dear diary :: contemplating Christmas

At last things are slowing down here – I washed most of the sheets we used as tablecloths for the christening buffet and the weather, although bitterly cold, was fine enough to hang them outdoors on the line.

We had a leisurely lunch too – nothing fancy, just a ploughman’s sandwich with spelt and rye bread (not home baked but just as good) and a side salad to use up the last of the items in the fridge. Having missed the real taste of the beetroot in yesterday’s soup I just had to have some raw grated beetroot drizzled with a little french dressing.

After the last few hectic weeks we have had with all the celebrations and my daughter’s house move I am now turning my attentions to Christmas. It feels quite late not to have done anything at all but then I feel this is my opportunity to embrace this lack of time I have……and it will force me to keep things simple and not just play with the idea.

So I am thinking what do I really need to do and what can I miss out:-

  • A Christmas tree – definitely – we always have real and because we are not hosting Christmas this year we will just choose a smaller one. We have last year’s rooted and potted one in the back garden and DH will move that round to the front to be decorated with lights.
  • The Christmas Lights and candles – how could you not have lights – I would always choose lights over decoration if I had too. DH will put up the outside lights and surprise me as usual with his artistry.
  • Christmas Decor – just as simple as I can make it though I do love all my Christmas treasures and it will be hard to just pick out a few.
  • Christmas Fare – the cake is the one food item I will make sure gets done, we don’t eat many mince pies – I usually bake them as gifts and may not even bother with them at all, but the florentines and my chocolate slab are quick and delicious and must be a MUST. The nut roast can be made next week and frozen ready to take with us to my sister’s on Christmas day – DH makes a good one, so I will pass this job over.
  • Christmas Cards – another definite as it is how I keep in touch with family and friends I rarely see – homemade if time allows but if I don’t get to do a lino cut then it will be a stamped card or even bought ones.
  • The Christmas Newsheet for relatives and friends – you either love them or hate them but I always send one to people I do not see often and I love to receive them and hear everyone’s news. So this will go on my list.
  • The Family Gifts – as most regular readers know our family does a ‘Not so Secret Santa’. This year we have reduced the amount to a £25 spend each as the younger end of the family are either on maternity pay or student loans and the older ones now on pensions and we all have less money than before. None of us would ever go back to buying presents for everyone and trailing round busy shops not knowing what to buy – the get together we have to swap the presents is the highlight of the year and more fun than the gifts. This year we will all be together on Christmas day so we have no need of a pre Christmas get together.
  • Little Gifts for Friends – this year I intended to make a calendar for each of the friends I buy for and it is labour intensive – if it seems there is too little time to make them then I will find an alternative – I might even use those free pots and buy some cyclamens to plant in them.

Did I miss anything?

Of course there are the many things that I would love to do, crafting, baking and a little Christmas meandering, and more Christmas meandering – but I don’t want to put any pressure on myself, there has been too much of that this year. So I will have a second list of ‘would like to do’ if there is any spare time.

  • making the robin teacosy I started last year
  • making little Freddie a Christmas stocking
  • a concertina Christmas banner
  • a trip to Saltaire or Askrigg village stained glass windows event
  • a photo book for mum and my aunty with Alzheimers

Last year in the run up to Christmas I did something Christmassy each day in my ‘Creating Christmas’ posts with the help of a daily advent card. You can read about it by clicking here or on the menu tab above and in the side bar.

So this year I am thinking it would be a good idea to do a ‘Creating a simpler Christmas’ one that is at a much slower pace and definitely calmer…. and perhaps there are readers out there that might have some helpful suggestions for achieving this.

Have a lovely weekend x

dear diary :: capturing a little colour

It was wet, wet, wet here yesterday – certainly a day for staying inside – but I did sneak out to take some photos as I love to capture those tiny glistening raindrops balancing on the leaves and dripping slowly from the berries. There is still some highlights of colour around the garden to brighten up these grey days. Even the little Violas under our open porch are hanging in there and continue to flower.

And inside too thanks to those many jars of posies I made for the tables at the christening buffet and which are now scattered around the house.

I came across this little gem yesterday in Wilkos – the rose gold ridged jam jar. It came with 3 silk peonies but I have removed and replaced them with fresh flowers. I am not normally a ‘sparkle’ person, prefering a minimalist Scandinavian look, but a few touches here and there add something to our guest room….

…which is a very calming grey with just a hint of soft blush pink (thanks to Sadie who introduced me to pink and for which I now find I have a bit of a crush on it).

