Treat Yo’shelf

L shares her latest reading recommendations.

These titles have real shelf appeal

We de-la-Haye Girls have always been avid readers. E is far more adventurous in selecting her material than me, but we often recommend and share books amongst our family. I’m always reticent to try anything new without a recommendation, such is my stubborn Capricorn nature. Prior to this year, I would only allow myself to read “for pleasure” during the holidays. There’s nothing better than selecting your beach reads at the airport and getting stuck in on the aeroplane, is there?

Recently though, with everyone having to go a bit slower and finding ourselves with more time at home, I’ve been treating myself to reading more often. There is a sense of cultivating a habit, or a flow, with the reading, but once formed there is nothing more luxurious than curling up with a blanket and something warm to drink and escaping into those pages.

Travel books are some of my favourite reads at the moment. Planning my next escape already!

With this in mind, I thought I’d share a list of our my most recent recommendations: the books that have had E and me hooked from cover to cover. Please do let us know what you are currently enjoying reading – we’d love to add to our shelves!

  • The Other Bennet Sister Janice Hadlow. Don’t let the intimidatingly large size of this book put you off! Both L and E romped through this “alternative” and extension Pride and Prejudice story within a week. The perfect tonic post Bridgerton.
  • Quite – Claudia Winkleman. This funny, frank and fabulous book had me chuckling out loud. Our beloved Strictly presenter is so unashamedly herself in the writing, it really feels as though your talking to her. Or rather, she is talking to you, sharing her thoughts on all things from art history to the benefits of bangs.
  • I Am Not Your Baby Mother – Candice Brathwaite. Lots of wonderful female authors in this list, what better tribute to this week’s International Women’s Day? We’ve been long time followers of Candice on social media and her debut book is beautiful and brilliant. Enjoyable whether you’re a mother or not – beg, borrow or steal a copy!
  • In Paris – Jeanne Damas and Lauren Bastide. Paris is my happy place. It always has been. I’ve often fantasised about running away and starting a new life across the Channel, renting a tiny apartment in the Sixth…ideally with Vince and a cat. Whilst this is still a pipe dream, I love to read about my favourite city, circling all the cafes and streets I want to explore. Excellent reading if like me, you’re mourning the end of Call My Agent.
  • Yes Please – Amy Poehler. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been recommended this book by friends of mine and during this lockdown, after having picked it up several times, I finally managed to complete it. It’s a lovely, fizzy read which I’m sure I’ll come back to again.
  • Cook, Eat, Repeat – Nigella Lawson. Without fail, each Christmas, both E and I will receive some type of cook book. Cooking and sharing food is a huge part of our family and Nigella’s most recent serving is truly delicious. It reads more like a novel than a cookbook thanks to the way Lawson talks about the emotions surrounding food. It is so comforting during these uncertain times. Oh, and her recipe for Linzer Cookies went down a storm for our German Themed Date Night two weeks ago!
E’s multicoloured bookshelves

What have you been enjoying recently? ~L.

Top Things to Make Us Sing this Spring

L and E share a list of little things they are looking forward to this Spring.

“Here comes the sun, and I say, it’s all right” – The Beatles.

Is it just us or is there a sense of optimism in the air? Now we finally have a roadmap out of this lockdown and with various family members being called up for vaccines, everything is starting to feel lighter and certainly brighter. As you know, we de-la-Haye Girls love a list, so we thought we’d share one all about the little things we’re very much looking forward to this Spring. And, as we have been ever so busy with our respective jobs this week, we decided to indulge in a little thought experiment: we agreed to prepare our lists without discussing them with each other to see how many items we’d have in common. We estimated that our individual lists would share a couple of items. Have a read below; we were SHOOK by the similarities, not just in content, but in how we express those desires too. What is it they say? Great minds think alike, or perhaps that fools never differ… We simply say: “is there an echo in here?”

