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.

dear diary >> another day, another birthday

Goodness don’t the years roll by. Another birthday has landed today, another year older… though probably not any wiser.

I was up and about at 6am to enjoy the cool air in our back garden. Breakfast outdoors is quite a novelty for us as normally it might be too cold, cloudy, wet or windy – today it was just right but even as I type the temperature is increasing and very soon we will be scuttling back indoors to cool off; our living room being the coolest part of the house once the sun moves round.

Some friends are coming round early to beat the heat. I have decided against making the fruit scones I had planned – it is far to risky to put the oven on – the kitchen will be like an oven soon enough. What a shame we cannot bottle this heat for the winter months to save on our bills!

I had a complete overhaul at the osteopath’s yesterday – my back problems are not doing too badly but in the course of conserving my back I have managed to do something to both my shoulder and knee whilst bending and over reaching. Added to which my neck is so tight and this has affected my jaw and I have woken up a few mornings with it a bit displaced. My lovely therapist worked on everything yesterday to try and bring some relief to the discomfort but I find any movement at the moment quite difficult. Walking, which was good for my back is now aggravating my knee, the cat / cradle exercises I did daily for my back are not possible because of my shoulder. I feel I am falling apart and learning to moderate my activity and movement to prevent further problems is a struggle.

DH, meanwhile, stripped the beds yesterday then washed and ironed the sheets and duvet covers. My contribution to the housework is limited to the dusting and writing a shopping list.

Our improvements in the home and garden and to life in general continue. If you remember Improvement is my focus word this year – some improvements are bigger than others but all of them have added quality to our life in some way. Painting the greenhouse has been on the list a while but often when we have the time the weather is against us. This week DH managed to apply 3 coats to the front and one side but has had to lay his brushes down at the moment due to this intense heat. It now matches the shed and I love the transfromation. It should also preserve the wood at the same time.

The back garden has a few pretty corners amongst the mess. I planted bush tomatoes, cougettes and potatoes this year as well as a few varieties of salad leaves and radishes.

Thank you once again for all your lovely comments – both those of well wishes for my ailments and for the hand made cards. And yes Sue we learn just how much we need our backs to be good and strong and in working order – I am slowly learning how to use mine better. It is not easy after giving it a lifetime of abuse…too much gardening, bending and sitting at computers.

My computer time is limited now so I am using the time to post rather than comment or answer comments at the moment. Normal service might well resume one day!

Have a good day x

dear diary :: February already?

Hello everyone.  How are you all – I have missed you, it has been a long time and life here has been no less frantic than when I abruptly abandoned my blog?  Of course every day I have intended to write a post….but we all know what we intend to do and then what we actually do can be quite different.

For those regular readers you will remember I had to make a hasty departure up to Scotland during the Christmas advent to survey the storm damage to the cottage.  The wind had taken the felt, on the flat roof kitchen extension, clean off and we had to find someone to come and re-roof just before Christmas and you can imagine the long list of people in the area waiting for a roofer to do repairs for them – so many properties affected.  If this aggressive weather is not due to climate change then I don’t know why it is getting progressively wilder.

Roof sorted, we returned home just in time to sort out Christmas. 

And with a long list of to do’s I set about completing the Christmas plans.  It seems an age ago now.

I had cards to finish making, writing and posting, presents to wrap and some for my friends still to make – this year I chose to make Florentines and found some pretty wooden bowls by Habitat to put them in. I had to make them the day before Christmas Eve so they were nice and fresh.

We had very simple decorations this year no more than the mantelpiece and a bowl of dried orange slices and we never did buy a tree; by the time we came back from Scotland there were only a few days before we were setting out to go up to my daughter’s house for Christmas and buying and decorating a tree for two days of pleasure seemed a little ridiculous.

Our wider family all got together for the first time in goodness knows how long for Christmas Day at my sister’s house (she has now got the most room) and we tried hard to keep it a secret from my mum just in case someone caught the virus beforehand and we couldn’t go. It was hard to surprise my mum as each day when I rang her she would say ‘don’t you know what you are doing for Christmas yet?’ and I would always reply ‘ no as we are not sure if we will be locked down’.

