dear diary >> it’s been a while…

Somehow time escapes me and although I never intend to have a blog break I often find that my life is just not geared up for being consistent….about anything. I have quite a valid reason for my sudden disappearance this time…..at some point, just after my last post in August, before the sad announcement about our dear Queen and at the time when my back problems were much improved I fell….backwards…… from a height…..directly onto my back and not only damaged all that was nicely on the mend but I am now suffering more pain particularly around my coccyx area and the numbness in my feet and legs came back with avengence.

When I was checked over after the accident I was found to have a significantly raised blood pressure of 221/177 which would not come down again and was ordered to see my GP immediately! Daily readings had to be taken over a week or two and slowly the figures reduced to a more reasonable level and now after a lot of walking, rest and meditation it is back to my normal level of 120/70 for most of the time but for some reason my pulse remains a little higher than usual at 70 beats a minute rather than 50 to 60 beats per minute. The GP says that 70 is still good but to me it feels like it is going at a bit of a gallop, but I can live with that.

Last week we managed a trip to Scotland but had to have an overnight hotel stay in Carlisle both ways to break the journey – an expensive exercise but one that prevented further back problems as travelling in the car does bring on the pain and stiffness quite quickly.

As you might imagine after a few months of neglect the garden resembled a tropical rainforest which we had to fight our way into. So much had grown and many of the plants were laced with goosegrass. DH had to do most of the work on his own to try and tame back the overgrowth amongst the undergrowth.

Meanwhile, I could only potter but managed this one border that runs alongside the lane and was full of weeds, dying stems of plants that have finished flowering and grass from strimming the verge (which is done by our neighbour’s gardener but he only cuts it when it has grown long and then never clears away the strimmed grass). It took me all week in short shifts as gardening is the most difficult thing for me to do at the moment. So this was the before…

…and after….

Thank goodness for the colourful hydrangeas at this time of year – they certainly brighten up any garden and I cut a few of the heads to dry and bring home.

There was an abundance of apples on the Bramley tree and the Braeburn I planted a couple of years ago had born a wonderful harvest of fruit.

Surprisingly, we had little trouble from the new neighbour……there had been changes though and the bright yellow barrier has been put in place at the top of the lane that we share but it was open all the time we were there and no sign of a padlock…however, we cannot be sure if he still intends to lock this ‘gate’ in the future against our expressed wishes that we do not want a locked gate on our right of way unless he obtains a Court Order and it is unlikely from previous cases and the legal advice we have received that the courts would rule in his favour. A locked gate would prevent any of our guests and deliveries having access without being given a key and as a previous Judge said in a recent similar case ‘one cannot be handing out keys to every Tom, Dick or Harry that might visit’. Access for disabled visitors to the cottage would be far too difficult which would not be acceptable either.

It was good to be back at the cottage (for new readers – we presently stay in a caravan on site whilst the cottage undergoes some renovations). We had plenty of sea air and a few lovely walks around the sleepy village and down to the harbour and then along Shore Street to the Low Road that runs adjacent to the shore – it is much more sheltered along this pathway when there are cold winds. We cannot access the beach from our cottage at the moment as the winter sea moved some very large rocks around and cut off our access. Hopefully the winter sea this year might roll them back again.

So we are now back at home but it will be brief as we are now preparing to go and visit my mum for a few days whilst my sister is on holiday. Before we go I have soup to make and apples to cook and freeze so I had better get a move on.

I hope everyone is quite well and keeping warm. I am following along with you all on your blogs and will get back to commenting soon, I promise. If you are reading this I hope you are feeling better Lyssa and I am looking forward to your challenge Sue (we almost stopped in Garstang on Monday but decided on Chorley in the end) and love your new title Jules and the pictures of Mull – Scotland is quite a magical place isn’t it – I feel quite refreshed after our visit. And to everyone else have a lovely week and enjoy the sunshine…. if you are lucky enough to have some.

