dear diary >> another day, another birthday

Goodness don’t the years roll by. Another birthday has landed today, another year older… though probably not any wiser.

I was up and about at 6am to enjoy the cool air in our back garden. Breakfast outdoors is quite a novelty for us as normally it might be too cold, cloudy, wet or windy – today it was just right but even as I type the temperature is increasing and very soon we will be scuttling back indoors to cool off; our living room being the coolest part of the house once the sun moves round.

Some friends are coming round early to beat the heat. I have decided against making the fruit scones I had planned – it is far to risky to put the oven on – the kitchen will be like an oven soon enough. What a shame we cannot bottle this heat for the winter months to save on our bills!

I had a complete overhaul at the osteopath’s yesterday – my back problems are not doing too badly but in the course of conserving my back I have managed to do something to both my shoulder and knee whilst bending and over reaching. Added to which my neck is so tight and this has affected my jaw and I have woken up a few mornings with it a bit displaced. My lovely therapist worked on everything yesterday to try and bring some relief to the discomfort but I find any movement at the moment quite difficult. Walking, which was good for my back is now aggravating my knee, the cat / cradle exercises I did daily for my back are not possible because of my shoulder. I feel I am falling apart and learning to moderate my activity and movement to prevent further problems is a struggle.

DH, meanwhile, stripped the beds yesterday then washed and ironed the sheets and duvet covers. My contribution to the housework is limited to the dusting and writing a shopping list.

Our improvements in the home and garden and to life in general continue. If you remember Improvement is my focus word this year – some improvements are bigger than others but all of them have added quality to our life in some way. Painting the greenhouse has been on the list a while but often when we have the time the weather is against us. This week DH managed to apply 3 coats to the front and one side but has had to lay his brushes down at the moment due to this intense heat. It now matches the shed and I love the transfromation. It should also preserve the wood at the same time.

The back garden has a few pretty corners amongst the mess. I planted bush tomatoes, cougettes and potatoes this year as well as a few varieties of salad leaves and radishes.

Thank you once again for all your lovely comments – both those of well wishes for my ailments and for the hand made cards. And yes Sue we learn just how much we need our backs to be good and strong and in working order – I am slowly learning how to use mine better. It is not easy after giving it a lifetime of abuse…too much gardening, bending and sitting at computers.

My computer time is limited now so I am using the time to post rather than comment or answer comments at the moment. Normal service might well resume one day!

Have a good day x

Creating >> ScrapHappy July

Hello, everyone and welcome to my ScrapHappy challenge for July. BBP (before back problem) I had spent a lovely afternoon in my craft room making a few scrappy cards. I am sure, like me, many of you crafters have quite a few bits and pieces of scrap papers lying around and rather than waste these scraps I often have a session to try and use them up.

I also found a box of ‘left over’ pressed flower heads that needed using up as overtime they fade and become too dry and start falling apart. So I got out my 3 boxes of assorted card blanks – (the brown ones were left over from my daughter’s wedding a few years ago) and began.

These aperture trifold cards are brilliant for setting off very simple designs with flower heads when set against a vibrant coloured background. I decided against stamping any wording onto the front of the card to keep them quite simple. The card on the right is a colour copy of a watercolour sketch from my sketch book – I took half a dozen copies and made some very useful Thank you cards and although my painting is not brilliant cropping and framing can do wonders for a little sketch.

For these cards I firstly printed out the Happy Birthday onto some textured paper using one of the new caligraphy fonts and then just decorated around the wording with a few of the flower heads.

I had a packet of tiny handmade paper cards in my stash that I had bought years ago and I thought they might make nice gift tags. So nothing is wasted I used some of the tiniest scraps of handmade papers to create the chequered background onto which I placed just one contrasting flower head in each square and collectively they now make quite an attractive design. Even tiny bits of fern can be effective when mounted.

Whenever I pick a fresh batch of flowers to press I always collect a few forget-me-nots they are my favourite but quite delicate to mount. As they are quite dainty I find they are best grouped together in some way for a better effect.

