dear diary >> improving

The weather is certainly improving as I write this post but it is not the topic I am about to talk about. Regular readers might remember my chosen focus word for this year is improvement. I have really taken the word on board and somehow it seems much more manageable than words that I have chosen in the past and then, like a New Year’s resolution, sadly neglected., I am quite excited and committed to this word already.

My idea is to consistently make the tiniest and simplest of improvements across all the different areas of my life and each one, no matter how small or how insignificant, will be an improvement on what I had before.

So here are a few improvements that I have been working on this week:-

The treasury – I am sure that, like many readers and bloggers, costcutting is at the top of everyone’s agenda. With prices rising sharply and the £1 in our pockets buying so much less it is becomming a matter of urgency that I both curb our spending and look where I can to make savings. Big savings.

Smartshop (Sainsbury’s scanner shopping), offers good discounts for nectar card holders using the hand held scanner (this is not the same as the individual self scan checkouts). DH collects up these offers (whilst I do the main shopping that we take to the normal checkout); first he goes and finds the items that are reduced on my card and goes around again to find the ones on his card – although it is the same nectar account the card numbers end in a different number and we are sent different offers. Here is the receipt from last week – we took advantage of 8 offers on my nectar card, the actual price an ordinary shopper would pay by going through the manned checkout would have been £18.70.

We paid £13.28 by using the scanner – a huge saving of £5.42 for items we would be buying anyway, plus we collect the nectar points on top some of which have extra points. The muesli alone had a saving of £1.05 per box so we bought three boxes to stock up.

I have had a flurry of coupons recently too – some more useful than others. The M&S coupons for £7 being the most worthwhile and their offer of a free bar of chocolate a bonus.

In the post on Saturday arrived a letter from Dobbies to say they have given me a free upgrade to their Dobbies Plus card for one year. This entitles me to a free cup of tea and coffee each month, 10% off all plants, bulbs and seeds, a special birthday treat and 2 points for every £1 spent. Normally you pay £12 for the year to have this card – I wouldn’t pay to have it but I have no objection to it being free for the moment. Every little helps if it avoids paying full price for anything.

Of course the biggest challenge is to avoid temptation and not buy anything we don’t really need. Going to the shops less is a good way of avoiding tempatation!

Meal planning – one improvement I am making in the kitchen is to adjust my winter menus so that I make more meals that can be cooked on the hob such as lentil stew, curry, chickpea and rice – this way I don’t have the oven on as often which will hopefully reduce the electricity bills. I do like baked potatoes in the winter (well anytime really) so at the weekend with some potatoes baking in the oven I made a batch of pastry and baked a selection of quiche bases for the freezer whilst the oven was on. Today we had ratatouille and baked potatoes and again whilst the potatoes were baking I made a batch of chocolate sponge mixture and filled four sandwich tins. They are all in the freezer now and I feel quite pleased with myself for making the effort.

Health – such an important area of my life now as I am heading towards another major birthday (still a couple of years to go yet).

It often feels like an uphill struggle to keep relatively healthy as creaks and groans appear daily and the inevitable sagging has set in – so I need all the help I can get. Adding a little more nutritional value to my diet without resorting to buying expensive supplements is hopefully going to improve my health – so I was delighted to find these packets of milled mixed seeds and nuts in Sainsbury’s containing ground Flaxseeds, Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts (13%), Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Almonds (10%), Chia Seeds providing Vitamin E, Fibre and Omega 3. I sprinkle a good two dessertspoonfuls of the mix over my bowl of spelt flakes each morning, but you can use it on pasta or crumbles to make a crunchy topping. An instant easy healthy improvement.

Housekeeping – I have a few spots around the house that need just a little bit of love and attention. Nothing major, just a tiny adjustment – a task that may only take me minutes to complete. I am searching them out and one by one will be addressing each issue. It might be a messy drawer or a plant that needs reviving or an item that needs to be kept in a better place.

Today it was this hand sanitiser in the bathroom. Since the pandemic this bottle of Carex handgel has stood on our bathroom shelf for use both by us and visitors alike. It has always bothered me since the day it took up residence – a rather unattractive plastic bottle and not one I really want on show. I noticed in Tesco they were still selling these little soap dispensers at £4, I bought a couple when we first got the caravan for handsoap. So now I have poured the hand sanitiser into the new container and voila such an immediate improvement.

In the garden – the outside is another area that often needs a bit of attention. The long trough at the front of our house was looking a bit dull since the pansies all keeled over and lost the will to live. So for a few pounds in the sale at the local garden centre I bought 3 lovely cyclamen in pots for a splash of winter colour (I have left them in the pots and sunk them into the compost) so they will lift out easily when I want to replace them with some spring bulbs.

