dear diary ~ here at last

You will guess where I am with the photo – for new readers that is our little cottage in Scotland.

I thought we would never get here – breaking our journey in Carlisle overnight is good for my back but it sure lengthens out the journey and although the Premier Inn is cheap and comfortable there is no place like home with all your home comforts around you rather than packed in a bag in the boot of the car.

We stopped off at Penrith on the way to Carlisle – a lovely little market town with no end of independent shops – luckily it was window shopping only as it was closing time. We ordered 2 personal pizzas in the nearby Dominoes take away for our tea and ate them in the car outside the posh George Hotel in the town centre.

I also managed a turn around the local Booths supermarket… another favourite haunt (we don’t have one at home) and I discovered they stock those little tins of Batchelors creamed mushrooms that I cannot find anymore in Sainsbury’s. I had thought they may have been discontinued…so I am ecstatic (and mum will be too as she loves them also) – I picked up four cans to keep us going and will give a couple to mum. We had one of ours for tea on Saturday night with a baked potato. I picked up a couple of boxes of mixed grain Sharpham’s flakes, a bag of brown basmatti rice and some wholewheat lasagne sheets – all of which Sainsbury’s have stopped selling.

On Saturday morning after the mammoth breakfast at Premier Inn (though we only have the Continental), we had a good run down from the border and on arrival at the cottage on Saturday gave a huge sigh of relief to find everything OK.  Our caravan in the garden (that we are currently staying in) was still dry and no signs of damp.  The only disaster if you can call it that was that 2 pillows that had zipped pillow protectors with a waterproof backing had not fared well and had little signs of a green mould appearing presumably because the pillow was unable to breathe.  They have never been a problem before so I think maybe the weather here has been very wet and damp for a while.  I quickly bagged them up and will take them to the launderette in town for a good wash if we get chance.

It is as usual very peaceful here in the winter and today the sea is silvery and calm with the sun catching the underneath of the clouds lighting them up across the sky – you cannot help but relax and enjoy the beauty.  On the first morning (Sunday) we had a late start to the day and after a long slow breakfast I cleaned up the caravan while DH began cutting the grass – it grows all year round down here on the mull – albeit much slower in the winter – but it takes quite a while to get it all done when the grass is long as the cuttings bin fills up much too quickly.

I never got to do a post before we left home.  As usual our busyness took over – we had Master Freddie’s 4th Paw Patrol style birthday party to attend and my younger daughter came to stay with Little L and Sweetie, so there was a lot of bed changing and washing going on.  Master Freddie and his guests had a great time – 2 hours at the soft play centre down the road and a birthday tea and games afterwards at his house. 

DH and I prepared the food whilst the children went to the soft play. I do like a good old fashioned party with sandwiches, a cheese and pineapple hedgehog and jelly and ice cream with sprinkles of course.  The kids ate much more than we thought and being careful to avoid all those nasty colourings they didn’t become too hyper. 

The cake (courtesy of Sainsbury’s this year) was covered in blue fondant icing but we put a piece into each party bag for them to eat and become hyper at home!

This little fire engine was a gift from Little L and Sweetie – it is from Aldi and folds up into a book When opened out fully one side is a printed road – great to pay with little cars on and the other side is a printed fire engine that makes up into a box that you sit inside complete with steering wheel – how brilliant is that!

I had my friend’s birthday present to sort before we came away – we only exchange little presents and we both like to buy from shops who sell hand made goods that support other people in their livelihood, like Oxfam, so I chose a tiny hand woven basket from a local shop called Fair Trader and added a conditioning bar of Patchouli and Sandalwood wrapped in some pretty cotton fabric from my stash.

I had a session with the osteopath last week to work on my back and this time my neck – long sessions on the computer does not do anything for anyone’s posture and certainly not mine.  I often find myself slumping over the keyboard and in turn this has tightened my neck muscles and is now affecting my hearing.

I have brought quite a few books with me in case of bad weather – (I am currently reading through these 3 Persephone books that were a surprise Christmas gift from yours truly) and my knitting which is going to be for the new baby in May and which has been on pause for over a week.  It is plain and basic but as a beginner who knows very little it might still be a challenge!

