dear diary :: homecoming

Well that was a long journey down home, but then we did stop for a break in Castle Douglas, which is one of my favourite places on the way to the border, and of course I was tempted into all the lovely little shops there.

The lady in the craft shop kindly exchanged the packet containing a circular crotchet hook (never knew there was such a thing) that I had bought on our way to the cottage for a circular knitting needle that I had intended to buy! They don’t normally do exchanges (she must have taken pity on me) but there was a price difference to rectify , the knitting needle being £2 less than the crotchet hook, so the attempt to do an exchange on the till didn’t work…no matter I said I will have a look around and buy something else so you don’t have to do a refund. It wasn’t hard to find things, in fact I spent another £10 so she did quite well out of the exchange! I bought some of those moulded cardboard pumpkins for painting or decoupage, some coloured raffia skeins for present wrapping and a sheet of the decoupage tissue paper.

Moving on to the Artists and Craftmakers Cooperative shop I found a lovely little card for my friend. He is 81 today and has need of nothing, but he does like wood – he taught woodwork at school and used to make wooden things himself. The card has a tiny piece of decorated driftwood on it which I then put into this natural wood frame from Dunelm to make a picture.

In the Designs Gallery Bookshop I discovered these pretty little packs of decorated letter wring papers that fold up to post (I forgot to take a picture before I wrapped them but you can see them here-https://cardsandgiftwrap.co.uk/product-category/stationery/cards-and-letterwriting/pigeon-folded-letters) perfect for another friend whose birthday is tomorrow.

This morning I had to make four very quick birthday cards for 3 friends and my niece. I wanted them to reflect the change of season so I used a recent water colour sketch I did at the cottage of the hawthorn berries and overlaid part of a poem by Samuel Butler which is very suitable for the season. It is wonderful what you can do on the computer these days!

With all the crafty bits out of the way and the cards written and presents wrapped ready to deliver or post we took a walk down to the village and dropped off the card and present to today’s recipient. I am spending what is left of the day making Lentil Shepherds pie to go with some fresh sweetheart cabbage, then I will do a few Somatic exercises to loosen up my tight hips from the long journey home and afterwards probably collapse for the evening in front of the TV for a couple of hours of catch up. We missed the Manhunt series with Martin Clunes so that will be first on the list.

Yesterday we unpacked all the bags, sorted the heap of washing into piles (I am praying for good weather to get all the washing done and outside on the line) and then went food shopping. We don’t normally go on a Friday and as expected it was busy. We had to weave around the shelf stackers and their cage trollies who were out in force down each of the aisles nd one or two items I had to pick out of their stock cages or off the top of the fitments where they keep boxes of extra stock before it is put out onto the shelves. The pasta shelves looked like they had been raided but thankfully no-one was interested in the organic wholewheat spaghetti and I could have taken a box full. Not being greedy I only took 2 packets.

Generally for my pantry stocks of jars, cans, dried foods etc I replace items only when they come on offer with the red shelf tickets unless I am desparate enough or have run out of something and am forced to buy it at full price. I also find myself rejigging the menu plan a bit in the fruit and veg aisles to accomodate any offers. This week the mushrooms were on offer so we bought extra to make a large batch of mushroom soup. Other fresh foods I buy weekly like milk and yoghurt from the chiller aisles I have to rely on striking lucky with any offers.

In the past we have tried the Sainsbury’s SmartShop self scan using their handsets – four times to be exact – Scan, bag and go they advertise, it couldn’t be simpler – but each time there was a problem for us and it wasn’t simple far from it so we gave up went back to the normal checkout method. However, Sainsbury’s are now offering extra reductions on certain items when you do a Smart Shop which is also linked to the Nectar card. Now I have no intentions of going back to doing a full shop using their Smart Shop method but I was attracted by the hefty reductions offered on the Nectar card of items we do normally buy (about 10 in all and they change weekly) so I sent DH round with the Smart Shop handset and a basket to gather up all the offer items and take them through the self scan whilst I did the bulk of the shopping in the normal way.

I am not sure this is exactly what Sainsbury’s have in mind! They are trying to steer everyone over to their Smart Shop way of shopping and have already started reducing the number of tills. I am presuming that tempting people with these extra offers is their new line of attack. So I just thought I would play them at their own game – it worked quite well and gave DH something to do whilst I concentrated on doing the bulk of the shopping from the menu plan…oh and having a casual look around the magazines, the clothes and the homewares without him hovering over me (I was good though and no purchases made from these departments). We will try doing this again next week – it seems a fairly easy way to save a bit more money to me.

