dear diary :: still looking like winter

At least it was when I peered through the window today; sleet, snow, rain – interspersed with a little (and I mean a little) sunshine. Spring seems a long way off.

So I am keeping myself busy….and warm.

After all the excitement of finishing the pantry we now have to move on to make decisions about the new kitchen. We started looking at new kitchens back in 2008 and had one on order, but shortly after I found I had to have major surgery followed by a few months of treatment so we had to cancel.

We tried again in 2010 (but then my mum decided to move up North and we had to pack up and sell the family home), 2012 (my mum in law became very ill and we had to pack up and sell her house when she went into a care home), 2014 (we had the flood at the cottage), 2016 (my daughter decided to get married and we had a wedding to organise) 2020…. here we go again….. and hopefully this time no unexpected events will surprise us and we can actually get one installed.

Whilst the weather continues to be quite horrendous I have not minded spending time browsing around the local showrooms – delving into pan drawers and canterlever corner cupboards, testing out the spring lifted wall cupboard doors, the slide under oven doors and the soft close drawer drawers. They are all wonderful and exciting to me as anything is an improvement on my old ‘shabby but definitely NOT chic’ kitchen with the falling apart wonky doors and drawers held in place by DH’s hand made wooden runners to replace the plastic ones that failed years ago.

I really should be turning my attentions to the garden, so many plants in bud now waiting for the tiniest hint of warmth – but I look outside at the snow falling and decide I will remain in hibernation a little longer.

My time is spent inside on more practical household jobs – I am so caught up with the washing I am now waiting for something to wash, the ironing is done and in the airing cupboard and I even had a go at removing the candlewax from my linen tablecloth (and quite successfully I might add).

When I do have some spare time I am sewing – I have had that sudden urge to make something since completing the duvet cover for little Sweetie. Rummaging around, as one does occasionally, through my fabric stash I noticed I had some more tea towels that I bought a while ago and intended to make into tablemats.

My last efforts were quite successful and I thought it would be nice to make these mats for Easter – the little hen print is so cute …….but I had better get a move on, Easter will be here before we know it and bringing better weather I hope. I have already washed the fabric and unpicked the hems so I am ready to go.

I made pancakes on Tuesday. As we knew we would be out all day we both set to in the kitchen and did some preparation towards them. We usually have filled pancakes as a main meal so DH chopped the leeks and mushrooms and I made the batter – we make a good team (but only if he does things my way!!). Everything then went into the fridge for later – good job we thought ahead as it was 6.30pm when we arrived home.

They didn’t take long to cook and assemble – I cooked the leek and mushrooms together with a little parsley and seasoning for the filling; made a few pancakes then rolled each one up with the filling inside and laid them in an ovenproof dish.

I always use buckwheat flour, which the French use for their delicious crepes) because I like the crispier, lighter texture and once all the pancakes were made I covered them in a cheese sauce (I cheated here with a pot of Sainsbury’s own), topped everything with a sprinkle of seeds, Parmesan shavings and sliced tomato and then baked in the oven.

I have batter left over to make some plain pancakes to have with lemon juice as a pudding – but that will be another day.

During the school holidays last week we went up to North Yorkshire to stay with my daughter and grandchildren. We took Little L and Sweetie out for the day on Friday to Bowes Museum. It was the only place around that was indoors and warm – away from those terrible winds. We could hardly stand up outside in the car park – the rain was lashing about us but once inside there was lots to see and they are very child friendly.

At 2pm everyday you can visit the room with the famous Silver Swan (no I hadn’t heard of it either!) and see it perform. It is rather beautiful and a great feat of delicate engineering – when it is wound up the neck moves around and then dips its beak into the water below to catch one of the little fishes. I captured it on video but sadly I can’t upload it to my blog but you can see it here on You Tube.

We also had a trip to Northallerton a lovely, but busy, market town full of independant shops and stores…..and Betty’s (if you can afford it…..we can’t). I stocked up with a few items from Boyes – a brilliant cut price family run store that is a bit like a small Woolworths and they have a few branches in the North. They have an excellent selection of wool and I was tempted, but I decided I must finish the jumper I am knitting before I buy anymore.

Today I had to pop down to town to the library and use my double points petrol token before it expired. DH will be having a tooth removed by the time you read this. Ouch.

We will be up in North Yorkshire again at the end of the week as we have to look after my mum whilst my sister is away on a short holiday – so I may have a few days away from blogging.

Take care everyone and stay warm x

dear diary :: a time for home

The sun streaming through the windows yesterday morning was a cheerful sight to wake up to and it made my snap decision to do some sewing an easy one. Sadly, the better weather did not last and by the afternoon we were back to lashing rain and grey lifeless skies.

Even today the rain continues to fall and is far too wet to go outside with the camera – but the patterns of the raindrops on our window panes are quite delightful and worth capturing.

Being indoors and just being at home is all I need in winter. I busy myself with small jobs around the house, finishing projects here and there and keeping warm in the kitchen making and baking and using up any food so it doesn’t go to waste.

I took the opportunity yesterday to make the cot duvet cover and a matching pillowslip for little Sweetie. I bought the fabric a while ago from John Lewis, it wasn’t exactly cheap but cheaper than buying a ready made duvet cover. I chose two fabrics, one with unicorns (all little girls love unicorns it seems) and one with tiny pink hearts for the reverse. The unicorn fabric was more expensive than the pink hearts so I tried to manage with as little as possible – maybe a little too little as I found when I came to measure up and cut out – but I skimped by; after all Sweetie will not be in a cot for long and then will be moving on to a larger duvet.

I was so pleased at the end of the day to have another task to cross off my list.

During the morning we received a letter in the post addressed to ‘Granny and Grandad’ – inside was a beautiful card made by Little L with a message inside and some tiny feathers – don’t things like this just tug at the heartstrings. It will have pride of place on the mantelpiece.