The grandchildren all had the most wonderful time and my mum was so happy to see us all.

I iced the Christmas cake so the three grandchildren could have fun decorating it all by themselves with some little figures and sprinkles. And they made a good job too it was quite delightful though I think most of the sprinkles were eaten before they got anywhere near the cake.

We all managed to dodge the Covid virus but DH and I did come down with a cold / flu virus the day after Boxing Day, as did my brother and little Sweetie.  Why just the four of us out of a gathering of thirteen people we will never know. 

So that was our Christmas and thank you all for your lovely greetings and messages.

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Meanwhile January has been spent catching up with myself and planning.  It is always a job I look forward to as the New Year begins and listing everything down tells me we have more plans than time.  Nothing changes!

My focus word for this year is Improvement.

I intend to improve one area of my life each month – everything from health to wealth, two of the areas which need a good overhaul.  Some areas do overlap and once I make an improvement I will obviously have to review and keep it going in the coming months….that is probably the harder part.

January is always a busy time here with birthdays. One of my oldest friends reached the grand age of 80, though she doesn’t look it, so I had cards to make. I was a bit stuck for ideas but settled on this one using up scraps of fabric.

My mum reached the even grander age of 96 and we had a trip up to see her and take her a chocolate sponge cake with fresh cream inside and chocolate on top, her favourite.

Little Freddie celebrated his 3rd birthday and I organised a little tea party for him at home with a jungle theme. It was mainly immediate family – my two daughter’s and their partners and his two cousins, Little L and Sweetie who came and they helped him unwrap the presents, play party games and eat the party food. Sweetie, who is almost the same age as Freddie could hardly wait to play with all his new toys and as soon as they were unwrapped and admired and he had moved on to the next one she would edge nearer and nearer to try them out for herself, hoping no-one would notice!!

We had so much fun making these party hats from Tesco – I can certainly recommend them. They were easy to decorate even for the little ones – each person chooses some eyes, ears and a mouth from a selection to stick on and create your own little character.

I made a jungle cake which again was super easy with some little jungle animals and dessicated coconut dyed green with food colouring. The log effect around the outside of the cake was created with some chocolate coated wafer biscuits sliced in half and stuck on with melted chocolate – it saved me mixing up some buttercream for the sides.

I found some jungle animal and foliage pictures on the internet to print out and stick onto card for decorations and to stick on the front of each party bag with their names (which I have obscured). The party bags contained a few chocolate coins, and other jungly bits and bobs and these cute little hand puppets peeping over the top I discovered in Poundland (£2 each and made from recycled bottles) and they were a big hit.

Currently we are back in Scotland enjoying a break for a few days.  There are improvements to be made here at the cottage, weather permitting and if the weather is bad then it is the perfect place to sit and do some more planning. But I will tell you more about that another day.

Bye for now x

dear diary :: blowin’ a ‘hoolie’….

It’s been a while I know, and one of the reasons I am writing this post is because we are in our safe haven, our little sanctuary in Scotland…far from the pressures of normal daily life at home.

It has been, as usual, a busy few weeks coming and going to see mum and helping out our daughter with childcare in North Yorkshire and our elder daughter at home.  On the last visit to mum and younger daughter we stayed at my sister’s glam home near my mum’s; it is spacious and beautifully decorated and situated in a lovely little village, I could easily live there myself – apart from the fact that we wouldn’t have the money to even buy a one bedroomed cottage there.  The house price difference between West and North Yorkshire is huge.  Still one can dream.

We celebrated little Sweetie’s third birthday – a small family party at her home – she has spent a third of her tiny life so far in lockdown, at home with mum, the local toddler groups being closed, so has few friends. Her cousin little Freddie and his mum and dad joined us for the day and after playing games and opening presents we all went to the local fish and chip restaurant in Thirsk and had the extended side room to ourselves which was nice.  Being vegetarians we had chips, beans and battered mushrooms – veggie burgers are on the menu but we are not keen of them.

