creating :: a crafty day today

Friday again already…where do the weeks go. DH collected his car yesterday and I am hoping there is nothing else to fix on either of them – there couldn’t possibly be could there?

I have bank statements to balance and I must get around to labelling the jars in my new pantry. It is finished all but for that task. Well I say finished but I am still moving things around each day and I could do with buying one more shelf from Ikea. DH is finding it hard to know where anything is at the moment as I keep swapping and changing and swapping back; each day he finds that something is now in a new place….he just humours me. There will be pictures I promise but at the moment I am still titivating and enjoying myself so much. Even the thought of a new kitchen is not as exciting at the moment as my new pantry.

I came across this picture the other day in my pile of Christmas cards that I haven’t as yet got around to dealing with. I usually turn them into tags and money envelopes but I thought it would be nice to put this one in a photo frame to display next Christmas as it has such a lovely cosy feeling.

My granddaughter, Little L, created this colourful masterpiece on a paper plate at nursery a few years ago and it has been hanging on my kitchen notice board ever since. I decided to cut it down into a rectangle with the intention of putting it into a picture frame so I can display it on the wall or my mantel piece.

You may be wondering what teabags have to do with crafts – well remember the Pukka advent calendar I received from my sister-in-law well unsurprisingly there were one or two flavours I am not keen on – I don’t do fennel at all and so these are the ones that I will not be drinking…..but I had other ideas for them….read on.

I spent an afternoon making some more pressed flower cards with the remains of the flowers and leaves that I pressed earlier in the year – and I was really scraping the barrel here to find enough bits that were still good enough to use. My last efforts were very well received by my friends so I thought I would do a few more before turning my attentions to something new.

I have put the teabags in my card box so that when I send a card to a friend I will enclose a teabag so they can enjoy a lovely cup of tea and my teabags will not be wasted. I know my friends well enough so should be able to match up a teabag to each of their personal tastes.

I seem to have accumulated quite a few dried slices of orange and lemons over the years and need to reduce the pile. Rather than throw them away or compost them I thought they would be nice to add as a decoration when I wrap my presents in plain brown parcel paper. I found some old fashioned buff coloured parcel tags and stamped a few with different pictures and messages which I will then combine with the orange slices.

Little by little I keep trying to reduce the assortment of crafty bits and pieces I have collected and make things with them. I have a whole box full of cut out butterflies but that will be another day.

Enjoy the weekend everyone x

dear diary :: morning glory

What a beautiful day today – I spent the morning in the garden and it was gloriously sunny and warm and quite calm. The birds were twittering away and it felt like spring had arrived which is not usually this early high up in the Pennines as we are here. The jolly Budha was certainly smiling, yet we all know this kind of weather can be very deceiving and we might suddenly be plunged once again into cold, wet, wind and snow.

With this in mind I didn’t cut back very much of the dead foliage in the garden as it can be quite protective of any harsh weather still to come. I did manage to get the bulbs planted that had started growing indoors in the bag and I also repotted some tiny Irises I bought in Thirsk at the weekend as well as planting out a pot of snowdrops into the small border.

There are bulbs springing up all over the garden now and the Primulas are in full bloom.

Even the pansies have over wintered well this time.

The rhododendron grown by DH’s grandfather and named after him has some nice fat buds waiting to burst open when the time is right. I just hope this year they don’t open too soon and then get hit by later frosts. The one in our Scottish garden which was a cutting from this plant does much better.

I was so glad to see the Clematis I bought last year, and which is still in a pot, has some new leaf buds….an encouraging sign that I have not yet killed it.

In between a bit of gardening and tidying I was running in and out with the washing getting as much done as I could and out on the line while the going was good. DH had taken his car down to our local village garage to have the brake discs done ready for the MOT in April. It has been quite a hefty month or two financially for the cars with both car tax and insurance being paid on top of the recent maintenance costs and an annual service.

This afternoon I went up the road for a cup of tea and a natter with my neighbour. We usualy meet on a Friday but she will be out tomorrow. We spend a couple of hours putting the world to rights and catching up with our news – a lot can happen in a week.

Tonight I am making a cauliflower and broccoli bake for our supper. It is one of my favourite meals in the winter months and quite quick to do. After tea I expect we might just cosy down and watch some TV and maybe an early night. I have just finished my book ‘Confessions of a Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell – I enjoyed it as much as the earlier one he wrote though I would be very wary of starting a converstion with him should we ever visit his shop in Wigtown, which is round the bay from our cottage, just in case the conversation was ever recorded like many in one of his books!

Tomorrow I still have a million and one jobs to do so we should be having another day at home. Have a relaxing evening…I am! xx

dear diary :: oh my, oh my…

It has been a long time and a long time away from the old key board – not intentional I assure you and I hope that in the days that have passed you are all well and thoroughly enjoyed January.

