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 :: on a brighter note

Thank you for all the comments yesterday – I really value your support and comments. I know most people probably have some family issues from time to time without actually being a dysfunctional family. As a family we have always stuck together and we will get through this. I know that mum is a very unhappy person at the moment and lashing out at everyone but I am surprised that this now includes my sister as she has always been her favourite; she is eleven years younger than me and the baby of the family so she was left at home with mum and dad from being six years old when my brother and I left for Art College. They have always been so close, worn the same style clothes and at one time had similar tastes in furniture and spent a lot of their time together including holidays so it is sad to hear how she is starting to complain so much about her.

On Sunday we will go up to North Yorkshire to see her for the day and give my sister the Sunday off. I usually take a homemade Quiche, a trifle and a chocolate cake (all mum’s favourites) and of course some Sainsbury’s shopping – unlike my sister I do go to Sainsbury’s so it really won’t be any trouble. I am hoping my visit will cheer her up and have a lasting effect for a while. I might even take my box of photos so she can sit and reminisce for a while of the ‘good old days’ and I will politely listen as if I have never heard the stories before (even though it will be the umpteenth time I have been told them!).

The washer comes today and DH failed to get the new flooring down in the utility – there was no hope really once the leaks had to be dealt with but at least we have made a start on stripping the walls.

We decided not to change the units in here, even though we have had them for years, probably 30 years, but they are plain grey so back in fashion and go quite well with our new cabinets in the kitchen. They consist of a double wall cupboard and one of those slim line pull out larder cupboards with wire shelving. A good clean down and some new handles and I think they will be fine. I bought the wallpaper a few years ago now and I got it out the other day to see if I still liked it….and yes I do. There is only one wall papered the rest are painted so I only got two rolls as it was £20 a roll so I hope the pattern repeat is not too wasteful.

We had a long walk with Freddie in the afternoon. DH decided to down tools and go with us, but it was mostly in the rain – the cold damp rain.

We walked down the rough old mill road to the site of the dye mill – now demolished – until we could go no further with the pushchair.

We then walked back and along the road which runs parallel to the pleasure grounds but much higher up and it runs above this old terrace of mill houses where we once lived. I loved my old house it had four stories and some beautiful old features. By the time we sold we had lived there for 8 years and had done quite a bit of renovating. The modern estate house we are in now was only a stop gap for 3 years until we found our dream home. That was 36 years ago and we never did move to our dream home – instead once the girls had left home we bought the ‘retirement’ cottage in Scotland and began our 10 years of renovations before the flood took all that away.

We continued a little way down this road having a good nosy over the railings to see what our old neighbours had been doing to their houses – a lick of paint, some new windows but it is more or less the same as when we lived there. Eventually we cut off along a disused driveway and came across another snicket running through a more recent estate that took us back to the village. By the time we reached home the rain was quite heavy and our coats rather soaked.

Today is our recovery day after the childcare and I have lots to do on the list – chase up John Lewis again for one who have so far failed to send the ‘care package’ they promised last Friday. I also need to make the food to take up to mum’s for lunch and plant the pots of bulbs if they have not died of thirst in the greenhouse. Then I must try and tidy up this chaos around me, all I did last night was tidy the toys away and make our evening meal before collapsing in a heap.

I did pop my head around the door of the spare room that has become a temporary store for the laundry heap, pending the new washer. It had not self destructed – or washed itself – this new washer had better be good it has a lot of work to do.

Hope you have a good weekend everyone.

dear diary :: in a quandary

Yesterday was my second day off – I barely remember Thursday as I was in recovery mode and probably on auto pilot when I attempted to clear and clean out the fridges, freezer and pantry. And then I got carried away and started on the oven. For some reason it looked like something had exploded in there but I cannot think what. I ran out of the Oven Mate I use so it is only half way to clean. Another order has been made to Lakeland as it is currently on offer (buy one get one half price) and I added in a baking mould that makes Easter egg shaped cake pops ready to decorate. The grandchildren will love that. I was able to use my £5 off voucher too.

