dear diary :: a new beginning

Happy New Year to all my followers and readers.

After a very late night I eventually surfaced around 10am…bleary eyed, so I am quite late changing my blog header…..but here I am to wish you all the best of what this year will bring for each of you.

As always I am excited with the prospect of a brand new year stretching before me – not just an empty page, or an empty chapter but a whole empty book. By the end of 2020 just what will be written on these pages. Who knows….and that is the magic of this time of year, we really don’t know.

I can map out what I am hoping for, what I am striving to achieve, what I am going to work hard at to accomplish, but I cannot predict any of those unexpected twists and turns along the journey, the ones we have least control over.

This year as many readers will know my chosen word (whether you like this idea of choosing a word or not – it works for me) is Flourish. Maybe an odd choice you are thinking, but as one of my readers said it is very apt for me as it is often a term used when caring for plants and as my passion is for gardening then it fits so well.

One of my intentions this year will be to continue with minimising and simplifying. It is not something that happens overnight – it requires a lifestyle change and developing a different mindset. For as much as I love the space I have been creating around my home I can still fall for buying completely unnecessary items….you know the ones that ‘spark joy’ when you come across them when out shopping. John Lewis does it for me every time and TK Max! My joy seems to come from objects rather than clothes these days…and don’t forget the garden centres – I could spend a fortune there even though my borders are really jammed packed full.

As the manufacturers continue to design and market new and tempting merchandise displayed in the shops I will always find it hard to say no. Like eating a healthy diet finding that balance of moderation is hard and one I am constantly working on even though every time I go to a decluttered cupboard I feel a sense of satisfaction and that spark of joy….it is often just not enough to deter me from buying more.

Some areas of my life I have well under control – my bathroom cupboards for instance only hold what I use – you won’t find anything lurking there that is not something I use most days to keep me clean and presentable. Other areas of my home are still a work in progress and the decluttering continues but it is the stuff that still comes into our home that is the problem because that is the stuff that ironically will almost certainly become part of my future decluttering. There is very little that we need (other than a new car perhaps….oh and maybe that new kitchen) but somehow I still manage to find things to bring home!

I haven’t run our year end tally yet to see just what we spent – I can assure you when all added up and displayed in a report it is frightening. Even those odd cups of coffee and snacks we buy when out and about do add up to rather a lot.

It has been a hard year for us trying to cope on the one state pension, our savings have dwindled considerably as prices continue to rise and our family circumstances are such that we have had a lot of travelling up and down to North Yorkshire. I won’t even mention the cost of all those events we laid on or attended!

This is the time of year when I have a good look at where I overspent, then promise to myself to be more careful….and it works, usually….well for the first few months!

I aim to be more green too. I say that knowing full well that I bought a plastic fridge container yesterday…a small blip. In all honesty though when I am shopping I am going to be more mindful – the wooden toys we bought at Christmas for the grandchildren are all lovely and don’t have those awful jangly tunes and songs in American accents coming out of them, (sorry USA readers but the Fisher Price toys do all begin to sound the same), in particular the ABC song which must be coded into every activity toy. My granddaughter, who is only five and like many children, now talks with a slight Americanism about cookies, movies, garbage and trash – the influence of TV and activity toys!

But first….. my aim this month – the new health and fitness regime, guaranteed to make a difference – you just have to keep at it. I am not so bold as to start today….no today is for recovery and reflection and maybe a sprawl on the sofa watching a film or two.

And I will get back to answering the comments from yesterday.

I hope everyone has a good day today for the start of the year…somehow it does make a difference if the very first day starts well.

Welcome to my new followers on the journey – I am hoping the road this year will not be quite so bumpy as last year. x

dear diary :: looking back and looking forward

It is that time of year in the quieter lull between the Christmas festivities and New Year when I always start looking back over the past twelve months; remembering all those unforgettable moments both good and bad that are etched on my mind for ever.

It has been an eventful and productive year, if not a little exhausting at times, beginning with the birth of little Freddie in January and followed by two Christenings, a 1st birthday and 40th birthday celebrations. Phew.

It was the year I grew more vegetables, started knitting again, made a christening gown and many of my own cards. In and amongst we had some lovely days out at the open garden events as well as in Scotland and a very memorable day at the seaside in Saltburn with Little L.

