dear diary :: a week of celebrations

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A week of celebrations together with childcare for 3 days and I am cream crackered.

I am not sure if this lockdown makes things easier or harder as far as celebrations are concerned. With my mum being 95 on Tuesday this week and little Freddie just two on Wednesday I had to do something to mark the occasion for each of them, (and from a distance in the case of my mum) and in neither case, because of lockdown, would it be a big party. Sometimes a big party is easier.

As I wouldn’t be seeing my mum (who lives in North Yorkshire) I had a posy of flowers delivered to her from a florist in Thirsk (one that my daughter had used at Christmas and recommended) and I would also recommend them as they couldn’t have been more helpful. This is the link for anyone nearby alina-florist.

I couldn’t have them delivered direct to mum as I wasn’t sure they would get in the apartment building and if they did I wasn’t sure mum would get to her door. So I had them delivered to my sister’s the day before as she was going to be with mum on her birthday and she had arranged that a local deli would provide them with a take away afternoon tea.

The flowers were beautiful.

The afternoon tea I am told was delicious – and it certainly looks it – and my sister had taken the time to get mum’s best Royal Albert china out with the tiered cake stand and matching teapot – there is nothing better than a little pink loveliness on these occasions. Mum got loads of cards and had a really nice day even though it was just the two of them. We did a Zoom ‘party’ for her last Sunday so she could see the family all together.

For little Freddie it was up to DH and I to make a little birthday tea, complete with dinosaur birthday cake and games, as his birthday fell on one of our childcare days. It was not easy trying to put the roll out icing on the cake whilst looking after him -I found it rather difficult to get rid of the folds around the bottom and there was no time for any undue faffing. To add to the difficulties the strips of grass DH had made had become rather brittle overnight and broke into pieces.

I loved the little dinosaurs that DH had made using the cutters I had sent for on the internet from http://www.cake-stuff.com and choosing the neon colour mix of ready roll over the usual primary was the right choice. Little Freddie was delighted with the finished cake and that is all that matters. I am not even sure why I am showing you a picture of yet another cake disaster!

I also finished the jumper – just in time for him to get a little wear out of it. Sewing it together did get easier as I got into the swing of it and no doubt by the time I finish another jumper I will be much more proficient.

The weather has been so wet, windy and cold there was no chance of getting outside – the best we managed was the shopping on Monday night. To amuse little Freddie during these long days, limited to indoors, we set up a tub of water to play in – he loved it but could not have been any wetter afterwards had we stood him outside in the torrential rain!

So childcare is over for this week and now it is my time for four whole days to myself. I have necessary and urgent paperwork and banking to do and should I find we have some money in our account I will be very surprised. January is the month for my car tax and insurance, MOT and servicing – yes January is all about the car – never buy a car at this time of year or you are stuck with the bills in January for ever after.

After paperwork must come a few household chores, definitely the oven and perhaps the shower – neither are my favourite jobs, I find both require the skills of a contortionist to get into the nooks and crannies – though I can’t complain as much now I have the high level oven…can I?

And when all that is done I must get back to doing some of the half started craft projects – in fact I might even tackle the projects before the chores.

Have a good weekend everyone. x

seasons :: in the depth of winter

There can be no doubt that we are well into the middle of winter now; dark nights, even darker mornings, icy cold fingers, heavy falls of pristine white snow, roaring fires, woollen blankets, hot water bottles, piping hot mugs of cocoa or ginger tea laced with honey and the remains of the Christmas cake – I love it all.

Well maybe not the dark mornings.

Even though I always think of January and February as hibernation time this year I do feel we have had weeks of hibernation already with the restrictions we have been under in our area since………………..well I can’t even remember now but it has been a long time.

So walking has become the new norm for us each day for our allotted hour of exercise; a brisk walk down to the village and back if the weather is very cold, sometimes with little Freddie wrapped up snuggly in his pushchair and sometimes on our own. This week we woke up to even more snow and it was truly a walk in a winter wonderland with a wealth of delightful sights to capture…… and even our sprawling village with rows of soot blackened terraced houses looks rather pretty in the snow.

And of course our back garden has just as many interesting corners here and there. The sunlight sweeping across the snow on Friday was so beautiful……….and beneath this snowy carpet are little signs that the snowdrops are emerging…….

…and I know I am a little crazy but who doesn’t want to hang out the sheets and pillowcases in the sunshine, even with all the snow around. I love the way the sheets freeze into stiff boards but thaw out again as soon as I bring them inside to iron and I just adore that fresh outdoor smell – nothing beats it.

The snow was so deep on Thursday childcare had to be abandoned and little Freddie had to stay home with mum and dad. We missed him. Instead we spent a leisurely day keeping warm and just pottering; a little light pottering after a few energetic days with a two year old was very welcome.