Like my life, the changes in the weather have been so unsettling recently that no two days have hardly been the same. We have swung from bitterly cold to blustery winds with a lashing or two of rain in between….. and a day of snow.

So exactly what have I been doing, you might ask?

….and isn’t it hard to remember?

January is a busy month for us with birthdays and on top of that we have more than a few special remembrance days of my father-in-law, mother-in-law, a close uncle and yesterday for my dear old dad – who fell ill during January before he died. It would seem that my family like to fit in one good ‘last Christmas’ before departing from us. It is hard looking back and remembering all the good times we had with each of them, these memories are so precious to me and I like to have some quiet time alone, just me and the photo albums.

After writing my last post (on the 21st January) we managed to squeeze in an appointment with the kitchen planner in Sheffield to discuss the possibility of a new kitchen (yeah) and take up the discounted deal on offer. We arranged for the planner to come over on the following Tuesday to take measurements and look at our space and advise on what might fit in it, but unfortunately that was the day it snowed here so had to be cancelled and is now rearranged for later in February. In the meantime we are trudging endlessly around kitchen showrooms looking for ideas and at the appliances we will need to install. Already it feels like an expensive project.

On the Friday (24th) we had a lovely trip out to our local theatre to see Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn – you either love him or you don’t – I like his humour and both the play and actors were brilliant. It is ages since we had an evening at the theatre; we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and agreed that we really do need to get out more.

Saturday was our Burns’ night supper that we host for some of our closest friends and in memory of my Scottish father-in-law who died on Burns’ night (after attending a Burns’ night supper himself at his local church, though I might add his death was not a consequence of the food!).

It has become a bit of a tradition now and each year we add in something new. This year we made Cock-a-Leekie soup as a starter but being vegetarian without the ‘cock’ – so just ‘Leekie’ soup – which was actually just our leek and potato soup recipe – it went down very well though and instead of rolls I made Parmesan crisps (not very Scottish I know but very nice all the same).

We did a special version of the kanban board to help us prepare for the evening and the glass in the patio doors proved to be an effective place to stick all the individual post it note tasks. I decorated a few places around the house with a touch of tartan and placed candlelit lanterns outside in the garden.

The evening was a success even though we were all crammed into our tiny dining area and one of the meat haggis exploded in the oven with quite a bang. The Cranachan recipe using porridge oats was certainly not as good as last year’s version using oatmeal, but enjoyable none the less and I have made a note of this for next year. We managed to polish off all the Tunnoch’s caramel wafers and chocolate teacakes and down a dram or two of whisky before everyone left for home and we climbed into bed at around 3am – so rather a late start to Sunday (….well what was left of it).

Sunday I cleaned the oven to remove the dreaded bits of haggis from every nook and cranny it had attached itself to.

The following Monday we had a trip over to the south of Manchester for the Citroen specialist to adjust the suspension on our car. It is much better now and actually glides over the bumps as it should and even better he only charged £40 which was good news for us after the hundreds we have given to the local Citroen garage in their attempts to get it sorted.

I had hair and physio appointments and was looking forward to a restful weekend but our plans had to change suddenly when both mum and our younger daughter in North Yorkshire required our services urgently. After the physio session on Thursday we hastily packed and shot off to stay with our daughter and the two grandchildren.

Our daughter only moved into her new house last November in a new area and Little L has started a new school…. just when we thought they were all settled – it appears that not all is well with her new landlady and the property she is renting she may not be able to stay in the house (obviously I cannot go into detail here but through no fault of her own may have to move again) – we are waiting for more news on this and as is the case these days no one can discuss the matter with her. What a good job we had not had the time to order the new wardrobes.

My mum had not been well all week and my sister had to go away for a long weekend so she needed our help. She is feeling very down at the moment because she cannot get out and about like she used to. She had an x-ray on her hip, knees and feet last week and my sister who accompanied her saw the x-rays and the radiologist explained what was what – apparently her right hip does not look good, there is no fluid surrounding it and the bones are wearing away. She now has to wait 3 months for an appointment at the clinic to discuss what can or cannot be done. I am amazed at how quickly she has gone downhill; when we went on Saturday to take her out for the day she could barely walk to the car.

As she didn’t need us to take her for any shopping we had a run out over to Saltburn for lunch at the deli cafe and then went down the coast to Sandsend. It is a lovely run and en route we ventured off the main coast road and went along the single track road to explore Goldsborough and Kettleness.

Goldsborough, which is tiny and off the beaten track, does still have a pub called The Fox and Hounds, whilst further on Kettleness village is just a cluster of tiny cottages on the headland since the rest of the village plunged into the sea one stormy night in 1829. The most notable feature is a little abandoned chapel on the way down to the village after this you can go no further and have to turn around and go back.

