dear diary :: oh my, oh my…

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

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

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

….and isn’t it hard to remember?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And of course welcome to all my new followers. x

creating health and well being

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

I am working on it!

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

dear diary :: another celebration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are certainly busy times.

dear diary :: the close of the year

I thought I knew what I was doing today but then life happened. DH received a phone call from the garage about our car – they are having difficulty getting a part and it will be Friday before they can do anything. He asked if they had a courtesy car to tide us over, as my little car is away on holiday in Norwich with my daughters until Thursday………. but they didn’t. Then 30 minutes later they rang back and said they had managed to rearrange things and if we could get down to the garage in town straight away they could give us one.

So my original plans for today changed in a few seconds and we had to scramble around to get our things together and walk down to the village for the bus. It was one of those local independant bus companies that set up using the old cast off buses that are sold on from the main companies – Metro and First buses in our region. The bus called Tiger buses was bright orange and so clapped out I did wonder if it was actually road worthy as we rumbled and rattled our way into town. It was the ride from hell; I swear it had square wheels. I just managed not to be sick down the women sat in front of me ( a morbid fear of mine when I am on a bus).

Opposite us was a young family, mum dad, baby in a pram and young teenage daughter. It hit home how lucky we are to have a car and how difficult and expensive it must be when you have to use public transport. The journey cost £2.70 each into town – it is 7 miles so too far to walk. The young daughter must have been going to stay with a relative or friend overnight as I overheard the mum saying that she was to pick her up at 8pm tomorrow evening. Because there are no buses running on New Year’s day she would have to organise a taxi to go and collect her -I wonder how much that will cost her on double time.

We collected the rather striking red and white Citroen C3 (doesn’t quite fit with DH’s image – he is hardly a boy racer!) and drove round to Sainsbury’s with some returns and to get a bit more fresh food and bread. Then round to TK Max to exchange a fridge container that we bought yesterday, and was later found to be broken, for another one. I confess it is plastic but not single use and should last me for years even if we change the fridge. I already have one or two in the fridge and they are so useful to keep like things together and pull out so that you can see everything at once and saves me having to contort myself whilst trying to rummage to the back of the fridge past many jars and packets.

I aslo bought a few reduced Christmas cards ready for next year. They are handy to have in case I don’t get to make my own or don’t make enough of my own next Christmas. They are packed away now already for next year.

Before Christmas I made a selection of ‘Thank you’ notelets intended as a gift for a friend who uses a lot of them; but then decided they were not really good enough to give as a gift but are OK for me to use. So that is what I am about to do now – write my thank you cards so that I can give them out when we see our friends tonight for our new year gathering.

In fact I need to get a move on so I have time to have a shower and do something with my hair. It is not a dress up evening just smart casual – it is lovely to be able to end the year amongst good friends if you cannot be with your family. My mum is with my sister and BIL down in Torquay, my daughters, partners and grandchildren somewhere on the coast in Norfolk and my brother does not do new year – so we are so lucky to bring in the new year and share a meal and a festive tipple with some of our oldest friends and that they live close enough for us to walk round there and leave the C3 at home.

I hope whatever you are doing this evening you have some pleasant memories of the passing year and I wish you health and happiness for the coming year.

Thank you everyone who reads my blog and for those who frequently comment and those who drop me a line only once in a while. It is lovely to hear from you all with your good wishes and good advice. I send greetings and hugs to you all. x

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2020

creating a simpler Christmas * Christmas eve and Christmas day

On Christmas Eve at 6.30pm we attended the Carols by Candlelight service at Baldersby St James; the church looked absolutely beautiful with hundreds of tiny tea lights flickering in the darkness.

Once back at home in my daughter’s new house we enjoyed a simple evening meal of baked potatoes and salads then gathered around the fireplace for the children to open their Christmas Eve boxes containing new pyjamas, a bedtime book and a small game each. It was time to hang out the stockings and quieten down ready for bedtime.

