seasons :: sweet summer

The pleasure of a perfect summer’s day…. the warmth of the sun, dappled light falling through a canopy of trees creating cool shady spots beneath, an abundance of colour and scent in the garden and the taste of all summer has to offer with freshly picked fruit and vegetables.

An air of excitement and romance. Summer, for me, definitely has the feel good factor.

And it is Picnic weather. Eating outdoors is one of my favourite activities in summer, especially if I can take along my little trusty camping stove and whistling kettle to make a cup of tea, and not to forget a pile of picnic rugs to lie on and a good book or my sketchbook. All these things, but especillay that distinctive sound of the whistling kettle, brings back so many childhood memories spent in a state of absolute summer bliss.

I have all the necessary ingredients available to pack up a picnic at a moment’s notice and also make little treats that I would not normally indulge in; so a good stock of plain vanilla ice cream in the freezer is of prime importance for creating simple quick desserts using fresh fruits.

Yesterday I bought lolly moulds for £2 from Ikea – I will need to find some old fashioned wooden lolly sticks though as I am not keen on the plastic ones provided with the set. When Libbie comes to stay in the school holidays I thought she might like to make ice lollies, I think I might like to too!

Filo pastry is so easy to use and I have a number of recipes where you just beat up some eggs with a little milk, sour cream or fromage frais – whatever is to hand, add seasoning and pour it over any mixture of lightly steamed summer veg spread over a filo pastry case. Then add grated cheese – here I just used cheddar but hard or soft goats cheese, parmesan or a blue cheese would be just as good and finally a sprinkling of fresh herbs to suit your taste.

I have herbs growing everywhere in my garden – freshly picked herbs added to any meal are delicious. Chopped mint on Jersey Royals with a knob of butter, torn basil leaves in tomato dishes and rosemary scattered over a tin of roasting vegetables.

The vegetables and salads I am growing are not very far on this year with all the wet weather and lack of warmth and sunshine. I am so envious of all those bloggers displaying ripe red tomatoes already but hopefully mine will soon make up for the late start.

Having a working oven again is just brilliant – to turn it on and find it heats up (and quickly) is an absolute wonder. I am excited again about cooking and already delving into my pile of recipe books.

Thank you for all the comments on my previous post about the adverts – I am finding out from WordPress if these are their usual amount of ads – if so and nothing can be done I may buy into their ad free plan. As a reader myself I would not want to be bombarded with them and I always have an ad free read myself on other blogs because I more often than not read blogs through the wordpress reader and my own PC browser settings are set so that hardly any get through. I will update you all more on this soon.

Today we have no firm plans, maybe a bit of gardening or perhaps we will make a picnic and go off for the day. I will let you know.

Finally welcome to all the new readers …enjoy the journey but most of all enjoy summer while it lasts. x

sEAsons ~ celebrating Easter

Hi there – just dropping by to say I am still around but for some reason still very busy – this is not what I expected when I gave up working, I feel I am working twice as hard now as then.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter enjoying the glorious weather we couldn’t have timed our party better and of course it ended up as a real garden party (I needn’t have cleaned the living room quite so thoroughly after all!).Many of the plants had started to grow quickly in the warm sunshine  – we are usually quite late in this area being high up and I was willing my pretty Aquilegia plants, which have self seeded all over the garden, to open in time for the party….. but sadly they didn’t.  But no matter there were plenty of the bulbs and Primula still blooming and the blossom….hasn’t it just been delightful?

The party took some preparing in the end – for new readers this was a party for my son-in-law’s 40th birthday combined with an Easter party as it fell on Easter Sunday, we held it at my house because my daughter’s house is so much smaller.

We had Easter eggs and decorations amongst the party decor.  I spent some time covering polystyrene eggs with tissue paper which I hung from twiggy branches supported in a pot of sand hidden with a topping of moss, then added a few fluttery butterflies with my glue gun. I also had fun making these Easter food ‘flags’ to help guests identify the different sandwiches, salads and quiches. And of course we planned an Easter hunt around the garden for the children though the eggs had to be hidden well in the shade so they did not melt in the heat.

We had a day or two in the garden beforehand – setting out all the pots that had been in winter hibernation and adding a few inexpensive pansies and primulas for a touch of colour.

We removed the covers from our garden tables and chairs and brought out the large parasol, then hung out the white solar lanterns from my daughter’s wedding a few years ago – they had been stored in the loft and I was quite surprised they still worked. We also bought some Festoon lighting and DH made a great job of stringing it across the garden using the clothes prop and an old piece of aluminium tubing he found in the garage.At night it looked so magical……Our guests were handed nibbles and cocktails on arrival….. I had spent four days making a mountain of ice cubes in readiness – and ice-cold drinks were very much in demand.