It was also the year we remodelled the downstairs cloakroom turning it into a walk in pantry. I did think at the beginning of the year that we would have made a start on the kitchen too – but that was not to be and we continue to live with our truly retro kitchen, patching and repairing it as we go along.

The cottage was put firmly on the back burner again as a difficult situation arose in the summer that required our full attention. The unexpected issues we had to deal with took all our time and are best forgotten – I remind myself we did our best and that hindsight is always better than foresight. If there are any regrets or niggling thoughts that I should or could have done things differently or better I just think that we are where we are and nothing can change that now all we can do is wait for the day when the issues will be resolved for better or worse.

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I don’t know about you but I am already pondering on my next actions and thinking about my word for 2020. ‘Transition‘ was my focus word for 2019 learning how to incorporate many changes into our lives as we moved from working to retiring.

Try as I might I have failed so far to get into a new satisfactory routine since leaving work and my life is certainly a lot different and feels like I am going at a faster pace than ever, trying to accommodate all the changing needs of our wider family who are all in transition too it seems and if anyone ever asks how I am coping my answer is always that I have less time now I am at home than when I worked.

Letting go of the familiar to sail blindly into unchartered waters is not easy and we have not entirely found our footing….but we know where we are headed and have made a start. I realised this year that to do all the things we want to do in retirement and have a long retirement, enjoying more time with both our chosen activities and our ever growing family, then our good health is key.

So I have been giving a lot of thought to this recently – I know our health could be better – I do not want to slide down the slippery path of having to take medication for those old age ailments that with a bit of attention from me I can prevent or reverse before they take hold.

Of course regular readers will know I am reliant on taking thyroxine medication as my thyroid gland had to be completely removed in 2008 due to cancer. This tiny gland that sits at the base of your neck at the front regulates metabolism – energy, heartbeat and temperature and how well you burn calories and digest food. It can be hard to balance the amount of Thyroxine I need daily to keep me stable – that is neither hypothyroid nor hyperthyroid – get it even slightly wrong and the side effects are not good.

Having a healthy diet and plenty of exercise does help my body overcome the lack of a thyroid gland but it can be hard to keep it up when we live such a pressured life.

January will be the month then that I will be focusing on my well being, diet and exercise in gradual small steps.

Over the year I also want to concentrate more on craftwork – sketching, sewing, making more cards – any creative activities would be nice. I feel this year I have laid the foundation and 2020 will be the year to build on this.

Minimalism and simplifying as you know are subjects dear to my heart and I will continue to reduce our impact on the environment by being mindful of what we buy and what we waste.

With all this in mind the word that has kept coming back to me is….

Flourish

meaning: ‘grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, to grow or develop successfully’

I do not just want to grow and adapt during the changes to our life but to do it with good health and a positive mind. The word Flourish to me just fits the picture perfectly.

I will be beginning in January to take our health seriously – maybe not on New Year’s day but the days after. Presently I am reading and planning for the changes I want to make and I aim to record these daily for anyone else who might want to follow along with me.

It will be more of switching to healthier choices rather than a diet as such or anything too extreme. I did this when I had the cancer and it saved my life back then – I hope it will prolong my life in retirement now.

Have a lovely weekend and welcome to my new followers. xx

fEAsible ~ the importance of lists

I mentioned in my previous post that I had been planning – most of my planning still takes place in my ancient A5 planner  – I was introduced to planners at work in the 80’s, it came with my promotion – a leather ‘Time System’ planner but the better known Filofax is very similar and more recently the Bullet Journal system is now the new time planner, only more decorative.Everything was recorded in my planner – both for work and home and I didn’t go anywhere without it.  I still smile now when I remember those early days of time management planners – whenever I attended a meeting for work everyone else would arrive carrying theirs too and we would end the meeting synchronizing planner time!  I still use mine out of habit –  paper has always been my thing.

My planner is divided by a series of sections and each is full of ideas, lists and tasks – at the end of the day there is something very satisfying about making a little tick mark against a completed task, especially a task that has been rolling over week after week from one list to another most annoyingly.

ListsRecently I bought a book titled L’art de la Liste by the same author Dominique Loreau who wrote L’art de la Simplicité: How to Live More with Less.  She throws a whole new perspective on my love of lists.  She likens a list to a haiku (an expressive Japanese poem) or a journal as it becomes a record of your life and suggests the advantage of making lists allows us to rethink and restructure our ideas.

