We made it through January! We all deserve a medal for that extraordinary feat. And what about February? It’s the shortest month of the year and it’s easy to wish it away too. Don’t. Use it as an opportunity to thrive. Here’s how…
Catch the light
Have you noticed how light it’s getting now? It feels like the dark blanket of winter is lifting up a tiny bit each day. Daylight hours increase by over an hour this month and it’s easy to feel the benefit. For me, it’s wonderful to no longer be getting home in the dark after the school run. Try to get out for a short walk each day and make the most of it.
At this point in winter I’m longing for warm spring days. Sadly the bitterly cold February weather doesn’t quite match my aspirations. Luckily I’ve discovered a little trick that’s put a spring in my step – sheep’s wool insoles. I’ve put them in my stompy boots and they keep me snugly warm all day. Find some here.
Spread some kindness
The tail end of winter is a difficult time for many people. Even the most put-together people can be struggling inside. Now is the time to give a little more of yourself and lend a helping hand to those around you. Maybe it’s walking someone’s children to school, buying a coffee for a friend or chatting properly to a new colleague. Struggling yourself? Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help and accept it when it comes along. Kindness is a gift you don’t want to refuse.
Buy a new coat in the sales
Everyone always says you shouldn’t buy a new coat this close to spring. I disagree, but only as long as it’s in the sale and a classic style. Right now you’ll find all the coats you were lusting after a few months ago reduced to bargain prices. This year I’ve invested in a conker-coloured beauty which is now a fabulous 70% off. It’s given my lacklustre winter wardrobe a real boost.
Feed your imagination
I did a lot of hibernating and hunkering down in January. It’s left me craving a bit of culture outside of my own four walls. Feed your imagination this February by visiting a gallery or museum. I recently visited Play Well, an excellent free exhibition at the Wellcome Collection all about the social benefits of games and toys. I’d also like to catch the Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A before it finishes on 16 February.
Re-read your favourite book
I’ve always been a big fan of re-reading books. I even wrote a whole blog post about it a few years ago. Re-visiting your favourite stories feels like meeting up with an old friend – it’s joyful, life-affirming and soothing. Comfort and inspiration await.
Follow the fruitcake diet
The only diet I want to think about following this month. Each afternoon I like to sit down with a slice of traditional fruitcake and a cup of tea, savouring the flavours as I watch the sun set. I’m sure it has at least three of my five-a-day in it.
If you still have some Christmas cake left then I envy you – if not, try this classic recipe from Marry Berry:
Mary Berry’s Quick Boiled Fruit Cake
397g can of condensed milk 150g butter
175g roughly chopped glacier cherries 225g self-raising flour
2tsp ground mixed spice
1tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
- Preheat the oven to 150C.
- Grease an 18cm round cake tin and line with baking paper. It’s worth tying more baking paper round the outside of the tin to prevent the cake overcooking.
- Pour the condensed milk and butter into a large heavy-based pan and add all thefruit.
- Gently heat until the butter has melted, stirring all the time.
- Simmer the fruit gently for 5 minutes. Keep stirring so it doesn’t stick.
- Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes, stirring everynow and again.
- In a large mixing bowl sift the flour and spices, and mix them together to make a wellin the centre of the bowl.
- Add the eggs and the cooled fruit mixture.
- Combine everything together using a wooden spoon and then turn into yourprepared cake tin.
- Bake in the oven for 1.45 – 2 hours. The cake should be well risen and golden brown.
- To make sure it’s cooked properly, insert a skewer into the middle which should come out clean if the cake is baked completely.
- Once out of the oven, leave the cake to cool for about 10 minutes in the tin before removing the baking paper and cooling on a wire rack.