On Sunday we gave my daughter a break and took the girls, Little L and Sweetie, out for a few hours. It was damp and cold so going to the playground or park was out. Little L had a few pounds in her purse and a book token so we went into Thirsk so she could find a book. The White Rose Book Cafe is one of my favourite places and after a lengthy browse around we had lunch there and eventually Little L settled on a book about boats.

We are home again now but returned to find my elder daughter who lives locally to us had not been well all weekend with a sickness bug caught from her husband and so her return to work yesterday after a lengthy maternity leave has had to be postponed a day or two!!

I think that is all my main news to tell and so today I am catching up with myself. There is paper work to do, washing, ironing and a lot of endless ‘bitty’ bits and pieces.

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my previous posts, they are much appreciated. I will be trying to catch up with all you lovely bloggers out there but might be doing a little more reading than commenting until I am up to date.

And of course welcome to all my new followers. x

creating health and well being

Needless to say this part of my life has been a little neglected of late. I should be reporting that I am exercising everyday, eating very healthy meals and remebering to drink more water and take my supplements.

I am working on it!

Truth is I will have to start over – not completely as nothing in life is ever wasted – but just get back on track and it would be a good idea to find my exercise sheet that I had developed with my physiotherapist.

dear diary :: another celebration

We arrived home late from Scotland, but safe and sound, on Saturday night. Saturday is the best night to travel back down – the motorways have few heavy goods vehicles and not many cars either, having said that you can still see some horrendous accidents so it was no surprise to witness four ambulances shooting past one after the other along the northbound carriageway of the M61. I always send up a little prayer for those involved and those who are there to treat the victims and then thank God that we remain safe as often it is just the fact of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – a few seconds more or less and that crash could have been us.

On Sunday we surfaced very late and then had to rush off down to town before the early Sunday closing to get bits and pieces for the next project, my grandson’s birthday cake. I am not sure why I volunteered to do the cake, I had less than 24 hours to produce something and I had no idea how I was going to decorate it – other than it would have to be buttercream and some sprinkles. I had to invent something from the few decorating items I could find in Sainsbury’s and being in such a rush of course everything went wrong.

I wanted a tall cake with 3 layers but didn’t have enough sandwich tins of the right size so decided to make one large cake and slice it into three – the mixture takes longer to cook in one tin so I felt it came out a bit drier than when you divide the mixture between sandwich tins. I am still not sure what happened with the buttercream – one minute it was fine then all of a sudden it seemed to be all whippy and too much air – it might have been because I used semi skimmed milk rather than whole milk when I added the liquid. You can see the odd texture in the photo. It was far too late to do anything about it so I just had to slap it on and hope for the best. The stars cut out of the blue fondant icing were a bit of an afterthought to cover up the texture of the buttercream – the problems didn’t seem to affect the taste though. Everyone said it tasted really nice. Thank goodness. It isn’t my best creation but it did the job and little Freddie loved the candle and sparkler.

Making a cake is probably no cheaper than just buying a ready made one from the supermarket. I used to make all the birthday cakes for our two daughters – I have done fairy castles and toadstools, horseriding and ballerina, jungle scenes and pretty flowers, but I am really beginning to think my cake making days are at an end.

As it was so close to the recent christening we just made little Freddie a small tea party to mark the occasion of his very first birthday with both sets of grandparents and mum and dad. He enjoyed himself and thoroughly entertained us – although he didn’t really know what a birthday is.

My daughter had made these delightful little decorations for the tea party out of some wrapping paper and tissue.

Whilst in Castle Douglas on the way back home from Scotland I had a bit of a shopping spree as you can see in the photo – altogether my little haul was less than £15 – so I don’t feel that is too extravagant. In the craft centre I bought these little wooden rabbits ready for Easter.

……and for £2.59 I also bought this instruction card to make the patchwork quilt in the picture using my own fabrics. You buy the card and on the back are all the instructions and measurements for cutting out the strips and squares of fabric to make this design. I have a lot of pretty cotton fabric left over from making the bunting for my daughter’s wedding and it is on my list to make a quilt – I love the design of this one and the colours and fabrics are very close to the ones I have.

I couldn’t leave Castle Douglas without popping in to Tessara – a tiny shop full of beautiful gifts and homewares. There was a sale on and I bought the silver photo frame for my mantel piece – having 3 grandchildren now I need plenty of photo frames.

Today we had a bit of a clear up of outstanding tasks – booking my car service, rearranging an appointment and chatting with a Citroen specialist about our car problems. I also made a few pressed flower cards – so quite a productive day.

I now have to start thinking about our next two projects – our new kitchen and the Burns night supper on Saturday.

These are certainly busy times.

dear diary :: homeward bound

Nothing much happened yesterday other than a trip into the local town of Stranraer – but for me that is quite a pleasant event.  We decided to put the final portion of the tomato soup in a flask, make a sandwich and take lunch with us.  All was calm weather wise and the sun came out so we stopped in the pretty village of Ardwell further up the coast and watched gulls bobbing about on the sea whilst lunching.  The two cottages facing out onto the bay are my very favourite on this coast – much more sheltered than we are.

