Creating >> ScrapHappy July

Hello, everyone and welcome to my ScrapHappy challenge for July. BBP (before back problem) I had spent a lovely afternoon in my craft room making a few scrappy cards. I am sure, like me, many of you crafters have quite a few bits and pieces of scrap papers lying around and rather than waste these scraps I often have a session to try and use them up.

I also found a box of ‘left over’ pressed flower heads that needed using up as overtime they fade and become too dry and start falling apart. So I got out my 3 boxes of assorted card blanks – (the brown ones were left over from my daughter’s wedding a few years ago) and began.

These aperture trifold cards are brilliant for setting off very simple designs with flower heads when set against a vibrant coloured background. I decided against stamping any wording onto the front of the card to keep them quite simple. The card on the right is a colour copy of a watercolour sketch from my sketch book – I took half a dozen copies and made some very useful Thank you cards and although my painting is not brilliant cropping and framing can do wonders for a little sketch.

For these cards I firstly printed out the Happy Birthday onto some textured paper using one of the new caligraphy fonts and then just decorated around the wording with a few of the flower heads.

I had a packet of tiny handmade paper cards in my stash that I had bought years ago and I thought they might make nice gift tags. So nothing is wasted I used some of the tiniest scraps of handmade papers to create the chequered background onto which I placed just one contrasting flower head in each square and collectively they now make quite an attractive design. Even tiny bits of fern can be effective when mounted.

Whenever I pick a fresh batch of flowers to press I always collect a few forget-me-nots they are my favourite but quite delicate to mount. As they are quite dainty I find they are best grouped together in some way for a better effect.

And lastly I always keep old birthday cards and salvage any useful pieces of wrapping paper from presents I have been given – they seem far too good to just throw away. Some of the cards I pass on to a lady in our village who turns them into ‘new’ cards for charity but I also crop some of them, re-mount them on scraps of printed papers or pieces of used wrapping paper that is still in good uncreased condition onto a card blank. Dotty backgrounds are always good.

With the cost of cards these days in the shops this is a very frugal way to make your own and anyone can have a go at making some. You can use any scraps of paper, wrapping paper and card to make some lovely cards – I keep a box of scraps – used old cards, pages from glossy magazines, pieces of packaging and wrapping paper to create mine – the only outlay is the card blanks.

Take a look at the other lovely blogs in the ScrapHappy challenge.

Kate, Gun, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Claire, Jean, Jon, Dawn, Jule, Gwen, Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue L, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol, Preeti, Edith, Debbierose.

Creating >> ScrapHappy March

Hello to all the ScrapHappy followers if you have made it here. I hope you are not expecting a scrappy quilt – that might come later, but for the moment my contribution this month is more paper based and one that anyone can do quite easily.

I often collect a few wallpaper samples whenever I visit a DIY store – I find they are so useful for lining drawers, covering notebooks and making cards and collages, and they are free.

One design in particular that I found in B&Q really caught my eye. It is a design for a children’s room and I have had this sample piece rolled up in my scrap boxes for ages now not really knowing what to do with it.

I also had a few narrow lengths of foam core offcuts from another project so I put the two together and came up with the idea of making a height chart to record the height of my three grandchildren each time they come to stay. My girls always had their height measured and recorded on the edge of the broom cupboard door at granny’s house when they went to visit and over time, as they reached their teens, they completely overtook their little granny!

When granny died and we sold her house the marks had to be painted over (we did take a photo prior to this) but everyone was a bit sad. The one I have made is definitely portable so if we move we can take it with us.

This is the finished product – we fixed it about 18″ from the ground to give plenty of growing room.

To make it I stuck two lengths of foam core together with tape to make it long enough. I had to cut the width of the wallpaper down to fit the width of the foam core but the design of the tree lends itself very well to a height chart.

The wallper was stuck onto the foam core with double sided tape and then fixed onto the side of my linen cupboard in what has become the ‘children’s room’ with some of those removable heavy duty velcro strips.

We are just recording the name and the date with a mark on the tree trunk but you could also add actual measurements to the chart – it was fun and easy to make and the grandchildren love it.

Other  lovely ScrapHappy blogs to visit :-

Kate, Gun, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Claire, Jean, Jon, Dawn, Jule, Gwen, Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue L, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol, Preeti, Edith, Debbierose.

dear diary >> in the craft room

Finished at last!

The little dress for Sweetie with a knitted top and soft printed baby corduroy for the skirt. I hadn’t been able to find a pattern in the shops or online that had a knitted bodice and fabric skirt and then I came across this little book in The Works.

