dear diary :: more of the same

This might seem one of those long posts that is better to read with a cup of tea in your hand and I’ll forgive anyone who politely tries to stifle a yawn! I had meant to try and keep up with posting but you know me by now… always busy and last week was no different.

We are now well into the swing of the new normal here. We stay at home for most of the time only venturing out into the world for a little exercise or shopping. We are keeping in touch with my daughters and the grandchildren courtesy of Zoom and my mum on the good old fashioned landline.

I have a number of projects on the go – all presently half finished – but that does not seem to matter too much, as of course, we have no urgent trips up north to make and what a difference this has made to our time. Suddenly we find we have a lot more time to ourselves; though I am managing to fill every minute and more.

I feel I have never been so busy – April has its own pressures in our household, it holds the greater number of close family birthdays at the same time as the garden suddenly springs into life; so we have to wake up and spring into action with it and, not surprisingly, with the warmer weather upon us spring cleaning becomes more urgent and much more enticing – there is nothing I like better than having a good ‘fettle’ as my gran would say. There is always something very satisfying about the ritual of cleaning and clearing out at this time of year, geting everything back in order – but more about this another day in another post.

Gardening is the one thing that is keeping me quite sane through this unprecedented crisis – I love the way that nature carries on around me doing what it always does at this time of year as if nothing is amiss – it is so heartening. Tending to the garden teaches me that we need patience, it teaches me that from tiny seeds beautiful things will grow and that with great care, watering and warmth success is almost guaranteed.

So I have seed potatoes sprouting on the window sill, tomato seeds tucked up warmly in a mini propagator and courgette seeds pushing their way through the soil within a matter of days. All delightful, all encouraging.

Those little Magnum lolly sticks are so useful as plant labels, I must have eaten far too many but what a pity I couldn’t find a waterproof pen as the ink ran as soon as I watered the trays. No matter though I can still make out the variety. I am growing two different tomatoes this year – the only two available from the seed selection at Sainsbury’s; Gardener’s Delight and a tub / patio version called Minibel.

I will be sowing the salad seeds straight into the planters and some annuals ready for my summer display on the patio – hopefully today or tomorrow.

There is plenty of general work to do too, pots to refresh, lawns to scarify and borders to weed and I must plant the new clematis I bought last year.

I continue to spend a lot of time in the kitchen being adventurous so that nothing goes to waste or even gets close to going off. Little pies are always a good way to combine all those oddments I find left over in the fridge. I filled these individual pastry cases with a mixture of cooked brown lentils, shredded leek and chopped mushrooms then topped them with some mashed potato, grated cheese and slices of tomato and put the last of the carrots and parsnips in a tin to roast. The result was a meal we would certainly have again.

We still have our old, shabby kitchen of course (though we did get the plans for the new one finalised and signed for just as John Lewis decided to close, so our new kitchen is now on hold until things recover and it can be delivered and fitted). I have been rather worried that the jinx I spoke about in an earlier post that has persisted over the years and put a stop to us having our new kitchen at every attempt since 2008, now appears to have surfaced again but this time has extended beyond ourselves and our family and this time sudden misfortune has affected the whole world in preventing the instalation!! I do hope not.

On the good side the kitchen is now far easier to use since we finished the pantry and all but the most used foods have been moved out of the kitchen cupboards freeing up vital space; and what a godsend the pantry has been – it is now well stocked, not overly so, but always enough to see us through for about 3-4 weeks should we face further restrictions, shortages or we have to self isolate for any length of time (though I pray this will never become necessary) and so far we have not shown any symptoms of having the virus though every shopping trip is a major risk as it is our only contact in the outside world. We minimise the risk of course going as late at night as we can when it is quieter and only going about every 10 days or for as long as the milk lasts. Each time we go I am convinced I get a sore throat afterwards and certainly a tension headache from all the dodging around in the aisles. Shopping has never been so stressful.

This week we have already gathered in our food to cover the whole Easter period – finding milk and dairy items with long dates – it should see us through nicely. I did not want to end up going shopping later this week amongst a sudden Easter shopping frenzy that is like Christmas.

To our surprise we even found a packet of disposable gloves on the shelves this week so they have definitely come home with us (though I don’t really need 50, but you never know, and I can donate some to anyone else in need). I had only one pair left previously that I had to keep washing out between supermarket trips and they were originally bought in a packet of 10 and only used when I cleaned the silver! With the whole plastic problem I would not normally have been replacing these either when they ran out but I suppose needs must.

We are still managing to buy most of our usual foods or substituting similar products. Eggs have been difficult to find and flour an absolute no no – so I have to ration it out carefully. The last eggs I bought were these beautiful Burford Browns with a good looking suntan.

And what do you do to use up any eggs – buy a roll of puff pastry and bake of course.

These little tarts were delicious with salad and used up the last of the eggs, leeks (shredded finely), cougettes and a packet of Welsh goats cheese.

Our almost daily walk is one of the highlights of the day. As the weather improves the number of people walking increases but we manage to stay safe and the only difficult day was last Sunday when we felt we had to jump into a gap and keep on the move. It is amazing how you begin to notice the little things on the same route.

The last of the catkins…

…the appearance of tiny Celandines on the grass verges

and our Yorkshire dry stone walls covered with a thick winter coat of moss.

Many of our mills now house people rather than machinery but the chimneys have been preserved as a monument to the past and our local history.

On returning home we have had moments just sitting in the pleasant sunshine with our biscuit rations and probably putting back on the calories we have just walked off.

