– crafting a simple, sustainable and organised life –
I live in a small old mill town nestled into the Pennine hills in Yorkshire with my long-suffering husband of thirty some years. I have two beautiful daughters who have flown the nest (most of the time!). I paint and draw (a little) when time allows, make and bake sometimes but not often enough and garden and grow things as much as possible. I recycle and up-cycle, hate waste and I couldn’t live without my time planner and lists.
It feels like winter again here – we awoke to a dense grey landscape of fog this morning and I could easily have pulled the covers over me and stayed put. There was no wind but the damp coldness seems to penetrate through to the bone and after a jaunt around town for paint samples, plastic water pipe and screws I was glad to get back home and in the warm.
It is perhaps just as well no gardening was undertaken this weekend as the little shoots springing up here and there are better off hidden and protected by the dead leaves and stems of last year’s plants which I leave for this reason. Our garden is 700 feet above sea level here with the Pennine hills looming above us at about 1600 feet over the ‘Isle of Skye’ road (a local name – you can read about it here) …..and Holme Moss not far away at about 1720 feet. So we know about cold and chilly weather and I can guarantee we will lose some of the plants over winter.
I bought a nice little terracotta planter from B&Q for my friend’s birthday. I would have planted it up with herbs but couldn’t find any so I bought 3 pots of dwarf bulbs instead. I took it round to him later in the afternoon, rang the doorbell and stepped away. He was delighted with his gift and once the bulbs are over he will be able to grow herbs in it.
Before tea I looked at the February task list to see which of the tasks remained – anything without a satisfying tick against it is rolled over to the March list – to my surprise there were only 3 tasks out of 28 not completed (two of which are craft related and not urgent by any means).
Sand down the DAS clay tags I made
Cut out the interfacing for the tablemats and tack together
Email the new owner of the caravan site by our cottage
I like to have my plan of action mapped out for the month in my year book. I assign a few pages each month for jotting down any tasks and ideas, books to read, websites to browse…..whatever takes my fancy. I stick in cuttings from magazines of recipes, decorating ideas that catch my eye or a new beauty product I might try. It is basically a catch all. Each year I begin a new notebook and the old one is placed on the shelf for reference. This month will be all about Mother’s day and preparations for Easter and I have no doubt a lot of gardening notes.
And birthdays…….. there are lots of those in March.
I am not sure how much longer we will have Master Freddie with us but I know I am going to find it hard when he goes back to nursery; I have got so used to having him here and taking him for walks. He is an absolute joy.
Must go and get some sleep now ready for the early start tomorrow. x
Do you have days when you feel more on top of your game only to find yourself a bit lethargic the next day? Sunday (yesterday) was my day of very little achievement and after lunch I found myself curled up on the sofa watching Pauline Collins in Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War and trying hard not to fall asleep.
DH was under the floor most of the day yesterday, literally, trying to sort out the leak we had discovered when he had taken some of the floorboards up beneath where the old washer had stood. It smelled damp and further investigation uncovered a pipe with wet lagging. It was the hot feed pipe to a previous washer and although the valve was off it had obviously been leaking a tiny amount of water over 16 years (as that is how old the washer is now). So then more floorboards had to come up in the pantry to trace the hot water feed back to where it diverts off to the kitchen hot water tap. As most washers are cold feed only now and my new one is (we checked) DH was able to cut off and cap the hot feed so there should not be any more problems.
I had to spring back into life and leave the comfort of the sofa when I suddenly realised that it was the last day of February and the 1st March is the birthday of a very good friend and a milestone one too. During this lockdown I have tended not to bother with the date very much – as long as I know when it is Tuesday and I am ready for Master Freddie’s arrival (Mary called him that in her comment and I like it so much that is his new name!) then all is well in my world.
I had to set to and make a card quickly – I copied one I had done before for another male friend’s 60th birthday a few years ago and luckily he likes gardening and has an allotment so I should be able to pick up a gift for him from the garden centre. I wish I had realised before though as we were only up there on Friday getting the seed potatoes. Still any outing no matter how brief is welcome at the moment.
Ideally, as it was a sunny day (though still bitterly cold here) I should have been busying myself in the garden, as all my neighbours have been, but I didn’t want DH to think I had left him with all the rotten jobs whilst I had fun gardening. Not that I can do much to help him at the moment until he gets the pipes sorted and the floorboards back down – I am only the tea maker and plumber’s mate……….so during the morning I had turned my attentions to making a batch of soup for lunch with the bowl of very ripe tomatoes in the pantry – I have stopped keeping them in the fridge now and they do gain a lot more flavour. The pantry is cool and perfect for keeping the fruit and ripening avocados – it always looks quite colourful and healthy in there at a glance. Whilst the soup simmered I finished the last of the ironing pile. I ironed all the bedding on Saturday and changed the bed so apart from a shed load of washing I am at a straight edge with the laundry.
So today is going to be spent whizzing round to B&Q (for paint and sundries), Screwfix (for more screws – never the right ones in the garage) and possibly a garden centre to pick up a gift. I will pack a flask of hot chocolate in case it takes longer than we think. Then I need to gather pace at home to try and make some order of the chaos – we have the big larder fridge from the utility standing in a corner in the dining room and a table full of the utility cupboard’s contents covering the table. Master Freddie is going to have a whale of a time getting into all sorts if it can’t be moved.