I had to alter it a bit at the back to make it a fastening bodice (the back bodice on the pattern is in one piece and slips over the head – but I wasn’t sure it was going to be easy to do that so split the bodice into two halves and added a button and buttonhole band. The sleeve head too didn’t work out with their instructions but I managed to rectify this by decreasing on every other row which in effect made the sleeve head longer and fit the armhole better.

With the gloomy weather I have been struggling to do the hand sewing to finish the dress. At first it was meant for her birthday last November, but that didn’t happen. Never mind, I thought, I will finish it and give it to her for Christmas……but then we had to go and attend to the cottage roof unexpectedly and the dress had to be put on one side. This week has been the first opportunity to get back to it.

Yesterday we picked up the table and chairs, it was a fine sunny day which helped, and amazingly all the packages fit into the car with just enough room to spare for a couple of small Ikea purchases (for more improvements which I will mention another time). DH assembled the table and unboxed all the chairs. This morning we put our old pine farmhouse table into the boot of the car and took it round to my brothers house. He already has some very nice farmhouse style chairs so our old chairs will go to whoever would like them, we will try the local charities and maybe Facebook Marketplace. We have had them for 45 years and we didn’t buy them in the first place they were left for us in the first house we bought. In fact I have never had any new dining chairs so it was nice to be able to choose my own. The ones we had have served us well though and been recovered a number of times over the years to match our changing decor.

Everything seemed to be going well, even my daughter’s problem that she informed us about in an urgent phone call on Monday has resolved, but then we hit another car problem in addition to the automatic brake not kicking in when it should and the engine warning light coming on after going through every little puddle (unavoidable at the moment with all this rain). Today DH went to refill the screen wash in his car. At first he struggled to get the bonnet to open….once open he put in the screen wash but then couldn’t get the bonnet to fasten properly no matter what he did! He phoned our usual garage but he is really busy and can’t even look at it until Monday when we will be in North Yorkshire visiting mum and daughter. DH had no option other than to have another look at it himself and eventually after a few more attempts managed to get it closed but it will need some attention and maybe a new catch. Presumably the nice garage man will add it to the list!

I keep feeling really ‘off colour’ at the moment…it could be stress…too many problems bombarding us! I need a few days of calm.

dear diary >> a play day

We have been home only a few days and already we are in great demand. I agreed to have Master Freddie all day yesterday from 8am -5pm so it was a long day. I had planned to finish the unpacking and the final bits to put away, so that has been put on hold now and I ‘ll get it done over the weekend – well we won’t be venturing out anywhere in this weather.

We had a great day though they are so cute at this age (he is just 3) and it is amazing how much they learn, and how much they copy. We did some water play with doggie and duckie (two tiny nail brushes in the shape of a blue dog and a yellow duck) that he became attached to when we looked after him during the Covid lockdown. Everytime he comes to play he searches them out and I get a small washing up bowl and fill it with water and he will play for hours.

We had a bit of a ‘crafternoon’ after lunch. His mum had sent a packet of coloured tissue paper circles and his tiny plastic scissors so we showed him how to fold the circles up and cut shapes out of them to make flowers and a kind of paper doyley like making snowflakes. We all made some but then what to do with them? After a little thought I had the idea to attach a piece of fishing wire to each circle and hang them on a paper band as a mobile.

I thought it looked quite effective hanging in our window moving in the draught. He has taken it home to show mummy – I am sure she will be delighted.

Once he had gone we whipped all the toys away, made some tea then collapsed on the sofa.

I am now trying to get my head into gear and plan for next week. We have had a call to say our new dining table and chairs have arrived – my brother is having our old pine farmhouse table. I will miss it – it has history marks all over it but it has always been too big for our little dining area and now the kitchen area is a little bigger and the dining area a little smaller we decided we would get something that would allow us more room but would be extendable when required.

We have to give the warehouse 24 hours notice before we collect the new table and chairs. We are not even sure if everything will fit in the back of our estate car and might mean two journey’s to Birstall near Leeds, but we will save £140.00 delivery charges (the table and chairs would have been delivered separately from the warehouse at £70 each delivery as we ordered the table long before the chairs) and that is a big saving for us at the moment.

I also intend to get going on finishing a few craft projects and start thinking about Easter cards. I don’t send many but I do like to make my own. I have more tablemats to make and the patchwork quilt that I began 2 years ago might get a look in again – I found some more fabrics to add to the ones leftover from my daughter’s wedding bunting.

All in all I am hoping for a productive week and I might even be lucky with getting some washing out on the line.

dear diary >> home again, home again

Well no, I haven’t quite done the jiggety jig, rather I have been making a big mess. I knew that if we delayed coming home by a day or two I would have to make my friend’s anniversary card in a hurry, so after a good night’s sleep on Tuesday night (we were both zonked from the travelling and slept like logs) I was up bright and early to put away some of the unpacking and then began on the card.

