photography of trees covered with snow

More Ways to Win…

…in the fight against feeling down at this time of year.

I talked here about things you can try for free to keep your spirits up. Today I’m talking about three things that cost a little bit of money but help me to look on the bright side.

  • Making things
  • Feeding the birds
  • Spoiling myself

Two things I really enjoy are cooking, and eating. I always try to eat seasonally, and making marmalade ties in with eating that nicely. Unfortunately my little Seville Orange tree never produces enough fruit! I buy in extra from the supermarket. Marmalade oranges are only on sale during January and February, so I pounce when they first appear. Making marmalade also appeals to my need to squirrel away provisions for those times when Tottering Towers gets cut off by snow. Shelves full of jams and preserves gives me a real sense of satisfaction.

Marmalade in progress

Feeding the birds is something everyone can do, even if you don’t have a garden. A widowsill feeder will bring interest and movement into your life. So many things we used to put out for the birds in the past either don’t exist now (when was the last time you saw a bacon rind?) or have turned out to be a bad idea, like feeding bread to ducks (it does them no good at all) that it’s better to buy something like mealworms or special food mixtures for wild birds. Once you start feeding the birds they will begin to rely on you, so fix a budget and feed a little at a time. You don’t want the birds eating you out of house and home!

With three great hobbies, writing, gardening, and cooking, I’m never short of ways to spoil myself with a bit of retail therapy. It can be as cheap as an hour spent wandering round a bookshop (which can even be free!) and emerging with a pretty new notebook, visiting the garden centre and picking up a new pot plant, or buying a packet of seeds.

Pasta hung out to dry!

My recent cooking treat was an expensive one. When my children were tiny, I picked up a pasta machine in a sale for a couple of pounds. We had hours of fun making the dough, then rolling and shaping it using the machine, but there was a good reason why my little machine was so cheap. It had the habit of suddenly adding specks of metal or black streaks to the dough. No amount of investigation or cleaning could solve the mystery. A good quality pasta machine has been on my wish list for years, and so I’ve just splashed out on a Marcato Atlas. We had our first pasta last night. I have to say that the experience of making and eating it without unwelcome ingredients is amazing!

What’s your favourite treat?

branches cold conifers environment

How To Beat Blue Monday

purple leaf
Photo by Pixabay on

Five years ago Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at the Mental Health Charity Mind, tried to dispel the myth of Blue Monday. That title for the third Monday in January is still trending today, but the truth is that depression can affect anyone, at any time—not just today. If you, or someone you know, is suffering this winter, get help. These days there’s no stigma attached to it. So many people are affected by mental health problems medical staff are trained to understand, not judge.

If you have a serious problem, the first thing you should do is contact your local GP. More and more surgeries are opening up, and those that aren’t seeing patients face-to-face will arrange a video consultation. Once you’ve done that, or if (like me) you’re on the right side of it but need a boost during the short dark days between Christmas and Pay Day, here are some free ideas to try:

  • Soak in the Bath. Clear your schedule, find some bubble bath or nice scented soap, and lock the door…
    • Journaling. All you need is a pen and paper. Writing down your thoughts can be a great form of release. Nobody else needs to see what you’ve written, so you can let yourself go. As well as doing this, at the end of each day I find it really helpful to write down three things for which I’m really grateful. It always makes me feel better to remember the benefits my health, my family, the chance to get out in the garden, and other blessings give me.
    open white notebook near pencil and eyeglasses beside laptop computer on white surface
    Photo by on
    • Put on some loud, fast music—and dance! It gets everything moving, and raises your spirits. I like Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen, but anything noisy and fun will do. Just make sure that when you dance like nobody’s watching, you do it with the curtains closed. Then there really won’t be anyone watching!

    This time last year we were all in deepest pandemic gloom. Today, the situation may be different but not all of our problems have gone away. During the first months of 2021 I created a page called Instant Lift, to provide just that. You can find it here.

    How do you tackle the winter blues?


    An Idea for Dry January…

    There will be over half an hour more daylight today compared with December 21st just passed, but it’s hard to feel the benefit as the weather is so miserable. The fun and games of Christmas seems a long way away, so I’ve been looking for some distraction.

    Between the two World Wars, my grandmother was a top-class cook in a country house. She had to give it all up when she got married, but kept all her cookery notebooks.

    Looking through them the other day, I came across lots of recipes for drinks. Most of them were completely new to me. There are cocktails, liqueurs, some hot drinks, and many cold ones. Best of all, if you’re having a Dry January there are loads of non-alcoholic drinks.

    One of these is called Cranberry Crush. It just so happens that a basket in my freezer is currently full of cranberries. I nabbed them straight after Christmas, when the price was at rock bottom. One of my presents was some of Hotel Chocolat’s white chocolate cranberries. They’re irresistible, so I wanted to try making my own.

    It seemed a shame not to use some of those cranberries to try out Gran’s old recipe. It worked a treat, so here’s how you do it:

    Gently simmer a pound (454 grammes) of cranberries with about a pint (575 ml) of water. As the berries start to pop, help them to give up their juice by pressing gently with a wooden spoon. Add half a pound (227 grammes) of granulated sugar, together with the grated rind and juice of two sweet oranges, and the grated rind a lemon. Stir until all the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, and leave the Cranberry Crush to stand for an hour before straining. Keep refrigerated.

    This produces a concentrated syrup, which you can see in the photo. It’s a beautiful colour, and balances sweetness with a fruity tang. I like it diluted with tonic water, but of course you can use mineral water or ginger ale. I’ll definitely be making it again!


    Coming Attractions…

    I hope you managed to have a good Christmas, despite all the restrictions and worries we’ve had to face during the continuing pandemic.

    Over the next year I’ll be suggesting more ways to keep our spirits up, writing about life here at Tottering Towers, and providing plenty of hints and tips to help you become a better writer. To make sure you don’t miss anything, click on the “subscribe” button over on the right hand side of this page.

    Is there any topic in particular you’d like me to feature?

    Wishing you all the best for a safe and happy 2022!

    Blog, Christmas

    Happy Christmas, Everyone

    I’m taking a break now until the New Year. I hope this message finds you well, and that you’ll be spending the holidays with those you love.

    Winter Jasmine

    As we’ve passed the shortest day (December 21st), the days will soon start lengthening again. It’s been so damp and gloomy here in Gloucestershire over the past few days, spring seems a long way off. I took these photographs this morning, to cheer myself up!

    This time last year we were all in such a dark place I created my Instant Lift page to try and raise everybody’s spirits. Reading about the way the seasons change, slowly but surely, is reassuring in this time of continuing Covid.


    Not everyone finds this The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. If you’re happy, please reach out to someone who may be struggling.

    If you’re not okay, don’t suffer in silence. Try these links:,, and

    Wishing you a safe, peaceful Christmas and a good New Year, full of opportunities.

    Love, Christina