dear diary :: cold winter Sundays

We are back to rain and wind here at the foot of the Pennines in West Yorkshire, in fact the sun rarely managed a smile all week.

Valentine’s day came and went with only minimal acknowledgement here – a few heart shaped jammy dodgers from Ikea and an exchange of cards and kisses, but it is good to mark the occasion even in a small way. He loved the little card I made for him but I think he probably liked the biscuits more!

We actually spent the day at my daughter’s house looking after little Freddie for a while so she could indulge in a long lie in and nurse her bad cold and cough. The winter bugs had caught up with her when she returned to work last week and she had struggled in for the three days previously and was now feeling a bit fed up with herself and in need of a bit of mum’s cosseting.

Little Freddie had not been too well either with conjunctivitis and a cold so when it was time for his nap we wrapped him up well put him in the pushchair and went for a walk to the nearby Co-op to buy something for lunch – he promptly fell asleep so to get out of the cold we treated ourselves to a hot drink and a toasted teacake, oozing with butter, in a nearby cafe. He slept for a good 3 hours in all, I reckon he was catching up for all the disturbed nights he had recently.

Even through all this awful weather there are signs of new life springing up everywhere but it would be a little too early yet to start thinkng about a thorough spring cleaning session. Instead I am just concentrating on getting the washing and ironing up to date and rearranging a few cupboards and drawers in preparation.

Last Thursday we decided to go down to Sheffield (city of my birth), I love to go as it holds such wonderful memories for me from my childhood. My family survived many a bomb during the WW2 blitz over the four days of continued bombing between 12th and 15th December 1940. My grandma’s sister had her house totally destroyed but luckily she was in a shelter with her family at the time so came out of it unharmed.

Most of the city centre had to be rebuilt after the war and Sheffield continues the rebuilding with a major regeneration scheme called Heart of the City phases 1 & 2. I love the way that the old and the new sit side by side. This building site around Charter Square and the Pepperpot building is at the back of the John Lewis store on Barker’s Pool which was built in the sixties – to the right of the picture is the huge new HSBC building.

I was so pleased to find that this old block comprising of street level shops with accomodation above will not be pulled down – Sheffield Council acknowledge the strong feeling to keep many of the historical buildings. Only the frontages of these buildings will remain with a modern extension being built behind. Places like this are part of the heritage of Sheffield, the silversmiths and cutlers worked in these areas and derserve a place of rememberance in the new look city centre. The glass corner to the right that you can see lit up is currently being used as a site office but was up until very recently the workshop of a local jeweller, a family business, who has now moved across the road. I loved to pass by and see them working at their machines making the rings and jewellery that they sold in the shop below.

Across the street the old Salvation Army building, built like a fortress, has sadly been empty for many years now but such a fine building and waiting to be loved once again. There are plans I believe to turn it into a fine restaurant.

Walking through the completed part of this new scheme Sheffield always goes in for bold landscaping – these ‘sculptural’ rocks are huge when you walk beside them. Sheffield is of course famous for its steel and this is usually quite evident in much of new city landscaping projects. My grandad worked in the steel works, as did many of the men in my family – it was not an easy job and it is good that there is a lasting tribute to all their hard labours.

Although our trip over there was predominantly to go to Ikea to get an extra shelf for the pantry and a couple of storage jars we couldn’t leave without popping into the John Lewis store. Last week I received a notification that members of the John Lewis reward scheme can exchange any 5 empty beauty products for a £5 voucher to spend on any beauty product they sell. I took my 5 empty bottles and bought this Liz Earle shampoo for £5.62 it normally costs £12.50 but there is a 15% discount offer at the moment as well as my £5 voucher so it was quite a good bargain. I also picked up my free copy of the Waitrose magazine which has one or two recipes I might try out.

In The Works I bought a few bits and pieces for Little L ready for Easter – she loves to make things and can’t decide if she wants to be an artist or a ballerina when she grows up. We always have great fun making things together. In Hobbycraft I bought these tiny star cutters ready for my next cake (shame I didn’t have these when I made the cake for little Freddie’s first birthday), and a pack of clear stamps that have Thank You on them as the rubber on my wooden one has now gone hard and won’t print very well.

Yesterday we indulged and bought some pastries from the Co-op for after lunch – I put them close to the healthier apples – I know which will go first!

The knitting is well underway now (well for me that is) and growing quite quickly; I know you experienced knitters out there would be announcing the completion by now but I am pleased just to have reached the neckline without any unravelling or dropped stitches. I am contemplating how to form a decent neckline – it looks like it could be a place where a little skill is needed….oh dear!

Hope everyone has had a restful weekend and is ready for the week ahead. We are expecting a visit from the kitchen planner tomorrow (weather permitting this time). I think we have almost made up our minds on many of the appliances, doors and colours – now we have to make sure everything will fit and that it will all come within our limited budget.

dear diary :: a positive day, if not a little chilly

Some days can just start off more positive than others – I am not sure what makes the difference but today just happened to be a very positive one. Outside on the step and covering a few plants I could see the remains of the slushy snow; the only evidence that we had had a fall of snow overnight. It soon disappeared as the sun came out……..for all of an hour, but it did mean I could get the washing on the line, fill the bird feeders and take out the recycling. I didn’t hang around as is was bitterly cold.

