dear diary :: capturing a little colour

It was wet, wet, wet here yesterday – certainly a day for staying inside – but I did sneak out to take some photos as I love to capture those tiny glistening raindrops balancing on the leaves and dripping slowly from the berries. There is still some highlights of colour around the garden to brighten up these grey days. Even the little Violas under our open porch are hanging in there and continue to flower.

And inside too thanks to those many jars of posies I made for the tables at the christening buffet and which are now scattered around the house.

I came across this little gem yesterday in Wilkos – the rose gold ridged jam jar. It came with 3 silk peonies but I have removed and replaced them with fresh flowers. I am not normally a ‘sparkle’ person, prefering a minimalist Scandinavian look, but a few touches here and there add something to our guest room….

…which is a very calming grey with just a hint of soft blush pink (thanks to Sadie who introduced me to pink and for which I now find I have a bit of a crush on it).

I also bought these Christmas foam stamps and glitter stickers for £1 each in The Works. I thought Little L would love to make something Christmassy with them – secretly I do too.

And what is this…….DH’s workbench in operation and that means….

….the pantry is now well underway and has units installed. He still has the wall cupboard to go up on the wall to the left of the window but first he has to do a major Ikea hack and cut down the depth of the cupboard so it is much shallower. To the right of the window and running along the wall on the right to the tall cupboard will be open shelving for storage jars.

The left hand floor cabinet will have a series of five drawers of different sizes to take extra utensils and tea towels and the other cabinets will have open shelving. We are now waiting for the man to come and fit the worktop as it is ‘L’ shaped and will need an expert join at the corner – as most workmen at the moment he has a lot on and will ‘fit us in’ – before Christmas I hope.

I have been busy too – remember the tablemats I made recently – well I have at last finished the remaining two using the other pattern of tea towels in the pack. The reverse is just a plain white honeycomb cotton.

This fabric was not as easy to sew as it is a looser weave but once I had started there seemed little point in stopping and now they are finished I do like how clean and simple they look.

DH decided that as it is beetroot season he would try his hand at making Beetroot and Ginger soup. It is such a lovely Christmas colour and a sprinkling of green chopped chives on top of the swirl of yoghurt would have been a nice touch. It didn’t quite have enough beetroot flavour for me – I much prefer it raw and grated in a salad – or roasted with root vegetables….but if you don’t try you don’t know. Having said that I would make it again but maybe not that often.

I need to turn my attentions now to focus on Christmas – December will be here on Sunday and there will be little time left for anything too creative so it will definitely be a simple affair this year and in my book that is no bad thing. I am already thinking of what will be necessary to do and what I can leave out. More on this another day.

So that was my day…how was yours? x

dear diary :: cleaning, baking and shopping

Back to grey and dismal and plenty of rain yesterday. How glad am I that I decided to go in the garden on Sunday whilst it was dry and sunny and get my planters sorted. It was far too dark to sew the jumper or do anything that required plenty of concentration and light, even with my daylight anglepoise switched on.

So I cleaned instead – both bathrooms and our bedroom. Not a thorough clean but not a quick flick of the duster either, just enough to bring a shine and that lovely smell of clean freshness into each room. I like to fling the windows open in the mornings even if it is raining – I do end up with wet window sills sometimes.

Lunch was a simple affair; we had more of the mushroom soup (the recipe is now in the recipe tab) with the remains of the previous night’s salad and a few slices of bread and butter.

Then I set to and baked the four victoria sandwich cakes that will make up the birthday cake. They are so simple to make – I only have two sandwich tins of the same size though – I used the smaller 8″ ones as we don’t want a huge cake to eat. What a shame I couldn’t bake all four at once to save on electricity. I might just invest in two more tins as I can see that there are going to be many children’s birthdays coming up in the future.

The cakes are now layered between greaseproof paper and in the freezer. I will be taking them up with us to my daughter’s house on Saturday so that Little L can help decorate it once I have assembled the layers with a little jam and cream. I am planning on plain vanilla buttercream around the outside covered with these colourful sprinkles I found in Sainsbury’s. I think Little L will manage the sprinkles quite well!