The table was laden with food – sandwiches, mini wraps and four different salads all ordered from M&S by my daughter.   For the true meat eaters her MIL bought a selection of pies, sausage rolls and scotch eggs from a local award-winning butchers and my contribution was some small quiches and of course the cake.

The cake was certainly one project too many – it nearly didn’t happen when twice the ready rolled icing stuck to the kitchen work top despite the oodles of icing sugar I had sifted beneath.  I am no cake decorator and it was very rushed so this is extremely wobbly and the icing a bit cracked in my desperation to get it onto the cake!   And exactly what is it you may ask……a circuit board of course – as son-in-law is an electrician come electrical engineer and is always playing about with circuit boards.  I had to have precise instruction for this from DH as I had no idea what I was doing.For desserts we kept it simple with profiteroles, a huge bowl of mixed berries with crushed meringue and double cream to make Eton mess and some tiny party cheesecakes and chocolate bites.

Although not everyone was very impressed!!!

….but all in all it was such a wonderful day.

And the best bit…..Libbie (Little L) had made me an Easter present from some DAS clay a beautiful little pink heart – of course I will treasure it.It has taken me a while to straighten the house up again after the party – putting dishes back and packing bits and pieces away – I am feeling quite exhausted now – I could barely drag myself to Yoga on Tuesday morning and somehow I need to gather up a little more energy to start on the Christening dress….we need to do a bit of fabric hunting in the next day or two and celebrate yet another birthday, but on a much smaller scale this time, before we can finally escape up to Scotland for a well earned rest.

fEAsting ~ and the cupboard was bare

At first glance on Friday our cupboards and fridge seemed a bit bare…panic…

My menu planning had become a bit out of sync with having mum to stay recently and we only did a part shop last Monday in Sainsbury’s to cover a few days, expecting to have to go again at the end of the week to top up.   But I didn’t really want to go down to town to Sainsbury’s again just for the weekend and I am watching the pennies so I decided to make what we had stretch over to next Monday when I would usually shop.  We had run out of milk completely but we can get this from the local village Co-op and once I had assessed the meagre offerings laying in the fridge and devised a menu plan to get us through the weekend I asked DH to bring back a carrot too. The sum total of the veggies leftover from last Monday’s shopping trip were a few large old potatoes and a handful of small new potatoes, a number of tiny tomatoes, a little gem lettuce, 2 leeks, 2 onions, 2 courgettes, a few bits of celery, most of a swede and 3 pointed red peppers plus 2 very small avocados.

We also had a block of mild cheddar, a piece of Jarlsberg, 5 eggs;  and in the freezer I keep peas, broadbeans and nutloaf.  In the store cupboard I had a packet of chickpeas and plenty of brown rice.

So I worked out a menu plan to incorporate all these bits and bobs and tide us over

  • Friday evening meal – *chickpea and rice with 1 onion, 1 courgette, the leftover mushrooms (not at their best but salvageable), and the 2 small stalks of some celery,
  • Saturday lunch – a ploughman’s lunch of bread, cheese, tomatoes, pickle and the avocado
  • Saturday evening meal – omelette with tomato, red pepper, courgette and herbs, small roasted potatoes and peas.  Also a small cherry crumble each from the freezer.

Leek and Potato Soup

  • Sunday lunchtime – Leek and potato soup (I can add a carrot to this and the remaining lettuce), bread with avocado and cheese.
  • Sunday evening meal – Nutloaf, mashed potatoes with swede, carrot and broad beans and we have a pack of small Yorkshire puddings in the freezer if we want to turn it into more of a Sunday dinner.  I also serve the Nutloaf with apple sauce (also in the freezer).
  • Monday lunchtime – rest of the Leek and potato soup and bread

* The chickpea and rice concoction – I kind of invented it myself one day and it has been a winner here ever since.  Quick and easy and you can throw most things in it.

Cook a chopped onion and celery in a little oil to soften, then add chopped courgettes and finally add a packet of pre cooked Chickpeas and some chopped mushrooms.  It works with most vegetables so a good way to use up those little bits and pieces.  Once the mushrooms are softened I add some stock – about 200ml and leave to simmer so the flavours infuse.  I add some parsley at this point too.  Meanwhile cook some brown rice about 3-4oz (usually takes 30mins). Once cooked add to the chickpea mix and combine.  Cook for another 3-5 minutes and serve.

It is always amazing how far you can stretch the leftover veg when you need to and it is a good way of saving a few pounds.  We have a few standby things in the freezer like Nut cutlets, Pizza and some dried pasta in the cupboard but it was the veg I was interested to use up completely so there is no waste.  The frozen Pizza will save for another day or another emergency.

With the 2 remaining eggs I might just be able to make some chocolate buns or brownies.

A day of purposeful prudence and penny-pinching…with a positively perfect outcome for the cost of a carrot.