DH will also have to gather pace putting down the new flooring – he has lost a good two days now because of the leak and the clock is ticking.
In and amongst all this I have decided that it is time I reorganise all our financial paperwork – I have been using the same system for many years now and it has been fairly good and reliable but I need a change and one that reflects the fact that we have many bills and receipts come in by email and all my banking is done online.
Yesterday was my second day off – I barely remember Thursday as I was in recovery mode and probably on auto pilot when I attempted to clear and clean out the fridges, freezer and pantry. And then I got carried away and started on the oven. For some reason it looked like something had exploded in there but I cannot think what. I ran out of the Oven Mate I use so it is only half way to clean. Another order has been made to Lakeland as it is currently on offer (buy one get one half price) and I added in a baking mould that makes Easter egg shaped cake pops ready to decorate. The grandchildren will love that. I was able to use my £5 off voucher too.
Yesterday I had to ring John Lewis. Last October we finally had our new kitchen installed after only 30 years of waiting and I was so excited – it is the very first kitchen I have ever chosen. The John Lewis designer, kitchen fitter and electrician were marvellous and so helpful but sadly we had issues with the project management and co-ordination….. In that there wasn’t really any. I can appreciate that the Covid meant all the case managers were working from home and not in the office, but the one allotted to us suddenly disappeared off the scene and we were left not knowing who we should deal with and he had left us with some wrong delivery and templating dates.
This meant that during the installation I ended up on the phone….a lot…..doing some of the co-ordinating and ringing around for them to get things back on track. Anyway, it turns out that we should have received a ‘care package’ at the start of the installation with details of our order and all the guarantees – we didn’t and it was only after I had thought about the lack of paperwork we have that I made the enquiry yesterday and was told about it. They are going to send one to us and also advised to write to them about the issues we had. The lovely lady I spoke to did apologise profusely and said it was not their normal service. I agreed with her on that point. So we shall see what happens in the next few days. Overall I am happy with the kitchen and I would use them again but I do think they have a training issue on the co-ordinating side.
After lunch we drove up to the local garden centre; it was quiet so we could wander around and didn’t have to be aware of ‘socially distancing’ with anyone. I bought some seed potatoes – I had decided on Pentland Javelin again but they only had large bags so I chose Arran Pilot instead, an old variety I believe and ones my FIL used to grow.
As I had a £15 gift voucher I also bought a black metal beehive shaped frame to put over my cat mint to protect it from the cats, a new coir basket liner and 3 small pots of bulbs to add a bit of colour into my outdoor planters beneath the living room window. I did sneak in a shrub too – Pittosporum Silver Queen for the front border. The ticket reckons it is hardy in the UK; let’s hope that includes our region as it can get very cold on our road being fairly high up and near to the moors.
Whilst we were out we called at Sainsbury’s – not too bad in the car park so we reckoned it would be safe in the store. We had packed a flask of hot chocolate to drink before doing the shopping which helped to warm us up. We didn’t need a lot, a few items of fresh fruit and veg to get us through next week and some bread.
At the moment the seasonal shelves have a collection of Mother’s Day gifts and some lovely Easter bits and bobs. I was tempted but I shall get my mum flowers I think and make her a chocolate cake, she will enjoy that more than a gift. I did buy an Easter craft bag for Little L and a decorative cardboard egg for each of the grandchildren which I will fill with little chocolate eggs.
I found this cute little box of colourful felt flowers – they might make some simple Easter cards if I have the time. So apart from the chocolate that is Easter sorted – I have learned to buy things when I see them rather than thinking about it for too long and then finding they have all gone.
I also ordered the new washer online from John Lewis yesterday – I chose John Lewis because I had £100 worth of vouchers to spend with them from the ONS survey we are part of and they have some offers on at the moment. Both of the models I narrowed my choice down to were out of stock earlier this week so I put in a request for an email to be sent when they came back into stock. It was a surprise then to find an email had dropped into my inbox yesterday afternoon whilst we were out and it was for my preferred washer. After much debate and research I have decided to stick with AEG as my old one is now 16 years old and has been completely fault free all that time (and would probably go on longer if we had it fixed but I prefer to put the money towards a new one that will be even more efficient on water and power). The new washer programs are very similar to my old one so I won’t have to learn a whole new language to get it going and it has a spin speed of 1600 which is a plus when washing towels as the higher spin speed takes out more water to cut down on drying time. My old washer spins at 1800 but these are no longer available. It does mean though that you need a very stable floor otherwise you would find them travelling across the floor if they become unbalanced. The washer also comes with an additional free 5 year warranty (which is worth quite a bit in itself), free installation and free removal of the old washer.
Job done. It arrives on Friday. I think our clean clothes will just about stretch to that.
So what is our quandary you may wonder? Well it is the old ‘shall we shan’t we’ debate and here I am referring to whether or not we try to put the new flooring down in the utility room and decorate before the new washer arrives on Friday. It would be benficial to do it now whilst we can put the old washer outside ready for collection and that would leave us with a clear space to work in and no heavy washer to keep moving around. The downside is we will have little Freddie for 3 of those days so it might be difficult. The alternative would be to have the new washer plumbed in and then wait to redecorate and put the new flooring down once our granny daycare services are no longer required and put up with the fact that we would have to keep disconnecting and moving the washer.