I planned a few meals to take us up to Friday evening and went down to Sainsbury’s for the shopping. We were later setting off than I would have liked by the time the cakes were cooked and cooled and we met with the after school traffic and the queues. It made me feel quite glad that I no longer have to battle this traffic every night after work.

I bought a dress in Sainsbury’s that was half price – reduced to £9 – it needs a good press and I hope it fits. It is made of a warm stretchy jersey and I can wear it with fine wool tights and my boots so I will probably wear it on Sunday for the birthday get together.

DH has a second coat on the walls now but is going for a third to make sure it will not need redecorating for a long time. Sorry for the poor photo quality the light is really so bad again today. The ceiling is All White and the walls Ammonite – a soft grey that we are using throughout the house as we decorate each room. We also have lights.

Tomorrow might see the end of the painting and then the part I have been waiting for – assembling and fitting the units. Once these are in I will be able to see what space I have and start planning what might go where.

We have never had a microwave other than at the cottage as I enjoy cooking and make most of our meals from scratch each day. The only reason we had one at the cottage was because we had to manage for a week without a cooker or fridge when we first bought the place. When we do our kitchen (planned for next year) we will be in the same position again, without cooker and fridge for a while, so we thought a small microwave might be useful and we can keep it and use it in the pantry.

On a different note altogether I thought I might mention the book I am reading – borrowed from the library – The Christmas Reader by Godfrey Smith. It is a collection of Christmas stories and poems. Some of them are quite interesting because they are reminiscences and diary entries from famous people such as Harold Macmillan and young Queen Victoria.

Harold Macmillan and his family spent their Christmas at Chatsworth – his account of this exuberant Christmas period is fascinating. Many of the Devonshire family and their additional friends and guests arrived with their own staff and ponies so the numbers ultimately reached to 150 people spending Christmas at Chatsworth – that is some party and a lot of catering! Many of the women and children stayed on after the Christmas festivities for another 2-3 weeks (imagine that!).

The excerpt I read last night was about as opposite as you can get – a piece written by Winifred Foley from A Child in the Forest and part of a trilogy about the hardships of a very poor family. Their Christmas breakfast was half a tin of Nestlé milk to share on their toast. I would like to read more so will be tracking her books down in the library – maybe some readers have already read them?

Today is dismal again I am not sure I should attempt sewing up the jumper but I do have plenty of paperwork to be doing – the receipts are mounting up and I haven’t done an October tally yet to see what shape our finances are in. Interestingly, Lucinda mentioned in her recent post about ‘feeling’ when her finances were OK even when she had no hard figures to view and I can very much relate to that. I think we all know when we might have overspent.

I also have the November birthday cards to write and get ready for delivery or posting. I hope I made enough. If I have any time left over I will probably look at the Christmas card design again.

Better go and get on with the day now – have a good one. x

dear diary :: accomplishment

I was up early yesterday – washed, dressed, breakfast eaten and dishes washed before making my way to the craft room. I was determined that I was going to finish the tablemats – well two of them – as I need to buy more interfacing for the other two. For new readers these mats are made from a tea towel pack from Sainsbury’s. The striped tea towel was cut in half and is backed by the plain grey with a heavy weight firm interfacing between the two layers.

Of course no sooner had I started than the first interruption arrived in the form of my daughter, son in law and baby Freddie. Although I am always delighted to see them I also wanted to get my sewing done while the light was good and it was not exactly a social visit – she wanted to go over the Christening arrangements with me.

Now, my daughter (who is probably just like me) never does anything by halves so we spent the best part of seven hours, with a small interlude for lunch and a cuddle or two with Freddie, going over the food to order, the food to make ourselves, the quantities we would need, the invitations, the decorations and the size of the tables and how we would cover them.

Did we forget anything?

In and amongst the discussions I finally managed to finish the tablemats and here is the photo to prove it.

I am quite pleased with how they turned out and they are a big improvement on our old ones. This is part of my drive to ‘beautify’ little areas in my house.

I had such a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment I only hope today is just as productive then I will be happy.

On today’s list is more sewing – I am going to attempt to finish the little jumper for Sweetie. I think it will be too small for her now so I will have to see if it is any use for little Freddie and if not I will donate it to one of the stalls at our Crisis coffee morning.