Spend £0.45p (DH actually bought a bag of carrots rather than just one…but hey you can’t win them all!)

sEAsons ~ winter is the time for home

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
– Edith Sitwell

Ivy

RaindropsWe have had the icy cold days with a frosting of snow recently and then we had the rain… but it brought slightly milder weather with it, which has been quite welcome…today it is cold once again but very sunny.    Although I like the winter months the cold has got to my bones a bit – I must be getting older. The full force of the winter weather can be seen further afield out on the moors above us where there are wonderful and ever-changing vistas to capture – I love the bleak atmosphere that surrounds this expanse of wilderness  – there are no trees, no buildings and no people.  Even the sky can seem quite dark and foreboding at times.  Only days ago this road was closed to a heavy snowfall and ice and we had to find alternative routes on lower ground – yesterday as you see it is quite passable with only a light dusting over the hills.  The beauty of this untouched landscape is breathtaking no matter when you pass through.

Around the garden there are plenty of delightful things happening at the moment despite the weather.  I haven’t ventured outside very much but I have noticed little pockets of colour and a show of buds here and there.  Sometimes everything looks deceptively still and quiet beneath the carpet of leaves but on closer inspection there are shoots appearing and the bulbs I planted only a couple of months ago and these Snowdrops are beginning to push through the earth – a sign that spring will be here soon. Snowdrops To prevent the local cats doing their business and scratching around in the bare patches of earth where the bulbs lie beneath  I pushed a few twigs, from the hydrangea prunings,  into the ground as a deterent and to protect them and I noticed they are starting to bud and have actually taken root.  Anyone want an hydrangea there will be far to many to keep!Spring bulbsWhilst it is so cold I find the best thing to do is stay warm indoors in the kitchen making those nourishing winter comfort dishes.  Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese bake is always a favourite here and plenty of nut roasts with root vegetables.Cauliflower Cheese bake Mushroom soupMaking plenty of soup is still on the menu too – I have found a pack each of white and chestnut mushrooms mixed together make a very quick soup for lunch – add a  leek and a stick or two of celery and a generous handful of fresh parsley for flavour…

…and use up any leftover large ripe tomatoes to make a very warming Tomato Soup with red pepper and a little carrot and a touch of paprika, run through the blender and sprinkle with a good spoonful of parmesan cheese….Tomato soupOn those days when we only have enough soup left for one we share it and I serve a mini bowl of soup with a ploughman’s lunch to use up the thick crusts of bread.For some reason I always feel January is a good month for home life and a little housekeeping – not a deep spring clean and certainly nothing too strenuous but just enough to freshen the place up once all the Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed away.

I have spent time in each room adding decorative bits and pieces and moving pictures around;  just using what I already have and switching things about.  Remember the dried oranges and limes I made at Christmas;  they have mellowed now but still add a touch of colour to these grey winter days and continue to fragrance the air. dried oranges My daughter bought me this lovely glass showcase perfect to display little bits and bobs.  I chose this lino-cut print with the red fox and the little red bird to go with my hand carved wooden robins – the bold black and white with a splash of colourful red seems quite appropriate for now.In the corner of the dining room the yellow tulips from Aldi for £1.89 are so wonderfully vibrant and cheerful – and very reasonably priced – I will certainly be visiting the store for more flowers in future as they have lasted so well.Tulips TulipsAnother small but new pleasure in my life is this desk calendar on a gold metal stand – Sadie over at Notes from an Ordinary Life introduced me to pink and I must say I am hooked – I saw this in Sainsbury’s and somehow it found its way into my trolley last week – it cost me £7 but it can be used again and again if I make and print my own calendar sheets next year when this one is finished.  I am looking forward to making my own too – I might try out some decorative stamps or lino-cuts.CalendarWe have done very little shopping so far this year as there is not very much that we need other than a new kitchen.   During the sales I got a great deal on the Neal’s Yard items – the face cream and serum I use was being offered at a discount in a gift box so not only did I get it cheaper but there is a free eye cream with it.  I also love their sturdy boxes and reuse these for all kinds of things.Mum must be getting more forgetful as for the first time in years (and I mean years) she didn’t buy me my usual slim handbag diary for Christmas so I looked for a cheap one in Poundland  – I should be able to spot this colourful one easily in my handbag – I carry one about to jot down appointment times, phone numbers or anything I need to make a note of whilst I am out (most people would probably use their phones but I am not a phone user – I still like paper – you don’t have to remember to charge it!).  Whilst out shopping I also took advantage of the reductions on Christmas cards and bought a couple of packs with 50% off to put away for next Christmas.

Staying snug and warm by the fire, watching old movies in the afternoon on the Talking Pictures channel, laughing at ‘For the Love of Ada’ – a comedy from the 70’s ,  a little reorganising and cleaning around the house, a few bright spots of colour placed here and there in each room, writing thank you notes to friends, flicking through my magazines for ideas and lots of planning for the year ahead – a pleasurable way to get through the long grey days of winter.