Weighing up the options we decided it was preferable to go ahead now and get it all done. We will only have until Friday to get everything sorted but having a clear space to work in is very beneficial and will make putting the flooring down a lot quicker. But will it be quick enough?
So once again we will have our noses to the grindstone to beat the clock and get everything done and ready for Friday’s delivery. No rest here then!
And the dirty washing is mounting up…..or should I say mounding up in the spare room.
But I do feel a sense of satisfaction that I can cross quite a few little jobs off my to-do list and will hopefully end February with a completed task list. For once.
Message for Suzanne at Life at No38 if you happen to be reading this – I cannot comment on your blog Suzanne unless I am a team member it says but there is no follow button either. Maybe like Sadie you don’t want comments at the moment but if you do you might need to adjust your settings to allow them. x
This will have to be a real quickie tonight as it is heading up to 11pm and I need to be in bed ready for our last daycare session of the week tomorrow. Freddie stayed on until almost 7pm tonight as my daughter had an internet event to attend for the uni where she works as Environmental Co-ordinator so we agreed to hang on to him and get him into his pyjamas in case he fell asleep in the car on the way home.
We had our usual walk but I was disappointed that it was too windy to go far; a bitter wind too. We went down more snickets, but this time ones we knew very well. I took a quick snap so I can explain that a snicket is a narrow passageway – often between houses or a short cut to a main road.
This one can be tricky to navigate the pushchair through and is a dry day snicket as it has a very puddle dense track in wet weather. Below is the same snicket from the other side and runs through someones little bit of garden at the side where they keep their log store.
We also have many back to back and terraced houses in this area and they have ginnels or passageways to allow people round to the back of the house. These are positioned every four maybe five houses and sometimes gated. One of the houses on either side of the ginnel will have a larger bedroom that would run over the top of passage – they were the luckier houses – any extra room in a terraced house was always welcome.
Apologies to everyone who had never heard of the term snicket (and probably ginnel) I had not realised that these terms are mainly used in the north and most likely in Yorkshire, sometimes Lancashire.
Other than that in and amongst playing I made some mushroom soup for tomorrow with the pack in the fridge that was almost composting and then made a cauliflower and broccoli bake for tea with cheese sauce and parmesan, breadcrumb and flaked almond sprinkled on top – and finally dotted with a few halved cherry tomatoes and browned under the grill. We had a few oven chips to go with it rather than baked potato wedges to save time. This was a bit of a win tonight as it was exactly as I had planned on the menu sheet. That is two nights running gone to plan so far.
Tomorrow we have the person who comes to do the ONS Covid survey test – the vouchers we get will go towards the new washer which reminds me I must have a look at the washers that DH has shortlisted so we can get one on order on Thursday. I still have bedding to iron which was the last of the washing before the machine decided it had had enough – but at least we will be able to change the bed on Friday.
Not even a hint of decluttering today, or knitting – but I did have a good play with Freddie and the duplo farmyard and tomorrow is water play day if we can fit it in. My favourite.
Night everyone (or good morning for those early nighters).
Thankfully today the rain stopped at about 11 o’clock and we took our chance to get out for a walk with little Freddie. We have been exploring places we haven’t been before around our village; wandering through some of the older housing estates of 60’s semis and rows of Victorian terraces to reach some of the little lanes that run along the valley bottom or take you up and over the hills, but all of them eventually come to a dead end or a narrow track as they hit the moors. We have discovered many a snicket and one today that was suitable for the pushchair, not all of them are – it is amazing what you find. The growing amount of dog dirt on the paths isn’t amazing though and I managed to wheel the pushchair through some…yuck. DH had to disinfect the wheels when we got home as the pushchair has to be carried backwards and forwards in the car.
We got back at midday and immediately organised some lunch – Freddie loves the celery soup that DH makes, it seems to be his favourite. After lunch Freddie had some quiet time with DH, he didn’t actually fall asleep but I think he recharged his batteries (DH too). Meanwhile I washed up, had a turn around the garden in the warm unexpected sunshine (yes I did say sunshine) and then wrote the menus for the week and a shopping list ready for our shopping trip to the supermarket once Freddie had been collected after tea.
Whilst we are doing the childcare I am keeping meals fairly simple and have decided that trying out new recipes will have to wait as just getting any simple meal together when the tiredness sets in is enough at the moment.
But I feel much brighter today and the sunshine certainly helped to lift my spirits – I feel much more in control after a day’s recovery in the peace and quiet yesterday and a bit of a rush around the house with the duster and the vac. DH made a lentil Shepherd’s pie which thankfully covered tonight’s tea as well.
The shopping was expensive tonight as I bought a large box of washing powder, two tubes of toothpaste on offer and a pack of toilet rolls…..and one of those large tubs of Lurpack butter that was still on offer and will join the two I bought last week in the fridge. I buy as many items as I can when they are on offer and my pantry is groaning with certain staple foods like coffee, teabags and cereal.