And lastly I always keep old birthday cards and salvage any useful pieces of wrapping paper from presents I have been given – they seem far too good to just throw away. Some of the cards I pass on to a lady in our village who turns them into ‘new’ cards for charity but I also crop some of them, re-mount them on scraps of printed papers or pieces of used wrapping paper that is still in good uncreased condition onto a card blank. Dotty backgrounds are always good.

With the cost of cards these days in the shops this is a very frugal way to make your own and anyone can have a go at making some. You can use any scraps of paper, wrapping paper and card to make some lovely cards – I keep a box of scraps – used old cards, pages from glossy magazines, pieces of packaging and wrapping paper to create mine – the only outlay is the card blanks.

Take a look at the other lovely blogs in the ScrapHappy challenge.

Kate, Gun, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Claire, Jean, Jon, Dawn, Jule, Gwen, Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue L, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol, Preeti, Edith, Debbierose.

dear diary >> my first day out

Once again thank you for the lovely messages and advice / links and well wishes. It all helps.

I couldn’t help myself though in the last day or two and did far more than was good for me….so today will be a rest day to recover. I so want to get back to normal, but my back problems soon let me know if I over do it and put the brakes on or rather… turn the pain on, and that quickly puts a halt to any ideas I might have of attempting too many housekeeping chores. I find it more painful mentally not being able to do even the most mundane of jobs around the house and I cannot chance anything at the moment that might ultimately prevent me going on our holiday with the family and grandchildren in August. Being well enough for then is my priority goal.

This weekend we had planned a little test run of a short outing to the nearby village of Emley who were hosting an Open Gardens event. It was to be my first proper day out – well not quite a day – just a couple of hours.

Emley must be one of the highest villages in the local Huddersfield area and nestles besides the famous Emley Moor mast which is a Grade 2 listed building and the tallest free standing structure in the UK. The views from there are amazing. Emley has a population of just 1,500 compared with my own village of 8,500 and has retained that wonderful community spirit. As I knew I would not be able to walk around all of the gardens we chose a few clustered around the church so that when I needed to I could have a rest inside the church and a cup of tea. Before we left we drove to the last garden because it was a little way out of the village and this turned out to be my favourite.

As many readers may know wandering around the open gardens has become one of my leisure pursuits during the summer and has been the activity I have missed the most since I have been out of action. It was an absolute joy to spend a couple of hours soaking up the delights of each individual garden….I felt quite intoxicated by the time I had to finally give in and call it a day but the effort was worth it and any discomfort I had during the evening was outweighed by the pleasure.

Even though I have been lounging about DH has been busy and now I am able to help with a few more of the household chores he has been able to get back to his own mounting task list – one of which was to finish the little greenhouse that we had installed in 2020. He has added another shelf to the back wall.

This lovely poster came in a little pack of old gardening leaflets from the Preston Park outdoor museum and I have mounted it on cardboard to hang in my greenhouse – it seems a shame to keep it hidden away.

Last week he managed to recover an old pallet from a neighbour’s skip to put in some more staging. I love the vintage look of the wood from old pallets and even though we are going to paint the greenhouse the shelves will remain unpainted.

Yesterday, we bought the paint as it was on offer at the Crown Decorator shop in town and whilst the dry weather holds DH hopes to make a start.

The garden as a whole this year is a mess. The patio has a heap of stone on it that we found advertised on our local Freecycle site ready to build a small retaining wall around part of a border that slopes away so there is not much room on there for sitting out. Bit by bit with his help I have been emptying some of the many pots and planters that have accumulated around the garden. I can only manage to do one or two at a time so it is slow progress. A lot of the pots only contained self-seeded plants and weeds where the original plant had long ago died. I had decided to cut down on the number of pots we have at the beginning of the year BBP (Before Back Problem) mainly because there were too many for our lovely neighbour to water when we are away and with water in our butts being limited during these hot spells and too expensive from the tap it seemed a good decision.

I am at my limit now for sitting – I apologise in advance that it might be a bit incoherent and littered with any number of grammatical errors but it is an attempt to try and start blogging again and as my posts are certainly going to be erratic anyone who would like an alert when I do manage to write just click the follow button. xx

dear diary >> just catching up

It has been awhile and so long since I have written anything very much that I am finding it hard to put pen to paper so to speak and my camera is feeling quite forgotten lingering on the office desk as I haven’t taken a photo for weeks….quite unlike me.