As Edith Sitwell says – winter is a time for home.

Baby X is now doing well – I think we are on the turn and mum and dad are easing into a routine – one with little sleep – but starting to find their feet now and feel more confident – they dealt with the problems that arose very well and deserved a medal for their perseverance – having a tiny baby relying on you for everything is especially hard when mum herself has post delivery problems that needs attention too.  Thank you for all your good wishes – it is very much appreciated.

I will be putting a tab at the top of my blog just for recipes of anything I mention here – do bear with me this may take a little time to do.

Hope you are enjoying your winter days x

crEAting Christmas ~ day 17

Mince pies Mince piesDay 17 – I swapped my Advent task today to make the mince pies  – after all Christmas would not be Christmas without them even though I can only eat one or two as they don’t really agree with me now.  I often bake these tiny ones as they make a lovely token gift and this batch was to take in to my old workplace for my former colleagues.

I was eager to try out the new kitchen tool I found at the local hardware store when we were in Scotland.  It is a wooden pastry tamper – it cost about £5 and is double ended for pressing the pastry of small or large circles into the trays.

I was impressed – it works a treat and gives the pies a professional look.  To save time I used the ready-made roll of all butter short crust pastry – I like the fact it has all natural ingredients.  I was a bit disappointed that the finished pastry case is a little on the thick side; if I used it again I would put the rolling-pin over it to make it slightly thinner.

Mince piesThe thickness didn’t affect the taste though, the pastry was ‘melt in the mouth’ with no soggy bottoms.  After a dusting of icing sugar I packaged them up onto these little white trays (I collected during the year from Chocolate Mini Rolls) lined with a doyley and added a sprinkling of confetti – green metallic holly leaves. Mince piesI also took in a tray of the chocolates.  Well it is Christmas.

It is getting very close now to the big day – most of my list has been ticked off and just a few bits and pieces left to do but if they don’t get done I wouldn’t be worried. The traffic in town and the village is building up and the shops getting busier so it is taking longer to do anything that requires leaving the house.  I expect it will get worse over the weekend.

There still seems to be an awful lot of stock to shift in the shops and the prices are steadily dropping but there is nothing now that I need to buy.  We have all the gifts ready and a spare emergency one just in case.  My family Not so Secret Santa gift was for my younger daughter and she needed a coat that fit her now she has had the baby.  I bought part of it for her birthday too (as it is in December) and suggested she start wearing it now rather than wait for Christmas.  We wouldn’t normally do that but there was no point in her being cold until Christmas Day.

We have a family 21st party on Sunday at my sisters and then I am looking forward to a quiet Christmas at home.

 

fEAsible ~ a little baking and a lot more planning

Christmas cake Christmas cakeA nice quiet Sunday spent baking my Christmas cake whilst singing along to my favourite CD of Christmas Carols to get me in the mood.  DH had gone to the final concert in town and I had the afternoon to myself so once the cake was parcelled up and in the oven I had another go at my Christmas card.  I have so many varying Robins now but none are quite right and I am in two minds as to whether to ditch the idea and do something else.

On Saturday morning DH finished the shelving in the shed and today I remembered to take some pictures.  Garden shed Garden shedHe has done a fantastic job – plenty of hooks and shelving and the melamine from the old wardrobe will make the shelves easy to wipe down (and I am so pleased we could repurpose the wood and we didn’t have to take it to the landfill).  All I have to do now is put the contents back – but that will be another day – as will painting the outside as it is still too damp for the paint to stick.

We can however tackle the next maintenance job on the list – re-staining the front door surround and painting the door as it is well protected under the porch roof.   DH made a start this morning while it was both sunny and dry.

It was also completely still; no wind at all – the towels I hung on the line did not move an inch and came back in almost as damp as when I hung them out.I spent the day taking stock of what I have done and what I still have to do.  After a few hectic days I needed to check up on our finances and other bits and pieces and generally have a little time to think.

I added a few more tasks to my list as they came to mind – this time of year there are so many little jobs to remember – picking things up, dropping things off, and plenty of decisions to make – trying not to overlook anything.

Following on from my previous list of initial preparations I have a further list (no surprises there!) that is more about cleaning and preparing the house ready to decorate with the Christmas trimmings and also to make sure I have stocked up with all the basics so I don’t find myself running out to the shops on Christmas Eve for batteries or loo rolls.

One of the first things I do is to check the basic stocks in cupboards and drawers of non food items such as toiletries and household items – shampoo, toilet rolls, greaseproof paper, kitchen foil, batteries etc.  I have a reminder list of these items and I generally make a note to stock up with these things well before Christmas so I don’t run out or have to think about them when I am too busy doing other Christmas shopping.

I will then plan to eat up any of those odd bits from the freezer and clean it out.  Once this is done I can prepare some meals like the Nut loaf for our Christmas dinner and restock with the basics like peas, frozen chips and bread.