Back soon x

dear diary >> a sad, sad day

I am still in shock at the news today about our dear Queen – it is an historic moment and my heart goes out to her family. I was born in 1954 two years after Elizabeth became Queen so she is all I have ever known and it is somehow like losing a granny. She is the same age as my mum who was married in the same year and my older brother was born in the same year as Prince Charles.

I really wish King Charles well – it will be a challenge to step into his mother’s shoes. I wonder what lies ahead with a new monarch and new prime minister in the same week – only time will tell – but there is a feeling life will not be quite the same without our Queen – just as she pledged all those years ago she has served us well and she will be remebered for many things including her lovely comic pieces with James Bond and Paddington.

God Bless dear lady and rest in peace, your duty is done.

dear diary >> busy doing nothing

Well I know I was busy all day but it felt like I had achieved very little. But….the pastry did get mixed and we now have some lentil pies and a quiche base in the freezer – I could have made more but silly me had not noticed the plain flour jar was running low. To compensate for the shortfall I added in some spelt flour and it has made a nice pastry. I used to prefer wholemeal pastry but it is quite heavy on our digestion these days so I switched to Doves Farm organic white which is unbleached. We don’t have pastry very often these days as too much of it does seem to take longer to digest.

I should have titled this post a ‘Tale of two candles‘ as I spent a good two hours in the broom cupboard trying to accomodate my excessive amount of assorted candles (many of them I inherited from my daughters) and make a ‘pleasing arrangement‘ as DH would say.

As always when organising storage there is always the odd thing that just doesn’t quite fit and in this case it was the very annoying two tall pillar candles. Too tall to stand upright on the shelf and just a smidgen too long to be contained in any receptacle that I have. In the end all I could do was lay them on their side -but this is not ideal as they roll about a bit.

The short stubby ones and the tea lights all fitted quite nicely into the 3 storage boxes and I found the best way of storing the long thin ones is upright in glass jars. To make room for the candles I had to adjust the three shelves in the broom cupboard so the top shelf had a larger gap to fit two stacked storage boxes and the bottom two shelves had a narrower gap. But whilst solving this problem I unknowingly created another and when I came to close the cupboard door the contents of the storage container fastened to the door were now too tall for the narrower gap between the bottom and second shelf and the handles of the cleaning and bottle brushes no longer fitted comfortably between the shelves when the door is closed but hit the shelf and stopped the door closing.

So now I have removed some of the taller cleaning brushes and will have to find a new home for them….argh!

I am quite pleased with the result though and all my candles are now in one easily accessible place. The two infuriating pillar candles will be lit as soon as the evenings draw in a bit more. I don’t really want it to feel like autumn yet as I think it is going to be a long, cold winter – what a shame we cannot bottle this summer heat.

My next task is to re-house the coolbags as I would like to get rid of the old kitchen cabinet in the garage where they currently reside. It is a base cabinet and sticks out a long way but does a good job of storing the cool bags and keeps them dust free. They would fit in the cupboard that has all our cleaning products like car shampoo and oven cleaner but I think the smell might spread into the coolbag over time. I am not sure I would want my picnic sandwiches to taste of metal polish or patio cleaner!! Another storage problem to mull over.

DH was busy ironing again – his reward was spending time at the computer (his favourite pastime). He also mounted the second water butt on some bricks with a slab on top which is much more stable than the plastic feet that come with it. This butt is not connected to a drain pipe but we pour in the ‘run off’ water we collect whilst the hot water is coming through in the kitchen. It is surprising how much you can lose down the drain. We are also keeping a bucket in the shower to collect any clean water there when showering. It rained…only a little yesterday early evening – I am hoping just enough to top up the water butt (as we have a hose pipe ban here now) and freshen up the borders and planters and save me having to water today.

Today we /me/or he is making Leek and Potato soup to use up the plentiful supply of potatoes I have and the remains of the leeks. If I have chance I will prepare the tomato soup ingredients at the same time.