I had breakfast alone as DH had a hair appointment booked this morning, so he was up, showered and off. He had a dental appointment this afternoon and we thought it was to take his tooth out but the dentist felt there was still some infection so it has been rearranged for two weeks time. DH much prefers the dentist to the hairdressers and always jokes that the hairdresser cuts his hair without even giving him an anaesthetic.

I had a leisurely breakfast watching the birds outside, mainly magpies, doing some rather daring manoeuvres to try and get the peanuts out of the little pottery acorns. DH had peeled and chopped the oranges, a job he is good at and I am not, and I combined these with a few blueberries and yoghurt followed by toast generously spread with the lemon curd I made a couple of weeks ago. I don’t usually have toast so it was a nice change from muesli and always goes well with a cup of tea. I am hoping that somewhere in this breakfast I will have satisfied a little of my vitamin C quota for the day.

Whilst DH was out I rushed upstairs to make him a Valentine card. I had no ideas in mind other than something with a heart and something pink would be appropriate. So after a rummage around in the craft drawers I came up with a few different sized heart stamps, some ink pads and a bit of glitter.

I played around a bit and came up with a prototype….well what can you expect in 15 minutes…. the first one didn’t go too well so I had another go and decided this is as good as it is going to get as I know I won’t have time to make another one…..anyway it is the thought that counts. I might even surprise him and bake a cake.

Being in craft mode I went on to make a birthday card for a colleague where I used to work. Her birthday is on Valentine’s day and I know she loves homemade cards as she makes her own too.

I have had these little daisy flowers for ages and had not really had any ideas for using them. After playing around a bit I decided to attached each fower to a wire stem using the trusty mini glue gun and then mount them onto a triangular base.

I made some butterfly cards in a similar way a few years ago by recycling the insides of envelopes – those official looking envelopes that you get with the interesting little patterns on the inside. Everyone thought they were quite cute. This is not a good picture but you get the gist.

I decided on a natural brown craft card to contrast with the white daisy flowers that have a little wooden bead in the centre and then added one of the pre-printed labels I had left over from a previous project. The card is quite tiny but will stand up easily on a mantel piece or table.

Scoring the bottom part of the triangle means that you can fold it flat to put it into the envelope.

After lunch we went to the dentist and then I dropped the card for my friend in at reception before going round to the library. I found an interesting little book called Make, Mend, Bake, Save & Shine written by Jo Godfrey Wood – full of handy tips to save money and make things last as long as they can and avoid throwing things out. I am all for not throwing away things that can be reused or repurposed. It should be an interesting read.

Now I have the pantry up and running I intend to make a list of meals that I can make to use up a lot of the food in there. Seeing it all displayed on shelves rather than stacked together in the old kitchen cupboards is so much better and reminds me just what we have in stock so hopefully food will not get wasted quite as much.

I am back to bedtime now once again – don’t the days whizz round quickly – in fact I should be in bed now so I am rushing to finish this. It will be another cleaning day tomorrow and a catch up with the ironing…oh and I seem to remember I said I might bake a cake.

creating health and wellbeing

Nothing much to report on this today I feel bad as I only did two of the exercises for my knees. Must do better tomorrow and schedule in some time to do them all. My knees do benefit from the exercises when I manage to do them for more than two or three days together so I would imagine if I could just stick at it for a week I would see a good result.

On my consultants advice I take vitamin D3 – it is the best thing ever in my mind and recently I have been taking vitamin B12 which I do occasionally as I am vegetarian and this can be something we don’t get a lot of from our diet and in myself a lack of it can make me feel dizzy.

The Optima Activjuice is a food supplement to help joints and was a very reasonable £3 something from Boyes in Northallerton so I thought I would give it a go. Hypothyroidism often produces long term joint and muscle problems so I am looking to see what might improve this – I obviously cannot do anything to improve my thyroid gland as I don’t have one so I am hoping something I try might just help to alleviate the joint and muscle problems I have.

dear diary :: weathering the weather

I have been having so much fun today organising my new pantry I am sure it can’t be legal!!

I have still a few adjustments to make and then it will be photo ready – well when the weather is also photo ready, it has been far too dark inside to even attempt a photo shoot.

On the matter of the weather…..my heart goes out to the poor people of the Calder Valley, which is only a few miles from here, and all those affected by the flooding and not for the first time. As a flood victim myself I can sense the misery and frustration they are feeling at the moment and I must admit I shed a tear or two for them.

Today although not as forceful the wet, windy weather continued – the kind of day when it is wise to stay warm indoors and a special treat is required to stave off those winter blues. Whilst writing out my shopping list for the week I helped myself to one…well maybe two of these cute little Godiva biscuits (a much appreciated Christmas present)……I am only surprised there are still some left.