This is also a good time to have a quick check to see that any evening wear / party outfits are in good order and drop them off for dry cleaning (though I normally only buy washable clothes these days).

Finally I have a quick check over the Christmas lights to see they are in working order.

Cleaning plans

I do like my home to be relatively clean for Christmas especially before all the decorations go up and it gets difficult to clean.  I make a note of tasks that need to be done in each room and anything outside.

I like to give the downstairs rooms a good clean, knocking the dust off the lampshades!  I find that adding a bit of polish to the white goods and small appliances gives them a bit of a sparkle and of course I include giving the oven a good clean.  Once the main rooms look passable I can bring out the Christmas bits and pieces like my cute knitted Christmas pudding tea cosy and robin napkins that my daughter printed and made, my little Christmas china mug and plate and the Christmas candles and holders; by this time adding a few little finishing touches to the house it is beginning to look quite festive but not over done.  The tree and staircase garland are not installed until much nearer Christmas.

During November I will have been clipping away looking for some fresh ideas for the Christmas trimmings.  I have on the list to buy the tree and make a wreath and this I find is getting earlier each year.

DH usually decides where the outside lights are going to go – I leave this job to him and how many lights we have will depend on how much time he has to put them up and how much enthusiasm.  We lost our tree in the front garden a few years ago but still have a number of large shrubs and a climber that we fix lights to but also two tall metal cones made of sturdy chicken wire that look like Christmas trees when decorated.  I have made a note for DH to do the lights in November (thanks to Sadie from Notes from an ordinary life) in readiness for the switch on in December.

If we are having guests to stay over Christmas I will clean and prepare the guest room and check the bedding and also make a note of any specific dietary needs for any fussy visitors.

I have been doing quite a bit of the cleaning as I have decluttered recently so I feel I am well ahead but that could all change.  On a blustery day I might even wash the cushion covers and throws too so they smell fresh.

Well those are the plans so I had better get started now – lots still to do.  You would think after years of practice I must be getting better at this – but somehow it can still fee a bit of a rush to be ready on time.

 

dEAr diary ~ home again, home again

We are back home again from our weekend away.  We had a lovely time at the family gathering it is so nice to be together for Sunday lunch and a catch up; and show off the new arrival.  A friend had made this cake to celebrate my daughter’s 10th wedding anniversary.  Little L wore her new sparkly party dress and everyone had a good time.

But it is good to be home again and hopefully at home now for a while.  The recent trips up and down to North Yorkshire (about a 2 hour journey) have taken their toll and I am feeling rather weary at the moment and have only just finished all the unpacking and putting away once more, but not the catching up with finances and washing.

It is bitterly cold here and wet with it… and gloomy – I have the lights on in the house and I have put the heating on this afternoon for an hour; it certainly looks wintry out there to me.I made Tomato soup yesterday and more soup today, a minted green soup with watercress, spinach, lettuce and pea.  We had some for lunch and I have put the rest in the freezer for another day.  Hot soup on a cold day is perfect for lunch.  It was too cold to be cleaning out the freezer today so I have postponed this job yet again for another day.

I did manage to cut out the paper for the eight selection bags – there was just enough – and I will make these into bags tomorrow morning when the light is better.

Yesterday we went to Sainsbury’s to do the grocery shopping.  I have planned a few easy meals for this week whilst I catch up with myself; Shepherds pie with lentils and Vegetable Lasagne which will do two nights each and then an omelette and salad for Sunday when the oven will be needed for the Christmas cake.   It wasn’t a big shop as we are coming to the end of this month’s pension allowance – our next payment will be this Friday though I am intending that the four weekly pension amount stretches to cover the whole of a calendar month and that way the 13th payment can go into savings.  As long as we keep within the £160 a week then we are doing OK and so far so good but it does take a lot of effort.

Starting in January I will be trying to save 10% of the pension  – £64 every 4 weeks amounts to a healthy £832.00 for the year plus the £200 fuel allowance  will give us £1000, so I will need to cut costs further to do this.  I always saved when we had a wage so I don’t really want to stop now but I have needed time to get used to living on a pension and to see how far it will stretch.  Unfortunately, it is not very elastic.

I am finding food expensive even though we make most of our own meals, waste very little and do not eat meat or fish.  As you know we eat organic foods were we can and especially fruit and veg as I like the fact they are not sprayed with pesticides and they have been farmed in a way that does not harm either me or the environment; I don’t compromise on this even if it costs me more…and generally it does!  It is a constant battle against rising prices or shrinking products.I keep getting vouchers at Sainsbury’s for bonus Nectar points but only if I spend over £100 – which I don’t.  Waitrose have sent me a coupon for £22 off a £110 shop.  This we might use nearer Christmas and buy one of their rooted trees again.