On Christmas Day we all travelled a few miles up the road to my sister’s house to gather there with all the rest of the family for a mammoth lunch of turkey or nut roast, five different vegetables plus the roasties and every kind of sauce imaginable! The three tables pushed together stretched to a good 15 feet long to accommodate us all this year as there were 13 of us in total.

Afterwards we opened our Not so Secret Santa presents and many others, all beautifully wrapped with homemade tags. My sister had made up a little stocking for each of us containing an orange, some chocolates and a couple of inexpensive gifts appropriate to the recipient. My stocking had a tub of Green and Blacks hot chocolate powder and some tiny baking cases for making sweets. DH got some fancy cheese in the shape of a snowman.

By the end of the day we were all tired out but everyone had a great time, especially my lovely mum.

So that is another Christmas gone by – doesn’t it take ages to get there and then is over so quickly.

I hope all my readers wherever you were for your Christmas and whatever you were doing had a good one. xxx

creating a simpler Christmas * days 1 and 2

This year I wil be creating a much simpler Christmas for those readers who are following along.

There will be simpler decorations, simpler food and a few simple activities and crafts.

As you will notice I missed starting yesterday but I am not fretting about that (much) and I am beginning today with a clean sheet of paper and time to gather my thoughts. It is exceptionally cold outdoors today and the areas of my garden that were tinged with frost earlier have surprisingly now thawed. Inside I can sit near the fire warm and snug and make a few plans – not the daily planned activities of last year; rather my run up to Christmas this year will just evolve like a mystery journey, even to me, over the next few days.

The whole point this year is to relax and enjoy the season.

Presently I am in recovery mode. We had another hectic weekend. Of course it wasn’t intended as hectic. Things just happen – well at least to me.

We drove up to North Yorkshire again on Saturday morning, making a flask of soup before we went; homemade tomato and a round of sandwiches. It was a pleasant, if not busy drive, but no hold ups. We pulled off the road at Boroughbridge and parked by the wier over the bridge whilst we ate.

After calling in at my daughter’s new house with our overnight bags we went up the A19 to Yarm to collect my mum. We had planned to have a toastie and hot chocolate for teatime in Costa at Northallerton and look around a few shops with mum until it was time to go to the talent show in my sister’s village nearby.

Our first unexpected problem was that Costa on the high street had a completely empty fridge – no food whatsoever. Not to worry I said they have another branch in Tesco. We returned to the car parked a few yards away just in time to see a lady reversing out of her parking spot and into the rear end of our car, but not in time to stop her before she drove away – either oblivious to what she had done or with the intention of ignoring it and DH who was running after her. She was too quick in her get away for us to get her number as it was quite dark and her plate very dirty. There is scraping on the rear end beyond the back door but luckily no dent.

A bit upset by this incident we managed to shrug it off so it didn’t spoil the day and drove round to the Costa at Tesco and yes glory be….there was food….but the coffee machine was out of order so no coffee or hot chocolate – we had to make do with tea.

After getting warm and fed we then drove to my sister’s village and settled ourselves down at one of the reserved tables in the village hall where my mum had a good view. The show was amateur but brilliant and my sister and her husband did a dance routine fom Laurel and Hardy and a spoof Red Barrows performance amongst a few other things. The whole village is great at coming together to put on these kind of events and even we are starting to feel like part of their community.

During the interval they served us with delicious hot pie and peas (we had a green ticket for the vegetarian option – cheese and onion pasties) and there was wine or soft drinks. I won a raffle prize that I passed onto my sister as it was some kind of cocktail maker and would be lost on me as I rarely drink.

All sounds fun so far but then during the second half the trouble started – two men came on and played Country and Western music and some of the audience got up and started line dancing – then another man joined in and they played ballards. We were all enjoying them but mum not so much and got fidgety, kept checking her watch every few seconds like she does when she is anxious and then moaning in a loud voice. She dislikes guitar music…….apparently (in all my life I never knew that) she didn’t know the songs (Achy Breaky Heart, Moondance and similar) and to put it plainly just wanted to go at this point as she felt they had played far too long by this time and was making quite a scene about it.