If there is any time left over I am also going to sew together this lovely snuggly cushion cover that my dear old mum knitted for me about two years ago and it has sat in my project basket ever since. I think it is moss stitch (you knitters out there will know better than me) and it will be a great addition to my winter cushion collection.

She has even stopped asking me if I have got it finished so she will be delighted if she sees it completed and on our sofa when she comes for her pre Christmas visit in a few weeks time, and I will be delighted to have another task crossed off the list.

I often wonder to myself why it is that so many projects in this house fail to reach completion – is it poor time management, taking on too much or maybe I need to push myself more.

Often in hindsight I would do things differently. The marathon last week going to Scotland, then to see mum and then taking out the grandchildren – one obligation after another was a bit much. It was so tiring with all the long journey’s that it has taken me the best part of this week to recover.

I have everything unpacked now and the washing done ready to repack for our visit back to North Yorkshire at the end of next week for Sweetie’s birthday celebration. It must have been so much easier years ago when families lived closer to one another.

Anyway, enough of my moaning I need to get on with the sewing and before that I have mushroom soup to make and prep the winter salad for tea which we will be having with those old favourites….baked potatoes.

Looking outside this morning it is glorious sunshine and so I might get a chance to plant the cyclamens and I still have a few mixed tulip bulbs to go in.

DH cut the holes in the pantry ceiling yesterday for the downlights (which was another reason for daughter’s visit as our SIL brought the hole cutter). He managed a mist coat on the ceiling to seal the new plaster and hopefully today will get another coat or two done.

Things are moving on here at last. x

dear diary :: a day of accomplishments

I had a rather disproportionate feeling of accomplishment yesterday to the amount of things I actually got done but it felt good to do something and move forward.

The washer is now working a treat and together with the warm wind I managed to wash and line dry a couple of loads so I have a pile of fluffy white towels waiting to go into the airing cupboard and an assortment of clothes to iron.

It is important that I keep up the daily routines I have developed since leaving work even when they seem to go astray or I have to abandon them for a while; checking emails, doing the ironing, shining the sink, entering receipts, planning the meals, taking my supplements, eating an apple – they bring a sense of accomplishment each day in themselves – if anything else gets done then that is a sure win.

We emptied the old cloakroom of its contents – this is only a small part of it above in the picture. It was a bit like Mary Poppin’s bag once we delved in there and now the stuff, that was once quite contained in the smallest room of the house, has spread itself into every free corner throughout the kitchen, dining area and living room resembling that expanding foam when you release it from the tube. I am looking at it wondering if it will all fit back in when it becomes the pantry.

Of course not everything is due to go back and it is this stuff I must deal with. I have decided that a car boot sale is the way to go as we have things not easy to sell by means of ebay because of the weight and I would rather try and get rid of it all in one day rather than string it out. We have a lack of boot sales round us so I am looking to go to Bedale near my daughter. They hold one every Saturday until mid October – she says it is quite a good one and she has room to store the stuff in her house until we have a nice collection together, and she can add in some of her unwanteds.

Once empty DH set too like the guy Jonathan you may have seen on the program Buying and Selling and within no time had hacked the tiles off the wall and then created himself a little sauna with the wallpaper steamer going full pelt.

The wallpaper is now scraped off but we need to remove the old patchy magnolia paint beneath until we get back to the bare plaster; then we will have a good sound surface to apply the paint on the walls.

Whislt he was working away I enjoyed a relaxing couple of hours with my neighbour catching up with news and airing our thoughts on the state of the country. I am not a very political person but I am worried about our politicians at the moment and the fact that we are being led into unknown territory and what is the real motive for this. It is rather overwhelming especially when I feel what we need is a bit of stability and reassurance.

Enough said on that topic.

I tried a new recipe for tea – it worked out well and tasted delicious, a relatively simple and inexpensive meal using red lentils, sweet potato, red peppers and mushrooms with halloumi cheese slices placed on top. The picture does not do it justice – the one in the magazine looks much more appetising! I will certainly be including it in our meals for the coming season. I will put the recipe up under the new Recipe tab above.