I had managed to clear the Christmas decorations away last weekend and they are all back in their boxes in the loft (nothing much was decluttered so I had to find a little more space for the one or two new bits I had bought) – the Christmas tree is back in the greenhouse for a while until the worst of this cold spell is over and we can repot it in some decent compost.

On my January task list I wrote ‘ make bird feeders’.

I had saved an article from my mum’s Woman’s Weekly magazine with a recipe to make your own using half coconut shells and a pack of lard. I had bought the lard before Christmas as it is not something I normally use being vegetarian and during last year I saved the coconut shells from the ready made feeders I bought in Sainsbury’s to feed the birds during the winter months and they were far too nice to throw away. So I had a go – the recipe was easy – just melt the fat and pour onto a mix of different bird foods – grated cheese, raisins, chopped peanuts and wild bird seeds. Then leave to set……

….hang out and wait.

In and amongst the childcare I have been busy making little thank you cards with the last of the pressed flowers to deliver or post to my friends on our walks – I like to write a personal thank you for any Christmas presents I receive and I did have some rather nice ones this year from my friends – a little bird must have mentioned to them that I have a new greenhouse.

This handmade seed tray and tamper was one of my favourites together with this tin of string by Emma Bridgewater. My friends know me so well.

There has been a great deal of tea drinking going on this week – I always start the day with a cup of ginger tea and Manuka honey with a slice of orange or lemon – whatever is to hand – and my afternoon cup of tea is not quite the same without a slice of cake.

Soon the Christmas cake will be finished – which is really no bad thing as I intend to restore our more healthy diet soon but that will have to wait until after the birthday cake I am making is eaten up too.

I have quite a few birthdays this month none more important than my mum’s (she is 95 this year) and little Freddie who will be two. I made and froze the sponges yesterday afternoon and bought some cute dinosaur cutters on the internet and a pack of multi coloured neon roll out icing to make a cake for Freddie, (maybe mum would like a dinosaur cake too but she is getting a posy of flowers delivered….I hope).

Looking after Freddie has meant early mornings – he arrives at 8am – so that has meant earlier bedtimes for us the night before but this has given me a chance to begin reading one or two of the new books I received for Christmas as well as one or two old favourites – and the new issue of Country Living magazine dropped onto the mat the other day – that always makes it a good day.

Presently, I am struggling with sewing up the jumper I knitted way back for Little Freddie for his birthday (in fact I should be doing it now and not get distracted blogging). It was going to be a Christmas present but guess what – I ran out of time to finish it. Thank goodness for You Tube is all I can say and although my efforts are not brilliant it has been a satisfying project and I will probably attempt to knit something else especially as there is very little else we can do during lockdown. But I do enjoy making things and I have a few balls of wool waiting for me in my craft drawer and a piece of pretty soft corduroy fabric to make something for the girls, Little L and Sweetie.

I have so many plans to finish a lot of the half started projects and I need to overhaul our finances and soon it will be time for the big spring clean – the house is beginning to feel a little grubby and jaded in places but maybe that is because of the contrast to the spanking new kitchen…………….but before that can happen I need to do a little decluttering and this might even extend to throwing out more old papers in the files. I don’t know about you but I find maintaining a balance of keeping what we need and what we might need is pretty hard. Once or twice I have regretted giving something away or shredding a document.

I strive to make everything we keep in our house useful and used. The clutter always builds up again quickly if you take your eye off the ball for any length of time – I am positive it breeds – it certainly does in dark corners or hidden away at the back of drawers and any flat surface. I have this idea that I need to go through the house and make every area organised, sparkling clean and well presented.

Once the birthdays are out of the way this week I will endeavour to blog about the new kitchen and show you some before and after photos. We have Eddie the kitchen fitter coming on Tuesday to replace a cupboard door that hides the fridge as a tiny piece of the coating had chipped off during the first few days of use and the manufacturer though it might have been a defective one.

DH has got a bad back at the moment so that lets him off starting to prepare the laundry room beyond the kitchen for painting and the new flooring. It won’t however get him out of the Zoom call we are having with the family and my mum to wish her a happy 95th birthday.

Well I think that is all for this week – I do hope everyone is well and managing to overcome this doom and gloom. Everything is now hinging on the vaccine – I hope nothing goes wrong.

Have a good week everyone. xx

dear diary :: welcome to the new year

A very Happy New Year to everyone.

A new year and a new start for me – I have been away from my little space here for far too long – habits can soon take over, even ones you don’t particularly want, and I found that finding the time to blog became harder and harder. I have tried to keep up with reading my favourite blogs but only as a commentless reader. I hope once I get back into the rhythm that you will be hearing from me a lot more. I have certainly missed you all and hope you are all in good health.

I couldn’t even tell you where all the time has gone since I was last here in July – it has just evaporated; but I can say I have been busier than ever, despite the Covid restrictions.

As I write this now it is the first day that I have nothing, nothing I must attend to and I can truly relax and not feel there is something I have to do or someone I have to call and best of all it is snowing outside and looks absolutely beautiful.