The jumper is moving on – the back is finished and I am now counting stitches again on the few rows of pattern on the front – it takes all my concentration and lo behold anyone that interupts me – DH knows by now to keep well out of the way when he hears me counting out loud. Despite the difficult bits I keep encountering I do find it quite relaxing to knit in the evenings – my shoulders and neck however think otherwise and have become a bit tense recently so I may have to have a few nights off.

The kitchen planner came on Monday and we spent a good three hours measuring, discussing and looking at what might fit into our tiny kitchen and selecting possible samples of cabinet colour and worktop. Of course you always hit stumbling blocks and compromises have to be made but I shall be glad just to have some new units that are not coming apart. The kitchen we have now is almost 40 years old, pan drawers were not on the radar back then and hardly anyone had a dishwasher – now we would like both, although, I would not be too disappointed if I couldn’t fit a dishwasher in, what you have never had you will never miss.

There are questions to be answered of course……….do I need a self cleaning oven or a steam oven, a dishwasher that has no child lock or one that doesn’t signal the end of the cycle – I really don’t know because I have managed without these things up till now. Should we go with a ceramic hob or induction and should it have four rings or two rings and an oblong area? It is all foreign to me – any suggestions gratefully received – the appliances are such a big outlay if you get it wrong.

By the end of the session our minds were buzzing but I do feel we are now a little closer to a final design. The visuals they produce make it so much easier to see the finished plans – how did we ever manage without them?

On Sunday prior to the kitchen planner coming I had the great idea of cleaning out our china cupboards in the dining area. It was not one of my best ideas but as it was another wet day we had decided to stay in and stay warm – I find it a very tiring job but one filled with satisfaction afterwards.

Whenever I clean out these two cupboards I am reminded of how much china I actually own, it is a great weakness of mine, where one person might buy shoes, I buy china. I love it all and most of it is in constant use. I decided some bits and pieces can now move into the pantry – bread baskets and wooden tablemats which we only use occasionally when we have guests or the family round.

I emptied the cabinets one at a time to avoid overload and then cleaned inside and out, lovingly dusting the contents with a clean tea cloth before replacing them (in a ‘pleasing arrangement’ as DH says). I just love my ‘proper’ Ainsley patterned china dinner service, I know they are not fashionable any longer – does anyone still hold dinner parties anymore? – but I would never part with mine in fact we used it on Burns night. Each piece we have was either a gift or chosen with care from the seconds factory down in Stoke on Trent. So although most of it is not perfect it is perfect in my eyes.

Most of my other china is white, clean and simple. Our everyday dishes are from the Thomas china range by Rosenthal that we bought back in the late 90’s (mostly in sales as it isn’t that cheap). Before this we had numerous cheap dinner sets but found that once a piece was broken a replacement could not be found. We have never had a problem with the Thomas china it is still being made today and in fact the newer updated shapes fit in very well.

I do confess to a bit of a jug and a spoon fetish too.

I can’t say that I actually decluttered anything in here and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to find anything I did not want – it all sparks joy and I can say hand on heart that nothing in my china cupboard languishes unused but I am making a great effort not to purchase anymore….well for a while anyway.

I had food to use up in the pantry too; a ripening pear and avocado and I had ideas for these. We had the avocado mashed onto a Sainsbury’s cheese stick (my favourite rolls at the moment though not as cheesy as Tescos’) then heaped with cooked courgettes, mushrooms and tomatoes with a side salad of grated beetroot and chopped cucumber all topped with grilled halloumi slices.

I made up a recipe to use up the ripe pear. I love chocolate and pear together but rather than make a chocolate and pear cake or pudding I made a quantity of chocolate sponge mixture and divided it into some bun cases, then pressed a few chunks of diced pear gently into the top, sprinkled over a few chocolate chips and baked them in the oven.

Result…. delicious. And easy to freeze and then pack up for our picnics.

Tomorrow we shall be on our way to North Yorkshire once again – it is the school holidays and we are going to see the grandchildren for a day or two – not that we can do very much in this weather – I think a trip to the park will be out!

Hope everyone is keeping warm and has not been flooded out. x

dear diary :: weathering the weather

I have been having so much fun today organising my new pantry I am sure it can’t be legal!!

I have still a few adjustments to make and then it will be photo ready – well when the weather is also photo ready, it has been far too dark inside to even attempt a photo shoot.

On the matter of the weather…..my heart goes out to the poor people of the Calder Valley, which is only a few miles from here, and all those affected by the flooding and not for the first time. As a flood victim myself I can sense the misery and frustration they are feeling at the moment and I must admit I shed a tear or two for them.

Today although not as forceful the wet, windy weather continued – the kind of day when it is wise to stay warm indoors and a special treat is required to stave off those winter blues. Whilst writing out my shopping list for the week I helped myself to one…well maybe two of these cute little Godiva biscuits (a much appreciated Christmas present)……I am only surprised there are still some left.

The weather on Saturday was not too bad at all; DH managed to get an emergency appointment in the morning with his dentist to look at his broken tooth which was becoming very painful and had kept him awake for most of the night. So we took advantage of being in town to do some shopping and later called at Sainsbury’s to top up on a few more fresh vegetables, bread and milk.

While DH was at the dentist I occupied myself having a wander around the nearby Dunelm store. I have been looking for some kind of laundry basket for the laundry room and this one which is on castors just fits the bill as it will be easy to move around.

I also called in at one of those cheap shops (don’t ask me which one – they all look alike) and I bought a large pack of epsom salts which I use when I soak my feet prior to giving myself a weekly pedicure. They were £2.49 for the kilo but later I spotted them in Home Bargains buy 2 for £4 50 (I think) making them only £2.25 each.