They were very good and we were all enjoying ourselves save my mother and I felt so bad having to cause a commotion trying to get her into her coat and walk out during their performance. It turns out they were only another song away from the end but mum being mum could not sit and be polite – age has turned her into a very demanding and self-centred old lady at times. It was one of those embarrassing moments when you wish the earth would swallow you up.

In the car she said she hoped she hadn’t stopped us from enjoying the evening but really she couldn’t have listened to that any longer!!! After taking my mum home we went back to stay with my daughter and on the Sunday we took her and the two girls down to Ikea in Leeds to look for a wardrobe for her new house. You can imagine the scenes at Ikea – an overload of people and queues that resembled a rugby scrum – but we managed to choose something that she will order online this week and have delivered. We are giving her some money towards them for her birthday and Christmas….and maybe next birthday and Christmas, depending on how much they turn out to be!

On the way home the fun started again -only 10 miles from my daughter’s house we pulled off the A1M at the Boroughbridge junction to fill up with petrol at Morrisons but just at this point something was obviously not right with the car. We initially though we had a flat tyre as the car was beginning to bump along quite badly and we were forced to stop on the roundabout bridge over the motorway. I got out of the car to look and realised the back end of the car was almost sitting on the ground.

We called our breakdown service and because we had the baby and Little L with us we did get priority but we still had to wait an hour. They would recover the car either to our daughter’s house up the road or back to ours. A minor problem was that all our bags and my medication was at my daughter’s and we needed to collect that first. Would the recovery vehicle please take my daughter and children home first and then take us home. No they could not. They could organise a taxi to take us to our daughter’s house and the recovery vehicle to take DH home with the car. It could not be recovered to a garage because it was Sunday and they are all closed.

There was no other option forthcoming – so we had to take the taxi on offer which would leave me stuck up in North Yorkshire and DH was taken first to Morley in Leeds then transferred onto a second recovery vehicle that took him home. Once at my daughter’s house I had to ask my son-in-law who lives near us in Huddersfield to drive up to collect me and our bags and bring me home. What a farce.

We now have an undriveable car on our drive and DH is trying to get someone to come and recover it to take it to a Citroen specialist to be fixed. It is the hydraulic suspension that has gone – it sounds like an expensive problem to me and will be more so if we have a bill for the second recovery to a garage.

So not only is the car being recovered but we are too! You will forgive me if I am not able to think about Christmas very much today but I am grateful that we are home safe and sound and warm. I might even speak to my mum later and be pleasant now I have had time to cool off from that little ordeal.

Keep safe and warm 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!

pleasurable :: some good moments amongst the bad

Thank you for the wonderful supportive comments to my last post – as Sybil Witters On would say – ‘you are all awesome’ and I can’t tell you how lovely it was to hear from you all. I know there are plenty of readers that are also going through some difficult times and blogland is certainly a very supportive community.

It has not been all doom and gloom here – there have been highlights and it has been helpful to me in preparing this post to see that amongst the bleakest of days there has been some bright spots – so this is a quick round up of my last few weeks.

We have been harvesting the ‘fruits’ of our labours with salad freshly picked from the two wooden tubs I planted earlier this year. The land cress and radishes have been particularly good.

On the morning of my birthday I baked a batch of mini cheese scones and then some fruit ones. I had just enough flour to make a Victoria sandwich cake that I filled with fresh cream and strawberries. I usually have friends and family dropping by during the day and like to have something to offer them with a drink.

We were still munching late into the evening when the last of our friends came round, luckily there was just enough left over for the Aussie cousin when he arrived next day.

Not knowing him very well, but hearing that he liked gardens, we decided to have a trip down into Derbyshire to visit the Winster Open Gardens. Winster is one of the oldest and most historic villages in the Peak district, full of quaint cottages and beautiful well kept gardens – the pub itself dates back to 1472 – so we thought it would be of interest to an Aussie who would not see anything quite like this in Australia.