And yes that is my new greenhouse you can see in the garden – the best Christmas present ever.

Just after my last post in July we managed a trip to Scotland to the cottage – the maintenance jobs and problems awaiting us because we had not been allowed to travel was extensive and upsetting and in the end we had to stay on a few extra days to sort out all the problems. What a good job we drained down the caravan when we left as little did we know then it would be our last visit of the year.

Since our return in August we had many trips to see my mum when my sister needed some respite and restrictions allowed and soon mum will be celebrating her 95th birthday though we do not know what we will be able to do and have nothing planned – we know a party will not be possible other than on Zoom.

Most of September and October was taken up with installing the new kitchen….yes the new kitchen….I know I can’t believe it either but it is, as I had hoped, absolutely wonderful even allowing for the fact I am still getting to grips with the new hob and oven and we have not even tried the dishwasher yet. I will no doubt be overloading you with pictures of the transformation soon.

Back in November my daughter helped to decorate the railings outside Little L’s school with these poppies made from plastic bottle bottoms that she and some of the school children collected and painted.

They were so effective and equally as striking as the cute little display in her village.

We also celebrated a very special birthday for two year old Sweetie – no party as such just granny and grandad and a chocolate caterpillar cake.

In the run up to Christmas we managed to do all of the Christmassy things but in a simple and quieter fashion this year. Didn’t it look so wonderfully festive everywhere when the decorations went up? Most villages and towns had an abundance of lights this year – it was such a cheery and welcome sight and it will seem quite drab when they all come down again.

I made and iced the cake and Little L carefully placed all the decorations on it.

Delightful. I love the way she wanted them all lined up like soldiers! We finished it off with an old fashioned paper cake frill that I found to go around the sides. Little L also made the truffles which did not last long and were simply delicious.

I turned old Christmas cards from last year into money and voucher envelopes, they looked quite effective mounted onto some black envelopes I had in my craft cupboard with the messages written in a silver coloured pen.

For my own homemade Christmas cards I decided on a simple wreath design and hand painted each one in watercolour paints and then over stamped with a rubber stamp and copper ink.

I always try and make the gifts I give to my closest friends and this year I made up a mini cheese board for each of them with a selection of cheeses, oat cakes and chutney using a paddle board I bought from Ikea and covering the display with a large cellophane roasting bag.

And for other friends that I don’t exchange gifts with I made little posies of flowers.

After all the restrictions placed on us for weeks on end it was a major treat to be able to go to an outdoor lantern event which was well managed and the weather kindly stayed dry.

We also had great fun at our usual family Secret Santa get together – this year though it was through Zoom – playing Bingo and name that Christmas tune amongst other games – with Sean the Sheep of course.

On New Year’s day we had a walk at a local nature reserve. At barely above freezing the ground was hard and each of the puddles had a skim of ice with some quite superb patterns – it was irresistable to crack like popping bubble wrap.

And now I am thinking of the days and months stretching ahead – I am trying not to think that they will be dark days as this virus twists and turns and continues to be such a nuisance in our lives. I want to use the time wisely and I want to carve out a new normal for us – I have a feeling this is going to go on longer than anyone had first thought.

As with most beginnings I am trying to think of a suitable word that will sum up what I am aiming for this year. Flourish was the word I chose last year and in many ways I did – I learnt a lot about myself during the lockdown and we also learnt to do without very much whilst still living well.

I will need a few more ‘thinking’ days before I settle on something, so watch this space.

So I have little more to say at the moment – I am going to have a visit into blogland to see what everyone is up to and say hi.

seasons :: summer sweetens all to me

Six months, half a year……… gone already. I was wondering to myself what I had to show for it. Time is such a puzzle – often passing slowly at a snails pace and then too fast for comfort.

I am wondering too what promises July holds – my birthday mid month – so one of my favourite times of the year; warm weather, picnics, trips to the seaside, country walks – blissfully perfect summer days. Covid will not spoil this month for me and neither will this rather wet and windy spell of weather.

The start to July has been, like most of June, a bit of a wash out and has not felt very summery at all, but I remain hopeful. Our walks have been in the drizzle this last week, but it is good to get outside and breathe the fresh air without a mask. Each time I have picked a few flowers from the hedgerows to press or dry to collect the seeds. I am excited everytime I come across white foxgloves – I am not sure what it is about them, I just love their pure and majestic splendour, especially amongst a group of pink ones…..and I encourage them into the garden.

And how is everyone……getting to grips with the new rules and freedom? We rarely venture out but we did go into town last Monday for non-food essentials – to replenish our low stocks. I need not have worried over our safety as the town was deserted and some shops not even open. Luckily, one of our healthfood shops was up and running but with very low stocks, even now I am not sure if he is just selling his remaining stock to close down – I didn’t ask as maybe he doesn’t know either and maybe his future will depend on customer numbers.

