dear diary >> an act of kindness

Before I forget I thought I would just mention a marvellous act of kindness I came across whilst on holiday in Scarborough. It was on our last day and I desperately wanted to visit a fabric shop near to our holiday rental called the Sewing Centre before we left. This is their website www.sewingcentrescarborough.com They have a brilliant stock, friendly staff and sell online too and I spent a wonderful half hour browsing the aladins cave of fabrics especially the Liberty range. If I lived in Scarborough I would no doubt be in here every week.

I was particularly looking for this fabric above called Seaside Squares which comes in a panel to make into a strip of bunting for my daughter as a present for her Christmas stocking, as we both love homemade gifts…….(but shhh you had better keep that as a secret for now). They have a large amount of fabric in all colours and designs but sadly they didn’t have this one. However, to my delight, I managed to track it down last night on the internet and ordered a panel for £4.95 which I thought was good value especially as I could choose 2nd class Royal Mail postage for free as I am not in any hurry for it.

Anyway back to my story……DH and I were the only two people in the shop when a lady came in with her visiting friend. Her friend had asked to see a fabric shop and so she had brought her to this one. In the course of conversation with the owner it turned out the friend was a Ukrainian refugee who loved sewing but of course had not been able to bring her machine with her. The owner of the shop suddenly disappeared into the back and returned with a large box….opened it and presented the Ukrainian lady with a brand new sewing machine as a gift. I must say I left the shop with a tear in my eye at such kindness.

I decided against anymore clearing out yesterday – my right shoulder that has been taking quite a lot of strain since my back has been out of action was not very good. I have a feeling I might have a tear in my rotator cuff from doing the cat /cradle exercise and having to heave myself up out of chairs and beds by weighing heavily on my arm. I cannot lift it very high now and washing my hair is becoming increasingly difficult. After my shower yesterday it was aching…. a lot.

DH made some celery soup and then did a little ironing for me (well having a bad arm does have some compensations). I made a couple of phone calls, rearranged our hair appointments and had a look on you tube for some exercises that might help my shoulder – of course you end up down a rabbit hole don’t you and before I knew it DH was calling me for lunch. After lunch my shoulder was a little easier so I managed to write my letter – though with the strikes I am not sure when it will get to its destination so I only put a second class stamp on it.

Later we went to B&Q to get a length of dowel for the greenhouse to attach the shading material to – or at least that is the plan. It will be easier to photograph what we have in mind when it is done rather than explain it here. B&Q was so quiet and so was Sainsbury’s when we called for a few oddments – washing up liquid and cheese and picked up four reduced Organic wholemeal loaves for the freezer for 50p each.

The roads however were quite busy with people zooming around, (the start of the Bank Holiday busyness). There seems to be a real surge in people going through red lights and yesterday we saw someone do just that at each set of lights we had to stop at. Then there was the mad driver who thought it was a good idea to overtake us whilst going through the narrow railway viaduct where the road kinks and crossing the double white lines to do so….. then speeding off in a thirty area and crossing over to the other side of the road and going around the central reservation bollards to overtake the cars in front of us. It was a car driven by and full of young teenagers. The driver was no doubt showing off but at what cost potentially to someones life.

Today I am definitely going in the greenhouse for a potter. DH fixed my little birdhouse and I hope he is going to attend to the dripping basin tap in the shower room and maybe have a look at the greenhouse shading. My focus word for this year is improvement and each little improvement we both accomplish around the place is helping to make it feel a little better, a little less cluttered and a little more ordered. The enormous mountain of tasks are slowly, one by one, getting done. Somehow doing the smallest of jobs can lighten the weight of stress that builds up when faced with so many jobs to do.

I don’t think we will be going anywhere this Bank Holiday the roads are often busy and the cafes crowded. We will go out next week when everyone is back to work. Have a good weekend everyone.

dear diary >> more pottering

I was so delighted to find that these cuttings I had taken earlier in the year have taken along with a few tiny self sown seedlings that I noticed when weeding in the borders and potted up. They are out in my mini greenhouse in a shadier corner of the garden so they don’t dry out.