So busy days ahead I feel. The garden here needs sorting out, tidying up and putting to bed. I have ripe tomatoes in the greenhouse and outdoors to pick and what seems like a final courgette. I have a fancy to sow some winter salad under the cloches (just an idea at the moment) and I have packets of bulbs waiting in the wings to plant.

Then there is the laundry, some cleaning and a bit of reordering in the house to attend to. I had already switched over the contents of my wardrobe for the new season before we went to the cottage and I have adventurous plans whirling around in my head for putting in some drawers and shelving inside the wardrobe so it is better fitted out……. when we can carve out some time.

Have a relaxing Sunday everyone x

dear diary :: autumn closing in

Hello, remember me?…..It has been a while and far longer than I thought since I last ventured here into my quiet little space. I hope everyone is well and life is good for you.  For me it has been the usual comings and goings and the holiday season, during July and August, was a bit of a whirlwind…but I survived and now DH and I have retreated to our little cottage in Scotland for a long rest; well it might be a rest or not as there is a lot of gardening to do again.

We seem to have come to the end of summer now, the grandchildren are back in school and nursery and routine has come along once again. I can feel autumn closing in on us with the each new day – the morning dew soaked grass and the darker evenings. Everywhere is awash with the brightest red berries and a few dried leaves can be seen to flutter down. We are eating freshly picked apples from the garden and foraging in the hedgerows for the ripest, juiciest blackberries and those heady days of summer seem far behind us.

It is hard to remember all that has happened in the last few weeks, there has been a lot of visits here and there, so we have not been in one place long enough to really get down to blogging – I will fill you in briefly and I think the pictures I took along the way will speak for themselves.

I believe I left you abruptly back in June when we were at the cottage for 3 wonderful sun packed weeks, knee deep in weeds and with a task list the length of a fresh toilet roll, and no we didn’t get everything completed but then we never do and looking around now it is as if we never spent those 3 weeks in the garden everyday as everything has grown again but this time with a vengeance.

We began the summer in mid-July with a garden party complete with Disco Dome for Little L’s seventh birthday and her friends – as you can imagine it was a great hit with the kids. It was the hottest day of the year though and we had to rush out and buy a cheap gazebo to provide some shade for the guests. The soft drinks flowed all afternoon to make sure no-one became dehydrated and social distancing for the adults was observed.

There has been lots of cake too as the birthday continued over many days and two weeks later we had another get together with a picnic at Newby Hall to celebrate the birthday with family members. Another lovely day, the gardens (especially the two long perennial borders) were beautiful and the girls had great fun in the teddy bear house and the children’s play park and water fountains.

It is worth a trip here just to see the spectacular shell designs covering the walls of two identical summerhouses down by the river.

Somewhere in and amongst these events we had a quick trip back up to the cottage for a few days and managed to clean out the pond (more about this later). The rose was out in full bloom which I was relieved to see as I had hard pruned it later than I should have but it didn’t seem to mind.

On the way up to Scotland we took the longer scenic route from Gretna to Dumfries for a change and stopped off at the lovely little historic village of Powfoot (again I will tell you more about this interesting little place another day).

Back home and a quick turnaround to unpack and repack and we were off on our jolly hols with all the grandchildren and mums and dads to Scarborough for a week. It turned out to be one of those great British family seaside holidays and we had good weather which was a bonus and spent many days playing on the beach and in the sea.

And what a week we had – so much fun…but quite exhausting we did everything on offer from the castle to the Pirate Ship, the beach, the Spa theatre, shopping in the old market hall, picnics in the park and a ride on the little train and of course the donkeys and if that wasn’t enough we had a go at painting some pots.

We had one morning of torential rain but that was OK as we had booked the Spa theatre that day for the Teddy Bear’s Picnic put on by Scarborough’s resident spa orchestra (they are brilliant by the way and as part of the performance introduced the children to all the instruments and the sounds they make individually).

Here are some highlights of our week.

We mainly kept to the North bay side where it is often much quieter and you can catch the little train round to Scalby Mills from Peasholme Park but before we went home we spent a day on the south side where they have all the amusement arcades and rides. We could not miss going on a trip out to sea on the Pirate Ship even with a long long wait in the queue – all week Sweetie had been singing her favourite song – the Pirate Song she has learnt at nursery.

