Mansfield Park along with you but I am in the middle of a children’s literature course and have to get back to Peter Pan.
    Maybe another time…

    1. Hi Vicky, how lovely to hear from you! I’m so glad you found me! Thank you for the very generous compliments and please don’t be jealous – working on an exhibition is never as exciting or glamorous as it sounds!!

      Thank you…children’s literature? That sounds wonderful! Lucky you. Happy 2012 and I hope to hear from you more!

  11. I have been reading your blog with much pleasure for a few months now and want to wish you luck with your admirable resolutions, especially on the writing side. I don’t blog myself, but I do keep a reading journal because I find that writing about what I’ve read pushes me to wrestle with my reactions to the books I read. As I’ve gotten older, I have moved into reading mostly classics and non-fiction because, well … so many books, so little time.

    I will give you a heads up (which you may not need!), as someone who has been researching and writing a biography of a relatively obscure literary figure for a few years now, that the research — enjoyable as it has been — has definitely cut into my “reading by whim and for pleasure” time. On the other hand, it has led me to discover some excellent books I’d never have read otherwise. Writing about these works in my journal is a bit like writing the first draft of what will eventually go into my biography.

    My other passions are also similar to yours … cooking and knitting. Although I have tons of cookbooks acquired over maybe a decade of teaching my self to be a better, more thoughtful cook — I often don’t have time to crack them open until the week-end. So on weeknights I have taken to checking the fridge, seeing what I have, and then entering the ingredients into Google and seeing what comes up. Some surprisingly tasty results. Knitting is the orphan stepchild in my life at the moment — just no time.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your blog in 2012.

    1. A reading journal is such a wonderful idea!! I think I’m going to borrow that idea from you as a resolution for myself this year😉 LOVE that!

    2. How lovely to hear from you AJ, and thank you for your kindness! Good luck with your reading journal, that sounds wonderful – this blog serves as a journal of sorts for me as I do review everything I read.

      How interesting! I’m glad it’s enjoyable but yes – I can quite imagine the research does tend to take over somewhat! I’d love to write a biography but it’s hardly something I could take on lightly, as you have so clearly shown!!

      The googling sounds like a brilliant idea – it’s how you get a feel for what goes with things as well I suppose!

      Thanks AJ, I look forward to reading your comments! Happy New Year!

  12. You had me laughing at No 1! I recognize myself in floor washing on a sick day and that trait to be busy seems to run so deep I fear it’s hopeless. Your pursuits are all rewarding ones though so only good things can come from them and I’d say you’re doing an amazing job in the kitchen already! All the best for 2012, Rachel!

  13. Also want to re-read Mansfield Park (and Emma) this year, but I’m afraid I can’t join you now. I’m already overbooked this month with the Shakespeare Reading Month and a personal read “War & Peace a little at a time” project.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on MP!

  14. 1 – Your full life, as told to us, never seemed unduly frenzied, I envy your energy and enthusiasm and the ability to share it. I do seem to remember little references to cosy reading sessions on the sofa, in PJs, with cake. There’s the answer: more reading, more (homemade) cake.
    2 – Yes! Write about any and everything. Have you ever tried writing a conversation with your 8 yr old self? Mine made me cry!
    3 – Please don’t forget that you promised to read The House in Paris, will you?
    4 – Will Book Snob become Cook Snob too? Those chips look perfect.
    5 – The great thing about quilting is that you can make up little groups anywhere you happen to be, like stuck on a delayed train. That corner you’ve shown looks promising!

    1. Thank you Chrissy! I just made a homemade cake today actually so there you are – I’m changing already! Don’t worry, I am going to read all my Bowens this year!

      Cook Snob – not likely! My tastes are far too simple for that!😉

    1. Ha! Well I have been off work sick all week so actually someone up there is ensuring that this week I have learnt the true meaning – and pleasure – of doing nothing!

  15. I’m sorry, I do insist.

    My English reserve is down.

    Every time I come here I find this sweet consoling place of cake, quilts, tea, and books. When all I do is “read to further my education”, apropos of EM Forster.

    What’s lovely, dear R, is how you set off and indeed were resident in that fast spearhead place for a year but were, remained, and still are quintessentially of cake, quilts, tea and books.

  16. Great resolutions. I have learnt through experience that you have to take time for yourself and I think you are already doing that with the cooking – and from scratch when ready meals are so easily available. I hope we get to see some delightful meals appearing on your blog?