This afternoon we are downing tools and going up the road to see two friends of ours K&R. R has recently come out of hospital after an operation and at the moment cannot drive so they are both stuck at home as K had to give up driving because of a macular problem. We have been taking K with us when we go shopping to help out as she is well in her 80’s now but today we are just visiting and having a cup of tea and a catch up chat.

dear diary >> a matter of opinion

DH and I agree on most things, but it is of no surprise that we have a difference of opinion when it comes to what constitutes ‘pottering’ and how long it should continue for. He thinks two hours of minimal activity is all I should be doing at present and of course he is right but I am an all or nothing person and once I begin a job I can’t bear not to see it through.

And I get sidetracked easily.

I am a great supporter of the Lean method where continuous improvement is part of the approach. I am always looking for better ways of organising and storing things and often have a move around much to DH’s dismay! Sometimes, even I have to acknowledge a task will take far longer than I have time for in a day, but if I stop what I am doing then I know it is going to end up as another project on the unfinished task list as other urgent housekeeping chores call for my attention.

Yesterday, I maybe overdid it a bit. I only intended to sort out the collection of small plastic plant pots in the greenhouse, that I had washed before our holidays, and keep only the useful ones. Dobbies, one of our local garden centres, have a recycling point for old plant pots so I have put aside the ones I don’t want to drop off on our next visit.

We have quite a useful space at the side of our house behind the shed where we can keep our wheelie bins and bags of potting compost tucked away from view. I also put the old mini greenhouse here as it is a sunny positon but much cooler away from any direct sun which is great for potted cuttings and hardening off. I keep the larger empty plant pots here too and anything a bit unsightly but the whole area was a bit of a mess because DH had not been able to get to his ladder easily and after he put it back in position the objects he had to move did not quite make it back in their place (need I say more…). So I started tidying up this area and as I went along I found a few problems that required a little DIY from DH whilst he was doing other bits and pieces in the greenhouse and now the area is looking much cleaner and quite tidy.

Before our holidays DH put in some ‘Christmas potatoes’ – I am not sure if they will actually be ready for Christmas day but they are growing well and needed earthing up. My few outdoor tomatoes are at last turning red – it has been a long wait. I haven’t grown this variety before, a dwarf stocky bush tomato that does not require the removal of side shoots called Totem. They are very sturdy plants that stood up well to the strong winds we had a month or so ago. The Zinnias in the top photo have been battered by wind and then scorched by the sun… but are holding on, they are such beautiful rich colours and one of my favourite annuals. I have more in the front borders and they are mixed with a rather lovely colour called ‘Green Envy’. I was quite pleased to see that Carol Klein recommended this variety on her Summer Gardening program (I just love her enthusiasm for plants it is contagious) it is such an unusual colour but looks good beside the vibrant reds and purples. The plants that have done the best this year on the patio are the geraniums – they seem to thrive in hot dry weather but then they do grow an enormous amount of them in France and Italy.

Today I must, must, must make the mushroom and lentil pies to freeze and the quiche bases (I know I have been saying this all week!). I will rub up the pastry mix this morning and then do the filling in the afternoon. If I get chance I have had an idea for storing those candles I mentioned. I need to gather them all together in Marie Kondo style to see what I am dealing with in terms of space required. I do have quite an assortment of candle holders too and maybe I don’t really need all of them. We shall see.

I am hoping that DH will be doing a bit more fixing and mending. When we got home from holiday I found my watering can broken. It is a Hall’s plastic red one with a long bar attached to the spout that you hold to carry it and it had snapped clean in two as you can see in the photo…..rendering it unuseable and there was no way it could be glued back together. It seemed such a shame that it would be of no further use and would end up in landfill at the tip. However DH to the rescue – he came up with a solution…..

…… a bit of a Heath Robinson fix (just like his dad) using this strong metal strip of rust proof aluminium and some screws or maybe they are rivets. I am delighted though and so pleased it could be repaired – in fact it should be stronger than before even if it does look a bit strange.