But firstly….how is everyone – very well I hope and enjoying the summer and getting life back to some kind of ‘after Covid’ normal. Though I know of more people with Covid at the moment than ever before. From time to time I manage to have a little catch up with the blogs I follow and find everyone seems busy in their gardens, or decluttering and I know some of you have even left jobs and moved house.

I am still hoping that normal or some kind of new normal will happen for me soon now I have my results, at long last. You may be curious to know what has kept me away so long (I know I would be); it really is no secret…..at the time whilst I was waiting for scans and results no-one had any idea of what might be wrong and it could have been anything from the return of the cancer or just something quite trivial – though my symptoms were not suggesting the latter. I came back from Scotland at the end of March and sitting in the car for such a long journey was the start of my symptoms as a day or two later I could not bear with pain all down my back and my feet and legs became quite painful and numb too, to the point when I could no longer function and just had to lie down.

Well, the results from the MRI scan have shown a right lateral extruded disc at L4 and L5 level but they also found something called a Tarlov cyst on the left at S1 level growing on one of the spinal nerves in the spinal canal. These cysts are quite rare, often don’t produce symptoms until they grow in size…. which is what has happened to me – it had been aggravated and enlarged quite rapidly. So presently I have a lot of nerve problems going on as both the herniated disc and the cyst are pressing on the nerves that run from my lower back down my legs to my feet making them both painful and quite numb in places. As the disc heals the feeling should come back to my right side but the cyst is not something that is easily dealt with as it consists of cebral fluid that fills the nerve root and expands to then compress on surrounding nerves. Removal of them as you can imagine is only done as a last resort and can cause irreversible paralysis, draining them is a more usual procedure but one that doesn’t have a good outcome as they just fill back up again over time. The cyst is aggravated by continuous sitting or standing – walking is not quite so bad and it is a condition that is managed rather than cured. When the discomfort gets quite bad lying down is my only release.

It is the reason that I cannot sit for very long these days to write a post, edit photos or read and comment on your blogs. At its’ worst sitting to eat a meal was too much but gradually this is getting a little better. I have spent so much time lying flat reading and watching mindless TV when of course what I would really like to do is cook and garden and even go for a day out somewhere. Travelling in the car is almost a complete no go area and the most I have managed so far is a trip down to town. We are not even able to go up to Scotland and I wonder what the future holds for us now with our retirement cottage. I am not sure at this point if gardening will ever be something I can do again and DH is finding it a struggle to keep up with everything himself both in the garden and the house, though I must say he irons beautifully (something I never knew!!).

I am now having physical therapy on my back for the disc problem and with a mixture of gentle exercise, plenty of short walks on the flat and rest periods during the day it gradually seems to be healing itself. I am hoping too that the cyst might settle down if I am not aggravating it anymore with constant gardening and travelling.

So that is my story so far and a big thank you to everyone for your lovely messages they have really helped to keep my spirits up and hopefully as things begin to settle down I will be able to post a little more often.

Until then have a lovely summer. xx

dear diary >> a big thank you

Sorry it has taken me so long to type this post and say a big thank you for all your lovely well wishes – reading them has been a much needed source of comfort at the moment. I cannot tell you much more, but tomorrow I see my GP, though I suspect she may not have my results yet so I am no further forward.

The last two months have been a bit of a blur with more than a dash of frustration thrown in. The wheels of the NHS are grinding slowly in our region with many instances of my receiving conflicting letters, messages and advice which do not help the situation – at some point I fear the disorganisation will come to a head which is a shame as the staff are obviously working hard but it seems a case of the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

I hope everyone is well and enjoying the holiday – it is quiet on our road and down in the village with most of our neighbours taking the opportunity to go away for the week. I spend my time doing what little I am able and find myself longing for the busyness of life that I once had (and probably constantly moaned about!) The phrase be careful what you wish for springs to mind as I remember only a couple of months back yearning for the quiet time we had during lockdown! Now it is here I am not so sure I meant quite so quiet – the difference in lockdown being that I was very able and productive.