I also bought these Christmas foam stamps and glitter stickers for £1 each in The Works. I thought Little L would love to make something Christmassy with them – secretly I do too.

And what is this…….DH’s workbench in operation and that means….

….the pantry is now well underway and has units installed. He still has the wall cupboard to go up on the wall to the left of the window but first he has to do a major Ikea hack and cut down the depth of the cupboard so it is much shallower. To the right of the window and running along the wall on the right to the tall cupboard will be open shelving for storage jars.

The left hand floor cabinet will have a series of five drawers of different sizes to take extra utensils and tea towels and the other cabinets will have open shelving. We are now waiting for the man to come and fit the worktop as it is ‘L’ shaped and will need an expert join at the corner – as most workmen at the moment he has a lot on and will ‘fit us in’ – before Christmas I hope.

I have been busy too – remember the tablemats I made recently – well I have at last finished the remaining two using the other pattern of tea towels in the pack. The reverse is just a plain white honeycomb cotton.

This fabric was not as easy to sew as it is a looser weave but once I had started there seemed little point in stopping and now they are finished I do like how clean and simple they look.

DH decided that as it is beetroot season he would try his hand at making Beetroot and Ginger soup. It is such a lovely Christmas colour and a sprinkling of green chopped chives on top of the swirl of yoghurt would have been a nice touch. It didn’t quite have enough beetroot flavour for me – I much prefer it raw and grated in a salad – or roasted with root vegetables….but if you don’t try you don’t know. Having said that I would make it again but maybe not that often.

I need to turn my attentions now to focus on Christmas – December will be here on Sunday and there will be little time left for anything too creative so it will definitely be a simple affair this year and in my book that is no bad thing. I am already thinking of what will be necessary to do and what I can leave out. More on this another day.

So that was my day…how was yours? x

dear dairy :: more celebrations

Hello everyone, I thought I would be back sooner than this but I have had no time to even switch on the computer in the last week or so. I moved from the 1st birthday event to preparing for the christening, the Crisis Christmas coffee morning at my local church, and my daughter’s move to her new house. Phew!

After spending two years in the middle of nowhere, other than a few isolated farms in the distance, my daughter moved to a nearby tiny village with people and neighbours around her. We will all miss these stunning views she had from her house across the valley and over the resevoir but it really is far more covenient where she is now and for the first time little L will have playmates around. These might be my last pictures of Leighton resevoir – the reflection of the bridge in the water was just superb.

So the weekend before last saw me scrubbing out her new rental property ready for the move last Thursday and for most of that time I had my head in the oven – never have I seen one that was so bad on the inside – even a bottle full of cleaner could not shift the welded on grease and grime on the roof of the oven. After all that cleaning the oven does not appear to work and there is a missing rubber seal round the top oven door. So the appliance man has been called for by the landlord, but I have said to push for a new oven as I would condemn that one as not fit for purpose.

With our part in the move completed I turned my attention to creating something to sell at the Crisis coffee morning which took place last Saturday morning…the day before the christening. Time was quite tight with so much to do so it had to be something quick and easy and that I could make within an hour.

Remember the free pots I got from the lady in the village where our cottage is? I used six of these and a bag of 18 mixed tulip bulbs from Sainsbury’s for £3 to fill them. I stuffed each pot with a little crumpled newspaper and made up a cellophane bag (those that birthday cards are wrapped in) containing three bulbs – added a hand stamped label and nestled the pack of bulbs on the top……tied a piece of raffia around and …voila.

Most of last week was spent baking for the christening on Sunday. I made batches of fruit scones and cheese scones and three different quiches. Most of the other food was bought from M&S or local farm shops.

All was going well until we had a phone call from the vicar to say that the church boiler had broken down…is irreparable and warned us the church would be very cold during the christening and we might want to warn people to wrap up well.

It could only happen to us!!

And this was no understatement – it was freezing even though we were huddled together wearing thick coats, goves and scarfs (and in some cases with blankets over our knees and a hot water bottle for my poor mum). You could visibly see the congregation’s breath in the air as anyone spoke, and never have I seen steam coming off the water in the baptism font! A kettle of hot water had been added to warm it up a bit before ladelling over the baby’s head…..but little Freddie was so good and hardly flinched.

We had him wrapped up cosily in a warm shawl – here are the proud parents and Little L holding the baptism candle for her cousin.

The church ladies had baked our little party a few buns and made us a welcome cup of tea after the service which was such a nice guesture and helped to stave off the cold for a while. Once we were all in the heated village hall for the christening buffet we all began to thaw out a bit.