Yesterday I had to ring John Lewis. Last October we finally had our new kitchen installed after only 30 years of waiting and I was so excited – it is the very first kitchen I have ever chosen. The John Lewis designer, kitchen fitter and electrician were marvellous and so helpful but sadly we had issues with the project management and co-ordination….. In that there wasn’t really any. I can appreciate that the Covid meant all the case managers were working from home and not in the office, but the one allotted to us suddenly disappeared off the scene and we were left not knowing who we should deal with and he had left us with some wrong delivery and templating dates.

This meant that during the installation I ended up on the phone….a lot…..doing some of the co-ordinating and ringing around for them to get things back on track. Anyway, it turns out that we should have received a ‘care package’ at the start of the installation with details of our order and all the guarantees – we didn’t and it was only after I had thought about the lack of paperwork we have that I made the enquiry yesterday and was told about it. They are going to send one to us and also advised to write to them about the issues we had. The lovely lady I spoke to did apologise profusely and said it was not their normal service. I agreed with her on that point. So we shall see what happens in the next few days. Overall I am happy with the kitchen and I would use them again but I do think they have a training issue on the co-ordinating side.

After lunch we drove up to the local garden centre; it was quiet so we could wander around and didn’t have to be aware of ‘socially distancing’ with anyone. I bought some seed potatoes – I had decided on Pentland Javelin again but they only had large bags so I chose Arran Pilot instead, an old variety I believe and ones my FIL used to grow.

As I had a £15 gift voucher I also bought a black metal beehive shaped frame to put over my cat mint to protect it from the cats, a new coir basket liner and 3 small pots of bulbs to add a bit of colour into my outdoor planters beneath the living room window. I did sneak in a shrub too – Pittosporum Silver Queen for the front border. The ticket reckons it is hardy in the UK; let’s hope that includes our region as it can get very cold on our road being fairly high up and near to the moors.

Whilst we were out we called at Sainsbury’s – not too bad in the car park so we reckoned it would be safe in the store. We had packed a flask of hot chocolate to drink before doing the shopping which helped to warm us up. We didn’t need a lot, a few items of fresh fruit and veg to get us through next week and some bread.

At the moment the seasonal shelves have a collection of Mother’s Day gifts and some lovely Easter bits and bobs. I was tempted but I shall get my mum flowers I think and make her a chocolate cake, she will enjoy that more than a gift. I did buy an Easter craft bag for Little L and a decorative cardboard egg for each of the grandchildren which I will fill with little chocolate eggs.

I found this cute little box of colourful felt flowers – they might make some simple Easter cards if I have the time. So apart from the chocolate that is Easter sorted – I have learned to buy things when I see them rather than thinking about it for too long and then finding they have all gone.

I also ordered the new washer online from John Lewis yesterday – I chose John Lewis because I had £100 worth of vouchers to spend with them from the ONS survey we are part of and they have some offers on at the moment. Both of the models I narrowed my choice down to were out of stock earlier this week so I put in a request for an email to be sent when they came back into stock. It was a surprise then to find an email had dropped into my inbox yesterday afternoon whilst we were out and it was for my preferred washer. After much debate and research I have decided to stick with AEG as my old one is now 16 years old and has been completely fault free all that time (and would probably go on longer if we had it fixed but I prefer to put the money towards a new one that will be even more efficient on water and power). The new washer programs are very similar to my old one so I won’t have to learn a whole new language to get it going and it has a spin speed of 1600 which is a plus when washing towels as the higher spin speed takes out more water to cut down on drying time. My old washer spins at 1800 but these are no longer available. It does mean though that you need a very stable floor otherwise you would find them travelling across the floor if they become unbalanced. The washer also comes with an additional free 5 year warranty (which is worth quite a bit in itself), free installation and free removal of the old washer.

Job done. It arrives on Friday. I think our clean clothes will just about stretch to that.

So what is our quandary you may wonder? Well it is the old ‘shall we shan’t we’ debate and here I am referring to whether or not we try to put the new flooring down in the utility room and decorate before the new washer arrives on Friday. It would be benficial to do it now whilst we can put the old washer outside ready for collection and that would leave us with a clear space to work in and no heavy washer to keep moving around. The downside is we will have little Freddie for 3 of those days so it might be difficult. The alternative would be to have the new washer plumbed in and then wait to redecorate and put the new flooring down once our granny daycare services are no longer required and put up with the fact that we would have to keep disconnecting and moving the washer.

