dear diary :: calm before the storm

We came up to the cottage with the intention of getting away from everything and having a rest.  That was the plan – but of course we are so used to doing things and not resting that we still packed the boot of the car with gardening tools – the gardening tools for heavy work such as the hedge trimmer and pruning pole.  We never learn.

DH’s cold has kept him inside, just resting – I am trying to dodge the sneezes as I really don’t want to catch it.  When he was at work he never had colds or flu – I can’t ever remember him having a day off ill, so where is he catching this from now he is at home most of the time.

I did very little yesterday other than make some tomato soup; it feels quite foreign to do nothing.  After lunch I went for a walk around the garden and then down onto the beach.  I actually like the greyness at this time of year it has a kind of sombre tranquility when the colour of the sky merges with the colour of the sea.

The weather must have been quite bad whilst we were away as there is seaweed strewn over the little steps down to the beach, suggesting some very high and forceful tides.  I had a mind to collect some seaweed for the garden but then got diverted taking photos. There are still a few pockets of colour here and there in the garden and the trees are turning a lovely golden colour before the leaves fall.

This is a good time of year to get on top of the weeds but my knee is not good at the moment – I have a hard cyst called a Baker’s cyst developed at the back of my knee in the crease and the fluid makes it hard to bend it when I kneel down so weeding has been a bit of a struggle this afternoon and two hours has been my limit.

Having so little to do here has given me a chance to catch up with my favourite blogs and even leave a comment or two.  I will make the most of this quiet time because come the weekend the pace will increase again as we will be going down to North Yorkshire from here to stay with my daughter so we can visit my mum and take her out for a couple of days, and then look after the grandchildren a couple of days. Then we can go home and catch up with the jobs piling up there. I am savouring these few days of calm. Looking at my diary it will be almost November by the time we get back home – a sobering thought.

I have also caught up with a bit of reading.  I downloaded the accompanying ebook to an audio book I got from Audible a while ago.  It is called The Kaizen Approach and part of the ‘lean’ process of doing things.

Kaizen is all about changing things in small steps and I love this idea as it fits well with our hectic lifestyle at the moment.  Not that I want it to be hectic – far from it but at the moment with so many family members needing our support we have no option.  Kaizen is all about small – taking small actions, identifying small moments and giving yourself small rewards.

So with Kaizen in mind I am looking at making a few small changes to the way I do things. A while ago we tried eating our meals earlier at 12.30pm for lunch and 6.30pm for dinner and it worked well so I can’t for the life of me think why this has slipped back again. But it has and 2pm can be the norm for lunch and 7.30pm for dinner, which is too late and not good for the digestion especially as we are now getting ready for bed earlier than we used to unless there is something riveting on the TV …and that is not often. One of the changes will be to go back to the earlier times.

There are other changes I need to make too – I decided that cleaning the whole house in one day like I used to is not viable anymore – I don’t seem to have the energy I once had and even doing upstairs one day and downstairs another has proved just as exhausting. So I have been trying to get most of the rooms deep cleaned, reorganised and cleared of clutter so that I can keep up to them on a rota basis over the month. Our office / craft room is still the worst of the rooms with all the paper mountain but I am reducing this bit by bit by scanning important items onto the computer.

Did I mention we have another event coming up that will need my input – it will be little Freddie’s Christening in November (my elder daughter’s little boy who will be 10 months next month). We have the church booked for the baptism and a local village hall for the feast afterwards. The cake maker is on standby and as we did for the birthday party in April we will be ordering the food from M&S and I will make a quiche or two and some desserts.

The village hall does not have any crockery, cutlery or tablecloths but it does have a little bar that they can staff for a small charge. We will be having finger food and using the plastic plates I always reuse for parties….the tablecloths are posing a bit of a problem but we should be able to find enough from various family members. It is going to be a military operation on the day picking up the food and setting up the hall before the service at 11am, crikey…no room for error then. So before I can think too much about Christmas I need to get on with the arrangements for the Christening.

Not much other news at the moment – when I looked at the tasks I set out to do at the beginning of the month (see my October intentions) I have more or less covered them all – only the crafts have fallen behind, but then they always seem to.

Welcome to all the new followers it is lovely to have you on board x

dear diary :: October…so far, so good …and not so good

Goodness, it is twelve days since my last visit here and during this time it has been quite a rollercoaster. So I thought I might just sneak in and surprise you all. Of course, there have been developments to our recent problems that erupted during the summer – not unexpected but not altogether good news either – it is a long term situation with no long term resolution.