In the midst of all the cleaning, gardening, cooking and walking I have spent quite a bit of time making cards again – partly to save money and partly because cards are not deemed as an essential item so are difficult to buy. This one is a card that my sister sent to me and I recycled by cutting it down to mount onto a blank card and adding the butterflies.

My nephew was harder to make for as I doubt any little boy would want a flowery card. I decided to keep it simple and print down this number eight onto some card and hand stamped the ‘Happy Birthday’ in colourful inks.

When it came to the Easter cards I had no ideas but then came across a half started spring flower collage I attempted last year using shapes cut from the thicker front pages of magazines and some junk mail. I finished the picture but knew that making individual cards in this way was going to be far too time consuming so decided to take prints off the original and reduce the design to fit some tiny blank cards that I have in my craft box.

Easter will soon be upon us and with my cards now hand delivered or put in the post I have been turning my attentions to a few decorations – not many as it will be a strange Easter this year – just the two of us…I suspect we will spend most of it in the garden, weather permitting. I might bake a cake though, I am not keen on Simnel cake -but a chocolate cake…well that is a big possibility.

And if you reached the end of this post you deserve a medal.

Before I go a warm welcome to all my new followers and to Diana, apologies when I deleted your comment as you asked it deleted the whole string of related comments. x

dear diary :: out and about and little treats

An unexpected blogging break – not because I have had nothing to say but because I couldn’t easily use the computer with my sore middle finger that was as a result of a dog bite at the weekend.

We spent the weekend up in North Yorkshire to look after my mum while sis was away on a short holiday – we had taken mum out for lunch on the Sunday to Northallerton and we were browsing in a shop when it happened; I was helping my mum to choose a card when a couple passed behind us with a dog. As they passed the dog (who was on a lead, thankfully) suddenly went for my hand that was down by my side and bit me – quite an unprovoked attack so something of a surprise for me and luckily I had my leather gloves on or it could have been worse. The owners didn’t have a clue that it had bitten me as they were not particularly looking at the dog at the time but did look to see why I had let out a bit of a sharp cry of pain!

I think the shock for me was worse at the time than the bite as I didn’t see it coming – the couple thought it was highly amusing and said the dog had a habit of biting gloves – but unfortunately my hand was inside mine at the time and afterwards my finger became quite sore and stiff for a few days. Since the incident with the dogs in the park last summer I have been rather wary of them and haven’t as yet been back to the park, but I never thought one would bite me for no reason in a shop. I am only relieved that it didn’t bite my mum or worse still one of the grandchildren.

After the eventful weekend we had quite a slow start to our week – a bit of a potter round unpacking, a supermarket shop to stock up the pantry, a bit of work on the new kitchen design and yesterday while the weather was dry and sunny outside we stopped what we were doing and went for a walk down to the village and around the block – it is really a very small town with a town hall but everyone refers to it as the village – we called at the Co-op to buy a pack of paracetamol (just in case of you no what).

I noticed we have a new sign in the centre of the village – a picture taken by a friend of mine – this is very typical of the towns and villages around here – a true Yorkshire mill town with stone terraced houses and cottages surrounded by hills and moorland.

I picked up a free copy of the Co-op magazine which has some lovely recipes inside – I will certainly be giving the chick pea minestrone a trial. I also added the very last bunch of those cheap and cheerful daffodils to my basket – they brighten up any spot in the home and make it feel like winter might soon be passing.

DH once bought me this unsual and colourful frosted glass vase for my birthday and it is perfect to display the daffodils in. I tried to find some witch hazel or winter jasmine to add to the arrangement but to no avail so had to make do with a couple of meandering honeysuckle branches instead.

I spotted quite a number of daffodils still in bud on the way home, no doubt quite sheltered here by the wall but still reluctant to open and brave this cold weather. I could see the blossom just starting to open on the bare branches of the cherry trees too so surely now spring is just around the corner.

I have been thinking…. planning even……. for when I can get out into the garden and was tempted to buy this book called ‘Veg in One Bed’ by Huw Richards. A perfect book for me as I have very little space to grow vegetables here in our garden in Yorkshire. The author guides you through month by month explaining what to do and how and when to do it. Even though they are more expensive I do love a hard backed book for things that I will keep and refer to….I think it will be money well spent.

Having finished the tablemats I decided I would have another go at making a patchwork quilt whilst the weather is still cold and before I am beckoned into the garden. I have a small heap of rather triangular offcuts from when I made the bunting for my daughter’s wedding. I had saved them with a view to making her a cot quilt for her first baby but as she surprised us with little Freddie the peachy colours and flower prints are a bit too feminine.

I intend to make a quilt anyway either for her or her sister’s two little girls, Little L and Sweetie. I spent a morning cutting out strips with the special ruler and rotary cutter I bought years ago. I love the old fashioned vintage quality of the prints – they are mostly fabrics from the Belleboo range and are a lovely cotton lawn.

The knitting has taken a bit of a back seat this week – it is hard to knit with a sore finger but as you can see from the photo above I have made some progress on the little jumper and now have a front to my back. Hopefully knitting will resume any day soon.

When we saw my mum at the weekend we also took her to Eggleston Hall on the Saturday for lunch. I had a baked potato with cheese and salad and my mum chose the rather delicious looking tomato and red pepper soup.

Sadly, walking around the garden and nursery is not in her capabilities now so she sat and read the local newpaper with another cup of tea while we had a quick wander round. It is by far one of my favourite places; summer or winter there is so much to see. The gardeners working in the nursery looked extremely busy, in and out of the greenhouses and moving tiny plants around getting ready for the gardening season.

My favourite part of the garden is down by the old ruin – the former Chapel of Ease – a private chapel which closed in 1868.