After a recent clear out I found a stack of my old to do lists and notes, which I have put aside to shred or burn on the cottage bonfire.  They can be quite enlightening and a reminder of what I have actually done with my time over the years.  After reading the book I may decide not burn them after all – but then that is not in keeping with a simple and minimalistic lifestyle…

– so such is my dilemma.

My word for the year is ‘transition’   as I am currently undergoing a period of big changes so my transformation to a simpler more streamlined home and lifestyle will require new routines that fit better with my new life.  Streamlining is an ongoing task and a bit like peeling away the layers of an onion.  It requires a slow steady approach and to help support my clearing out, paring down and keeping order I need to prevent future piles of stuff from reforming and building up again when I have an unexpected busy period or take my eye off the ball – which I know I will do.

Clutter spots seem to be contagious in this house and my main enemies are the washing and ironing pile, the finances, incoming emails and reading blogs and leaving comments – if I get busy they don’t get done.

So when I read the simple advice in The Joy of Less by Francine Jay to have a daily maintenance plan I knew this was the answer, after all I have time now in the mornings to do more as I am no longer rushing out to work.  Taking a few minutes each day to address the problem areas should help to keep the house in good order.  So this is my basic list:-

  • Put on one load of washing – this must be a full load where possible to save water and energy and is not always necessary every day but checking is.
  • Ironing – iron whatever I washed the day before
  • Finances – enter the receipts, balance statements and action anything waiting to be dealt with.
  • Check and reply to or delete incoming emails for the day
  • Blog comments – I include this in the list as keeping up with blogs I read and making comments is better done daily otherwise I find I have too much catching up to do.

I thought it important as well to throw in a bit of daily self-care – something that I should do more of but… oh well you know how it is – so I made a start by adding these to the list:-

  • Take supplements – currently my Vitamin D with my breakfast
  • Eat one apple a day – my contribution to a healthy diet and usually my mid morning snack
  • Exercises – at the moment I am following Posture Queen’s Somatic exercises to help my neck and shoulders, hips and knees.

I began my new routine in the New Year  – I switched my week on two pages diary in my planner for a page a day style, with more space I can keep a daily check list that I tick off as I go and this does help me to keep on track and stick to it.  When my routine was a bit disrupted last week with the arrival of baby X  I didn’t end up with a huge backlog of jobs as I was already on top of things.

I am really pleased – it could be working.

I am sure once my new routines are established I can add in a few more.  Getting the daily jobs done and out-of-the-way should leave me more time for the fun things in life.

 

 

 

fEAsible ~ what works for me

It is so grey outside but I quite like it – it feels restful and quiet – just right for a period of reflection and I find January is a good month just to ‘be’ rather than do.

Transition is my focus word for the year – a period of adjustment –  and I need to adjust some of my household routines to fit in better with my new circumstances.  So, since the start of this year I have been steadily working on a list of household tasks I need to do everyday now I am not working in order to …well keep order… and prevent a build up of clutter and chaos that can arise from letting things pile up.   You might have the same problem with little piles appearing in corners or on a table or worktop.  They tend to quietly build up over time because finding time to deal with them is often in short supply.

My starting point has been to think about what worked for me and what didn’t last year, what will I continue to do and what needs improvement or ditching altogether.  My word(s) last year were ‘The power of small’ and I did just that – some of the things were just little changes, some became major improvements and some…well I even surprised myself.

The small changes that worked for me are…
  • Making soup – I never seemed to have the time to do this regularly when I was working – now it is almost routine – and what is better than a hot bowl of soup full of winter vegetables.  We don’t have it for lunch everyday but I do freeze some and it is great to use at a moments notice for a  picnic.Tomato Soup