Next stop was B&Q for some fleece as I am on a mission to save my rhododendron from getting hit this winter by the frosts. The buds will begin opening soon as it is an early variety and last year they were ruined by the harsh weather. We got a pack of three large bags and DH has now ‘bagged’ it and I must say it does look like a bit of a monster in the garden when it catches my eye through the kitchen window, but hopefully it will do the job of protecting it from the elements.

We had a trip round to TK Max too for a couple of storage jars I had seen earlier in the week, disappointingly the tall one which I wanted for the spaghetti had gone so I had to pay quite a bit more for one from Sainsbury’s which is almost identical but £3 dearer. I love the fact they are glass and the lids are made from bamboo – only the seal is plastic.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s I noticed these little teapots with a built in strainer had been reduced to half price – £6. I have been looking at them for ages now with an idea to using the cheaper loose leaf tea as tea bags can be quite expensive for the organic decaf ones I prefer.

So that was the shopping expedition and by the time we arrived back home it was almost time to make the tea. I have been using up odd bits and pieces of veg so nothing goes to waste – I steam them, then place them in an ovenproof dish cover with a cheese sauce and add a sprinkling of sesame seeds and flaked almonds then bake in the oven or just brown the top under the grill….and in no time you have a very tasty supper dish served with a mound of mixed greens. We usually always eat at the dining table in the kitchen but occasionally it is nice to indulge ourselves and eat our supper on a tray by the fire, especially when the weather is raging outside, and just watch whatever is on the TV.

Staying cosy and warm by the fire is a good oppotunity for me to start knitting another baby jumper – I hadn’t actually noticed that the pattern had a pattern until I came to start knitting it and I am feeling quite pleased with myself that it worked out and does resemble the pattern in the picture. As a novice knitter it is always daunting to come across something new but I coped and the rest of the jumper is quite plain. I have chosen the age 1-2 years size in the hope that it will fit one of the grandchildren and that they won’t have grown out of it before I finish it.

On Sunday we awoke to the sound of wind whistling around the house and knew the storm was now taking hold. The rain was lashing at the windows and at 11am the electricity went off, flickered back into life a little, then went again but this time was off until about 3pm. The house was mighty cold by the time it was back on but we do have a gas fire in the living room – shame we only thought about it part way through and switched it on! Lunch was a can of soup cooked on our little camping stove and we were at least able to make ourselves a cup of tea.

It is funny how everything you think to do during a power cut involves electricity! In the end when I realised ironing, hoovering, washing and cooking were all jobs I couldn’t do we got out the kitchen plans again to try and resolve the many issues of all the units / appliances etc that are not going to fit where we would ideally like them.

Today I wanted to get a few jobs done so DH made the lunch – mushroom soup, delicious as ever, and for tea I needed to use up some left over mashed potato in the fridge and finish off the leeks – so the Crank’s Homity Pie was just the right recipe for this (althought they use onion but I much prefer leeks).

So that was my last few days – nothing too taxing and certainly nothing very exciting, just normal day to day stuff. Hope everyone has managed to stay safe and warm during the storm – more bad weather is forecast over the next few days – I have cleaning to do.

creating health and wellbeing

I am not sure our recent cosy supper meals are strictly that healthy – pastry, mashed potato and cheese is quite heavy and loaded with carbs – but at this time of year it feels warming and satisfying against this continuing chilly weather. Our lunch time meals of soup or winter salads are much better and I found a couple of brilliant books in the library called Savour by Amber Locke and The Soup Cleanse by Angela Blatteis.

I wasn’t particularly going to attempt a soup cleanse but the information in the book is well woth a read. I now know that amongst other things almonds regulate cholesterol levels, beetroot lowers blood pressure, as does spinach, and sunflower seeds strengthen bones.

I can recommend the book Savour – the photos are just brilliant and so colourful and I love her ideas for garnishing the soups with shredded veg, spiced roasted chickpeas, oven roasted Tofu or crumbled goats cheese – she manages to turn soup into a very healthy and nutritious meal and it is these ‘additions’ that I will be concentrating on in the next few weeks to add variety to our soup and pack them full of healthy nurtients.

Exercises are high on my list – I admit it is not an area that I am good at – in fact the words ‘fail’ and ‘miserably’ spring to mind. As hard as I try I do not seem to be able to get any routine or rhythmn going – I am at best hit and miss and at worst do absolutely nothing. I have all of the intentions but am lacking in action.

I have now printed down from the internet examples of the same exercises suggested by my physio (although she drew little stick men – I needed something more visual to help me remember them).

One of my comments recently from Linda (Occasional Scotland) was to write down the date when I do the exercises – I did this and it sure hit home that there were gaps in between the days and I am not doing them as often as I think I am. (No surprises there).

Part of the reason is just a sheer lack of time and constantly being away from home and having to play catch up – part of the reason is that although when I get down to doing them I actually enjoy them and feel better afterwards it is obviously the getting down to doing them that is my sticking point. I really am not a routine person.

Margaret another commenter asked what the exercises are for my knee – so here is the list – you can find them on the internet and you tube under these or similar headings.

  • Straight leg raises (and with belt)
  • Diastasis recti exercise
  • Side lying straight leg lifts
  • standing glute kickbacks
  • Glute bridges

So this week I am concentrating on the exercises and some serious healthy meal planning.

dear diary :: ticking off the tasks

Try as I might I do find it difficult to keep breaking off a project once I get started and often I just keep going to the detriment of everything else. I am by nature a completer finisher, a role that made me perfect for my work submitting claims to the legal aid agency; I know some people struggle with the finishing side of things but my problem is often the not finishing as I hate loose ends.

So apologies that I have been absent these last few days – missing in action – so that I could concentrate fully on the tasks I had set myself….to get to the bottom of the laundry basket and complete the subsequent ironing pile and also to get our finances up to date, receipts entered and bank statements balanced, so I could run a year end report.