I made the cake – it was the usual disaster.  Sprinkles had been requested so it should have been simple enough but the buttercream had far too much air in it so didn’t go on quite as smoothly as I would have liked and the white chocolate dribbles didn’t dribble quite where intended.  Of course I did it in a rush too, but little Sweetie loved it.

As I predicted the dress did not get finished in time so it will be a Christmas present. Since this picture I have finished the knitting and tacked the skirt to the bodice and all is looking good. The sleeves which if you remember I had to try and alter myself did work out perfectly in the end by only decreasing on the knit rows and not every row as the pattern said.

Mum has been taken to Leeds for the weekend by my sister and her husband (he is able to lift her in and out of the car as she doesn’t have the muscle strength herself to get out).  They are staying at a new hotel just outside Leeds ( she will have one of the disabled rooms to help her get about easily) and from there they will go to John Lewis in the centre so she can see all the Christmassy things.  She cannot come down to stay with us any longer because of the stairs so there is a big hole now for her at this time of year that needs to be filled, as we would take her Christmas shopping and have a trip into Derbyshire to Tissington and Ashbourne.

So whilst mum was being attended to we made our escape to Scotland.  We were met with the bad weather – blowin’ a raging ‘hoolie’ all night; our caravan rocking in the frequent strong gusts but luckily no trees down like the gales of 2010 that took ten large pine trees down in our cottage garden.

It is cosy warm in our temporary caravan as we are lucky enough to have double glazing and central heating but yesterday it was a scramble to get Calor Gas – there is a shortage and our usual stockist in Stranraer sold us one that had the wrong connection so we had to drive the 17 miles back to town to return it.  She was apologetic as they didn’t have the one we needed and we had to take back the empty bottle so that we could try elsewhere, as at the moment you can only buy a new Calor gas bottle by returning an empty one.

We were lucky and found the local shop in a village on the way to town had one left.  It was cheaper by a £1 and much more convenient so we will continue to buy the gas there in future.  So at least some good came out of a tricky situation.

It was the same with the major power cut we had on our last visit to the cottage and we were rejoicing that, although unfortunate at the time, it happened back then and the fault repaired because it would surely have gone in this last storm and it would have taken longer for the power team to get to us with so many people being affected with the wind.  The local garden centre had no power because of a fallen tree and they had been plunged into darkness, could only take cash and the café had to be closed.  We had trees down across the main road and for a time would have been captive on the peninsula as there is only one road back to town down here on the Mull, however it was cleared very quickly, probably by local farmers.

We only have a few days here and I have a little pile of ‘bits’ to look at, financial papers, a bit of knitting, making Christmas plans and catching up with some reading.  I finished The Winter Children – not really my kind of read but I persevered not wanting to abandon it. I have just read Christmas at Thrush Green by Miss Read again – always a favourite at this time of year – there is something so calming about her books where the lives of the villagers seemingly have order and sequence to them like the natural world and busyness is not a word that takes over.

I did the live family Not so Secret Santa draw from the caravan – so we all know who is buying for who now.  I am buying for my eldest daughter, whist DH is buying for my mum, my BIL is buying a gift for me and my brother is buying a gift for DH and so it goes on all around the family each person only buying one gift for another. 

We switched to the Secret Santa a few years ago now as the mammoth buying sessions had got out of hand as our family expanded.  No-one knew what to buy for each other and we ended up with a house full of gifts we didn’t really want and opening all those presents from one another meant there was little time to play games and have fun.

Our version is not so secret…hence the title.  Each person can provide a list of up to ten wishes of things they would like as a gift to the person who is to buy for them (which is different each year – hence the draw).  You can be as specific as you like or opt for a surprise gift or a gift token, (tokens are very popular with my brother and mum).  The gift or combination of gifts must only amount to £25 per person – it used to be £50, but has been reduced to £25 now (reflecting the fact more of us are on pensions or lower incomes). 