And there has been more illness (nothing serious), some frantic moments, some joyful moments and a moment or two of sheer despair and frustration. I can’t say this is normal life by any means but I still have many blessings to count.

I captured this view across Wigtown Bay last night as we made our way to our cottage in Scotland (well, caravan for those who know the tale). I am in great need of a period of recovery, a little refreshing of body and mind and DH, who has come down with a cold, needs a bit of TLC too. The sea air and our garden will undoubtedly restore us – as Mary says, it is my happy place.

So during all the recent turmoil just what have we been up to?

Our plans to come to Scotland over a week ago changed suddenly the day before we were due to set off. You know the kind of thing where one phone call can change everything – not only did ‘the problem’ suddenly throw up more problems and angst but our younger daughter, in North Yorkshire, was not well and so we dropped everything to go and look after Little L and Sweetie for a few days so she could rest.

It was actually quite pleasant; we spent the morning at Jervaulx Abbey wandering the grounds in the warm sunshine and playing hide and seek amongst the ruins.

We found a secret door to add to Little L’s excitement, but no matter how hard she knocked no-one, not a fairy or an elf, came to answer!

After all that running round we opted for sandwiches in the abbey tea room followed by a visit to the ice cream farm and playground nearby.

Not everyone joined in the fun – some of us were catching up on our beauty sleep!

On the Sunday we battled through the pouring rain with push chair and raincovers, umbrellas and hats and took the children to Preston Park. They have a mock Victorian street with shops and a tea room.

Little L liked the old fashioned toys in the toy shop, especially the jack in a box – she realised very quickly that it would jump out at the very moment the tune got to ‘pop goes the weasel’ and watched it over and over again. In the sweetshop she bought a lolly from the policeman – he was manning the sweet shop because they were short staffed!…..not sure who was manning the police station, maybe the grocer….

On the Monday and Tuesday the weather was good again so we had a drive over to Easingwold and surrounding area. As our daughter felt so much better mid week we decided to return home. Just as we were leaving the mist was swirling across the valley – she has such stunning views to wake up to each morning.

There was not enough time for us to get to Scotland and back before the weekend, when the plasterers were booked to skim the pantry wall, so we stayed home and spent some time in the garden tidying and moving pots around, packing away garden furniture and cleaning out the shed.

It always gives me a sense of satisfaction to clean up the tools for the winter and wipe them with oil. I like the feeling that everything is packed away and in order ready for next year – and when the garden furniture covers are finally in place it signifies the end of the warmer weather and the start of the colder seasons.

Our neighbour is having her back garden completely flagged soon and was throwing away this little white metal table. I thought it too good to go to the tip so with her permission rescued it for our garden.

Just as they had said the plasterers arrived first thing Saturday morning and overboarded the ceiling in the new pantry and skimmed the back wall where the tiles were pulled off. It is now a bare shell.

The work generated quite a bit of dust throughout the downstairs so I had to set to and clean everywhere but that is the worst of the mess over with now and I am quite excited that the next step will be to decorate and then assemble the units. There is hope it will be finished before Christmas.

I borrowed a few more books from the library – one or two that have some fresh ideas in styling the home and one in particular, called Spirit of the home, I am finding quite an interesting read. I don’t know about you but some rooms in our house always feel better than others and some rooms seem to get more cluttered. I am on a mission at the moment to find everything we own a permanent place as well as reducing the amount of stuff we have – I find I have now got three empty drawers in the spare room since I had a bit more of a purge on some old clothes; but it is an ongoing project and one that will soon be put on hold as the Christmas preparations will take over.

We only have a few days here at the cottage because at the end of this week I need to go back to North Yorkshire and visit my mum and take her out for a day or two whilst my sister is away. Then we will go to my younger daughter’s house again on the way back down to stay a day or two with them and take Little L and Sweetie out once again during their half term week. I daresay we will be doing some pumpkin carving.

I am beginning to feel like a nomad and all the packing, unpacking and repacking – this has not been my best career move so far – I had far more time for myself when I was at work!!

homestead :: inspired and tired

Have you ever been inspired by a friend – one who can launch you into action? 

As you know we went to see some old friends last Thursday in the dales.  One of the reasons for the trip was to have a grand tour of their new home that they have had built for them.  It has been four years in the making but is absolutely stunning – well out of our price range and even though they are a few years older than us, they have chosen to upsize rather than downsize which means they will be able to accommodate their whole family at Christmas which will be lovely. Not that I am envious! One advantage is they are now able to enjoy their retirement to the full knowing the whole house and garden are pretty much in a finished state – no big maintenance jobs, no decorating – it is all done.

