dear diary :: there’s no place like home

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my last post. I am sure we will be making some time soon to get the cottage plans sorted but it is no use starting when we know we have a Christening to organise, a first birthday party to attend and Christmas looming on the horizon.

After leaving Scotland we drove down to North Yorkshire to stay with my daughter and the two grandchildren Little L and Sweetie. We tend to stay with my daughter now rather than with my mum as she cannot manage washing and changing the bedding anymore in her spare room. She is about 30 miles from my daughter’s house so we are able to take her out for a drive but eat and sleep at my daughters.

On Saturday we went out to a garden centre just outside Northallerton for lunch and on Sunday we had an absolutely beautiful run down through the North Yorkshire moors to Helmsley – a dry sunny day cold and crisp and the trees turning a wonderful golden orange colour. I have no photos as mum requires full attendance on her now all the time we are out.

On the Monday and Tuesday we went out with the girls and one of our visits was to the Druid’s Temple at Swinton Bivouac. Little L ran in and out of the caves and hidey holes that make up this Stonehenge type folly hidden in the surrounding woods. Sweetie just slept through it all as usual and only woke up when food was mentioned!

We travelled down home early yesterday evening and it felt so good to be back and not living out of a suitcase (or rather a selection of those blue checked laundry bags in our case). We didn’t stay anywhere long enough to fully unpack.

The house was quite cool when we arrived and being quite tired after the journey we just unpacked the car, put the food away and then went to bed early with a hot water bottle and read. Today I did the rest of the unpacking and putting things away. I had brought a few hydrangea stems home from the cottage to dry in our kitchen – although from the same bush the colours are quite variable. They do brighten up the kitchen though and I love all the muted autumn colours together.

Being away from home, even in the nicest of places, always makes me glad to be back in my own little house. Sometimes when we have been away and visited houses that are beautifully decorated and presented, like my friend’s new house the other week, it motivates me to have a good clean and declutter in my own, however, when we have been to stay at our daughter’s rented house I am always glad that we do not have to put up with the poor standards of the majority of rented property and it makes our own house look like a palace in comparison.

To say that rented properties are so expensive you get very little in return for handing over the rent money every month. It does make me feel rather cross that a tennant is expected to live with battered and substandard equipment and fittings – missing knobs, mouldy sealant, windows that don’t open, doors that don’t close and fans that won’t work as well as cracked ceilings, damp walls and poorly painted woodwork…the house she is in at present is marginally better than most she has lived in but still has its problems.

DH has spent quite a bit of time, effort and money trying to make some of our daughter’s rented properties just that little bit better to live in. Sometimes just a few little changes can make a big difference. In the present one he replaced the dirty old rag stuffed in the ventilation hole to block the draught in the kitchen wall with a proper air vent cover and this time we bought an old fashioned plunger to help unblock the drains as the plumbing is rather old and the pipework does not have a good fall on it so allows the dirty dishwasher water to gurgle up into the kitchen sink through the plug hole – not very hygenic in my mind. The plunger did help to get the water draining better.

Whilst we have been away there has been a heavy fall of leaves from our cherry tree so I spent half and hour in the garden this afternoon raking them up and piling them into a bag to make leaf mould.

Whilst on our travels I bought these from the little vegetable shop in Thirsk – they always have some very reasonable bedding plants and I couldn’t resist these colourful outdoor clematis which I will put into pots at the side of the front door.

These painted clay pots are waiting to be cleaned and then they will go on one of the stalls at our annual ‘Crisis’ coffee morning in November where we raise money for the homeless at Christmas. They are from a lady in the village where our cottage is in Scotland. She has bought an old mill building to renovate and found hundreds of these pots inside – so she leaves them at her gate for anyone to take away. I think they will be quite nice with spring bulbs in them.

That is most of my news – DH is feeling much better now and has been back in the pantry today doing a bit of sanding. The next step is to buy the paint tomorrow and make a start painting the walls and ceiling. I also need to go to town to buy food and a few bits and bobs.

I am going to make the tea now – something quite quick I think and I must go around and change the rest of the clocks as we were away during the hour change, so I keep thinking it is later than it is!

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

homestead :: domestic bliss

There is no denying that it has turned much cooler since the unexpected mini heatwave over the recent Bank Holiday weekend, but like most people I feel that we have said goodbye to summer now….ready or not.