Because you list ten items the actual gift or gifts you get is still a surprise as you don’t know which one the buyer might choose to get.  If they are lucky and get your gift(s) discounted then to keep it fair they still have to use the whole £25, the difference cannot be pocketed by the buyer.  Everyone buys for the children as normal; they are not included in the Secret Santa.  It has been a great success and we would not go back.  It has cut down on all the tramping around shops looking for ideas and the expense of parking that goes with it.  And it leaves more time to enjoy the Christmas events that are put on everywhere.  This year we are going to the light show at Temple Newsam.

I still buy little things for my friends or make them as they very much like the homemade craft items.

In normal times and because not all of us could be together on Christmas Day we would have a big family gathering just before Christmas to swap our Secret Santa presents (but not open them).  You try disguising the fact you have bought an ironing board or wheelbarrow in wrapping paper!  We would often use the pub/restaurant where my daughter worked to meet and have sandwiches and home-made chips laid on with mince pies for afters and wear our best santa hats and jumpers of course.

We would play games (this is some of us below playing the guess who I am game)…

and have our musical interlude (whistle blowing and handbell ringing) …..and generally have a fun time. 

Because of Covid we had to have a Zoom party last year and pass presents on as best we could.  This year most of us are going to my sisters for Christmas Day, Covid allowing, so we won’t be meeting beforehand.

I am just starting now on crafting our Christmas – a simpler Christmas like last year, maybe even more so. I will try and keep you all updated as, throughout the run up to Christmas, I make cards and goodies, decorate the house and attend events.

Hope all is well with everyone – time allowing I keep dibbing in and out of the blogs I read to keep up with your news and occasionally I might even get to leave a comment.

Back soon x

dear diary :: roamin in the gloamin once again…

Just dropping by again to say hello from bonnie Scotland.

It has been a while but one daughter is now moved and settling in well and all the empty boxes have been passed onto to someone else – boxes are so hard to come by these days. Everything went to plan on the day and I was assigned the job of cupboard cleaner and organiser in the kitchen so now of course my daughter cannot find anything and when I go next time I probably won’t find anything either as she will have rearranged everything to suit her. Still the main thing was that all the boxes, but for a few craft items and nick nacks, were emptied and put away by the time we left.

We are now in Scotland once again with a to do list as long as a toilet roll. The woodland walk is in full bloom with pretty white sweet woodruff, pink dicentras and the elegant Solomon’s seal.

The pond is full of rotting leaves as we couldn’t clean it out last year because of the restrictions on our visits or put the pond net over last September to catch the autumn leaf fall. Thankfully, with little rain it is quite dry so will be easier to scoop out and clean then refill with fresh water though it is not a pleasant job and not one I look forward to. The primulas have multiplied and look stunning, I do need to plant some more of the deep orange coloured primulas though as they appear to have gone.

We have plenty of thick moss to scrape off all the paths and then we will spray some cleaner onto them to remove any residual bits. The cows have been watching our every move with curiosity all week.

After a mornings work we stopped for light refreshments! These small assorted danish pastries courtesy of Tesco are one of my treats when we come up here. There are five in a box so we always share the jam centred ones.

In the afternoon we visited Castle Kennedy gardens. (Jayne at The View from Bag End has more lovely pictures here from her recent visit to the area.) We always manage to fit in a visit when we come up and I really missed not being able to go during last year so it was lovely to see that it is open for visitors once again.

This is a very special place for us as DH’s grandfather was head gardener here from the late 20’s up to sometime in the 60’s when he retired. His granny and grandad lived in the head gardener’s cottage on the hill by the little bridge that takes you into the car park. DH stayed here for a while when he was younger with his mum and dad when they moved back from Ireland and he tramped daily around the estate trying to keep up with his grandad.

Because of our connection to the place we held our elder daughter’s wedding here in 2016 and had a marquee by the old ruined castle that sits next to the walled garden and the cute little wooden tea room.