Have a lovely restful Sunday everyone. x

dear diary >> an act of kindness

Before I forget I thought I would just mention a marvellous act of kindness I came across whilst on holiday in Scarborough. It was on our last day and I desperately wanted to visit a fabric shop near to our holiday rental called the Sewing Centre before we left. This is their website www.sewingcentrescarborough.com They have a brilliant stock, friendly staff and sell online too and I spent a wonderful half hour browsing the aladins cave of fabrics especially the Liberty range. If I lived in Scarborough I would no doubt be in here every week.

I was particularly looking for this fabric above called Seaside Squares which comes in a panel to make into a strip of bunting for my daughter as a present for her Christmas stocking, as we both love homemade gifts…….(but shhh you had better keep that as a secret for now). They have a large amount of fabric in all colours and designs but sadly they didn’t have this one. However, to my delight, I managed to track it down last night on the internet and ordered a panel for £4.95 which I thought was good value especially as I could choose 2nd class Royal Mail postage for free as I am not in any hurry for it.

Anyway back to my story……DH and I were the only two people in the shop when a lady came in with her visiting friend. Her friend had asked to see a fabric shop and so she had brought her to this one. In the course of conversation with the owner it turned out the friend was a Ukrainian refugee who loved sewing but of course had not been able to bring her machine with her. The owner of the shop suddenly disappeared into the back and returned with a large box….opened it and presented the Ukrainian lady with a brand new sewing machine as a gift. I must say I left the shop with a tear in my eye at such kindness.

I decided against anymore clearing out yesterday – my right shoulder that has been taking quite a lot of strain since my back has been out of action was not very good. I have a feeling I might have a tear in my rotator cuff from doing the cat /cradle exercise and having to heave myself up out of chairs and beds by weighing heavily on my arm. I cannot lift it very high now and washing my hair is becoming increasingly difficult. After my shower yesterday it was aching…. a lot.

DH made some celery soup and then did a little ironing for me (well having a bad arm does have some compensations). I made a couple of phone calls, rearranged our hair appointments and had a look on you tube for some exercises that might help my shoulder – of course you end up down a rabbit hole don’t you and before I knew it DH was calling me for lunch. After lunch my shoulder was a little easier so I managed to write my letter – though with the strikes I am not sure when it will get to its destination so I only put a second class stamp on it.

Later we went to B&Q to get a length of dowel for the greenhouse to attach the shading material to – or at least that is the plan. It will be easier to photograph what we have in mind when it is done rather than explain it here. B&Q was so quiet and so was Sainsbury’s when we called for a few oddments – washing up liquid and cheese and picked up four reduced Organic wholemeal loaves for the freezer for 50p each.

The roads however were quite busy with people zooming around, (the start of the Bank Holiday busyness). There seems to be a real surge in people going through red lights and yesterday we saw someone do just that at each set of lights we had to stop at. Then there was the mad driver who thought it was a good idea to overtake us whilst going through the narrow railway viaduct where the road kinks and crossing the double white lines to do so….. then speeding off in a thirty area and crossing over to the other side of the road and going around the central reservation bollards to overtake the cars in front of us. It was a car driven by and full of young teenagers. The driver was no doubt showing off but at what cost potentially to someones life.

Today I am definitely going in the greenhouse for a potter. DH fixed my little birdhouse and I hope he is going to attend to the dripping basin tap in the shower room and maybe have a look at the greenhouse shading. My focus word for this year is improvement and each little improvement we both accomplish around the place is helping to make it feel a little better, a little less cluttered and a little more ordered. The enormous mountain of tasks are slowly, one by one, getting done. Somehow doing the smallest of jobs can lighten the weight of stress that builds up when faced with so many jobs to do.

I don’t think we will be going anywhere this Bank Holiday the roads are often busy and the cafes crowded. We will go out next week when everyone is back to work. Have a good weekend everyone.

dear diary >> more pottering

I was so delighted to find that these cuttings I had taken earlier in the year have taken along with a few tiny self sown seedlings that I noticed when weeding in the borders and potted up. They are out in my mini greenhouse in a shadier corner of the garden so they don’t dry out.