You can walk through the chapel ruin taking the stepping stones that lead you around the old, presumably self seeded, tree growing in the centre and in the absolute quietness here delight at the abundance of birdsong. Like a secret little hideaway there is plenty to discover….

…..and outside the surrounding graveyard is strewn with a carpet of snowdrops weaving their way amongst the old gravestones. What a wonderful resting place.

Some of the old outbuildings in the garden are now home to one or two resident artists and crafters.

Inside they have a roaring fire (so welcome on these bitterly cold days) and some beautiful cards and gifts by some very talented artists. I bought these little glass coasters from photographer Amanda Hodgson as a gift for next Christmas for a very dear friend of mine who (you guessed it) loves Robins. They came nestled inside a lovely velvet gift bag.

My lovely mum – I caught her unawares when I took this picture in the cafe – she was much brighter for her trip out and a good lunch. Seeing her here you would not think she was 94 nor that she is currently struggling to walk. Her top half looks fine but below the table is a different story with arthritis in both her knees and feet leaving them swollen and deformed now. She would want me to tell you though that her hair colour is only just starting to turn grey – quite an achievemnent.

So that has been my week – a mixture of days – some productive some less so but all of them leaving me with a story to tell.

Hope you are all having a good week and avoiding the lurgy of doom! Take care everyone and of course a warm welcome to my new followers. xx

dear diary :: a glimpse of Spring

But only for some. Whilst London and Saddleworth (over the hill from us) had snow we basked in glorious sunshine yesterday.

Heaven.

It was the kind of day when it felt so good to be alive. I like a positive start to the day – it seems to make everything else go right. Even when I came across a temporary blockage across the road trying to get to the physiotherapist on time, I still manage to remain unflustered and kept smiling.

The world I fear is in a very sorry state at the moment. There has been a case of Coronavirus reported in the next little village to us and of course there is a lady in Tenerife waiting to be allowed back to Huddersfield. When I popped in to my old workplace one of the employees was in self isolation at home and had been asked not to go into work as they had just returned from a holiday in Italy. We also have a very high Chinese population here studying at the University and many are walking about wearing masks now – it all feels a bit eerie. I keep washing my hands in hope it will help!

I finished the tablemats – for anyone wanting to make some I have given more details below. I am loving them already but will put them away to use nearer to Easter – why I thought Easter fell in March I don’t know; I checked the calendar to find it begins on the 10th April. In a way this is good news as I have longer to prepare, not that we do a lot but I have started making things for the grandchildren now like I used to make for our own daughters.

I didn’t think I would manage another post but here I am. We are going to see mum for the weekend. My sister is away on holiday for a much needed rest as mum has had her almost in tears a few times recently, her general demise and lack of mobility has made her……for the want of a better word….plain old grouchy. I can understand her frustration, her life has become very boring now she cannot get out by herself, yet my sister cannot be there to entertain her every day. We need a solution or we will all go stir crazy with her.

The occupational therapist will see her on Monday to assess her for a walking frame (or a ‘pusher’ as she calls it) in the hope that she will be able to walk further using one and get about a bit more. Strangely enough until mum had the x-ray on her hip and was told it was not in very good shape she had not complained about it very much – usually when it rained – it had always been about her knees or vertigo. Now she never mentions either only her hip that seems so bad she cannot do very much at all. She has seriously gone down hill since knowing there is a problem and is merrily dosing herself up with codeine as well as co-codamol even though she has been told she can take either but not both. What does one do??

DH had his dentistry – it wasn’t quite 2.30 but close. He was very brave and didn’t even get a sticker and declined to have the tooth to keep. Afterwards I was on cooking duty whilst he cosied up by the fire and watched a film. We had a sheherds pie made with lentils of course and the remains will go with us tomorrow. I also made some quiche bases and I will fill and bake them before we set off for North Yorkshire. I will make a little one for mum to hang on to as she likes homemade quiche.

So that was my day how was yours?

To make the tablemats –

I bought a pack of Sainsbury’s teatowels in a thick linen type fabric. They usually measure about 19″ by 28″ and come in two or three varying designs in a pack.

I wash them first, then unpick the hems and cut each one in half so I have either four or six pieces. I usually mix and match so I have a different pattern on the reverse so I can flip them over.

Using a pattern 14″ x 19″ which includes a 1/2″ seam allowance – I pin this on the fabric and cut around to straighten up the tea towel fabric and make sure it is a perfect rectangle. Also cut out a piece of thick vilene to sandwich between the layers. With right sides together and a piece of vilene to the underside of one piece sew around the edges with a 1/2″ seam allowance, leaving a gap of about 5″ for turning through.

Trim seam allowance to 1/4″ and cut across the corners. Turn through and press. Neatly hand sew the gap to close. Top stitch about 3/4″ in from edge all way round.

dear diary :: still looking like winter

At least it was when I peered through the window today; sleet, snow, rain – interspersed with a little (and I mean a little) sunshine. Spring seems a long way off.

So I am keeping myself busy….and warm.

After all the excitement of finishing the pantry we now have to move on to make decisions about the new kitchen. We started looking at new kitchens back in 2008 and had one on order, but shortly after I found I had to have major surgery followed by a few months of treatment so we had to cancel.

We tried again in 2010 (but then my mum decided to move up North and we had to pack up and sell the family home), 2012 (my mum in law became very ill and we had to pack up and sell her house when she went into a care home), 2014 (we had the flood at the cottage), 2016 (my daughter decided to get married and we had a wedding to organise) 2020…. here we go again….. and hopefully this time no unexpected events will surprise us and we can actually get one installed.