This month has been heavy on gifts and fuel costs too.  Travelling up and down to North Yorkshire is expensive and there is no easy way to reduce this when a third of our immediate family live a couple of hours away, other than not seeing them.  We always make sandwiches and a flask for the journey up there but are often forced to buy a Costa toastie and a drink on our return and motorway services prices are much inflated so as well as the fuel cost being high the snacks we bought when travelling was also an unavoidable expense. Luckily I am able to cut the costs of the gifts by recycling unwanted items and taking advantage of sales.   We also sold 3 unwanted items on eBay this week so have gained £38 in my PayPal account which has boosted the kitty. Another saving of £5.80 was the voucher for a free hot drink and scone at John Lewis when we went to buy my daughter’s gift and because we went to the Cheadle branch the parking was free.

We will wait to see what the weather is doing tomorrow before making any definite plans.  I have selection bags to make, a freezer to clean and some fresh mushrooms for soup.

 

dEAr diary ~ shock, horror and simple pleasures

Duck pond

It is always a shock to realise just how many days have elapsed since my last post.  I thought it was only one or two but it was actually October 25th when I last made an entry and I am not sure I can account for all that time, in fact I am wondering myself just what have I been doing!!

In the main our time was taken up with my granddaughter who was here for a visit in her very first school holidays.  We noticed a few changes in her since her last visit in the summer and especially now she has started school; one of them being that she has quickly learned to drop her ‘t’s and we now pronounce butter in great Yorkshire style as bu’er.  Many readers not familiar with the Yorkshire dialect will not be able to pronounce butter without the t’s but I can assure you that for Yorkshire people it is quite possible though maybe not desirable.

The other notable thing was when we were playing at shops (a Pizza takeaway!) she asked me for 15$ rather than £15 and she sold cookies not biscuits…and so it goes on, where will this American influence end – it must be down to all the American TV programmes and toys that speak with an American accent.Duck pondAll that aside we had some lovely days out at the local parks, complete with picnics at her request, and another trip to the local library.Winter Picnic

We had fun for hours on the swings, feeding the ducks and shouting to grandad down the speaking tubes.  We crunched through the leaves, gathered a few too,  played football and hide and seek and then got warmed up again with a flask of hot chocolate. Duck food

Feeding the ducks

She was with us for Halloween and my friend and neighbour had asked that I took her round as she had bought some sweets in specially.  So we carved pumpkins and made buns to decorate… Horror cupcakes

…they passed the taste test…Testing the buns… she had a sweet little witches costume and hat in her suitcase to put on and with a little face paint – the best scary face granny could manage – we were all ready and when it grew dark we set off with our magic pumpkin all lit up on the Halloween trail.  Granny was so excited!!First stop, my neighbour’s house where we exchanged sweets for one of the grewsome chocolate buns which my friend was delighted with.  I noticed a few other houses displaying pumpkins so we knocked on one or two doors not knowing what to expect.  It is many years since I took part in anything Halloween – back when my two daughters were little the trick or treating aspect was just taking off and rather than a pumpkin we had to carve a turnip complete with a bit of real blood (when the knife slipped) and some old black skirts to dress up in – the shops had not caught on to making money out of it then.

Experiencing the event first hand completely changed my views on Halloween – rather than the dark and sinister event the church might fear I found it to be a lovely time and the children seemed to take it all very light-heartedly.  It occurred to me that we have no other occasion that we celebrate where you can go round to a neighbour’s house that you may not even know,  knock on their door and they welcome you and give you sweets.    So many people had taken the time to decorate and carve pumpkins even a number who didn’t have children.  One person had really gone to town with smoke and eery music outside which was quite scary but lots of fun – like going on the Ghost Train – but most had a simple lit pumpkin – none of the plastic rubbish sold in the shops in evidence.

I got to chat with neighbours I had never met before and greet other people dressed up and wandering the streets as we were.  It was a truly happy occasion and everyone was so generous.  It reminded me of Carol singing days when our church members would go round the village at Christmas and the villagers would welcome you with mince pies and a hot drink – sadly this event is no longer – they have Carols in the park instead.

Of course Little L was absolutely delighted with her bag of treats and once back home we put our lit pumpkins out on the doorstep and waited for Halloweeners to call on us.  Soon the doorbell was ringing and Little L on ‘witch alert’ ran to open the door and provide the same hospitality we had received.

Now the new baby is imminent and we are packing again to go and rescue Little L at the appropriate time to look after her for a few days.  In between all this I have been doing a bit more sorting out – mainly paperwork and today I will be getting rid of a few more piles – a large box of papers to go back for shredding to my old works, a charity bag and a mound of card fronts for the ladies at the Welcome Centre who turn them into new cards to resell.

I rather think that until baby makes an appearance my Christmas plans ae on hold.  Should baby still be reluctant to arrive before Friday I might get to post my October review and my Intentions for November (better late than never) that applies to baby too!

Welcome new followers and apologies for the lack of comments – I have a bit of catching up to do.