My first reaction has been to swap the cooler cotton duvet cover for the extra warmth of my cosy flannelette. This seems a little early compared to other years and I may even throw on a blanket tonight or just grab a hot water bottle. The heating has started to come on in the mornings too now so the temperature must have dropped low enough to trigger the thermostat. Are we possibly looking at a long cold winter? I may need a new warm coat.

The kitchen is a blissfully warm place to be right now. After months of salads I am ready for a change to warmer, more satisfying meals using root vegetables and pulses and looking forward to roasted veggies with a good handful of herbs scattered on top and our favourite nutloaves. I am also being mindful of minimising our food waste and using up all the vegetables from the weekly shop in whatever creative ways come to mind.

We ended the week with a few oddments – a couple of leeks, one carrot, a courgette and two baking potatoes – once chopped I added some celery and onions together with a packet of brown lentils and made a good old warming Lentil Stew – enough for two days. Eaten with a chunk of bread and butter it was everything that I love about autumn food.

Whilst browsing my recipe books looking for some new ideas I noticed a recipe for Carrot and Walnut Loaf that I haven’t made for a very long time – a bit different from our usual nut loaf – vibrant warm colours with the mix of carrot and tomato paste – so thought I would make some to freeze ready to take with us to the cottage – when we eventually get to go. We have only just got the car back from the garage after 3 days…..I was expecting a very large bill…..one that you have to sit down for……however, due to one thing and another (won’t bore you with the details) the lovely garage man only charged us for the parts and no labour costs.

It has become almost a daily ritual for one of us to make a batch of soup – this week I made tomato and red pepper and a healthy green soup using a bag of the ready washed watercress, spinach and lettuce – throwing in celery, leeks and frozen peas – plenty of iron and no doubt calcium. I had a recipe for parmesan crisps that I have wanted to try for ages – I can tell you they are simply more than moreish and keep crisp in the fridge for days. I will add the instructions to my recipe tab.

The blackberries we gathered are now partly cooked and in the freezer. This little fellow below crawled out of them, luckily before they went into the pot.

He is so cute and so tiny – I have never seen a snail so small – he is on some kitchen paper here and magnified in the photo – measuring only about 0.5 cms in reality, smaller than my little finger nail. After surviving the ride home and then being rinsed in salt water I decided he should now have the freedom to live in the garden. I might regret that!

This is the longest few days we have had at home for the last two months so there has been a lot of ‘jobbing’ going on here. Plenty of domestic chores – stripping beds (as well as walls) , scrubbing floors and generally all those day to day normal household tasks. And lots of tea – mostly ginger, sometimes green or even just ordinary black.

But in and amongst and during some of the rainy days I have been sorting through my kitchenware – this is a category I both love to collect (mmm…. just how many blue patterned bowls do I really need) and find hard to part with. The one in one out rule does not work here so the new drinking glasses (only £4 for six from IKEA) – although they are a replacement still needed a home. The paper cocktail umberellas are used when Little L comes to stay – she always takes her glass of milk with one and a stripey paper straw of course – it has become a bit of a tradition now, granny’s little treat. I always loved them when I was a child and my granny used to save them for me when she had been out drinkng cocktails. I can’t say I go out for cocktails in the same way – mine just come courtesy of Sainsbury’s!

Progress on the pantry is steady – DH has stripped the walls of both paper and the old magnolia paint beneath and has started filling in holes. The back window wall needs a skim of plaster as does the ceiling – so now we wait to have someone come to do that.

The garden has been an absolute picture of colour this year and there are still plenty of bright spots here and there – but the colder wet weather is certainly bringing them to an end sooner than usual. It has been touch and go with the outdoor tomatoes but at last I think they are on the turn – just a little more sunshine should do it. Little L helped me sow a few more lettuce seeds – I may have to make some kind of cloche to help them on their way.

We have been busy cleaning and putting tools away in my new shed, which is now painted a lovely shade of grey and ready to take the harsh wet winter weather here. The festoon lighting has been taken down – drying off in the airing cupboard to prevent any rust. I decided they seemed a bit too delicate to be out over winter. I felt a bit sad to see them go and the garden feels a bit empty at night without the little trail of lights streaking across the darkness.

My dad’s old stool will have to go away too and the garden seats covered if this rain ever stops long enough for us to get all the outside jobs done. With such a turn in the weather there seems to be more of an urgency this year to get everything under wraps.

And surprise, surprise in my inbox…..I only mentioned that I needed this the other day as I was running out of face cream – a 20% discount voucher from Neal’s Yard. I decided to stick with the intense serum but drop to the cheaper Hydrating Frankincense cream to save a little money. I also had £12.90 in reward points to use so the two items were a lot less than expected.