Would you believe it though, as we turned off the main road into the picnic area by the shore the car beeped and a fault message suddenly flashed on the dashboard screen ‘automatic parking brake fault’ and the service light came on?   Usually when we stop the car when parking the handbrake automatically engages as there is no handbrake to pull on and luckily even if the automatic parking brake doesn’t work you can operate the brake manually with a lever – but it is yet another problem to add to the list.  When we arrived back at the caravan later all messages had disappeared from the screen and the car’s automatic brake came on – so maybe it has corrected itself…who knows!

After lunch we took a quick brisk walk along the beach looking for beach finds then headed off into town – it was bitterly cold so we kept dodging into shops just to keep warm.  I got mum’s card and a lovely one that opens out into a train for Freddie’s 1st birthday.  I had to write mum’s card in the local café to get it in the post – I slipped in a book token for her – as she cannot get out much now reading is quite important to her but this means buying a lot more books.

After a trip to the post office we went round to my favourite hardware shop which is more like a mini department store.  Here you can still buy something as basic as a steel fire basket for your coal fire or some of those old varieties of seed potatoes ….and sure enough they had jam pot covers –there was even a choice and I opted for the mixed pack of waxed circles with the cellophane covers.

It is one of those shops where you feel you can buy anything and coming across a pile of cloths between the dishcloths and floor cloths marked ‘udder cloths’ was no surprise.  They are quite nice – like stiff muslin (maybe you had one Pat on your farm?)  I am sure they might be quite useful for something other than udders – but I couldn’t think what so I put it back.

A lot of the shelves were quite bare having cleared away all signs of the decorations, artificial trees and lights that they have on display at Christmas to the delight of the local children (it is their only Santa Grotto for miles).  The assistants were busy having a bit of a change around as shops do now and just starting to put out their new stock.  It is a struggle for these independent shops to keep going – a lot are family owned and when they retire they are lost and gone for ever leaving increasingly empty gaps like on most high streets.   I always try to buy things when we are up here to help keep them going.

We had a bit of a shock in Tesco though – it is not a big store but bigger than one of their Express stores.  A few years ago they removed the instore bakery but have continued to sell a range of freshly baked bread and Danish pastries; now the section selling the freshly baked bread and rolls has halved in size to one small fitment and they have stopped selling wholemeal loaves altogether unless you want the wrapped steam baked Warburton’s type which I don’t like (too squishy for me). 

What made it worse is the fact that they have now expanded the sugary cakes and doughnuts section to fill the space.  This feels like a big step backwards to me especially in a region that is known to have a pretty bad diet of high fat and sugar foods anyway.  Are people substituting cakes for bread I wonder?  The Tesco assistant said this was not the only store to remove the wholemeal loaves.

When we come here for any length of time we are going to be quite stuck for bread now – we can bring some with us but obviously not for a whole week or longer – I like my bread on the dry side but stale is another thing!

We bought the haggis, a few wee scotch pies (the men love these), macaroni for the vegetarians and some after dinner treats….Tunnock’s of course. There is no way to make haggis look appetising in a photo but here it is.

So today we are homeward bound – car allowing, stopping in Castle Douglas another fine market town full of little independent shops, a huge Wilkos and the best craft shop ever.  Oh and did I mention they have an award winning chip shop – so a bag of freshly cooked chips is a must.

I just need one more turn around the garden to say goodbye until next time.

Have a wonderful weekend. x

PS. The tomato soup recipe is now in the recipe section – click on the tab above the header. Hope you enjoy it Wendy x

dear diary :: a bit blustery

Its not hard to spot the difference between the calm photos of the beach I posted yesterday and these. Waves crashing around and the roar of the swell coming before it has to be seen and heard and can feel quite threatening stood so close – so I didn’t linger too long.

I stayed indoors and made red pepper, tomato and basil soup (click on the Recipes tab for the recipe) while the guy we found to fix the garage door came down. We called him at about 9.30am and he came about 11am – not a bad service. We didn’t even have to pay for parts as we could supply him with the cables (in fact both had gone in the end) and the spring just needed respringing rather than replacing.

So one job down. Umpteen to go.

We didn’t make it into town either we kept warm and read instead, so we are going today. I have two birthday cards to get; one for my mum (she will be 94 come Sunday) and one for little Freddie who is just one year old. Then I need to go to the wonderful Homes and Gardens store for jam pot covers and a mooch around – they have a fascinating collection of everything you could possibly want for your house from teapots to drain cleaners.

Then I need haggis and some Scottish pies to take back with me for Burns night.

Surprisingly, the weather is quite calm today and the tide is way out – it did feel like it was coming up into our garden yesterday so I hope not too much land has been lost on the banking around the bay here.