At one time this friend lived just down the road from us and I would visit a few times during the week when both our girls were at school – popping in and out for coffee and a chat.  I remember how visits to her house always made me want to rush home and have a thorough clean of mine.  She is one of life’s naturally organised people – her home is immaculate, her meals healthy and delicious, the garden flourishing and their finances in order and buoyant and she still has time for herself and her craft work.  She is very imaginative when it comes to reusing, repairing and repurposing too and this is evident even in their new house.

Their new abode is light and spacious – under floor heating from solar panels, lights that dim by remote and objects and furniture kept to a minimum.  Coming back home made my house seem small and cluttered even though I keep on having major decluttering sessions, but not only that I began noticing areas that do need some attention – a little editing and improving.

So guess what I have been doing all week and how tired I feel!

As I said to Sadie (Notes from an ordinary life) if I am ever missing from my blog you will know I am decluttering and cleaning.  It takes all my concentration and I stop for no-one, well usually, although I did spend the day with little Freddie again yesterday – but who could resist that.

I have a number of challenging areas around the house and I have spent this last week trying to organise these better.

My first challenge was to find a new place to put the Easter decoration that I made so I can use it once more next year. In the end I decided on top of the wardrobe in the spare room as it has a high ceiling and blends in quite well. Really I should dismantle it but it is so pretty I wanted to display it again next year.

Challenge number two was this box containing my elder daughter’s CD player and speakers. We have stored this now for 10 years because my daughter’s house is much smaller than ours and up until the baby was born this year was like a building site. Even now she really doesn’t have a spare inch to accommodate it – so it will remain with us until some point in the future when they move to a larger place. It has been residing in the downstairs cloakroom with everything else that didn’t have a proper place; as you know we are in the process of transforming this into a pantry so I have to find a new home for it. Because of the temperature fluctuations it is not something I would store in the loft so it presented quite a problem.

After much trying it here and there I came up with the idea that it would not look quite so bad if it was in a more decorative box that wouldn’t look out of place in the spare room. So during a trip to Ikea on Monday I spotted these boxes and although it needed two of them it has done the trick and visually looks so much neater. I will be able to use these afterwards to store toys for the grandchildren.

Whilst in Ikea I saw these little Christmas tins for 75p each and I thought they would be just right to put in a few homemade biscuits or a tiny fruit cake for a gift.

I started my cleaning and decluttering in the shower room – this is on the list for a complete renovation but not until we get a new kitchen installed and that is after the pantry. I won’t linger on how grubby it felt – it is never my favourite job. The contents of the cupboard are pretty much pared down but even so I still managed to weed out a few bits and pieces – old sun tan lotions and tanning creams past their use by date. When I declutter the toiletries and makeup items I always keep a ‘use up’ box of odds and ends that need using up, a lot of these are often freebies that have come with a purchase, things I won’t be replacing or buying again but I don’t want to waste them.

The shower always takes a long time to clean but the sealant had been renewed when we had the Aussie cousin to stay and the grout is OK so it just needed a bit of elbow grease to thoroughly clean the tiles and glass. After cleaning the toilet and basin – I always use a squirt of furniture polish over the outside of the pottery and the taps to give it that showroom gleam.

I treated myself to a new bath mat from Home Sense which has much improved the appearance of this room. The old one was looking past its best and looked liked someone had taken a bite out of one corner!

My linen cupboard was next – there was nothing to go out here as I am already down to the bare minimum of sheets and duver covers but I cleaned down the shelves and rearranged a few things so it looks remarkably fresher. I bought the boxes from the Range and they have been very useful for storing the family heirlooms – Christening dresses, vintage linens and my wedding dress.

The craft drawer that holds my stash of fabric had a once over- one day I will get around to turning my fabric stash into a patchwork quilt!

As I made my way from room to room decluttering and cleaning I also made a note of things to look out for to add a bit of styling. I found this tiny succulent in Ikea to put in our family bathroom. When I have a moment or two I will also change some of the pictures. I bought a couple of new frames in the summer with the intention of printing out and framing some of our photos – another job for my list.

It is very much a work in progress – a thorough clean and tidy and the addition of one or two new items can make all the difference. I am loving the rooms I have completed so far but soon I will have to tackle the office come craft room – it is the hardest place with the large paper mountain.