I was too busy on the day organising and laying out the food for our guests to take any photos of the hall with all the tables laid out – shame as it did look lovely – but I have a few pictures taken whilst I was making up the little jam jars of posies for the table settings and having a practice run at home the day before.

I used more of the ‘free’ pots for each of the five tables as centre pieces and filled them with dried hydrangea heads, carefully hiding the battery pack of the string of fairy lights in each pot.

We deliberately decided against the traditonal baby blue colours and instead chose muted autumnal heather colours of the dried hydrangeas. The posies of fresh flowers, hypericum berries, eucalyptus and thistle gave us the rich dark purple tones highlighted with a few cream roses and lisianthus.

The effect was just what we wanted and the warm glow from the candle votives and dotted fairy lights surrounding each centre piece really gave the whole room a lovely cosy autumn feel.

Everyone enjoyed the day – it is always lovely when all the family from both sides can come together for a catch up – we even had a cousin come all the way from Somerset.

So now it is time for a rest for a day or two and get my house back in order – then it is back up to North Yorkshire again next weekend to my sister’s to attend the talent show in her local village hall. My sister is taking part with her ‘secret’ talent but has also volunteered to replace a person who cannot make it – she is not sure what this person’s talent is yet but I hope that person is not the knife thrower….even worse…. the knife thrower’s assistant!!!

I have a lot of catching up to do in blogland as I have no idea what all of you have been up to – normal commenting from me should be resuming shortly!

Have a lovely week and welcome to my new followers. x

dear diary :: a day of disasters and delights

Back home again – for how long…… that is debatable. How did my weekend go and the birthday celebration – well have you ever laughed until you cried – that just about sums up the weekend.

Saturday started well, we were up, packed the car and collected my niece from Sheffield – so far so good. We made good time up to North Yorkshire despite the hold up for the A1M accident.

We had arranged to meet my sister in Bedale in the local hardware store House and Home to hand over my niece and her luggage and so I could buy a silver cake board to put the birthday cake on when it was finished and I was also in charge of buying a first birthday helium balloon.

At 3 o’clock in the afternoon all five of us were stood around in the baking section of House and Home debating which size board would better fit my cake. ‘No problem’ said my sister, ‘you can check the size of the cake board against the size of the cake in the car’. It was only then that it fully dawned on me that the cake was not actually in our cool bag in the car but still in the freezer at home together with the nutloaf! Whoops!!

The thought of the cake being 90 miles away was a bit of a ‘Home Alone’ moment and we all burst out laughing and laughed so much tears rolled down our cheeks. The shopkeeper and shoppers must have thought us all potty.

So the next half hour was spent going over the options….too far to go back and get it………we could make another cake either at my daughter’s house or my sister’s house but it would take time and it was getting late………..we could buy one ready decorated……….we could try and buy a plain cake to decorate ourselves.

So across the road to the Co-op we all trouped and carried on the discussion in the cake aisle.

At this point I thought I had better phone my daughter and tell her the bad news. As soon as she answered the phone my sister and I got the giggles again and I couldn’t quite relate the problem in any coherent way – my daughter presumed I had inhaled the helium!!

In the end we managed to get a cake from Sainsbury’s (a life saver) in a similar style to the one I had planned. Only the top was decorated with buttercream and sprinkles but the sides were bare. So I set too and made more buttercream for the sides and added more sprinkles. I don’t think you can see the join!

It nicely fit onto the cake stand I found in John Lewis for £12 and we no longer needed to use a cake board as the bought cake came on one. This is the finished result.

But the disasters didn’t stop there because next day, Sunday – the day of the family get together – we arrived at the venue just at the same time as I received a text from my sister to say she was really ill and wouldn’t make it and a phone call from my brother to say he was lost! Sat nav had taken him down a track somewhere to nowhere and he had to do a 38 point turn to get back out.

Eventually, my brother found the place and we all came together, bar my sister, and had a lovely lunch and afternoon. Even my mum was well enough to come which was lovely. Little L had decorated a place card for everyone with stamps and glitter – granny had a great time helping too. In true style Sweetie slept through most of her party but loved the cake and had a great time with little Freddie playing pass the balloon.

The term never again springs to mind. I think a combination of having too much on the go all the time and two events close together to sort out has caused a bit of overload on my memory!

On the plus side we now have a spare cake in the freezer for the christening tea on the weekend after next.