A large tray of lemon polyanthus was on sale too and I have dotted these about the garden and put a few in the tub beside the front door. Another of my little improvements.

Tomorrow we are looking to collect the new dining table from Leeds, weather permitting. The new table will be a big improvement to the kitchen.

Have a good day everyone 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 :: capturing daily life

I suppose in true British and blogging style I need to comment on the weather. There has not been one telephone conversation with friends and family this past week (and there were a lot) when we did not discuss the weather. Ice and icicles everywhere and that biting cold wind. The only exposed part of me when we ventured out was around my face so I doubled up on a very thick moisturiser to try and prevent me getting, what felt like, freezer burn.

Last weekend we stayed home in the warm not even going out for the daily allowed constitutional and I thought I would quite like to have another go with some DAS air drying clay that I bought about 2 years ago…… another project hanging around and overlooked for too long.

I wanted to have another go at making some gift tags and maybe try my hand at some little wall hangers. Although, I enjoyed experimenting with it I can’t say it is my favourite craft and so this might be the last time I do actually use it but it was good to have another go and now I can put that craft to bed. One of my aims this year is to simplify the craft materials that I have by making a decision on just which crafts I am going to focus on as I seem to dabble a bit here and a bit there and never really get to grips with any of them.

So these are some of the little tags and hanging plaques I made – quite cute but a lot of work and they still need sanding and smoothing – but that will be another day.

In the meantime my next knitting project will be for the two girls – Little L and Sweetie – a lightweight summer top in a 4 ply Rowan yarn that I bought last year from the lovely craft shop in Castle Douglas on our visit to Scotland. As I have two tops to knit I will keep it simple and have chosen the plainer of the two styles but have yet to decide on the higher or lower neckline. I am starting now with the hope that I can finish them by the time we see some sunshine and warmer weather. Casting on might even take place tonight if the mood takes me.

The childcare went well this week with little Freddie – he produced some lovely masterpieces with stickers and wax crayons and we managed a walk each day despite the temperature never getting above zero. Stopping to watch the ducks on this resourceful tiny duck pond in the backyard of a nearby terraced house is a favourite but it does make you feel even colder watching them splash about in the freezing cold water.

Even though we felt quite exhausted from looking after little Freddie we made the effort to drive up to see our ‘bubble’ daughter in North Yorkshire yesterday complete with a large homemade trifle and chocolate cake. She is currently on her own with the two girls, Little L who is only six and now being homeschooled (when Sweetie allows). Being just two Sweetie is rather a little whirlwind and a bit disruptive in the home classroom set up! My daughter is also finding it hard to get her own work done to the deadlines she has and many an evening is up until well after midnight trying to work while the children sleep.

She needed a break as it has been a long haul for her since Christmas especially with the schools being closed. There are far more subjects to get through in a day than there is time. We spent the day entertaining the grandchildren to give her a bit of a break and then we had a brisk walk together around her lovely village well wrapped up against the freezing cold.

Sweetie insisted she took a wooden spoon with her on the walk and spent most of the time trying to scoop and eat what was left of the snow on the verges!

Unfortunately, the picture I took is rather blurred but I think you can see that I have captured the fact that she was certainly on a mission.

We went back home to thaw out with some welcome hot chocoate and a piece of the Valentine’s cake I had made as a treat for all of us. Nothing special other than it was heart shaped, filled with fresh cream and topped with as much chocolate and sprinkles as I thought was indulgent but still permissable (which was a lot).

We all tucked in and consumed it without a murmur. Not a crumb left today.

My attempt at making a Valentine’s card for DH was altogether less successful – I was very short of time and had to resort to a rubber stamp again like last year – but, I am told, it is the thought that counts – mine is the one on the right. He made one for me, the one on the left, which is much better and quite sweet.

Homemade is so much nicer and must have saved us a tidy £6 or £7 on bought cards.

So another busy week for us and we are preparing for an even busier one next week which will include Shrove Tuesday and half term – but, like any pancake lover, I have my lemons ready. As far as housework is concerned I have done very little and I feel as if my world is in a bit of a muddle; with Covid, the cold spell and having many of our family dependant on our help it is hard not to feel both stretched and overwhelmed.

 My focus word this year is consistency and how strange then that an email dropped into my inbox about a podcast entitled ‘Why consistency is the key to Success’

It grabbed my attention and I am all ears.