One sleepless night at the weekend I decided that I really must embrace the scanner and scan the invoices and receipts that I wish to keep rather than put them into a folder or box. I know many people do not keep their receipts but ever since the flood at the cottage I was so thankful that I have always kept receipts and records – because of this we managed to get the full amount for our damaged contents and could not be beaten down by the insurers. As the insurers were satisfied with scanned receipts I am sure this method will be accepted should we ever need to make a claim in the future. Once the older receipts for our household goods are scanned on to the computer I will have a lever arch file and a box file less on the shelves. It is a bit of a tedious job so I am scanning a handful each morning and going forwards new receipts will be done each week.

Once this is done I will make a start in the filing drawer and scan on important papers to gain more space. A lot of the paperwork I keep is ‘just in case’ so once scanned I will still have a record without the storage problem.

My wardrobe will be the next place for an overhaul. I have reduced the number of items by quite a bit this year. I seem to wear a kind of ‘uniform’ each day of leggins and a t shirt or jumper now I am at home; I can’t remember the last time I wore a skirt, which is a shame because I have quite a pile of them. Last time I decluttered I let a number of them go to charity but I think it might be time to cut my losses now and get rid of a few more. I will start by getting rid of the ones that feel a little bit on the tight side.

I found another cosy jumper in Sainsbury’s last week – good to wear around the house over a t shirt and for my Friday visits to the neighbour.

One of my intentions this month was to try out some new recipes. This week I chose these little mushroom and leek pies. The recipe used a shortcrust pastry that had added mustard powder for flavour. DH was not keen so I improvise and used grated Parmesan cheese that have given them this speckled look. They are baked in a muffin tin so are quite deep. Apologies for the lighting it has made the pies look a bit insipid – they were actually a lovely golden brown colour and quite delicious.

October is all birthdays – I have three this week alone. I already had the gifts for two of them bought in Stranraer at Baxters where they still gift wrap. They are little printed linen make up bags. The crocus tub is for a dear friend, men are always difficult to buy for but he is a gardener so will love these.

Because of all the birthdays I needed cards so I spent a day making some with the flowers I pressed recently, I also made a few thank you notelets at the same time. Some work better than others but my favourite has to be the chamomile heads.

So that has been my week so far and tomorrow, like the rain, the tidying continues whilst the momentum continues. Or you might find me napping on the sofa. x

dear diary :: a sunny day

Today I woke up to the sunshine streaming in through the window – such a stark contrast to yesterday. I had breakfast and drove up to my daughter’s house once again to look after little Freddie. He is just a delight and at that age when he is trying to make sense of the world and is fascinated by the smallest thing that catches his eye.

After lunch we had a walk in the park today stopping for a cup of tea and a piece of parkin at the local cafe just to refresh myself before the walk back again – it takes some stamina up and down the hills here – I had a good workout!

Once Freddie was back to his house I returned home about 5.30pm and decided on baked potatoes and salad tonight as it seemed a bit late to be attempting a new recipe. Not so much cooking is taking place here at the moment – I had intended to do a lot more – hopefully this is just a blip.

Yesterday, I said I would let you know what I borrowed from the library.

I am still reading a few I had taken out previously but added these to the pile. I started on the Christmas Reader last night – it is a compliation by Godfrey Smith of poems and excerpts of stories with a Christmas theme, the first one being the carol singing evening written about by Laurie Lee in Cider with Rosie. An English Christmas by John Julius Norwich is a similar book – in fact some of the stories and poems used are the same. It may seem a bit early to be reading such a book but I know I will not have time as we get nearer to Christmas and no doubt they will not be available to borrow soon – all the Christmas craft books are already out on loan.

Enough by John Naish is just what it says on the tin and talks not just about enough stuff but enough of many things like information, food, work and happiness. I feel we are overloaded in today’s world with all the above and making decisions is becomming increasingly difficult because of the numerous choices available to us. I am interested to know what he has to say on each of the topics.

The White Robin by Miss Read is my cosy up, feel good book – transporting me into an idylic country village where life is predicatable and slower and there is a sense of community.

Hell Week by Erik Bertrand Larssen is a book I have read before and is for anyone looking to change aspects of their lives. It is not however for the faint hearted as the changes are all done very quickly in one week – hence the title as he almost guarantees doing it this way will be hell, but worthwhile. I may not want to apply his extreme measures, one of which is rising at 5am everyday, but some of the ideas are good and adaptable. There is a planning and preparation stage to undertake before throwing yourself into ‘hell week’. With a tight plan of action you propel yourself from where you are now to where you would like to be in a matter of days. He makes it sound hard and easy at the same time – commitment it seems is the key to success. I am re- reading with the intention of getting to grips with this retirement of mine before I end up just sailing along with the wind completely off the course I was hoping to be on!