Both tasks are now complete and I am back on a straight edge…. vowing not to let either task build up again. Famous last words though I think.

The house is also looking tidier than it has since Christmas and every room has had a quick flick of the duster and been hoovered. I even treated myself to a few flowers from Sainsbury’s – I couldn’t resist this little brown parcel of pale pink tulips. I love that they have packaged them in compostable brown paper rather than cellophane.

On Monday I had a few jobs that needed to be done before we leave for Scotland. We are hosting the Burns night supper again this year for our friends and invitations had to be written and delivered before we go. I will buy the haggis while we are up there as there is plenty of choice and some Scottish potatoes which have a lot more flavour.

I had lemons to use up too so I decided on making lemon curd. Both my daughters asked if I would make some for Christmas but I just couldn’t fit it in. Today seemed like a good day to get this done once I had stripped the beds and got the sheets out on the line to blow before the worst of the weather was due to arrive after lunch.

I chose the recipe from this book I found in The Works a couple of years ago. It has less sugar (equal quantity of butter and sugar) than some recipes that have double the amount of sugar to butter.

It is one of the most enjoyable things I make – the smell is heavenly and of course the jars wouldn’t be the same without a few hand stamped labels. No need to put a date on as it won’t last that long.

DH made two batches of soup to use up some of the veg and so we can take some on the journey and put some in the freezer. He also made a curry for tea and some extra to take with us.

My final task of the day was to make apple and sultana cake as I have a freezer full of cooked apple that I need to use up.

Once baked I wrapped half to take with us and put the other half in the freezer. You will find the recipe under recipes in the menu bar.

I am not sure what the weather will be like in Scotland – we have had numerous floodline warnings in the last few days as the tides in the bay are very high at the moment and once again the road where the two people were swept away last year has been closed.

I have a few blogs to catch up on now so need to get reading and the next time I write it will be from bonnie Scotland when we visit our cottage (caravan). For new readers you might want to read the tale of our cottage in the menu tabs above.

creating health and well being

I have been much more mindful in the last few days – noticing what I eat, how much I exercise and how stressed I feel. Even though you know you should do something it is hard to find the time in our busy lives to just do it.

My visit to the physio last Friday was a) the best £40 I have spent in a long time and b) already having an effect on my knee. I was quite hesitant about going as I had a bad experience with a physio at our local NHS clinic who made my neck far worse than it was after a whiplash incident. But I needn’t have worried the lady I saw was brilliant. She has given me a set of very easy exercises to do – I can even do them watching TV in the evening – nothing dynamic but will just give the relevant muscles a wake up call.

After only a few days I am already starting to feel the benefits.

The meditation sessions also feel like they are having a positive effect – I will take my blood pressure before and after so that I can visibly see if this is the case. If nothing else I think it has been quite beneficial on my digestion and I am sleeping better too, not that I had a big problem with insomnia but occasionally I could spend an night when the worries just crowd into my brain and keep me awake.

January so far has been a busy time for us and is set to continue. I confess that we had a couple of days with quick meals because we were home late – egg and chips one night followed the next evening with some caribbean veggie pasties. If nothing else eggs are good for B12 and iron and the pasties have turmeric in them and we had a heap of fresh cabbage to accompany them. This was offset though by our nourishing homemade soups at lunchtime and we have kept off the biscuits and crisps so not all is lost.

So far my growing list of healthy adjustments looks like this

  • drinking green tea in the morning and ginger tea in the afternoon
  • a Braeburn apple a day
  • a meditation session once a day
  • a few easy exercises for my knee
  • fewer snacks
  • homemade soup most lunchtimes
  • healthier meals in the evening with plenty of veg

It takes time to make even small adjustments and get used to doing them and even longer to educate DH into doing the changes (he still makes me ordinary tea some days) but little by little changes are happening.

seasons :: bedding down for winter

They are certainly grey wintry days at the moment that make you want to stay indoors keeping cosy and warm; reaching for a nearby throw and snuggling down to watch a film or read a book. It is the time of year when the weather can take a turn for the worse; windy, wet and often bitterly cold – we have had all three recently and I find myself yearning for a little snow as snow seems far more pleasant and of course pretty. It is the time of year when you just want to ‘bed’ down and only surface as spring appears.

Indoors I am still ploughing my way through the dirty laundry left over from Christmas and when I have washed and put it out on the line to dry it then becomes part of the ironing pile mountain. Each day I do a little bit in the hope I will ever see the bottom of the basket again – wash, dry, iron then put away. The laundry is a very circular task like prepping, cooking, eating meals then clearing up.

It is the same with our finances – each day I am doing a little bit towards reducing the pile of receipts so that I can balance the bank statements; though I know it would be more satisfying to me if I could take one project to a conclusion, but I also know that if I focus on one thing something else will not get done at all.

I am returning at the moment to my kanban board by my desk in the office / craft room. Here I can stick post it notes to a glass notice board that is marked out in sections – ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Done’.

The idea is that the tasks move across the board from ‘To do’ to ‘Done’. We each have three colums and there should never be anymore than 3 tasks waiting in the ‘In Progress’ section – only when one moves to ‘Done’ can another task be started. I often give really urgent tasks a different colour of post it note like bright pink – too many of those and I know it is panic stations.

This morning DH made tomato soup for tomorrow’s lunch before finishing off the shelving in the pantry. We decided in the end the lowest shelf didn’t really need the strip light underneath – it seems bright enough in there as it is with the two downlighters.

As I write he is doing the last little finishing touches, then it can be given a final wipe down and I can put the storage jars on the shelves.

Then sit back and admire!

I, on the other hand busied myself hanging the washing out to dry and whilst I was in the garden I reached for my camera. Our mahonia is absolutely magnificent this year and providing us with a lovely splash of colour now all the Christmas lights have been packed away.