Have a good day everyone and keep warm x

dear diary :: roaming in the gloaming

The journey to Scotland didn’t start too well.  We were up, packed and ready to go on time but then a power cut delayed us, as we had to wait to be sure everything electrical was off and the burglar alarm set OK, then as we drove the first mile it was obvious the car is still not as it should be….smooth.  The suspension was suspiciously rather bumpy and hard which is not like Citroens at all.  We circled the block a couple of times, me driving, then DH driving as it seems far worse on the passenger side, then we went back home to decide on what we should do.  Already having forked out £1200 for this problem we are reluctant to go back to the same garage.

We decided we would carry on to Scotland turning back at Preston if the suspension had not settled down by then or had got worse.  It more or less remained the same – probably better on the smoother roads like the motorways and no warning messages had activated so we pressed on, fingers crossed all the way.

Anyway we are here in Scotland now and despite all the weather warnings it was gloriously sunny yesterday, but bitterly cold in the breeze.  I have said this before but I do love these grey winter days by the sea, they are quite calming and relaxing. 

And we have no plans other than to relax.

Because of the earlier set backs and subsequent late departure we didn’t get to the cottage (caravan) until 9pm. It was cold inside the van, the central heating boiler had lost water pressure and was flashing fault. Hastily, we scrambled around for the manual to check the fault code – most likely due to a leak it says – no obvious signs inside so we will need to examine the outside pipes under the van in the daylight – in the meantime DH is able to let more water into the system so that we can get the heating up and running again.

Meanwhile, I start to busy myself unpacking and making up the bed with clean linen only to discover that the electric blanket that I had taken home to wash…. was……you guessed it…… still at home. Memories of the recent cake saga flood into my mind. Luckily, we keep a hot water bottle at the van and so this was requisitioned to warm and air the bed which was so cold I could only envisage a night of discomfort. Trying to heat up the whole of the bed a few square inches at a time takes some effort when you are tired and cold and just want to climb into a warm bed and sleep.

After a while we managed to warm up the room and the bed and eventually jumped in fully kitted out with t-shirts and socks….. and actually slept quite soundly.

It was quite late when we surfaced, tired after the long journey, but the sun was shining so after breakfast we went out to survey our land – not quite roaming in the gloaming (which means twilight – I had to Google it) but rather midday.  We always have a wander through the wood and round the garden then down onto the beach to check everything is OK.

Everything was as it should be with no evidence of any fallen trees or flooding, even the burn running alongside the cottage was not as high as it might have been.  It would seem we had survived storm Brendan – only the little path that takes us onto the shore was covered in a pool of water so we had to make do just looking from the banking.

Round the corner from us is in the next bay is a different story; where the coast road runs alongside the beach the road is closed – an action that has been taken far more seriously since the death of the couple and their two dogs last year when they were swept out to sea one stormy night.  It is a long diversion and one that the locals are loathed to take but one that will save lives.  The spray from the sea covers the road and sends up quite large beach stones with it…a treacherous mile known here as the car wash.

So all seemed well until we came to open the garage door only to find one of the cables of the up and over door has snapped.  Being so close to the sea there are certain things you have to get used to – rust is one of them.  The cables rust with the salt from the sea spray, which finds its way in through any crack, and so need replacing quite frequently.  DH is quite capable of replacing them and we always keep a spare or two.  However, as he started to replace the cable the tension spring went as well so now we have a door that we cannot close or open fully.  With this and the car problems I won’t deny the stress is building up a bit.  The search for a garage door fixer is now on. And we have still to locate a possible leak.

In all this turmoil, both in our lives and the world generally who can deny the beauty around us and tuning into nature is one of the best ways to calm down – I tell myself – and it does – I was delighted to see snowdrops dancing around in the breeze and the first daisies appearing in the grass.

There are little signs of new life everywhere and the rabbits have not, as yet, been scratching up the bulbs but I do need to put a little food out for the birds….the table is empty and the robin sits looking quite hopeful at me.

So today while DH is on the phone trying to find a Mr Fix it man I will be making some warming tomato and red pepper soup for lunch. I am hopeful we may get into town for a look around the shops – only a look – there is nothing much we need other than jam pot covers, and we will certainly find them here – we had no luck at home. Keep warm everyone.

dear diary :: ticking off the tasks

Try as I might I do find it difficult to keep breaking off a project once I get started and often I just keep going to the detriment of everything else. I am by nature a completer finisher, a role that made me perfect for my work submitting claims to the legal aid agency; I know some people struggle with the finishing side of things but my problem is often the not finishing as I hate loose ends.

So apologies that I have been absent these last few days – missing in action – so that I could concentrate fully on the tasks I had set myself….to get to the bottom of the laundry basket and complete the subsequent ironing pile and also to get our finances up to date, receipts entered and bank statements balanced, so I could run a year end report.

Both tasks are now complete and I am back on a straight edge…. vowing not to let either task build up again. Famous last words though I think.