Weighing up the options we decided it was preferable to go ahead now and get it all done. We will only have until Friday to get everything sorted but having a clear space to work in is very beneficial and will make putting the flooring down a lot quicker. But will it be quick enough?

So once again we will have our noses to the grindstone to beat the clock and get everything done and ready for Friday’s delivery. No rest here then!

And the dirty washing is mounting up…..or should I say mounding up in the spare room.

But I do feel a sense of satisfaction that I can cross quite a few little jobs off my to-do list and will hopefully end February with a completed task list. For once.

Message for Suzanne at Life at No38 if you happen to be reading this – I cannot comment on your blog Suzanne unless I am a team member it says but there is no follow button either. Maybe like Sadie you don’t want comments at the moment but if you do you might need to adjust your settings to allow them. x

dear diary :: all about the garden

Back to rain and dull skies at the end of last week, but my lawns are loving it and have perked up a lot since that very dry spell we had a while ago; the ground had become quite hard in places and a drought on top of everything else is the last thing we need at the moment.

Thank you for all the comments and suggestions on my last post it is always interesting to hear how other people think and deal with life. Apologies for not answering each one individually. I will check out the Adriene yoga Jayne – it will be a while yet before my class begins again, so thanks.

It appears the world is in a big mess at the moment but then it always has been in one way or another – life is just messy and no matter how hard we work at trying to sort out the mess, more comes along.

I feel I had a very lazy week again last week and very little housework has been done, intended, but not done. A few hours in the garden, a lot of exercising and phone chats and a little time in the kitchen making a quiche is the sum total of my activity. I feel quite worn out – not by hard work but by the emotional turmoil we find ourselves in daily after watching the news – I don’t know about you but as the easing of lockdown and the relaxing of rules continues I feel as if I have been left stranded and need to find my way home – what is our new normal? – I need to know what I am doing and where I am going.

By last Friday we felt a change of scene was in order so we packed up a light lunch, put the sketchbooks in the car and set off over the Strines, part of the Peak district, that lies to the south of Holmfirth and the north west of Sheffield; a beautiful stretch of moorland, farmland and a collection of resevoirs – a haven for both wildlife and walkers. It was drizzling but we didn’t care it was just good to get out once in a while.

We sat in the car with our picnic admiring the view over Bradfield and then decided to check out the garden centre we once visited down the road at Loxley. We were in luck – the rain had kept people away and only four cars in the car park.

So we had a good hour wandering round ( following the one way system of course and distancing where necessary). They did not have the plants I wanted but I did buy some terracotta saucers, a plant pot, 2 bags of large cobbles and some seeds (White aquilegia, I keep losing my plants in the winter, and some basil). We were also given a free packet of lily bulbs that were going to be thrown away at close of day.

After a short walk to the village on Saturday morning to catch the post and a visit from the person who came to take our throat swabs, for the government Covid survey we have been asked to take part in, I went out in the garden. There was plenty to do; not much weeding but a lot of dead heading as the heavy rain had caught many of the flowers in the pots leaving them soggy and rotting before they had chance to open.

I played around with a few of the cobbles laying them out in different places – I am not 100% sure where they are going – it is just an idea at the moment and may not work out – luckily they are large enough to lay and then move, unlike the smaller gravel stones. I will keep you posted on this one.

The peonies in the sunny border have been gorgeous this year – the tight little buds unfold slowly to reveal such an expanse of froth and frills – sheer delight – though they continue to be at the mercy of the weather – the wind and rain are not helping them to bloom for very long but whilst they are still hanging on there I will savour every moment.

Yet more frills on the patio…..this is the clematis I bought last year with a token I had for my birthday, I planted it this year in a deep terracotta pot. Called Tranquilité it is a very compact plant only reaching about five feet making it very suitable for the patio. It does well in shady positions too so I can move it around the garden when I need to brighten up a dull spot.

