dear diary :: a new dawn, a new day…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not looking quite so slow for us then!!

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

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

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Creating health and wellbeing

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

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

Sounds like I need lots of these then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

creating a simpler Christmas * day 9

Today was definitely a slow day of getting my head back into gear. We took mum home yesterday with many carrier bags so I think she had a good time and bought everything she wanted. She is finding it difficult to accept her limitations now and we had to abandon our usual trip to Tissington and Ashbourne this year as her feet and legs had swollen up so much with the travelling that we felt it would be a step too far and decided to stay a little closer to home, only venturing as far as the Chatsworth Estate near Bakewell to visit the farm shop and The Derbyshire Craft Centre nearby. I packed up a car picnic for us so she didn’t have to wait in a queue for lunch and a good job I did as it was so very busy everywhere.

I only managed to take the one photo during the weekend – mum kept me too busy – she managed to leave her stick in every shop and cafe we went in and sometimes her gloves too. Her handbag was safe as I carried it most of the time. Manouvering her in the crowds is not easy these days and people were trying to push her out of the way in their hurry – I was worried she would over balance. None of the shops have a seat for the elderly anymore so I didn’t get much of a chance to look for anything myself – as soon as she had what she wanted she was off back to the car for a sit down!

The scenery and Christmas lights on the journey into Derbyshire did not disappoint, though on the whole I felt there were less decorations around this year in everyone’s gardens – maybe a lot of people are feeling quite behind as far as Christmas goes – neither of my neighbours have their lights up yet.

I have been feeling pretty exhausted today and rather than do any of the Christmas things on my list I made a start with a little clearing up and cleaning – I had the beds to change and washing to do and then some hoovering and dusting so that the house is ship shape and ready to decorate when I get round to it.

I am still dithering over the indoor tree – we are away for Christmas and not really hosting anything so I may even go for a simple decorated branch or a £10 potted tree. At this very moment I feel too worn out to even think about it.

For lunch we had a simple winter salad of grated beetroot, grated carrot and cucumber with a drizzle of olive oil dressing – apparently it is one of the healthiest meals you can eat – packed with vitamins and minerals; we had ours with some egg mayonnaise sandwiches and it was nice to have a meal at home after living on a lot of cafe meals in the last few days where they serve you a garnish of limp lettuce and an unripe tomato.

For the rest of the day I printed down my Christmas card list and tomorrow I will make a start on writing them and finishing our yearly newsletter. We have to stay in as the worktop man comes at 9.30am so we will need to have everything ready for him. DH has been working on cutting the wall cupboard down to size so hopefully by the end of tomorrow I should see some advances in the pantry.

Thank you for all your lovely comments wishing me a good weekend – I am not sure how much longer these Christmas visits will be possible for my mum so it was especially nice to be able to take her out so she could still get some of her Christmas bits and bobs.

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