Note the hair in the picture above….Sweetie has certainly inherited the untameable wild hair of DH’s family. DH has always had fine flyaway hair that just does what it wants and no hairbrush has ever managed to tame it.

The week went so quickly, too quickly for the children who did not want to leave all this fun and the beach. We left with the intention of doing it all again next year. Our first night back at home in our own beds and we slept like a log probably from sheer exhaustion of a week with 3 grandchildren to entertain.

But the rest was short lived as once more it was all hands to the deck to unpack, wash, iron and repack ready to go off again. We had some of those passporting tickets for the Ryedale Outdoor Folk Museum in Hutton le Hole in North Yorkshire that expired just before the August Bank Holiday. We went there last year and everyone loved it so we spent a few days staying with my younger daughter and the two girls so we could go for the free revisit. And after the cost of Scarborough we needed free entertainment. The great British seaside holiday is certainly not a cheap option especially now that accommodaton prices and entrance fees have in some cases doubled.

The outdoor folk museum is a big hit with the grandchildren – they just loved the little old cottages and shops full of interesting old things.

The next day we drove up to Preston Park near Stockton and conveniently just down the road from my mum’s apartment so we were able to pop in to see her with the grandchildren (who she hadn’t seen in a long while due to the Covid restrictions). Preston Park is equally as good for kids as the Ryedale museum – they have an outdoor Victorian street with little old fashioned shops which includes a sweet shop and a toy shop where you can actually buy things. I chose the chocolate raisins (my favourite) from the rows of sweetie jars on the shelf. They are weighed out on the old fashioned scales by the ounce and poured into a paper bag – quite novel for little ones to see these days. There is also a haberdashery shop where you can try on old hats and the Police Station complete with a very harsh looking cell. They have now extended the grounds and have the most amazing walled garden and a woodland walk.

Decisions, decisions….

In and amongst all the comings and goings I hardly had any time for any craft work but had to carve out some time to make my sister in law’s birthday card and present for her 65th birthday. As it was a special birthday I made one of my concertina cards which some of my readers will remember from past posts on here. They are all watercolour sketches from my sketchbook over the years with a little poem running through and it folds into a tiny keepsake book tied with a ribbon. I have started a list now of who I have given these to so that I don’t forget and send them the same again for another birthday.

I finally got to finish this project I started last year which was turning some of my watercolour sketches into seed packets.

I dropped a picture of the sketch into a seed packet template and printed them out onto creamy cartridge paper to give them an old fashioned look. Then cut around the template to the form the packet shape. Once folded and glued together I filled each one, there were five in the set, with seeds I had collected and bundled them up and tied with rafia. I also enclosed a garden voucher for her to buy something for her garden.

We didn’t have much time to ourselves over the summer just an odd day here and there and in and amongst our comings and goings we spent a delightful afternoon in the beautiful gardens at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire with our sketchbooks. I am certainly out of practise but intend to try and do more when time allows as it is such a relaxing activity.

I haven’t been buying books recently but these two caught my eye. The knitting one is from The Works and I am attempting to knit the little dress with a fabric skirt – the long sleeved version for the winter. I have some pretty floral soft lightweight corduroy for the skirt that I bought last year and never got it made into anything. I am aiming for Sweetie’s birthday in November (finger’s crossed). The novel is a true diary and part of the Mass Observation project during the second world war. You may remember the screen play about Nella Last, Housewife 49, played brilliantly by Victoria Wood – well this is the Dewsbury version (Dewsbury being only a few miles away from us) about a shop assistant called Kathleen Hey.

So there you have my summer in a nutshell, I hardly had time to draw breath until 3 weeks ago when I visited the dentist and afterwards promptly came down with a cold – annoyingly the first for many years and it meant we had to postpone our ‘respite’ visit to mum over the August Bank Holiday….to say she was disappointed is an understatement but I recovered enough to go and see her the following weekend. She is going downhill quite quickly now as her ability to move around is difficult and very slow. She has even allowed the carers to cook her evening meal now so things must be bad! We are in the throws of looking for a rise and recline chair….though mum is adamant she wants a settee – they are available in a two seater but are near on £3,000…..phew.