The wedding was in July so the walled garden was at its best.

And the marquee took in the spectacular views across the estate and of course all our guests could relax and roam around the grounds during the afternoon.

And when it went dark in the evening it was quite magical.

Of course her wedding day would not have been complete without having the old tea room part of this big day. It has over the years had many coats of paint and also had the floor levelled so the tables no longer have blocks of wood beneath the legs to even them up. Today it has even had the addition of a disabled ramp.

The guests all enjoyed the afternoon tea provided on the picnic tables.

Everything was homemade and done on a tight budget – I made all the invitations, confetti, table flowers and favours….

…spent hours making yards and yards of bunting and a few hours decorating the marquee and putting up cheap white paper lanterns from a very wobbly ladder.

So it was lovely to wander around in the same warm sunshine that we had enjoyed that day with our memories and see that thankfully the place remains quite unchanged. We had gone specially to see the magnificent collection of rhododendrons that are in bloom at this time of year – they are renowned all over the world and they did not disappoint. They were stunning.

Many of them were planted by DH’s grandfather who also propogated many of the hybrids on the estate such as ‘Lord Stair’ and one named after himself RW Rye. He was awarded an RHS gold medal for them and of course we have his rhododendron in both our gardens. He is also credited as the person who propogated the pale lavender buddleia named ‘Loch Inch’ which many people will have in their gardens.

The round lily pond which is 1/4 of a mile across is another feature which is absolutely glorious.

The ‘newer castle’ built around 1860 is where Lord and Lady Stair reside and is situated between the two locks (the Black Loch – Loch Crindil and the White Loch- Loch Inch) and has magnificent views across the landscape.

We spent the afternoon sketching in the sunshine before treating ourselves to tea and scones – it was so nice to do something quite creative for once though I need a lot of practise I am decidedly rusty, especially the watercolour which is spectacularly bad – but at least I made a start – it takes time to get back into it.

We decided that today would be a ‘rest’ day and we are walking to the village and up the steep hill out towards the Mull to see one of the Open Gardens at a cottage that adjoins one we nearly put in an offer for, but we bought our cottage instead so it will be interesting to see what they have made of the garden.

The weather has been so hot here everything is beginning to look parched and dry and many of the flowers are soon over. Even the foxgloves have bent over heads from a lack of water. Our garden ranges from peaty and waterlogged to dry sandy dust and my style of gardening is just to let the self seeders find their own home where they are happiest.

So that is all my news so far which just leaves me to say a warm welcome to all my new followers and sorry for the lack of posts – life just gets incredibly busy and my energy levels incredibly diminished – but I hope everyone reading is enjoying the good weather, though personally I could easily tolerate it much cooler but at least the sea breeze helps to cool me down. I have had to garden all week wherever there is shade so I have been constantly moving around and consequently no one patch or task is fully complete. We have also spent some time over a concerning problem that has arisen because the new owner of the caravan site next door wants to put a locked gate at the top of our lane over which we have a right of access to our cottage. This would be very restrictive for anyone coming to the cottage if we had to hand out keys to everyone who has to have access, especially when we start to have contractors on site again to renovate the cottage.

Nothing ever stays the same for long these days and it is so easy to get swept up by other people’s agendas – I am feeling pretty upset by it all especially as it has been such a difficult time with the flood and then the Covid restrictions.

But tomorrow is another day as they say!

Back soon x

dear diary :: a week of celebrations

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A week of celebrations together with childcare for 3 days and I am cream crackered.

I am not sure if this lockdown makes things easier or harder as far as celebrations are concerned. With my mum being 95 on Tuesday this week and little Freddie just two on Wednesday I had to do something to mark the occasion for each of them, (and from a distance in the case of my mum) and in neither case, because of lockdown, would it be a big party. Sometimes a big party is easier.