We had WH Smiths to ourselves – I only wanted blotting paper for my flower press BUT I found myself browsing the magazines before I left – it feels like a long time since I have had a browse of anything, but with no-one to disturb me I carried on and could not leave empty handed when I saw a copy of Country Living Vintage Home magazine alone on the shelf. There is a new edition coming out in August too.

Finally I made my way round to the local sewing shop which was a little busier so I didn’t loiter in there for very long – I bought some fabric to finish the patchwork quilt but I am now having second thoughts about the colours and may use it to make little Sweetie a dress instead. I have this idea (always dangerous in my case) to make a summer dress with a floral cotton skirt and a knitted cotton bodice – I would say a crotched bodice but I don’t crotchet. If any reader knows of a pattern for a toddler that has a knitted bodice and fabric skirt I would be delighted if you could send me a link.

I managed to get the interfacing to make my new tablemats (did I not mention these before?). How could I resist this tea towel fabric with the colourful vegetables – the reverse will be plain white with one or two of the vegetables embroidered onto one corner. I have taken a tracing and will do a practise piece.

But, like many of my projects, it is a work in progress…….. so more on this later.

The shopping experience in town was better than I expected but I think it will be something that I only do now once in a while.

Little L has been busy too making this birthday card for DH. It has great significance for us as DH is called Grandad Monkey by Little L to distinguish him from her other grandad. DH once jokingly called her a little monkey and she immediately told him she was not a monkey she was a little girl but the term stuck and from being quite little this is how she has always remembered him.

We also saw my mum last weekend; it was lovely to see the smile on her face. We had homemade tomato and red pepper soup for lunch followed by a homemade cheese and tomato quiche, new potatoes and salad and a fresh cream chocolate sponge for dessert. All her favourite foods. We left two large slices of cake in the fridge for later….she was so grateful for our visit, it really cheered her up and we had a lovely chat, not that either of us had done very much to talk about.

The rain has set in this week so washing and gardening have not taken place and instead I have been cleaning and ironing. I always thought it was our busy lives that prevented me from having a cleaning routine but now I know that is not the truth; since lockdown I have had all the time in the world to get myself into a solid routine as far as the cleaning goes, but I now realise I tend to follow the weather and although I do like to clean and tend the house… if it is nice I am generally out in the garden.

The garden has been really neglected this week but I must give it some attention before we go away. Besides being quite windswept it is looking rather sad and sorry; flowers struggling to come out and those that have are wet and soggy. The lawns are waiting to be cut and everywhere we have tiny cherries blown from the tree – sadly, too hard and bitter to eat.

I was inspired by a page I noticed in the Country Living Vintage Home magazine I bought on making seed packets – what better way I thought to use my flower sketches from my sketchbooks.

So with a bit of scanning and printing, and adding lettering onto the pictures I came up with these – they are just prototypes at the moment but you get the idea and I will post about them again when I have made the whole collection.

We are presently waiting in the wings (so to speak) wondering if a trip to Scotland is ever going to materialise. We hear on the news from Nicola that Dumfries and Galloway have a sudden spike in cases around Gretna and Annan, Lockerbie and Dumfries and we canot get to the Mull without passing through these places. Is it OK for us to go we wonder, we are self contained at the cottage but will the locals be worried if we do?

I have become quite lazy over the last few months of lockdown and the thought of packing now feels like an enormous effort. I cannot for the life of me remember what we have stored at the caravan and what I brought home. I have a very handy packing list but this does not tell the whole picture, so it might just be a case of guesswork.

I have already baked an apple cake and two tiny crumbles to take with us and I have nut roast in the freezer. Everything else we will make up there but I will need a menu plan as we intend to take the food with us so we are not invading the local shops; as much as they want the business they do not want the virus and as part of the area is in lockdown we will respect that. If we take everything with us we will be completely self sufficient.

So I have nothing left to say other than my next post will hopefully be from bonnie Scotland. The journey and days at the cottage will be a new and different experience I expect like all the changes we are coping with since Covid took over our lives.

Take care everyone and stay safe. x

dear diary :: the first hurdle

Thursday was one of those days when I did a bit of everything but gained nothing. I put things away, tidied things up and cleaned a little but the house remained in more of a mess than I would like.

The journey home from Norfolk took my daughters far longer than estimated, this delayed our meal and once everyone arrived any semblance of order was quickly wrecked. Although it is lovely to get together again it will be Sunday before we have the house to ourselves and have some time on our own to get our lives back on track – I am itching to get the pantry finished and start on a thorough clean of the house.

There will be decluttering and rearranging to do of course. Some places in the house have not really had a good sort out for ages and my office / craft room at the moment is in spectacular disarray – I will say no more.

