dear diary ~ happy New Year 2023

A very happy and healthy New Year to all my blog friends and readers and may it be all you are wishing it to be.

You may have noticed I have a new look for a new year – I felt like a change and you may have noticed I have been tinkering around with my blog a bit recently and moving and deleting things. My blog roll is now under the tab above named ‘Lovely Places to Go‘ – I hope I have got everyone on there.

I have been planning and listing to excess in the last few days and it is time for me to choose a new Focus word for the year. Last year’s word Improvement worked out so well I intend to carry this on as well.

As usual many words went through my mind but the one I kept coming back to is Contentment. I Googled it to find the dictionary lists it as meaning;

Contentment: “a state of happiness and satisfaction”

When you feel content you are more likely to feel grateful for the small pleasures in life and it is usually these small everyday pleasures that make us happy. Sometimes life gets so busy here I often miss those little pleasures.

When I think back to both my grandparents, my in laws and my dad they were all very contented people and happy with their lot. I meet many people who are not, they always seem to be striving for the next thing but the enjoyment it brings once obtained seems fleeting.

Over the last few years I have been making a big effort to buy less and be content with what we have – it can be a struggle at times as the shops display such an array of tempting goodies to buy and it can be hard to walk away without slipping something into my basket, but all these little bits and pieces add up to more clutter and as the ‘stuff’ builds up once again will require decluttering at some future time. As I have continued to declutter through the house and at the same time tried hard not to buy new things in their place I have been loving the emptier spaces, though there is still a lot of room for improvement. It is quite noticeable now that many people, unless you are a true hoarder, are constantly decluttering – and I am too; yet I never remember either of my grandmas having these mammoth decluttering sessions and when I think about it I presume it is because they did not buy ‘stuff’ in the first place.

January is a good place to start. My first intention is to shop the house – I have been making lists of what I might need to buy and what I don’t really need to buy and this month will become the test. Where possible I will be using up, reusing, repurposing, recycling and even upcycling……anything to avoid buying.

I will be shopping in the pantry, fridge and freezer this month for food and only buying in any necessary groceries that we require as well as fresh fruit and veg, milk and bread. In fact I have bread flour never opened so this might be the time to make my own. I have a mind to run the pantry shelves and freezer down to almost nothing and definitely find ways of using up some of the bits and pieces left over from making birthday cakes and chocolates. I have quite a bit of coloured roll out icing which will go hard if not used, half a jar of mincemeat and a full tub of crystalised ginger…..I need to set time aside for a baking session.

The only item of clothing I really need is some new boots; mine can be a bit leaky in wet weather, but at a push I could probably make the ones I have last yet another year.

I have a stack of homemade and recycled cards now for most occassions and a stash of presents in the drawer so no need to buy these for a while.

Since I began knitting again I have collected quite a few balls of wool in the drawer so I am looking to make another jumper for one of the grandchildren and maybe have a go at some socks. I admire all you bloggers that knit those wonderful pairs of socks I see – maybe someone might direct me to some instructions suitable for a beginner.

In my mind there is no time like January for giving the house a good clean and I have a cupboard full of cleaning products to use up, mainly inherited from other people that I can’t waste even if I am not keen on them, and hopefully I can create a bit more space in the cleaning cupboard.

Once the inside is spick and span and I have cleared out and organised all the drawers and cupboards I will start looking at what seeds I have to use up to. I will have to buy seed potatoes though – but they won’t break the bank. We are still using our Christmas potatoes, they were well worth planting last Autumn and a real treat this time of year.

There will be no getting away from buying decorating products once we start on the laundry room and our main bedroom, but I think I might wait to do this until after all the upcoming birthday celebrations, Burns night and perhaps a trip to the cottage.

Looking forward to hearing all your plans and gaining some inspiration.

dear diary >> ringing in the new

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year 2023 to everyone xx

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

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