The weather on Saturday was not too bad at all; DH managed to get an emergency appointment in the morning with his dentist to look at his broken tooth which was becoming very painful and had kept him awake for most of the night. So we took advantage of being in town to do some shopping and later called at Sainsbury’s to top up on a few more fresh vegetables, bread and milk.

While DH was at the dentist I occupied myself having a wander around the nearby Dunelm store. I have been looking for some kind of laundry basket for the laundry room and this one which is on castors just fits the bill as it will be easy to move around.

I also called in at one of those cheap shops (don’t ask me which one – they all look alike) and I bought a large pack of epsom salts which I use when I soak my feet prior to giving myself a weekly pedicure. They were £2.49 for the kilo but later I spotted them in Home Bargains buy 2 for £4 50 (I think) making them only £2.25 each.

Next stop was B&Q for some fleece as I am on a mission to save my rhododendron from getting hit this winter by the frosts. The buds will begin opening soon as it is an early variety and last year they were ruined by the harsh weather. We got a pack of three large bags and DH has now ‘bagged’ it and I must say it does look like a bit of a monster in the garden when it catches my eye through the kitchen window, but hopefully it will do the job of protecting it from the elements.

We had a trip round to TK Max too for a couple of storage jars I had seen earlier in the week, disappointingly the tall one which I wanted for the spaghetti had gone so I had to pay quite a bit more for one from Sainsbury’s which is almost identical but £3 dearer. I love the fact they are glass and the lids are made from bamboo – only the seal is plastic.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s I noticed these little teapots with a built in strainer had been reduced to half price – £6. I have been looking at them for ages now with an idea to using the cheaper loose leaf tea as tea bags can be quite expensive for the organic decaf ones I prefer.

So that was the shopping expedition and by the time we arrived back home it was almost time to make the tea. I have been using up odd bits and pieces of veg so nothing goes to waste – I steam them, then place them in an ovenproof dish cover with a cheese sauce and add a sprinkling of sesame seeds and flaked almonds then bake in the oven or just brown the top under the grill….and in no time you have a very tasty supper dish served with a mound of mixed greens. We usually always eat at the dining table in the kitchen but occasionally it is nice to indulge ourselves and eat our supper on a tray by the fire, especially when the weather is raging outside, and just watch whatever is on the TV.

Staying cosy and warm by the fire is a good oppotunity for me to start knitting another baby jumper – I hadn’t actually noticed that the pattern had a pattern until I came to start knitting it and I am feeling quite pleased with myself that it worked out and does resemble the pattern in the picture. As a novice knitter it is always daunting to come across something new but I coped and the rest of the jumper is quite plain. I have chosen the age 1-2 years size in the hope that it will fit one of the grandchildren and that they won’t have grown out of it before I finish it.

On Sunday we awoke to the sound of wind whistling around the house and knew the storm was now taking hold. The rain was lashing at the windows and at 11am the electricity went off, flickered back into life a little, then went again but this time was off until about 3pm. The house was mighty cold by the time it was back on but we do have a gas fire in the living room – shame we only thought about it part way through and switched it on! Lunch was a can of soup cooked on our little camping stove and we were at least able to make ourselves a cup of tea.

It is funny how everything you think to do during a power cut involves electricity! In the end when I realised ironing, hoovering, washing and cooking were all jobs I couldn’t do we got out the kitchen plans again to try and resolve the many issues of all the units / appliances etc that are not going to fit where we would ideally like them.

Today I wanted to get a few jobs done so DH made the lunch – mushroom soup, delicious as ever, and for tea I needed to use up some left over mashed potato in the fridge and finish off the leeks – so the Crank’s Homity Pie was just the right recipe for this (althought they use onion but I much prefer leeks).

So that was my last few days – nothing too taxing and certainly nothing very exciting, just normal day to day stuff. Hope everyone has managed to stay safe and warm during the storm – more bad weather is forecast over the next few days – I have cleaning to do.

creating health and wellbeing

I am not sure our recent cosy supper meals are strictly that healthy – pastry, mashed potato and cheese is quite heavy and loaded with carbs – but at this time of year it feels warming and satisfying against this continuing chilly weather. Our lunch time meals of soup or winter salads are much better and I found a couple of brilliant books in the library called Savour by Amber Locke and The Soup Cleanse by Angela Blatteis.

I wasn’t particularly going to attempt a soup cleanse but the information in the book is well woth a read. I now know that amongst other things almonds regulate cholesterol levels, beetroot lowers blood pressure, as does spinach, and sunflower seeds strengthen bones.

I can recommend the book Savour – the photos are just brilliant and so colourful and I love her ideas for garnishing the soups with shredded veg, spiced roasted chickpeas, oven roasted Tofu or crumbled goats cheese – she manages to turn soup into a very healthy and nutritious meal and it is these ‘additions’ that I will be concentrating on in the next few weeks to add variety to our soup and pack them full of healthy nurtients.