I also packed my little notebook where I make lists and do my planning – I have a lot of planning to do in all areas of my life – finances, wellbeing, house maintenance and the big one – what to do with the cottage. At the moment we are like Team Love it and List it and cannot decide on the best course of action. You might think I would be on Team List it but no….I still want to love it.

Whilst we mull it over there is plenty to do in the garden – the snowdrops are in full bloom and the daffodils not far behind so it is a good time to get down to some serious pruning. Like these hydrangeas.

Better get going then instead of chatting on here. x

dear diary ~ happy ‘blog’ birthday to me

I was spurred on to write this anniversary post after reading one yesterday by an all time favourite blog of mine ‘Johnny jumps up’ which I have been following for a number of years. She has given a lovely account of the changes she has noticed about herself and her life since she started the blog which made me think about any changes that have happened in my own life.

I began the first blog ‘Where the journey takes me’ on January 4th 2012 after much deliberation – but it turns out that it is one of the better choices I have made in my life and I love reading my favourite blogs as much as I love writing for my own. Sadly many bloggers have dropped off along the way but I intend to keep going as long as possible and would like to think I might even be blogging when I get to 90 like Pat on her blog ‘The Weaver of Grass’.

So what changes have happened if any?

This has taken some very careful consideration – delving into my past is always a little scary – I think I can say that the simple life that attracts me comes and goes – just when it is within my grasp and life is feeling ordered and calm – I hit a crisis or a drama which can turn my world upside down. In August 2014 we experienced an horrific flood to our little cottage by the sea in Scotland. It was intended as our retirement home and we had been renovating it at weekends and holidays for exactly 10 years, in fact we had just had the place reroofed so that water did not get in from above! It wasn’t the sea that caused the flood but just the sheer volume of water rolling down the hills a bit like what happened in Boscastle.

Only two weeks previously we had been overjoyed at the arrival of our first grandchild Little L and this was to be quite a life changer for us.

In 2015 my colleague became terminally ill with secondary lung cancer and I had to increase my hours to cope with the volume of work which was quite specialised so there was no-one available to help without some serious training. I remember being dog tired all the time and even had to log on to my computer during any holidays I had to deal with work.

In the January 2016 my daughter announced that she was booking her wedding in Scotland for the July, so only 6 months to prepare and only about 2 weeks to get a dress on order. I spent the next few months organising and booking things for her and then designed the invites and made what seemed like miles of bunting for the marquee. Although stressful it was a nicer stress than dealing with the insurance company for the flood (which was still going on at this point) or the grief from the loss of my colleague.

In 2017 I was able to throw myself into domesticity once again…still hoping for that simple life. DH and I started hosting a Burns night at home in Yorkshire with our closest friends which we do every year now. Work became a bit manic whilst I trained two new people to replace my colleague – one either side of me asking questions all day until my head was buzzing. Eventually work settled down and I was able to reduce my hours once again. We bought a small static caravan to put in the garden at the cottage with a view to renovating the cottage once again as the insurance company had paid us out at last. Things were looking up.

In July 2018 I had my last day at work on my wedding anniversary I welcomed the end of my busy working life and felt at last that I could now concentrate on doing all the things I had not had time for…more crafting, baking, housekeeping and going out for day trips with DH. Sadly, our retirement to Scotland was not going to plan as work on the cottage had still not begun but we were able to go up there for longer periods now that we were both retired.

After running out of photo space I started this new blog ‘Where the journey takes me 2’ and also paid to have the adverts removed as they seemed to be creating a problem for readers. Whenever I go onto my old blog now I am glad that I made this decision as the amount of adverts that WordPress put on is very distracting.

By the end of 2018 we welcomed our second grandchild into the family – Sweetie- and in January 2019 Freddie came on the scene. We spent as much time as possible with them and they have certainly given us so much joy. Everything bumped along as normal with some small ups and downs along the way until July 2019 when our little world was shattered once again as one of my daughters suddenly overnight found herself alone and coping with two young children after a tragic event no-one could have forseen and which has changed all our plans for the future.

More than three years on it is now looking like there will be no retirement to Scotland and our plans for the cottage are yet to be finalised after having many changes of mind over its’ future. The garden at the cottage is still my little paradise but I have thrown myself into the garden here at home and grow what I can in the space we have. My investment in the little greenhouse was another of my better choices. I love it.