The house is also looking tidier than it has since Christmas and every room has had a quick flick of the duster and been hoovered. I even treated myself to a few flowers from Sainsbury’s – I couldn’t resist this little brown parcel of pale pink tulips. I love that they have packaged them in compostable brown paper rather than cellophane.

On Monday I had a few jobs that needed to be done before we leave for Scotland. We are hosting the Burns night supper again this year for our friends and invitations had to be written and delivered before we go. I will buy the haggis while we are up there as there is plenty of choice and some Scottish potatoes which have a lot more flavour.

I had lemons to use up too so I decided on making lemon curd. Both my daughters asked if I would make some for Christmas but I just couldn’t fit it in. Today seemed like a good day to get this done once I had stripped the beds and got the sheets out on the line to blow before the worst of the weather was due to arrive after lunch.

I chose the recipe from this book I found in The Works a couple of years ago. It has less sugar (equal quantity of butter and sugar) than some recipes that have double the amount of sugar to butter.

It is one of the most enjoyable things I make – the smell is heavenly and of course the jars wouldn’t be the same without a few hand stamped labels. No need to put a date on as it won’t last that long.

DH made two batches of soup to use up some of the veg and so we can take some on the journey and put some in the freezer. He also made a curry for tea and some extra to take with us.

My final task of the day was to make apple and sultana cake as I have a freezer full of cooked apple that I need to use up.

Once baked I wrapped half to take with us and put the other half in the freezer. You will find the recipe under recipes in the menu bar.

I am not sure what the weather will be like in Scotland – we have had numerous floodline warnings in the last few days as the tides in the bay are very high at the moment and once again the road where the two people were swept away last year has been closed.

I have a few blogs to catch up on now so need to get reading and the next time I write it will be from bonnie Scotland when we visit our cottage (caravan). For new readers you might want to read the tale of our cottage in the menu tabs above.

creating health and well being

I have been much more mindful in the last few days – noticing what I eat, how much I exercise and how stressed I feel. Even though you know you should do something it is hard to find the time in our busy lives to just do it.

My visit to the physio last Friday was a) the best £40 I have spent in a long time and b) already having an effect on my knee. I was quite hesitant about going as I had a bad experience with a physio at our local NHS clinic who made my neck far worse than it was after a whiplash incident. But I needn’t have worried the lady I saw was brilliant. She has given me a set of very easy exercises to do – I can even do them watching TV in the evening – nothing dynamic but will just give the relevant muscles a wake up call.

After only a few days I am already starting to feel the benefits.

The meditation sessions also feel like they are having a positive effect – I will take my blood pressure before and after so that I can visibly see if this is the case. If nothing else I think it has been quite beneficial on my digestion and I am sleeping better too, not that I had a big problem with insomnia but occasionally I could spend an night when the worries just crowd into my brain and keep me awake.

January so far has been a busy time for us and is set to continue. I confess that we had a couple of days with quick meals because we were home late – egg and chips one night followed the next evening with some caribbean veggie pasties. If nothing else eggs are good for B12 and iron and the pasties have turmeric in them and we had a heap of fresh cabbage to accompany them. This was offset though by our nourishing homemade soups at lunchtime and we have kept off the biscuits and crisps so not all is lost.

So far my growing list of healthy adjustments looks like this

  • drinking green tea in the morning and ginger tea in the afternoon
  • a Braeburn apple a day
  • a meditation session once a day
  • a few easy exercises for my knee
  • fewer snacks
  • homemade soup most lunchtimes
  • healthier meals in the evening with plenty of veg

It takes time to make even small adjustments and get used to doing them and even longer to educate DH into doing the changes (he still makes me ordinary tea some days) but little by little changes are happening.

dear diary :: tackling the tasks

I was up, showered and raring to go today. I had a few tasks I wanted to tick off my list and nothing and no-one was going to get in the way. Everything was going quite well; I was making up the guest bed and our own with the freshly ironed linen, DH was in the garage having a much needed tidy up and for once no interuptions.

There were a lot (and I mean a lot) of dust bunnies behind our padded headboard which is covered in a heavy grey linen fabric – we sleep against the chimney breast so I think the warmth creates more dust that sticks to the fabric. I usually deal with it by using the mattress tool attachment on the hoover I hadn’t intended to pull the bed out and clean behind it but once I noticed the dust I couldn’t just leave it to fester (does dust fester? – maybe not). As I cannot move the heavy wooden bedframe by myself I have to wait until DH is around to help. Today was such a day.

By the end of the morning the bedrooms were reasonably clean again and I had two more post it notes to move into the ‘Done’ column of my kanban board leaving me feeling quite pleased with myself. The laundry and receipts are still ‘in progress’ and until these are completed I will not be starting any other project for the time being.