Exercises are high on my list – I admit it is not an area that I am good at – in fact the words ‘fail’ and ‘miserably’ spring to mind. As hard as I try I do not seem to be able to get any routine or rhythmn going – I am at best hit and miss and at worst do absolutely nothing. I have all of the intentions but am lacking in action.

I have now printed down from the internet examples of the same exercises suggested by my physio (although she drew little stick men – I needed something more visual to help me remember them).

One of my comments recently from Linda (Occasional Scotland) was to write down the date when I do the exercises – I did this and it sure hit home that there were gaps in between the days and I am not doing them as often as I think I am. (No surprises there).

Part of the reason is just a sheer lack of time and constantly being away from home and having to play catch up – part of the reason is that although when I get down to doing them I actually enjoy them and feel better afterwards it is obviously the getting down to doing them that is my sticking point. I really am not a routine person.

Margaret another commenter asked what the exercises are for my knee – so here is the list – you can find them on the internet and you tube under these or similar headings.

  • Straight leg raises (and with belt)
  • Diastasis recti exercise
  • Side lying straight leg lifts
  • standing glute kickbacks
  • Glute bridges

So this week I am concentrating on the exercises and some serious healthy meal planning.

creating :: a crafty day today

Friday again already…where do the weeks go. DH collected his car yesterday and I am hoping there is nothing else to fix on either of them – there couldn’t possibly be could there?

I have bank statements to balance and I must get around to labelling the jars in my new pantry. It is finished all but for that task. Well I say finished but I am still moving things around each day and I could do with buying one more shelf from Ikea. DH is finding it hard to know where anything is at the moment as I keep swapping and changing and swapping back; each day he finds that something is now in a new place….he just humours me. There will be pictures I promise but at the moment I am still titivating and enjoying myself so much. Even the thought of a new kitchen is not as exciting at the moment as my new pantry.

I came across this picture the other day in my pile of Christmas cards that I haven’t as yet got around to dealing with. I usually turn them into tags and money envelopes but I thought it would be nice to put this one in a photo frame to display next Christmas as it has such a lovely cosy feeling.

My granddaughter, Little L, created this colourful masterpiece on a paper plate at nursery a few years ago and it has been hanging on my kitchen notice board ever since. I decided to cut it down into a rectangle with the intention of putting it into a picture frame so I can display it on the wall or my mantel piece.

You may be wondering what teabags have to do with crafts – well remember the Pukka advent calendar I received from my sister-in-law well unsurprisingly there were one or two flavours I am not keen on – I don’t do fennel at all and so these are the ones that I will not be drinking…..but I had other ideas for them….read on.

I spent an afternoon making some more pressed flower cards with the remains of the flowers and leaves that I pressed earlier in the year – and I was really scraping the barrel here to find enough bits that were still good enough to use. My last efforts were very well received by my friends so I thought I would do a few more before turning my attentions to something new.

I have put the teabags in my card box so that when I send a card to a friend I will enclose a teabag so they can enjoy a lovely cup of tea and my teabags will not be wasted. I know my friends well enough so should be able to match up a teabag to each of their personal tastes.

I seem to have accumulated quite a few dried slices of orange and lemons over the years and need to reduce the pile. Rather than throw them away or compost them I thought they would be nice to add as a decoration when I wrap my presents in plain brown parcel paper. I found some old fashioned buff coloured parcel tags and stamped a few with different pictures and messages which I will then combine with the orange slices.

Little by little I keep trying to reduce the assortment of crafty bits and pieces I have collected and make things with them. I have a whole box full of cut out butterflies but that will be another day.

Enjoy the weekend everyone x

dear diary :: morning glory

What a beautiful day today – I spent the morning in the garden and it was gloriously sunny and warm and quite calm. The birds were twittering away and it felt like spring had arrived which is not usually this early high up in the Pennines as we are here. The jolly Budha was certainly smiling, yet we all know this kind of weather can be very deceiving and we might suddenly be plunged once again into cold, wet, wind and snow.

With this in mind I didn’t cut back very much of the dead foliage in the garden as it can be quite protective of any harsh weather still to come. I did manage to get the bulbs planted that had started growing indoors in the bag and I also repotted some tiny Irises I bought in Thirsk at the weekend as well as planting out a pot of snowdrops into the small border.

There are bulbs springing up all over the garden now and the Primulas are in full bloom.

Even the pansies have over wintered well this time.

The rhododendron grown by DH’s grandfather and named after him has some nice fat buds waiting to burst open when the time is right. I just hope this year they don’t open too soon and then get hit by later frosts. The one in our Scottish garden which was a cutting from this plant does much better.

I was so glad to see the Clematis I bought last year, and which is still in a pot, has some new leaf buds….an encouraging sign that I have not yet killed it.

In between a bit of gardening and tidying I was running in and out with the washing getting as much done as I could and out on the line while the going was good. DH had taken his car down to our local village garage to have the brake discs done ready for the MOT in April. It has been quite a hefty month or two financially for the cars with both car tax and insurance being paid on top of the recent maintenance costs and an annual service.