Yesterday turned into a bit of a mammoth sorting out day. Another one where I ventured into the garage and ended up sorting through the bank of Ikea wooden drawers that contain all our bits and pieces, well mainly DH’s bits and pieces – spare hinges, hooks, car bulbs, flat pack funriture parts and a million and one other things, often unidentifiable….all stuff that might one day be useful and to be fair to DH it often is. He has a maddening habit though of putting things he wants to keep into the right drawer (they are all labelled) but I have no idea what it is for and often he forgets. My method is to bag and label – his method is sometimes to bag but hardly ever to label. So yesterday we played the game of guess what this is for and do we still need it.

Eventually, he knew he would have to stop what he was doing (uploading holiday photos) to help me and give me a clue for some of the items so that now they are all bagged and labelled, including the ones labelled unknown like the charger – but what is it a charger for? I know if I throw it out it will be for something important. There is still a long way to go in the garage and I hate throwing things away but I am not sure we will ever need the spare castors that came off an old file drawer, or the digital timer that came from my mum…….but you never know. As always when you embark on these tasks things you had forgotten about resurface like the gym ball pump and who knew that we had three keys for the ladder lock – all hanging on separate hooks.

I am now trying to find a good way of storing all my numerous candles of various shapes and sizes – long thin, short stubby and large pillar. Presently, they are scattered between numerous boxes – they are all quite plain unscented candles and many of them were left over from my daughter’s wedding but I have not as yet found the ideal storage container or place to store them. It would be much simpler to use them all so I don’t have to store them at all. Maybe come the autumn / winter time and possible power cuts I will be glad of my little hoard. Until then this little problem is a pending one.

DH had his screw driver out again today doing little jobs around the house and I now have the little holdall (once fixed to the inside of my old kitchen cupboard door to take tupperware lids) fixed to the inside of the broom cupboard where I keep my cleaning cloths and caddy. The holdall is just perfect for holding my spare rubber gloves.

I managed to make the nut loaf for our evening meal and the rest will be frozen for next week. I made it with brown rice rather than breadcrumbs as one of my daughter’s has a gluten intolerance and I will be taking it up to her house for tea next week. But I must confess the pastry still didn’t get done again, however whilst I had the oven on anyway I decided to roast some teeny weeny potatoes I had left over (those very tiny ones that you always get when you grow your own) and parsnips at the same time – oh and I slipped a small frozen yorkshire pudding in at the end….they are a weakness of mine.

So today…it is another I can’t believe it is Friday day – I have washed towels to hang out and more washing to put in. I have a letter to write and a couple of friends to ring. Then who knows…. it could be more paperwork or another spell in the garage. I daresay DH would prefer it if I do the paperwork and keep well away from the garage which he sees as his domain. Maybe I will spend an hour in my domain (the greenhouse) I never got to organise it properly once DH had finished painting the inside.

Welcome to all the new followers of my blog – I do find it strange that I manage to acquire more followers when I am having a bit of a break from blogging than when I am writing!!!

dear diary >> a productive day

I love those days when a few insignificant jobs are ticked off the list that provide some quite significant improvements. Yesterday was one of those days.

I spent an hour in the pantry putting things straight and filling up containers. I only found the bread flour and a pot of Thai curry paste to be near to its best before date so I will search out one or two recipes to use these up. I haven’t made Thai curry before and when I bought the paste pot it seemed easier than buying all the special ingredients that make it Thai.

The breakdown truck came mid morning and recovered the car to the garage whilst we followed on behind. The initial report from the nice garage man was that the escaping fluid is a leak from something that has worn through (I am so impressed Mary by your knowledge of cars) and the part required to fix it is relatively cheap, thank goodness, but we will have to wait a few days for him to get one (as they are imported) before the car can be made better, but at least it is now being dealt with.