Most of the garden has bedded down and is ‘slumbering’ nicely but the primulas have come to life and the cyclamen I planted in the autumn continue to provide me with a lot of pleasure each time I go in and out of the front door.

Even the land cress refuses to give in to the cold wet weather and packed with minerals is an added boost to the supergreen soup we make.

If I looked close enough I could see little signs of life here and there – pushing up through the cold, damp earth and decaying leaves.

For all the signs of life in the garden there has been no signs of life down our road today – not one person to nod or speak to. I think it must be hard to be on your own all day and not see a soul so with this in mind I have added ‘call aunty M and my mum for a chat’ to my list.

creating health and wellbeing

I made the physio appointment today for Friday. It isn’t with the guy I had wanted as he is booked until the end of January and I don’t feel my knee will last that long. I am worried to exercise it now and do the wrong ones – I need specific advise from an expert.

I didn’t attend yoga in the end for the same reasons really – too worried I might put too much of a strain on it even though my teacher is good and will adapt postures to suit need.

I did do a meditation session today….yeah! It was difficult at first to quieten down but soon I was drifting away in my own little heaven, like letting soft waves wash gently over you and after doing it and feeling so good I wonder why I don’t do it everyday – who wouldn’t like to feel completely relaxed and on cloud nine all the time. Of course the answer is distractions and interuptions and giving way to a hundred and one other things I feel I must be doing.

At the moment the CD I am listening to came free with this book. The narrator of the seven various meditations has a very calming, unhurried voice who keeps telling me it is OK if my mind wanders or I don’t feel anything in particular. You just feel what you feel, no right or wrong. I am actually looking forward to tomorrow’s session.

I keep munching the apples too and need to stock up with more soon.

My memory though is pathetic – I forgot the weigh in yet again this morning – I am now worried this may be a form of self sabotage, denial even. I do know the reason though – it is simply that my dressing gown is in the laundry system and I have been getting up and dressing straight away so by the time I remember I need to weigh myself I do not want to undress again.

Today for lunch we used up a dish of leftover mashed potato that was in the fridge so as not to waste it – I heated it up in my ceramic green non stick pan and sprinkled over a handful of grated cheshire cheese, cooked a few mushrooms and added a can of baked beans. There was a bit of healthy side to it somewhere I think and it was warming and delicious.

Tonight we are having the remains of the shepherd’s pie with broad beans (steamed of course). Broad beans are packed with protein and fibre as well as being a good source of both folate and B vitamins, and they contain high concentrations of dopamine – for this reason they are being researched as a possible benefit for anyone with Parkinsons disease.

Starting too many changes is not the aim of my game here but I feel that from tomorrow I will make a big effort to become better hydrated by drinking more and see if this makes a difference to my health.

I have never been a big drinker (alcoholic or otherwise) – at work I always had a small china mug, none of these super sized ‘buckets’ for me. Presently I wake up and have to drink a full glass of water to take my tiny Thyroxine tablet and propel it past my gut into my intestine for it to work properly. I then have an hour to wait before food – but I often end up waiting two – I need to know if this is good or bad thing as yet I haven’t read anything that would tell me. I do know that restricting the hours that you eat is beneficial or thought to be – but that will be for me to investigate another day.

After breakfast I have a cup of green tea and another mid morning then it is a cup of ginger tea after lunch. From then on I have ordinary black tea with milk and a mug of hot milk with an added spoonful of slippery elm at bedtime. The slippery elm is good for lining the gut.

You may notice I don’t actually drink any more water other than in my tea so this is what I will try and rectify by having at least one more glass throughout the day.

I desperately need to get down to planning some meals before we have to go shopping again. We will not need very much as our new pantry actually looks stuffed full of food – I cannot believe that so much came out of our kitchen cupboards.

So after just a few days my health and well being changes list now looks like this:-

  • an apple a day – check
  • a meditation session – check
  • green tea, one or more cups a day – check
  • ginger tea, one or more cups a day – check
  • a healthy breakfast -yoghurt and fruit followed by museli – I think it is
  • a healthy lunch – mostly
  • a healthy evening meal – most days

The question is how long can I keep this up??

dear diary :: gradually moving into the slow lane

There is no doubt that I am slowing down a little and can feel the pressure and urgency of the run up to Christmas fading away now. If a job isn’t finished today I can quite comfortably carry it over until tomorrow and not worry about it.

On Sunday I collected together all the Christmas decorations dotted around the house – I decided I might try storing them in a different place – yet to be identified….and in a different container to the many small boxes they occupied. So at the moment they are pending in the craft room waiting for a new home.

It feels good to have space around me now – not that I had many decorations this year, they were kept to an absolute minimum – but the clearer ledges and tops of the units look simple and uncluttered . Not ready yet for spring colour, like my calendar suggests, I am continuing with winter whites around the house, plenty of white candles, white flowers, and white pottery. A quiet representation of the time of year.

After removing all the Christmas cards I can now display all the thank you cards that keep arriving through the post. It is so nice when people take the time to say thank you and I have been writing out my own cards and delivering them.

There are birthdays to attend to as well – inside this envelope…..

is the last of my pressed flower cards, so card making is another project for my list – but perhaps another day.

This morning I sat down to look at decluttering and updating some of my document files on the computer. I seem to have duplicate files here and there taking up space. I had intended to just do a couple of files but once I started I found it hard to stop and actually spent most of the day deleting old files to the recycle bin.

It is amazing what I found though -articles I had copied down into Word and not got back to reading, craft ideas and ideas for meal plans – in fact a wealth of information at my fingertips.

The weather this morning was cold…. extremely cold and quite blustery but just right for putting the sheets and pillowcases outside on the line, and it all dried in no time but we had to run out and hold it down with extra pegs.

I just managed to catch the best of the weather as after lunch it rained ……heavily. But now the ironing pile is growing faster than I can iron.