Have a lovely day. x

dear diary :: rain, rain, go away

Honesty

As a few people are joining in with ‘white month’ theme – here is my contribution of the beautiful white honesty in our garden…actually this was last years as it is biennial but I so love the picture I thought it deserved another airing.

Of course it was always going to rain in buckets yesterday as I had a hair appointment booked for the afternoon – I looked like a drowned rat when I got to the hairdressers and then again after I left and reached the car park, so much for the new hairdo – but at least my hair is cut into something resembling a style now – not much different to normal, a little shorter but far easier to manage. I would take a picture but I am still drying out!

Yesterday morning elder daughter arrived again with little Freddie – it was beginning to feel a little like ground hog day that I keep on reliving. DH stayed home and amused little Freddie whilst we went down to see the florist and order a few stems of the hypericum berries, eucalyptus, thistle and a deep purple lisianthus. We will eek these out with a cheaper bunch of cream flowers; roses maybe or chrysanthemums and alstroemeria from the supermarket. The lady who runs the shop is always so helpful especially when you are working to a budget. I can collect them on the Friday before the christening to make up the posies for the Sunday so the flowers will have nicely opened by then.

Once back at home I did a little mise en place – chopping veg, making the breadcrumbs and grinding the nuts for the nutloaf so that DH could cook and assemble it as per instructions whilst I was out at the hairdressers – it is now in the freezer. That was excellent team work – he also made some more leek and potato soup with the left over veg and halloumi bake for tea whilst I managed to sew up the raglan part of the jumper. He then spent the rest of the evening recovering.

Not a lot happened in the pantry yesterday. DH had to have a trip to the other side of town for low tack masking tape – not easy stuff to find – some of it is rubbish and still sticks like glue and fetches the fresh paint off when you remove it so it was worth going further afield to get the better one.

Today we are aiming to go to Sheffield, weather and flooding allowing – they have had it bad again and I heard some people got stuck in the Meadowhall shopping mall. I need to sort out Sweetie’s birthday present and card – I never intended to leave it to the last minute but it has ended up with Friday being the only free day this week. I have to try and give equal amount of time to my two daughters so that both the events they are planning get sorted; so today I won’t be seeing little Freddie and will be turning my attentions to little Sweetie and her birthday on Sunday. I still need to squeeze in some time to mix the buttercream for the cake ready to take with me.

Phew a granny’s life is never done!!

My mum had a better day yesterday thank you – woke up fine then went off colour again mid morning but OK when I rang in the evening – but still no bloods taken – maybe today. My sister is going in daily and cooking a meal for her – in return we are collecting her daughter (my neice) from Sheffield uni on Saturday and taking her with us up to North Yorkshire to save my sister the journey. It will mean an extra hour or so onto our journey but it is the least we can do to help out.

If the rain continues we may have to hire a canoe!

This may be my last post for a few days while we are away – it gets tricky to do very much when we are staying at my daughter’s house. So have a lovely weekend everyone and I’ll update you when we are back if I don’t get to pop in before that. Stay warm x

dear diary :: party ideas on a budget

Yesterday was just a little too intense for my liking – I didn’t really have a minute to myself other than getting washed, dressed and eating breakfast and doing a couple of housekeeping tasks before my daughter and little Freddie arrived.

There are no photos today either…no time and nothing much to take other than a list of plans…but I think we have all the arrangements for the christening and the party afterwards underway now and every base covered. When I had my daughters christened it was a much simpler affair – I booked the church, made the cake, used the family christening gown and we had a few homemade sandwiches afterwards and a cup of tea at my mum’s house – we only had brothers, sisters, grandparents and great grandparents, so fewer people to cater for.

We have invited the wider family to this do – aunts and cousins and a few friends and surprisingly all have said yes even though they live quite a distance away. I think some of them are making it a nice weekend away. It will be lovely to see them all as very often these days it is only at weddings and funerals that we all get together.

It should be a lovely day too – but I like to keep a balance with these events between nice ideas and cost – with the arrival of Pinterest all these events like weddings, anniversaries, baby showers and christenings, can be as elaborate as you can dream up – it must be a generation thing; but the dreams can easily turn into nightmares and I feel like I might be the voice reigning things in all the time – not that I am trying to spoil the party just making sure the plans are achievable without being overstretched, overstressed and over budget.

Being creative on a low budget is something I have done all my life and one of my tasks today is to visit the florist in the village – I volunteered to arrange a few flowers for the tables which we are covering with some old white cotton sheets passed down from my grandmother (my mum’s idea as they did this for her wedding reception in 1947!) Without giving too much away on here I am looking to order a few stems of eucalyptus and hypericum berries to add to some cheaper supermarket flowers and make little jam jar posies for the table centres. I am already drying some hydrangea heads to put in the larger glass Ikea vases I saved from my daughter’s wedding.