I had an idea of what I wanted to do but anything to do with crafting and a mess forms around me with surprising speed. I decided on something simple, but obviously homemade and personalised to them. I chose a piece of pink handmade paper from my scrap box and this rather pretty heart stamp that I bought years ago. I stamped the paper with embossing ink and then sprinked on some antique white and gold powder. I love it when you apply the heat tool and the powder changes very quickly into this textured surface. I then outlined the heart with a gold ink pen and cut it out and placed it onto the front of a trifold card with a few foam pads. I then added the stamped greeting in gold ink.

Inside I printed the greeting and added a lovely little picture I had taken of them on their wedding day 20 years ago. It was their 2nd marriage and a beautiful sunny February day. What a good job it wasn’t yesterday’s appalling rain and wind. I cut out tiny hearts from some gold Washi tape to stick the printed sheets in place.

The ribbon, which was another scrap threads through a slot in the back and when the card is folded it ties around the front.

The first practise heart I had made on white paper I used as a gift tag for the little posy of flowers I bought and wrapped in a sheet of gold tissue paper.

After making and delivering the card and flowers we had to go out for some shopping. Our vegetable fridge was bare – in fact I had switched it off before we went away and DH busied himself cleaning the inside …well he did offer and I wasn’t going to refuse him.

It was quite busy in Sainsbury’s but we didn’t need a lot. DH went off with a separate trolley to scoop up all the personalised Smartshop offers with a scanner and I picked up a few other offers from the shelves. The rapeseed oil we use for cooking was reduced by a £1 and …….I stocked up with enough fruit and veg to cover a week’s meals.

My box of washing powder is nearly empty and I will have extra bedding from the caravan to wash this week so I have been on the look out for a good deal on the Persil non bio washing powder, which I use as it doesn’t irritate my skin. They had some of those mega boxes of 130 washes for £14 (ouch) on the aisle that displays large bulk items supposedly cheaper. However, we had just received a leaflet through our door from Farm Foods offering the same powder and size – 2 for £25 and the leaflet also has coupons on it for £2 off if you spend £25 or over making the two boxes £23. So this seemed a better buy and made each box only £11.50. A bit of an outlay of course, but 260 washes is going to last me a very long time and if stored well it doesn’t go off.

So after we had finished at Sainsbury’s we drove round the corner to the large Farm Foods shop to pick some up. I have never been in there before, mainly because they tend to sell everything we don’t eat – a lot of ready made processed foods and it was stacked high with packs of coke and other fizzy drinks that we don’t drink. We found the Persil and paid our £23. When we returned home I had a quick Google and couldn’t find the same size boxes any cheaper anywhere else….unless anyone out there knows better.

I have been thinking long and hard about where we can make economies in our household budget. With prices rising and yesterday’s news that inflation is running at 5.5% our pound will not buy as much as it did.

Of course the biggest money saving economy is to not buy anything….not be tempted into things I don’t really need (I might want them but don’t need them). After this the things I do need to buy must be at the cheapest possible price or items that will last a very long time as sometimes cheap is not the most effective if it is of inferior quality and breaks or wears out so quickly it has to be replaced.

Where food is concerened I could probably more than halve the budget if we didn’t buy organic foods and fruit and veg but I am a big believer in not using pesticides or chemical fertilisers and I would rather eat less but still buy organic as I feel it is important in the bigger picture of sustainability. So organic stays and I will have to spend more time searching out offers and gearing my menus to the veg that is on offer and in season.

Whilst we were away we had the heating set so low it was just above frost protection so the heating would come on if it reached a certain temperature if it got really cold. I can tell you the house was cold when we arrived home and out came the hot water bottle and an extra blanket on the bed. It will be interesting to see what this month’s fuel bills are after two weeks of hardly running the boiler, no showers or cooking etc.

I bought a bag of Pentland Javelin seed potatoes from the garden centre in Stranraer. They are so much cheaper up there and I like to support them as over the years their little business is shrinking and maybe in danger of closing like the one further up the road in Ballantrae and soon there will be nowhere local near the cottage to go. I need to place them into the egg trays to chit as soon as I can.

Today we have our hair appointments, we go together now since the pandemic started, it does save on fuel costs and means that we are the only ones in her tiny shop. Our hairdresser has been very cautious all through the pandemic when she has been allowed to open and continued to wear a mask, as we do, even when the option had been relaxed.

This morning will be tidying, menu planning and some paperwork – I had planned to do this tomorrow but I had a phone call from my elder daughter last night, who lives nearby, to ask if we could look after master Freddie on Friday. Well I wasn’t going to say no…it is always a joy to have him. I daresay with the next storm approaching it will be too windy to go out which will be a shame.