I also found these two craft books – I have made a couple of Artist’s books in the past – mainly the concertina style but would like to do more. The one called Bound by Rachel Hazell is such a lovely book in itself.

Last weekend I sat and entered receipts and balanced statements in readiness of looking at my finances for September. I know we had a very cheap two weeks at the caravan but on arriving home we did a major shop and bought a few things so have probably exceeded the pension income for the month once again. I will do a tally at the weekend.

Tomorrow is our lunch date with some old friends, so an early start to the day. I decided on the bulbs as a gift as I already have these, I bought them for myself whilst in Sainsbury’s on Monday – mixed tulips – and they will make a nice little gift.

So that was my day – I hope you enjoyed yours – I am just going to have a lovely pedicure and settle down to watch the Apprentice before bed.

Night night x

dear diary :: colds, babies and rain

Quite a combination for a dismal Tuesday and the first day of the new month. Elder daughter was still not well today – struck with the cold that is doing the rounds. She was very hot and flushed when I arrived to help with little Freddie and just wanted to go back to bed to nurse her sore throat. I can still remember quite vividly how hard it is to look after a young baby when you are feeling under the weather and all you want to do is crawl away and sleep.

Freddie of course was delightful, we played all morning – he can sit up now without wobbling but hasn’t yet mastered crawling – which is just as well as at least i am not having to run after him. He ate most of the pureed sweet potato for lunch – though a lot of it ended up on either me or the floor. He then had a little nap (me too) and afterwards we set off in the drizzle for a walk to the Co-op and back to get some fresh air. Luckily, I didn’t have to get him in or out of the pram- they all seem so complicated these days I am frightened of pressing the wrong catches and buttons and propelling him out into space.

He was still all snug and warm when we got back home but I was quite wet through.

I think I might just be needed again tomorrow – when you are not well it can be difficult to sleep at night and then mornings can be pretty awful – she does look a bit worn out and perhaps just needs a little ‘me’ time and another duvet day. DH will stay home and get on with the pantry. He did mutter something about needing to go back to Ikea for the under shelf strip lights that they do – it is not his favourite place but we will get a free drink if we go during the week – not that there will be much of the week left as we are going up to Settle on Thursday to see some old friends. We have been promising to go all year and of course the minute I make a firm arrangement illness strikes. I am hoping my daughter will be well enough on Thursday to cope without me.

My friend suffers from multiple allergies including the pollen from flowers and eats a very strict diet as many foods upset her. I want to take a little gift as she is providing lunch for us but can’t take a bunch of flowers or chocolates so I am wondering what I might get for her. I was thinking on the lines of a little dish perhaps, there are some nice ones around at the moment and there would be nothing to spark off an allergy with pottery; or maybe some bulbs for the garden as they have just moved into their new house (outdoor flowers are OK).

When I got back home at teatime I had to have a quick tidy round the house – not that it improved it very much – everywhere is such a mess with the contents of what was the downstairs cloakroom littering up the dining and living rooms. Then upstairs we have carpets pulled back and washing drying on the airer in the bathroom. Going up to my daughter’s house is a bit of a relief.

Have you had more rain? We have acquirred a bit of a water feature under our front window where the pebbles are and all the roads around here are becoming like rivers there has been so much rain, I was having to naviagte the car through the floods lying at the sides of the road by virtually driving down the middle. This rain must stop soon our garden is becoming quite waterlogged and I need to get the furniture dried and put away.

I didn’t mention my new library books that I borrowed yesterday – but maybe I will save that for tomorrow ….and yes I have got another Miss Read book – ‘The White Robin’ – I might even read a bit tonight though I rather think I will be asleep as soon as my head touches the pillow – for anyone with sleeping problems I can recommend looking after a baby for the day – I am quite worn out.

Night night x

feasible :: October intentions

October….really? Where did the year go – I can feel Christmas getting mighty close now and summer is but a distant memory. September seemed to come and go in the blink of an eye probably because it is a shorter month and we spent almost two weeks of it enjoying ourselves up in Scotland….but subsequently nothing got done at home.

When I reviewed my intentions for September I was pleased that I had managed to spend some time in the kitchen cooking; baking old favourites and trying out new recipes. We didn’t do much meandering this month though, even in Scotland the focus was on gardening and sadly we didn’t even manage to attend any of the heritage events – we had just missed the Scottish one by the time we got up there and then missed the English one by the time we arrived home – not very well co-ordinated this year!

Looking at the shape of this month it is all about getting the pantry done and making headway with the crafts for Christmas. In and amongst we have a couple of celebrations to organise.