DH was busy cutting the pantry wall shelving to size until it got too gloomy to carry on. Only two more shelves to go and then I can start to fill them with my storage jars. He also renewed the car insurance for both cars – a hefty bill – but it is far cheaper to pay the whole lot at once, a monthly direct debit is dearer as they add on a credit fee.

I have a bit of a backlog of receipts to enter onto my computer Money program, so I have grouped them by weeks and intend to do one batch a day each morning. Only then can I balance the accounts and run the reports that will tell me how much we have spent in each category for the year.

Little by little I am doing a bit of tidying up and sorting out – I am hoping by the end of the week to have made some impression on the house and it will not only appear tidy on the surface but be tidy in the cupboards and behind the scenes.

Creating health and wellbeing

I am hoping my new focus on my health and well being will improve my memory as I forgot to weigh myself and take vital measurements again this morning. This requires a post it note reminder on the bathroom door tonight!

So far I can report that I have eaten, all but for one day, an apple each morning. The meditation has not gone quite so well and the reason for this is that once I start a job I hate to break off. With so many extra household chores at the moment removing decorations, stripping beds and putting the house back together, the meditation sessions have been furthest from my mind. Just when I think about doing it I glance at the clock and find it is time to make the next meal.

The meals are going well though – lunch was homemade supergreen soup with some left over crusty bread and last night we had courgettes, mushrooms, celery and onion on a bed of couscous with grilled halloumi slices followed by some fresh raspberries (reduced yellow sticker from Tesco) and just a smidgen of ice cream.

For lunch today we had homemade mushroom soup and tonight a lentil shepherd’s pie with carrot, leek, celery and onion and topped with mashed swede and potato. Unfortunately, I am a bit of a potato fiend and ideally I need to cut down on eating quite so many so I did a slightly higher ratio of swede.

Today is the start of the Yoga class – my knee is still not good and I am still deciding if I should go. I did phone the physio yesterday for an appointment to get an assessment done but didn’t get through so will try again today.

At the moment I am reading an interesting book called Get Well Soon by Nick Duerden who wrote the book after having a very debilitating illness which so far in the book was diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue syndrome after a severe bout of flu. There is very little the NHS can do to help this condition and at the time it was a very controversial subject (probably still is) – there is no magic pill or cure and the book is an account of how he tries to help himself through all kinds of diet, exercise and complimentary therapies to get well. So far he is finding that not a lot of what he tries is helping to alleviate the profound tiredness he is experiencing. As the book progresses I am supposing he does find an answer.

Until I can settle down into a routine of meditation it would not be a good idea for me to introduce any further changes that require time. I am however going to start taking a few supplements that I have identified as being advantages. I already take a daily Vitamin D capsule as my consultant says we don’t get enough in this country during the winter months and quite a lot of the population are found to be extremely lacking when tested.

My neighbour who is Polish and her husband who is English both had a few tests done whilst visiting Poland before Christmas. They cost £30 and they could order a range of tests for such things as cholesterol, diabetes, cancer markers, arthritis and vitamins etc quite easily over there; they just tick off the ones they require from a long list. The results came back within a few days and showed that she was borderline for Vitamin D levels and he was severely lacking. What a shame these kind of walk in requests for blood tests are not available over here – after listening to the health care they get over there it feels like the NHS is quite behind the times over here.

dear diary :: a new dawn, a new day…

As the title above I am reminded of the song lyrics this morning, ‘it’s a new dawn, a new day’…….the bin men are coming so I know the world is slowly returning to normality. A little sad to see everyone’s wheelie bins are out stuffed to the gills and some overflowing – maybe this will change over time as, like many bloggers, we begin to consume less and hopefully packaging becomes more recyclable. With the perils of climate change upon us surely this has to come soon.

There are fewer cars on the drives this morning as neighbours return to work and I feel quite grateful that I have the time to sort out my mess of a house and with the help of my trusty checklist entitled ‘getting back to tidy’ I can bring order back into my life once more, or at least come close to it….. probably the latter.

To help me along I bought one or two cleaning products and as it is very blustery here today I can throw open the windows to bring in some fresh air. I have taken note Sadie of your tip for using Grapefruit essential oil and that is on my list when I next visit our wholefood shop in town – until then I will make do by diffusing some lemon. I can’t wait to get the house smelling clean and fresh and the decorations put away. I have also been able to get the brushed cotton duvet cover and large white bath towels out on the line for a good blow.

My two daughters and the grandchildren will be travelling back from their short holiday in Norfolk today. I shall be glad to see them home safe and sound, like any mum I worry when they are driving about on the roads, everyone is in such a rush these days you take your life in your hands getting from A to B safely. The number of accidents we see now on the A1M when we drive up to North Yorkshire increased dramatically last year and hold ups were a common occurrence.

I thought I would take a few pictures of the lovely Christmas presents I received this year – my friends and family know me so well so everything I received I really love. Sorry for the blue picture quality the light inside is not so good at this time of year.

We are pretty light on presents at our house – as some readers may already know our family take part in a ‘Not so Secret Santa’ so only one gift is bought for each member and this year we reduced the amount down to £25 each rather than the previous £50 to take into account everyone’s changed circumstances. This skin cream by Liz Earle and the handmade glass star was my gift from Santa.

One of my daughters bought an unexpected present for us as a thank you for all the help we gave them to move house just before Christmas – theatre tickets to see the Alan Ayckbourn play Absurd Person Singular. We tried to get to see this before Christmas at the Bingley Little Theatre but could not spare the time, so we are delighted to be going.

DH bought me another subscription year to Country Living and the first issue came with a free china mug designed by Sophie Allport. He also bought me another of the ‘good as gold’ journals from WH Smiths – I use them as my year books filling them with all sorts of notes and cuttings for things I want to save.

I have already started writing and pasting in ideas and notes for January and have found a nice marmalade recipe to do in a few days time.