Thank you for all your comments on the previous post you really do have some good advice and of course I know my own circumstances during these strange times are not in the least unique and that many of you are having a tough time too, if not far worse. And Jayne – yes I know how fortunate I am and I am truly grateful that I can spend so much of my time with little Freddie – I missed him so much during last year when we had periods when we couldn’t see him and I know when the time comes soon for him to return to nursery I will not want to give him up. It has been so hard for everyone not being able to pop round to see family and friends, to celebrate birthdays or just have a cuppa and a natter at someone’s kitchen table. We never realised what a wonderful life we had before until all this happened.
So that was my day – I am going to bed for my recovery sleep now (beauty sleep has long gone in my case). I shall be glad when my consultant can read my blood tests that I had done in January – he is so behind and I feel like my current medication is a bit on the low side and I need some extra Thyroxine which would also help to alleviate some of the tiredness and lack of energy. As I have no thyroid gland I am reliant on having a balanced amount of Thyroxine and enough to supress any recurrence of the cancer cells. I am even too tired to worry about it!
Tomorrow I am hoping for more sunshine so we can get out again and explore a little more. We are having Freddie for longer and so I have requested his pyjamas so that if he falls asleep after his tea he will be all ready for bed when he gets home.
On the washer front I am dithering – I like the look of three – but how do you choose a good washer – what a shame you cannot try before you buy.
Do you ever get to the point when you want to stop the world for a day or so for a breather – well I have reached that point this week but I do wonder how can I be so busy when we are in lockdown? Well for us, even in lockdown, we have so many commitments.
This last week we had little Freddie (who is in our childcare bubble) for an extra day as daughter No1 had to put in an extra day at work – she is working alongside two younger people who live on their own and do not have children, they are able to put in the extra hours quite effortlessly, but it is not so easy for my daughter to do this with a little one to look after.
We also had daughter No2 (who is in our support bubble) with the two girls, Little L and Sweetie, to stay for a couple of days to give her a break from the 24/7 childcare as a single mum while her husband continues to work away.
As you can imagine my house looks like a tornado has swept through (mainly in the shape of Sweetie) and feels a little chaotic, which is a good representation of how my head feels too at the moment and although I love them all dearly and it is very endearing to hear ‘graneeee’ all day long I am presently savouring my quiet, noise free home and taking time to recover before it all begins again on Monday.
At the end of these long days of granny daycare the evening phone calls to mum are becoming quite wearing going over the same conversations repeatedly every night.
Oh and the washer has broken down. First it would not spin…now it refuses to wash…it has had the ‘if you don’t work this time it is curtains’ warning – but to no avail…….. as it remains lifeless and silent.
If I sound a bit downhearted it is only while I catch my breath and it won’t last for long, a quick wallow in the situation and then I will be fine again.
On a brighter note I am conscious of the little signs of new life appearing in the garden and it does lighten my soul. It means there is surely a promise of warmer, sunnier days ahead and they cannot come too soon for me; the snow is one thing – I love the snow, but waking up to endless dull, wet and windy days are only just tolerable. Being out in the garden again is the remedy I need right now to end the long winter malaise that is setting in.
Whilst I am in the midst of this present new life you might notice a few changes to my blogging format in the next week or two that better suits my time available for blogging. There will be, if I have the energy to write, more frequent, but shorter, posts logging my day but probably fewer photos; they can be time consuming and it is not always possible to keep camera in hand whilst juggling with the needs of our little charge. Just getting out of the door for a walk can be a major operation, beginning with nappy change and ending with a fight to stretch the rain cover on the pram once little Freddie has been togged up as if he is going for an artic adventure and fastened securely into his pram like he is being launched into space.
So many new skills to acquire.
Anyway, before I wander off track again – back to the blogging changes.
My challenge this year is not only to bring about consistency to my life but to make a real effort to offload more of the stuff in our house and, more importantly, curtail any attemps to buy or acquire more. So for the next few weeks I will be blogging and logging my daily efforts to meet my challenge.
There is a freedom I find in having less, an empty drawer is a thing of beauty to me, but I wrestle with the fact that I bought much of the stuff we have accumulated with hard earned money and this makes me want to hang on to it or make use of it so as not to feel wasteful.
At the end of a decluttering session I find the pile of unwanted items a bit disturbing and wonder how I could make so many rash purchases of things that have proved to be less than useful or even worse…. that do not have the same appeal as when I bought them.
But editing and letting go of stuff is necessary to create space. So I am considering the options I have for disposal:
Donate unwanted items to a charity shop (when they re-open)
Sell items on Ebay
Make an effort to re-use items that have been abandoned for too long in a cupboard or drawer
Re-purpose an item
Recycle any items still in a new condition as a gift
I am hoping that most of my unwanted items will fall easily into one of the above options but then there is a cupboard full of craft and sewing items to go through such as, boxes full of blank cards, a mound of decorative papers and a stack of fabric and wool, not to mention the basket full of half-started projects.
This is all stuff that can be transformed into something useful and will save money at the same time….and crafting is something quite pleasurable and satisfying. I definitely need to make the effort to complete more of (ideally all) the unfinished projects on the go and then look for some ideas to make gifts and cards to use up some of the craft stash. And make a promise to myself not to buy more.