The Liz Earle shampoo was covered using my Boots advantage points so I was well pleased with my savings this week. In fact the whole week has been quite a low spend week which is a good start to the month.

I decided I need to ease myself back into some craft work and hesitantly took the baby jumper I had been knitting out of the basket – I abandoned it sometime in May whilst making the Christening dress and never got back to it. I really couldn’t remember where I had left off but had a faint recollection that it involved some hand sewing of the seams before I can knit the last little bit of rib around the hood. I am pretty sure it will be far too small now for Sweetie so I only hope that Freddie might like it despite the bit of pink.

I have almost finished the first of the library book stack The Life of Stuff – an interesting read though I am glad to be at the end as hoarding is quite a depressing subject. I am dithering now between Christmas at Thrush Green and Not in your Genes for my next read. Do I want to be entertained or educated….

Have a lovely weekend everyone and welcome to new readers.

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 :: catching up with life at home

I am back at home now. Looking out of my window this morning the world outside was damp and grey with a blanket of fog. I wondered what was best to do with my time. It certainly wasn’t gardening weather so I opted for pottering about the house. There is always plenty to do and although we arrived home last Thursday night I have not completely unpacked yet – not through laziness (well maybe a little) but once home I seemed to hit the ground running.

One of the reasons for coming home was to attend my extra six week Therapeutic Yoga classes I signed up for on a Friday afternoon. These classes are all about breathing – breathing into different areas that correspond with the chakras, concentrating on how the breath feels and making notes. After completing a series of yoga positions we breathe into those same areas again and notice the difference, breathing is deeper and easier and it is amazing how different you feel….more alive, relaxed, open – I am so glad I decided to do this course and will carry on in my own time when it comes to an end next week.

After the class I was feeling exceptionally calm and relaxed so it was a bit of a shame that DH and I had to pop down to town to buy some food for the weekend – an hour in Sainsbury’s isn’t condusive to relaxation but we needed to stock up with fresh fruit and vegetables. At the moment I am making quite simple meals, fresh vegetables with chickpeas in a stock for flavour and a little brown rice mixed in, last night was roasted vegetables with couscous and tonight a brown lentil stew with sweet potato and leeks and a thick chunk of bread.

Last Saturday was a day spent finishing some half started projects. DH has been fitting a door knob and lock to the new shed door and we brought the cooker down from the cottage to replace the one at home here. Although it had survived both the flood and being put in a skip it has stood in the conservatory all this time with no real home. As some readers will know my oven here at home as been on the blink for some months getting hot one day and not another. On the days it refused to heat up we resorted to using the small oven but this was not ideal as it did not cook meals that well. So we managed to heave the cooker into the back of our car to bring down home. Once we had given it a thorough wipe down (it is still like new) our electrician son-in-law helped to swap them over and wired it in. The old one will be no use to anyone and it is well over 20 years old and was second hand to us from my sister.

I like things that last a long time there are so many products that are disposable these days.

The replacement cooker from the cottage is a very basic stainless steel Zanussi with old fashioned solid hotplates and no separate grill but at least the oven works. We bought it new when we first had the cottage and we chose something quite robust in case we let the cottage out. It will do us fine until we can replace our kitchen and buy a new intergrated one.

To freshen it up I put sliced oranges in a bowl of water with a few drops of lemon oil, placed it in the oven and turned the oven on. The aroma was gorgeous and now the inside smells clean and fresh too.

And now I have an oven that works I feel like trying some new recipes again so have been revisiting old cookery books.

In and amongst I have been doing a little housekeeping inside – hoovering, sweeping and washing floors….. and socks….

…..and a little housekeeping outside – deadheading the annuals in pots, feeding the plants and tying in the wandering clematis.

I also cut and tagged the pale pink and white aquilegia and the bunches are hanging upside down in the shed to dry out so I can collect the seed.

The garden is looking lovely and buzzing with bees – my peonies had burst into life whilst we were away – I had waited for this moment for so long now watching the buds grow and fatten…and now they are simply beautiful and I cannot stop admiring them… they are just in the right spot to see them from my kitchen window as I wash up. What a shame they are usually over very quickly but for the moment I can just stand and stare.

The lettuce and courgettes are just about ready for picking and my seeds have sprouted – we just need a little more sun.

Tomorrow it is my usual yoga class and on Wednesday I will see the doctor about my knee as up to now it is not getting any easier. DH has to have his front tyres changed this week – more expense but overall I think our spending has been a bit lighter during June even with the trip to Scotland.