I had some lovely litle gifts from my friends – a set of white dishes just the right shape to hold an avocado, a handmade glass ornament lovingly wrapped in a piece of stripey cotton fabric and a very large bag of mixed pine cones, fir branches and cinnamon sticks. Wonderful.

One of my other friends always gives us one of those charity donation cards where a donation is made in place of a present. This is also very welcome by me – there must be many people who need the donation more than I need a present.

One or two bloggers have mentioned slow January….I can only hope this is the case. It is rather a hefty month for birthdays here…. six in all at the last count, four family members and two good friends. On the 20th it will be little Freddie’s 1st birthday so that will warrant something a little special, and mum will be 94 the day before. As well as the birthdays we will be hosting our Burns Supper event with our closest friends so we will be going up to Scotland for a few days and bringing back the haggis with us.

I have a cot duvet cover to make and we also need to finish the pantry shelving and do some DIY jobs in my daughter’s new house – coat hooks, curtain poles and renew the shower curtain and bath sealant.

Not looking quite so slow for us then!!

I would however like to think I can snuggle down in January, a little hibernating sounds good to me. Relaxed days by the fire reading or knitting, sketching out plans for shaping the year ahead, browsing through gardening books and maybe, dare I hope, planning that new kitchen or cottage.

And now to other matters – for anyone following along with my health challenge I will be adding this to the bottom of each post.

*******************************************************************************

Creating health and wellbeing

So what of my health challenge – my first day today – after much reading it is evident that to restore your body to good health it has to start with the mind….the brain is in control of everything, I am told, and to calm the brain so healing can begin the brain waves need to be at certain frequency.

We have 5 different types of brain wave: Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, each one has a normal frequency range in which they operate. It is the Theta waves that are most beneficial due to the deep levels of relaxation they facilitate so the body and mind can easily restore itself during and after illness, as well as after mental burnout and physical exertion.

Sounds like I need lots of these then.

With this in mind then meditation is first on my list to practice each day during January. Attaining deep relaxation without going to sleep is not easy. There are so many books and information on the subject though and it is not difficult to find something that will work for you. It might just be sitting and switching off for a few minutes, for me I am choosing to use a guided meditation tape, which is about 30 minutes long and I will block out some time every day, probably during the afternoon.

Alongside of course we are going to be eating healthier food. We are still in the process of eating through the ‘junk’ foods left from Christmas. I shall give away some Christmas cake to my daughter, hide the chocolate biscuits and limit the cream crackers to a couple a day.

We are starting the healthier meals today with a green soup for lunch made yesterday. Dark greens like spinach have plenty of health benefits – helps bone maintenance, lowers blood pressure, protects against eye disease and reduces cancer risk; cooking them in a soup preserves many of the vitamins and minerals too. You can pack a lot of spinach into a soup – more than you can easily manage on a salad.

We will have the soup with bread today but as we go along this will reduce in favour of adding extra chopped vegetables to the soup and some kind of beans for the protein.

My breakfast is low fat organic yoghurt and blueberries followed by a little no sugar museli with fruit and seeds. The blueberries are particularly good for those antioxidants we need.

I am drinking green tea in the mornings, besides reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease, green tea benefits the whole body, contains catechins, antioxidants and can help reduce abdominal fat. It increases the metabolism so if you sip green tea before a workout, the compounds in it increase fat burn during aerobic exercise.

During the afternoon I will switch to ginger tea for the anti-inflamatory properties and will only drink one cup of ordinary decaffeinated tea with milk after our evening meal.

Tonight’s evening meal will be a broccoli and cauliflower bake with potatoes cut lengthways into thick slices, covered in a little olive oil and rosemary and baked in the oven. We are feeding both daughters and partners and the grandchildren so it is something we can all enjoy.

It goes without saying that I will be reducing any cakes, biscuits, pastries, crackers and crisps as I work through January – this is not meant to be a change in eating habits that becomes far too difficult to maintain rather a slow and gradual transformation that is sustainable for the long term. Failing at the first post by restricting myself too much is not a good idea….phasing out (the bad) and phasing in (the healthier) in a more considered way is my plan and I am sticking to it!

I had intended to take body measurements and weigh myself this morning but in the rush to get my day started I forgot. Will do better tomorrow.

It may be a very short post tomorrow as my daughter and grandchildren will be staying until the car is fixed so my attentions will be elsewhere. xx

PS: this post is completely unedited today so apologies for any spelling, grammar and improper apostrophes! Must get my skates on now and get going.

creating a simpler Christmas * days 18-24

My cold was short lived – in fact barely a cold – I think it just came out in sympathy with those around me who have been stricken quite badly…..but many thanks for the messages and best wishes you sent – a few blog hugs always makes you feel better.

It is hard to believe Christmas Eve is here already – how did that happen so quickly. Now everything has to stop ready or not and the busyness of the last few weeks suddenly ceases and at last we can sit back and just enjoy the time with our family and friends, but also thinking about all those lonely people who will not have anyone to celebrate with.

The good side of having a simpler Christmas means I have had more time to go out and about seeing friends, past colleagues and neighbours and I have been busy too filling my new pantry – only the shelving on the wall remains to be done, but that will be after Christmas now. It has been a challenge trying to organise it and no doubt I will be continuing to move things around and get them into a permanent place as I go along but I can say it is one of the best things I have ever had done in the house, after the airing cupboard refit and my linen cupboard. I will post photos post Christmas.

But….so many things have not been done for Christmas this year, but you know what…… I really don’t mind – it is different to usual, but not awful. The bulk of the decorations are still in the loft – I am not really missing them – I have a few, almost discreet, decorated spots around the house and I am loving the minimalist look.

In the end I didn’t buy a tree and I didn’t make a twig tree either; instead I have filled the house with vases of holly and cream roses, snow sprayed pine cones, lots of candles and twinkly lights.