Of course last year was almost a write off being stricken with a bad back and limited mobility for many months. It did tell me how important gardening was to me when I could barely bend down and I do hope I will be able to do more in the furture. My ageing mum is also a constant worry as she has limited mobility too but hers will never be any better and her memory is none too good either making communication difficult. Having to give my sister (who lives close to her and does 3 days of care) some respite from her more frequently, together with being required to cover parts of the school holidays with child care leaves us with much less time to go to Scotland for any decent length of time.

So what have I learned about myself along the way – I realise just how resilient as a family we are – we have had some very stressful times and yet managed to keep going and mostly keep smiling. Maybe because of enduring some hard times we sailed through the pandemic and I loved being in lockdown with no demands on us – it was as close to the simple life as I fear I may ever get. But I am not complaining, nor disappointed as I know that family and their happiness is everything to me even though it takes up much of my time and leaves me busier than ever and far removed from the simple life I long for. I also know that I am not alone with many of my problems and readers often comment on their own similar troubles or often give good advice.

Looking over my blog it appears from all the posts and photos that I do like organising events and making things for them – weddings, parties, get togethers, family picnics and celebrations and this probably stems from my past life in fashion when I organised fashion shows and photo shoots – if I had my time again perhaps I would have taken an events manager’s course at University – such a course didn’t exist when I applied for Art College.

I also know that sustainability is important to me – recycling, reusing and cutting down on waste and stuff. I want to feel I will leave this world knowing that it is on a better course than it is at present so that my grandchildren have a future and that the destruction we are causing is turned around.

I do like to be organised and although I think I like the idea of routines in my life I can honestly say that I don’t really have any – going to work each day was as close to a routine as I got and now I am retired an hour or two of pottering before breakfast and an evening meal at about 6.45pm, followed by a nightly call to my mum are my only daily routines but in between anything might happen and usually not what I had planned but more what I impulsively feel like doing. I think my blog and my random posting is testimony to this.

I am not just impulsive, often to my detriment, I know there are certain things I leave to the last minute – I am one of those people who work better under pressure but afterwards always wonder why I didn’t begin earlier and I admire all those bloggers who are able to plan and execute a task well ahead of time. I am hopeless at challenges too or keeping up with some of the monthly ‘join in’ posts with other bloggers – I know there is another Scrap Happy Challenge post on the horizon and I haven’t even thought about it yet.

However, blogging at my own speed and taking photos has been an absolute joy over the past eleven years – my camera skills have certainly improved, my spelling may have too…I hope. It can be helpful to look back over both my blogs from time to time as they are a useful record of all my crafting achievements and I am sometimes surprised at the amount I actually get done even though I would like it to be more. When I see the wealth of creativity on many of the blogs I visit I do often feel that I don’t apply myself enough to do more but I will be working on this with my new Focus word ‘contentment’ and allow myself to be content with what I do achieve.

So I think I can say that although I have not by any means reached that wonderful life of simplicity I continue to work on it and see small improvements – as my blog title suggests it is a journey and one day I will arrive.

I promise that this will be the longest post of 2023 and if you have got this far through my ramblings you deserve a cup of tea. x

dear diary >> ringing in the new

I thought I would drop by to wish everyone a very happy and healthy New Year 2023. We will be celebrating as usual with our closest of friends that live locally – just a very informal get together.

I find New Year’s Eve is very much a time of reflection and it has been lovely to look back on some of the photos and remind myself that although 2022 has not been the best of years for us there have been bright moments amongst the gloom and I have achieved quite a lot.

We managed a lovely family holiday in Scarborough and celebrated my elder daughter’s graduation in December when she received her MSC in Environment and Development from Leeds University, which she has been studying for part time over the last 6 years or so whilst working, being pregnant and looking after little Freddie; having to struggle on with her studies during the Covid months and having Covid herself was an added test of her resilience – so we are so proud of her ability to soldier on and gain her masters degree.

My focus word for the year was ‘Improvement’ and each month I documented little things that had improved. I began in January by making a list of some areas that I felt needed improvement to make my life and the household run better and simpler…..