I am feeling the urgency of getting the pantry well underway now. I have this rule which is no decorating beyond October – we have done this in the past and it compromises the time it takes to get everything ready for Christmas.. At the moment we have holes in the walls where cables will run for the lighting and sockets. DH went shopping with me today but while I went to the library for a long browse he went to B&Q and Wickes for the boring bits and pieces like lengths of wood. I never thought the conversion of this little room would need so many materials and we have not even got to the painting stage yet.

Before we set off for town I planned a few meals for the week – I am on a bit of a mission currently to try out some new recipes. I have bookmarked a few that look quite simple and use seasonal vegetables. Leek and mushroom pies and dishes using fresh beetroot and parsnips roasted. You can only buy fresh beetroot by the bunch in Sainsbury’s so I will use the remaining beets grated in a winter salad. A pear and chocolate pudding is also on the list.

In these next two months we have a 1st birthday (Sweetie) and a Christening (Freddie) to plan, these special events never seem to stop – I feel like I should start up a catering company as it is so difficult to find just the right venue, food or caterers and we may well end up with a DIY job and ordering from M&S again.

I have a whole list of crafts that I want to do this month – time allowing. I made a start at the weekend and today called in at our local fabric shop and bought the heavier interfacing for the table mats and some muslin – useful for lots of things. I am on the look out for some pretty vyella to make my two granddaughters a winter dress each but I will have to have a trip over to Dewsbury I think to one of the mill shops. One of the main intentions is to get the calendars completed by the end of this month and have an idea for a lino cut Christmas card.

Apart from visiting my mum (and maybe we can squeeze in a trip to Scotland) there will be little meandering again this month, nor cleaning – with the house full of dust from the pantry makeover, it is just not worth the hassle. The best I can do is keep everywhere reasonably tidy.

I would like to fit in some me time – as is often the case it takes a back seat when other more urgent things come up. I really need to set aside more time for exercising – yoga once a week is just not enough and I am finding that waking up feeling quite stiff is becomming the norm. I have been spending more time recently on building a healthy diet but now must include more exercise.

Of course all the best made plans go out the window sometimes – I spoke to my elder daughter tonight and she is not well so I may have to do some babysitting tomorrow, which might even mean missing yoga this week.

Ah well such is life!! x

dear diary :: rainy days and Sundays

Yes, I know it is really rainy days and Mondays in the lyrics of the song but today suits the song very well. What else do you do on such a wet weekend but grab your camera and go outside and take photos. Such an abundance of raindrops, dripping from every leaf and berry and glistening like tiny jewels.

Inside, is a different story – dry and cosy but oh so dismal. I spent an hour or so switching over beach pebbles and shells for a few discreet pieces of autumn decor. One or two pine cones, a few little dried pumpkins, my favourite seasonal cushions and pictures and before I finished I replenished all the tea lights and candles in the holders. I have some lovely wooden candle holders which add a nice warmth to the room this time of year.

Whilst taking these pictures I smile to myself …. just out of shot is absolute chaos in our house – we may be doing the pantry conversion from the smallest room in the house, the downstairs cloakroom, but every room in the house is now upset. To get more lighting and sockets fitted DH had to pull back the carpet in the bedroom above….I could have guessed…have been here before – so all the furniture had to be taken out and temporarily put where we can.

Despite all the mess – I made more, and have been crafting over the weekend – remember this knitting….

With the help of this book I found called Simple Knitting by Erika Knight I finally manage to finish the knitting part of this little hooded jumper and have only to sew the seams together now. Whether it will fit little Sweetie is another matter – I rather think it might be passed straight on to little Freddie – do you think the colours too girly? I can’t decide.

The four teatowels below came in a pack from Sainsbury’s in the sale. They are a good weight of cotton with a slight linen slub or waffle and my idea is to turn them into place mats. Two tea towels will cut down to make 2 place mats. So the striped grey will be backed with the plain grey and the dashed white backed with the plain white. We only need two mats most of the time being on our own now, so they will do us fine. I will need to buy some heavier vilene interfacing to sandwich between the two layers so they keep a good shape – but it is shopping day tomorrow so I can get some in town. Next time you see these I hope they will be made and on my table.

I have also been having a bit of a play around with ideas for Christmas presents and cards. So out came the sketch pad and pencil – had to dust it off a bit! In April I bought 5 of these calendars on stands for around £2 each, from Sainsbury’s clearance sale, with the intention of designing and printing my own calendar pages for 2020 and switching them over.