So far I have finished the jumper for Freddie and my mum’s knitted cushion. Success. Next on the list is the half-started winter tea cosy and then the Christmas tablemats with a robin pattern (getting a head start on next Christmas would be a bonus). Sewing these days is a daytime job, sewing at night is not an option for my over strained eyes, but I can knit and so I intend to start the little summer tops for the girls this week even if it is just casting on and doing one or two rows.
One of the most difficult areas of accumulated stuff to edit and reduce is the paperwork (and I think I have mentioned before the headache that is our home office) – there is no indication of a paperless office here – in fact I am a bit of a paper hoarder………old to-do lists, menus, magazine cuttings, lovely old cards – I tend to keep the lot and the file drawer, which contains our more important documents like pension papers and insurance policies, fills up so quickly.
It hardly seems anytime at all since the last declutter and shredding marathon. Paperwork is so different to decluttering objects around the home from drawers and cupboards. It is not something you can donate to charity or sell on Ebay or even repurpose – no the only course of action for this category is the shredder.
But first that all important decision has to be made – ‘do I need to keep this’?
I have tried to edit the paperwork many times before but for some reason I find paperwork is quite overwhemling and I cannot decide on what should be kept and what can be shredded. I liken the process to weeding the borders and once I start I have to do the whole garden at once – it is the same with the paperwork, I try doing a file hanger a day but then find I cannot stop until I have sorted through it all – having a whole day to tackle it just suits me better; though having so few free days at the moment means I might have to resort to the bit by bit technique. I do want our office to feel a much more restful and orderly place and I also want to lighten the load in this room so we can decorate.
I admit I have always had more than a passing interest in decluttering and organising and my book shelves are well stocked with a variety of books on the topic (DH is never amused if I find another one to add to the collection) – some more useful than others and re-reading one or two might just start the momentum going…so watch this space.
I suppose in true British and blogging style I need to comment on the weather. There has not been one telephone conversation with friends and family this past week (and there were a lot) when we did not discuss the weather. Ice and icicles everywhere and that biting cold wind. The only exposed part of me when we ventured out was around my face so I doubled up on a very thick moisturiser to try and prevent me getting, what felt like, freezer burn.
Last weekend we stayed home in the warm not even going out for the daily allowed constitutional and I thought I would quite like to have another go with some DAS air drying clay that I bought about 2 years ago…… another project hanging around and overlooked for too long.
I wanted to have another go at making some gift tags and maybe try my hand at some little wall hangers. Although, I enjoyed experimenting with it I can’t say it is my favourite craft and so this might be the last time I do actually use it but it was good to have another go and now I can put that craft to bed. One of my aims this year is to simplify the craft materials that I have by making a decision on just which crafts I am going to focus on as I seem to dabble a bit here and a bit there and never really get to grips with any of them.
So these are some of the little tags and hanging plaques I made – quite cute but a lot of work and they still need sanding and smoothing – but that will be another day.
In the meantime my next knitting project will be for the two girls – Little L and Sweetie – a lightweight summer top in a 4 ply Rowan yarn that I bought last year from the lovely craft shop in Castle Douglas on our visit to Scotland. As I have two tops to knit I will keep it simple and have chosen the plainer of the two styles but have yet to decide on the higher or lower neckline. I am starting now with the hope that I can finish them by the time we see some sunshine and warmer weather. Casting on might even take place tonight if the mood takes me.
The childcare went well this week with little Freddie – he produced some lovely masterpieces with stickers and wax crayons and we managed a walk each day despite the temperature never getting above zero. Stopping to watch the ducks on this resourceful tiny duck pond in the backyard of a nearby terraced house is a favourite but it does make you feel even colder watching them splash about in the freezing cold water.
Even though we felt quite exhausted from looking after little Freddie we made the effort to drive up to see our ‘bubble’ daughter in North Yorkshire yesterday complete with a large homemade trifle and chocolate cake. She is currently on her own with the two girls, Little L who is only six and now being homeschooled (when Sweetie allows). Being just two Sweetie is rather a little whirlwind and a bit disruptive in the home classroom set up! My daughter is also finding it hard to get her own work done to the deadlines she has and many an evening is up until well after midnight trying to work while the children sleep.
She needed a break as it has been a long haul for her since Christmas especially with the schools being closed. There are far more subjects to get through in a day than there is time. We spent the day entertaining the grandchildren to give her a bit of a break and then we had a brisk walk together around her lovely village well wrapped up against the freezing cold.
Sweetie insisted she took a wooden spoon with her on the walk and spent most of the time trying to scoop and eat what was left of the snow on the verges!
Unfortunately, the picture I took is rather blurred but I think you can see that I have captured the fact that she was certainly on a mission.
We went back home to thaw out with some welcome hot chocoate and a piece of the Valentine’s cake I had made as a treat for all of us. Nothing special other than it was heart shaped, filled with fresh cream and topped with as much chocolate and sprinkles as I thought was indulgent but still permissable (which was a lot).
We all tucked in and consumed it without a murmur. Not a crumb left today.
My attempt at making a Valentine’s card for DH was altogether less successful – I was very short of time and had to resort to a rubber stamp again like last year – but, I am told, it is the thought that counts – mine is the one on the right. He made one for me, the one on the left, which is much better and quite sweet.
Homemade is so much nicer and must have saved us a tidy £6 or £7 on bought cards.