Once back home DH pruned the berberis in the front garden, a bit of a spikey job, mended my little green birdhouse (which is only decorative) and put up the two pottery holders, grow and fresh, in the greenhouse that I found sorting out the garage. They are just the right size to keep bits and bobs in them.

Our afternoon walk took us round by the village so we could drop off the soft plastic bags for recycling at the Co-op. We have just gained a lovely little gift shop in the village called Nest. They have some delightful inexpensive gifts and cards and today I noticed the empty shop by the old post office has now opened as a hardware shop – I do wish them both luck – our village could do with a few shops that are not just charity shops, beauty parlours or dog grooming. We once had the most wonderful green grocers (in fact there were two) but they were forced to close when Safeways (now Morrisons) built a supermarket on the old railway station.

I did manage to put away more bits and pieces from the holiday and sorted the washing after which I needed a bit of time lying flat to ease my back so I watched the final episode of Downton. I do love to have a potter around the house once in a while especially after we have been away and there is no real urgency to get anything done, though I am on a bit of a mission to give it more attention than it has received in the last few months so it feels more loved and cared for.

I made the Courgette bake, but didn’t quite get round to mixing up a batch of pastry – that will have to be another day or maybe even today. I have to wait for the remaining courgettes in the garden to grow a little bigger before I can make the Veg lasagne (our Co-op doesn’t have anything quite as exotic as courgettes yet!), so nut roast is the next meal on the menu plan and maybe this time I will get those pastry cases made.

Today it will be a toss up between going in the garden or looking through the paperwork pile – I know which I would rather do, but maybe sorting out the finances is more important. Scottish Power have sent me an email to tell me about the £400 fuel rebate and we have just applied to the council for our £150. We will need to put this aside to pay for our fuel bills during the colder months – maybe I will buy a couple of very thick jumpers with some of it. DH is looking to add to the insulation in the loft – I always think it is so full of ‘stuff’ up there that more insulation is probably not required!

On a different note did anyone see the program about Woodstock the Festival on Sky Arts on Tuesday night? It took place in America in the summer of 1969 – I was a mere 15 year old teenager with long flowing skirts to match my long flowing hair and I had just bought my first Leonard Cohen album , Songs of Leonard Cohen and becoming very much a part of the flower power generation. We once knew someone who had actually been to the festival and like a lot of our friends we have the Woodstock album – it was an historic moment back then. A few things struck me watching the video movies that had been collated to make this documentary, firstly, the majority of the young people were so noticeably slim and the lads wandering around without t-shirts were very well toned despite the fact that there were no fitness gyms in those days, and secondly, the girls seemed so naturally pretty without any make up, false eyelashes, fake tans or lip and boob enhancements and such a marked lack of tattoos and piercings. Whatever happened to those carefree days of a generation that believed in people and preserving the environment – how did all that love and peace give way to the years that followed of Thatcher’s greed and capitalism?

We are certainly paying the price now as big business giants rake in excessive profits and council leaders are paid huge salaries whilst care for the elderly in their boroughs are cut to the bone and they have growing numbers of homeless people on our littered streets. Kate Josephs, leader of Sheffield council, has recently been reinstated in her job after being under investigation – she has a salary of around £200,000 and was paid more than £60,000 to stay at home until it was concluded. Just what does she do for this amount of money I wonder?

Meanwhile, I spend most of my days trying to think of ways to save a few pennies to eek out the meagre pension pot I spent a lifetime working for.

dear diary >> homekeeping

We had rain yesterday, quite a heavy down pour…..it was so welcome as our garden is like dust and it meant I didn’t have to water the planters for once, though I must remember to give the tomatoes and courgettes a liquid feed. Today it feels cool, but fresh, with a hint of Autumn, though I am not ready yet to relinquish the summer. My greenhouse is almost complete, the paint went on a dream – DH did two coats on the inside and three on the outside for good measure – we used Crown Superdec, the same as we painted the shed a few years ago, and it has worn well and best of all we bought it on offer at our local Crown store. I love the transformation and the contrast against the rougher pallet wood of the staging boards.