Yesterday turned into a bit of a mammoth sorting out day. Another one where I ventured into the garage and ended up sorting through the bank of Ikea wooden drawers that contain all our bits and pieces, well mainly DH’s bits and pieces – spare hinges, hooks, car bulbs, flat pack funriture parts and a million and one other things, often unidentifiable….all stuff that might one day be useful and to be fair to DH it often is. He has a maddening habit though of putting things he wants to keep into the right drawer (they are all labelled) but I have no idea what it is for and often he forgets. My method is to bag and label – his method is sometimes to bag but hardly ever to label. So yesterday we played the game of guess what this is for and do we still need it.

Eventually, he knew he would have to stop what he was doing (uploading holiday photos) to help me and give me a clue for some of the items so that now they are all bagged and labelled, including the ones labelled unknown like the charger – but what is it a charger for? I know if I throw it out it will be for something important. There is still a long way to go in the garage and I hate throwing things away but I am not sure we will ever need the spare castors that came off an old file drawer, or the digital timer that came from my mum…….but you never know. As always when you embark on these tasks things you had forgotten about resurface like the gym ball pump and who knew that we had three keys for the ladder lock – all hanging on separate hooks.

I am now trying to find a good way of storing all my numerous candles of various shapes and sizes – long thin, short stubby and large pillar. Presently, they are scattered between numerous boxes – they are all quite plain unscented candles and many of them were left over from my daughter’s wedding but I have not as yet found the ideal storage container or place to store them. It would be much simpler to use them all so I don’t have to store them at all. Maybe come the autumn / winter time and possible power cuts I will be glad of my little hoard. Until then this little problem is a pending one.

DH had his screw driver out again today doing little jobs around the house and I now have the little holdall (once fixed to the inside of my old kitchen cupboard door to take tupperware lids) fixed to the inside of the broom cupboard where I keep my cleaning cloths and caddy. The holdall is just perfect for holding my spare rubber gloves.

I managed to make the nut loaf for our evening meal and the rest will be frozen for next week. I made it with brown rice rather than breadcrumbs as one of my daughter’s has a gluten intolerance and I will be taking it up to her house for tea next week. But I must confess the pastry still didn’t get done again, however whilst I had the oven on anyway I decided to roast some teeny weeny potatoes I had left over (those very tiny ones that you always get when you grow your own) and parsnips at the same time – oh and I slipped a small frozen yorkshire pudding in at the end….they are a weakness of mine.

So today…it is another I can’t believe it is Friday day – I have washed towels to hang out and more washing to put in. I have a letter to write and a couple of friends to ring. Then who knows…. it could be more paperwork or another spell in the garage. I daresay DH would prefer it if I do the paperwork and keep well away from the garage which he sees as his domain. Maybe I will spend an hour in my domain (the greenhouse) I never got to organise it properly once DH had finished painting the inside.

Welcome to all the new followers of my blog – I do find it strange that I manage to acquire more followers when I am having a bit of a break from blogging than when I am writing!!!

dear diary >> a productive day

I love those days when a few insignificant jobs are ticked off the list that provide some quite significant improvements. Yesterday was one of those days.

I spent an hour in the pantry putting things straight and filling up containers. I only found the bread flour and a pot of Thai curry paste to be near to its best before date so I will search out one or two recipes to use these up. I haven’t made Thai curry before and when I bought the paste pot it seemed easier than buying all the special ingredients that make it Thai.

The breakdown truck came mid morning and recovered the car to the garage whilst we followed on behind. The initial report from the nice garage man was that the escaping fluid is a leak from something that has worn through (I am so impressed Mary by your knowledge of cars) and the part required to fix it is relatively cheap, thank goodness, but we will have to wait a few days for him to get one (as they are imported) before the car can be made better, but at least it is now being dealt with.