This afternoon I went up the road for a cup of tea and a natter with my neighbour. We usualy meet on a Friday but she will be out tomorrow. We spend a couple of hours putting the world to rights and catching up with our news – a lot can happen in a week.

Tonight I am making a cauliflower and broccoli bake for our supper. It is one of my favourite meals in the winter months and quite quick to do. After tea I expect we might just cosy down and watch some TV and maybe an early night. I have just finished my book ‘Confessions of a Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell – I enjoyed it as much as the earlier one he wrote though I would be very wary of starting a converstion with him should we ever visit his shop in Wigtown, which is round the bay from our cottage, just in case the conversation was ever recorded like many in one of his books!

Tomorrow I still have a million and one jobs to do so we should be having another day at home. Have a relaxing evening…I am! xx

dear diary :: oh my, oh my…

It has been a long time and a long time away from the old key board – not intentional I assure you and I hope that in the days that have passed you are all well and thoroughly enjoyed January.

Like my life, the changes in the weather have been so unsettling recently that no two days have hardly been the same. We have swung from bitterly cold to blustery winds with a lashing or two of rain in between….. and a day of snow.

So exactly what have I been doing, you might ask?

….and isn’t it hard to remember?

January is a busy month for us with birthdays and on top of that we have more than a few special remembrance days of my father-in-law, mother-in-law, a close uncle and yesterday for my dear old dad – who fell ill during January before he died. It would seem that my family like to fit in one good ‘last Christmas’ before departing from us. It is hard looking back and remembering all the good times we had with each of them, these memories are so precious to me and I like to have some quiet time alone, just me and the photo albums.

After writing my last post (on the 21st January) we managed to squeeze in an appointment with the kitchen planner in Sheffield to discuss the possibility of a new kitchen (yeah) and take up the discounted deal on offer. We arranged for the planner to come over on the following Tuesday to take measurements and look at our space and advise on what might fit in it, but unfortunately that was the day it snowed here so had to be cancelled and is now rearranged for later in February. In the meantime we are trudging endlessly around kitchen showrooms looking for ideas and at the appliances we will need to install. Already it feels like an expensive project.

On the Friday (24th) we had a lovely trip out to our local theatre to see Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn – you either love him or you don’t – I like his humour and both the play and actors were brilliant. It is ages since we had an evening at the theatre; we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and agreed that we really do need to get out more.

Saturday was our Burns’ night supper that we host for some of our closest friends and in memory of my Scottish father-in-law who died on Burns’ night (after attending a Burns’ night supper himself at his local church, though I might add his death was not a consequence of the food!).

It has become a bit of a tradition now and each year we add in something new. This year we made Cock-a-Leekie soup as a starter but being vegetarian without the ‘cock’ – so just ‘Leekie’ soup – which was actually just our leek and potato soup recipe – it went down very well though and instead of rolls I made Parmesan crisps (not very Scottish I know but very nice all the same).

We did a special version of the kanban board to help us prepare for the evening and the glass in the patio doors proved to be an effective place to stick all the individual post it note tasks. I decorated a few places around the house with a touch of tartan and placed candlelit lanterns outside in the garden.

The evening was a success even though we were all crammed into our tiny dining area and one of the meat haggis exploded in the oven with quite a bang. The Cranachan recipe using porridge oats was certainly not as good as last year’s version using oatmeal, but enjoyable none the less and I have made a note of this for next year. We managed to polish off all the Tunnoch’s caramel wafers and chocolate teacakes and down a dram or two of whisky before everyone left for home and we climbed into bed at around 3am – so rather a late start to Sunday (….well what was left of it).

Sunday I cleaned the oven to remove the dreaded bits of haggis from every nook and cranny it had attached itself to.

The following Monday we had a trip over to the south of Manchester for the Citroen specialist to adjust the suspension on our car. It is much better now and actually glides over the bumps as it should and even better he only charged £40 which was good news for us after the hundreds we have given to the local Citroen garage in their attempts to get it sorted.

I had hair and physio appointments and was looking forward to a restful weekend but our plans had to change suddenly when both mum and our younger daughter in North Yorkshire required our services urgently. After the physio session on Thursday we hastily packed and shot off to stay with our daughter and the two grandchildren.

Our daughter only moved into her new house last November in a new area and Little L has started a new school…. just when we thought they were all settled – it appears that not all is well with her new landlady and the property she is renting she may not be able to stay in the house (obviously I cannot go into detail here but through no fault of her own may have to move again) – we are waiting for more news on this and as is the case these days no one can discuss the matter with her. What a good job we had not had the time to order the new wardrobes.