It is so good to be back home now and I have a great deal of homekeeping to catch up on…my bad back over the last 5 months has left my house in a sad and sorry state but at last I feel ready to begin to tackle it again…. in small quantities of course and bring back some order. I have been severely short of any routine recently and even the basics were not being done. Now our holiday is over I have time to gather my thoughts and start planning.

We did the supermarket shop yesterday so the larder is well stocked and it is a pleasure to walk into the pantry with a wonderful display of fruit and veg. I always tend to heed the words from Dominique Loreau’s book L’art de la Simplicite – how to live more with less when she says “seek only the best”….source the finest untreated produce, tasty fruit and really good bread.…and even better when you manage to find them at a reduced price. I can now turn yesterday’s little haul into some nutritious meals and fill the freezer with homemade fare over the next few days. If my menu for the week goes to plan then we are having Tuscan Bean casserole tonight with halloumi. Whilst the oven is on I intend to cook some pastry case bases for a quiche or two to freeze at the same time. If I mix up extra pastry I will make some lentil and mushroom pies to freeze tomorrow. I bought a punnet of mushrooms to make mushroom soup and two lots of celery to make celery soup and gained extra nectar points on both.

I had to buy new electric toothbrush heads….ouch – I used the last two before we went away and I like to keep some in stock. A pack of four Oral B heads are on offer in Sainsbury’s at the moment for £11, a saving of £5. These high priced items really bump up the shopping bill total so I tend to spread them out over the year and only buy them on offer. Water filter cartridges, soap powder and dishwasher tablets all fall into this category.

We have developed a good routine in the supermarket and whilst I scan the supermarket shelves for all the red sticker offers and items we use that have extra Nectar points DH does the smartscan shop for both our Nectar cards (as each card has different offers and I don’t scan shop as well as he does). We often buy multiples of the best offers to stock up. We bought four boxes of Alara muesli – normal price £2.70 – scan shop offer £1.60 saving us £4.40 on 4 boxes. I am hoping to stretch this weeks shopping to ten days if possible just topping up with some extra milk and the odd bit of veg.

My intentions today are to complete the unpacking and putting away. I always refill the toiletries ready for our next trip before I put the bag away – it saves time when we next have to pack. I invested in two of those handy picnic blankets for the beach last year – £5 each from B&M. They fold up into a neat little package with a carry handle and are ultra light and yesterday I gave them a good blow on the line to shake off any residual sand before they are put away. I don’t really have anywhere to keep them at the moment that is easily accessible but I am working on it. I do like to have a place for everything and they are definitely keepers so something else less useful or unused may have to go to make room. I am gradually selling bits and pieces on ebay again to free up space in my cupboards and the garage.

I have an osteopath appointment this afternoon….another ouch cost wise but the benefits are worth it, he has done wonders for my back and I am hoping that today he can straighten out a few of my stiffer body parts. I fell whilst at a country fete in Thirsk with my two granddaughter’s last Saturday. There was a small hidden hole in the grass on the field and my foot went down it as I walked along and my ankle twisted over. I went down with a bump jarring my poor back and already bad shoulder and I have ended up with a slight limp, a stiff back and quite sore wrists where I tried to save myself…..and I hadn’t even been drinking…..well only decaff tea!!!

Well I had better get going – there is a lot to do.

dear diary >> improving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good day everyone x

dear diary :: ticking off the tasks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

creating health and well being

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

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

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

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

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

So far my growing list of healthy adjustments looks like this

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

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

homestead :: inspired and tired

Have you ever been inspired by a friend – one who can launch you into action? 