We have plans to try and look at kitchens again while the summer sales are on, at the same time we are trying to progress our cottage plans and arrange some time between commitments to have our summer holiday. Oh and not to forget making progress again on the pantry.

fEAsible ~ the importance of lists

I mentioned in my previous post that I had been planning – most of my planning still takes place in my ancient A5 planner  – I was introduced to planners at work in the 80’s, it came with my promotion – a leather ‘Time System’ planner but the better known Filofax is very similar and more recently the Bullet Journal system is now the new time planner, only more decorative.Everything was recorded in my planner – both for work and home and I didn’t go anywhere without it.  I still smile now when I remember those early days of time management planners – whenever I attended a meeting for work everyone else would arrive carrying theirs too and we would end the meeting synchronizing planner time!  I still use mine out of habit –  paper has always been my thing.

My planner is divided by a series of sections and each is full of ideas, lists and tasks – at the end of the day there is something very satisfying about making a little tick mark against a completed task, especially a task that has been rolling over week after week from one list to another most annoyingly.

ListsRecently I bought a book titled L’art de la Liste by the same author Dominique Loreau who wrote L’art de la Simplicité: How to Live More with Less.  She throws a whole new perspective on my love of lists.  She likens a list to a haiku (an expressive Japanese poem) or a journal as it becomes a record of your life and suggests the advantage of making lists allows us to rethink and restructure our ideas.

After a recent clear out I found a stack of my old to do lists and notes, which I have put aside to shred or burn on the cottage bonfire.  They can be quite enlightening and a reminder of what I have actually done with my time over the years.  After reading the book I may decide not burn them after all – but then that is not in keeping with a simple and minimalistic lifestyle…

– so such is my dilemma.

My word for the year is ‘transition’   as I am currently undergoing a period of big changes so my transformation to a simpler more streamlined home and lifestyle will require new routines that fit better with my new life.  Streamlining is an ongoing task and a bit like peeling away the layers of an onion.  It requires a slow steady approach and to help support my clearing out, paring down and keeping order I need to prevent future piles of stuff from reforming and building up again when I have an unexpected busy period or take my eye off the ball – which I know I will do.

Clutter spots seem to be contagious in this house and my main enemies are the washing and ironing pile, the finances, incoming emails and reading blogs and leaving comments – if I get busy they don’t get done.

So when I read the simple advice in The Joy of Less by Francine Jay to have a daily maintenance plan I knew this was the answer, after all I have time now in the mornings to do more as I am no longer rushing out to work.  Taking a few minutes each day to address the problem areas should help to keep the house in good order.  So this is my basic list:-

  • Put on one load of washing – this must be a full load where possible to save water and energy and is not always necessary every day but checking is.
  • Ironing – iron whatever I washed the day before
  • Finances – enter the receipts, balance statements and action anything waiting to be dealt with.
  • Check and reply to or delete incoming emails for the day
  • Blog comments – I include this in the list as keeping up with blogs I read and making comments is better done daily otherwise I find I have too much catching up to do.

I thought it important as well to throw in a bit of daily self-care – something that I should do more of but… oh well you know how it is – so I made a start by adding these to the list:-

  • Take supplements – currently my Vitamin D with my breakfast
  • Eat one apple a day – my contribution to a healthy diet and usually my mid morning snack
  • Exercises – at the moment I am following Posture Queen’s Somatic exercises to help my neck and shoulders, hips and knees.

I began my new routine in the New Year  – I switched my week on two pages diary in my planner for a page a day style, with more space I can keep a daily check list that I tick off as I go and this does help me to keep on track and stick to it.  When my routine was a bit disrupted last week with the arrival of baby X  I didn’t end up with a huge backlog of jobs as I was already on top of things.

I am really pleased – it could be working.

I am sure once my new routines are established I can add in a few more.  Getting the daily jobs done and out-of-the-way should leave me more time for the fun things in life.

 

 

 

sEAsons ~ winter is the time for home

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

Ivy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you are enjoying your winter days x

dEAr diary ~ getting more things done

Not quite so productive today but I have been busy.

I started this morning doing my 10 minute financial tally – fine so far – and then I chose one of the longer outstanding financial tasks to do from my list.  This was to inform the Inland Revenue of my change of circumstances as there might be a possible tax rebate and to transfer part of my personal tax allowance under the married allowance rules to DH so that his combined pension, state and private, does not attract as much tax.