Must go now to venture into our jungle once again….there are beds to weed and a lot of pruning back to get the garden winter ready. I am unimpressed that the weeds thought they had free run of the garden whilst our backs were turned.

Welcome to my new readers and followers – it is strange that I acquire many new followers when I am not posting – perhaps my silence should be telling me something. And thank you for the ‘ hope you are OK’ enquiries from long time readers it gives me the prompt I need to restart posting and your concern is much appreciated. (And Jayne I know I owe you an email it will be coming soon and sorry I missed you on your last visit to the Mull).

Have a great weekend everyone…love to all x

PS: apolgies for any spelling, grammatical errors I have done this post in a rush!

dear diary :: moving swiftly into March

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

dear diary :: Sunday snooze before the Monday madness

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.

But that is another post.

Have a good day x

dear diary :: capturing daily life

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.

Have a good week everyone. x

dear diary :: a bit of this and a bit of that

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

dear diary :: a new year, a new word

It came to me in an instant – ‘consistency‘ is what I need right now in my life….a simple rhythm to my life, a little bit of routine and normality……a little more ebb and flow.

Reliable, unchanging, expected – consistency is all the things that the Covid virus is not. It may seem very boring and humdrum to some but a little consistency is what I yearn for at the moment; I need to know I will wake up in the morning and the day will be rather more structured than it has been of late and at a pace I can cope with – it will not be quite so messy and unpredictable as it has been since the end of the first lockdown.

So last Sunday night it was settled and committed to paper…...

‘Consistency’ would be my new focus word for 2021.

Well that was the plan on Sunday night – I would get my life back into some kind of routine so that I could do all the things that I had abandoned over the past few weeks such as meal planning, a daily walk, a little crafting, even some cleaning and housework and more than ever I felt so ready to get blogging once again ……but oh dear by Monday night, only 24 hours later, my life and my plans had changed in an instant once again – this time all it took was a telephone call from one of our daughters after the Boris briefing on TV.

Somehow we volunteered ourselves into taking on the childcare of little Freddie, who will be two in a few days time, for 3 full days a week rather than him going to nursery (and when I say full days that is what I mean 8am to almost 6pm). Long days indeed to entertain a little one but I am looking forward to spending more time with him after not being able to see him for months.

Our decision was made after the sudden change of mind by the government over primary and secondary schools and hearing the thoughts of a GP friend who sits on the primary care trust board for the region. He was alarmed at the figures he saw for the rate of spread and said he would not be sending his children to school or nursery even if Boris didn’t close them.

Like the hesitancy with the primary schools we felt that nursery schools might be kept open only to be closed a few days later and by this time, like some of the primary school children, they would have been and mixed with one another. So we are being cautious for now and just waiting to see if the nurseries might close as they have in Scotland. If they don’t and the infection figures begin to decline we will revise our decision.

All this means that I will have a lot less time for me to put all my new plans in place and probably less time for blogging – but I will do what I can when I can.

So early on Tuesday morning we woke, not only to snow, but to little Freddie on the doorstep complete with high chair, changing bag and a large box of toys! I only hope we have the stamina to last the course!

Even with little Freddie helping I did manage to make a birthday card for a friend and deliver it and we have had a lovely, if not brisk, walk each day with Freddie in the snow.

I have a large stock of these blank concertina cards in my craft room which I want to use up; so together with a selection of pressed flowers from the ones I pressed during the summer I attempted an idea for a little card I called ‘Nature Notes‘.

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Instead of a fresh bunch of flowers I gave her this little laser cut wooden snowdrop I bought from an artisan craft stall in John Lewis a while ago. The package was perfect to push through her letterbox as they are sheilding again. She emailed me later to say how delighted she was with her gift and card – she does some beautiful crafts herself so always appreciates my handmade creations concoctions!

Apart from childcare and walking nothing much else got done here during the week and anything we do need to do will be done on our four days off (Friday to Monday). DH has been back on soup management with a lovely batch of tomato and leek and potato and I have been planning menus again – simple menus for the moment but it is a start. It is a pleasure to cook in our new kitchen – if not a learning curve with a new induction hob, double oven and dishwasher to master. I will do a post on the new kitchen soon – I need to find some before pictures so you can see the difference.

I will leave you with some pictures from our walk yesterday up towards the moors above our village. The views up there are stunning and being surrounded by nature makes the world feel quite perfect and untouched by the virus.