I have had a peep outside this morning but can’t see any damage from last night’s gales but I have not heard from Scotland yet – our caravan could have been swept off its anchoring points and be floating in the sea! I just hope the new kitchen roof is still in place!

Have a good day everyone.

dear diary :: the final day

Our last day here at Beach Cottage and another blustery one.  DH was outside earlier sprinkling fish, blood and bone meal along what is left of our Rosa Rugosa hedge alongside the lane in the hope it might kick start it into action and regrow from the little stubby stems we were left with after the massacre.

Meanwhile I took cover in the caravan and made soup with all the remains of the vegetables…..

– ends of cabbage and celery, 2 leeks, 3 onions, 3 potatoes, half of this piece of courgette and half a small bag of frozen peas.  It will be like a leek and potato soup with a few added greens and some parsley.  I would have added a carrot and kept it in chunks for a bit of colour but DH put them all in the stew last night.

For lunch we had the remaining lentil stew from yesterday’s evening meal and as there wasn’t very much of it left over I chopped the remaining piece of courgette into chunks and cooked it quickly with a handful of cherry tomatoes and griddled a few slices of Halloumi cheese.

For our evening meal we had an easy meal of baked potatoes (done in the microwave), baked beans and grated cheese – all we had left to eat up.  Some of the soup I made will be transferred into a flask tomorrow and the rest transported home in containers in the cool bag.

We went back into Stranraer after our lunch to get another gas cylinder, we like to keep two full ones in hand and as the next time we come up the tourist season will have begun the extra demand for gas could see it in short supply again like last year, so it seemed prudent to keep stocked up in advance.

On the way back to our cottage we had a detour and went back to Portpatrick to do a bit of car sketching as it was certainly too cold to sit outside. DH did another quick line drawing of the cottages and guest houses round on the South Crescent part of the bay, (the photos are taken through the windscreen so a bit blurry).

Whilst I drew attempted to draw the Harbour House and Smuggler’s Cove cottage across the bay on the North Crescent.

When we are back at home I intend to do a quick sketch of something everyday to get in more practise. I do think it must help to understand how a building is put together and why DH finds it so much easier to draw them. When I am drawing flowers I always like to look at how a leaf joins a stem or a petal is formed before I begin – with buildings I find they are a bit of a mystery.

It was a quick 30 minutes sketch and then the rain came back and splattered across the windscreen obstructing our view so after a flask of hot chocolate we headed back to the cottage.

I had bought my little friend, the robin, a leaving present – a half coconut filled with all kinds of robin delicacies and hung it on the bird house which is well away from any boundary line down by the cottage and sheltered by the fatsia – I hope it makes amends for him losing his little home in the hedge.

I will miss seeing the snowdrops when we go home; there seems to be more than when we arrived and are spreading quite nicely throughout the woodland walk.  I hope I don’t miss seeing the daffodils though, they are just in tight buds at the moment, but given they have quite a long flowering period, they might still be in bloom when we come again.

It will be an anxious moment on our next visit, not only wondering what scenes of destruction are going to greet us, but finding out if any of the chopped down clematis that twined in and out of our trellis fence has survived the machete (he swears he used a hedge trimmer – but either way they were hacked rather than pruned) but to me he will always be Machete Man now.

As it is still winter I have to take a lot of the contents of the caravan home with us.  Mainly things that can go damp; even though it is double glazed the condensation builds up so we leave plenty of ventilation for air movement – all the cupboard doors, drawers and bedroom doors are left open so air can circulate well and the seating pulled away from the walls.  I place the pillows in the centre of the bed and leave the duvet over a clothes airer in the centre of the living room rather than on the bed.  The car would be just too full to transport these up and down as it is already half full with a lot of expensive tools that we need to use when we are up here.  We can’t leave them in the cottage in case of another flood and I am not happy at leaving them in the caravan in case it is broken in to.

I think we have more stormy weather ahead in both areas – here on the Mull of Galloway and back home in Yorkshire. Hopefully, we will be travelling before either area gets too bad.

Thank you for all the kind comments over the last couple of weeks and suggestions it really helps sometimes to be able to blog about bad times as well as good- you are such a caring community and as Lyssa (alias Whittering Sybil) would say… I feel hugged. x

dear diary :: a bit of meandering

The seagulls were having great fun gliding on the wind over the sea yesterday which was crashing about a bit here, somewhat in resemblance of my life at the moment I think!