My daughter and I also bought a cake stand each – we couldn’t track down the £4.99 ones from B&M so found some rather nice two tier china ones in Dunelm which have a pretty pattern round the edge and have been reduced to £7 – perfect to serve our afternoon tea on.

We will also be able to reuse some of the miles of bunting I made for her wedding to decorate the village hall and we have plenty of fairy lights and candles from the same event to add some ‘glow’ – it is good that we can reuse a lot of the things we had at the wedding – I knew, given time, they would come in handy!

The christening gown has been a bit of a problem – my daughter wants a very traditonal gown but little Freddie is now 9 months old and the family gown too small – or he too big. Sweetie’s gown from her christening in May is too flouncy so a new one must be found as I won’t have time to make one.

With all this planning and discussion going on DH just quietly escaped to the pantry and finished the final coat on the walls. I think he has only to put a coat, maybe two, of All White eggshell on the woodwork and then we will be onto making up the units. At last.

Thank you for all the well wishes for my mum. I would pass them on to her but there is little chance she would know what a blogger is! She seems to feel better towards the end of the day but then wakes up again in the same state where she feels quite unwell. No one came yesterday to take the blood so we are told it will might be today.

My sister bless her is holding the fort up there until I can get up to ease the load. We both seem to be of the ‘sandwich’ generation…. spreading our time between old and young, trapped in the middle – only I feel we are more like a cheese toastie….often on melt down.

I am hoping mum feels a bit better today. Until we know the cause nothing can be done and I know she is feeling very anxious not knowing what is wrong. But knowing mum she will be determined to make our little family gathering on Sunday for Sweetie’s 1st birthday – she won’t want to miss out.

This morning I have to weigh and chop all the ingredients for a nut loaf to take with us when we go up to North Yorkshire at the weekend to stay with my younger daughter. DH will take over, mix it together and cook it when he has finished the painting whilst I go to the hairdressers and relax for an hour or two this afternoon….bliss….then on to the florist in the village.

Did I mention the tablemats did not materialise? – they are waiting for another day – maybe tomorrow will be less hectic!

dear diary :: when it’s dismal outside

Could the weather be more dull or drizzly? I can see where the saying ‘feeling under the weather’ comes from as it can feel a touch depressing. I am even struggling to take photos inside in the gloom. DH is just drinking more of his strong coffee to keep awake – at least it is on offer – half price at Sainsbury’s so I have stocked up big time. I need to keep him going whilst he is doing the decorating – he has now moved on to putting more primer coats on the woodwork.

It can seem a slow job when you are eagerly waiting for it to be finished. I haven’t taken any photos today as there isn’t a marked difference to the previous ones….not that you will see in a photo.

Yesterday turned out to be a bit of a strange day – nothing like I had planned…. but that is not unusual. I was up at the normal hour about 7.30am and had breakfast with my new mats – I promise you will be tired of seeing them soon – but I am so loving them and the difference these two little mats have made I just have to photograph them. Often!

Only an hour or two into the morning and I had the first phone call of the day – my younger daughter – more chat about the upcoming birthday gathering. It seems we have both bought a number one candle for on top of the cake – so at the moment she is ’11’ – hers is a pink one – mine is rainbow coloured so I will save mine for little Freddie – he will be one in January!

By the time we had finished I was late starting the soup – leek and potato today as we hadn’t had this for a while and it is so lovely and colourful – you can’t beat homemade soup when it’s dismal outside.

I like to add some decent chunks of carrot to mine and I only part blend the soup to give it some body but only enough so that most of the veggies are still identifyable.

After lunch I wrote all the birthday cards for November and also a letter or two to get in the post, I like to send hand written letters when I can it is a dying art like postcards…but aren’t they lovely to receive.

We then headed for town again.

I needed to buy the interfacing for the other two tablemats at our indoor market hall and look around some of the out of town retail shops – Mothercare, TK Max, Boots and Next as well as pop into the Range for some double sided tape. Everywhere had such a tempting array of goods I was almost wishing I was back at work and had my monthly wage to be able to buy some of the things I saw. But I reminded myself I really don’t need anything very much and just bought one or two low priced things to satisfy that desire to buy something.

I went for the interfacing first to get that off my list so I didn’t forget it (it has been known for me to come back having totally forgotten what I had originally gone to town for – I am easily distracted!).

