dear diary :: a time for home

The sun streaming through the windows yesterday morning was a cheerful sight to wake up to and it made my snap decision to do some sewing an easy one. Sadly, the better weather did not last and by the afternoon we were back to lashing rain and grey lifeless skies.

Even today the rain continues to fall and is far too wet to go outside with the camera – but the patterns of the raindrops on our window panes are quite delightful and worth capturing.

Being indoors and just being at home is all I need in winter. I busy myself with small jobs around the house, finishing projects here and there and keeping warm in the kitchen making and baking and using up any food so it doesn’t go to waste.

I took the opportunity yesterday to make the cot duvet cover and a matching pillowslip for little Sweetie. I bought the fabric a while ago from John Lewis, it wasn’t exactly cheap but cheaper than buying a ready made duvet cover. I chose two fabrics, one with unicorns (all little girls love unicorns it seems) and one with tiny pink hearts for the reverse. The unicorn fabric was more expensive than the pink hearts so I tried to manage with as little as possible – maybe a little too little as I found when I came to measure up and cut out – but I skimped by; after all Sweetie will not be in a cot for long and then will be moving on to a larger duvet.

I was so pleased at the end of the day to have another task to cross off my list.

During the morning we received a letter in the post addressed to ‘Granny and Grandad’ – inside was a beautiful card made by Little L with a message inside and some tiny feathers – don’t things like this just tug at the heartstrings. It will have pride of place on the mantelpiece.

The jumper is moving on – the back is finished and I am now counting stitches again on the few rows of pattern on the front – it takes all my concentration and lo behold anyone that interupts me – DH knows by now to keep well out of the way when he hears me counting out loud. Despite the difficult bits I keep encountering I do find it quite relaxing to knit in the evenings – my shoulders and neck however think otherwise and have become a bit tense recently so I may have to have a few nights off.

The kitchen planner came on Monday and we spent a good three hours measuring, discussing and looking at what might fit into our tiny kitchen and selecting possible samples of cabinet colour and worktop. Of course you always hit stumbling blocks and compromises have to be made but I shall be glad just to have some new units that are not coming apart. The kitchen we have now is almost 40 years old, pan drawers were not on the radar back then and hardly anyone had a dishwasher – now we would like both, although, I would not be too disappointed if I couldn’t fit a dishwasher in, what you have never had you will never miss.

There are questions to be answered of course……….do I need a self cleaning oven or a steam oven, a dishwasher that has no child lock or one that doesn’t signal the end of the cycle – I really don’t know because I have managed without these things up till now. Should we go with a ceramic hob or induction and should it have four rings or two rings and an oblong area? It is all foreign to me – any suggestions gratefully received – the appliances are such a big outlay if you get it wrong.

By the end of the session our minds were buzzing but I do feel we are now a little closer to a final design. The visuals they produce make it so much easier to see the finished plans – how did we ever manage without them?

On Sunday prior to the kitchen planner coming I had the great idea of cleaning out our china cupboards in the dining area. It was not one of my best ideas but as it was another wet day we had decided to stay in and stay warm – I find it a very tiring job but one filled with satisfaction afterwards.

Whenever I clean out these two cupboards I am reminded of how much china I actually own, it is a great weakness of mine, where one person might buy shoes, I buy china. I love it all and most of it is in constant use. I decided some bits and pieces can now move into the pantry – bread baskets and wooden tablemats which we only use occasionally when we have guests or the family round.

I emptied the cabinets one at a time to avoid overload and then cleaned inside and out, lovingly dusting the contents with a clean tea cloth before replacing them (in a ‘pleasing arrangement’ as DH says). I just love my ‘proper’ Ainsley patterned china dinner service, I know they are not fashionable any longer – does anyone still hold dinner parties anymore? – but I would never part with mine in fact we used it on Burns night. Each piece we have was either a gift or chosen with care from the seconds factory down in Stoke on Trent. So although most of it is not perfect it is perfect in my eyes.