We are nearing the end of our visit here, it has been a turbulent time and I am not referring to the weather, but we have managed to put a few bits in order in the garden in line with my focus word for this year of improvement.  So far we have cleared leaves and weeds and swept the paths and put the earth back into the holes dug out by the rabbits.  We have also managed to take the pile of old sheets of roofing felt to the tip left by the roofer when he re-felted the kitchen roof.

Luckily we have a small trailer to transport it to the nearest waste disposal and recycling point in Stranraer, which is an excellent place – well-kept and managed by a very friendly and helpful team.  Sadly, roofing felt is not in any way recyclable and will go to landfill.  It always makes me feel quite ill to see what has been put in the skip marked ‘non-recyclable items for landfill’ – usually plastic windows by the dozen (which incidentally are claimed to be about 70% reclaimable plastic – but no-one bothers to do this), old mattresses and general plastic based waste.

I was shocked however, to see a large plastic dog bed thrown in there – now what is not reusable about a plastic dog bed?…. surely a good wash with some disinfectant and it would certainly be reusable by someone, especially as in Stranraer the waste centre has a huge shed that houses a shop full of people’s unwanted items that are still useful.  They have anything from reconditioned bikes to books to china and I am sure there would be a place there for a dog bed.   I felt like lifting it out and taking it round to the shop myself but of course you are not allowed.

Ironically, for a much larger area, our recycling and waste point near to us in Huddersfield is just the opposite – managed by a team that seem to have a rather couldn’t care less attitude and is badly organised.  I often see people put the wrong items into the wrong skips even when being overseen by one of the ‘management team’.  Our area only accepts plastic bottles in the recycle bin at home, whereas, here in Stranraer, they will take all plastics, including food trays and yoghurt pots.  It is time there was a national policy put in place and one that includes businesses, especially pubs, restaurants and caravan parks.

We diligently recycle our very small amount of domestic waste here at the cottage into one of the local authorities three bins; plastics, paper and general waste and compost the kitchen and most of our garden waste; meanwhile the pub, restaurant and caravan site next door to us do not have to do this, so all the glass bottles, drinks cans, cardboard and plastics and all the waste from the individual caravans are just heaped unsorted into the general trade waste bins, presumably headed for landfill.  It makes little sense to me.

With the weather remaining unsettled and rather blustery yesterday we earmarked it a ‘rest day’ and decided a shopping trip into Stranraer to pick up some fresh bread and milk was in order. I subsequently forgot to pick up a couple of pots of ‘tete a tete’ to plant in the planter DH made last year, but never mind.

We filled the flask with soup, made some bread and butter, collected our sketchbooks and paints and jumped into the car; we intended to take a diversion out to Port Logan and Portpatrick before going on into town.

The scene that met us at the sheltered little harbour village in Port Logan (where 2000 Acres of Sky was filmed) was just how I love to see it – deserted, quite bleak and a raging Irish sea washing up onto the shore. The greyness of the sky met the greyness of the sea on the horizon so you could hardly distinguish where the meeting point was.

Someone there has a sense of humour!

It is not easy sketching in the car but we each did a quick ten minute sketch – DH drew the lovely line of cottages that wrap around the harbour, easy for him as he is an architect ….

– I chose the old light tower placed at the end of the curved harbour wall – not a good choice as it is a tricky building and my preference is always for flowers and I cannot compete with DH’s natural ability to draw in perspective. The picture I took yesterday was out of focus so this in one from a few years back on a sunnier day.

As you can see not a good result…oh well….I keep trying….

After having our picnic lunch we headed up the road a bit farther to Portpatrick another little harbour village. By now the Irish sea was in full swell, frothing like a Costa Coffee and roaring into the bay, the sea spray reaching quite spectacular heights as it hit the rocks – the most dramatic of them I unfortunately missed capturing on camera.

We had a brisk walk around whilst the rain had stopped and when the sun appeared it was so welcome as, believe me, the pictures may look pretty but ‘bitterly cold’ does not even come close in describing the temperature.

The odd bits of colour here and there helped to brighten up the greyness.

The whole place was closed up, including many of the hotels – such is the winter season in these tiny resorts.

We ended our trip out in Stranraer and went into a local coffee bar (Stranraer’s equivalent of a Costa) for a warm drink.  Whilst in there two young girls came in – one of them looked like she had just rolled out of bed…with tousled hair and clad in her PJ’s with a hoodie on top and some towelling mule slippers, even though it was quite wet underfoot.  In my head I could just hear my gran coming out with a few choice words about her appearance – she would have been shocked to see someone out in their nightwear in public at three in the afternoon!! How times change.