Flower puns always make my daisy

Lily’s list

  • Those extra hours of daylight. By the end of the month, it won’t be getting dark until 7.30pm making the evenings feel long and generous. I’ve certainly enjoyed getting out for a daily walk in time for the sunset and playing spot the daffodils. Have you noticed the bird song increasing too? It is just wonderful.
  • From next week, we can safely meet up with one other person outdoors and not just to walk! We can have a coffee and chat – what sweet bliss. I’m already planning my picnic menu once the government, but more importantly the weather, permits!
  • Creating garden mood boards on Pinterest. Long time readers will know that I recently moved house and finally have a garden of my own. I’m sure E won’t mind being roped in to help out. Your Garden Made Perfect on the BBC is providing us both with a mountain of inspo and ideas. Is anyone else hooked?
  • Digging out our summer clothes and the welcome return of Birkenstock season. Packing away your winter wardrobe in anticipation of the warmer season is honestly such a life hack. It frees up your closet space and you get the thrill of new pieces without the financial sting.
  • At the minute, any and all holidays feel so needed. What better way to appreciate getting safely through the last 12 months than celebrating and spoiling our lovely mothers next weekend. I feel incredibly lucky that les grands-mères in the family have now been fully vaccinated and I can’t wait to show them, and E, of course, how much I’ve missed them. Oh, and if Mother’s Day isn’t for you, it’s St Patrick’s Day on the 17th of this month. Race you to the Guinnesses!
Duck, in dappled light.

Emma’s list

  • The easing of Lockdown 3.0 restrictions, hopefully from mid-April. This will mean Lily and I can meet for a socially-distanced walk and, critically, I can have my hair coloured and cut! I am doing the “double long” at the moment: the overall length of my hair is too long and the length of my roots is ridiculously long. I’ve made contact with the wonderful Kelly, who looks after my tresses – my currently stressed tresses (try saying that quickly) – and am on the waiting list for an early appointment.
  • Getting my COVID vaccinations. On current projections, I should be called by the end of April/beginning of May and getting my jabs should pave the way for me to see my beloved Mamacita, who I’ve not been able to see since Christmas. Mum had her second dose today and we are all looking forward to spending time together again.
  • The clocks going forward and lighter evenings. Like thousands of other people in the UK, I’ve been struggling with this latest lockdown as it coincided with the darker days of winter. I’m very fortunate as I’ve been busy with work throughout the pandemic – genuinely, I recognise just how fortunate I have been – though that has meant that since November on week days I have tended to start work while it is still dark, and by the time I finish work it is dark again. I’ve had weeks where I’ve been so busy I haven’t been outside the house all week and I don’t like how that makes me feel, what it does to my fitness and wellbeing levels and what it does to my skin. Sure, I’ve been popping my Vitamin D supplement each day and trying to take a quick walk at lunchtime, but working with clients all over the world, who themselves are trying to deal with the consequences of COVID on their businesses, adhering to a strict lunchtime break hasn’t been possible. But, lighter evenings mean I can get in a walk after work, indeed, Steve and I managed this thorough the first lockdown and we loved it. I have also ordered myself a new bicycle and as soon as it is ready for collection, I’m going to make a concerted effort to “get on my bike” more regularly. I am not a natural cyclist, but know how good it is for me and if I can make it a habit, I reckon I should be capable of getting to enjoy it, at least once in a while.
  • Spending time in my garden, one of my great pleasures in life. Daffodils are out, tulip leaves are through, the lawns have had their first cut, sweet pea plug plants are on order and I can’t wait to get my fingers in that soil. Fear not, I will try and ration posting of photos of my flowers to TdlHG website and Insta feed (note the careful phrasing here: “I will TRY and ration…” – no promises).
  • Dressing up, a bit. I have spent most of the past year in gym and walking gear. The joy of my home office set up is that Zoom, Teams, WebEx, Blue Jeans, FaceTime and any other video conferencing platform you care to mention, only broadcast the top half of my body. A bright lip, reasonably styled hair and a scarf artfully arranged around my neck or shoulders permits me to commit all sorts of Sweaty Betty leggings and wicking top atrocities out of range of camera. With spring, I am going to start rotating in some of my “proper” work clothes; I have a a yen for wearing a crisp, white shirt, some tailored culottes and a pretty cardigan. I’m going to ease myself back, perhaps dressing up two days a week in March, ramping up to three or four in April, so I’m ready and match-fit for actual face-to-face meetings again, hopefully from early summer. Just don’t ask my to include heels in this mix. I am unsure I will ever be able to wear heels for a full day again; I am sure this pandemic has altered the shape of my feet. Hey, colourful Adidas Gazelles are good for professional meeting attire, right?
And Easter Eggs, of course. Who could forget that great joy?