Whilst the weather continues to be quite horrendous I have not minded spending time browsing around the local showrooms – delving into pan drawers and canterlever corner cupboards, testing out the spring lifted wall cupboard doors, the slide under oven doors and the soft close drawer drawers. They are all wonderful and exciting to me as anything is an improvement on my old ‘shabby but definitely NOT chic’ kitchen with the falling apart wonky doors and drawers held in place by DH’s hand made wooden runners to replace the plastic ones that failed years ago.

I really should be turning my attentions to the garden, so many plants in bud now waiting for the tiniest hint of warmth – but I look outside at the snow falling and decide I will remain in hibernation a little longer.

My time is spent inside on more practical household jobs – I am so caught up with the washing I am now waiting for something to wash, the ironing is done and in the airing cupboard and I even had a go at removing the candlewax from my linen tablecloth (and quite successfully I might add).

When I do have some spare time I am sewing – I have had that sudden urge to make something since completing the duvet cover for little Sweetie. Rummaging around, as one does occasionally, through my fabric stash I noticed I had some more tea towels that I bought a while ago and intended to make into tablemats.

My last efforts were quite successful and I thought it would be nice to make these mats for Easter – the little hen print is so cute …….but I had better get a move on, Easter will be here before we know it and bringing better weather I hope. I have already washed the fabric and unpicked the hems so I am ready to go.

I made pancakes on Tuesday. As we knew we would be out all day we both set to in the kitchen and did some preparation towards them. We usually have filled pancakes as a main meal so DH chopped the leeks and mushrooms and I made the batter – we make a good team (but only if he does things my way!!). Everything then went into the fridge for later – good job we thought ahead as it was 6.30pm when we arrived home.

They didn’t take long to cook and assemble – I cooked the leek and mushrooms together with a little parsley and seasoning for the filling; made a few pancakes then rolled each one up with the filling inside and laid them in an ovenproof dish.

I always use buckwheat flour, which the French use for their delicious crepes) because I like the crispier, lighter texture and once all the pancakes were made I covered them in a cheese sauce (I cheated here with a pot of Sainsbury’s own), topped everything with a sprinkle of seeds, Parmesan shavings and sliced tomato and then baked in the oven.

I have batter left over to make some plain pancakes to have with lemon juice as a pudding – but that will be another day.

During the school holidays last week we went up to North Yorkshire to stay with my daughter and grandchildren. We took Little L and Sweetie out for the day on Friday to Bowes Museum. It was the only place around that was indoors and warm – away from those terrible winds. We could hardly stand up outside in the car park – the rain was lashing about us but once inside there was lots to see and they are very child friendly.

At 2pm everyday you can visit the room with the famous Silver Swan (no I hadn’t heard of it either!) and see it perform. It is rather beautiful and a great feat of delicate engineering – when it is wound up the neck moves around and then dips its beak into the water below to catch one of the little fishes. I captured it on video but sadly I can’t upload it to my blog but you can see it here on You Tube.

We also had a trip to Northallerton a lovely, but busy, market town full of independant shops and stores…..and Betty’s (if you can afford it…..we can’t). I stocked up with a few items from Boyes – a brilliant cut price family run store that is a bit like a small Woolworths and they have a few branches in the North. They have an excellent selection of wool and I was tempted, but I decided I must finish the jumper I am knitting before I buy anymore.

Today I had to pop down to town to the library and use my double points petrol token before it expired. DH will be having a tooth removed by the time you read this. Ouch.

We will be up in North Yorkshire again at the end of the week as we have to look after my mum whilst my sister is away on a short holiday – so I may have a few days away from blogging.

Take care everyone and stay warm x

dear diary :: a time for home

The sun streaming through the windows yesterday morning was a cheerful sight to wake up to and it made my snap decision to do some sewing an easy one. Sadly, the better weather did not last and by the afternoon we were back to lashing rain and grey lifeless skies.

Even today the rain continues to fall and is far too wet to go outside with the camera – but the patterns of the raindrops on our window panes are quite delightful and worth capturing.

Being indoors and just being at home is all I need in winter. I busy myself with small jobs around the house, finishing projects here and there and keeping warm in the kitchen making and baking and using up any food so it doesn’t go to waste.

I took the opportunity yesterday to make the cot duvet cover and a matching pillowslip for little Sweetie. I bought the fabric a while ago from John Lewis, it wasn’t exactly cheap but cheaper than buying a ready made duvet cover. I chose two fabrics, one with unicorns (all little girls love unicorns it seems) and one with tiny pink hearts for the reverse. The unicorn fabric was more expensive than the pink hearts so I tried to manage with as little as possible – maybe a little too little as I found when I came to measure up and cut out – but I skimped by; after all Sweetie will not be in a cot for long and then will be moving on to a larger duvet.

I was so pleased at the end of the day to have another task to cross off my list.

During the morning we received a letter in the post addressed to ‘Granny and Grandad’ – inside was a beautiful card made by Little L with a message inside and some tiny feathers – don’t things like this just tug at the heartstrings. It will have pride of place on the mantelpiece.

The jumper is moving on – the back is finished and I am now counting stitches again on the few rows of pattern on the front – it takes all my concentration and lo behold anyone that interupts me – DH knows by now to keep well out of the way when he hears me counting out loud. Despite the difficult bits I keep encountering I do find it quite relaxing to knit in the evenings – my shoulders and neck however think otherwise and have become a bit tense recently so I may have to have a few nights off.