So today looks another gloomy one with continuous rain forecast so it will have to be spent indoors. We had intended to visit Logan Botanic Gardens today – they have a Snowdrop Sunday event running until the end of February but I think it is looking unlikely that the weather will improve. I shall prepare the lentil stew for tea instead to use up some of the older veg, no point in taking it back home with us.

dear diary :: weeding, sketching, worrying

It has been very pleasant the last couple of days here at Beach Cottage but today we awoke to frost, a rarity in these parts.  We have been in the garden and the calmer warmer weather was quite welcome, though windier, colder weather is forecast for the next few days.  This picture was taken yesterday when the sea turned a very strange colour of green against the blue sky.

I have been working mainly in the pine tree border, removing a vast quantity of weeds and uncovering the perennials that are buried under a mound of leaves and pine needles.  There are tiny shoots everywhere and plenty of self-sown seedlings of foxgloves and valerian growing which I transplant to other more suitable parts of the borders.

I have a few shrubs and plants that need moving too; ones that are becoming a little overshadowed and I need to get these done before we go home.  The compost bin has produced some wonderful rich compost which I am using to mulch the beds.  Tomorrow, weather permitting, I really need to prune the new apple tree as this was one of the things that didn’t get done because of the lockdowns.  I keep putting it off this week mainly because I am not sure I know what I am doing!  The old apple tree needs a few branches off the top – that is DH’s job to climb up with the saw – it had never been pruned when we bought the cottage so is quite a large tree which bears most of its fruit well out of reach at the top.  We have been cutting it down gradually knowing that we will lose fruit but it will keep it in check.

Whilst I have been working in the garden my little friend the robin, who is never very far away, has been hopping around waiting for me to unearth a juicy worm or two, we have both been overlooked by the beautiful big rust coloured bull that has now appeared in the farmer’s field across the burn.  I am just glad the burn runs between me and him, though he does seem very placid.

We have seen very little of the new neighbour, but I would be keeping well out of his way anyway – I don’t want another confrontation with him.  DH has spoken to him since – just in passing, over the garden gate so to speak, he is a peacemaker and hates bad feeling and would never hold a grudge against anyone, but I know some people, like said neighbour, who might see this as a sign of weakness and think he can just do as he likes in future.  DH though has that knack of being able to tell people that their actions are not to be tolerated in a very calm and reasoned way that leaves them both unable to argue and in no doubt that he means business, unlike me of course who, like a bull at a gate would jump in and inflame the situation!! 

Over the years we have lost plants to the salty sea spray, the gales, the flood, and the rabbits but to lose plants because of the neighbour hacking away at them is far more maddening. It seems a bit sneaky to me that he chose to chop the hedges whilst we were not around! When we leave in a few days time I shall be wondering what he is doing next behind our backs.

I will say no more.

We are on our third variety of homemade soup now, tomato and red pepper today.  Just before I used them for the soup I decided to paint them – I find tomatoes quite a nice subject getting the shine and highlights is the difficult part and I certainly need a bit lot more practise. 

The next soup to be made will be our last batch before we go back to Yorkshire and I shall be using up some of the bits of veg left in the fridge – so pea, cabbage and leek with celery and onion it is.  We always eat well up here; I bring packets of lentils, chickpeas and brown rice to go with the veg I buy locally and keep the meals simple.  As the Calor gas is neither cheap nor readily available at the moment I decided all the meals we have should be ones that can be cooked on the hob, rather than in the oven, to preserve the gas. 

The energy price hikes are quite worrying – when we go home, where we cook by electric, I will be trying to use the oven as little as possible too.  Our gas and electricity prices will not go up until April as we are currently on a good deal until then so I have time to revise our meal plans and look at other ways to save on our fuel bills.  We don’t have a microwave at home so baked potatoes cooked in the oven might become a speciality soon. Luckily as we head towards warmer weather we will need less heating and can eat more salads.

I have very little data left now on my phone so there is a limit to the number of photos I can upload – so for a few days it might just be me and the written word.

dear diary :: moments of joy and a moan…

My, it has been a bit breezy here – the caravan rocking away each time a forceful gust hit us from the side, but at least the new felt on the kitchen roof of the cottage has stayed in place.  It was too windy to be outside so I snipped off a piece of Hypericum and settled down indoors to a bit more sketching and painting until the light became too dim.

Eventually a little sunshine broke through the heavy clouds and a rainbow appeared.

I also used the time to make more fresh soup, mushroom is one of my favourites and today DH made celery – one of Master Freddie’s favourites. It is very rare now that we don’t have homemade soup for lunch and it is a good way to get those five a day in one meal and leaving in some big chunks means we have the benefit of added fibre too.  It is one of my areas for improving; both trying new recipes and, rather than having bread with the soup, I aim to try out a few different garnishes like roasted chick peas.