    I have Mansfield Park ready to go, and will join in probably in the next couple of weeks. I am with you on the classics front especially after GE on the tv. I have set my own reading challenges for this year so I hope to read some Dickens.

    I love the quilt – I was making one when I was in my early teens and it used to come out and be worked on then I got bored with it and it would go away again. Last time it was found mum and I made the decision to give it away something which we both now regret and neither of us can bring ourselves to start another one. I will stick to all the other crafts I do instead.

    Don’t forget, the quilting, the writing and the cooking are all making time for you but just another method. I love nothing more than a morning in the kitchen cooking and then an afternoon on the sofa with a good book.

    1. Thanks Jo! Taking time for yourself IS important and I have learned that this year. No more rushing around! I am a new woman! I’ll try and photograph some more of my meals – most of the time they end up in my stomach about 5 minutes after coming out of the oven but I’ll certainly make an effort to capture anything interesting I come up with!

      I’m so glad you’ll be rereading Mansfield Park with me! I just started properly this morning and I am loving it!

      Thank you – what a shame about your quilt! Perhaps one by machine next time, you’ll get it done much quicker?!

      I love that – making time for me, exactly. That makes me feel better!! Happy 2012 to you!

  17. This made me laugh Rachel:

    “In all the spare time I’m going to have from relaxing more, I’m going to make a concerted effort to plan and write something that could go somewhere…”

    I thought the spare time was supposed to be for relaxing!! You’re incorrigable!

  18. Hi Rachel!

    This is my first time commenting, though I have been reading your blog for many months now. Your eloquent, thoughtful writing always inspires me and makes me excited about reading, and about life in general🙂

    I wish you all the loveliest for 2012!🙂 When I’ve been reading for a long period of time, I get up and do jumping jacks🙂

    Cheerio with a cherry on top🙂

    1. Hi Lucy, it’s lovely to meet you! What a lovely kind comment – I’m so thrilled to hear about how much you enjoy my writing!

      I wish you a wonderful 2012, too – I hope to see you commenting more often!🙂

  19. Happy new year, and good luck with your resolutions. My boyfriend is like you in terms of not being able to just rest when he’s sick, which makes me laugh because I’m totally the opposite – when I’m ill, I can just sleep and sleep and sleep some more.

  20. Your resolutions are wonderful. I believe you are already doing most of those things. I have decided to go through your recommended book list and read some of them. Last year, I read Gilead on your recommendation and am glad that I did. I also have read more Edith Wharton. After 30 years of teaching elementary school my retirement finds me rediscovering and enjoying adult literature. Oh, about that quilt. I have one that I started as a teenager that was made with material from clothes I made and later my children’s clothes. I am still working on it with patches from my grand children’s clothes. So, I think you are way ahead of me on that count.

    1. Thank you Janet! I’m so glad you loved Gilead and have enjoyed reading more Wharton – it’s a pleasure to have recommended such wonderful authors! Retirement must be a wonderful time to discover new things – I want to be retired now!! I love that story about your quilt – a true lifelong labour of love! That makes me feel better about taking so much time to do mine!

  21. I wanted to resolve to read more classics, too, but I’ve already made a bunch of solid resolutions for the year and I don’t want to overload myself with resolutions I may not keep.:/ But I want to know what you think of all the classics you read! And then I will try them myself once you have screened them for me. :p

  22. Relaxed you sounds awfully busy *suspicious* ;P Don’t forget about just making a blanket nest and lying in front of the tv (the lying turns off all those ‘should be doing’ thoughts right away).

    I’m very jealous of your broher in law. I probably would ahve felt very kindly towards the BBC for one short off shot, but sadly not to be. Wasn’t it such good tv, though? Did you watch the Armando Innucci piece about enjoying Dickens, which focused a lot on David Copperfield (hurray the one I’ve read)? It made me want to pick up a Dickens book right away. I’m looking forward to catching up on Edward Drood at the end of the week as well.

    1. I’m trying not to be, Jodie! Really I am! Lying in front of the TV sounds blissful…I have done a lot of that in January and it made me realise how pleasurable actually doing nothing is!

      He is a very nice boy apparently. Lives locally to my family too, though I’ve never seen him myself. I might just have to coincidentally be at the gym at the same time as him one weekend!! No I didn’t, and I missed Edwin Drood, though I have no idea of the plot so that’s something I need to brush up on. All this Dickens talk is definitely making me want to get back into reading him…I’ve been meaning to tackle Bleak House for years so maybe 2012 is the time to do it?!

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