As the honeysuckle flowers on the obelisk by the fence are beginning to fade and die, and before long the towering foxgloves will drop their petals leaving seedpods behind, this is one little corner that will need a new focal point. I found this old wicker hanging basket in the shed and planted it with the last of the Tom Thumb nasturtiums I grew. DH then made me a wooden bracket to attach to the fence so I could hang it up and let the nasturtiums tumble over the sides so that when the flowers come out (and I hope there will be a mass of them) there will be a lovely burst of orange hovering above the green foliage below, and if I am really lucky they will bloom whilst there is still the purple of the foxgloves to clash with.

There has also been a little maintenance required in the garden – reseeding in areas where the shrubs had overhung the grass; since March we have been doing some major pruning of the large shrubs in the shady corner, leaving us a bit exposed and overlooked now by the occupants of the house behind us but the viburnum and escallonia are both very vigorous so by next year we should be quite private once again. This is how it was before on the left – a very lush corner and now on the right with a bit of a big hole!

There is a conifer hedge beyond the shrubs that runs across the length of the bottom of our garden. You can just see a bit of it in the photo on the right – it belongs to the neighbour behind us and runs down the side of their garden as our two gardens meet. The face of the hedge on our side died years ago after a bad frost and not much of it remains in this corner – our shrubs always covered up the fact that the hedge is brown and quite dead leaving an unsightly hole in this corner. Unfortunatley, conifers don’t regenerate and as they have overgrown the boundary line we cannot put a fence there ourselves but once our shrubs regrow the unsightly mess will be hidden from view. I keep hoping one day our neighbour will have it removed and put up some fencing – at least a fence does not die.

Other little places are flourishing – this lavender and nemesia are many years old and they sit together like old friends in this vintage bread crock and keep on flowering every year.

This year I moved it from behind the rock rose which was overshadowing the pot; the lack of light had made the lavender a little straggly as it searched for sunlight. Now it sits on the patio in full sun and it must like its new home as the lavender has begun sprouting from the base again so next year I will be able to remove the long straggly older branches.

And this little space where I have the two mini greenhouses working hard this year is soon going to be the new site for…..

…one of these modest sized greenhouses. They are locally made and have real glass not styrene glazing and are quite well made for the price. It will be painted of course, as I want it to be as much a decorative feature in the garden as functional. We decided on a six foot wide / four foot deep (like the one on the right). Only having a small garden I don’t want it to dominate the space, rather merge into it.

So that is all my news of last week and I have no definite plans for the week ahead other than I need to tidy out the shed, order the greenhouse, definitely need to do some housework and sew together the little jumper I knitted. If I manage all that I will be a happy bunny.

Tonight we will venture out and go shopping, strictly the supermarket, we have not wanted or needed to go into the town centre yet – we have all we need and more to get by.

Have a great week everyone and stay safe. x

dear diary :: staying home, staying occupied

Amazing things happen when you stay at home – well they do for us. We relax. Usually we are busy either packing or unpacking, coming and going so this must be the longest period we have spent at home for many years and I am loving it.

For longer than I care to remember we have been up and down to either my mum’s, my mum in law’s (when she was still with us) and my daughter’s houses visiting and then there were all the trips up to the cottage. It was quite normal that we only spent one weekend in four actually at home. In fact one year, whilst both of us were still working full time, we spent every weekend away from home for 13 consecutive weekends. I can’t say I can recommend it. This was during a period when my mum in law’s house (90 miles south) had to be decorated to go on the market when she moved into a care home, we also had my mum to visit (90 miles north) and we went up to our cottage in Scotland in between whilst renovation works were in full swing.

Having to stay at home has meant much more time to undertake all those things I have been meaning to do for ages – in fact I know I will not have enough time to get through them all before normality decends upon us once again.

For much of the time I have been busy in the kitchen, making sure nothing goes to waste.

Remember the birthday cake that I cut down for my daughter. I was left with three circles of cake. Little L drew in some strawberries for me but I decided to cut up the circles and freeze them until I could buy raspberries on our next shopping trip – no popping out to the shops for bits and pieces at the moment, we make do or wait.

And it was worth the wait!