In the afternoon I settled down to enter some more receipts – weeks 47 and 48 and then I went through the pile of Christmas cards to make a note of who had sent one to me this year and who had not. When I do not hear from someone for more than a couple of years it is hard to know if they have moved, died or have just decided not to keep in touch – in fact this year I had heard from everyone on my list and a couple extra who were not. So with this task done I can now progress to cutting up the cards for tags, money envelopes, bookmarks or recycling.

Tomorrow we will need to go shopping and I shall have to make a meal plan. DH has only 3 tasks on his part of the kanban board – peel and chop the oranges for breakfast, put up the coat rack in the laundry room (we used to hang them in the cloakroom that is now the pantry) and return some items for a refund that we did not use in the pantry.

I, on the other hand have 6 tasks to complete – make some birthday cards, ring to book my car in for a service, plant the pack of tulip bulbs still loitering on the laundry room windowsill (a job I never got round to before Christmas and they have set off growing without any soil), cut up the Christmas cards, set up a bank transfer to pay off the credit card bill and of course the already mentioned meal planning.

Mmmmm….it looks like I might have to do some delegating.

Whilst out shopping in TK Max last week, buying the fridge storage trays, I came across these little pottery planters that are to hang on the wall. I am not sure where I will hang them but I am thinking to grow indoor herbs or even just as a vase for fresh flowers.

creating health and well being

I did my meditation session this morning as soon as I woke up and before I got out of bed. I am following week 1 of the Mindfulness for Health CD that I mentioned in my previous post; a body scan meditation where you concentrate on the breath going in and out and then feel yourself breathing into all your different parts in turn from your feet up to your head.

Extremely relaxing.

Once I was up I remembered to do the weigh in and take measurements. My scales also measure the percentage of fat, water, bone density and muscle as well as weight, but I am not altogether sure what the readings mean – I need to research this.

I was at my heaviest last July and I knew straight away when my clothes started feeling that little bit tight. In my wardrobe I have a mixture of size 10 and 12 clothes depending on style and fit – I always go for comfort rather than stick to one size. The NHS website tells me the ideal weight for my height of 5’6″ is between 8st 3lb to 11st that is quite a wide variation. I think around 9st or just under would be ideal for me – so a few pounds to go.

When I had my thyroid removed the shock to my body caused my weight to plummet to under 8 stone in a matter of days and once out of hospital I had to dash down to Sainsbury’s and find some size 8 clothes so I could go out!

Being dependant on thyroxine it is hard to keep your weight stable as my metabolism is now under the control of my medication – take too little or too much and you have weight gain.

It is not my weight that bothers me as much as muscle mass or lack of it. I feel quite flabby in places and I am an unfortunate apple shape which does not help and my waist measurement is something I would rather not talk about but need to do something about. Any weight gain seems to land on my belly which is not good…. so all the research tells me.

Tonight on’ Trust me I’m a doctor’ they tested two groups of people – one doing brisk walking for 30 minutes and the other group 10,000steps over the day. The group doing the brisk walking had slightly better physical results -so I am on to it. 30 minutes each day round the block at a pace. I might even start tomorrow; but on second thoughts maybe I should wait until I see the physio on Friday.

Today I also had more to drink.

Our meals today were homemade tomato and red pepper soup for lunch and because we were quite tired we had a very quick meal tonight of wholemeal spaggetti, cheese sauce and a very large amount of broccoli to try and introduce a little healthiness! And I didn’t forget the apple.

So all good so far – I think I am slowly getting back on track even though I can’t say that I can feel any dramatic changes as yet.

Thank you for all the encouraging comments and advice – much appreciated. x

seasons :: bedding down for winter

They are certainly grey wintry days at the moment that make you want to stay indoors keeping cosy and warm; reaching for a nearby throw and snuggling down to watch a film or read a book. It is the time of year when the weather can take a turn for the worse; windy, wet and often bitterly cold – we have had all three recently and I find myself yearning for a little snow as snow seems far more pleasant and of course pretty. It is the time of year when you just want to ‘bed’ down and only surface as spring appears.

Indoors I am still ploughing my way through the dirty laundry left over from Christmas and when I have washed and put it out on the line to dry it then becomes part of the ironing pile mountain. Each day I do a little bit in the hope I will ever see the bottom of the basket again – wash, dry, iron then put away. The laundry is a very circular task like prepping, cooking, eating meals then clearing up.

It is the same with our finances – each day I am doing a little bit towards reducing the pile of receipts so that I can balance the bank statements; though I know it would be more satisfying to me if I could take one project to a conclusion, but I also know that if I focus on one thing something else will not get done at all.

I am returning at the moment to my kanban board by my desk in the office / craft room. Here I can stick post it notes to a glass notice board that is marked out in sections – ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Done’.