I have an assortment of recipe clippings to file away in my folders – so that will be a job for today. I have the guest bedding washed and waiting to go out on the line – it looks a dry sunny day here so far. Then I am going to look at the finances, reviewing last months figures and planning for September.

August seemed a long month but I am sad we are at an end as it signifies the end of summer too. The mornings are seeing a definite change now and a lot of the flowers are already dying back. But there is something quite comforting in nature as it always continues from one season to another and we adapt to the changes; always looking forward to repeating those little pleasurable activities that come with each of the seasons and ones which we will no doubt have done many times before.

My favourite at this time of year is definitely blackberry picking and collecting the Bramley apples to make pies and crumbles, I am sure you will have your own too. I will mourn the end of summer whilst eagerly awaiting the cooler weather and darker nights – when I can snuggle down with blankets and candles by the fire and watch a few favourite period dramas.

Have a lovely day everyone. x

dear diary :: worn out

Needless to say the intentions I intended yesterday did not happen. The engineer came just after lunch – was a lovely man – very knowledgeable – located and fixed the problem in no time – and best of all it was only a small fault – charged £38 and no call out fee – I could have hugged him! If anyone lives in the West Yorkshire area the company that we used are here called Advanced Domestic Appliance Services in Wakefield – I can highly recommend them.

For the rest of the day I was too worn out to do very much – the events of the last few weeks have taken their toll and I ended up having an afternoon nap for an hour to make up for my nights of interupted sleep. When I am stressed I suffer with night terrors – badly – they wake DH up too. I have not as yet lept out of the window like some sufferers. It is a fault with the primal limbic brain not switching off and prevents deep sleep too.

I am finding it difficult to let go of the constant worry – it floods into my mind as soon as I wake up in the morning and niggles away all day. Like my friend’s neighbour, who always referred to her grandchild as ‘that baby’ (we never discovered what sex it was), we are tending to refer to our disasterous day of drama and crisis as ‘that day’. Life is now classified by the terms before ‘that day’ and after ‘that day’ just like BC and AD is used to place an event on a timeline.

We did go to Sainsbury’s for the shopping though, spent more than we had allowed for but managed to stay in the black – just. There are only 2 more days of August thank goodness – so two no spend days are in order. The £80 bill included multiple buys of some of the more expensive items we use that were on offer, toothpaste, muesli, large pack butter, lightbulbs – it made sense to buy them with such large savings. I think. I noticed the fresh veg and fruit is really rising in price and we bought quite a bit so we can make and freeze soup. There was an extra 5p on bread this week too.

Whilst in town we went to the library to return the children’s books I took out for Little L. We can park at the smaller town centre Sainsbury’s for two hours if you spend £5. In my mind it is better to pay £5 for the parking and come away with some groceries than pay £1 an hour in the other car parks and come away with nothing.

I had a good browse in the Library and decided on this little stack. I don’t know why I prefer non-fiction to fiction – I suppose I like to learn things. DH had the Look and Learn magazine when he was little and is like a walking Google having retained a lot of information from an early age. All I read was Bunty! But I loved it and cracked the code before joining the club to get the badge, which I still have.

I started on this book called ‘The Life of Stuff’ by Susannah Walker. I worry about how captivated I become reading about other people’s stuff or reading decluttering books by the dozen – is that normal? Anyway I couldn’t put it down…….. so adding to my sleep deprivation…ah well perhaps an early night tonight.

So today we really are going to start on the pantry and I will try out the washer too – it is a good windy day and great for drying towels and making them super soft.

First we have to empty the old cloakroom and find somewhere to store the stuff that we mean to keep in the pantry when it is finished and get rid or find new homes for the items that will not be going back in there.

I find this kind of decluttering in a dumping ground hard. It is usually full of stuff that does not have a proper home – oddments, large bulky things, items that cannot be kept in the loft or garage as the extremes of temperature would affect it, or purchases that have been bought ready for some time in the future – like the shower unit we bought to install at the cottage (somehow I don’t think it will be needed very soon as that is another project on the shelf at the moment!).

So what am I waiting for – better go and get on with it because today I usually go round to my neighbours in the afternoon for a catch up chat and a cuppa.