On my travels around the shops I found a roll of light brown parcel paper – often it is a very yellowy dark brown but I am quite particular about my brown paper LOL! and prefer the lighter greyer colour for printing on to use as wrapping paper at Christmas. I popped into Boots as I noticed the cotton wool pads are on offer – 3 for 2 this week – so that is my supplies replenished for the coming months, and I got extra points on them too as a bonus.

I thought the Christmas tree shaped vol au vents Sadie mentioned on her blog are really nice – they are doing them in Waitrose too but then I noticed this set of cutters in TK Max for £2.99 so guess what…..I will be having a go at making my own nearer to Christmas with the two smaller cutters and maybe some gingerbread with the larger one.

Pleased with my purchases we came home, made tea and then snuggled down for the evening – I was too tired by this time to even light the candles but that didn’t matter, however, life is not straight forward is it – just as I was relaxing I had another phone call from my daughter to say she had heard through the family grapevine that grandma was not well.

I had only spoken to my mum (who is 93 and lives in one of those lovely retirement apartments near my sister in North Yorkshire) the evening before and she was fine. When I spoke to her last night she was in bed resting and said she had woken up feeling quite off and dizzy yesterday morning and thought it was her blood pressure. My sister had called the doctor who came out to her and he agreed with her diagnosis. They will send someone out to her to take her blood today and run some tests. I hope she is better by Sunday for the get together.

Another Neal’s yard catalogue dropped through my door with a 20% off voucher on the back. As many readers know I love their products and I don’t think you can beat their Intense facial serum but I can only just afford it when it is discounted. I could order it online but I much prefer a day out to Sheffield to their nearest store – it is on the list.

Just as I was preparing for bed my elder daughter rang to chat about the upcoming Christening preparations….. again……. even the Royal Christenings will not have been so well planned – her job at work is managing projects and it continues into her home life – she always examines every detail quite carefully – from car parking at the church and venue to the sandwich fillings, I guarantee everything will be well thought out and I am the sounding board!

So an unintentional late night.

My daughter is coming round today with little Freddie so we can carry on the conversation and finalise a few more bits – maybe I might just get the other two tablemats made in and amongst while she is here. x

dear diary :: cleaning, baking and shopping

Back to grey and dismal and plenty of rain yesterday. How glad am I that I decided to go in the garden on Sunday whilst it was dry and sunny and get my planters sorted. It was far too dark to sew the jumper or do anything that required plenty of concentration and light, even with my daylight anglepoise switched on.

So I cleaned instead – both bathrooms and our bedroom. Not a thorough clean but not a quick flick of the duster either, just enough to bring a shine and that lovely smell of clean freshness into each room. I like to fling the windows open in the mornings even if it is raining – I do end up with wet window sills sometimes.

Lunch was a simple affair; we had more of the mushroom soup (the recipe is now in the recipe tab) with the remains of the previous night’s salad and a few slices of bread and butter.

Then I set to and baked the four victoria sandwich cakes that will make up the birthday cake. They are so simple to make – I only have two sandwich tins of the same size though – I used the smaller 8″ ones as we don’t want a huge cake to eat. What a shame I couldn’t bake all four at once to save on electricity. I might just invest in two more tins as I can see that there are going to be many children’s birthdays coming up in the future.

The cakes are now layered between greaseproof paper and in the freezer. I will be taking them up with us to my daughter’s house on Saturday so that Little L can help decorate it once I have assembled the layers with a little jam and cream. I am planning on plain vanilla buttercream around the outside covered with these colourful sprinkles I found in Sainsbury’s. I think Little L will manage the sprinkles quite well!

I planned a few meals to take us up to Friday evening and went down to Sainsbury’s for the shopping. We were later setting off than I would have liked by the time the cakes were cooked and cooled and we met with the after school traffic and the queues. It made me feel quite glad that I no longer have to battle this traffic every night after work.

I bought a dress in Sainsbury’s that was half price – reduced to £9 – it needs a good press and I hope it fits. It is made of a warm stretchy jersey and I can wear it with fine wool tights and my boots so I will probably wear it on Sunday for the birthday get together.

DH has a second coat on the walls now but is going for a third to make sure it will not need redecorating for a long time. Sorry for the poor photo quality the light is really so bad again today. The ceiling is All White and the walls Ammonite – a soft grey that we are using throughout the house as we decorate each room. We also have lights.

Tomorrow might see the end of the painting and then the part I have been waiting for – assembling and fitting the units. Once these are in I will be able to see what space I have and start planning what might go where.