Hopefully, I will be joining in again blogging and commenting, but until then take care everyone and have a great Jubilee. xx

dear diary >> just a quick hello…

Just thought I would pop by to say a quick hello. Life has been turbulent here – hence the lack of posts.

I apologise for anyone linking through for the Scraphappy Challenge and seeing nothing new – since my previous posts written from our cottage in Scotland in March I came home with lots of plans and raring to go only to be struck down with illness and I am unfortunately not well enough yet to carry on blogging. Hopefully, the results of both the CAT scan and MRI will reveal the problems and things might begin to look up.

I miss everyone so much and hope all is well with you.

Take care, xx

Creating >> ScrapHappy March

Hello to all the ScrapHappy followers if you have made it here. I hope you are not expecting a scrappy quilt – that might come later, but for the moment my contribution this month is more paper based and one that anyone can do quite easily.

I often collect a few wallpaper samples whenever I visit a DIY store – I find they are so useful for lining drawers, covering notebooks and making cards and collages, and they are free.

One design in particular that I found in B&Q really caught my eye. It is a design for a children’s room and I have had this sample piece rolled up in my scrap boxes for ages now not really knowing what to do with it.

I also had a few narrow lengths of foam core offcuts from another project so I put the two together and came up with the idea of making a height chart to record the height of my three grandchildren each time they come to stay. My girls always had their height measured and recorded on the edge of the broom cupboard door at granny’s house when they went to visit and over time, as they reached their teens, they completely overtook their little granny!

When granny died and we sold her house the marks had to be painted over (we did take a photo prior to this) but everyone was a bit sad. The one I have made is definitely portable so if we move we can take it with us.

This is the finished product – we fixed it about 18″ from the ground to give plenty of growing room.

To make it I stuck two lengths of foam core together with tape to make it long enough. I had to cut the width of the wallpaper down to fit the width of the foam core but the design of the tree lends itself very well to a height chart.

The wallper was stuck onto the foam core with double sided tape and then fixed onto the side of my linen cupboard in what has become the ‘children’s room’ with some of those removable heavy duty velcro strips.

We are just recording the name and the date with a mark on the tree trunk but you could also add actual measurements to the chart – it was fun and easy to make and the grandchildren love it.

Other  lovely ScrapHappy blogs to visit :-

Kate, Gun, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Claire, Jean, Jon, Dawn, Jule, Gwen, Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue L, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol, Preeti, Edith, Debbierose.

dear diary >> mud, glorious mud…

Today we woke up to sunshine, the pea green coloured sea was much calmer with a half hearted little ripple on the surface, obviously too lazy to create the forceful waves of yesterday but not sleepy enough to stay calm. When I took this picture later in the afternoon the tide was out and it had changed to this lovely deep blue.

Although it looked like it could be a promising day weatherwise and one for going out in the garden – in fact we ended up playing at weathermen all day in and out as we had one or two sudden showers.

There is plenty of tidying up to do but not everywhere as some little corners I leave for nature to take over.

I have pruning to do on mass – far too many hydrangeas and buddleias to get round and plenty of rosa rugosa along our stream bank.

DH managed another 3 metres of ditch yesterday and today – he hasn’t yet seized up and can still move this evening so I reckon he might do a bit more tomorrow and finish it.

This is part of the ditch above and the resulting mud pile below. The mud is being used to build up this part of our stream bank which is the lowest point and where the water seeps over into the garden when we have too much heavy rain – hence the temporary sandbags to the right of the picture..

We might, just might, have found a new gardener – she seems keen to come but having vehicle trouble at the moment (aren’t we all). She is a lady that has helped out here many years ago and remembers us too. Our garden requires someone in tune with the slightly wild side of gardening and know when to leave some of the wild flowers in place and when to remove some so they don’t overpower and become invasive, it is a fine balance and one I still battle with.

The daisy path looks like it will be a glorious sight this year when they come out, they have multiplied over the winter but presently they are still in slumber and I am waiting patiently for their awakening – it is one of my favourite parts of the garden.