So another busy week for us and we are preparing for an even busier one next week which will include Shrove Tuesday and half term – but, like any pancake lover, I have my lemons ready. As far as housework is concerned I have done very little and I feel as if my world is in a bit of a muddle; with Covid, the cold spell and having many of our family dependant on our help it is hard not to feel both stretched and overwhelmed.
My focus word this year is consistency and how strange then that an email dropped into my inbox about a podcast entitled ‘Why consistency is the key to Success’
It grabbed my attention and I am all ears.
In a nutshell the author of the podcast believes that many of us overestimate what we can do in a short period of time and wildly underestimate what we’re capable of accomplishing over a decade or a number of years. Above all, he is a believer in process over outcome, the journey not the destination.
So my blog is aptly titled as I am all about the journey and my chosen word could be the key to a good year for me.
Then coincidently on the 5th February Freda at Live Simply Simply Live asked her readers ‘are you remembering your word’ …………well, surprisingly, yes I am………does my life reflect my chosen word………well maybe not yet but I am on a journey and little bits of consistency, like the snowdrops in the garden, are appearing slowly here and there.
At last on Monday we managed to buy a leek – well three actually, the very last three in fact and to get those DH had to pop round to the smaller town centre Sainsbury’s whilst I continued shopping at the larger branch on the ring road which had a row of empty boxes again where the leeks should be.
Well after all, what is life during the bleak winter months without any leeks? The Homity pies, hearty leek and lentil stew and leek and potato soup on my menu plan can now go ahead after two weeks of being without. Maybe it is just our area that has been ‘leek’less – has anyone else struggled to buy them?
Despite the leek shortage January felt like a very rewarding month in many ways. We managed two celebrations under Covid lockdown rules – have survived the first month of childcare for little Freddie (or should I say he survived us) – our finances, although not as healthy as I would wish, are not as bad as I thought and I have completed two of my craft projects. So not a bad start to the year and on top of it all I have really been enjoying all the snow which we have had to varying degrees; sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.
We have had some lovely little walks with Freddie to see the sheep and cows nearby. Occasionally, we have ventured out in the drizzle but Freddie is well wrapped up in his dinosaur cosy toes and these modern pushchairs have see through rain covers which help – it is just granny and grandad that get wet!
We had our Covid test last week which was negative and always good to know that we are not asymptomatic and therefore not unknowingly spreading the virus – not that we have seen anyone or go anywhere other than for the food shopping.
So I am now looking forward to February – a shorter month but hopefully slightly longer days in terms of daylight. My calendar tells me the highlights of this month will be Valentine’s day and Shrove Tuesday and I am looking for some ideas to mark the occasion – not that we would normally go out to a restaurant for Valentine’s day but I feel I should perhaps make the effort to produce a nice meal or bake a cake, (I know any excuse for a cake)…….and I am thinking it has to be chocolate cake as I haven’t had any for ages.
As usual I have plans. I intend completing a few more craft projects whilst I have a little momentum going here, at the same time I do need to attempt a bit more decluttering and cleaning (I am motivated here by everyone else in blogland doing a declutter and don’t want to feel left out!)……….and if there is time a trip to a garden centre to buy some seed potatoes.
As things are slowly beginning to stir in the garden I am slowly beginning to think about what I might grow this year and picked up a couple of packets of seeds in Sainsbury’s this week, dwarf sunflowers and mixed petunias – most of the annuals did well last year apart from the zinnias – I am not sure where I went wrong with those but as I have more packets of free seeds I will try again.
The bulbs inside the greenhouse and outside in pots are just beginning to make themselves known. I can even see a tiny bud on the outdoor Narcissus peeking through the snow.
I made the final January birthday card for one of my oldest friends and other than a Valentine’s day card I have no birthdays to make for in February. I have been using the last of the pressed flowers and the stock of concertina cards I once bought for a different project that never really materialised (I expect we have all been there!).
For the gift I found a delightful little china bowl and handleless mug in Sainsbury’s from the Habitat range with a simple bright orange circle pattern and contrasting navy blue. This particular friend likes bright colours so I hope she likes it. I never worry if people pass my gifts on if they are not to their taste – you cannot get it right every time. Before wrapping the gift in cellophane I filled the mug with some Lily O’Brien creamy caramel and sea salt chocolate discs – which I can say are very moreish.
I am rather tempted to buy a dish and mug for myself as the colours would go well in my new kitchen (which is pale grey but has accent colours of burnt orange) – so I may even treat myself…….. though goodness knows I don’t really need any more china.
This week I treated myself to some tulips – usually I dither over the colour – I love them all but this time I knew I would pick the orange to go with bowl full of oranges and nectarines on the widow sill – it is my colour of the moment and an inexpensive vibrant splash of colour that is so cheerful on these drab winter days.
And at last I have found the time to sew mum’s cushion cover that she knitted for me a long time ago. Mum has knitted all her life, not so much in her later years, but she is still a very neat knitter – when I told her I had finished the cushion she remembered that she had started one for herself and it has given her the motivation to search it out and finish it. I told her I would sew it up for her if she does finish the knitting, but I won’t be able to leave it as long as the one she made for me as she is 95 afterall and time for her is quite precious.
When I get down to it there are two rooms that need a good going over – our main bedroom and the office come craft room – they also need decorating but that will have to wait a while – for now I will be happy to just declutter, thoroughly clean them and maybe rearrange, though where I will put all the ‘decluttered’ stuff I have no idea.