As you know we went to see some old friends last Thursday in the dales.  One of the reasons for the trip was to have a grand tour of their new home that they have had built for them.  It has been four years in the making but is absolutely stunning – well out of our price range and even though they are a few years older than us, they have chosen to upsize rather than downsize which means they will be able to accommodate their whole family at Christmas which will be lovely. Not that I am envious! One advantage is they are now able to enjoy their retirement to the full knowing the whole house and garden are pretty much in a finished state – no big maintenance jobs, no decorating – it is all done.

At one time this friend lived just down the road from us and I would visit a few times during the week when both our girls were at school – popping in and out for coffee and a chat.  I remember how visits to her house always made me want to rush home and have a thorough clean of mine.  She is one of life’s naturally organised people – her home is immaculate, her meals healthy and delicious, the garden flourishing and their finances in order and buoyant and she still has time for herself and her craft work.  She is very imaginative when it comes to reusing, repairing and repurposing too and this is evident even in their new house.

Their new abode is light and spacious – under floor heating from solar panels, lights that dim by remote and objects and furniture kept to a minimum.  Coming back home made my house seem small and cluttered even though I keep on having major decluttering sessions, but not only that I began noticing areas that do need some attention – a little editing and improving.

So guess what I have been doing all week and how tired I feel!

As I said to Sadie (Notes from an ordinary life) if I am ever missing from my blog you will know I am decluttering and cleaning.  It takes all my concentration and I stop for no-one, well usually, although I did spend the day with little Freddie again yesterday – but who could resist that.

I have a number of challenging areas around the house and I have spent this last week trying to organise these better.

My first challenge was to find a new place to put the Easter decoration that I made so I can use it once more next year. In the end I decided on top of the wardrobe in the spare room as it has a high ceiling and blends in quite well. Really I should dismantle it but it is so pretty I wanted to display it again next year.

Challenge number two was this box containing my elder daughter’s CD player and speakers. We have stored this now for 10 years because my daughter’s house is much smaller than ours and up until the baby was born this year was like a building site. Even now she really doesn’t have a spare inch to accommodate it – so it will remain with us until some point in the future when they move to a larger place. It has been residing in the downstairs cloakroom with everything else that didn’t have a proper place; as you know we are in the process of transforming this into a pantry so I have to find a new home for it. Because of the temperature fluctuations it is not something I would store in the loft so it presented quite a problem.

After much trying it here and there I came up with the idea that it would not look quite so bad if it was in a more decorative box that wouldn’t look out of place in the spare room. So during a trip to Ikea on Monday I spotted these boxes and although it needed two of them it has done the trick and visually looks so much neater. I will be able to use these afterwards to store toys for the grandchildren.

Whilst in Ikea I saw these little Christmas tins for 75p each and I thought they would be just right to put in a few homemade biscuits or a tiny fruit cake for a gift.

I started my cleaning and decluttering in the shower room – this is on the list for a complete renovation but not until we get a new kitchen installed and that is after the pantry. I won’t linger on how grubby it felt – it is never my favourite job. The contents of the cupboard are pretty much pared down but even so I still managed to weed out a few bits and pieces – old sun tan lotions and tanning creams past their use by date. When I declutter the toiletries and makeup items I always keep a ‘use up’ box of odds and ends that need using up, a lot of these are often freebies that have come with a purchase, things I won’t be replacing or buying again but I don’t want to waste them.

The shower always takes a long time to clean but the sealant had been renewed when we had the Aussie cousin to stay and the grout is OK so it just needed a bit of elbow grease to thoroughly clean the tiles and glass. After cleaning the toilet and basin – I always use a squirt of furniture polish over the outside of the pottery and the taps to give it that showroom gleam.

I treated myself to a new bath mat from Home Sense which has much improved the appearance of this room. The old one was looking past its best and looked liked someone had taken a bite out of one corner!

My linen cupboard was next – there was nothing to go out here as I am already down to the bare minimum of sheets and duver covers but I cleaned down the shelves and rearranged a few things so it looks remarkably fresher. I bought the boxes from the Range and they have been very useful for storing the family heirlooms – Christening dresses, vintage linens and my wedding dress.

