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Wednesday, 5 January 2011

New Year...new ideas...

Happy New Year to you! After a very busy Christmas season, I feel like this is the first chance I have had to sit down at the desk to say hello! Here we are on the 5th January, it's cold (ish), grey and my garden looks distinctly un garden like...and very messy. The talk on the news is of disaster and misery (flu, VAT, cuts...) and yet I always think that the new year is an opportunity to plan, be positive, have time to reflect and arrange some fun times as the spring comes. I am also a believer that rather than give things up at this time of year, it is the ideal time to add things to your life - a new skill, hobby or regular social. So...here are few thoughts - and I promise they don't all require you to visit the Staffordshire Peak District - only some!

8 ideas for a brighter 2011...

1. Learn to make bread...this is my plan for 2011. I have cracked a fab cupcake and make all types for holiday cottage guests, but I have seldom make bread. I think I have thought it takes too long but no more! I want it to be much more part of everyday life and something that can be fun too. You can find great courses all over Britain, but you know I am going to suggest Staffordshire! Try Seasoned Courses who are doing a great bread making course in April at just £99.

2. A more interesting walk...now you think I've gone mad. I walk Stan the dog a lot and we have some great local stomps from the door which we can alter the length of to suit weather, mood & legs...but familiarity breeds contempt sometimes. I plan to find new walks and discover lesser known walks in my local area. I recommend walks to guests all the time, some of which I never do myself, but some of my guests have 3 generations with them from Granny to baby and it can be difficult to do a walk that suits everyone. This year I will be trying Treasure Trails. They operate all over the UK but have recently made headway into Staffordshire. Their walks can be bought in a small pack with the specified time, difficulty etc as well as fun clues and maps to help you navigate. They will even plan a bespoke walk if you were visiting an area on a special occasion (hen do, big Birthday etc).

3. A new hobby...please don't switch off now! I don't mean you have to go to dull night classes learning to restore paint pots - I mean something that you have always wanted to try but never seem to have the time. I started to knit again before Christmas with mixed results (ahem...) and then remembered that my one regret when my Grandma died a couple of years ago, was that she hadn't taught me to crochet. So this year I plan to get to Christmas with some skill in crocheting...I said some skill...Day courses can be great and are sometimes best combined with a short break. Send the partner and or kids in one direction and you have an afternoon to yourself!

4. Days out...I love planning days out and one of the advantages of running holiday accommodation is that you create a mini tourist information for your guests and get to read all the leaflets! The ones I like the best are those that require a picnic, not a big drive and not too many other people! I prefer to go and discover something than be forced through a noisy, bad tempered place like cattle. I start the picnics early too - soup in a flask, hot sausages wrapped in foil in the cooler (to stay warm!) followed by tea and cake is a great picnic. Sudbury Hall is a favourite as is Dimmingsdale and the Ramblers Retreat. I also like Tittesworth Resevoir for a great, non busy, play park, tea shop, walking combination - you can even BBQ your sausages there!

5. Food...a subject always close to my heart, food is something I try to enjoy more each year! This year I plan 2 things, firstly to grow more veg and salad in the garden and secondly to try interesting meals. Currently I am in the habit of throwing things in a pot in a rush. Again, you might attend a cooking course or a grow your own course or simply read some lovely books while the weather requires cosy nights in. I always like Monty Don as his prose are so easy to enjoy and I really like an old Geoff Hamilton book about what to do in each season and how to make a cold frame out of scraps from the garden!

6. Music...I love music and pretty much anything from Bach through Beatles to Busted (kidding!) so will try to catch this local music event this summer by actually being organised enough to buy tickets! The Acoustic Festival is being held in Uttoxeter at the Race Course with headliners like Cerys Matthews. It is very family friendly and tickets can be bought for the whole weekend or individual days.

7. A little UK holiday...ok, ok I know you know I'll say Staffordshire but there is good reason! With short breaks available all year, Staffordshire offers a brilliant range of days out, gardens, theme parks, local food, beautiful countryside without the crowds and friendly people. To top that - we are so easy to get to. Just 3 hours from London, on all the major road networks (M1 and M6) and rail networks direct from all over the country (we will arrange a taxi from the station). Be the first amongst your friends to discover the best kept secrets of a Staffordshire holiday!

8. A new sport...this is coming from a not so sporty person who shies away from competitive sport all together. However I do fancy learning something new. Cycling is something I can do obviously but seldom take the opportunity so will attempt a day or 2 out on the the Tissington Trail - especially as I can hire a bike! Climbing is something I tried as a child and so may try it again this summer or maybe I will just watch others from a comfy picnic blanket at the Roaches!

So there are my ramblings about what to do to fight off the winter blues and how a dose of Staffordshire thrown in might help!
For a great holiday cottage for all the family visit: www.simplystaffordshire.co.uk/rowanhouse
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