Welcome to my new followers – just to say if you have only just joined in the reading of my blog this is a kind of bleak period in my life so do forgive my little moans – I am usually a happy little soul. x

dEAr diary ~ a close run thing

When I said on my blog on Thursday that we had finished the decorating at my daughter’s house and the carpets had been fitted ‘just in time’ – I never realised how ‘just in time’ this was going to be.  Baby X arrived on the scene 9 days early this morning to surprise us all.  A beautiful baby boy as yet with no name.

So I am now a proud granny of 3 grandchildren and feeling a bit exhausted at the thought.  Mum, dad and baby doing well and all of them sleeping after an eventful night and soon I will be too as I have to be up and out tomorrow to take my car in for its first service at the garage and then we will be going on to Ikea in Sheffield to look at (and possibly buy) the units for the new pantry.

I am doubly excited tonight!

dEAr diary ~ just in time

This is a day of celebration – we have finally finished the decorating at our  elder daughter’s house, the new fireplace has been installed and the carpets were laid yesterday on the stairs and in the living room – it all looks wonderful – clean and bright and ready just in time for her new baby coming (due date the end of January).

A close call though.

DH and I are relaxing today after our marathon and catching up with a few household jobs ourselves.  I feel we can now concentrate on getting our new kitchen chosen, ordered and installed and fitting out the pantry which we will do ourselves.  It has been a long time coming and I just hope that nothing happens to delay our progress this time as we first started the whole new kitchen thing back in 2008 and since then it has been one crisis or drama after another that has meant our kitchen has had to be put on the back burner.   I have got to the point where I dare hardly mention the words ‘new kitchen‘ as I don’t wish to tempt fate.This room currently known as the dumping ground will be our new pantry – it is the old downstairs cloakroom and toilet which we never used very much – we have only capped off the drains and water supply not removed them entirely so it could be turned back at some time in the future.  As you can see not a pretty sight – though some of these boxes are actually my daughter’s belongings and some items can go back into the new shed.  Thank goodness I have been able to just shut the door on all this – but now I have the chance to get it sorted – starting tomorrow.  Maybe.

This morning I washed some of my daughter’s throws that I brought home with me to lessen her load and got them out on the line.   She is washing her baby clothes to prepare them which is much more exciting so  I also volunteered to wash all the dust sheets for her but they will have to wait for a dry windy day.

For lunch I made another batch of tomato soup and for tea we had an old favourite using leeks – Cheesy Leek ramekins (which will do two meals) and tonight will be served with a winter salad.   It is so much easier having a menu plan and I find this way we have far less waste and don’t over buy with the shopping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

clEAn and lEAn ~ dashing away with the smoothing iron

Not the most thrilling of days today – the clearing and cleaning in the kitchen had to take a back seat again whilst I caught up with the pile of ironing.  It really has been breeding in the corner and so I was forced to take action as I have to prepare the guest room bed for my mum who visits on Monday and iron the bedding.  I decided not to have any spares for the guest bed to save storage space but with the recent comings and goings another duvet set would have been useful.

I also ironed all the tops and skirts that I used to wear to work – as I have not needed them they have lingered at the bottom of the basket.  I put a couple of the tops on the charity pile and one of my least favourite black skirts and the rest of them in my wardrobe.  It will be interesting to see how often I wear skirts again now I am at home.  I have quite a collection of skirts because I never wore trousers at work.  I might even throw out all my thick black tights as they are years old and have been washed and worn so many times they owe me nothing.

After sorting my own items I then started on ironing my daughter’s clothes – not the woolly hats and gloves of course.  I intend to get these all done and back round to her house before they come home from holiday.  I will be relieved to get them out of my way – four big bags of laundry is a lot to move around my tiny laundry room – wherever I put them they seemed to be in the way.

DH spent a few hours at our daughter’s house putting the final top coat onto the skirtings, architraves and banister rails.  So only the doors remain and that will be another project complete although we may be called upon to help with the living room when they decide if they are removing the fireplace or not (very messy job).