In the evenings we have been watching Channel 4 catch up via the internet as we don’t have a TV here.  At home we had started watching the Danish program (with subtitles) ‘Seaside Hotel’ and we are addicted, we just had to continue through the series and tonight it is the last one – does anyone else watch it?  Such a shame it is a fictional hotel because I would dearly like to stay there.

I just love the bleak winter landscape up here – so many beautiful colours on the grey and blue spectrum, the most colourful object being the yellow buoy out at sea.  Being winter we are quite alone here nestled in our little hollow, the caravan site next door is as empty as the farmer’s field on the other side of us.  Only a handful of locals frequent the pub at the top of the lane, and then only the ones who are brave enough to face the weather and walk along to the outskirts of the village when there are two other pubs much nearer in the centre.

We have dark skies too as there are no lights nearby and the stars on a clear night are spectacular; you feel you could almost reach out and pick one.

The snowdrops are nodding away on the floor of the woodland walk in the lower wood and spreading nicely –the rabbits do not seem to have uprooted them like many of the new bulbs I planted in November, tulips and narcissus and nearly all have been dug up and eaten, only the hole remains as evidence that I did in fact spend a whole day planting out.

All the daffodils dotted around the garden will be next in line to burst into flower This time of year when everything is bleak and sleepy having these little pockets of new life and colour is magical.

Our joy at coming up here was short lived though.  Our new neighbour who has bought the caravan site, pub and restaurant had taken it upon himself to hack away at our Rosa Rugosa hedge and the ivy that grows alongside the lane down to our cottage.  This is the hedge in the summer in full bloom and many of the birds like to nest in it.

Rather than just taking off any overhanging branches along the lane (which he owns but we have right of access over it) he has chopped the plants back far beyond the boundary line which is to the edge of the tarmac.

We have been left with some rather short stumps which may or may not regrow as it is way below any new buds.

The ivy was even worse – he has chopped this right back into old wood and we know from experience this will not regenerate.

Worse still this part has no hedge left at all just a big gap.

The tragedy is that pruning the hedge was on our list for this visit as normally every two or three years we prune it down to about two feet tall and to a good strong bud and during the year it will make up its height once more but be much healthier and stronger and less liable to flopping over with the weight of the branches; then in the summer I go along the hedge and with a bit of light pruning make sure all the branches are well within our boundary and not liable to scratch any vehicles going down the lane.  It is a few years now since it had a major prune because of the lockdowns and then last year by the time we were allowed up here we had so many nesting birds in the hedge I could not do it.  We tried to say nicely that we were not happy that he had not, even out of politeness, told us it was a problem (which I am not sure it was) and allowed us the option to cut it ourselves.  What will the poor birds do now that their nesting place has been wrecked?

I could weep and did so.

If that wasn’t enough the little strip of land below us beyond the trellis border that once housed the 3 static caravans belonging to Eric, Joe and Les, our summertime neighbours, is now almost empty and only Joe’s caravan remains.  This has greatly changed the climate for our plants along this border which have been snug in the shelter of Eric’s old van.  The owners have decided to leave for one reason or another and we will miss them and so will our plants.  We had clematis growing through and over the trellis and this too has been hacked away.  Will any of it recover – I have no idea?  The new owner obviously wants every last millimetre of his land. 

Asking him to let us know in the future if the hedge is a problem did not go down well with him and ended in an argument, as did the previous conversations we have had with him about the bright yellow barrier he intends to put at the top of the lane and keep locked to which we have objected. He informs us he is running a business and he is entitled to do what he wants, he is not prepared to leave the hedge until an appropriate time just because I like birds. 

He also informed us indirectly in conversation that his new CCTV cameras that he installed on the outside of the pub look right across our woodland garden as he claims he has seen rats coming from the burn (and he might well have – rats are not far away from anyone and they will undoubtedly be heading towards his large commercial bins full of food waste).  I am not sure he should have cameras directly looking across our garden but I do know he seems rather paranoid and has an alert on his phone if we or anyone else drives up and down the lane.

On our last visit I am certain he sent someone down to check on us whilst he was away in Glasgow.  No matter how much we tell him we are just a neighbour and not part of his business he will have none of it.  Are we being unreasonable?  He says we are always complaining but in our defence it is not only us that finds him difficult – the lady and her daughter who sold the business to him agreed to carry on working for him but after only a few months they walked out on him and a lot of the caravaners have now left the site.

He has saddened me so much and with the added worry of the changing weather patterns we will have to rethink our future here.  Going to all the trouble and expense to reinstate the cottage back to liveable could be a pointless exercise if we are going to be so unhappy living here.