The kitchen planner came on Monday and we spent a good three hours measuring, discussing and looking at what might fit into our tiny kitchen and selecting possible samples of cabinet colour and worktop. Of course you always hit stumbling blocks and compromises have to be made but I shall be glad just to have some new units that are not coming apart. The kitchen we have now is almost 40 years old, pan drawers were not on the radar back then and hardly anyone had a dishwasher – now we would like both, although, I would not be too disappointed if I couldn’t fit a dishwasher in, what you have never had you will never miss.

There are questions to be answered of course……….do I need a self cleaning oven or a steam oven, a dishwasher that has no child lock or one that doesn’t signal the end of the cycle – I really don’t know because I have managed without these things up till now. Should we go with a ceramic hob or induction and should it have four rings or two rings and an oblong area? It is all foreign to me – any suggestions gratefully received – the appliances are such a big outlay if you get it wrong.

By the end of the session our minds were buzzing but I do feel we are now a little closer to a final design. The visuals they produce make it so much easier to see the finished plans – how did we ever manage without them?

On Sunday prior to the kitchen planner coming I had the great idea of cleaning out our china cupboards in the dining area. It was not one of my best ideas but as it was another wet day we had decided to stay in and stay warm – I find it a very tiring job but one filled with satisfaction afterwards.

Whenever I clean out these two cupboards I am reminded of how much china I actually own, it is a great weakness of mine, where one person might buy shoes, I buy china. I love it all and most of it is in constant use. I decided some bits and pieces can now move into the pantry – bread baskets and wooden tablemats which we only use occasionally when we have guests or the family round.

I emptied the cabinets one at a time to avoid overload and then cleaned inside and out, lovingly dusting the contents with a clean tea cloth before replacing them (in a ‘pleasing arrangement’ as DH says). I just love my ‘proper’ Ainsley patterned china dinner service, I know they are not fashionable any longer – does anyone still hold dinner parties anymore? – but I would never part with mine in fact we used it on Burns night. Each piece we have was either a gift or chosen with care from the seconds factory down in Stoke on Trent. So although most of it is not perfect it is perfect in my eyes.

Most of my other china is white, clean and simple. Our everyday dishes are from the Thomas china range by Rosenthal that we bought back in the late 90’s (mostly in sales as it isn’t that cheap). Before this we had numerous cheap dinner sets but found that once a piece was broken a replacement could not be found. We have never had a problem with the Thomas china it is still being made today and in fact the newer updated shapes fit in very well.

I do confess to a bit of a jug and a spoon fetish too.

I can’t say that I actually decluttered anything in here and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to find anything I did not want – it all sparks joy and I can say hand on heart that nothing in my china cupboard languishes unused but I am making a great effort not to purchase anymore….well for a while anyway.

I had food to use up in the pantry too; a ripening pear and avocado and I had ideas for these. We had the avocado mashed onto a Sainsbury’s cheese stick (my favourite rolls at the moment though not as cheesy as Tescos’) then heaped with cooked courgettes, mushrooms and tomatoes with a side salad of grated beetroot and chopped cucumber all topped with grilled halloumi slices.

I made up a recipe to use up the ripe pear. I love chocolate and pear together but rather than make a chocolate and pear cake or pudding I made a quantity of chocolate sponge mixture and divided it into some bun cases, then pressed a few chunks of diced pear gently into the top, sprinkled over a few chocolate chips and baked them in the oven.

Result…. delicious. And easy to freeze and then pack up for our picnics.

Tomorrow we shall be on our way to North Yorkshire once again – it is the school holidays and we are going to see the grandchildren for a day or two – not that we can do very much in this weather – I think a trip to the park will be out!

Hope everyone is keeping warm and has not been flooded out. x

dear diary :: a positive day, if not a little chilly

Some days can just start off more positive than others – I am not sure what makes the difference but today just happened to be a very positive one. Outside on the step and covering a few plants I could see the remains of the slushy snow; the only evidence that we had had a fall of snow overnight. It soon disappeared as the sun came out……..for all of an hour, but it did mean I could get the washing on the line, fill the bird feeders and take out the recycling. I didn’t hang around as is was bitterly cold.

I had breakfast alone as DH had a hair appointment booked this morning, so he was up, showered and off. He had a dental appointment this afternoon and we thought it was to take his tooth out but the dentist felt there was still some infection so it has been rearranged for two weeks time. DH much prefers the dentist to the hairdressers and always jokes that the hairdresser cuts his hair without even giving him an anaesthetic.

I had a leisurely breakfast watching the birds outside, mainly magpies, doing some rather daring manoeuvres to try and get the peanuts out of the little pottery acorns. DH had peeled and chopped the oranges, a job he is good at and I am not, and I combined these with a few blueberries and yoghurt followed by toast generously spread with the lemon curd I made a couple of weeks ago. I don’t usually have toast so it was a nice change from muesli and always goes well with a cup of tea. I am hoping that somewhere in this breakfast I will have satisfied a little of my vitamin C quota for the day.

Whilst DH was out I rushed upstairs to make him a Valentine card. I had no ideas in mind other than something with a heart and something pink would be appropriate. So after a rummage around in the craft drawers I came up with a few different sized heart stamps, some ink pads and a bit of glitter.

I played around a bit and came up with a prototype….well what can you expect in 15 minutes…. the first one didn’t go too well so I had another go and decided this is as good as it is going to get as I know I won’t have time to make another one…..anyway it is the thought that counts. I might even surprise him and bake a cake.

Being in craft mode I went on to make a birthday card for a colleague where I used to work. Her birthday is on Valentine’s day and I know she loves homemade cards as she makes her own too.

I have had these little daisy flowers for ages and had not really had any ideas for using them. After playing around a bit I decided to attached each fower to a wire stem using the trusty mini glue gun and then mount them onto a triangular base.