Once back home DH pruned the berberis in the front garden, a bit of a spikey job, mended my little green birdhouse (which is only decorative) and put up the two pottery holders, grow and fresh, in the greenhouse that I found sorting out the garage. They are just the right size to keep bits and bobs in them.

Our afternoon walk took us round by the village so we could drop off the soft plastic bags for recycling at the Co-op. We have just gained a lovely little gift shop in the village called Nest. They have some delightful inexpensive gifts and cards and today I noticed the empty shop by the old post office has now opened as a hardware shop – I do wish them both luck – our village could do with a few shops that are not just charity shops, beauty parlours or dog grooming. We once had the most wonderful green grocers (in fact there were two) but they were forced to close when Safeways (now Morrisons) built a supermarket on the old railway station.

I did manage to put away more bits and pieces from the holiday and sorted the washing after which I needed a bit of time lying flat to ease my back so I watched the final episode of Downton. I do love to have a potter around the house once in a while especially after we have been away and there is no real urgency to get anything done, though I am on a bit of a mission to give it more attention than it has received in the last few months so it feels more loved and cared for.

I made the Courgette bake, but didn’t quite get round to mixing up a batch of pastry – that will have to be another day or maybe even today. I have to wait for the remaining courgettes in the garden to grow a little bigger before I can make the Veg lasagne (our Co-op doesn’t have anything quite as exotic as courgettes yet!), so nut roast is the next meal on the menu plan and maybe this time I will get those pastry cases made.

Today it will be a toss up between going in the garden or looking through the paperwork pile – I know which I would rather do, but maybe sorting out the finances is more important. Scottish Power have sent me an email to tell me about the £400 fuel rebate and we have just applied to the council for our £150. We will need to put this aside to pay for our fuel bills during the colder months – maybe I will buy a couple of very thick jumpers with some of it. DH is looking to add to the insulation in the loft – I always think it is so full of ‘stuff’ up there that more insulation is probably not required!

On a different note did anyone see the program about Woodstock the Festival on Sky Arts on Tuesday night? It took place in America in the summer of 1969 – I was a mere 15 year old teenager with long flowing skirts to match my long flowing hair and I had just bought my first Leonard Cohen album , Songs of Leonard Cohen and becoming very much a part of the flower power generation. We once knew someone who had actually been to the festival and like a lot of our friends we have the Woodstock album – it was an historic moment back then. A few things struck me watching the video movies that had been collated to make this documentary, firstly, the majority of the young people were so noticeably slim and the lads wandering around without t-shirts were very well toned despite the fact that there were no fitness gyms in those days, and secondly, the girls seemed so naturally pretty without any make up, false eyelashes, fake tans or lip and boob enhancements and such a marked lack of tattoos and piercings. Whatever happened to those carefree days of a generation that believed in people and preserving the environment – how did all that love and peace give way to the years that followed of Thatcher’s greed and capitalism?

We are certainly paying the price now as big business giants rake in excessive profits and council leaders are paid huge salaries whilst care for the elderly in their boroughs are cut to the bone and they have growing numbers of homeless people on our littered streets. Kate Josephs, leader of Sheffield council, has recently been reinstated in her job after being under investigation – she has a salary of around £200,000 and was paid more than £60,000 to stay at home until it was concluded. Just what does she do for this amount of money I wonder?

Meanwhile, I spend most of my days trying to think of ways to save a few pennies to eek out the meagre pension pot I spent a lifetime working for.

dear diary >> a change of plan

Things were going well yesterday morning until I came to get something out of the garage. To say it was a struggle is not an exaggeration as the whole place is in a mess and a train of unplanned activity ensued. We have a series of recycle bins for the items that cannot go into our council recycling bin but all of them were overflowing and needed emptying. Soft plastic bags go to the local Co-op collection point, bottles to the bottle bank, batteries and water filter cartridges to Sainsbury’s etc and all these are now waiting by the front door to be taken to their relevant resting places together with a few items for the village charity shop and the local tip.