We have never had a microwave other than at the cottage as I enjoy cooking and make most of our meals from scratch each day. The only reason we had one at the cottage was because we had to manage for a week without a cooker or fridge when we first bought the place. When we do our kitchen (planned for next year) we will be in the same position again, without cooker and fridge for a while, so we thought a small microwave might be useful and we can keep it and use it in the pantry.

On a different note altogether I thought I might mention the book I am reading – borrowed from the library – The Christmas Reader by Godfrey Smith. It is a collection of Christmas stories and poems. Some of them are quite interesting because they are reminiscences and diary entries from famous people such as Harold Macmillan and young Queen Victoria.

Harold Macmillan and his family spent their Christmas at Chatsworth – his account of this exuberant Christmas period is fascinating. Many of the Devonshire family and their additional friends and guests arrived with their own staff and ponies so the numbers ultimately reached to 150 people spending Christmas at Chatsworth – that is some party and a lot of catering! Many of the women and children stayed on after the Christmas festivities for another 2-3 weeks (imagine that!).

The excerpt I read last night was about as opposite as you can get – a piece written by Winifred Foley from A Child in the Forest and part of a trilogy about the hardships of a very poor family. Their Christmas breakfast was half a tin of Nestlé milk to share on their toast. I would like to read more so will be tracking her books down in the library – maybe some readers have already read them?

Today is dismal again I am not sure I should attempt sewing up the jumper but I do have plenty of paperwork to be doing – the receipts are mounting up and I haven’t done an October tally yet to see what shape our finances are in. Interestingly, Lucinda mentioned in her recent post about ‘feeling’ when her finances were OK even when she had no hard figures to view and I can very much relate to that. I think we all know when we might have overspent.

I also have the November birthday cards to write and get ready for delivery or posting. I hope I made enough. If I have any time left over I will probably look at the Christmas card design again.

Better go and get on with the day now – have a good one. x

dear diary :: Sunday – not quite a day of rest

Yesterday I awoke with every intention of sewing again until I drew back the curtains and saw that it was dry and sunny with a wonderful blue sky – perfect for going out into the garden and getting the planters done at last. And I am so glad I took the window of opportunity as it is back to grey dismal fog and rain today.

I had bought 2 outdoor cyclamen plants in Thirsk and then when we were in Sainsbury’s shopping they were selling some for £1 each – such a bargain, so I bought four more.

I found the golden Ilex shrub in Tesco for £6 to add a bit of winter foliage to the larger planter. I used four of the cyclamen plants in the pots and the other two I planted in the front border. I always plant into a plant pot that will fit snuggly into the pottery planters so I can swap them about easily as the seasons change.

Before I put the pots back in place by the front door I brushed all the cobwebs away that had collected under our open porch and round the door. I suspect the neighbours might be thinking that the abundantly draped cobwebs and huge black spiders were part of my Halloween decorations!

I felt a pang of guilt at removing the spider’s homes – we have had numerous ones running across the living room floor recently while we are sitting watching TV in the evening – hopefully we will have a few less coming inside now.

Whilst I was in a clean up mode I washed down all the white plastic gutters and the boarding under the porch roof, the front door and the garage door. Whilst I was on a roll I also cleaned the windows and swilled the steps.

So now our house looks far more presentable. As I was precariously balancing on the steps scrubbing away we had a visit from the local Labour party canvassers and rather than talking politics we all stood back to admire my handiwork. They were very complimentary – a sure way to earn my vote!!

My younger daughter was my interuption today – she rang for a chat about the upcoming birthday get together for Little Sweetie. I never mind having a chat with my daughters no matter what I am in the middle of – I like to hear their news. It was a short call today – only an hour – we can always find things to talk about but you can see why I never get very much done in a day. During the phone call…. somehow…. and don’t ask me how, I managed to volunteer myself into making the birthday cake – I hate the thought of buying one when they are so simple to bake. That is another task to add to my list. I do need sectioning for my own good!!

DH ended up making the mushroom soup, which was rather good – a mixture of chestnut and ordinary white mushrooms with a leek for added flavour. He flaked some Parmesan cheese and added a few sprigs of parsley. And it tasted so much better laid out on the new mats!

I am trying to keep off the tomato soup at the moment as it is not very good for arthritic conditions and may be affecting my knee.