I made some butterfly cards in a similar way a few years ago by recycling the insides of envelopes – those official looking envelopes that you get with the interesting little patterns on the inside. Everyone thought they were quite cute. This is not a good picture but you get the gist.

I decided on a natural brown craft card to contrast with the white daisy flowers that have a little wooden bead in the centre and then added one of the pre-printed labels I had left over from a previous project. The card is quite tiny but will stand up easily on a mantel piece or table.

Scoring the bottom part of the triangle means that you can fold it flat to put it into the envelope.

After lunch we went to the dentist and then I dropped the card for my friend in at reception before going round to the library. I found an interesting little book called Make, Mend, Bake, Save & Shine written by Jo Godfrey Wood – full of handy tips to save money and make things last as long as they can and avoid throwing things out. I am all for not throwing away things that can be reused or repurposed. It should be an interesting read.

Now I have the pantry up and running I intend to make a list of meals that I can make to use up a lot of the food in there. Seeing it all displayed on shelves rather than stacked together in the old kitchen cupboards is so much better and reminds me just what we have in stock so hopefully food will not get wasted quite as much.

I am back to bedtime now once again – don’t the days whizz round quickly – in fact I should be in bed now so I am rushing to finish this. It will be another cleaning day tomorrow and a catch up with the ironing…oh and I seem to remember I said I might bake a cake.

creating health and wellbeing

Nothing much to report on this today I feel bad as I only did two of the exercises for my knees. Must do better tomorrow and schedule in some time to do them all. My knees do benefit from the exercises when I manage to do them for more than two or three days together so I would imagine if I could just stick at it for a week I would see a good result.

On my consultants advice I take vitamin D3 – it is the best thing ever in my mind and recently I have been taking vitamin B12 which I do occasionally as I am vegetarian and this can be something we don’t get a lot of from our diet and in myself a lack of it can make me feel dizzy.

The Optima Activjuice is a food supplement to help joints and was a very reasonable £3 something from Boyes in Northallerton so I thought I would give it a go. Hypothyroidism often produces long term joint and muscle problems so I am looking to see what might improve this – I obviously cannot do anything to improve my thyroid gland as I don’t have one so I am hoping something I try might just help to alleviate the joint and muscle problems I have.

dear diary :: weathering the weather

I have been having so much fun today organising my new pantry I am sure it can’t be legal!!

I have still a few adjustments to make and then it will be photo ready – well when the weather is also photo ready, it has been far too dark inside to even attempt a photo shoot.

On the matter of the weather…..my heart goes out to the poor people of the Calder Valley, which is only a few miles from here, and all those affected by the flooding and not for the first time. As a flood victim myself I can sense the misery and frustration they are feeling at the moment and I must admit I shed a tear or two for them.

Today although not as forceful the wet, windy weather continued – the kind of day when it is wise to stay warm indoors and a special treat is required to stave off those winter blues. Whilst writing out my shopping list for the week I helped myself to one…well maybe two of these cute little Godiva biscuits (a much appreciated Christmas present)……I am only surprised there are still some left.

The weather on Saturday was not too bad at all; DH managed to get an emergency appointment in the morning with his dentist to look at his broken tooth which was becoming very painful and had kept him awake for most of the night. So we took advantage of being in town to do some shopping and later called at Sainsbury’s to top up on a few more fresh vegetables, bread and milk.

While DH was at the dentist I occupied myself having a wander around the nearby Dunelm store. I have been looking for some kind of laundry basket for the laundry room and this one which is on castors just fits the bill as it will be easy to move around.

I also called in at one of those cheap shops (don’t ask me which one – they all look alike) and I bought a large pack of epsom salts which I use when I soak my feet prior to giving myself a weekly pedicure. They were £2.49 for the kilo but later I spotted them in Home Bargains buy 2 for £4 50 (I think) making them only £2.25 each.

Next stop was B&Q for some fleece as I am on a mission to save my rhododendron from getting hit this winter by the frosts. The buds will begin opening soon as it is an early variety and last year they were ruined by the harsh weather. We got a pack of three large bags and DH has now ‘bagged’ it and I must say it does look like a bit of a monster in the garden when it catches my eye through the kitchen window, but hopefully it will do the job of protecting it from the elements.

We had a trip round to TK Max too for a couple of storage jars I had seen earlier in the week, disappointingly the tall one which I wanted for the spaghetti had gone so I had to pay quite a bit more for one from Sainsbury’s which is almost identical but £3 dearer. I love the fact they are glass and the lids are made from bamboo – only the seal is plastic.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s I noticed these little teapots with a built in strainer had been reduced to half price – £6. I have been looking at them for ages now with an idea to using the cheaper loose leaf tea as tea bags can be quite expensive for the organic decaf ones I prefer.

So that was the shopping expedition and by the time we arrived back home it was almost time to make the tea. I have been using up odd bits and pieces of veg so nothing goes to waste – I steam them, then place them in an ovenproof dish cover with a cheese sauce and add a sprinkling of sesame seeds and flaked almonds then bake in the oven or just brown the top under the grill….and in no time you have a very tasty supper dish served with a mound of mixed greens. We usually always eat at the dining table in the kitchen but occasionally it is nice to indulge ourselves and eat our supper on a tray by the fire, especially when the weather is raging outside, and just watch whatever is on the TV.

Staying cosy and warm by the fire is a good oppotunity for me to start knitting another baby jumper – I hadn’t actually noticed that the pattern had a pattern until I came to start knitting it and I am feeling quite pleased with myself that it worked out and does resemble the pattern in the picture. As a novice knitter it is always daunting to come across something new but I coped and the rest of the jumper is quite plain. I have chosen the age 1-2 years size in the hope that it will fit one of the grandchildren and that they won’t have grown out of it before I finish it.