I quite like it.

My two favourite decorations this year are this little round wooden plaque that lights up from B&M for £2.99 and the shiny red Volkswagon Beetle I found in a lovely flower shop in Baslow for £1.

The cake happened and the mince pies. The lemon curd willl be a job for the day after boxing day. I made more chocolate; some as a small token gift for friends and some for our family gathering – it is eaten quicker than I can make it.

So yesterday was the last of the cooking – a quiche for Christmas tea and a few more mince pies; I can hang up my apron now and begin the packing. We will be heading up to North Yorkshire to attend the local carol service in my daughter’s new village – it will be quite special to be with all the family singing carols together on Christmas Eve and then sitting down afterwards to share a simple meal of baked potatoes and salad and have a good old chat and just relax. Christmas is all about being together so I am hoping my sister and mum can join us too, then it will be perfect for me with all my family and the grandchildren – Little L, Sweetie and little Freddie around me.

This year’s wrapping has been minimal too – brown craft paper and tags, stamped simply in white and a little foliage added here and there.

My friend’s twin daughters are 30 today so I hand stamped two craft bags to put their presents into.

Then set off around the village delivering a basket full of homemade gifts and cards to my friends – so now all is done and all there is left to do is enjoy Christmas.

Have a wonderful and happy Christmas everyone – I will be taking a few days break now to enjoy the festivities.

Happy Christmas

xxx

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 :: when it’s dismal outside

Could the weather be more dull or drizzly? I can see where the saying ‘feeling under the weather’ comes from as it can feel a touch depressing. I am even struggling to take photos inside in the gloom. DH is just drinking more of his strong coffee to keep awake – at least it is on offer – half price at Sainsbury’s so I have stocked up big time. I need to keep him going whilst he is doing the decorating – he has now moved on to putting more primer coats on the woodwork.

It can seem a slow job when you are eagerly waiting for it to be finished. I haven’t taken any photos today as there isn’t a marked difference to the previous ones….not that you will see in a photo.

Yesterday turned out to be a bit of a strange day – nothing like I had planned…. but that is not unusual. I was up at the normal hour about 7.30am and had breakfast with my new mats – I promise you will be tired of seeing them soon – but I am so loving them and the difference these two little mats have made I just have to photograph them. Often!

Only an hour or two into the morning and I had the first phone call of the day – my younger daughter – more chat about the upcoming birthday gathering. It seems we have both bought a number one candle for on top of the cake – so at the moment she is ’11’ – hers is a pink one – mine is rainbow coloured so I will save mine for little Freddie – he will be one in January!

By the time we had finished I was late starting the soup – leek and potato today as we hadn’t had this for a while and it is so lovely and colourful – you can’t beat homemade soup when it’s dismal outside.

I like to add some decent chunks of carrot to mine and I only part blend the soup to give it some body but only enough so that most of the veggies are still identifyable.

After lunch I wrote all the birthday cards for November and also a letter or two to get in the post, I like to send hand written letters when I can it is a dying art like postcards…but aren’t they lovely to receive.

We then headed for town again.

I needed to buy the interfacing for the other two tablemats at our indoor market hall and look around some of the out of town retail shops – Mothercare, TK Max, Boots and Next as well as pop into the Range for some double sided tape. Everywhere had such a tempting array of goods I was almost wishing I was back at work and had my monthly wage to be able to buy some of the things I saw. But I reminded myself I really don’t need anything very much and just bought one or two low priced things to satisfy that desire to buy something.

I went for the interfacing first to get that off my list so I didn’t forget it (it has been known for me to come back having totally forgotten what I had originally gone to town for – I am easily distracted!).

On my travels around the shops I found a roll of light brown parcel paper – often it is a very yellowy dark brown but I am quite particular about my brown paper LOL! and prefer the lighter greyer colour for printing on to use as wrapping paper at Christmas. I popped into Boots as I noticed the cotton wool pads are on offer – 3 for 2 this week – so that is my supplies replenished for the coming months, and I got extra points on them too as a bonus.

I thought the Christmas tree shaped vol au vents Sadie mentioned on her blog are really nice – they are doing them in Waitrose too but then I noticed this set of cutters in TK Max for £2.99 so guess what…..I will be having a go at making my own nearer to Christmas with the two smaller cutters and maybe some gingerbread with the larger one.

Pleased with my purchases we came home, made tea and then snuggled down for the evening – I was too tired by this time to even light the candles but that didn’t matter, however, life is not straight forward is it – just as I was relaxing I had another phone call from my daughter to say she had heard through the family grapevine that grandma was not well.

I had only spoken to my mum (who is 93 and lives in one of those lovely retirement apartments near my sister in North Yorkshire) the evening before and she was fine. When I spoke to her last night she was in bed resting and said she had woken up feeling quite off and dizzy yesterday morning and thought it was her blood pressure. My sister had called the doctor who came out to her and he agreed with her diagnosis. They will send someone out to her to take her blood today and run some tests. I hope she is better by Sunday for the get together.

Another Neal’s yard catalogue dropped through my door with a 20% off voucher on the back. As many readers know I love their products and I don’t think you can beat their Intense facial serum but I can only just afford it when it is discounted. I could order it online but I much prefer a day out to Sheffield to their nearest store – it is on the list.

Just as I was preparing for bed my elder daughter rang to chat about the upcoming Christening preparations….. again……. even the Royal Christenings will not have been so well planned – her job at work is managing projects and it continues into her home life – she always examines every detail quite carefully – from car parking at the church and venue to the sandwich fillings, I guarantee everything will be well thought out and I am the sounding board!

So an unintentional late night.

My daughter is coming round today with little Freddie so we can carry on the conversation and finalise a few more bits – maybe I might just get the other two tablemats made in and amongst while she is here. x