As I wouldn’t be seeing my mum (who lives in North Yorkshire) I had a posy of flowers delivered to her from a florist in Thirsk (one that my daughter had used at Christmas and recommended) and I would also recommend them as they couldn’t have been more helpful. This is the link for anyone nearby alina-florist.

I couldn’t have them delivered direct to mum as I wasn’t sure they would get in the apartment building and if they did I wasn’t sure mum would get to her door. So I had them delivered to my sister’s the day before as she was going to be with mum on her birthday and she had arranged that a local deli would provide them with a take away afternoon tea.

The flowers were beautiful.

The afternoon tea I am told was delicious – and it certainly looks it – and my sister had taken the time to get mum’s best Royal Albert china out with the tiered cake stand and matching teapot – there is nothing better than a little pink loveliness on these occasions. Mum got loads of cards and had a really nice day even though it was just the two of them. We did a Zoom ‘party’ for her last Sunday so she could see the family all together.

For little Freddie it was up to DH and I to make a little birthday tea, complete with dinosaur birthday cake and games, as his birthday fell on one of our childcare days. It was not easy trying to put the roll out icing on the cake whilst looking after him -I found it rather difficult to get rid of the folds around the bottom and there was no time for any undue faffing. To add to the difficulties the strips of grass DH had made had become rather brittle overnight and broke into pieces.

I loved the little dinosaurs that DH had made using the cutters I had sent for on the internet from http://www.cake-stuff.com and choosing the neon colour mix of ready roll over the usual primary was the right choice. Little Freddie was delighted with the finished cake and that is all that matters. I am not even sure why I am showing you a picture of yet another cake disaster!

I also finished the jumper – just in time for him to get a little wear out of it. Sewing it together did get easier as I got into the swing of it and no doubt by the time I finish another jumper I will be much more proficient.

The weather has been so wet, windy and cold there was no chance of getting outside – the best we managed was the shopping on Monday night. To amuse little Freddie during these long days, limited to indoors, we set up a tub of water to play in – he loved it but could not have been any wetter afterwards had we stood him outside in the torrential rain!

So childcare is over for this week and now it is my time for four whole days to myself. I have necessary and urgent paperwork and banking to do and should I find we have some money in our account I will be very surprised. January is the month for my car tax and insurance, MOT and servicing – yes January is all about the car – never buy a car at this time of year or you are stuck with the bills in January for ever after.

After paperwork must come a few household chores, definitely the oven and perhaps the shower – neither are my favourite jobs, I find both require the skills of a contortionist to get into the nooks and crannies – though I can’t complain as much now I have the high level oven…can I?

And when all that is done I must get back to doing some of the half started craft projects – in fact I might even tackle the projects before the chores.

Have a good weekend everyone. x

dear diary :: coming together

Wasn’t it a glorious day on VE day, warm, sunny and calm; just perfect for afternoon tea on the lawn and a chat with the neighbours. It was very much a spur of the moment thing for us when my friend from up the road rang and said “were we doing anything in the lower part of the cul-de-sac for VE day tomorrow and did we want to join in with the upper part who were going to be out on their lawns for afternoon tea at 4pm?”

I had not heard of any celebrations and neither had my immediate neighbours but we thought it was a good idea to join in so I hastily made some leaflets and at clapping time that evening gave them to all the houses round about in the close telling everyone if they wanted to join in to be out on their front lawns the next day at 4pm. Not everyone in the cul-de-sac joined in, but the majority of people were just glad of getting out of the house and doing a little socialising – be it at a safe distance.

The next day, early in the morning our cul-de-sac swung into action – it was suddenly ‘bustling’ as neighbours appeared one by one and lawns were mown, bunting and flags went up, and chairs and tables put in place – the activity only ceasing to observe the two minute silence at 11am.

Preparations continued indoors as people baked and maked until at 4 pm they reappeared carrying trays laden with pots of tea and plates overflowing with sandwiches, cakes, even pizzas – whatever spread could be created at such short notice.