The original calendars had some quite nice little line drawings so I had thought about doing a simple lino cut print reflecting each of the months but time might be short now and twelve is a lot of designs to work on and print.

Calendar

– so I decided to look through my sketch book for drawings that could be adapted.

This is still an idea in the making and I will have to do a few mock ups first to see what might work. I am no artist but some of the sketches will pass….I think. Whilst I had the sketch book handy I scanned in a few pages of drawings – these were mostly done in the days when we had more time and well before the grandchildren arrived on the scene!!

I keep intending to try to get in the habit of doing a sketch each day so that I might improve, but am not sure how I would fit it in.

And what better to occupy my time on a cold and miserable day than trying out a new recipe. I have been wanting to try this recipe for a long time – I think it is from Good Housekeeping magazine. I didn’t quite have all the right ingredients so had to improvise.

I just happened to have chestnut and ordinary mushrooms but no dried ones and I used a vegetable stock cube rather than the yeast extract, but it still tasted fine – in fact it was really delicious – but be warned I made two strudels from the mixture – the second one was much smaller but there is ample filling.

Mine doesn’t look quite as good as their picture – the cooking time seemed rather long and the crumpled filo pastry that you lay on top caught a bit whilst in the oven…. and the sesame seeds didn’t seem to want to stay on top. I might do this bit slightly differently next time or even use a different pastry, puff pastry perhaps.

I will add the recipe to the list in a day or two. For now I will have to close – it is my brother’s birthday today and I need to go and surprise him with a card – then I have a big mess to clean up.

Hope you all had a brilliant weekend despite the rain. x

feasting :: from the apple tree

Before we left Scotland we gave the apple tree a good shake but still couldn’t dislodge the ones at the very top of the tree; so we had to make-do with all the windfalls we had collected.

This year wasn’t quite the bumper crop of last year (but then we had reduced the size of the tree during the previous winter) and I noticed a lot more blemishes and rotten bits to cut around where insects and the like had got there first.

Despite the blemishes and scars on the outside the flesh on the inside was still good; so we have been peeling and slicing, cooking and freezing apples all week and yesterday I used two of them to make one of my all time favourite recipes for this time of year – Apple and sultana cake. The original recipe from Good Housekeeping Basic Cookery uses raisins but I much prefer the juicier sultanas.

It is the perfect cake for early autumn – still quite a light texture, a hint of cinnamon and uses those just picked apples and windfalls straight from the tree. Try it sliced and buttered at teatime.

For anyone wanting to make this you will find the recipe in the drop down recipe section in the tabs above the header photo. Enjoy x

dear diary :: sing to me, Autumn

Home once more and we are truly into Autumn now; but hasn’t it been a glorious month – apart from bouts of heavy rain (my sympathies go out to anyone that has been hit by a flood).

The words of the poem ‘Sing to me, Autumn’ are a perfect reflection of this moment and encapsulate the beauty of the season – the sunlight streaming onto the garden this morning was so beautiful – casting deep shadows whilst highlighting the crimson red berries of the cotoneaster… I reached for my camera but it is so hard to get a good photo. There is an abundance of berries down by the seat – we have left it out a little longer as it is such a nice sheltered place to sit and admire the last of the season’s flowers.

Our blinds are being drawn earlier each evening and some of the solar lights left out in the garden are struggling to stay on for very long. I am looking forward to all that the dark evenings and cooler weather brings – after the ‘gathering in’ time it is beginning to feel like the ‘snuggling down’ time.

As usual, after the wonderful slow life at the cottage, we hit the ground running once we are home. I have a long list of lunch dates to fulfill and phone calls to make – there are finances to catch up on and the garden still needs a bit of TLC. I won’t even mention the housework and cleaning that is obviously needed.

Oh and have you thought about Christmas yet?

…….No, ….. very sensible…..I would normally shriek at the very mention in September….but I feel this year that I want to get ahead as I am finding, in the more recent of past years, that everything gets so hectic and stressful the closer we get to December and I try to pack in far too much in those last 3 weeks.  So rather than rush through it I would prefer to savour each moment and enjoy the concerts and Christmas events (that I often miss through lack of time) having completed all the necessary preparations in good time.

I have made a start and though I said I wouldn’t, I relented a few days later when in Tesco… right in front of my nose the new Country Living Christmas magazine appeared – (of course I blame Sadie at Notes from an ordinary life for persuading me as I noticed she had also bought a Christmas magazine and that made me feel so much better!). I kept last years too so hopefully they will spark off some new ideas.