The large rhododendron will be missed this year as it had a hard prune last year and there is rather a large gap at the entrance to the woodland walk. There are encouraging signs of new growth and maybe a little more food might encourage it to regrow faster. Whilst I have the fish, blood and bone out I will scatter handfuls along the rosa rugosa hedge that the new caravan site owner cut down and cross my fingers that some of the stumps left will reshoot.

Tomorrow I am taking part in the Scraphappy Challenge with a few other bloggers – so my post will be of a more crafty nature. x

dear diary >> a warm welcome

I am writing my posts from Scotland at the moment and as I gazed out of the caravan window this morning at the sea I am reminded of this passage from Marcel Proust –

But before all this I had drawn back my own curtains, impatient to know what Sea it was that was playing that morning by the shore, like a Nereid. For none of those Seas ever stayed with us longer than a day. On the morrow there would be another, which sometimes resembled its predecessor. But I never saw the same one twice.

After a hard night of howling winds around the caravan that kept me waking on and off I too was eager to know what the sea would be like today as it is usually an indication of what weather we might expect for the day. On drawing back the curtains it was no surprise to find it quite choppy with white frothy waves rolling up onto the shore creating a bubble bath of foam – definitely a stay inside day and quite the opposite to yesterday when, after a night of heavy rain, I opened the curtains to find a calm sea that was glinting in the morning sunshine….and I knew from this that it was going to be a good day.

And it was…..I spent the morning yesterday having a leisurely breakfast and doing a little planning – not that planning is easy at the moment – these troubled times make me hesitant to look too far ahead, so only looking to the end of March seemed practical. We don’t have TV here so any news can only be heard on the hour on the radio and the sense of the war is quite different without the pictures but no less shocking; I fear for the life of the captured Mayor of Mariupol – I fear for Zelensky and I fear for us all.

By eleven o’clock we were both out in the garden; DH on ditch clearing duty (though he was under strict orders to only clear a small part of it – mud is heavy when you have to heave it out of a ditch to higher ground, and myself….I knuckled down to weeding the trellis border.

We have a new neighbour in place now on the other side of our trellis in a touring sized van, much shorter than Eric’s static van so our plants in the border are not quite so sheltered from the sea wind and have wind burn.

When the clematis comes out we don’t see the caravan though we had specially left a little window in the planting so Eric could sit out in the sunshine and wave to us.

This is a picture from last year with Erics van behind the trellis and his little peephole. You can see the beautiful Montana clematis that grew up and over the trellis but was so ‘kindly’ hacked down this winter on the otherside by the new site owner… AKA Machete Man.

So now we are left with this a lifeless bunch of stems as they have been cut down at low level on the other side of the trellis and the top part here of intertwining stems are quite dead.

The winter has taken its toll all around the garden this year; the north westerly winds and salt spray from the sea has burnt many of the shrubs and it will take a while before we know what will spring back to life. As the snowdrops are fading away the daffodils are in full bloom, scattered around the garden creating little splashes of colour. The new bulbs, tulips and narcissi, I planted last autumn have all been dug up and eaten by the rabbits…. apparently daffodils are not to their liking and so have been spared.

Everywhere there are little signs of plants waking up and the springtime flowers about to emerge.

My spirits as ever were lifted as my little friendly Robin bibbed and bobbed around me with such a warm welcome back. He had polished off all the food we had left him on our last visit and was eager to follow me about visiting each newly dug patch of earth for worms.

We are eating well here at the caravan and choosing hob based meals to save on the Calor gas. Our only oven meal so far was the nut roast which I brought with us cooked, but frozen and I could have chosen to reheat it in the microwave but I had left over parsnips to use up from the fridge at home and not wanting to waste them I had to put the oven on to roast them…note to self not to buy parsnips when we are about to come up to the caravan.

I needed tomato paste at the caravan because at home we buy it in a jar, then spoon it out into ice cube trays and freeze it. I usually buy those tiny pots to use in the caravan as they keep well but couldn’t find any on the shelves – luckily in the little Sainsbury’s at Newton Stewart on our way here these little cans were on clearance at only 8p each. Another bargain.