My mum had not been well all week and my sister had to go away for a long weekend so she needed our help. She is feeling very down at the moment because she cannot get out and about like she used to. She had an x-ray on her hip, knees and feet last week and my sister who accompanied her saw the x-rays and the radiologist explained what was what – apparently her right hip does not look good, there is no fluid surrounding it and the bones are wearing away. She now has to wait 3 months for an appointment at the clinic to discuss what can or cannot be done. I am amazed at how quickly she has gone downhill; when we went on Saturday to take her out for the day she could barely walk to the car.

As she didn’t need us to take her for any shopping we had a run out over to Saltburn for lunch at the deli cafe and then went down the coast to Sandsend. It is a lovely run and en route we ventured off the main coast road and went along the single track road to explore Goldsborough and Kettleness.

Goldsborough, which is tiny and off the beaten track, does still have a pub called The Fox and Hounds, whilst further on Kettleness village is just a cluster of tiny cottages on the headland since the rest of the village plunged into the sea one stormy night in 1829. The most notable feature is a little abandoned chapel on the way down to the village after this you can go no further and have to turn around and go back.

On Sunday we gave my daughter a break and took the girls, Little L and Sweetie, out for a few hours. It was damp and cold so going to the playground or park was out. Little L had a few pounds in her purse and a book token so we went into Thirsk so she could find a book. The White Rose Book Cafe is one of my favourite places and after a lengthy browse around we had lunch there and eventually Little L settled on a book about boats.

We are home again now but returned to find my elder daughter who lives locally to us had not been well all weekend with a sickness bug caught from her husband and so her return to work yesterday after a lengthy maternity leave has had to be postponed a day or two!!

I think that is all my main news to tell and so today I am catching up with myself. There is paper work to do, washing, ironing and a lot of endless ‘bitty’ bits and pieces.

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my previous posts, they are much appreciated. I will be trying to catch up with all you lovely bloggers out there but might be doing a little more reading than commenting until I am up to date.

And of course welcome to all my new followers. x

creating health and well being

Needless to say this part of my life has been a little neglected of late. I should be reporting that I am exercising everyday, eating very healthy meals and remebering to drink more water and take my supplements.

I am working on it!

Truth is I will have to start over – not completely as nothing in life is ever wasted – but just get back on track and it would be a good idea to find my exercise sheet that I had developed with my physiotherapist.

dear diary :: another celebration

We arrived home late from Scotland, but safe and sound, on Saturday night. Saturday is the best night to travel back down – the motorways have few heavy goods vehicles and not many cars either, having said that you can still see some horrendous accidents so it was no surprise to witness four ambulances shooting past one after the other along the northbound carriageway of the M61. I always send up a little prayer for those involved and those who are there to treat the victims and then thank God that we remain safe as often it is just the fact of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – a few seconds more or less and that crash could have been us.

On Sunday we surfaced very late and then had to rush off down to town before the early Sunday closing to get bits and pieces for the next project, my grandson’s birthday cake. I am not sure why I volunteered to do the cake, I had less than 24 hours to produce something and I had no idea how I was going to decorate it – other than it would have to be buttercream and some sprinkles. I had to invent something from the few decorating items I could find in Sainsbury’s and being in such a rush of course everything went wrong.

I wanted a tall cake with 3 layers but didn’t have enough sandwich tins of the right size so decided to make one large cake and slice it into three – the mixture takes longer to cook in one tin so I felt it came out a bit drier than when you divide the mixture between sandwich tins. I am still not sure what happened with the buttercream – one minute it was fine then all of a sudden it seemed to be all whippy and too much air – it might have been because I used semi skimmed milk rather than whole milk when I added the liquid. You can see the odd texture in the photo. It was far too late to do anything about it so I just had to slap it on and hope for the best. The stars cut out of the blue fondant icing were a bit of an afterthought to cover up the texture of the buttercream – the problems didn’t seem to affect the taste though. Everyone said it tasted really nice. Thank goodness. It isn’t my best creation but it did the job and little Freddie loved the candle and sparkler.

Making a cake is probably no cheaper than just buying a ready made one from the supermarket. I used to make all the birthday cakes for our two daughters – I have done fairy castles and toadstools, horseriding and ballerina, jungle scenes and pretty flowers, but I am really beginning to think my cake making days are at an end.

As it was so close to the recent christening we just made little Freddie a small tea party to mark the occasion of his very first birthday with both sets of grandparents and mum and dad. He enjoyed himself and thoroughly entertained us – although he didn’t really know what a birthday is.

My daughter had made these delightful little decorations for the tea party out of some wrapping paper and tissue.

Whilst in Castle Douglas on the way back home from Scotland I had a bit of a shopping spree as you can see in the photo – altogether my little haul was less than £15 – so I don’t feel that is too extravagant. In the craft centre I bought these little wooden rabbits ready for Easter.

……and for £2.59 I also bought this instruction card to make the patchwork quilt in the picture using my own fabrics. You buy the card and on the back are all the instructions and measurements for cutting out the strips and squares of fabric to make this design. I have a lot of pretty cotton fabric left over from making the bunting for my daughter’s wedding and it is on my list to make a quilt – I love the design of this one and the colours and fabrics are very close to the ones I have.