We have scaffolding surrounding our house now ready for the rendering on Tuesday – weather being fine.  Once this is done we can replace our shed and get some of the stuff that is presently residing in the garage and what will be my pantry put back into the shed – can’t wait.  We will also be able to use the compost bins again – it has been so hard for me to put all the vegetable peelings in the bin and miss out on all that lovely compost.

DH had a go at taming our large Cherry Tree yesterday whilst the weather was fine – it needs more than a prune.  It is in our back garden but when we stand in the front garden facing our house we can now see the top of it above the roof – eek!  I couldn’t bear to chop it down as it gives me lots of shade but it is a bit too large for the plot.  I think he may have to climb it to get to the very highest branches…gulp!

I am looking forward to having at least one of our projects completed soon as we always seem to have a few on the go at once and I am trying hard to keep our main focus on the kitchen and the outside of our house.

Even when I cannot do anything major towards the kitchen decluttering I am making sure I at least do something small each day towards getting the project done.  Tonight I used some of my red sticker items and opened the first jar of Bon Maman compote, the cherry flavour, and made some individual crumbles.  We ate 2 of them with evaporated milk on top and the rest I will freeze.  I think I am becoming less and less of a pudding person I would have enjoyed the compote on some yoghurt so much more.  DH hates yoghurt.  What, I am wondering, am I going to do with my excessive yield of cooking apples if I don’t make crumbles?

Tomorrow it will be more ironing and some paper work to catch up on.  Then on Sunday I am declaring a day of rest and hoping the weather will be good enough to go to the Bakewell Open Gardens in Derbyshire.

What is the likely hood of rain!

have a good weekend. x

homestEAd ~ rEAdy…stEAdy…decorate

After sorting out a few things at home yesterday it was time to go back to my daughter’s house across town to continue helping them get their house in order.

When I say in order I am not referring to a bit of tidying or cleaning – no, by order I mean the complete works – decorating, finishing off half completed jobs and revamping not to mention the outside of the house, painting the front door and window sills, laying turf and putting down gravel.  Then there is the shed (needs a coat of paint) and the garage (ditto).

So welcome to Where the journey takes me 2 – Painters, Decorators, Odd Jobbers and Landscape Gardeners Limited.

My daughter has a small house but in the eight years they have lived there they have only finished the two bedrooms and put in a new bathroom.  We offered to help them sort the rest of the house out ready to put on the market at some future date and to make it a nicer environment for them to live in until then.

About 3 years ago they removed the dividing wall between the tiny kitchen and the dining room to make one large space and all the cabinets, worktops and the laminate floor were put in place.  It just needed decorating and the dishwasher installing which DH and SIL were responsible for doing and was finished just before our holiday.

At last they have a fully functioning kitchen and dining room and it is looking much more like a usable space.  In the dining area they have a dining suite that belonged to my mum and dad, it was one of the first pieces of furniture that they saved up to buy when they got married.

The suite is an original vintage 1950’s  – The sideboard design was first shown at the Festival of Britain, 1951 and there is one permanently displayed at the V&A.  It is mahogany with Bombay rosewood veneered doors that feature a striking double helix pattern cut to reveal white birch beneath.  It was designed by David Booth, made by Gordon Russell of Broadway and sold in Heal’s of London – although I believe my mum and dad bought it from Robert Brothers department store in Sheffield.  We have lovingly cleaned and polished it and this little family treasure looks really quite nice in its new home.

My role in this makeover (when not polishing furniture and making cups of tea) is as the landscape gardener – before our holiday I removed many old woody shrubs that had grown far too large for the space and extended the lawn – not the best time to lay turf with the hot weather but it has survived and is looking green and ready for cutting.

They have quite a few Hydrangeas which adds a nice bit of colour to the garden along with these lovely yellow flowers.  The name escapes me, I have never grown them but they do have a really long flowering time.

Tomorrow if the weather holds I will be preparing another area of the garden to lay gravel and make a seating area.  The ground is so hard now I am having to break it up with the pick.

It has been a lot of hard work, some days we have been there until 8 o’clock at night and we were glad of the break when we went on holiday.  It took a lot of ‘getting back into it’ today first day back on the job – I estimate it will take us another three weeks to complete everything if we are lucky.

I hope everyone is enjoying the rain and a rest from all the watering.

Back soon x