For some, like us, it was done in style with ‘proper’ white linen table cloth, cake stands, vases of flowers and china tea pots; for others a hastily found picnic table or rug spread on the lawn and a couple of mugs of tea with a few homemade ‘doorsteps’.


After tea we got to chat with neighbours new and old and heard of their experiences of Covid 19 and the lockdown and most of them, I would say, are concerned as to how the ‘release’ and easing of the lockdown will unfold. Many suggesting they will be taking it more slowly perhaps than the government will be advising and making their own easement plans even before Boris announces his plans today. Coming out of lockdown will be like coming out of hibernation and I will be with the slow and careful camp for sure. I think the tortoise will win the day.

As this hot spell continues I have suddenly got a heap of jobs to do in the garden potting on as well as a little pottering. It is tempting to plant up some of the pots and baskets with annuals but with the cold spell forecast and possible late frosts, I decided to hang fire and transplant some of the seedlings into bigger pots in the meantime. What a shame I didn’t get to buy my greenhouse last year – I really need one now as my mini greenhouse is rather full and limited for head room as the seedlings in the trays are starting to gain height.

Outdoors I have my vegetables and salads tucked up under cloches that I remove during the day – it was so warm the last few days you could almost here the seedlings growing and I have been astounded that there are signs that the potatoes on on their way as they finally push through the earth making little mounds like a mole – I had given up hope as I feared the seed potatoes had not sprouted very well when I planted them.


Sadly the forget-me-nots, that are currently covering my borders like a carpet, will be over very soon. Such a pretty little flower – I keep refilling the jug on the kitchen window sill and adding in some of the clematis montana, which has flowered profusely outside my front door, and the odd buttercup that I find hiding in my borders…they add a lovely touch of colour.

As the garden is unfolding into a wonderful canvas of colour just waiting to be painted I felt the desire to idle away part of the day sketching in the garden yesterday. It has really been far too long since I have put paint on paper and done anything worthwhile in my sketchbook – in fact I had to hunt around to find it as I gathered up brushes and paints to get started. I find the best way to get back into painting is to do some very quick 2 minute sketches – just getting something down on paper without bothering too much of the result.

On an evening, whilst watching repeats go around on the TV, Father Brown, Midsommer Murders (the 8 o’clock slot is my main viewing time) and if I don’t mind a late night – New Tricks often follows on, I have been doing a few rows of knitting but remain sceptical that it will be finished in time before little Freddie turns two next year – such is the pace that I go at!

This was my second attempt at the neckline – I pulled back the first as it did not fall into a well formed edge the first time and failed the inspection – in the words of Sybil on her blog, I failed miserably – so after consulting the wonderful Youtube masters of knitting I discovered how to form a fully fashioned edging with stitches that lean to the right or left – though I would say my attempt is probably more ‘fashioned’ than fully. The sleeves should be fairly straight forward if I can manage to increase on the correct rows – at least there is no pattern on the bottom of them that requires more concentration than I can muster by the evening.

Amidst all the fun stuff I really must get back to doing some targetted exercises for my knee – although gardening is good exercise for some things I do need to keep up with the stretching and strengthening exercises as well – though of the two types of exercise ….. give me gardening anyday – so much more variable as well as pleasurable. All daily walks, for our allowed daily hour, have recently been suspended as I have taken to resting and icing my knee again – is there such a malady as ‘irritable’ knee because that is what it is – if it does not like something it is very quick to grumble – it reminds me of Mrs Pringles leg in the Miss Read books!

Of the family there is litle change in the news – Mum is getting used to her own company inside her own four walls – entertained only by Talking Pictures and reruns of Miss Marple on TV; elder daughter , coming to terms with turning 40, and her partner are working all hours as they juggle childcare around Zoom log ins for lengthy meetings and younger daughter copes 24/7 with the two energetic weenies.

It would seem we have all made our own way along this unknown journey, sometimes just casually drifting along and sometimes with intent and whilst for some it has seemed like going into a very dark tunnel with no end in sight, for others the time is whizzing by as they rush to tackle a list of jobs on the ‘one day’ list and now scramble to get them finished in time for the inevitable return to the frantic world of balancing work and home life. How many have vowed to make changes, but how many will?