My daughter and grandchildren are staying on until we can get them home and this all depended on whether or not the car would be fixed so whilst we waited for a call from the garage we had a trip into town. Little L does not live near a big town and so rarely visits the shops and was excited to see lots of toy shops. Even though it is after Christmas they were all extremely busy. I looked for something for Freddie’s first birthday coming up soon and Little L delighted in roaming around the shelves. She is surprisingly good and never natters to be bought anything, always content just to look. My daughter bought some new jeans in the sales and we found a unicorn sweatshirt in Primark reduced to £2 for Little L and some Startrite first walker baby shoes for Sweetie at the bargain price of £10 in a local shoe shop (normal price £39.99).

Finally we got a call from the garage and at 5 o’clock collected the car……..fully repaired (we hope this time) and had been cleaned and polished to within an inch of its life. I daresay that this service will have been hidden included somewhere in the bill though.

So today we have a trip up to North Yorkshire to take my daughter and the two girls back home. Everyone is still sleeping at the moment and the house is quiet….but not for long!

Creating health and wellbeing

A bit of a stumble at the first hurdle…..I know, not a good start but like falling off a horse I need to pick myself up and carry on. The meditation session did not materialise on Thursday as we had a few phone calls to deal with and a big meal to prep for whilst my daughters journeyed up from Norfolk and so my flow was broken.

Yesterday with a house full of people it was impossible to find any quiet time. We had lunch in town so I chose a baked potato and salad and I made an evening meal that everyone would enjoy rather than one that was strictly a plate of healthy options.

Today we will be on the road and may eat out again so there is nothing to it but just accept that I get back on track tomorrow.

Not all is lost though. One of the things on my list was to introduce eating an apple a day. I did this for a while not so long ago and decided it would be good to do it again.

Apples have many health benefits such as protection against some of the major diseases, such as diabetes and bone health. They also contain polyphenols (which are micronutrients that have an antioxidant effect) and provide fibre along with vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium as well as small amounts of others. They are also good for digestion.

Eating the Braeburn variety will give you one and half times more polyphenols than other varieties. Luckily it is always my apple of choice and organic ones are available in Sainsbury’s.

So tomorrow I will commit myself once again to begin the meditation sessions. We should have a clear week ahead, no appointments that I know of and no interuptions and I am hoping to be able to focus completely on some of the changes I am making.

Have a good weekend everyone. x

dear diary :: rain, rain, go away

Honesty

As a few people are joining in with ‘white month’ theme – here is my contribution of the beautiful white honesty in our garden…actually this was last years as it is biennial but I so love the picture I thought it deserved another airing.

Of course it was always going to rain in buckets yesterday as I had a hair appointment booked for the afternoon – I looked like a drowned rat when I got to the hairdressers and then again after I left and reached the car park, so much for the new hairdo – but at least my hair is cut into something resembling a style now – not much different to normal, a little shorter but far easier to manage. I would take a picture but I am still drying out!

Yesterday morning elder daughter arrived again with little Freddie – it was beginning to feel a little like ground hog day that I keep on reliving. DH stayed home and amused little Freddie whilst we went down to see the florist and order a few stems of the hypericum berries, eucalyptus, thistle and a deep purple lisianthus. We will eek these out with a cheaper bunch of cream flowers; roses maybe or chrysanthemums and alstroemeria from the supermarket. The lady who runs the shop is always so helpful especially when you are working to a budget. I can collect them on the Friday before the christening to make up the posies for the Sunday so the flowers will have nicely opened by then.

Once back at home I did a little mise en place – chopping veg, making the breadcrumbs and grinding the nuts for the nutloaf so that DH could cook and assemble it as per instructions whilst I was out at the hairdressers – it is now in the freezer. That was excellent team work – he also made some more leek and potato soup with the left over veg and halloumi bake for tea whilst I managed to sew up the raglan part of the jumper. He then spent the rest of the evening recovering.

Not a lot happened in the pantry yesterday. DH had to have a trip to the other side of town for low tack masking tape – not easy stuff to find – some of it is rubbish and still sticks like glue and fetches the fresh paint off when you remove it so it was worth going further afield to get the better one.

Today we are aiming to go to Sheffield, weather and flooding allowing – they have had it bad again and I heard some people got stuck in the Meadowhall shopping mall. I need to sort out Sweetie’s birthday present and card – I never intended to leave it to the last minute but it has ended up with Friday being the only free day this week. I have to try and give equal amount of time to my two daughters so that both the events they are planning get sorted; so today I won’t be seeing little Freddie and will be turning my attentions to little Sweetie and her birthday on Sunday. I still need to squeeze in some time to mix the buttercream for the cake ready to take with me.

Phew a granny’s life is never done!!

My mum had a better day yesterday thank you – woke up fine then went off colour again mid morning but OK when I rang in the evening – but still no bloods taken – maybe today. My sister is going in daily and cooking a meal for her – in return we are collecting her daughter (my neice) from Sheffield uni on Saturday and taking her with us up to North Yorkshire to save my sister the journey. It will mean an extra hour or so onto our journey but it is the least we can do to help out.