A lovely surprise to find some tiny catkins starting to grow on the trees.

Before I go I would like to say a very special thank you to all my blogging friends for the lovely comments welcoming me back to blogland – I am touched – and I was so pleased to hear everyone is fine and coping in their own way and that you all managed a relatively good Christmas despite the strange times.

So my mission this week is to work out a way, and goodness knows I keep trying, to weave our commitments and busy life into a more calm and balanced life.

Possible or not – I don’t know?

seasons :: summer sweetens all to me

Six months, half a year……… gone already. I was wondering to myself what I had to show for it. Time is such a puzzle – often passing slowly at a snails pace and then too fast for comfort.

I am wondering too what promises July holds – my birthday mid month – so one of my favourite times of the year; warm weather, picnics, trips to the seaside, country walks – blissfully perfect summer days. Covid will not spoil this month for me and neither will this rather wet and windy spell of weather.

The start to July has been, like most of June, a bit of a wash out and has not felt very summery at all, but I remain hopeful. Our walks have been in the drizzle this last week, but it is good to get outside and breathe the fresh air without a mask. Each time I have picked a few flowers from the hedgerows to press or dry to collect the seeds. I am excited everytime I come across white foxgloves – I am not sure what it is about them, I just love their pure and majestic splendour, especially amongst a group of pink ones…..and I encourage them into the garden.

And how is everyone……getting to grips with the new rules and freedom? We rarely venture out but we did go into town last Monday for non-food essentials – to replenish our low stocks. I need not have worried over our safety as the town was deserted and some shops not even open. Luckily, one of our healthfood shops was up and running but with very low stocks, even now I am not sure if he is just selling his remaining stock to close down – I didn’t ask as maybe he doesn’t know either and maybe his future will depend on customer numbers.

We had WH Smiths to ourselves – I only wanted blotting paper for my flower press BUT I found myself browsing the magazines before I left – it feels like a long time since I have had a browse of anything, but with no-one to disturb me I carried on and could not leave empty handed when I saw a copy of Country Living Vintage Home magazine alone on the shelf. There is a new edition coming out in August too.

Finally I made my way round to the local sewing shop which was a little busier so I didn’t loiter in there for very long – I bought some fabric to finish the patchwork quilt but I am now having second thoughts about the colours and may use it to make little Sweetie a dress instead. I have this idea (always dangerous in my case) to make a summer dress with a floral cotton skirt and a knitted cotton bodice – I would say a crotched bodice but I don’t crotchet. If any reader knows of a pattern for a toddler that has a knitted bodice and fabric skirt I would be delighted if you could send me a link.

I managed to get the interfacing to make my new tablemats (did I not mention these before?). How could I resist this tea towel fabric with the colourful vegetables – the reverse will be plain white with one or two of the vegetables embroidered onto one corner. I have taken a tracing and will do a practise piece.

But, like many of my projects, it is a work in progress…….. so more on this later.

The shopping experience in town was better than I expected but I think it will be something that I only do now once in a while.

Little L has been busy too making this birthday card for DH. It has great significance for us as DH is called Grandad Monkey by Little L to distinguish him from her other grandad. DH once jokingly called her a little monkey and she immediately told him she was not a monkey she was a little girl but the term stuck and from being quite little this is how she has always remembered him.

We also saw my mum last weekend; it was lovely to see the smile on her face. We had homemade tomato and red pepper soup for lunch followed by a homemade cheese and tomato quiche, new potatoes and salad and a fresh cream chocolate sponge for dessert. All her favourite foods. We left two large slices of cake in the fridge for later….she was so grateful for our visit, it really cheered her up and we had a lovely chat, not that either of us had done very much to talk about.

The rain has set in this week so washing and gardening have not taken place and instead I have been cleaning and ironing. I always thought it was our busy lives that prevented me from having a cleaning routine but now I know that is not the truth; since lockdown I have had all the time in the world to get myself into a solid routine as far as the cleaning goes, but I now realise I tend to follow the weather and although I do like to clean and tend the house… if it is nice I am generally out in the garden.

The garden has been really neglected this week but I must give it some attention before we go away. Besides being quite windswept it is looking rather sad and sorry; flowers struggling to come out and those that have are wet and soggy. The lawns are waiting to be cut and everywhere we have tiny cherries blown from the tree – sadly, too hard and bitter to eat.