The idea is that the tasks move across the board from ‘To do’ to ‘Done’. We each have three colums and there should never be anymore than 3 tasks waiting in the ‘In Progress’ section – only when one moves to ‘Done’ can another task be started. I often give really urgent tasks a different colour of post it note like bright pink – too many of those and I know it is panic stations.

This morning DH made tomato soup for tomorrow’s lunch before finishing off the shelving in the pantry. We decided in the end the lowest shelf didn’t really need the strip light underneath – it seems bright enough in there as it is with the two downlighters.

As I write he is doing the last little finishing touches, then it can be given a final wipe down and I can put the storage jars on the shelves.

Then sit back and admire!

I, on the other hand busied myself hanging the washing out to dry and whilst I was in the garden I reached for my camera. Our mahonia is absolutely magnificent this year and providing us with a lovely splash of colour now all the Christmas lights have been packed away.

Most of the garden has bedded down and is ‘slumbering’ nicely but the primulas have come to life and the cyclamen I planted in the autumn continue to provide me with a lot of pleasure each time I go in and out of the front door.

Even the land cress refuses to give in to the cold wet weather and packed with minerals is an added boost to the supergreen soup we make.

If I looked close enough I could see little signs of life here and there – pushing up through the cold, damp earth and decaying leaves.

For all the signs of life in the garden there has been no signs of life down our road today – not one person to nod or speak to. I think it must be hard to be on your own all day and not see a soul so with this in mind I have added ‘call aunty M and my mum for a chat’ to my list.

creating health and wellbeing

I made the physio appointment today for Friday. It isn’t with the guy I had wanted as he is booked until the end of January and I don’t feel my knee will last that long. I am worried to exercise it now and do the wrong ones – I need specific advise from an expert.

I didn’t attend yoga in the end for the same reasons really – too worried I might put too much of a strain on it even though my teacher is good and will adapt postures to suit need.

I did do a meditation session today….yeah! It was difficult at first to quieten down but soon I was drifting away in my own little heaven, like letting soft waves wash gently over you and after doing it and feeling so good I wonder why I don’t do it everyday – who wouldn’t like to feel completely relaxed and on cloud nine all the time. Of course the answer is distractions and interuptions and giving way to a hundred and one other things I feel I must be doing.

At the moment the CD I am listening to came free with this book. The narrator of the seven various meditations has a very calming, unhurried voice who keeps telling me it is OK if my mind wanders or I don’t feel anything in particular. You just feel what you feel, no right or wrong. I am actually looking forward to tomorrow’s session.

I keep munching the apples too and need to stock up with more soon.

My memory though is pathetic – I forgot the weigh in yet again this morning – I am now worried this may be a form of self sabotage, denial even. I do know the reason though – it is simply that my dressing gown is in the laundry system and I have been getting up and dressing straight away so by the time I remember I need to weigh myself I do not want to undress again.

Today for lunch we used up a dish of leftover mashed potato that was in the fridge so as not to waste it – I heated it up in my ceramic green non stick pan and sprinkled over a handful of grated cheshire cheese, cooked a few mushrooms and added a can of baked beans. There was a bit of healthy side to it somewhere I think and it was warming and delicious.

Tonight we are having the remains of the shepherd’s pie with broad beans (steamed of course). Broad beans are packed with protein and fibre as well as being a good source of both folate and B vitamins, and they contain high concentrations of dopamine – for this reason they are being researched as a possible benefit for anyone with Parkinsons disease.

Starting too many changes is not the aim of my game here but I feel that from tomorrow I will make a big effort to become better hydrated by drinking more and see if this makes a difference to my health.

I have never been a big drinker (alcoholic or otherwise) – at work I always had a small china mug, none of these super sized ‘buckets’ for me. Presently I wake up and have to drink a full glass of water to take my tiny Thyroxine tablet and propel it past my gut into my intestine for it to work properly. I then have an hour to wait before food – but I often end up waiting two – I need to know if this is good or bad thing as yet I haven’t read anything that would tell me. I do know that restricting the hours that you eat is beneficial or thought to be – but that will be for me to investigate another day.

After breakfast I have a cup of green tea and another mid morning then it is a cup of ginger tea after lunch. From then on I have ordinary black tea with milk and a mug of hot milk with an added spoonful of slippery elm at bedtime. The slippery elm is good for lining the gut.

You may notice I don’t actually drink any more water other than in my tea so this is what I will try and rectify by having at least one more glass throughout the day.

I desperately need to get down to planning some meals before we have to go shopping again. We will not need very much as our new pantry actually looks stuffed full of food – I cannot believe that so much came out of our kitchen cupboards.

So after just a few days my health and well being changes list now looks like this:-

  • an apple a day – check
  • a meditation session – check
  • green tea, one or more cups a day – check
  • ginger tea, one or more cups a day – check
  • a healthy breakfast -yoghurt and fruit followed by museli – I think it is
  • a healthy lunch – mostly
  • a healthy evening meal – most days

The question is how long can I keep this up??