The office is always my headache place, too much paper, too much craft, too much filing and generally too much stuff. I keep trying to whittle it down but somehow it all bounces back. I look at the two large magazine holders of instruction leaflets and think do I need to keep these then DH will come along and say ‘do we have the leaflet that came with so and so’? as he needs to check something. Is it on the internet I say – the answer is usually our item is so old and discontinued there is nothing he can find that is relevant……lucky I keep them then.
I did manage to sell one of the baby cribs – a beautiful white wooden traditional one we bought from John Lewis for our grandchildren. They have now moved on to cots and beds and the cribs are redundant but somehow they have made their way to our house for me to dispose of them! It has taken me ages to get around to taking photos and writing the descriptions for Ebay but I couldn’t pass on the offer they sent me for the £1 maximum selling fees and having sold one of them so quickly I am happy to have a little extra space now in the spare room.
I have also listed some shoes and clothes on Ebay and a retro telephone we took off the wall in the kitchen and didn’t want to replace – not sure if many of the items will sell or not but so far I have made £70 with just two of them.
So that is about all my current news for now I feel I have rambled on far too long. As I write this the heavy snow that prevented us from having little Freddie on Tuesday has completely gone but I am sure this might not be the last of it.
Hope you are all coping well – at times I am almost forgetting this new life we have carved out for ourselves is not normal but it is all we have for now so I am making the best of it and I must say although exhausting it is lovely to spend so much time with our grandson. Stay safe everyone. x
A week of celebrations together with childcare for 3 days and I am cream crackered.
I am not sure if this lockdown makes things easier or harder as far as celebrations are concerned. With my mum being 95 on Tuesday this week and little Freddie just two on Wednesday I had to do something to mark the occasion for each of them, (and from a distancein the case of my mum) and in neither case, because of lockdown, would it be a big party. Sometimes a big party is easier.
As I wouldn’t be seeing my mum (who lives in North Yorkshire) I had a posy of flowers delivered to her from a florist in Thirsk (one that my daughter had used at Christmas and recommended) and I would also recommend them as they couldn’t have been more helpful. This is the link for anyone nearby alina-florist.
I couldn’t have them delivered direct to mum as I wasn’t sure they would get in the apartment building and if they did I wasn’t sure mum would get to her door. So I had them delivered to my sister’s the day before as she was going to be with mum on her birthday and she had arranged that a local deli would provide them with a take away afternoon tea.
The flowers were beautiful.
The afternoon tea I am told was delicious – and it certainly looks it – and my sister had taken the time to get mum’s best Royal Albert china out with the tiered cake stand and matching teapot – there is nothing better than a little pink loveliness on these occasions. Mum got loads of cards and had a really nice day even though it was just the two of them. We did a Zoom ‘party’ for her last Sunday so she could see the family all together.
For little Freddie it was up to DH and I to make a little birthday tea, complete with dinosaur birthday cake and games, as his birthday fell on one of our childcare days. It was not easy trying to put the roll out icing on the cake whilst looking after him -I found it rather difficult to get rid of the folds around the bottom and there was no time for any undue faffing. To add to the difficulties the strips of grass DH had made had become rather brittle overnight and broke into pieces.
I loved the little dinosaurs that DH had made using the cutters I had sent for on the internet from http://www.cake-stuff.com and choosing the neon colour mix of ready roll over the usual primary was the right choice. Little Freddie was delighted with the finished cake and that is all that matters. I am not even sure why I am showing you a picture of yet another cake disaster!
I also finished the jumper – just in time for him to get a little wear out of it. Sewing it together did get easier as I got into the swing of it and no doubt by the time I finish another jumper I will be much more proficient.
The weather has been so wet, windy and cold there was no chance of getting outside – the best we managed was the shopping on Monday night. To amuse little Freddie during these long days, limited to indoors, we set up a tub of water to play in – he loved it but could not have been any wetter afterwards had we stood him outside in the torrential rain!
So childcare is over for this week and now it is my time for four whole days to myself. I have necessary and urgent paperwork and banking to do and should I find we have some money in our account I will be very surprised. January is the month for my car tax and insurance, MOT and servicing – yes January is all about the car – never buy a car at this time of year or you are stuck with the bills in January for ever after.
After paperwork must come a few household chores, definitely the oven and perhaps the shower – neither are my favourite jobs, I find both require the skills of a contortionist to get into the nooks and crannies – though I can’t complain as much now I have the high level oven…can I?
And when all that is done I must get back to doing some of the half started craft projects – in fact I might even tackle the projects before the chores.
There can be no doubt that we are well into the middle of winter now; dark nights, even darker mornings, icy cold fingers, heavy falls of pristine white snow, roaring fires, woollen blankets, hot water bottles, piping hot mugs of cocoa or ginger tea laced with honey and the remains of the Christmas cake – I love it all.
Well maybe not the dark mornings.
Even though I always think of January and February as hibernation time this year I do feel we have had weeks of hibernation already with the restrictions we have been under in our area since………………..well I can’t even remember now but it has been a long time.