Most of my other china is white, clean and simple. Our everyday dishes are from the Thomas china range by Rosenthal that we bought back in the late 90’s (mostly in sales as it isn’t that cheap). Before this we had numerous cheap dinner sets but found that once a piece was broken a replacement could not be found. We have never had a problem with the Thomas china it is still being made today and in fact the newer updated shapes fit in very well.

I do confess to a bit of a jug and a spoon fetish too.

I can’t say that I actually decluttered anything in here and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to find anything I did not want – it all sparks joy and I can say hand on heart that nothing in my china cupboard languishes unused but I am making a great effort not to purchase anymore….well for a while anyway.

I had food to use up in the pantry too; a ripening pear and avocado and I had ideas for these. We had the avocado mashed onto a Sainsbury’s cheese stick (my favourite rolls at the moment though not as cheesy as Tescos’) then heaped with cooked courgettes, mushrooms and tomatoes with a side salad of grated beetroot and chopped cucumber all topped with grilled halloumi slices.

I made up a recipe to use up the ripe pear. I love chocolate and pear together but rather than make a chocolate and pear cake or pudding I made a quantity of chocolate sponge mixture and divided it into some bun cases, then pressed a few chunks of diced pear gently into the top, sprinkled over a few chocolate chips and baked them in the oven.

Result…. delicious. And easy to freeze and then pack up for our picnics.

Tomorrow we shall be on our way to North Yorkshire once again – it is the school holidays and we are going to see the grandchildren for a day or two – not that we can do very much in this weather – I think a trip to the park will be out!

Hope everyone is keeping warm and has not been flooded out. x

30 Replies to “dear diary :: a time for home”

  1. Never had pear and chocolate together. May have to give it a go.

    The little jumper is coming along beautifully. My mother was a knitter and could click clack along at quite a pace. She would shush us when doing complex patterns too but never seemed phased.

    Your dining set is lovely. I call the tea cup the perfect tea cup shape. I have some in that shape and it’s my favourite to drink from. We have a hodge podge of collections. Mostly bought at remainder stores, which as you say, when you lose a piece, you can’t replace. If I was wealthy, I’d dispose of them all and buy a new all white setting.

    Do not get a washing machine that beeps! Too annoying. We have a Miele. It is great. I think a dish drawer is perfect for a couple. Half the size and you don’t have to wait to fill a full machine. I wouldn’t bother with a child’s lock. When kids are around, I shut the machine and they couldn’t open it. But it’s probably safer with a lock.

    I have no advice about stoves and ovens. I love natural gas so when we do our kitchen we will get another gas stove. Mr S wants an induction. My mother has a glass top thing. I hate all the buttons and don’t feel I have control over the heat. As to ovens, think I want a simple oven without ten different types of heating. I don’t really understand all the options my current oven has.


    1. We had the Thomas white china on our Christmas lists for a long time and most people did well at buying us pieces to build up our collection. We have only broken one or two bits as it is tremendously strong and hard wearing. We passed the old dinner plates on to our daughter recently as they were in better shape than any of hers and now use the newer design ones we bought to replace them.
      We like gas but the hob is to go on the peninsula now to make way for an eye level oven (so I don’t have to bend so far in my old age!) and we cannot get gas to it easily… and it needs to be flush with the counter top. We used to always cook with gas until the oven broke and we have had my sisters old electric cooker since then until that broke and at the moment we have the electric cooker that was at the cottage with those old fashioned solid rings – anything would be an advancement on that – they heat up slow and cool down even slower!
      Miele are out of our price range but I believe they are the Rolls Royce of appliances.


  2. I love your dinner set! We don’t actually have one at the moment. We did have a large dinner set which we put in a large plastic container to store in the garage while we were overhauling downstairs. Halfway to the garage, outside, the handles broke off and everything smashed along with our Darlington glasses! My poor husband was in tears telling me, as it was all wedding presents back in the day. So now we just have some nice everyday crockery. I do have some vintage mismatched tea sets too for Marie Curie tea parties, but they’re wrapped up carefully.