I cut the cake into small pieces and added a layer of fresh raspberries then poured over a raspberry jelly that needed using up; once it was set I topped it with custard, double cream, more raspberries and a sprinking of almonds and dark chocolate strands.

As well as making trifle I was reminded reading Suzanne’s blog and her crimble crumble that I was going to use up the last of my frozen blackberries and a container of apple to make some blackberry and apple crumbles. Thanks for that Suzanne – they were delicious with ice-cream.

I also had some watercress left over from the ‘green soup’ DH made so I made one of my favourite summer recipes Watercress and Spring Onion quiches. Just the right size to eat with a little mixed salad and warm potato salad.

There is always plenty to do in the garden and this week the weather has ranged from cool to very hot. Yesterday I washed all the plant pots and left them to dry in the sun ready for potting on some of the seedlings that have now outgrown the trays.

Each day I come across more delightful little surprises. The tulips that begin life as a pale cream, then acquire pink markings as the petals open out…..

…have now magically transformed into a vivid pink as if someone has painted them overnight – maybe it is those fairies at the bottom of my garden by the toadstool!

This shady corner has some self seeded purple aquilegias growing amongst this bright green euphorbia that has worked its way under the fence from next door. A welcome gate crasher. I love the way nature can make its own wonderful colour combinations if left alone. It is always much better at garden design than I am.

The garden is looking quite good now with all the attention I have heaped upon it so far this year. This week we have been doing some much needed hard pruning of a few leggy and overgrown shrubs – so one or two areas of the garden are looking a bit sparse and exposed – hopefully it will not be long before they grow back to some mass again and give us our privacy back. I will show you some before and after photos soon of our hard work.

Because the weather has been so pleasant I thought it would be nice to make a special tea to sit and eat in the garden so that we could admire our handiwork. As we had trifle and some individual quiches I decided to bake a few fruit scones after lunch and make a plate of sandwiches with tomatoes, cucumber and a slice or two of cheese.

It was such a treat to sit out in this warm weather and while it is especially peaceful at the moment – only the birds could be heard as they busily flit around the garden hunting for worms in my freshly weeded borders.

We both agreed we should do this more often and as it happens it was good practise for the VE day street party celebrations we are taking part in today – don’t worry it is a social distancing party where we will all be sitting more than the recommended 2 metres away in our own front gardens eating our own afternoon tea – but I daresay we will all be singing together.

homestead :: the pantry tour

Don’t we all love a good before and after story – well this is one with quite a transformation. The space we now call the pantry started life as a downstairs cloakroom positioned just off the kitchen and one that we hardly ever used; sometimes it was a job to squeeze in there at all.

It was really a forgotten and unloved space with a basin and toilet, tiles and wallpaper from the 80’s.

Many of our neighbours have knocked down their cloakroom walls to incorporate the extra space into a bigger kitchen. With our layout this would not really have helped us so we chose to take out the basin and toilet and make the room into extra storage; after all it had become a dumping ground anyway!

So after a good declutter and a little rearranging and a lot of hard work from DH we have gone from this…….

….to this……

and finally this.

……..And this…….

………to this

These Ikea cookie cutters are too big to fit into the large glass storage jar on the windowsill so I found two of those clear licker sticker hooks and attached them to the window to hang them on. I quite like the way they are both decorative and useful.

I now have a home for my juicer too and as DH has put in some sockets I can use it in here – we could also fit in a small microwave should we ever decide we wanted one.

Starting at the wall cupboard to the left of the window on the back wall – we had to cut this ordinary wall cupboard down to half its depth as the base units we used beneath are actually Ikea wall units too, without doors, but we didn’t want the wall cupboard to stick out quite as far. We used a full length door with aluminium frame and frosted glazing so I can hide away medicines and homeopathic remedies in here as well as small jars of cake sprinkles and other baking goods.

The bread bin is a new addition (John Lewis Home £16)- we chose it because it has a flip up lid which I prefer, it is stainless steel and not as wide as our previous roll top wooden one so saves on space too.

We had one of those ‘left over’ narrow spaces which has actually turned out to be quite useful. The long slot at the bottom stores cooling racks, my glass pastry making sheet, large chopping boards and other things too large to store elsewhere. In the slots above I managed to find some clear plastic long and narrow fridge storage containers that slide out and are good for holding packet foods, such as stuffing, and my selection of herbal teabags.