After spending a further two hours sorting through some of the mess it was lunch time and afterwards I had my osteopath appointment so the planned pastry making didn’t actually take place. DH made the Tuscan bean casserole when we got back home using up an out of date packet of butter beans, which were fine when opened and rather than put the oven on he cooked it all on the hob – it was just as good and he served it with sliced Halloumi cheese on top, browned in our non-stick pancake pan, and a piece of Pannini bread to mop up the juices. I couldn’t actually find the recipe so he just made it up…..and it was delicious.

So the plan today, after having my morning walk and doing a few back exercises, is probably to do what I should have done yesterday and finish that unpacking and putting away. I also need to straighten up the pantry and refill some jars then check the stock is arranged in date order as DH often puts away the groceries but sometimes forgets to move the older tins and packets to the front. At the same time I can make a note of anything with a close best before date and will accomodate these in next weeks menu plan – I have a system of marking these items with a red sticker (which I keep handy in the pantry drawer) so that even DH is aware that they need eating up very soon. If I have any energy left after our lunch break I also have in mind to tidy another storage box or two in the garage to keep the momentum going and more importantly, make the pastry cases so that they can bake in the oven with tonight’s tea which is Courgette Bake using, I might add, courgettes grown by my own fair hands.

DH will be busy doing a few odd jobs as I found one or two items in the garage that I had forgotten about and need DH’s help to hang them up. This will require screws and such things that I am no good at. The breakdown truck is coming this morning to take DH’s car to the garage for them to locate the problem – it is leaking a rather red looking fluid and looks like it is bleeding. I have no doubt it will be another expensive problem to fix. As fast as I am trying to save money it manages to escape once more into someone elses pocket!

Such is life in these scary times!

dear diary >> homekeeping

We had rain yesterday, quite a heavy down pour…..it was so welcome as our garden is like dust and it meant I didn’t have to water the planters for once, though I must remember to give the tomatoes and courgettes a liquid feed. Today it feels cool, but fresh, with a hint of Autumn, though I am not ready yet to relinquish the summer. My greenhouse is almost complete, the paint went on a dream – DH did two coats on the inside and three on the outside for good measure – we used Crown Superdec, the same as we painted the shed a few years ago, and it has worn well and best of all we bought it on offer at our local Crown store. I love the transformation and the contrast against the rougher pallet wood of the staging boards.

It is so good to be back home now and I have a great deal of homekeeping to catch up on…my bad back over the last 5 months has left my house in a sad and sorry state but at last I feel ready to begin to tackle it again…. in small quantities of course and bring back some order. I have been severely short of any routine recently and even the basics were not being done. Now our holiday is over I have time to gather my thoughts and start planning.

We did the supermarket shop yesterday so the larder is well stocked and it is a pleasure to walk into the pantry with a wonderful display of fruit and veg. I always tend to heed the words from Dominique Loreau’s book L’art de la Simplicite – how to live more with less when she says “seek only the best”….source the finest untreated produce, tasty fruit and really good bread.…and even better when you manage to find them at a reduced price. I can now turn yesterday’s little haul into some nutritious meals and fill the freezer with homemade fare over the next few days. If my menu for the week goes to plan then we are having Tuscan Bean casserole tonight with halloumi. Whilst the oven is on I intend to cook some pastry case bases for a quiche or two to freeze at the same time. If I mix up extra pastry I will make some lentil and mushroom pies to freeze tomorrow. I bought a punnet of mushrooms to make mushroom soup and two lots of celery to make celery soup and gained extra nectar points on both.

I had to buy new electric toothbrush heads….ouch – I used the last two before we went away and I like to keep some in stock. A pack of four Oral B heads are on offer in Sainsbury’s at the moment for £11, a saving of £5. These high priced items really bump up the shopping bill total so I tend to spread them out over the year and only buy them on offer. Water filter cartridges, soap powder and dishwasher tablets all fall into this category.