I was inspired by a page I noticed in the Country Living Vintage Home magazine I bought on making seed packets – what better way I thought to use my flower sketches from my sketchbooks.

So with a bit of scanning and printing, and adding lettering onto the pictures I came up with these – they are just prototypes at the moment but you get the idea and I will post about them again when I have made the whole collection.

We are presently waiting in the wings (so to speak) wondering if a trip to Scotland is ever going to materialise. We hear on the news from Nicola that Dumfries and Galloway have a sudden spike in cases around Gretna and Annan, Lockerbie and Dumfries and we canot get to the Mull without passing through these places. Is it OK for us to go we wonder, we are self contained at the cottage but will the locals be worried if we do?

I have become quite lazy over the last few months of lockdown and the thought of packing now feels like an enormous effort. I cannot for the life of me remember what we have stored at the caravan and what I brought home. I have a very handy packing list but this does not tell the whole picture, so it might just be a case of guesswork.

I have already baked an apple cake and two tiny crumbles to take with us and I have nut roast in the freezer. Everything else we will make up there but I will need a menu plan as we intend to take the food with us so we are not invading the local shops; as much as they want the business they do not want the virus and as part of the area is in lockdown we will respect that. If we take everything with us we will be completely self sufficient.

So I have nothing left to say other than my next post will hopefully be from bonnie Scotland. The journey and days at the cottage will be a new and different experience I expect like all the changes we are coping with since Covid took over our lives.

Take care everyone and stay safe. x

dear diary :: cherishing the last of the lazy days

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Goodness me, I don’t know about you but if I have to have one more conversation on the topic of the virus I think I will go mad! No matter who I phone or chat to the conversation always ends up, unintentionally of course, back to the virus – how we are doing, what we are doing, comparing notes and our understanding of the rules…..our lives are now defined by something we cannot even see and it is exhausting going over and over the same discussions.

I will say here in this post that we are all still well, still being cautious and ‘alert’ and that is enough on the subject I shall say no more!

So on to some much more mundane things – during the hot dry spell I had a tidy up in the shed – it always amazes me how much I manage to store in there and how many of the items I use most of the time. It certainly earns its keep. To free up a bit more space inside the shed some of the garden things that won’t hurt to be in the weather outdoors have now been reallocated to new places.

There is a space behind our shed out of sight where we store the bins, both wheelie and composting and the bags of potting compost, empty plantpots, and a stack of white plastic patio chairs for when we have garden parties. The fence between us and our neighbour provides a good vertical storage area as DH hammered in some nails to hang the wire netting cones and the riddle.

It is the same fence to which DH fixed the bracket for my hanging basket in the garden. I am well pleased, especially since the nasturtiums are now flowering at the same time as the foxgloves.

I do like a few strong clashing colours and they brighten up this corner of the garden as you can see in the longer view below.

We had a couple of very pleasant, lazy days sitting in the cool shade of the garden and sketching whilst it was far too hot to do anything else. It has been too long since I had my paintbox out and I am quite rusty. Foxgloves are the trickiest flowers to capture even after many attempts, but they were the only flowers near enough to the seat in the shade to sketch – I will persevere.

Something new is appearing in the garden daily now. The rose that I dug up and moved, because it always suffered from brown spot and never did much where it was, is now in a pot on the patio and is blooming. It has recovered well from it’s heavy prune – I felt I had been a bit brutal at the time but it has thrived with healthy green leaves and is in bud – it looks more like it did when I first bought it many years ago.

The petals of the peony above will have fallen now, swept away by the force of the winds last night. Such extremes of weather we are experiencing at the moment – one minute I am rushing around watering like mad and the next staking and protecting – but there is only so much you can do and then you have to leave the rest to chance.

The tall spires of the sidalcea in the sunny border are almost ready to bloom when we have the next bout of sunshine and will look like a mass of pale pink marshmallow.

For some reason the zinnias that I sowed indoors in April have not taken off yet, they have been quite reluctant to grow at any pace and may well miss the season altogether at this rate.

Whilst the cistus (rock rose) has been tremendous this year with so many continuous flowers appearing each day.

I have waited patiently for these little orange beauties to grow and open – Californian poppies – free Sarah Raven seeds with the May issue of Gardener’s World. I have not been disappointed, the colour is stunning.