There are three large open shelves beneath the counter top which go right into the corner and I can store less used items here – the maslin pan, baskets and mats and cake making and decorating items as well as some cake tins.

Above the counter top DH built some fixed shelving. I liked the look of the painted wooden brackets that we got from B&Q. I doubt I will need to alter the depth of the shelving in the future as the glass storage jars will last a lifetime (well mine anyway) and I don’t envisage needing to replace them. It is wonderful to see at a glance now what we have and what needs replenishing.

The very top shelf is now home to my old tin collection.

The tall fitment has shelving that is flexible – I have been moving the shelves around until I have (I think) finally found the best combination of shelf positions. The top few shelves have stores of staple foods such as canned foods, nuts, dried fruit, baking goods, packets of pulses and tomatoes, tea, coffee and oil. I can now buy stocks of these when on offer.

The shelves lower down contain my baking trays and tins.

The smaller undercounter fitment at the back of the room is again fitted with flexible shelving but for the moment I am happy with this arrangement and have used these large white plastic bins from Ikea as drawers and these contain snacks and crisps.

On the two lower shelves I bought these two wicker baskets from Ikea for £6 each. I like the fact they add a little rustic feel to stop the pantry looking too clinical. I keep onions in one and potatoes in the other. Most of our other veg is kept in a larder fridge. Tomatoes, bananas and ripening fruits are kept out on the counter top.

The drawers beneath the wall cupboard – two narrow and three deeper all have a purpose. The top one contains our old cutlery set that we were given as wedding presents – very useful when we have a party or get together.

Under this I keep all those odds and ends of gadgets that are used infrequently like an apple corer and pie slice.

This drawer is a work in progress – I will keep the paper serviettes in here but I am on the look out for better drawer inserts that don’t leave wasted space.

A drawer for tea towels and kitchen hand towels.

And the final drawer for aprons, tray cloths and tea cosies.

Organising the pantry has been one of the hardest things and DH is quite amused when each day he struggles to find something but I feel everything is at last in the right place. I shall be on the look out for anything that is not used and I am adamant that this space will not require decluttering as I won’t be filling it up with unecessary purchases. Other than a new icing turntable and a larger scraper for cake decorating I am pretty much sorted with equipment.

I have space now to stock up on a few basics that I find on offer and a place for all the items that are little used such as the maslin pan and the Easter basket. I couldn’t be more pleased at how it has turned out.

No pantry would be complete though without a notice board where we can jot down the items we need to buy on our next shopping trip.

DH painted the wooden frame of this whiteboard, originally pine coloured, to match the paint colour of the walls.

He then made a little wooden pen holder tray to fit along the bottom.

I have tried hard to only use plastic storage where it will be used for a long time and where possible have opted for glass, metal and wood. The old tupperware that I had some foods stored in will now be used for the freezer or storage in the garage so nothing is wasted.

The flooring is only temporary and we used some stick down dark grey vinyl tiles onto a sheet of hardboard – it will be much better than dusty floorboards until we have the new kitchen fitted and the same wooden flooring will be put down throughout.

So that is the end of the tour – I hope you enjoyed it as much as I love using it, and I am sure you will be seeing a lot more of it very soon – like my tablemats it is just a joy to photograph.

homestead :: inspired and tired

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

homestead :: domestic bliss

There is no denying that it has turned much cooler since the unexpected mini heatwave over the recent Bank Holiday weekend, but like most people I feel that we have said goodbye to summer now….ready or not.

My first reaction has been to swap the cooler cotton duvet cover for the extra warmth of my cosy flannelette. This seems a little early compared to other years and I may even throw on a blanket tonight or just grab a hot water bottle. The heating has started to come on in the mornings too now so the temperature must have dropped low enough to trigger the thermostat. Are we possibly looking at a long cold winter? I may need a new warm coat.