If the rain continues we may have to hire a canoe!

This may be my last post for a few days while we are away – it gets tricky to do very much when we are staying at my daughter’s house. So have a lovely weekend everyone and I’ll update you when we are back if I don’t get to pop in before that. Stay warm x

dear diary :: a sunny day

Today I woke up to the sunshine streaming in through the window – such a stark contrast to yesterday. I had breakfast and drove up to my daughter’s house once again to look after little Freddie. He is just a delight and at that age when he is trying to make sense of the world and is fascinated by the smallest thing that catches his eye.

After lunch we had a walk in the park today stopping for a cup of tea and a piece of parkin at the local cafe just to refresh myself before the walk back again – it takes some stamina up and down the hills here – I had a good workout!

Once Freddie was back to his house I returned home about 5.30pm and decided on baked potatoes and salad tonight as it seemed a bit late to be attempting a new recipe. Not so much cooking is taking place here at the moment – I had intended to do a lot more – hopefully this is just a blip.

Yesterday, I said I would let you know what I borrowed from the library.

I am still reading a few I had taken out previously but added these to the pile. I started on the Christmas Reader last night – it is a compliation by Godfrey Smith of poems and excerpts of stories with a Christmas theme, the first one being the carol singing evening written about by Laurie Lee in Cider with Rosie. An English Christmas by John Julius Norwich is a similar book – in fact some of the stories and poems used are the same. It may seem a bit early to be reading such a book but I know I will not have time as we get nearer to Christmas and no doubt they will not be available to borrow soon – all the Christmas craft books are already out on loan.

Enough by John Naish is just what it says on the tin and talks not just about enough stuff but enough of many things like information, food, work and happiness. I feel we are overloaded in today’s world with all the above and making decisions is becomming increasingly difficult because of the numerous choices available to us. I am interested to know what he has to say on each of the topics.

The White Robin by Miss Read is my cosy up, feel good book – transporting me into an idylic country village where life is predicatable and slower and there is a sense of community.

Hell Week by Erik Bertrand Larssen is a book I have read before and is for anyone looking to change aspects of their lives. It is not however for the faint hearted as the changes are all done very quickly in one week – hence the title as he almost guarantees doing it this way will be hell, but worthwhile. I may not want to apply his extreme measures, one of which is rising at 5am everyday, but some of the ideas are good and adaptable. There is a planning and preparation stage to undertake before throwing yourself into ‘hell week’. With a tight plan of action you propel yourself from where you are now to where you would like to be in a matter of days. He makes it sound hard and easy at the same time – commitment it seems is the key to success. I am re- reading with the intention of getting to grips with this retirement of mine before I end up just sailing along with the wind completely off the course I was hoping to be on!

I also found these two craft books – I have made a couple of Artist’s books in the past – mainly the concertina style but would like to do more. The one called Bound by Rachel Hazell is such a lovely book in itself.

Last weekend I sat and entered receipts and balanced statements in readiness of looking at my finances for September. I know we had a very cheap two weeks at the caravan but on arriving home we did a major shop and bought a few things so have probably exceeded the pension income for the month once again. I will do a tally at the weekend.

Tomorrow is our lunch date with some old friends, so an early start to the day. I decided on the bulbs as a gift as I already have these, I bought them for myself whilst in Sainsbury’s on Monday – mixed tulips – and they will make a nice little gift.

So that was my day – I hope you enjoyed yours – I am just going to have a lovely pedicure and settle down to watch the Apprentice before bed.

Night night x

dear diary :: colds, babies and rain

Quite a combination for a dismal Tuesday and the first day of the new month. Elder daughter was still not well today – struck with the cold that is doing the rounds. She was very hot and flushed when I arrived to help with little Freddie and just wanted to go back to bed to nurse her sore throat. I can still remember quite vividly how hard it is to look after a young baby when you are feeling under the weather and all you want to do is crawl away and sleep.

Freddie of course was delightful, we played all morning – he can sit up now without wobbling but hasn’t yet mastered crawling – which is just as well as at least i am not having to run after him. He ate most of the pureed sweet potato for lunch – though a lot of it ended up on either me or the floor. He then had a little nap (me too) and afterwards we set off in the drizzle for a walk to the Co-op and back to get some fresh air. Luckily, I didn’t have to get him in or out of the pram- they all seem so complicated these days I am frightened of pressing the wrong catches and buttons and propelling him out into space.

He was still all snug and warm when we got back home but I was quite wet through.

I think I might just be needed again tomorrow – when you are not well it can be difficult to sleep at night and then mornings can be pretty awful – she does look a bit worn out and perhaps just needs a little ‘me’ time and another duvet day. DH will stay home and get on with the pantry. He did mutter something about needing to go back to Ikea for the under shelf strip lights that they do – it is not his favourite place but we will get a free drink if we go during the week – not that there will be much of the week left as we are going up to Settle on Thursday to see some old friends. We have been promising to go all year and of course the minute I make a firm arrangement illness strikes. I am hoping my daughter will be well enough on Thursday to cope without me.