Then there is the courgette plant which must like this position so much it has grown to giant proportions and producing flowers that are a full 10″ wide. I am not sure I will be decorating my salads with these – rather using them as the salad bowl maybe!

As we come out of our hibernation I know I will be sorry to leave this slow and leisurely time behind but we have duties to fulfil – a drive up to North Yorkshire to visit to my mum today – just for the afternoon, but it will give my sister a little time off – she must be quite exhausted doing all the caring. We will be travelling light but with a basket laden with all my mum’s favourite foods; a homemade quiche to have for lunch with salad and a few new Jersey Royals, a fresh cream chocolate sponge cake for afters and half a dozen small tins of creamed mushrooms to have on toast for her tea and a further half dozen tins of whole plum tomatoes, items I can get in my local Sainsbury’s that are unavailable where she is and will stock up her store cupboard for a few weeks.

Scotland is opening up too for travel from 3rd July so we will be making plans to go up to the cottage and stay in the caravan on site sometime soon – and I will get to see my beloved garden (or perhaps jungle) at long last. I feel a lot of hard work coming on.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend whatever you may or may not be doing. Stay safe. xx

dear diary :: home grown, home sewn

Hello there – I hope you are all well and still managing to dodge the virus.  The weeks are passing quickly now as we are rolling on into June and the recent warmer weather has been so welcome; though we desperately need rain – a good soaking would do my lawns the world of good and today looks like it might be the day as we have quite a gloomy cast to the sky.

We are still well here and following the old lockdown rules….well pretty much, and trying hard to keep our 2 metre distance when we have to go to a supermarket but in my region it seems like lockdown, even this ‘easedown’, is suddenly being ignored by a number of people who are resuming a more full on normal life very quickly – I see children from many different households playing together outside in the cul-de-sac, visitors coming and going to the houses nearby – even my neighbour had a professional family photo shoot last weekend and two visitors appeared on the drive later and disappeared indoors with three very large helium balloons for their son’s birthday.  I have seen cafes open with people sat inside drinking coffee around a very small table and a carpet shop open – and I thought both of these businesses should still be closed.

I am feeling a little bit cross with Boris at the moment – I felt his ten minute speech outlining the easing of lockdown was not complex just rather unclear in delivery; even his own ministers gave a different version each time when questioned afterwards for further clarification.  The initial three word advice of ‘Stay at home’ was very clear – replacing this with a 50 page document that resembles the Highway Code (that one tried desparately to memorise before a driving test) is not quite the same.

So in his own defence Boris has to resort to telling people to just use good old fashioned British common sense – something that I think is quite open to many different interpretations. Does he mean the same common sense he has shown during this pandemic when he carried on shaking hands, long after it had been deemed unsafe, or like the times he appeared in the earlier briefings almost shoulder to shoulder with Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance as they talked about the 2 metre distancing rule and then all three of them caught the virus, or forgetting to include care homes as being a potential risk and dropping the idea of testing, or even like his own father who totally ignored his advice to the public not to go to the pub for a drink – do you mean this kind of British common sense Boris – well, there is little hope for us then?

But enough about this dreary topic – I write to record and remember for myself and some topics are just worthy of an airing from time to time but there is enough to hear on the news each day without me ranting on and at the end of the day everyone will choose their own way through this with common sense in place or not. So lets move on quickly to life here at home.

So far it is good and as you can imagine I have spent most of my time in the garden – this lovely warm spell has given the seedlings a growth spurt but I am still reluctant to plant out yet as I have not had the opportunity to completely harden them off while the temperature continues to drop overnight almost to frost point, and now we have this raging wind sweeping down off the moors above us and just as the garden is beginning to look quite delightful in places too.

I must make a note to self to plant more alliums come September – I just love the way their heads bob around in quite a disorderly fashion above the other plants in the borders.

We managed to find a few pieces of wood so that DH could fix another shelf to the underneath part of this old galvanised steel seed tray bench which has become my potting bench. Having an extra shelf will allow me to keep pots and bits and pieces to hand and will no doubt be a good place to put the trays of plants to harden off overnight….when that time comes.

I have also been repurposing and recycling – not in a big way but it has helped me to use up a few odds and ends that I might otherwise not have had a use for and I have spent a few enjoyable days in my workroom creating new out of old.