The craft drawer that holds my stash of fabric had a once over- one day I will get around to turning my fabric stash into a patchwork quilt!

As I made my way from room to room decluttering and cleaning I also made a note of things to look out for to add a bit of styling. I found this tiny succulent in Ikea to put in our family bathroom. When I have a moment or two I will also change some of the pictures. I bought a couple of new frames in the summer with the intention of printing out and framing some of our photos – another job for my list.

It is very much a work in progress – a thorough clean and tidy and the addition of one or two new items can make all the difference. I am loving the rooms I have completed so far but soon I will have to tackle the office come craft room – it is the hardest place with the large paper mountain.

One sleepless night at the weekend I decided that I really must embrace the scanner and scan the invoices and receipts that I wish to keep rather than put them into a folder or box. I know many people do not keep their receipts but ever since the flood at the cottage I was so thankful that I have always kept receipts and records – because of this we managed to get the full amount for our damaged contents and could not be beaten down by the insurers. As the insurers were satisfied with scanned receipts I am sure this method will be accepted should we ever need to make a claim in the future. Once the older receipts for our household goods are scanned on to the computer I will have a lever arch file and a box file less on the shelves. It is a bit of a tedious job so I am scanning a handful each morning and going forwards new receipts will be done each week.

Once this is done I will make a start in the filing drawer and scan on important papers to gain more space. A lot of the paperwork I keep is ‘just in case’ so once scanned I will still have a record without the storage problem.

My wardrobe will be the next place for an overhaul. I have reduced the number of items by quite a bit this year. I seem to wear a kind of ‘uniform’ each day of leggins and a t shirt or jumper now I am at home; I can’t remember the last time I wore a skirt, which is a shame because I have quite a pile of them. Last time I decluttered I let a number of them go to charity but I think it might be time to cut my losses now and get rid of a few more. I will start by getting rid of the ones that feel a little bit on the tight side.

I found another cosy jumper in Sainsbury’s last week – good to wear around the house over a t shirt and for my Friday visits to the neighbour.

One of my intentions this month was to try out some new recipes. This week I chose these little mushroom and leek pies. The recipe used a shortcrust pastry that had added mustard powder for flavour. DH was not keen so I improvise and used grated Parmesan cheese that have given them this speckled look. They are baked in a muffin tin so are quite deep. Apologies for the lighting it has made the pies look a bit insipid – they were actually a lovely golden brown colour and quite delicious.

October is all birthdays – I have three this week alone. I already had the gifts for two of them bought in Stranraer at Baxters where they still gift wrap. They are little printed linen make up bags. The crocus tub is for a dear friend, men are always difficult to buy for but he is a gardener so will love these.

Because of all the birthdays I needed cards so I spent a day making some with the flowers I pressed recently, I also made a few thank you notelets at the same time. Some work better than others but my favourite has to be the chamomile heads.

So that has been my week so far and tomorrow, like the rain, the tidying continues whilst the momentum continues. Or you might find me napping on the sofa. x

dear diary :: a day of accomplishments

I had a rather disproportionate feeling of accomplishment yesterday to the amount of things I actually got done but it felt good to do something and move forward.

The washer is now working a treat and together with the warm wind I managed to wash and line dry a couple of loads so I have a pile of fluffy white towels waiting to go into the airing cupboard and an assortment of clothes to iron.

It is important that I keep up the daily routines I have developed since leaving work even when they seem to go astray or I have to abandon them for a while; checking emails, doing the ironing, shining the sink, entering receipts, planning the meals, taking my supplements, eating an apple – they bring a sense of accomplishment each day in themselves – if anything else gets done then that is a sure win.

We emptied the old cloakroom of its contents – this is only a small part of it above in the picture. It was a bit like Mary Poppin’s bag once we delved in there and now the stuff, that was once quite contained in the smallest room of the house, has spread itself into every free corner throughout the kitchen, dining area and living room resembling that expanding foam when you release it from the tube. I am looking at it wondering if it will all fit back in when it becomes the pantry.