I couldn’t leave Castle Douglas without popping in to Tessara – a tiny shop full of beautiful gifts and homewares. There was a sale on and I bought the silver photo frame for my mantel piece – having 3 grandchildren now I need plenty of photo frames.

Today we had a bit of a clear up of outstanding tasks – booking my car service, rearranging an appointment and chatting with a Citroen specialist about our car problems. I also made a few pressed flower cards – so quite a productive day.

I now have to start thinking about our next two projects – our new kitchen and the Burns night supper on Saturday.

These are certainly busy times.

dear diary :: homeward bound

Nothing much happened yesterday other than a trip into the local town of Stranraer – but for me that is quite a pleasant event.  We decided to put the final portion of the tomato soup in a flask, make a sandwich and take lunch with us.  All was calm weather wise and the sun came out so we stopped in the pretty village of Ardwell further up the coast and watched gulls bobbing about on the sea whilst lunching.  The two cottages facing out onto the bay are my very favourite on this coast – much more sheltered than we are.

Would you believe it though, as we turned off the main road into the picnic area by the shore the car beeped and a fault message suddenly flashed on the dashboard screen ‘automatic parking brake fault’ and the service light came on?   Usually when we stop the car when parking the handbrake automatically engages as there is no handbrake to pull on and luckily even if the automatic parking brake doesn’t work you can operate the brake manually with a lever – but it is yet another problem to add to the list.  When we arrived back at the caravan later all messages had disappeared from the screen and the car’s automatic brake came on – so maybe it has corrected itself…who knows!

After lunch we took a quick brisk walk along the beach looking for beach finds then headed off into town – it was bitterly cold so we kept dodging into shops just to keep warm.  I got mum’s card and a lovely one that opens out into a train for Freddie’s 1st birthday.  I had to write mum’s card in the local café to get it in the post – I slipped in a book token for her – as she cannot get out much now reading is quite important to her but this means buying a lot more books.

After a trip to the post office we went round to my favourite hardware shop which is more like a mini department store.  Here you can still buy something as basic as a steel fire basket for your coal fire or some of those old varieties of seed potatoes ….and sure enough they had jam pot covers –there was even a choice and I opted for the mixed pack of waxed circles with the cellophane covers.

It is one of those shops where you feel you can buy anything and coming across a pile of cloths between the dishcloths and floor cloths marked ‘udder cloths’ was no surprise.  They are quite nice – like stiff muslin (maybe you had one Pat on your farm?)  I am sure they might be quite useful for something other than udders – but I couldn’t think what so I put it back.

A lot of the shelves were quite bare having cleared away all signs of the decorations, artificial trees and lights that they have on display at Christmas to the delight of the local children (it is their only Santa Grotto for miles).  The assistants were busy having a bit of a change around as shops do now and just starting to put out their new stock.  It is a struggle for these independent shops to keep going – a lot are family owned and when they retire they are lost and gone for ever leaving increasingly empty gaps like on most high streets.   I always try to buy things when we are up here to help keep them going.

We had a bit of a shock in Tesco though – it is not a big store but bigger than one of their Express stores.  A few years ago they removed the instore bakery but have continued to sell a range of freshly baked bread and Danish pastries; now the section selling the freshly baked bread and rolls has halved in size to one small fitment and they have stopped selling wholemeal loaves altogether unless you want the wrapped steam baked Warburton’s type which I don’t like (too squishy for me). 

What made it worse is the fact that they have now expanded the sugary cakes and doughnuts section to fill the space.  This feels like a big step backwards to me especially in a region that is known to have a pretty bad diet of high fat and sugar foods anyway.  Are people substituting cakes for bread I wonder?  The Tesco assistant said this was not the only store to remove the wholemeal loaves.

When we come here for any length of time we are going to be quite stuck for bread now – we can bring some with us but obviously not for a whole week or longer – I like my bread on the dry side but stale is another thing!

We bought the haggis, a few wee scotch pies (the men love these), macaroni for the vegetarians and some after dinner treats….Tunnock’s of course. There is no way to make haggis look appetising in a photo but here it is.

So today we are homeward bound – car allowing, stopping in Castle Douglas another fine market town full of little independent shops, a huge Wilkos and the best craft shop ever.  Oh and did I mention they have an award winning chip shop – so a bag of freshly cooked chips is a must.

I just need one more turn around the garden to say goodbye until next time.

Have a wonderful weekend. x

PS. The tomato soup recipe is now in the recipe section – click on the tab above the header. Hope you enjoy it Wendy x

dear diary :: a bit blustery

Its not hard to spot the difference between the calm photos of the beach I posted yesterday and these. Waves crashing around and the roar of the swell coming before it has to be seen and heard and can feel quite threatening stood so close – so I didn’t linger too long.

I stayed indoors and made red pepper, tomato and basil soup (click on the Recipes tab for the recipe) while the guy we found to fix the garage door came down. We called him at about 9.30am and he came about 11am – not a bad service. We didn’t even have to pay for parts as we could supply him with the cables (in fact both had gone in the end) and the spring just needed respringing rather than replacing.