Back soon x

PS.  If you wish to leave a comment go to the top of this page and underneath  the title and click on leave a comment.

 

 

dEAr diary ~ getting things done bit by bit

After sleeping on it we came to a decision and went out on Sunday morning to resolve the pot issue.  Totties Nursery had the large frost resistant pot we liked but not the colour – so we drove on to Wyevale Garden Centre, they had both the pot and the colour.  The ticket on the pot said £29.99 – I used my £3 off Wyevale voucher and they also accepted a £10 National garden token making the cost of the pot £16.99 ( much more in line with our new budget).  In a separate transaction I  bought 3 trays of pansies on offer for £10 and used my £5 voucher – a total of £5 spent.  Not a bad saving although we did get absolutely soaked choosing them.

All I need to do now is to fill the pot with compost and add the plants – I cannot decide between the pansies or cyclamens for the new pot.  I will need to sleep on it!

Today it has been really damp and cold here.  I brought the washing in after lunch as it really wasn’t drying in the damp air but DH managed to soldier on moving paving slabs around outside ready to dig out to lay the concrete.  He is groaning with a little back ache tonight – so maybe I will be on the washing up.

After writing a meal plan and shopping list most of the day has been spent dealing with paperwork – bits and pieces of loose ends.  I feel a bit swamped with piles of paper and I must get rid of a lot of it – there is no easy way to file and remember some of the articles I have torn out of magazines in case they might be useful so I have decided it has to go.

I spent a few minutes cutting the fronts off a pile of old birthday cards – some I keep to turn into tags and the rest I will take to the Welcome Centre where some lovely dedicated ladies will make them into new cards to resell.  The back of the card goes into the recycling.

I have also spent an hour perhaps two going through emails and deleting what I can – I now have an inbox of none but I am sure it will fill up again soon.  The plan is to check them every morning when I do my financial checks and receipts which I am happy to report are completely up to date.  The system of 10 minutes each morning is working well so I will add on another 10 minutes to deal with the emails and see how it goes.

I have chosen Monday as my weekly shop day but after going to Sainsburys during the daytime recently and finding it far too busy I have reverted to going at about 5.30pm as I did when I was working.  It is not crowded at all at this time and although it is about 7.30pm when I get home I don’t mind as we can have a quick and easy tea – in fact I will make some soup at lunchtime next Monday to eat with a fresh roll when we get in.

In Sainsburys this week I bought a pack of Sainsburys own Little Ones eco baby wipes  – I noticed the pack seemed smaller so once back at home I checked it against the one I have almost finished and I was right.  Instead of 72 wipes there are now only 64 and the packet is smaller in length too.  Another product that has become a victim of shrinkation. On the good side the Sainsbury’s own Pizza we bought for tea is now on a cardboard tray rather than a polystyrene one – so thumbs up to Sainsburys.

Tomorrow I thought I might make soup – I have some leeks and potatoes to use up in a Leek and Potato soup and I  bought a reduced pack of tomatoes and some Romano red peppers to try out a new recipe for Tomato soup and I might make some Parmesan crisps to go with it.

So bit by bit I am carving out a new routine and setting up some better systems as well as clearing out old unwanted items.  I have generated quite a shredding pile now and this will have to be another task that I do a few at a time so I don’t overheat the shredder.

Back soon x

 

dEAr diary ~ a week of domesticity

I have been busy……….domestically so………….bliss.

There is nothing to beat the satisfaction of a few days of cleaning, clearing and crafting at the homestead

First of all I had to tackle a mountain of washing and ironing after a fortnight at the cottage.  With no easy means of washing clothing or bedding in the caravan it has to be brought home for laundering.  Once that was all line dried, ironed, aired and put away there was…Laundry

Laundrythe  apples… and yet more apples to deal with – they are now peeled, chopped, cooked and in the freezer.  I kept a few apples back to make individual crumbles (together with the last ‘use up’ jar of apricot puree from the kitchen cupboard clear out) – they are also in the freezer.  Apple and apricot crumblesAnd finally I baked an old favourite from the basic Good Housekeeping cookbook –  a mouth-watering apple and sultana cake.  This didn’t even make it as far as the freezer.

Apple cake

One of my intentions this October is to make a new recipe each week – last week I made a delicious mushroom soup for lunch – so quick and easy – topped with some left over grated cheese but it would have been equally good with croutons and a swirl of cream.

Mushroom soup

This week we have had a green soup using up the spinach, lettuce, leek and some frozen peas.  I added a small potato for thickening, some vegetable stock and a handful of fresh parsley.  It was gone before I could photograph it!

With all this housekeeping I think I might be turning into a Stepford wife – just give me a little frilly pinny!

In and amongst the domestic chores I have continued with the decluttering to reduce our stuff and being mindful of the 5 R’s –

recycle, reuse, reduce, recover (or repurpose) and repair. 