Winter Picnic

  • Taking picnics and flasks on our trips out – it might be shopping, or a day out or travelling but wherever we go the first thing we do now is make the picnic and fill the flasks.  DH is getting very good at this and not only is it a good money saver but we also prefer it to some of the cafe lunches we have had as the vegetarian choices can be limited.  It will be a real treat now to have a bought lunch and we can limit this to visits our favourite places that we enjoy.
  • LaundryKeeping up daily with the ironing and the finances – I make sure that I iron everything I washed the day before in the morning and this way the pile never builds up.  I did lapse at Christmas when I was busy doing advent activities but I am back on course again now as I love seeing my empty ironing basket.  I do the same entering my receipts and keeping a tally of my spending.Courgette plant
  • I grew courgettes in a large pot again this year and this time from seed – it is so easy and the results are so satisfying and they taste wonderful.  I am expanding this to grow some outdoor tomatoes this summer – I have earmarked a little space for them in the garden by the fence where they will have the most of the sunshine and shelter.
  • My Year Book – I can’t tell you how much pleasure this has given me and I have just started a new one this year.  I keep a list of my monthly intentions, notes of books I want to read, recipes I might find, decor and gardening ideas and bits and pieces of everything and anything and it is a great place to stick all my cuttings of things I might want to do.
…and the major improvements
  • this has to be focusing on the outside of the house – we took one step at a time completing one job then moved onto the next and the rendering and repointing has made such a big difference to the look of the house and cleaning the brickwork brought it back to look like new.  Once the weather is better we will continue with painting the front door, replacing the garage door and relaying the tarmac drive – but of course these are quite expensive projects so we need to make savings elsewhere.
  • Somatic Exercises – the Feldenkrais method – if you have never tried these then I can only recommend that you have a go.  Try the Posture Queen on you tube – it is the best way I know to help any posture problem like tense shoulders and general stiffness – it is so gentle it feels like you are not doing very much but the results can be felt after just one session.  They do take quite a while as taking it slowly is key and scheduling time for this is still difficult for me so I am going to make a positive effort to do some each day because it works.
and then the unexpected –
  • Our Italian holiday – I had forgotten how much I enjoyed travelling and seeing other countries and cultures.  Since we bought our little cottage the renovations took up all our time and holidays but having the wedding to go to gave us the nudge we needed to have a break from this and plan a proper holiday.
  • Leaving paid work – this was a ‘biggy’ – not exactly planned and not exactly ideal timing as I cannot draw my state pension yet but I am getting used to being at home, trying to get used to a drop in income and easily getting used to not rushing about all the time – though I can still feel guilty about that.

The little changes have almost become habit and I will add more changes to these as there are things that did not work for me last year and I will need to work on those.

More on this later…

Meanwhile a big welcome to my new followers and everyone that has left a comment recently – I love getting to know new readers and your ideas are always so helpful.  I promise I will get round to posting the recipes soon – I am sorry Dar that you have waited so long for the Stroganoff!

 

 

dEAr diary ~ ‘happy blogday to me’

It is 7 years today since I did my first blog post in 2012 on my previous blog ‘where the journey takes me’ – I have had a wonderful time, gained many new blog friends and read a lot of interesting ideas – it has been an exciting journey so far and long may it continue.

A big thank you to all those who have journeyed along with me – your company has been much appreciated as have your comments.  I would love to hear from anyone who reads but doesn’t normally comment – just a quick hello would be great.

Over the Christmas period I have thought long and hard about my focus for 2019 and one word I keep coming back to is that of

Transition

It fits well with my present circumstances since I am no longer in paid work, probably retired but maybe not just yet – everything in abeyance.

I looked it up on Google…

Transition – the process of changing, or a change from one form or condition to another:   from transire ‘go across’.

Synonyms – change, move, passage, transformation, conversion, adaptation, adjustment, alteration, changeover, metamorphosisshift, switch, jump, leap, progression, progress, gradation, development, evolution;

Lots of alterations and adjustments to make and with any luck a complete transformation by the end of 2019.

We have friends coming tomorrow evening so I need to make the house presentable – I have been working on it most of the week.  The Christmas decorations are down, the windows have been flung open to let the fresh air of the New Year in and even the duvet spent the morning outside on the line to freshen up before putting on clean bed linen.  My positivity at the moment is encouraging and I am ready to begin.

Presently I am still at the planning stage and January is the ideal month for this.  As we have plenty of major projects either on the go or on the master list that need to be co-ordinated it will be a question of fitting everything in.  Some of the top priorities are the decorating, installing a new kitchen and completing a few outside jobs once the weather is on the turn.   Added to which we need to sort the cottage out it has been a dormant project too long now.   And on the domestic front I need a new spending and saving plan, an exercise regime and of course lots of healthy eating wouldn’t go amiss…and when I have time a bit of crafting, reading and relaxing.

As my blog was always intended as a diary for myself to look back on my starting point for this year will be to review and reflect on last year and see what worked and what didn’t.

Did my focus word of the ‘Power of small’ work for me?….all will be revealed.

Back soon x