dear diary : November already

“How silently they tumble down
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.

At other times, they wildly fly
Until they nearly reach the sky.
Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow.”

–   Elsie N. Brady, Leaves

Can you believe it is November already? As I look outside the very last of the leaves are clinging to my Amelanchier, the rest having been brought down quickly with the wind and rainfall over the past few days. The bare trees everywhere are a sure sign that I need to get a move on now and start on the Christmas plans.

I seem to have spent last week and the weekend pottering, but slowly getting a few jobs done around the house. Maybe not what I had intended to do but nevertheless there has been a satisfying tick made at the end of the day on one or two tasks, many of which have possibly rolled over from last month.

I have more or less caught up with the washing and ironing. I know it is always an ongoing household chore but when we return from the cottage there is quite a heap of bedding and dirty gardening clothes to wade through on top of the general clothes. Presently, I have a large bucket with our socks soaking in it ready to wash in the washer tomorrow. I know the washer does a pre-wash but it takes so much more water and time when an overnight soak will do the same and in less water. Then I have the remaining gardening clothes and I might wash the cushion covers from the living room and I am done.

I have also been sorting as I tidied. I don’t know about you but I often end up with ‘things’ upstairs that belong downstairs and vice versa, or have items waiting to be put away – so I stop and have a bit of a putting away session, getting everything back to its rightful place. Whilst I was in a drawer or cupboard putting away I had a quick check to see if I could spot anything that I do not use or was in the wrong place or could be slimmed down to make more space. And I did.

They were mostly just little things like some very old blank cassette tapes that we would no longer use and some TV recordings on DVD’s that we can no longer watch. Every little adjustment lightens the load in my quest to minimise our stuff and what a difference it makes to the space once they have been removed.

I had been keeping six empty 2lb glass jam jars that once had mincemeat in and I reused them as storage containers for rice and couscous (I now use the larger kilner style clip jars in the pantry and I am happy with them). They took up quite a bit of valuable shelf space in the utility cupboard and as I could not think of a use for them I decided to let them go or maybe I will use them in the garage. So now I can get all my small empty jam jars that I do use and are waiting for the lemon curd at Christmas and maybe marmalade in January on the one top shelf.

As I have been pottering about I have been noticing just how many of the things we have are either used a lot, used infrequently or sometimes not at all. As far as I can see the ‘not at all group‘ fall into three categories

  • not used and probably never will be,
  • not used but would if time allowed
  • not used but are of some sentimental value still.

Of the ‘not used and probably never will be’ group are a number of items that were gifts from friends….unfortunately gifts not quite to my taste, but I keep them because someone took the time to buy them for me. After a while I will take them off view and put them away in a drawer. Some of the toiletries, smellies and things I just don’t use I will sometimes pass onto other people but it seems an ongoing exercise and makes me feel quite ungrateful. I try to address this when I buy gifts for other people by buying flowers, book tokens or something like food that will not add to their decluttering.

Of the ‘not used but would if time allowed’ I really must make the effort to address this. I have knitting patterns in the waiting, sewing projects on the go, music CD’s that I haven’t listened to in ages and audio books ditto….I could go on but you get the gist – I am sure you have the same.

Of the ‘not used but I am setimentally attached to’ I sometimes feel there is no hope – I know I am a sentimental person and once in a while when we are together with my daughters we will get out the old projector and have a good laugh at the old slides going back to my younger days in the 50’s or I will get out one of the memory boxes (yes I have more than one) that hold such delights as an old mobile phone and my grandad’s first driving license that provide us with hours of entertainment. I do love to hang onto such treasures and they could never be replaced.

But then there is the stuff that I buy myself… you know the everyday temptations in the cheaper shops, especially around Christmas time – another Christmas jumper, the odd book from The Works, a few crafty bits from Hobbycraft, things I think I need from Home Bargains (but don’t really) and not to mention IKEA, and within a couple of years what was a must have becomes yet another thing to declutter and hit the charity pile…the cheap Christmas jumper full of bobbles, the book on the shelf unread, the crafty bits still in bits and a load of things that were just not that needed after all.

So next year it is going to be my year of limited and mindful spending. I can’t say it will be no spending, as currently we are decorating through the house, but I aim to make anything I buy and anything that comes into the house much more considered- I no longer want heaps of stuff around me and I certainly don’t want to spend the rest of my life decluttering.

A while ago I received a 20% online discount for Neal’s Yard and ordered my usual face cream and serum – probably my one and only indulgence – and as a birthday present from DH I took up the offer of the Heritage Beauty Box (worth £125) for only £25. I must say it was worth it just to receive such a beautifully packaged gift – with all those individually wrapped goodies inside – and every bit is recyclable.

I will use all these products and the mass of gorgeous tissue paper has been ironed out and stored in my tissue paper box for future use.

At the moment I am reading two books. The one on the left Cut and Dry, borrowed from the local library (and I will be very sorry to lose it when I have to take it back), is full of ideas for dried flower arrangements around the house. I do love having dried hydrangea and seed heads at this time of year and a scattering of leaves.

I bought the other book The Winter Children at a charity coffee morning pre-pandemic and couldn’t get into it the first time round and after a few pages I lost interest and read something else. On my ‘sort out and sort through’ days last week I noticed it in the little stack of books on the bedside table in the guest room. I decided as part of my reading through what I already have challenge to either read it or pass it on.

So I will give it another go as I have just finished The View from the Corner Shop by Kathleen Hey. She was one of the diarists taking part in the Mass Observation project during the second world war and her daily diary from a shopkeeper’s perspective gave a really good insight into how the local people in nearby Dewsbury lived during the war, where attacks were so infrequent that at times they wondered if there was a war going on. An interesting contrast to the daily life not that far away in Sheffield where I grew up (Sheffield being very much under attack because of the steel works) and where many of my own family were left homeless after being bombed out.

Amongst all the tidying and sorting I am managing to squeeze in a little knitting time and the part knitted part fabric dress for little Sweetie is coming along – the front, left back and one sleeve all completed. The sleeve head is not right though (too small for the armhole despite following the pattern to the letter and checking it a number of times) and I will have to adjust this when I knit the other sleeve.

Being a novice knitter the only way forward I can see would be to do a decrease for the sleeve head shaping on every other row rather than every row as the pattern says which I think whould increase the depth. Unless of course any of you brilliant knitters out there can advise me differently.

I found this lovely lightweight soft printed corduroy for the skirt part in Boyes and it was discounted too. Sweetie’s birthday is on the 10th so I need to get my skates on a bit. Alternatively I could give it to her for Christmas and hope she doesn’t grow too much.

It is always a constant aim of mine to try a new recipe at least once a week where time allows. This week I chose this recipe Spiced Pear and Stilton tarts with Watercress. I had to adapt it slightly as DH is not over keen on Stilton so I used some rather lovely Shropshire Red that I had bought on one of the Sainsbury’s Smartshop scan offers. I love using pears in cooking and so I bought one of the bags of small mixed pears and intend to use what is left for a pear and ginger pudding.

Then this morning surprise, surprise… my rather soggy December issue of Country Living dropped through the letterbox and being so eager to see what was inside I stopped immediately to take a tea break.

dear diary :: autumn closing in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some highlights of our week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decisions, decisions….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend everyone…love to all x

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