    The unicorn duvet cover is so cute. I’m sure Sweetie will love it! You’re very clever to produce something so lovely.

    I’ve got no advice on dishwashers I’m afraid, as my kitchen is too small for one.
    I’ve heard chocolate and pear go well together. Yours look lovely 🙂


    1. I felt a little tear too for your dinner set and your poor husband having to tell you. I love the Dartington glass too – their shapes are often very simple and elegant.
      I have some vintage china in the loft – nowhere to put it down here it has been passed down from the previous generations and I don’t feel I can part with it – but a third china cupboard would seem a little extravagent and I would have to put it in next doors dining room to accommodate it LOL!
      Our kitchen is small but we could just squeeze in a slimline – I think when we come to sell our house it might be an important factor for some people – it wouldn’t bother me too much not having one but I think about 80% of households do use one.


  3. So many things to comment on, Viv, I don’t know where to start, but suffice it to say I do enjoy your posts so much and all your artistic photos.


  4. Dear Vivien, how marvelous your post is. So many pics and such a lovely commentary. Thank you for your efforts and keeping us all entertained…………cheers. Always enjoy.


  5. Your little chocolate and pear buns sound delicious. I recently had an induction hob installed and it took a while to get the hang of it. It is very fast to heat up and very sensitive in the controls. I bought a Neff because it is the same make s my double oven and I know it is reliable. The only downside was that not all my pans were good for an induction hob so I needed to buy a couple more. I would never have anything but induction now.
    There is a steam oven in my kitchen that was there when we bought the house 4 years ago andI have never used it!


    1. Thank you for that advice – I am not sure we would justify the expense of a steam oven though I know someone who swears by it. I believe it is good for breadmakers – we might well make bread in the future again but we don’t at the moment and I think people have been baking bread in ovens without steam for a long time. We are lookng at the Neff double oven and mainly the one that is not self cleaning, being vegetarian we don’t have meals with a bif fat content so our oven rarely is very greasy or dirty (Burns night and the exploding haggis an exception!).
      We would have to change all our pans but one so it would be a further expense to consider and factor in. Shame you cannot see some of them in operation to help our decision but just asking around I find out new things I hadn’t even considred.


  6. So much to think about with kitchens. We are currently stuck on which cooker hood to get, as a result of the new kitchen ceiling being lowered. Didn’t think there would be so many ramifications!
    On cooker hobs, we are currently using an induction hotplate from IKEA in our temporary kitchen, as well as a gas camping stove. The big issue with the induction hob, we discovered once we’d bought it, is that our pans wouldn’t work on it – it needs a certain type of pan base. Luckily the pans we have in the house in Edinburgh do work, so we had a week of cooking on the gas stove only, then swapped the pans over when my husband went back to Edinburgh for his week of working there. So just be careful that you don’t have to replace all your pans if you choose induction!
    Personally I’m a great fan of a gas hob – I’ve found the induction hob a bit disconcerting in that it works by power ‘surges’, so some things cook differently. Or at least this week IKEA one does – big ones may be different. We knew we wanted a gas hob and electric oven, and couldn’t believe our luck when I chanced upon a Rangemaster range cooker in John Lewis at £500 reduced from £1500. I just happened to wander through the kitchen department – I never normally find the massive bargains!


    1. Great bargain – we got our AEG top of the range washer that way many years ago when we just wandered through House of Fraser and they were closing down their white good department – although AEG are not what they once were as I think they are now Electrolux. Some induction work on a 13 amp and do have power surges or cut backs if you try and put too many rings on at once but we would avoid those types and go for the full ampage ones. And yes we would have to change most of our pans but then we may have to one day if we move as it seems to be the way things are going and there are fewer ceramic / halogen to be found. We like cooking with gas – even the calor gas hob at the caravan but it is not practical for us for where we want to site the hob in our new kitchen – getting gas over to the peninsula would be a nightmare. There are always compromises to be made!