I like the idea of altering and reusing a card and giving it a longer and new lease of life – some cards are just too nice to throw away and I have a box full of old card fronts so I made a couple of special cards for two dear friends of mine using cut down pieces of old cards that had once been sent to me, and a third to use up some decorative papers and embellishments from my craft collection with a few punched out mini butterflies using the punch given to me by the friend who I have made the card for.  

I have a stock of blank tri-fold concertina cards that I bought so long ago I cannot even remember why I bought them – but they do make rather nice birthday cards and I was able to find a relevant birthday verse on the internet to paste inside.

Although I quite enjoyed the cutting and pasting they are not my usual style of card making – though my friends seem to like them – but I much prefer to originate my own work and the beginnings of these cards below are much more satisfying to make, but as yet the idea is very much a work in progress. Here I am using some of the flowers I pressed a while ago and mounting them onto the blank concertina cards to form some kind of nature notes card.

To continue with this I am waiting now for a new batch of flowers in the press, I have been snipping away in the garden…..forget-me-nots, buttercups and more daisies and collecting anything that catches my eye like some tiny maple keys in the supermarket car park.

The repurposing has not stopped at card making.  I discovered a length of fabric that I bought many years ago to make a bench cushion in a drawer in the loft whilst checking to see if I had anything suitable to make masks out of.  The woven upholstery weight blue check cotton fabric matched the little blue painted bench that we had back then.  Sadly the bench fell apart from old age a couple of years ago and the cushion never got made. 

We have a new metal bench now on the patio with a mesh seat that definitely needs a rug or cushion for comfort so yesterday I cut out the cushion pieces and made a filling from an old cot duvet I had put aside to take to a textile bank.  It is perfect – I folded the wadding over into 4 layers and recovered it with the Vilene covering to stuff the cushion. 

I decided to hold the wadding in place by doing some mock tufting – I didn’t want to put buttons on as sitting on them might be uncomfortable so I just used some heavy weight sewing cotton to draw both sides of the cushion together at the intersection of each of the large checks on the fabric, I also inserted two ties at one end of the cushion so it can be rolled up when not in use and tied in place for storage. It is not quite complete yet – a little more tufting to do but it does feel quite uplifting to get some of these projects finished and the repurposing means I have a new item at little cost and will no doubt last for a long time to come – probably longer than the bench!

Even in these slow living times I cannot believe how quickly the weeks go by and housework has taken a back seat here lately – I haven’t felt much in the mood during the hot weather and a quick tidy round and a hoover has kept things ticking over nicely. 

Adding a few fresh flowers instantly brightens the place up and hopefuly detracts from seeing any dust! I love the way the colour of these tulips I bought last week blend in perfectly with the colour palette of this picture, an oil painting by the Scottish atrist Hazel Campbell…it was quite accidental but rather a nice accident.

Whilst we have been staying at home I have developed more of a routine and one that allows me to distinguish between week and weekend in these lockdown days that just roll on in quite a monotonous way.   I have been washing on a Monday and Tuesday and avoiding the weekends; I quite like keeping the weekends a bit more special and not cleaning or washing; eating a ‘proper’ Sunday dinner (even a vegetarian version) also helps to keep the weekend a little more defined.

So although I am often to be found in the kitchen when I am not in the garden or workroom you would notice that I am cooking and baking rather than cleaning.  

I picked out a few untried recipes from my folder, one of which was a new nut roast recipe that I wanted to make – just for a change.  This one contains chopped tomatoes from a packet or tin, so has quite a loose open texture and goes well as a substitute for a Sunday roast with the usual veg and gravy or cold with salad.  The recipe made a full 2lb loaf tin so half of it was cut up into slices to put in the freezer for later.

We had the first slice with roast parsnips, cabbage, cooked apple and a Yorkshire….smothered in gravy.

We have a birthday tomorrow on Bank Holiday Monday – it is DH’s but I won’t disclose which year – I will just say in the later part of the sixties, but thankfully not yet seventy – I only say thankfully as the years are galloping away now and feels like there is still so much we want to do and see in so little time.

To cheer him up I will make a cake and maybe we will go out in the car for a run, not to a popular beauty spot….just somewhere off the beaten track with a flask of hot chocolate and some cake and maybe take our sketchbooks. And then no doubt there will be a Zoom get together with some of the family.

Stay safe everyone and a warm welcome to more readers and followers….and apologies for anyone who has noticed my lack of comments recently on my favourite blogs – I am still reading along as time allows. x