On a brighter note we are relishing the quietness and being able to work outdoors in the fresh sea air – up till today it has been cold but sunny.  Our intentions are to carry out a number of maintenance jobs around the wood and garden that are best done at this time of year and hopefully finish the boarding on the banking ready for plant for the spring. As for the hedge we can only leave it alone for now and see what regrows.

dear diary :: February already?

Hello everyone.  How are you all – I have missed you, it has been a long time and life here has been no less frantic than when I abruptly abandoned my blog?  Of course every day I have intended to write a post….but we all know what we intend to do and then what we actually do can be quite different.

For those regular readers you will remember I had to make a hasty departure up to Scotland during the Christmas advent to survey the storm damage to the cottage.  The wind had taken the felt, on the flat roof kitchen extension, clean off and we had to find someone to come and re-roof just before Christmas and you can imagine the long list of people in the area waiting for a roofer to do repairs for them – so many properties affected.  If this aggressive weather is not due to climate change then I don’t know why it is getting progressively wilder.

Roof sorted, we returned home just in time to sort out Christmas. 

And with a long list of to do’s I set about completing the Christmas plans.  It seems an age ago now.

I had cards to finish making, writing and posting, presents to wrap and some for my friends still to make – this year I chose to make Florentines and found some pretty wooden bowls by Habitat to put them in. I had to make them the day before Christmas Eve so they were nice and fresh.

We had very simple decorations this year no more than the mantelpiece and a bowl of dried orange slices and we never did buy a tree; by the time we came back from Scotland there were only a few days before we were setting out to go up to my daughter’s house for Christmas and buying and decorating a tree for two days of pleasure seemed a little ridiculous.

Our wider family all got together for the first time in goodness knows how long for Christmas Day at my sister’s house (she has now got the most room) and we tried hard to keep it a secret from my mum just in case someone caught the virus beforehand and we couldn’t go. It was hard to surprise my mum as each day when I rang her she would say ‘don’t you know what you are doing for Christmas yet?’ and I would always reply ‘ no as we are not sure if we will be locked down’.

The grandchildren all had the most wonderful time and my mum was so happy to see us all.

I iced the Christmas cake so the three grandchildren could have fun decorating it all by themselves with some little figures and sprinkles. And they made a good job too it was quite delightful though I think most of the sprinkles were eaten before they got anywhere near the cake.

We all managed to dodge the Covid virus but DH and I did come down with a cold / flu virus the day after Boxing Day, as did my brother and little Sweetie.  Why just the four of us out of a gathering of thirteen people we will never know. 

So that was our Christmas and thank you all for your lovely greetings and messages.

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Meanwhile January has been spent catching up with myself and planning.  It is always a job I look forward to as the New Year begins and listing everything down tells me we have more plans than time.  Nothing changes!

My focus word for this year is Improvement.

I intend to improve one area of my life each month – everything from health to wealth, two of the areas which need a good overhaul.  Some areas do overlap and once I make an improvement I will obviously have to review and keep it going in the coming months….that is probably the harder part.

January is always a busy time here with birthdays. One of my oldest friends reached the grand age of 80, though she doesn’t look it, so I had cards to make. I was a bit stuck for ideas but settled on this one using up scraps of fabric.

My mum reached the even grander age of 96 and we had a trip up to see her and take her a chocolate sponge cake with fresh cream inside and chocolate on top, her favourite.

Little Freddie celebrated his 3rd birthday and I organised a little tea party for him at home with a jungle theme. It was mainly immediate family – my two daughter’s and their partners and his two cousins, Little L and Sweetie who came and they helped him unwrap the presents, play party games and eat the party food. Sweetie, who is almost the same age as Freddie could hardly wait to play with all his new toys and as soon as they were unwrapped and admired and he had moved on to the next one she would edge nearer and nearer to try them out for herself, hoping no-one would notice!!

We had so much fun making these party hats from Tesco – I can certainly recommend them. They were easy to decorate even for the little ones – each person chooses some eyes, ears and a mouth from a selection to stick on and create your own little character.

I made a jungle cake which again was super easy with some little jungle animals and dessicated coconut dyed green with food colouring. The log effect around the outside of the cake was created with some chocolate coated wafer biscuits sliced in half and stuck on with melted chocolate – it saved me mixing up some buttercream for the sides.

I found some jungle animal and foliage pictures on the internet to print out and stick onto card for decorations and to stick on the front of each party bag with their names (which I have obscured). The party bags contained a few chocolate coins, and other jungly bits and bobs and these cute little hand puppets peeping over the top I discovered in Poundland (£2 each and made from recycled bottles) and they were a big hit.

Currently we are back in Scotland enjoying a break for a few days.  There are improvements to be made here at the cottage, weather permitting and if the weather is bad then it is the perfect place to sit and do some more planning. But I will tell you more about that another day.

Bye for now x