  7. Your makes are beautiful. Your granddaughter will love her new quilt I am sure. With regard to dishwashers. I resisted the suggestions of OH to get a dishwasher for years and years, always insisting that I liked washing up and found it therapeutic. However, once we had one, I loved it and wouldn’t be without it. I still need to physically wash some things up, but hand washing up can often be left for a few of days if I’m out at work, until I have time or enough builds up to justify the effort.


  8. I hope your journey to North Yorkshire is a good one. The weather has been awful again and there seems to be no end of reports of flooding and damage on the news. I like the sound of your pair and chocolate cakes not a combination I have used before.



  9. What a precious thing the handmade card is. I still have cards that Ruby made for me and folders of drawings and stories. I love them so much.

    How lovely to be designing a kitchen. As mine was last replaced over twenty years ago I am not really up to date on them but I know one thing I would love would be an eye level oven with a door that pulls down and slides into a gap on the bottom.

    I hope your journey to Yorkshire was uneventful.



    1. My sister has that oven and I thought it a good idea too but when we looked into it they are only a feature on the single ovens and we need a double oven. Appliances have moved on a lot since we last looked a few years ago.


  10. Another great day-in-the-life post. Lovely work on the jumper and the duvet. Both will be greatly appreciated, I am sure.

    As for advice on the appliances–since I am in the US, I can’t really comment on UK brands. I will say that the one appliance I do love is a dishwasher–whatever the size. Don’t think you need a child-proof lock. None of my four ever tried to climb in–and believe me they were very creative in finding trouble. Like stuffing their siblings into a nylon sleeping bag and shooting them down a flight of stairs–just for fun! In their defence, they did pad the bottom of the stairs with all the bed pillows in the house. A wonder any of us survived. 🙂

    At any rate, best of luck with the kitchen choices. I’m sure whatever you choose, it will be as welcome as your new pantry.


    1. Children can find the most dangerous of games fun. I broke my ankle at age 6 swinging from a tree! We will be having another closer look at appliances this week – we know more what we are looking for now.


  11. Your view out the window looks much like mine at the moment. Sometimes the darker days leave me uninspired so I greatly enjoyed seeing and reading about all the ways you are filling your rainy day. The duvet cover and pillow slip that you made for your little sweetie are so lovely. I can imagine she will feel well-loved when she sleeps there. The special grandparent card is so sweet. Can’t think of a nicer piece of mail to receive.
    I have not paired chocolate with pears before, but that does sound like a delicious match. I will have to try it soon.


  12. Your duvet cover is gorgeous and the narrow burgundy flange elevates it to something really wonderful.

    Dishwasher – would not be without, even though there are always a couple of delicate things that get a handwash.

    Steam oven? Err – do not understand the point even though I cook all our fresh veg using a steamer on the hob. I do remember Jessica at having one fitted in her new kitchen and commenting on how much water she has to clean out of it after every use.


  13. Hi I hope your life is getting back to normal ( what ever that is!). My children have Neff ovens and an induction hob, one the steam oven ( gadget mad) the other the normal one they are both very pleased with them. I wouldn’t be without a dishwasher instantly tidy kitchen😊 . We all have hardworked Bosch machines. Good luck with the decision making.


    1. Hello Vivian and thank you for your comment. I will probably not have the steam oven but put the money into something else. We have looked at the up and over style cabinet doors for the wall cupboards and the mehcanism makes the doors more expensive but they would benefit us more than a steam oven.


  14. What a lovely long entry! I absolutely love the duvet set – what a lucky recipient! Also the knitting looks great, so lovely and even. I get tense across the shoulders too and have to stop and deliberately stretch and relax.

    Hope you had a safe journey.


  15. I’ve had a double wall oven for over twenty years and I love it! It was a joke when we renovated our kitchen because my husband is British and he insisted on always having roasted potatoes for Christmas however I used to tell him I didn’t have room in the oven when I was cooking a turkey. He then insisted on a double oven!! I bake quite a lot and it is extremely handy when you are baking large batches of things. Mine has setting for slow cook, convection, and a keep warm setting which is lovely for warming plates.


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