My friend suffers from multiple allergies including the pollen from flowers and eats a very strict diet as many foods upset her. I want to take a little gift as she is providing lunch for us but can’t take a bunch of flowers or chocolates so I am wondering what I might get for her. I was thinking on the lines of a little dish perhaps, there are some nice ones around at the moment and there would be nothing to spark off an allergy with pottery; or maybe some bulbs for the garden as they have just moved into their new house (outdoor flowers are OK).

When I got back home at teatime I had to have a quick tidy round the house – not that it improved it very much – everywhere is such a mess with the contents of what was the downstairs cloakroom littering up the dining and living rooms. Then upstairs we have carpets pulled back and washing drying on the airer in the bathroom. Going up to my daughter’s house is a bit of a relief.

Have you had more rain? We have acquirred a bit of a water feature under our front window where the pebbles are and all the roads around here are becoming like rivers there has been so much rain, I was having to naviagte the car through the floods lying at the sides of the road by virtually driving down the middle. This rain must stop soon our garden is becoming quite waterlogged and I need to get the furniture dried and put away.

I didn’t mention my new library books that I borrowed yesterday – but maybe I will save that for tomorrow ….and yes I have got another Miss Read book – ‘The White Robin’ – I might even read a bit tonight though I rather think I will be asleep as soon as my head touches the pillow – for anyone with sleeping problems I can recommend looking after a baby for the day – I am quite worn out.

Night night x

dear diary :: rainy days and Sundays

Yes, I know it is really rainy days and Mondays in the lyrics of the song but today suits the song very well. What else do you do on such a wet weekend but grab your camera and go outside and take photos. Such an abundance of raindrops, dripping from every leaf and berry and glistening like tiny jewels.

Inside, is a different story – dry and cosy but oh so dismal. I spent an hour or so switching over beach pebbles and shells for a few discreet pieces of autumn decor. One or two pine cones, a few little dried pumpkins, my favourite seasonal cushions and pictures and before I finished I replenished all the tea lights and candles in the holders. I have some lovely wooden candle holders which add a nice warmth to the room this time of year.

Whilst taking these pictures I smile to myself …. just out of shot is absolute chaos in our house – we may be doing the pantry conversion from the smallest room in the house, the downstairs cloakroom, but every room in the house is now upset. To get more lighting and sockets fitted DH had to pull back the carpet in the bedroom above….I could have guessed…have been here before – so all the furniture had to be taken out and temporarily put where we can.

Despite all the mess – I made more, and have been crafting over the weekend – remember this knitting….

With the help of this book I found called Simple Knitting by Erika Knight I finally manage to finish the knitting part of this little hooded jumper and have only to sew the seams together now. Whether it will fit little Sweetie is another matter – I rather think it might be passed straight on to little Freddie – do you think the colours too girly? I can’t decide.

The four teatowels below came in a pack from Sainsbury’s in the sale. They are a good weight of cotton with a slight linen slub or waffle and my idea is to turn them into place mats. Two tea towels will cut down to make 2 place mats. So the striped grey will be backed with the plain grey and the dashed white backed with the plain white. We only need two mats most of the time being on our own now, so they will do us fine. I will need to buy some heavier vilene interfacing to sandwich between the two layers so they keep a good shape – but it is shopping day tomorrow so I can get some in town. Next time you see these I hope they will be made and on my table.

I have also been having a bit of a play around with ideas for Christmas presents and cards. So out came the sketch pad and pencil – had to dust it off a bit! In April I bought 5 of these calendars on stands for around £2 each, from Sainsbury’s clearance sale, with the intention of designing and printing my own calendar pages for 2020 and switching them over.

The original calendars had some quite nice little line drawings so I had thought about doing a simple lino cut print reflecting each of the months but time might be short now and twelve is a lot of designs to work on and print.

Calendar

– so I decided to look through my sketch book for drawings that could be adapted.

This is still an idea in the making and I will have to do a few mock ups first to see what might work. I am no artist but some of the sketches will pass….I think. Whilst I had the sketch book handy I scanned in a few pages of drawings – these were mostly done in the days when we had more time and well before the grandchildren arrived on the scene!!

I keep intending to try to get in the habit of doing a sketch each day so that I might improve, but am not sure how I would fit it in.

And what better to occupy my time on a cold and miserable day than trying out a new recipe. I have been wanting to try this recipe for a long time – I think it is from Good Housekeeping magazine. I didn’t quite have all the right ingredients so had to improvise.

I just happened to have chestnut and ordinary mushrooms but no dried ones and I used a vegetable stock cube rather than the yeast extract, but it still tasted fine – in fact it was really delicious – but be warned I made two strudels from the mixture – the second one was much smaller but there is ample filling.