We know, we know. It’s spooky just how much of a mirror image our lists are. Or is it? Perhaps if you ask anyone at the moment, we would all echo these sentiments? We’ve all been so constrained by the pandemic it not really surprising we are hankering after the modest, but near-universal, hearts’ desires included in our lists. Whatever the reason, we have chosen to celebrate our symbiotic freakiness in all its glory!

What are you most looking forward to this Spring? Does your heart desire things very different to us, or do you share what we are looking forward to?~ The de-la-Haye Girls.

Hoping for days as happy as this one, in August of last year

Date. Night.

L shares her new favourite lockdown activity – themed date night!

Two words that put the horrors into me and my partner. I have friends that insist a weekly date night becomes a necessary evil once you have children, but we don’t, as yet. Notwithstanding this, and as I mentioned in a previous blog, I’m on the hunt for new activities to keep me out of trouble this lockdown.

Anyone else sick of Zooming?

Before we entered this new normal, one of our shared passions was travel. We loved nothing better than exploring the culture, music and cuisine of an unknown place. It’s something that E lovingly passed down to me. So, given that we can’t currently travel, I thought, why not bring the travel to us?

On our daily walk, we hatched a plan. Each week we will pick a place: a country; a region; a continent; whatever takes our fancy. We will have a home-cooked meal celebrating food from the selected place, followed by a film inspired by or set in the same location. The only rules are: no fish/celery (at Vince’s behest), neither of us can have seen the movie before and we have to be brave and include at least one item on the menu we wouldn’t normally prepare and eat at home. And there you have it, dinner and movie, lockdown style.

For our inaugural week, we decided the theme should be the USA, as this seemed both easy and wholly appropriate. After toying with whether to go down the TexMex, Soul Food or cowboy food route, we settled on a menu inspired by our childhood and holidays.

And yes – aperitif was spelt phonetically for humour. The menu was designed to be read in your best southern drawl

Buffalo chicken wings and ice cold beer immediately transports me back to working for Royal Caribbean aboard the beautiful Oasis of the Seas. Every Wednesday, the ship would host a “Crew Appreciation Evening” where all departments were welcome to join for free beer and wings. For variety, I’d love to swap out some of the wings for cauliflower florets for a vegan twist.

Celeriously delicious. Breaking my own non-celery rule in week one!

Our main course had to be hotdogs. We both had fond memories of those jumbo bad boys from family trips to Florida. Now let me tell you a secret: the trick to a great hotdog is nothing to do with the bun or meat; it’s all about the toppings. We created our own selection bar with crispy bacon bits, relish, macaroni cheese, chopped onion, mustard, ketchup and grated Cheddar. Really the combinations are endless; you could feasibly chuck any leftovers a top your hotdog and make it delicious. Chilli con carne dog? Sauerkraut and smoked cheese? Linda McCartney veggie-dogs and mushrooms? Ok, ok – I’ll stop!

DIY Hot Dog Bar

After a long debate with E about what film we should screen, (she hilariously suggested An American Werewolf in London…yep), we settled on Tony Kaye’s American History X. It was quite a heavy watch of a Thursday evening but I couldn’t believe how relevant it still is 23 years on. It’s available on Netflix and worth a watch if you haven’t seen it before.

Our evening finished with a slice of good old-fashioned apple pie. It’s long been known between the de-la-Haye Girls that E is the baker. Whilst we both love to potter in the kitchen, anytime something sweet has to be made it never goes well in my hands. But, dear reader, I’m delighted to report that I may have broken the curse! It might not have been the prettiest pie but the bottom wasn’t burnt and the filling tasted good. Better than good actually; it was delicious.

The apple pie was A-OK

It’s such simple idea but we both really got into it, listening to Johnny Cash all day and feeling like we’d escaped for just a moment. Next week we are going to Japan. Recommendations for food and films are most welcome! ~L.