Of course not everything is due to go back and it is this stuff I must deal with. I have decided that a car boot sale is the way to go as we have things not easy to sell by means of ebay because of the weight and I would rather try and get rid of it all in one day rather than string it out. We have a lack of boot sales round us so I am looking to go to Bedale near my daughter. They hold one every Saturday until mid October – she says it is quite a good one and she has room to store the stuff in her house until we have a nice collection together, and she can add in some of her unwanteds.

Once empty DH set too like the guy Jonathan you may have seen on the program Buying and Selling and within no time had hacked the tiles off the wall and then created himself a little sauna with the wallpaper steamer going full pelt.

The wallpaper is now scraped off but we need to remove the old patchy magnolia paint beneath until we get back to the bare plaster; then we will have a good sound surface to apply the paint on the walls.

Whislt he was working away I enjoyed a relaxing couple of hours with my neighbour catching up with news and airing our thoughts on the state of the country. I am not a very political person but I am worried about our politicians at the moment and the fact that we are being led into unknown territory and what is the real motive for this. It is rather overwhelming especially when I feel what we need is a bit of stability and reassurance.

Enough said on that topic.

I tried a new recipe for tea – it worked out well and tasted delicious, a relatively simple and inexpensive meal using red lentils, sweet potato, red peppers and mushrooms with halloumi cheese slices placed on top. The picture does not do it justice – the one in the magazine looks much more appetising! I will certainly be including it in our meals for the coming season. I will put the recipe up under the new Recipe tab above.

I have an assortment of recipe clippings to file away in my folders – so that will be a job for today. I have the guest bedding washed and waiting to go out on the line – it looks a dry sunny day here so far. Then I am going to look at the finances, reviewing last months figures and planning for September.

August seemed a long month but I am sad we are at an end as it signifies the end of summer too. The mornings are seeing a definite change now and a lot of the flowers are already dying back. But there is something quite comforting in nature as it always continues from one season to another and we adapt to the changes; always looking forward to repeating those little pleasurable activities that come with each of the seasons and ones which we will no doubt have done many times before.

My favourite at this time of year is definitely blackberry picking and collecting the Bramley apples to make pies and crumbles, I am sure you will have your own too. I will mourn the end of summer whilst eagerly awaiting the cooler weather and darker nights – when I can snuggle down with blankets and candles by the fire and watch a few favourite period dramas.

Have a lovely day everyone. x

dear diary :: getting back into our stride

Getting back into normal daily life is proving more difficult than it should be and I am currently somewhere between feeling frazzled and lethargic. Both the car and the washing machine are waiting to be fixed, hence a growing pile of washing is building up, and the towels retrieved from the washer have eventually dried into such a rigid state they might crack if I try to fold them. They will have to be washed again I think as I have no idea where in the washing cycle they had got to before the machine ground to a halt.

To top it all the rain is now preventing us tackling jobs outside like cutting the grass and weeding the borders. The tomatoes are only just turning colour so a little more sunshine would be good. The lettuce seeds that Little L helped me sow last week have already sprung to life – what a shame she cannot see them. She was so helpful and loves to water the garden.

I thought this might be the opportunity I have been waiting for to make some cards and finish those half started knitting and sewing projects, but somehow in all the upset I feel going on around me I have little enthusiasm for crafts.

Our fridge is quite bare at the moment – a bit of a Mother Hubbard’s cupboard so some shopping today is required but it will be limited to the basics as it is the end of the month and funds are excessively low. Living on one state pension, even with the top up of a small private pension, is proving difficult as prices continue to rise and we face a few unexpected bills. We have also bought a number of cafe meals and cups of tea whilst trundling around the countryside of North Yorkshire over the Bank holiday with my mum – but she is truly grateful that we get to take her out.