I intend to find a new home, a new purpose, a way to recycle or repair so that nothing leaves here in the bin unless there is no other way.  This is my progress this week:-

Repairs

Just before we left for Scotland our under counter fridge in the kitchen suddenly stopped working.  It is about 32 years old – in fridge years that makes it a pensioner like us!   I thought that was it. Curtains for the fridge.  I panicked because we hope to have a new kitchen put in sometime soon and we will be looking at an integrated fridge so didn’t want to have to buy a new one, not now.  Luckily SIL (who is an electrician) stepped in and thought it was the thermostat – ordered one whilst we were away, fitted it and voila it works again.  Don’t you just love being able to repair things.  Cost – £12.

DH is betting (hoping) it lasts another 32 years!

I have a battery operated bedside alarm clock in retro style where the alarm stopped working (ironically the day before I stopped working) – so after the success with the fridge I went to see the clock man in town to enquire about a repair.  Unfortunately, I was told it was a sealed unit made as non-repairable, so nothing they could do.  I came home disappointed – so with nothing to lose DH unscrewed the back off the clock to find there is in fact a sealed electronic unit inside.  He just jiggled any accessible components about a bit and then screwed the back plate on again and what do you know it is working again.  Cost – nothing.

Mending

I have a flannelette pillowcase we use at the caravan, part of our cosy winter set, and as I was ironing it I noticed a small hole had appeared in the weave.  A small amount of Stayflex (a fabric Vylene) ironed onto the back should stop it getting any bigger and make it last longer. Cost – just my time.

Like most of you we have a lot of electrical items that need maintaining to keep them in good order and working well – it is a task that is very much neglected but one I am going to pay more attention to as it should keep them running longer and in some cases more efficiently and most of all reduce the need to replace.

I made a list of all the things this applies to and will work my way down.  First on the list I gave my iron a good self-clean to flush all the build up of limescale out and stop it landing on my clothes as I iron.  I was surprised how easy it was to do although it took me several goes until the black specks stopped coming out as it must be over 18 months since I did it if not longer.  I also cleaned the stainless steel sole plate with a tube of special cleaner and an old towel (I never have non-stick plates – I always find they do stick!).  So now it gleams and glides and I intend to put it on my monthly task list so it will be a much quicker job next time.

Reduce

Yesterday we took 4 bags of clothes, shoes, and handbags to a local charity shop so my wardrobe is looking so much sleeker now and holds no clothes  that itch or fidget me, do not fit well, do not make me feel good or are well past their best.  I still have my mother of the bride outfits to deal with but other than that it is a great feeling each morning to go to my wardrobe and know that whatever I choose will be things that I want to wear and feel good to wear even my gardening clothes.

I have also made a start on reducing my box of blank card stock.  I had little time this week so only did some quite basic stamping. 

After a bit of playing about with ideas I settled on this cute little bird card using a box of french DJECO stamps my daughter bought me.  I thought about colouring the birds but I quite liked the bold black and white.

I know my friend likes hand-made cards and also anything made of wood.  We only buy small gifts for each other so when I saw this lovely hand carved wooden bookmark in Scotland it was the perfect present.  I added a box of luxury chocolate Raisin and Hazelnut biscuits by Elizabeth Shaw (they were reduced to £1 in Sainsbury’s shhh don’t tell).

Repurpose

This is perhaps a harder challenge than the others finding a new use for something you no longer want but with a bit of sideways thinking it is possible.

I have a set of herb and spice jars with chrome lids that I bought a few years ago from Habitat.  Unfortunately the plastic jar reacts badly with the spices over time (not so much the herbs) and leaves a coating that is like a crust on the inside of the jar that cannot be cleaned off.  So gradually I am replacing them with glass ones from the Sainsbury’s new herb and spices range.

I have had to bin most of the old spice jars but one or two that had herbs in are OK and had been put in the charity pile.  I was looking around the house the other day for a container to hold a few cotton buds that I can leave at the caravan and spotted the empty herb jars on the pile…………result a perfect fit and looks quite stylish. repurpose

A busy week so far but I am getting into a routine at last,  keeping up with the finances and laundry and doing a bit of ‘stuff’ clearing each day.

DH has been making progress on the clear up outside now that the rendering is complete and refreshing the stain on the windows (ours are wooden – environmentally sound but they do need lots of maintenance).

His next task is to dig out and lay new concrete to extend the old concrete base by a couple of feet so that it will accommodate the new longer shed.  This is the side that had all the trouble with water getting in but seems bone dry and water tight now it has been rendered and repointed.

I spent most of the day on Wednesday in the front garden which looks much better – it was rather neglected this year.  The shrubs are a bit on the big side and need a good prune next year but I managed to weed and dig over the borders ready to put in the new bulbs I have bought – but guess what it has rained each day since.

Have a lovely weekend. x