‘Buy things before you need them’ – I am very organised when it comes to keeping one in hand with such things as toothpaste and shower gel, I cannot remember a time when we have ever run out but buying a present for someone’s birthday, or a new outfit for an event and I confess I can leave it to the last minute.

Tie up loose ends each day ‘- I have this maddening habit of working on something but then not quite getting to finish it and I have to put it aside – often because I am either distracted or interupted by such things as phone calls, making meals or having to move onto something more urgent….or life can sometimes just get in the way. It can be a few days or even weeks before I can get back to a task by which time I have forgotten exactly what I was doing. My plan was to get better at trying to finish what I start.

Being more prepared‘, especially when going shopping – sorting out coupons and vouchers in advance and checking the fridge and freezer and store cupboards so I don’t over buy.

The ‘one hour pottering and putting away session‘ – I do this first thing in the morning whilst I wait for an hour before I can eat after I take my thyroid medication.

I made a real effort on each one and if I stick to them my life runs more smoothly but it was difficult keeping this up when I had a bad back and then the Covid struck in November and rendered me useless. Now the busyness of Christmas is over I will be practising these habits once again in the new year.

Each month I also made small practical improvements around the house and garden and to our diet and health. With help from DH I made a point of finishing some little jobs that had been on my to do list for ages – hanging a picture, planting the seed potatoes, putting up a shelf, emptying out an old garden pot, selling some books to Ziffit, rehoming my candle collection, mending my dress, replacing the old washing line and the doorbell…well the list was endless but one task a day meant a lot of little tasks being completed over the year.

We also made time to go for a walk morning and afternoon and I exercised my back once a day.

I am writing a new master task list now of all those little jobs that need doing – it will no doubt run to pages – anything that is actually a project will be broken down into some bitesized tasks small enough to complete in a day.

So in the coming year I will continue with my tiny every day improvements but I will be changing my focus word – more on that in my next post in the new year.

I am so looking forward to the new year and a fresh start and am eager to read all your thoughts on what changes you might be making – whether they are resolutions or just ideas.

Happy New Year 2023 to everyone xx

creating >> the ‘Crisis’ crafts

It is that time of year in our village when all the different groups and churches begin to hold their annual Christmas coffee mornings to raise funds for various charities. I always support the one at my local church that raises money for the charity Crisis – they provide shelter and a warm meal for the homeless on Christmas day. A long time ago I was one of the people who organised the coffee morning – so it is quite dear to my heart.

I try and provide a few saleable items each year for the craft and gift stalls. This year it has been a bit of a scramble because I have not been well with the Covid and my energy levels were less than zero. I cheated a bit this year and found these lovely inexpensive treat bags in The Works (6 for £3) and filled them with sweets from a tub of Cadbury’s Heroes. I would normally make my own bags from wrapping paper but these are so cute.

I still have some of the ‘free’ plant pots left that came from the lady in the village where our cottage is in Scotland and this year I filled four of them with miniature narcissi bulbs. To make them look more attractive I hand stamped a little label and wrapped the whole thing in cellophane using those very handy roasting bags that you can buy in any supermarket.

The shoots are just starting to poke through now so they should bloom in a few weeks time.

I am happy to report that the coffee morning was busy and the items I made had nearly all sold in the first half hour. I spent a happy couple of hours browsing the gift stalls and chatting with old friends over a cup of tea and a lovely homemade ginger biscuit. I was also given an invite to a party next Saturday evening and luckily that is a free evening for us.

Yesterday we had my grandson Freddie to play whilst mum and dad went to an appointment. It was lovely to see him and of course he can chatter away so much more now. When mum and dad returned I made a meal for us all – it was a bit makeshift as it wasn’t planned but broccoli bake always makes a quick and easy supper dish.

I am trying to keep Christmas low key this year but things are already starting to feel a bit hectic. My fruit for the cake is marinating with the brandy in a bowl and tonight, if everyone can make it, we will be connecting on Zoom to do our family Secret Santa draw and arranging a pre-christmas get together party for the big present swap. We have very few dates in December when we have nothing on – I am not sure how that has happened but I shall have to get myself organised to cope.

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