As we have a run of days at home now before take off again I have proposed that we tackle the long awaited transformation of the downstairs cloakroom / toilet into the pantry. We never used the toilet and many of our neighbours have incorporated them into their kitchens to make them bigger but I would value more storage as a walk in pantry. We will be leaving all the necessary connections in place under the floor should a future owner want to return it to a downstairs cloakroom.

We have finally chosen and had the units for the new pantry delivered from IKEA and took advantage of their 0% interest deal; keeping our money in the bank longer. Unfortunately the shop assistant made an error with the application so the total amount was more than the actual goods – when I pointed out her mistake it was too late to amend the application and so the monthly payments are higher than they should be by a few pounds and we are £54 in credit! Obviously it will get sorted but really they should not have people dealing with money that cannot add up.

DH will set about stripping wallpaper and tiles off the walls but not until I have emptied the room of all the ‘junk’ – it has become a bit of a dumping ground – a place to put those things that are waiting for a home. There is even a couple of boxes of stuff in there I have been storing for one of my daughters.

So this looks like my task for today before we go shopping. I can make a start whilst waiting for the washing machine engineer to come. I think doing a bit of decluttering and tidying is just what I need at the moment to organise my brain.

Have a good day – I will be back with photos. x

dear diary :: ready to go

A much calmer day yesterday. I decided in the end to drive over to Leeds just after lunch and have the bloods done. The journey wasn’t too bad going, about an hour, and there was no one waiting in the waiting room for blood tests – in fact I panicked and thought they might have finished for the day as it was 3.15 in the afternoon but they finish at 5 o’clock so all was well.

We didn’t even have to pay for parking as we have discovered a road not far from Jimmy’s that is free for 2 hours and there is often the odd spot vacant, so DH drops me off and then goes and waits until I call him.

Now it is fingers crossed for the results – I always stress a bit, even after 10 years, but hopefully the Thyroxine medication I take has done its job of suppressing any remaining cancer cells. It has worked up to now.

On the way home we stopped at Ikea and had our free drinks. Afterwards I popped into Boots to stock up on cottonwool as it is curretly 3 for 2 and then to Wilkos for a pack of wooden lolly sticks. After that it was home via Sainsbury’s for the petrol and I have bought a couple of cheap plain t-shirts £4 each for working in the garden.

DH has thrown away his old slippers – he has had them for more years than we care to remember – so long in fact that most of the rubber soles were no longer attached to the uppers. He had even contemplated sticking them back together but some of the sole had worn right through in places to a hole! So even he had to admit defeat as we could not think of an alternative use for them other than melting the rubber soles down to make something – he is ever the conservationist even down to his slippers!

But I was rather horrified later to look down whilst he was driving to Leeds and notice that he had not as yet thrown away the old trainers and even though we had bought new ones yesterday he was still wearing the old ones that should have, in my mind, joined the slippers in the bin! I live in hope.

My final task today was to rearrange a hairdressing appointment for when we return and see if my next renewal prescription is available online (thanks to Ann for that reminder) as I feel I need to stock pile my Thyroxine in case Brexit goes sour as I cannot live without this medication – it would be like taking insulin away from a diabetic – I am dependant on it as I no longer have a Thyroid gland and there is only one brand that does not have fillers that make me feel worse.

So with everything packed but the food I think you can say we are ready to go and by the time you read this we should be on our way. The house will be tidy and ready for our house guest whilst we are away.

I came to my decision about my blog and the pesky ads and have taken out a paid plan. So I will be remaining on WordPress for the time being and see how it goes. My new address is much the same but the WordPress.com has been dropped – so you will find me at my new address – wherethejourneytakesme2.blog – I am told if you use the old address you will be redirected. It may take a day or two for the changes so I hope it will be a smooth change over and hopefully, other than the address and no ads, you shouldn’t notice any difference.

It is a bit like moving house really but I didn’t need a solicitor.

Have a great weekend x