On Sunday we awoke to the sound of wind whistling around the house and knew the storm was now taking hold. The rain was lashing at the windows and at 11am the electricity went off, flickered back into life a little, then went again but this time was off until about 3pm. The house was mighty cold by the time it was back on but we do have a gas fire in the living room – shame we only thought about it part way through and switched it on! Lunch was a can of soup cooked on our little camping stove and we were at least able to make ourselves a cup of tea.

It is funny how everything you think to do during a power cut involves electricity! In the end when I realised ironing, hoovering, washing and cooking were all jobs I couldn’t do we got out the kitchen plans again to try and resolve the many issues of all the units / appliances etc that are not going to fit where we would ideally like them.

Today I wanted to get a few jobs done so DH made the lunch – mushroom soup, delicious as ever, and for tea I needed to use up some left over mashed potato in the fridge and finish off the leeks – so the Crank’s Homity Pie was just the right recipe for this (althought they use onion but I much prefer leeks).

So that was my last few days – nothing too taxing and certainly nothing very exciting, just normal day to day stuff. Hope everyone has managed to stay safe and warm during the storm – more bad weather is forecast over the next few days – I have cleaning to do.

creating health and wellbeing

I am not sure our recent cosy supper meals are strictly that healthy – pastry, mashed potato and cheese is quite heavy and loaded with carbs – but at this time of year it feels warming and satisfying against this continuing chilly weather. Our lunch time meals of soup or winter salads are much better and I found a couple of brilliant books in the library called Savour by Amber Locke and The Soup Cleanse by Angela Blatteis.

I wasn’t particularly going to attempt a soup cleanse but the information in the book is well woth a read. I now know that amongst other things almonds regulate cholesterol levels, beetroot lowers blood pressure, as does spinach, and sunflower seeds strengthen bones.

I can recommend the book Savour – the photos are just brilliant and so colourful and I love her ideas for garnishing the soups with shredded veg, spiced roasted chickpeas, oven roasted Tofu or crumbled goats cheese – she manages to turn soup into a very healthy and nutritious meal and it is these ‘additions’ that I will be concentrating on in the next few weeks to add variety to our soup and pack them full of healthy nurtients.

Exercises are high on my list – I admit it is not an area that I am good at – in fact the words ‘fail’ and ‘miserably’ spring to mind. As hard as I try I do not seem to be able to get any routine or rhythmn going – I am at best hit and miss and at worst do absolutely nothing. I have all of the intentions but am lacking in action.

I have now printed down from the internet examples of the same exercises suggested by my physio (although she drew little stick men – I needed something more visual to help me remember them).

One of my comments recently from Linda (Occasional Scotland) was to write down the date when I do the exercises – I did this and it sure hit home that there were gaps in between the days and I am not doing them as often as I think I am. (No surprises there).

Part of the reason is just a sheer lack of time and constantly being away from home and having to play catch up – part of the reason is that although when I get down to doing them I actually enjoy them and feel better afterwards it is obviously the getting down to doing them that is my sticking point. I really am not a routine person.

Margaret another commenter asked what the exercises are for my knee – so here is the list – you can find them on the internet and you tube under these or similar headings.

  • Straight leg raises (and with belt)
  • Diastasis recti exercise
  • Side lying straight leg lifts
  • standing glute kickbacks
  • Glute bridges

So this week I am concentrating on the exercises and some serious healthy meal planning.

creating :: a crafty day today

Friday again already…where do the weeks go. DH collected his car yesterday and I am hoping there is nothing else to fix on either of them – there couldn’t possibly be could there?

I have bank statements to balance and I must get around to labelling the jars in my new pantry. It is finished all but for that task. Well I say finished but I am still moving things around each day and I could do with buying one more shelf from Ikea. DH is finding it hard to know where anything is at the moment as I keep swapping and changing and swapping back; each day he finds that something is now in a new place….he just humours me. There will be pictures I promise but at the moment I am still titivating and enjoying myself so much. Even the thought of a new kitchen is not as exciting at the moment as my new pantry.

I came across this picture the other day in my pile of Christmas cards that I haven’t as yet got around to dealing with. I usually turn them into tags and money envelopes but I thought it would be nice to put this one in a photo frame to display next Christmas as it has such a lovely cosy feeling.

My granddaughter, Little L, created this colourful masterpiece on a paper plate at nursery a few years ago and it has been hanging on my kitchen notice board ever since. I decided to cut it down into a rectangle with the intention of putting it into a picture frame so I can display it on the wall or my mantel piece.

You may be wondering what teabags have to do with crafts – well remember the Pukka advent calendar I received from my sister-in-law well unsurprisingly there were one or two flavours I am not keen on – I don’t do fennel at all and so these are the ones that I will not be drinking…..but I had other ideas for them….read on.

I spent an afternoon making some more pressed flower cards with the remains of the flowers and leaves that I pressed earlier in the year – and I was really scraping the barrel here to find enough bits that were still good enough to use. My last efforts were very well received by my friends so I thought I would do a few more before turning my attentions to something new.

I have put the teabags in my card box so that when I send a card to a friend I will enclose a teabag so they can enjoy a lovely cup of tea and my teabags will not be wasted. I know my friends well enough so should be able to match up a teabag to each of their personal tastes.

I seem to have accumulated quite a few dried slices of orange and lemons over the years and need to reduce the pile. Rather than throw them away or compost them I thought they would be nice to add as a decoration when I wrap my presents in plain brown parcel paper. I found some old fashioned buff coloured parcel tags and stamped a few with different pictures and messages which I will then combine with the orange slices.