The kitchen is a blissfully warm place to be right now. After months of salads I am ready for a change to warmer, more satisfying meals using root vegetables and pulses and looking forward to roasted veggies with a good handful of herbs scattered on top and our favourite nutloaves. I am also being mindful of minimising our food waste and using up all the vegetables from the weekly shop in whatever creative ways come to mind.

We ended the week with a few oddments – a couple of leeks, one carrot, a courgette and two baking potatoes – once chopped I added some celery and onions together with a packet of brown lentils and made a good old warming Lentil Stew – enough for two days. Eaten with a chunk of bread and butter it was everything that I love about autumn food.

Whilst browsing my recipe books looking for some new ideas I noticed a recipe for Carrot and Walnut Loaf that I haven’t made for a very long time – a bit different from our usual nut loaf – vibrant warm colours with the mix of carrot and tomato paste – so thought I would make some to freeze ready to take with us to the cottage – when we eventually get to go. We have only just got the car back from the garage after 3 days…..I was expecting a very large bill…..one that you have to sit down for……however, due to one thing and another (won’t bore you with the details) the lovely garage man only charged us for the parts and no labour costs.

It has become almost a daily ritual for one of us to make a batch of soup – this week I made tomato and red pepper and a healthy green soup using a bag of the ready washed watercress, spinach and lettuce – throwing in celery, leeks and frozen peas – plenty of iron and no doubt calcium. I had a recipe for parmesan crisps that I have wanted to try for ages – I can tell you they are simply more than moreish and keep crisp in the fridge for days. I will add the instructions to my recipe tab.

The blackberries we gathered are now partly cooked and in the freezer. This little fellow below crawled out of them, luckily before they went into the pot.

He is so cute and so tiny – I have never seen a snail so small – he is on some kitchen paper here and magnified in the photo – measuring only about 0.5 cms in reality, smaller than my little finger nail. After surviving the ride home and then being rinsed in salt water I decided he should now have the freedom to live in the garden. I might regret that!

This is the longest few days we have had at home for the last two months so there has been a lot of ‘jobbing’ going on here. Plenty of domestic chores – stripping beds (as well as walls) , scrubbing floors and generally all those day to day normal household tasks. And lots of tea – mostly ginger, sometimes green or even just ordinary black.

But in and amongst and during some of the rainy days I have been sorting through my kitchenware – this is a category I both love to collect (mmm…. just how many blue patterned bowls do I really need) and find hard to part with. The one in one out rule does not work here so the new drinking glasses (only £4 for six from IKEA) – although they are a replacement still needed a home. The paper cocktail umberellas are used when Little L comes to stay – she always takes her glass of milk with one and a stripey paper straw of course – it has become a bit of a tradition now, granny’s little treat. I always loved them when I was a child and my granny used to save them for me when she had been out drinkng cocktails. I can’t say I go out for cocktails in the same way – mine just come courtesy of Sainsbury’s!

Progress on the pantry is steady – DH has stripped the walls of both paper and the old magnolia paint beneath and has started filling in holes. The back window wall needs a skim of plaster as does the ceiling – so now we wait to have someone come to do that.

The garden has been an absolute picture of colour this year and there are still plenty of bright spots here and there – but the colder wet weather is certainly bringing them to an end sooner than usual. It has been touch and go with the outdoor tomatoes but at last I think they are on the turn – just a little more sunshine should do it. Little L helped me sow a few more lettuce seeds – I may have to make some kind of cloche to help them on their way.

We have been busy cleaning and putting tools away in my new shed, which is now painted a lovely shade of grey and ready to take the harsh wet winter weather here. The festoon lighting has been taken down – drying off in the airing cupboard to prevent any rust. I decided they seemed a bit too delicate to be out over winter. I felt a bit sad to see them go and the garden feels a bit empty at night without the little trail of lights streaking across the darkness.

My dad’s old stool will have to go away too and the garden seats covered if this rain ever stops long enough for us to get all the outside jobs done. With such a turn in the weather there seems to be more of an urgency this year to get everything under wraps.

And surprise, surprise in my inbox…..I only mentioned that I needed this the other day as I was running out of face cream – a 20% discount voucher from Neal’s Yard. I decided to stick with the intense serum but drop to the cheaper Hydrating Frankincense cream to save a little money. I also had £12.90 in reward points to use so the two items were a lot less than expected.