So one job down. Umpteen to go.

We didn’t make it into town either we kept warm and read instead, so we are going today. I have two birthday cards to get; one for my mum (she will be 94 come Sunday) and one for little Freddie who is just one year old. Then I need to go to the wonderful Homes and Gardens store for jam pot covers and a mooch around – they have a fascinating collection of everything you could possibly want for your house from teapots to drain cleaners.

Then I need haggis and some Scottish pies to take back with me for Burns night.

Surprisingly, the weather is quite calm today and the tide is way out – it did feel like it was coming up into our garden yesterday so I hope not too much land has been lost on the banking around the bay here.

Have a good day everyone and keep warm x

dear diary :: roaming in the gloaming

The journey to Scotland didn’t start too well.  We were up, packed and ready to go on time but then a power cut delayed us, as we had to wait to be sure everything electrical was off and the burglar alarm set OK, then as we drove the first mile it was obvious the car is still not as it should be….smooth.  The suspension was suspiciously rather bumpy and hard which is not like Citroens at all.  We circled the block a couple of times, me driving, then DH driving as it seems far worse on the passenger side, then we went back home to decide on what we should do.  Already having forked out £1200 for this problem we are reluctant to go back to the same garage.

We decided we would carry on to Scotland turning back at Preston if the suspension had not settled down by then or had got worse.  It more or less remained the same – probably better on the smoother roads like the motorways and no warning messages had activated so we pressed on, fingers crossed all the way.

Anyway we are here in Scotland now and despite all the weather warnings it was gloriously sunny yesterday, but bitterly cold in the breeze.  I have said this before but I do love these grey winter days by the sea, they are quite calming and relaxing. 

And we have no plans other than to relax.

Because of the earlier set backs and subsequent late departure we didn’t get to the cottage (caravan) until 9pm. It was cold inside the van, the central heating boiler had lost water pressure and was flashing fault. Hastily, we scrambled around for the manual to check the fault code – most likely due to a leak it says – no obvious signs inside so we will need to examine the outside pipes under the van in the daylight – in the meantime DH is able to let more water into the system so that we can get the heating up and running again.

Meanwhile, I start to busy myself unpacking and making up the bed with clean linen only to discover that the electric blanket that I had taken home to wash…. was……you guessed it…… still at home. Memories of the recent cake saga flood into my mind. Luckily, we keep a hot water bottle at the van and so this was requisitioned to warm and air the bed which was so cold I could only envisage a night of discomfort. Trying to heat up the whole of the bed a few square inches at a time takes some effort when you are tired and cold and just want to climb into a warm bed and sleep.

After a while we managed to warm up the room and the bed and eventually jumped in fully kitted out with t-shirts and socks….. and actually slept quite soundly.

It was quite late when we surfaced, tired after the long journey, but the sun was shining so after breakfast we went out to survey our land – not quite roaming in the gloaming (which means twilight – I had to Google it) but rather midday.  We always have a wander through the wood and round the garden then down onto the beach to check everything is OK.

Everything was as it should be with no evidence of any fallen trees or flooding, even the burn running alongside the cottage was not as high as it might have been.  It would seem we had survived storm Brendan – only the little path that takes us onto the shore was covered in a pool of water so we had to make do just looking from the banking.

Round the corner from us is in the next bay is a different story; where the coast road runs alongside the beach the road is closed – an action that has been taken far more seriously since the death of the couple and their two dogs last year when they were swept out to sea one stormy night.  It is a long diversion and one that the locals are loathed to take but one that will save lives.  The spray from the sea covers the road and sends up quite large beach stones with it…a treacherous mile known here as the car wash.

So all seemed well until we came to open the garage door only to find one of the cables of the up and over door has snapped.  Being so close to the sea there are certain things you have to get used to – rust is one of them.  The cables rust with the salt from the sea spray, which finds its way in through any crack, and so need replacing quite frequently.  DH is quite capable of replacing them and we always keep a spare or two.  However, as he started to replace the cable the tension spring went as well so now we have a door that we cannot close or open fully.  With this and the car problems I won’t deny the stress is building up a bit.  The search for a garage door fixer is now on. And we have still to locate a possible leak.

In all this turmoil, both in our lives and the world generally who can deny the beauty around us and tuning into nature is one of the best ways to calm down – I tell myself – and it does – I was delighted to see snowdrops dancing around in the breeze and the first daisies appearing in the grass.

There are little signs of new life everywhere and the rabbits have not, as yet, been scratching up the bulbs but I do need to put a little food out for the birds….the table is empty and the robin sits looking quite hopeful at me.

So today while DH is on the phone trying to find a Mr Fix it man I will be making some warming tomato and red pepper soup for lunch. I am hopeful we may get into town for a look around the shops – only a look – there is nothing much we need other than jam pot covers, and we will certainly find them here – we had no luck at home. Keep warm everyone.