Little by little I keep trying to reduce the assortment of crafty bits and pieces I have collected and make things with them. I have a whole box full of cut out butterflies but that will be another day.

Enjoy the weekend everyone x

creating a simpler Christmas * days 18-24

My cold was short lived – in fact barely a cold – I think it just came out in sympathy with those around me who have been stricken quite badly…..but many thanks for the messages and best wishes you sent – a few blog hugs always makes you feel better.

It is hard to believe Christmas Eve is here already – how did that happen so quickly. Now everything has to stop ready or not and the busyness of the last few weeks suddenly ceases and at last we can sit back and just enjoy the time with our family and friends, but also thinking about all those lonely people who will not have anyone to celebrate with.

The good side of having a simpler Christmas means I have had more time to go out and about seeing friends, past colleagues and neighbours and I have been busy too filling my new pantry – only the shelving on the wall remains to be done, but that will be after Christmas now. It has been a challenge trying to organise it and no doubt I will be continuing to move things around and get them into a permanent place as I go along but I can say it is one of the best things I have ever had done in the house, after the airing cupboard refit and my linen cupboard. I will post photos post Christmas.

But….so many things have not been done for Christmas this year, but you know what…… I really don’t mind – it is different to usual, but not awful. The bulk of the decorations are still in the loft – I am not really missing them – I have a few, almost discreet, decorated spots around the house and I am loving the minimalist look.

In the end I didn’t buy a tree and I didn’t make a twig tree either; instead I have filled the house with vases of holly and cream roses, snow sprayed pine cones, lots of candles and twinkly lights.

I quite like it.

My two favourite decorations this year are this little round wooden plaque that lights up from B&M for £2.99 and the shiny red Volkswagon Beetle I found in a lovely flower shop in Baslow for £1.

The cake happened and the mince pies. The lemon curd willl be a job for the day after boxing day. I made more chocolate; some as a small token gift for friends and some for our family gathering – it is eaten quicker than I can make it.

So yesterday was the last of the cooking – a quiche for Christmas tea and a few more mince pies; I can hang up my apron now and begin the packing. We will be heading up to North Yorkshire to attend the local carol service in my daughter’s new village – it will be quite special to be with all the family singing carols together on Christmas Eve and then sitting down afterwards to share a simple meal of baked potatoes and salad and have a good old chat and just relax. Christmas is all about being together so I am hoping my sister and mum can join us too, then it will be perfect for me with all my family and the grandchildren – Little L, Sweetie and little Freddie around me.

This year’s wrapping has been minimal too – brown craft paper and tags, stamped simply in white and a little foliage added here and there.

My friend’s twin daughters are 30 today so I hand stamped two craft bags to put their presents into.

Then set off around the village delivering a basket full of homemade gifts and cards to my friends – so now all is done and all there is left to do is enjoy Christmas.

Have a wonderful and happy Christmas everyone – I will be taking a few days break now to enjoy the festivities.

Happy Christmas

xxx

creating a simpler Christmas * days 10-16

Doesn’t time seem to evaporate during December? One moment you are ahead and the next lagging behind. I am definitely behind. Most of our Christmas decorations are stored in the loft and as yet we have not brought them down but during the last week I have been slowly decorating parts of the house with posies of Christmas foliage and flowers and a very few special decorations that I keep in a box downstairs. But I am loving the minimality and I might not bring down the rest of the decor at all. Well I did say I was going for a simpler Christmas.

Christmas would not be Christmas though without an appearance from my knitted Christmas pudding tea cosy, my red china cup and plate and the handmade robin print napkins designed by my daughter and kept in an old Christmas tin from Crabtree and Evelyn.

In the last few days I have been making a few gifts. Starting with the chocolates. I always take a tray full round with me to our neighbours get together – they positively drool with delight; they are rather more…ish.

Homemade chocolates

Once the dark and milk chocolate are combined in a swirl I throw in handfuls of Christmas delights such as nuts, raisins and glace cherries in one half and pieces of fudge, honeycomb and glace ginger in the other. Anything goes. Sprinkle on a few tiny Christmas sugar beads, stars or meringues and decoratively lace all over with melted white chocolate. Leave to set and cut into small squares.

Any left over chocolate can be made into lollypops and decorated.

I made enough chocolates to give a box to a dear friend of mine together with the table decoration of hypericum berries, eucalyptus, euonymus and tiny cream roses arranged in……you guessed it one of those vintage style plant pots!

We have also been on a shopping frenzy – well it felt like it for us – we had one or two gifts to buy for the grandchildren and some temporary flooring for the pantry.

We have been particularly mindful this year with presents to buy items that are as ecologically sustainable as possible or make little impact on the environment. The grandchildren have got mostly wooden toys – the two babies have a little trike each and a smaller educational toy, they are far more expensive than plastic but are so much nicer. Little L has a new leotard (knitted cotton jersey) and ballet shoes (leather) for when she returns to her classes in January and my friends will receive the table decorations and either chocolates or florentines. So minimal plastic in any of our gifts.

I have bought one or two new decorations that again are wooden or of natural materials like hessian and pine cones. I did relent though and buy the little LED pink glittery stars which are £3 from The Works.

The cards and newsletters are all written and posted but I do need to deliver a few now and make arrangements to go and see my old work colleagues one day this week.

There still seems to be a lot on my list to do – lemon curd for the girls (can’t disappoint them), a cot duvet cover for Sweetie, the Christmas cake (yes you did read that correctly) and the mince pies. So it is a week of making and baking again – I had better get a move on.