So walking has become the new norm for us each day for our allotted hour of exercise; a brisk walk down to the village and back if the weather is very cold, sometimes with little Freddie wrapped up snuggly in his pushchair and sometimes on our own. This week we woke up to even more snow and it was truly a walk in a winter wonderland with a wealth of delightful sights to capture…… and even our sprawling village with rows of soot blackened terraced houses looks rather pretty in the snow.
And of course our back garden has just as many interesting corners here and there. The sunlight sweeping across the snow on Friday was so beautiful……….and beneath this snowy carpet are little signs that the snowdrops are emerging…….
…and I know I am a little crazy but who doesn’t want to hang out the sheets and pillowcases in the sunshine, even with all the snow around. I love the way the sheets freeze into stiff boards but thaw out again as soon as I bring them inside to iron and I just adore that fresh outdoor smell – nothing beats it.
The snow was so deep on Thursday childcare had to be abandoned and little Freddie had to stay home with mum and dad. We missed him. Instead we spent a leisurely day keeping warm and just pottering; a little light pottering after a few energetic days with a two year old was very welcome.
I had managed to clear the Christmas decorations away last weekend and they are all back in their boxes in the loft (nothing much was decluttered so I had to find a little more space for the one or two new bits I had bought) – the Christmas tree is back in the greenhouse for a while until the worst of this cold spell is over and we can repot it in some decent compost.
On my January task list I wrote ‘ make bird feeders’.
I had saved an article from my mum’s Woman’s Weekly magazine with a recipe to make your own using half coconut shells and a pack of lard. I had bought the lard before Christmas as it is not something I normally use being vegetarian and during last year I saved the coconut shells from the ready made feeders I bought in Sainsbury’s to feed the birds during the winter months and they were far too nice to throw away. So I had a go – the recipe was easy – just melt the fat and pour onto a mix of different bird foods – grated cheese, raisins, chopped peanuts and wild bird seeds. Then leave to set……
….hang out and wait.
In and amongst the childcare I have been busy making little thank you cards with the last of the pressed flowers to deliver or post to my friends on our walks – I like to write a personal thank you for any Christmas presents I receive and I did have some rather nice ones this year from my friends – a little bird must have mentioned to them that I have a new greenhouse.
This handmade seed tray and tamper was one of my favourites together with this tin of string by Emma Bridgewater. My friends know me so well.
There has been a great deal of tea drinking going on this week – I always start the day with a cup of ginger tea and Manuka honey with a slice of orange or lemon – whatever is to hand – and my afternoon cup of tea is not quite the same without a slice of cake.
Soon the Christmas cake will be finished – which is really no bad thing as I intend to restore our more healthy diet soon but that will have to wait until after the birthday cake I am making is eaten up too.
I have quite a few birthdays this month none more important than my mum’s (she is 95 this year) and little Freddie who will be two. I made and froze the sponges yesterday afternoon and bought some cute dinosaur cutters on the internet and a pack of multi coloured neon roll out icing to make a cake for Freddie, (maybe mum would like a dinosaur cake too but she is getting a posy of flowers delivered….I hope).
Looking after Freddie has meant early mornings – he arrives at 8am – so that has meant earlier bedtimes for us the night before but this has given me a chance to begin reading one or two of the new books I received for Christmas as well as one or two old favourites – and the new issue of Country Living magazine dropped onto the mat the other day – that always makes it a good day.
Presently, I am struggling with sewing up the jumper I knitted way back for Little Freddie for his birthday (in fact I should be doing it now and not get distracted blogging). It was going to be a Christmas present but guess what – I ran out of time to finish it. Thank goodness for You Tube is all I can say and although my efforts are not brilliant it has been a satisfying project and I will probably attempt to knit something else especially as there is very little else we can do during lockdown. But I do enjoy making things and I have a few balls of wool waiting for me in my craft drawer and a piece of pretty soft corduroy fabric to make something for the girls, Little L and Sweetie.
I have so many plans to finish a lot of the half started projects and I need to overhaul our finances and soon it will be time for the big spring clean – the house is beginning to feel a little grubby and jaded in places but maybe that is because of the contrast to the spanking new kitchen…………….but before that can happen I need to do a little decluttering and this might even extend to throwing out more old papers in the files. I don’t know about you but I find maintaining a balance of keeping what we need and what we might need is pretty hard. Once or twice I have regretted giving something away or shredding a document.
I strive to make everything we keep in our house useful and used. The clutter always builds up again quickly if you take your eye off the ball for any length of time – I am positive it breeds – it certainly does in dark corners or hidden away at the back of drawers and any flat surface. I have this idea that I need to go through the house and make every area organised, sparkling clean and well presented.
Once the birthdays are out of the way this week I will endeavour to blog about the new kitchen and show you some before and after photos. We have Eddie the kitchen fitter coming on Tuesday to replace a cupboard door that hides the fridge as a tiny piece of the coating had chipped off during the first few days of use and the manufacturer though it might have been a defective one.
DH has got a bad back at the moment so that lets him off starting to prepare the laundry room beyond the kitchen for painting and the new flooring. It won’t however get him out of the Zoom call we are having with the family and my mum to wish her a happy 95th birthday.
Well I think that is all for this week – I do hope everyone is well and managing to overcome this doom and gloom. Everything is now hinging on the vaccine – I hope nothing goes wrong.