I am mainly thinking about the gifts (we don’t have many to buy or make) – our family takes part in a ‘Not so Secret Santa’ – though I have a feeling this may change again this year – my daughters, who say they have everything they need, have expressed a preference for having a family gathering or event that gives us memories rather than any gifts, so this may be our step towards a no gifts Christmas within the family other than the young children. I will await the whole family vote on this but I personally would find it a lovely idea and support it.   

So it is mainly just a few friends who like to receive my homemade offerings -though I could be wrong and be like Ella of Thrush Green in the Miss Read books,  giving horrendous handmade gifts that people then give away as fast as they can – I haven’t as yet knitted any ties… wonky or otherwise!! 

I also enjoy making the décor, keeping it as natural as I can and of course the Christmas cards (I am thinking another lino cut this year as I enjoy doing those) and perhaps now is the time to start looking at sketching out a few design ideas rather than sitting down on the first day of December and saying today I will make the Christmas cards and then not having a clue as to what I might do.

And what a stroke of luck to find Sainsbury’s are celebrating Organic September (never understand why it is not Organic October – has a better ring to it) and those who know me well will also know I eat organic food most of the time so our Christmas cake is naturally an organic one.   Anyway, Sainsbury’s have reductions across their organic range so I filled my trolley with the fruit for my cake and the nuts for the nut roast.  I am well pleased though it bumped my shopping bill up quite a bit.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s I bought this snuggly top. I have bought very little throughout the year – it has not been quite ‘a no shop’ year but close – this little top will be ideal for those chilly days at home or when visiting my friend for coffee, who has minimal heating on and I do find it a bit cool at times so tend to go in a few discreet layers.

Remember I collected a few flower heads and petals to press at the caravan – well they are now quite flat and ready to go. The only means of pressing them at the caravan was to use some kitchen roll between the pages of a notebook so the textured pattern of small dots on the kitchen roll has imprinted onto the petals but I quite like it! I have bundled them into some cellophane bags to protect them. My favourites must be the delicate blue campanula, the white daisy heads of the chamomile and the vintage hues of the hydrangea petals. I just have to find a little time to turn them into some cards and tags.

For the rest of today I will be attending to the last of our cooking apples from the cottage garden. I am thinking an apple loaf would be just right and maybe a crumble using the blackberries for tea.

Have a lovely day x

seasons :: all is safely gathered in

Come, ye thankful people, come;

Raise the song of harvest home.

All is safely gathered in

Ere the winter storms begin.

God, our Maker, doth provide

For our wants to be supplied.

Come to God’s own temple, come;

Raise the song of harvest home.

There is something very comforting and reassuring about the words of harvest home – gathering in for the winter ahead, reaping the rich rewards of our earlier efforts of sowing and growing – picking fruits and berries from the hedgerows – and then making, baking and preserving – what could feel better and feed the soul at the same time. It is as nature intended.

I have spent the week here ‘gathering in’; apples for cooking, blackberries for pies, ripening tomatoes in the sun and stacking logs for the wood store – and thinking ahead, I have been foraging for useful Christmas decorations – pine cones, hydrangea heads and a few lengths of willow for a wreath.

I feel now that I am well gathered!

We have lived very simply here over the last two weeks at the cottage – only buying enough food for a few days ahead and mainly fresh food – vegetables, dairy and bread. We don’t keep stocks of anything very much in the caravan just a little salt and pepper, a jar of dried pasta, some rice, a carton of lentils and tomato passata and a few teabags. You might even find a tin of baked beans, if you are lucky.

But with Brexit upon us I have been thinking long and hard about what action, if any, I should take to stock my larder at home. There will be panic buying – I have no doubt – judging by the food shopping frenzy at Christmas – it seems it is a very British thing – but I hate to be a part of that. On the other hand the words in the hymn ‘all is safely gathered in‘ suggests to me that it is a wise move to gather in before the winter storms and what could be more of a storm in the making than Brexit.

At the beginning of this year I decided not to keep large stocks of food in my cupboards at home so that it would never end up as out of date waste and I have loved the emptiness and the fact that we have not needed huge amounts of food in hand or added to the ‘waste’ mountain; but now I feel I must heed the words of the hymn and gather in for my family. So when I return home I will be buying a few extra tins and long dated dry products, ready for the long winter months, ready for Brexit whatever shape that takes.

It has been the most wonderful few days here in Scotland, dry sunny days, not too hot, just perfect for gardening; it has been oh so quiet, just us and a few birds, who have also been busy gathering in – so before we return home, and I am sad to be leaving, here are a few pictures from around the garden…..

back soon – have a lovely weekend and welcome new followers. x