I tried to do this on the website but failed as there was a problem with the application.  So I resorted to the phone which I can tell you is long and laborious.  Firstly, you talk to a recorded voice (which sounds like a person but could be a robot?) – they ask you a question and then you say an answer and then silence…and then they say did you say xyz and so it goes on.  In between the answers you give they suggest you use the website – well of course who would be phoning and subjecting themselves to this rigmarole needlessly if you could get the information or apply on the website!

And why they think anyone else would ring impersonating you and subject themselves to a long and frustrating wait is beyond me but they obviously do as the Inland Revenue help line are introducing a voice recognition service if you wish to sign up…I decided not…I might lose my place in the queue and have to start over again.

It leaves you feeling why can’t a real person answer the phone in the first place.  Eventually someone did – a lovely man who couldn’t get the application to go through either and will have to escalate it up to someone else who can – but they will write to me – hopefully with a nice cheque!!

After that ordeal I made a phone call to my daughter to check on progress – nothing happening at the moment – all is good and no sign of baby coming early.  I then set to and ironed yesterday’s washing, made the Leek and Potato soup for lunch (it had become a bit of a late lunch by this time) and whilst that was cooking I washed and prepared the salad items and some vegetables we bought last night to keep ready in the fridge.  I find pre-preparing some things saves a lot of time later when we come to make a meal.

We then sat down after lunch for 10 minutes but became engrossed in the Wartime Farm – I love this series of programs and just had to watch it to the end.  I wonder if we would be as able to provide for ourselves now as they did then.  The men and women found such ingenious ways of substituting when food and other things like soap were scarce.

It must have been just after 4pm when I got out into the garden.  I filled the new pot with compost and decided for the time being to put the pansies in it.  They do look really pretty.  It was six o’clock when I came in after doing a bit of tidying up and emptying pots of plants that are completely over so too dark to take a photo – I will go out in the morning to take some.

DH had a really bad back today and I wouldn’t let him go out to do anymore digging and heaving paving slabs about.  It is quite a mess by the side of the house and I shall be glad when all is done and we can put the compost bins back in place and start using them again.

Looking back at today’s tasks that I did get done perhaps I was more productive than I thought – but the paper piles still remain – I shall do a bit more on that tomorrow.

Must go now to ring mum before tea. x

 

 

 

 

 

 

trEAsury ~ simplifying money matters

As autumn is underway now and my world of paid work is but a distant memory I still feel I haven’t settled into any worthwhile routines or daily rhythms.  I suppose they take time to shape and develop, so I am going to give them a bit of a nudge and create some that are a bit more in step with my life now and reflect the simplified life I want to achieve.

You may have noticed over the years that I am hopeless at routines – evidenced by my erratic posts – I plan to do things then get absorbed in something else.

I did have a really good ‘getting to work’ routine – well I did have 19 years of practice – but I don’t need that now (the work routine not the practice of course).  In fact I could be tempted to sneak back to bed in the mornings – but I don’t.   Honest.

Since stopping work I find my mornings are spent doing a bit of this and that, checking emails, reading blog posts, tidying, ironing – but nothing consistent or that could be considered a routine.  I tend to agree with the idea that a good morning routine is the foundation of any successful day as well as starting early – unfortunately, I am no morning person either – so that will be challenging too.

One of the daily routines I am going to tag onto my morning routine, such as it is, will be a daily financial check so that I can keep a close eye on our spending.  As the effects of being on a limited income are now being felt I can vouch for the fact that a single *state pension alone does not go very far and the monthly bills soon eat their way into the bulk of it.  I need to take action so we don’t overspend and start drawing on our retirement fund.  I don’t intend to dip into that unless it is absolutely vital.

I read somewhere that you should take time each day to actively manage your wealth and set aside a further 30 minutes to an hour every week to review your budget and handle the associated paperwork mountain – statements, bills, insurance and utilities.  Now I have the time each day I plan to adopt this daily and weekly routine to help me to keep on track and highlight any areas I think we may be overspending.

I am also determined to simplify the process, it seems to take far too long and perhaps one of the reasons why I often put off doing it or just can’t find the time to sit down and do it.  And so it all builds up and then takes a long time to sort out.  I think little and often would be much better – it is worth a try – so during October this will be one of my main goals.

So, starting today, and first thing every morning I will get into the habit of overviewing my finances for ten minutes, noting the amount of cash at the start of the day and recording the previous day’s receipts and spending.  Each week I will then balance statements, pay bills and check the bank balances.