I too am planning on change – during the lockdown I have reconnected with our home in a big way and have had the space to identify exactly how I would prefer to manage my time in the future, doing more of what pleases my soul, and what gives me the greatest amount of satisfaction. A new balance is going to be my goal – but one seriously weighted to having more time for ourselves.

I leave you now as I feel the cold weather already descending upon us, waiting with bated breath for the Boris briefing today – in the meantime anyone for a nice hot cuppa and a scone? xx

dear diary :: forty years young

I am still finding it hard to believe I have a daughter who is forty. I can still remember the day she was born and the joy that I felt holding her in my arms for the very first time. She was nicknamed Peaches from the start, as she was quite jaundiced for a while, and looking back over the last forty years we have had so many delightful moments together and so many parties and so many cakes. Now she is a mother herself about to travel along the same path but in quite different times.

Of all the parties I have ever organised, or attended, this must have been the strangest – but it was also great fun and thanks to all my family who somehow against all the odds managed to make it a special day for my daughter’s fortieth birthday. We even had family members join in the video link up from the car on their way to the supermarket.

Of course not everything went to plan…it reminded me of an amateur dramatics society’s first night where blunders often abound….. but all add to the fun.

I had decided to make a naked fresh cream and fruit cake for my daughter with strawberries and blueberries – and what a challenge that proved to be, certainly not as easy as the pictures on pinterest would suggest! The baking part went without mishap but, just like the buttercream on the cake I made for little Freddie’s first birthday earlier in the year, I couldn’t get a smooth finish with the double cream on this one either – although to my relief it tasted just fine. I only had 8″ sandwich tins so had to cut each cake down to just under 7″ as there would only be the two of them (daughter and her husband) to eat it. I am keeping the off cuts to make a trifle, when I can get to the shops for some fresh raspberries.

The cake, card and flowers were delivered on the day to my daughter’s doorstep as we passed on our way to the supermarket for some fresh milk. My daughter had no idea of what we were planning for her in the afternoon. We all connected in to Zoom at 2 o’clock so that we could surprise her when her DH logged in at ten past two.

Each guest was asked to make a party hat to wear and a bun with a candle in so we could all light them together and sing happy birthday. I baked enough buns to use the happy birthday candles I found in my pantry and decorated them with my favourite sprinkles, though not enough fudgy bits for my liking. DH and I are still wading our way through these – such hardship! So far we have had them with afternoon tea in the garden and with a little of the leftover fresh cream and then when that ran out some ice cream – I am dreading getting onto the scales on Friday as I am sure I will have gained weight during this lock down.

The whole family got into the spirit of the day and produced hats, balloons and banners – even some disco lighting. The only balloons I could find were ‘Happy 3rd Birthday’ but I blew them up anyway – improvising in these strange times seems quite normal now.

My daughter was both surprised and delighted especially when Little L painstakingly did a solo tune of happy birthday with one finger on her piano followed by me on the handbells. And isn’t Zoom marvellous, DH managed to share on screen a few photos of our dear daughter’s earlier life to entertain everyone and Little L drew her a very sweet Happy Birthday picture. We drank a toast (I managed to find a bottle of ginger beer in the garage from a past party – and it was rather scrummy) and then played the ‘Daughter Quiz’ I had prepared. DH tried hard to keep up with the scoring on the score board though I am sure through all the rabble it wasn’t at all accurate and we ended up with a tie breaker question – it was amazing how much knowledge my family had – but in the end it was Aunty P that won. Then everyone did the very British thing that we all do in difficult times – made a cup of tea.

We all had a marvellous time thanks to technology, but how exhausting to be linked into Zoom chatting and partying for over 2 hours – and we all said how tired we were afterwards… but it was a day of making memories and will be a birthday we will never forget.

Stay safe everyone – hoping you are all well. x

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.