Today the winds are not settling – DH has braved the weather to dig out another few feet of ditch (this carries the rain water that drains down through the upper wood across to the burn). It gets rather clogged up with the fallen leaves from the trees and the resulting mud has to be cleared every so many years. I am not venturing out but instead will be catching up with some reading and making notes on some cost cutting ideas for when we return home.

I may even get my paint box out. X

dear diary >> unsettling times…

Having just got back home after our recent trip up to North Yorkshire to visit mum then my daughter and the two grandchildren Little L and Sweetie we unpacked, washed, shopped and then repacked and I am now writing this from Scotland…it may even be published this time, I have written a few posts recently but then never pressed go and they remain on my drafts list incomplete. Like many other bloggers the recent invasion of Ukraine has left me lost for words, scratching around in the dark looking to find a chink of light that will help me make sense of the world right now. This is a photo taken on the Pennine Moors above us in Yorkshire of the sunset the other evening – it is such a peaceful place – and probably a stark contrast at the moment to the ruins of some of the Ukraine cities – I stood gazing at this for ages and couldn’t help wondering what might the future be for our world.

And how, I keep wondering, can one man cause so much suffering, so much bloodshed and so much heartache and what are we going to wake up to next in the morning?

After the last two years of Covid and restrictions and a feeling of uncertainty I think we were all hoping for a better 2022, and now as spring and the promise of better weather are almost within our grasp, at last….it seems our hopes are fading fast.

Life is so unsettling at the moment and all the problems that have been gathering around me at quite a pace over the last few months have now paled into insignificance compared with those faced by the people of Ukraine…but each day I wake up they are still there and ignoring them is not making them either go away or any easier to sort out.

Mum is becoming quite hard work for my sister and one of the team of carers who go in on alternate days has refused to go. She was mum’s favourite but sometimes mum has been quite nasty with her. At 96 she now feels she has the right to speak her mind, but often what is in her mind is not endearing her to the people who are trying to help her. I can understand mum’s frustration at losing her mobility and being practically housebound but the other residents in the apartments are finding her hardwork and avoid going to see her leaving her more isolated than ever. I ring her each evening, we will have the same conversation many times over, usually she has to establish if we are at home or in Scotland and when we will next be going to see her, after only a few minutes she will have forgotten what I said and will ask me again and so it goes on for the next 40 minutes. To make matters worse she has a habit of holding the phone upside down so I cannot hear her properly but that is not quite so bad as when part way through our call she sometimes switches to trying to talk to me on the TV remote and I can hear her saying ‘can you hear me’! I cannot see there is any solution.

Sadly, it has also got to the point now where we dread coming up to our cottage, wondering what we will find this time, what changes await us. Joe and his wife are here at the moment in the remaining caravan on the little site below us, the light was on when we arrived last night and it felt quite comforting to see an old face and have a neighbour. The caravaners were our friends and now they are almost all gone. Thankfully Joe has no plans to leave at the moment.

There must have been an excess of rain up here because the roads had large pools of water along the verges. The tarmac lane from the main road down to our cottage eventually comes to an end and then we have to drive over a wide strip of grass just outside our property to reach our hardstanding by the garage, (the lane and grass belong to the caravan site owner – we have right of access over it). We could see that the grass was soddened and so parked at the end of the lane and walked over the grass on foot to unpack the car – it took us ages squelching about in the mud…..I might have uttered a few choice words at the time. I cannot ever remember in all the time we have been coming here that the grassy bit was this bad or this waterlogged. Once unpacked we moved the car onto a patch of gravel on the other side of the lane so it won’t get stuck in the mud. It is not actually our land and no doubt the new owner won’t like it but the other option is that we will churn up his grass trying to get in and out of our property.

We have two sizeable farm gates at the entrance to our little cottage and just before we left for home on our last visit the gate post of the left hand one had rotted and sheered off at ground level and toppled over bringing the gate down with it. All DH could do at the time was to prop the gate back in place but the wind must have blown it over. Of course it is another job on the list – I am not sure if it has even made it on to the top ten of urgent things, but it must be close. The new caravan site owner did send us a text to let us know – it seemed a neighbourly thing to do but then on the end of the text he asked if we would consider letting him have a part of our woodland for his business! I probably don’t have to tell you what our answer is to that.