Well that is the plan and by starting small I might even succeed.  I must admit I quite like a financial challenge – in my teen years I was always good at managing my pocket-money and setting aside enough each week to buy all my relatives a present for Christmas – usually from the Co-op in the village where each year they had a wonderful display of bath salts and embroidered hankies – you know the kind of thing.

I must admit the stack of paperwork on my desk at home waiting for my return is a bit daunting almost as high as my ironing pile was a few weeks ago. I have been very inattentive to our finances since leaving work other than keeping in mind that I shouldn’t be spending as much as I was…on anything.  I should have set up a new budget by now more in keeping with our new income but confess I just haven’t got round to it.

After banging on the calculator for a few hours, adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying the *state pension I decided is not going to go very far (no overtime available and not much chance of a pay rise!), and annoyingly paid every 4 weeks on a different day each month, so my conclusion is we need to conserve money where we can and be vigilant at recording and monitoring our spending and challenge ourselves to plenty of ‘no spend days’.

Today just happens to have been one of them.  We survived.

*I still can’t quite believe I am talking about a living on a pension (where did all those years go before this point).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

homestEAd ~ a few pleasureable chores

Roses

I woke up to sunshine this morning and no rain in sight – still quite cool though, but I don’t mind that – I can just put a jumper on.  I had a few chores and errands to attend to – the most important was a visit to my friend.

It was so lovely outside I decided to walk over to my friend’s house with these flowers and a card – she has just lost her dad  – I know just how she will be feeling.  It is twelve years since my dad died and the loss never goes away.

I like to customise my gifts of flowers by wrapping them myself to make them a bit more special.  I also like to give small posy sized bunches of flowers rather than large bouquets but these can be hard to find in a supermarket so I just bought a small bunch of those ballerina blush pink roses from Sainsbury’s.  I removed all their cellophane packaging and then wrapped them in plain brown parcel paper lined with the pretty tissue paper that came in the carrier bag with my Neal’s Yard creams and tied them with cord.  I always keep a stash of used tissue paper – it comes in useful for many things – a quick smoothing over with the iron and voila it is like new and this has such a striking pattern I couldn’t throw it away.  I added a little brown parcel tag that I had stamped with a simple message.

Once back home I filled my bathroom cupboard with the stock of lotions and potions I had bought on Wednesday.  Unlike my recent hesitation with keeping too many grocery products I do like to see a good stock of toiletries – I only buy them when on offer and as few of them come from the supermarket stocking up means I can avoid having to go to town or Meadowhall all the time when something runs out.

Neal's Yard

I love the iconic blue glass bottles from Neal’s Yard and the fact that using these means they can leave out preservatives from most of their products.  They are fully recyclable but I often find uses for them anyway. The little serum bottles I wash out and refill with my own mix of essential oils and use this for massaging my tense neck and shoulders after a hard day or my feet when I have a home style pedicure.   Sheer bliss.

Most of the ironing is done now – I find ironing the linen quite rewarding – I love getting into a freshly made bed at night, somehow I am sure I sleep better.  You cannot beat the smell and feel of line dried linen, especially on a windy day – I try to catch it just as it is still slightly damp and then spray with a linen spray and iron immediately – the mix of outdoor freshness with a little scent makes it a pleasurable task – this is my all time favourite with Orange Blossom and Bergamot essential oils – I am hoping I can recreate something similar myself when the bottle runs out as it is no longer available.

Ironing

DH has been working his way up the cherry tree pruning branch by branch – it looks a little stark now but I know come next summer it will be heading for our windows at a rate of knots once again.  What a shame the scaffolding around the house isn’t nearer the cherry tree – it would have served a dual purpose.  As I mentioned to Mary (who is a bit concerned as to DH’s safety)  I think climbing the cherry tree might just be his boy scout side coming out and he will soon realise he is getting a bit past that now!!

Tomorrow if the weather holds we have planned to attend the Bakewell Open Gardens event – we attended a couple of years ago and found some fascinating places we didn’t even know existed.  The nice thing about Bakewell is that the open gardens are in a different part of the town each year so they are full of new surprises.

If by any chance it does rain as forecast then it will be more ironing (yes there is still more to go yet) and maybe some paperwork to attend to (for paperwork read bills to pay!)  I have already prepared the guest room for my mum coming – I might just add a few flowers by the bedside tomorrow.  I think she may well get a shock on Tuesday morning when she wakes up and opens the blind to see the builders staring back at her from the scaffold!!