It was one of those really hot days that we had (if you can remeber them before all the rain) and I was just coming down with a nasty chest virus but felt I had to soldier on to entertain our guest so I felt a little disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm he showed for anything we saw. However, DH and I enjoyed ourselves – especially the cream teas and Morris Dancers and we saw some very impressive gardens and delightful little corners.

I was in bed after this for a few days and DH had to entertain the Aussie by himself – I did feel a bit bad about it but not as bad as the virus was makng me feel!

It took a while for me to get back on my feet so Little L’s visit had to be postponed for a few days. It was still the hot weather when she came and we decided to take her out to a nearby village of Marsden to Tunnel End for a trip on the canal shuttle and a picnic.

We walked along the canal from Marsden until we reached Tunnel End and the little cafe. At this point the canal disappears into the hillside to reappear in Diggle over the hill – the tunnel is 3.5 miles long and takes 2 hours to travel through by canal boat. There is only just enough room for a single boat in the tunnel and it is quite dark and cold – I believe that to get the original horse drawn boats through the tunnel at one time you had to walk it through using your feet against the sides of the tunnel. Goodness knows what they did with the horse!

I know I would feel rather claustrophobic going through there and I am not sure Little L would have liked it so after our picnic we opted for the little shuttle instead that took us back down the canal to where we had parked at the station in Marsden.

Then we walked down to the village for a homemade ice cream. Marsden is a large bustling village sitting at the head of the Colne Valley with plenty of local independant shops, a small Co-op, and a few cafes and bars…and its own micro brewery and pub. It is nestled into the moors that stretch over to Greater Manchester and was once an important place for the woollen industry and dominated by the vast stately mills. Some of the cottages are quite old dating back to 1610 and, a new discovery to me, they still have the old village stocks – apparently last used in 1821!.

The Marsden Mechanics Hall is central to the village – looking as grand as any town hall and home to many events and activities it is the hub of the village, in fact we have been to a weddding reception here.

The River Colne flows through the centre of the village with a spectacular waterfall that has glints of gold like tinsel on a sunny day as it crashes over the weir.

We had plenty of trips to the park before Little L went home for her birthday and a party with her friends from school. She had decided on a local soft play centre as a venue and we went along to help. I was not prepared – the sheer volume of noise in these places is ear shattering and if you didn’t suffer with tinnitus before you arrive you certainly will when you leave! But a good day was had by all and then it was time for a visit to my mum’s.

We took her out to Saltburn on the Saturday and then Eggleston Hall on the Sunday – still enjoying that long spell of warm weather.

Eggleston Hall gardens are a real treasure – having mum with us now limits the amount of photos I can take whilst holding on to her. There is a nursery attached to the gardens with the most wonderful stock of plants if you have the time to browse. Sadly the browsing days are over now for mum but she did find a nearby bench to sit on whilst we had a quick wander round.

We so enjoyed Saltburn that we took Little L there the following weekend. The weather was not as good but it didn’t spoil her absolute pleasure playing on the beach.

This coming week we are having Little L to stay again but this time Sweetie and mum are coming too for a few days. That is if the car gets sorted as we are going to be fetching them. We suddenly had one of those engine warning lights appear at the weekend so the garage will be having a look today to see why. I have a feeling this could be another expense we don’t need at the moment.

I hope you have all had an enjoyable summer – I am trying to catch up with all the news. Going up and down to North Yorkshire and looking after the Aussie and the grandchildren has left little time for anything else this summer. At least the virus has gone and I am feeling a lot more human now. Whilst we have had a run of bad weather I have been having quite a tidying session in the house and crossing a few jobs off the list.

Today I am going to make some nutloaf and plan a few days meals ready for our next visitors. My washing and ironing is completely up to date for once and yesterday I managed a few hours in the garden removing what seemed like a thousand self seeded Aquilegia plants from the front borders.

Have a good day – back soon x