The lady who came once a fortnight to cut our grass has given us notice because her knees are so painful and swollen the doctor told her that to continue would certainly make them worse. So we have to find someone new…it will go on the list….the list is getting too long for comfort…I keep folding it in half so I don’t have to look at all of it at once….but I am not sure it really helps.

No doubt we will weather these storms – all we can do is carry on trying to cope with the problems as they come up.

In and amongst, like most of you, I am trying to find a way through these rising prices but if through sanctions, my gas, electricity and fuel has to rise even more to help the Ukraine people then so be it, if the price of some foods like flour and oil becomes too costly to buy or too scarce then I will put up with that too…I am willing to make sacrifices if it will help to stop this ridiculous war.

So I am spending quite a bit of time roaming the aisles of the supermarket gathering up any reduced priced items that we normally buy, using the Smartscan and Clubcard offers and collecting reward points (though these may well be donated to the Ukraine crisis fund). We are using the oven as little as possible and making most of our meals on the hob. We have decided there a few things we can give up or buy cheaper and somethings we will not be buying at all if I can make them.

I am reluctant to stop buying as much fresh fruit and veg – it is the staple of our diet and as you know I buy mainly organic to support the farmers who are growing sustainably. We make our own soup each day using veg that is on offer or needs using up. When the oven is on I have batch baked pastry cases and sponge cakes for the freezer, in fact the freezer is groaning

This week I made this farmhouse fruit cake to take with us to the cottage. Using a very old Stork margerine recipe (so old the ingredients are only in pounds and ounces and the oven temp in Fahrenheit) I was able to use up all the left over bits of dried fruit from when I made the Christmas cake, although I no longer use block margerine like Stork prefering instead to use the Pure dairy free olive oil spread free from nasties.

I figured the best way to cut our spending is to not go shopping at all other than for food or necessities and that way I am not tempted to buy things I don’t really need.

I have been shopping though.

I needed to buy a new bedsheet – I only have two (one on the bed, one in the wash) and one on the guest bed (not that we have had any guests for a long time!). DH woke up one morning to find a rip in the sheet almost the full length of the bed, it had worn quite thin over time and there was no way I could repair it. We also need to replace the wooden blind in our living room. As we have some John Lewis vouchers we headed over to Cheadle branch have a quick look at theirs. The ready made blind we wanted is now discontinued and their made to measure ones are too costly for our budget. We tried a few other places and have seen one in B&Q which we have put on standby. Because of the size and shape of our window we have to remove at least a third of the slats of the ready made ones as they come as a standard 180cm length; DH is not at all phased by the alterations needed – he ‘cut to fit’ the one we presently have but we are seriously looking at having a made to measure one through Swift blinds who just happen to operate their business only a few miles away from us and their prices are quite reasonable.

The fitted bed sheet was easier to find and I just bought an ordinary white one from their Anyday range which is £13 and good quality. On the way out I passed the clearance section and spotted this double cotton duvet set. It was the remaining one of last summer’s range and was marked half price (£32.50 originally £65) so quite a bargain and good quality. The colour will go well in our main bedroom – when it is decorated that is – and although I don’t normally buy florals I do like the Scandi style print on this. The coupons we had covered both purchases so they costs me nothing.

Having a John Lewis / Waitrose reward card meant that by taking 5 empty beauty products that can be recycled (any make) I could have £5 off any beauty product purchase. This offer is not continuous but keeps coming round so that I am able to take advantage of it and buy the Liz Earle shampoo and conditioner that I use when I need one and although they have just had another price rise to £13 each (ouch) it meant I only had to pay £8.

So that was my shopping expedition for this month and probably all I will be buying other than food. I have been busy making and baking and when I get back home I will be sowing seeds ready for growing a few bedding plants for the planters and this year I will probably grow tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes and some salad leaves to eek out the food bill.

Well I will leave you all here and maybe even manage a couple of posts from Scotland. The cottage garden is just waking up and I can’t wait to get out there to tidy up a bit. x