The Liz Earle shampoo was covered using my Boots advantage points so I was well pleased with my savings this week. In fact the whole week has been quite a low spend week which is a good start to the month.

I decided I need to ease myself back into some craft work and hesitantly took the baby jumper I had been knitting out of the basket – I abandoned it sometime in May whilst making the Christening dress and never got back to it. I really couldn’t remember where I had left off but had a faint recollection that it involved some hand sewing of the seams before I can knit the last little bit of rib around the hood. I am pretty sure it will be far too small now for Sweetie so I only hope that Freddie might like it despite the bit of pink.

I have almost finished the first of the library book stack The Life of Stuff – an interesting read though I am glad to be at the end as hoarding is quite a depressing subject. I am dithering now between Christmas at Thrush Green and Not in your Genes for my next read. Do I want to be entertained or educated….

Have a lovely weekend everyone and welcome to new readers.

homestead :: the garden journal

I decided to turn my handy little notebook I keep with jottings on all things to do with the garden into an online journal. This is just a record of what I am planting and doing each month in both gardens, the one here at home in Yorkshire and the one at the cottage in Scotland.

At the moment I don’t want to start a separate blog so I am writing this in the pages section and you can read about my daily gardening exploits if you are interested by clicking on the link ‘The Garden Journal’ which you will find both along the top menu bar above the header picture and in the side bar and this will take you through to the relevant pages.

Each month will have a new page and depending, of course, which garden I am in at the time it will say by the date.

I will still be doing the ocassional gardening post on here – but the more day to day stuff will be in the journal. Pages unlike posts will not notify any followers when I update in the journal so I will let everyone know of any updates at the end of my normal postings. Hope to see you there.

sEAsons ~ the delights of Spring

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sensitive Plant”

Crocus Iris Snowdrop

The weather was so lovely at the weekend you could sense the fresh clean smell of Spring in the air – I just had to down tools inside and go outside for a while.  In the space of a couple of hours I had tidied up a few of the borders, gathered the last of the leaves and replaced some of the earth scratched up by the local cats.   The cats can be quite a problem so to protect the emerging plants and prevent them from being uprooted I pushed a few more twiggy sticks around the shoots – at least the crocus in the lawn are safe.

It is very encouraging at this time of year to see little buds appearing on most of the plants and signs of life poking through the ground here and there – I just hope any future frosts or snow does not damage them.

I also had a visit to our local independent garden centre because I still had £60 left on my voucher (the one the partners gave me when I left work).  The expiry date was 2nd February  this year but I managed to persuade them to extend it for another month as they have very little stock of anything at the moment – the season for them has not yet started and they do not sell many garden tools or gardening products like the large national garden centres.

In the end we decided on a Braeburn apple tree on M27 rootstock for our Scottish garden as it is a good time for planting and we will be visiting our cottage (caravan) in a few days time and can take it with us in the car.

We have a bit of a mystery in that in Scotland we have a Bramley apple tree and it has always fruited well – abundantly well last Autumn – but they are not self-fertile and are actually classed as triploid (requiring two other apple trees)  but there are no other apple trees or crab apples in our garden or the neighbourhood yet it keeps on producing fruit.  The Braeburn is self fertile but might be a reluctant fruiter so far North – we are banking on the mild Gulf stream climate that we have at the cottage to help it along but it may not like the winds.  We will give it a go.

With the remaining money I chose another of the glazed Heritage pots to match the one below that I bought last Autumn only a smaller sized one this time.I have always thought the one I got to put beside our front door looks a bit lonely so now it will have some company.  With the last £6 on the voucher I bought three pots of lovely pink tulips to go in it.

Today the weather is much cooler again and quite windy – good for the washing though – I have been working my way down all the dust sheets from the decorating at my daughter’s house.  I think we have more than we need now between us so the worst of them will be going out, they are not even fit for the rag bin.

I always like this time of year  – I feel energised to start cleaning and clearing, blowing away the cobwebs that have gathered in the corners over the winter and at the moment I am a little more motivated after feeling rather lethargic and probably a little lazy since Christmas.