Mine doesn’t look quite as good as their picture – the cooking time seemed rather long and the crumpled filo pastry that you lay on top caught a bit whilst in the oven…. and the sesame seeds didn’t seem to want to stay on top. I might do this bit slightly differently next time or even use a different pastry, puff pastry perhaps.

I will add the recipe to the list in a day or two. For now I will have to close – it is my brother’s birthday today and I need to go and surprise him with a card – then I have a big mess to clean up.

Hope you all had a brilliant weekend despite the rain. x

dear diary :: sing to me, Autumn

Home once more and we are truly into Autumn now; but hasn’t it been a glorious month – apart from bouts of heavy rain (my sympathies go out to anyone that has been hit by a flood).

The words of the poem ‘Sing to me, Autumn’ are a perfect reflection of this moment and encapsulate the beauty of the season – the sunlight streaming onto the garden this morning was so beautiful – casting deep shadows whilst highlighting the crimson red berries of the cotoneaster… I reached for my camera but it is so hard to get a good photo. There is an abundance of berries down by the seat – we have left it out a little longer as it is such a nice sheltered place to sit and admire the last of the season’s flowers.

Our blinds are being drawn earlier each evening and some of the solar lights left out in the garden are struggling to stay on for very long. I am looking forward to all that the dark evenings and cooler weather brings – after the ‘gathering in’ time it is beginning to feel like the ‘snuggling down’ time.

As usual, after the wonderful slow life at the cottage, we hit the ground running once we are home. I have a long list of lunch dates to fulfill and phone calls to make – there are finances to catch up on and the garden still needs a bit of TLC. I won’t even mention the housework and cleaning that is obviously needed.

Oh and have you thought about Christmas yet?

…….No, ….. very sensible…..I would normally shriek at the very mention in September….but I feel this year that I want to get ahead as I am finding, in the more recent of past years, that everything gets so hectic and stressful the closer we get to December and I try to pack in far too much in those last 3 weeks.  So rather than rush through it I would prefer to savour each moment and enjoy the concerts and Christmas events (that I often miss through lack of time) having completed all the necessary preparations in good time.

I have made a start and though I said I wouldn’t, I relented a few days later when in Tesco… right in front of my nose the new Country Living Christmas magazine appeared – (of course I blame Sadie at Notes from an ordinary life for persuading me as I noticed she had also bought a Christmas magazine and that made me feel so much better!). I kept last years too so hopefully they will spark off some new ideas.

I am mainly thinking about the gifts (we don’t have many to buy or make) – our family takes part in a ‘Not so Secret Santa’ – though I have a feeling this may change again this year – my daughters, who say they have everything they need, have expressed a preference for having a family gathering or event that gives us memories rather than any gifts, so this may be our step towards a no gifts Christmas within the family other than the young children. I will await the whole family vote on this but I personally would find it a lovely idea and support it.   

So it is mainly just a few friends who like to receive my homemade offerings -though I could be wrong and be like Ella of Thrush Green in the Miss Read books,  giving horrendous handmade gifts that people then give away as fast as they can – I haven’t as yet knitted any ties… wonky or otherwise!! 

I also enjoy making the décor, keeping it as natural as I can and of course the Christmas cards (I am thinking another lino cut this year as I enjoy doing those) and perhaps now is the time to start looking at sketching out a few design ideas rather than sitting down on the first day of December and saying today I will make the Christmas cards and then not having a clue as to what I might do.

And what a stroke of luck to find Sainsbury’s are celebrating Organic September (never understand why it is not Organic October – has a better ring to it) and those who know me well will also know I eat organic food most of the time so our Christmas cake is naturally an organic one.   Anyway, Sainsbury’s have reductions across their organic range so I filled my trolley with the fruit for my cake and the nuts for the nut roast.  I am well pleased though it bumped my shopping bill up quite a bit.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s I bought this snuggly top. I have bought very little throughout the year – it has not been quite ‘a no shop’ year but close – this little top will be ideal for those chilly days at home or when visiting my friend for coffee, who has minimal heating on and I do find it a bit cool at times so tend to go in a few discreet layers.

Remember I collected a few flower heads and petals to press at the caravan – well they are now quite flat and ready to go. The only means of pressing them at the caravan was to use some kitchen roll between the pages of a notebook so the textured pattern of small dots on the kitchen roll has imprinted onto the petals but I quite like it! I have bundled them into some cellophane bags to protect them. My favourites must be the delicate blue campanula, the white daisy heads of the chamomile and the vintage hues of the hydrangea petals. I just have to find a little time to turn them into some cards and tags.

For the rest of today I will be attending to the last of our cooking apples from the cottage garden. I am thinking an apple loaf would be just right and maybe a crumble using the blackberries for tea.

Have a lovely day x