In a nutshell the author of the podcast believes that many of us overestimate what we can do in a short period of time and wildly underestimate what we’re capable of accomplishing over a decade or a number of years. Above all, he is a believer in process over outcome, the journey not the destination.

So my blog is aptly titled as I am all about the journey and my chosen word could be the key to a good year for me.

Then coincidently on the 5th February Freda at Live Simply Simply Live asked her readers ‘are you remembering your word’ …………well, surprisingly, yes I am………does my life reflect my chosen word………well maybe not yet but I am on a journey and little bits of consistency, like the snowdrops in the garden, are appearing slowly here and there.

Have a good week everyone. x

dear diary :: a new year, a new word

It came to me in an instant – ‘consistency‘ is what I need right now in my life….a simple rhythm to my life, a little bit of routine and normality……a little more ebb and flow.

Reliable, unchanging, expected – consistency is all the things that the Covid virus is not. It may seem very boring and humdrum to some but a little consistency is what I yearn for at the moment; I need to know I will wake up in the morning and the day will be rather more structured than it has been of late and at a pace I can cope with – it will not be quite so messy and unpredictable as it has been since the end of the first lockdown.

So last Sunday night it was settled and committed to paper…...

‘Consistency’ would be my new focus word for 2021.

Well that was the plan on Sunday night – I would get my life back into some kind of routine so that I could do all the things that I had abandoned over the past few weeks such as meal planning, a daily walk, a little crafting, even some cleaning and housework and more than ever I felt so ready to get blogging once again ……but oh dear by Monday night, only 24 hours later, my life and my plans had changed in an instant once again – this time all it took was a telephone call from one of our daughters after the Boris briefing on TV.

Somehow we volunteered ourselves into taking on the childcare of little Freddie, who will be two in a few days time, for 3 full days a week rather than him going to nursery (and when I say full days that is what I mean 8am to almost 6pm). Long days indeed to entertain a little one but I am looking forward to spending more time with him after not being able to see him for months.

Our decision was made after the sudden change of mind by the government over primary and secondary schools and hearing the thoughts of a GP friend who sits on the primary care trust board for the region. He was alarmed at the figures he saw for the rate of spread and said he would not be sending his children to school or nursery even if Boris didn’t close them.

Like the hesitancy with the primary schools we felt that nursery schools might be kept open only to be closed a few days later and by this time, like some of the primary school children, they would have been and mixed with one another. So we are being cautious for now and just waiting to see if the nurseries might close as they have in Scotland. If they don’t and the infection figures begin to decline we will revise our decision.

All this means that I will have a lot less time for me to put all my new plans in place and probably less time for blogging – but I will do what I can when I can.

So early on Tuesday morning we woke, not only to snow, but to little Freddie on the doorstep complete with high chair, changing bag and a large box of toys! I only hope we have the stamina to last the course!

Even with little Freddie helping I did manage to make a birthday card for a friend and deliver it and we have had a lovely, if not brisk, walk each day with Freddie in the snow.

I have a large stock of these blank concertina cards in my craft room which I want to use up; so together with a selection of pressed flowers from the ones I pressed during the summer I attempted an idea for a little card I called ‘Nature Notes‘.

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Instead of a fresh bunch of flowers I gave her this little laser cut wooden snowdrop I bought from an artisan craft stall in John Lewis a while ago. The package was perfect to push through her letterbox as they are sheilding again. She emailed me later to say how delighted she was with her gift and card – she does some beautiful crafts herself so always appreciates my handmade creations concoctions!

Apart from childcare and walking nothing much else got done here during the week and anything we do need to do will be done on our four days off (Friday to Monday). DH has been back on soup management with a lovely batch of tomato and leek and potato and I have been planning menus again – simple menus for the moment but it is a start. It is a pleasure to cook in our new kitchen – if not a learning curve with a new induction hob, double oven and dishwasher to master. I will do a post on the new kitchen soon – I need to find some before pictures so you can see the difference.

I will leave you with some pictures from our walk yesterday up towards the moors above our village. The views up there are stunning and being surrounded by nature makes the world feel quite perfect and untouched by the virus.

A lovely surprise to find some tiny catkins starting to grow on the trees.

Before I go I would like to say a very special thank you to all my blogging friends for the lovely comments welcoming me back to blogland – I am touched – and I was so pleased to hear everyone is fine and coping in their own way and that you all managed a relatively good Christmas despite the strange times.

So my mission this week is to work out a way, and goodness knows I keep trying, to weave our commitments and busy life into a more calm and balanced life.

Possible or not – I don’t know?

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