We have developed a good routine in the supermarket and whilst I scan the supermarket shelves for all the red sticker offers and items we use that have extra Nectar points DH does the smartscan shop for both our Nectar cards (as each card has different offers and I don’t scan shop as well as he does). We often buy multiples of the best offers to stock up. We bought four boxes of Alara muesli – normal price £2.70 – scan shop offer £1.60 saving us £4.40 on 4 boxes. I am hoping to stretch this weeks shopping to ten days if possible just topping up with some extra milk and the odd bit of veg.

My intentions today are to complete the unpacking and putting away. I always refill the toiletries ready for our next trip before I put the bag away – it saves time when we next have to pack. I invested in two of those handy picnic blankets for the beach last year – £5 each from B&M. They fold up into a neat little package with a carry handle and are ultra light and yesterday I gave them a good blow on the line to shake off any residual sand before they are put away. I don’t really have anywhere to keep them at the moment that is easily accessible but I am working on it. I do like to have a place for everything and they are definitely keepers so something else less useful or unused may have to go to make room. I am gradually selling bits and pieces on ebay again to free up space in my cupboards and the garage.

I have an osteopath appointment this afternoon….another ouch cost wise but the benefits are worth it, he has done wonders for my back and I am hoping that today he can straighten out a few of my stiffer body parts. I fell whilst at a country fete in Thirsk with my two granddaughter’s last Saturday. There was a small hidden hole in the grass on the field and my foot went down it as I walked along and my ankle twisted over. I went down with a bump jarring my poor back and already bad shoulder and I have ended up with a slight limp, a stiff back and quite sore wrists where I tried to save myself…..and I hadn’t even been drinking…..well only decaff tea!!!

Well I had better get going – there is a lot to do.

dear diary >> getting myself back in order

We are back home from our little jaunt to Scarborough making memories with the family and all three grandchildren – I managed the journey OK and had a good week with my back holding up quite well. The kids had a whale of a time and loved every minute. Packing though in that intense heat was something else and a task I wouldn’t want to repeat again. We decided to travel after tea when it was cool and the roads less busy. It was a good decision even though we didn’t arrive until midnight at the holiday house.

As I unpack I am slowly putting everything back in order. We took fewer clothes than last year, in fact we took less of everything mainly because DH’s estate car broke down two days before we were due to leave and no-one could fix it in time so we had to use my much smaller car. We have recently hummed and hawed about keeping it but it proved very useful to get us on holiday and will make the decision to sell it even harder now.

I feel slightly in chaos today; as well as more ‘putting away’ I have a menu to plan and shopping to do as we need to top up with fresh fruit and veg and dairy for the fridge. Each week we buy the scan shop offers on both mine and DH’s nectar cards – they are worthwhile savings – and check to see what the offers are on the extra points list. It is a good way to keep the costs down even though it is quite time consuming, but in this climate needs must and being retired now we have the time. DH does the scan shops for both cards as he is much better at it than me and I do the main shopping that I take through the ordinary manned tills. It works for us.

I still have a pile of ironing that didn’t get done before the holiday as it was just too hot and I have to attend to the finances. The holiday spending was perhaps more than I had estimated – entrance fees, ice creams and rides are all going up in price but even on holiday we managed to find a few good deals by choosing family tickets or any available discounts for prebooking. Many of the things we did were free as the children just loved to play on the beach all day.

Marks and Spencers are doing a ‘Kids eat free’ with one paying adult deal at the moment in their cafes and the guy on the till put each of our adult meals through in a seperate transaction so that each grandchild got a free lunch and they were also giving out a free piece of fruit – so well done Marks and Spencer – we ate in their cafe twice as I also had some vouchers to use from my Sparks card and the rest of the week we made our own packed lunches and just bought drinks out for the adults – the grandchildren only drink water so that is easy to take from home.

Conserving the pennies is something I am going to have to do in earnest now we are back home – the increase in the cost of living is frightening and there will be no pay rise for pensioners – after all we cannot go on strike for an increase! So later today I will be overviewing our financial situation and looking at making more economies.