After lunch I did attempt to sew the jumper but the light had gone and I can’t for the life in me remember how I had sewn up the right hand raglan and I do need it to match. I must find the You Tube example I followed – I hope I bookmarked it. Rather than make a mistake I put it aside for another day. The cushion cover never even got a look in but I did discover I have no idea how to tell the right side from the wrong side – my mum’s knitting is so neat I could not tell any difference – any ideas anyone?

Whilst I was debating what to do next DH informed me that Emma was on the TV all afternoon from 4 pm so being a Jane Austen fan I decided to clean the living room whilst I watched the first two episodes – hoovering only during the adverts. I popped some jacket potatoes in the oven so that they would be ready by the time I had finished cleaning and we had them with salad, a mound of freshly grated beetroot and grated cheese on trays in the living room so I could watch the final episode of Emma.

DH has now put a second coat on the pantry ceiling and a mist coat on the walls. The woodwork has had a primer coat too so today he will just be doing more of the same.

As today is our usual shopping day I will be thinking about a meal plan for the week, checking the cupboards and writing a shopping list. I will have to have a root around to make sure I have all the ingredients for the birthday cake too. If I find I have some spare time I will have another go at sewing up the jumper though the light is really bad today so may abandon this again in favour of some more cleaning.

Doing the washing is definitely out in this weather.

Thank you everyone for the lovely comments on the last post you are all too kind – I think I have answered them all. There are some good ideas for me to get my act together and protect organise my time a bit better – though it would seem one or two are just like me and volunteer themselves into anything!

Thank you also to Occasional Scotland for the tiny house links – they may come in useful when we get down to planning our course of action.

Have a good day. x

dear diary :: accomplishment

I was up early yesterday – washed, dressed, breakfast eaten and dishes washed before making my way to the craft room. I was determined that I was going to finish the tablemats – well two of them – as I need to buy more interfacing for the other two. For new readers these mats are made from a tea towel pack from Sainsbury’s. The striped tea towel was cut in half and is backed by the plain grey with a heavy weight firm interfacing between the two layers.

Of course no sooner had I started than the first interruption arrived in the form of my daughter, son in law and baby Freddie. Although I am always delighted to see them I also wanted to get my sewing done while the light was good and it was not exactly a social visit – she wanted to go over the Christening arrangements with me.

Now, my daughter (who is probably just like me) never does anything by halves so we spent the best part of seven hours, with a small interlude for lunch and a cuddle or two with Freddie, going over the food to order, the food to make ourselves, the quantities we would need, the invitations, the decorations and the size of the tables and how we would cover them.

Did we forget anything?

In and amongst the discussions I finally managed to finish the tablemats and here is the photo to prove it.

I am quite pleased with how they turned out and they are a big improvement on our old ones. This is part of my drive to ‘beautify’ little areas in my house.

I had such a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment I only hope today is just as productive then I will be happy.

On today’s list is more sewing – I am going to attempt to finish the little jumper for Sweetie. I think it will be too small for her now so I will have to see if it is any use for little Freddie and if not I will donate it to one of the stalls at our Crisis coffee morning.

If there is any time left over I am also going to sew together this lovely snuggly cushion cover that my dear old mum knitted for me about two years ago and it has sat in my project basket ever since. I think it is moss stitch (you knitters out there will know better than me) and it will be a great addition to my winter cushion collection.

She has even stopped asking me if I have got it finished so she will be delighted if she sees it completed and on our sofa when she comes for her pre Christmas visit in a few weeks time, and I will be delighted to have another task crossed off the list.

I often wonder to myself why it is that so many projects in this house fail to reach completion – is it poor time management, taking on too much or maybe I need to push myself more.

Often in hindsight I would do things differently. The marathon last week going to Scotland, then to see mum and then taking out the grandchildren – one obligation after another was a bit much. It was so tiring with all the long journey’s that it has taken me the best part of this week to recover.

I have everything unpacked now and the washing done ready to repack for our visit back to North Yorkshire at the end of next week for Sweetie’s birthday celebration. It must have been so much easier years ago when families lived closer to one another.

Anyway, enough of my moaning I need to get on with the sewing and before that I have mushroom soup to make and prep the winter salad for tea which we will be having with those old favourites….baked potatoes.

Looking outside this morning it is glorious sunshine and so I might get a chance to plant the cyclamens and I still have a few mixed tulip bulbs to go in.

DH cut the holes in the pantry ceiling yesterday for the downlights (which was another reason for daughter’s visit as our SIL brought the hole cutter). He managed a mist coat on the ceiling to seal the new plaster and hopefully today will get another coat or two done.

Things are moving on here at last. x