dear diary :: Sunday snooze before the Monday madness

Do you have days when you feel more on top of your game only to find yourself a bit lethargic the next day? Sunday (yesterday) was my day of very little achievement and after lunch I found myself curled up on the sofa watching Pauline Collins in Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War and trying hard not to fall asleep.

DH was under the floor most of the day yesterday, literally, trying to sort out the leak we had discovered when he had taken some of the floorboards up beneath where the old washer had stood. It smelled damp and further investigation uncovered a pipe with wet lagging. It was the hot feed pipe to a previous washer and although the valve was off it had obviously been leaking a tiny amount of water over 16 years (as that is how old the washer is now). So then more floorboards had to come up in the pantry to trace the hot water feed back to where it diverts off to the kitchen hot water tap. As most washers are cold feed only now and my new one is (we checked) DH was able to cut off and cap the hot feed so there should not be any more problems.

I had to spring back into life and leave the comfort of the sofa when I suddenly realised that it was the last day of February and the 1st March is the birthday of a very good friend and a milestone one too. During this lockdown I have tended not to bother with the date very much – as long as I know when it is Tuesday and I am ready for Master Freddie’s arrival (Mary called him that in her comment and I like it so much that is his new name!) then all is well in my world.

I had to set to and make a card quickly – I copied one I had done before for another male friend’s 60th birthday a few years ago and luckily he likes gardening and has an allotment so I should be able to pick up a gift for him from the garden centre. I wish I had realised before though as we were only up there on Friday getting the seed potatoes. Still any outing no matter how brief is welcome at the moment.

Ideally, as it was a sunny day (though still bitterly cold here) I should have been busying myself in the garden, as all my neighbours have been, but I didn’t want DH to think I had left him with all the rotten jobs whilst I had fun gardening. Not that I can do much to help him at the moment until he gets the pipes sorted and the floorboards back down – I am only the tea maker and plumber’s mate……….so during the morning I had turned my attentions to making a batch of soup for lunch with the bowl of very ripe tomatoes in the pantry – I have stopped keeping them in the fridge now and they do gain a lot more flavour. The pantry is cool and perfect for keeping the fruit and ripening avocados – it always looks quite colourful and healthy in there at a glance. Whilst the soup simmered I finished the last of the ironing pile. I ironed all the bedding on Saturday and changed the bed so apart from a shed load of washing I am at a straight edge with the laundry.

So today is going to be spent whizzing round to B&Q (for paint and sundries), Screwfix (for more screws – never the right ones in the garage) and possibly a garden centre to pick up a gift. I will pack a flask of hot chocolate in case it takes longer than we think. Then I need to gather pace at home to try and make some order of the chaos – we have the big larder fridge from the utility standing in a corner in the dining room and a table full of the utility cupboard’s contents covering the table. Master Freddie is going to have a whale of a time getting into all sorts if it can’t be moved.

DH will also have to gather pace putting down the new flooring – he has lost a good two days now because of the leak and the clock is ticking.

In and amongst all this I have decided that it is time I reorganise all our financial paperwork – I have been using the same system for many years now and it has been fairly good and reliable but I need a change and one that reflects the fact that we have many bills and receipts come in by email and all my banking is done online.

But that is another post.

Have a good day x

dear diary :: capturing daily life

I suppose in true British and blogging style I need to comment on the weather. There has not been one telephone conversation with friends and family this past week (and there were a lot) when we did not discuss the weather. Ice and icicles everywhere and that biting cold wind. The only exposed part of me when we ventured out was around my face so I doubled up on a very thick moisturiser to try and prevent me getting, what felt like, freezer burn.

Last weekend we stayed home in the warm not even going out for the daily allowed constitutional and I thought I would quite like to have another go with some DAS air drying clay that I bought about 2 years ago…… another project hanging around and overlooked for too long.

I wanted to have another go at making some gift tags and maybe try my hand at some little wall hangers. Although, I enjoyed experimenting with it I can’t say it is my favourite craft and so this might be the last time I do actually use it but it was good to have another go and now I can put that craft to bed. One of my aims this year is to simplify the craft materials that I have by making a decision on just which crafts I am going to focus on as I seem to dabble a bit here and a bit there and never really get to grips with any of them.

So these are some of the little tags and hanging plaques I made – quite cute but a lot of work and they still need sanding and smoothing – but that will be another day.

In the meantime my next knitting project will be for the two girls – Little L and Sweetie – a lightweight summer top in a 4 ply Rowan yarn that I bought last year from the lovely craft shop in Castle Douglas on our visit to Scotland. As I have two tops to knit I will keep it simple and have chosen the plainer of the two styles but have yet to decide on the higher or lower neckline. I am starting now with the hope that I can finish them by the time we see some sunshine and warmer weather. Casting on might even take place tonight if the mood takes me.

The childcare went well this week with little Freddie – he produced some lovely masterpieces with stickers and wax crayons and we managed a walk each day despite the temperature never getting above zero. Stopping to watch the ducks on this resourceful tiny duck pond in the backyard of a nearby terraced house is a favourite but it does make you feel even colder watching them splash about in the freezing cold water.

Even though we felt quite exhausted from looking after little Freddie we made the effort to drive up to see our ‘bubble’ daughter in North Yorkshire yesterday complete with a large homemade trifle and chocolate cake. She is currently on her own with the two girls, Little L who is only six and now being homeschooled (when Sweetie allows). Being just two Sweetie is rather a little whirlwind and a bit disruptive in the home classroom set up! My daughter is also finding it hard to get her own work done to the deadlines she has and many an evening is up until well after midnight trying to work while the children sleep.

She needed a break as it has been a long haul for her since Christmas especially with the schools being closed. There are far more subjects to get through in a day than there is time. We spent the day entertaining the grandchildren to give her a bit of a break and then we had a brisk walk together around her lovely village well wrapped up against the freezing cold.

Sweetie insisted she took a wooden spoon with her on the walk and spent most of the time trying to scoop and eat what was left of the snow on the verges!

Unfortunately, the picture I took is rather blurred but I think you can see that I have captured the fact that she was certainly on a mission.

We went back home to thaw out with some welcome hot chocoate and a piece of the Valentine’s cake I had made as a treat for all of us. Nothing special other than it was heart shaped, filled with fresh cream and topped with as much chocolate and sprinkles as I thought was indulgent but still permissable (which was a lot).

We all tucked in and consumed it without a murmur. Not a crumb left today.

My attempt at making a Valentine’s card for DH was altogether less successful – I was very short of time and had to resort to a rubber stamp again like last year – but, I am told, it is the thought that counts – mine is the one on the right. He made one for me, the one on the left, which is much better and quite sweet.

Homemade is so much nicer and must have saved us a tidy £6 or £7 on bought cards.

So another busy week for us and we are preparing for an even busier one next week which will include Shrove Tuesday and half term – but, like any pancake lover, I have my lemons ready. As far as housework is concerned I have done very little and I feel as if my world is in a bit of a muddle; with Covid, the cold spell and having many of our family dependant on our help it is hard not to feel both stretched and overwhelmed.

 My focus word this year is consistency and how strange then that an email dropped into my inbox about a podcast entitled ‘Why consistency is the key to Success’

It grabbed my attention and I am all ears.

In a nutshell the author of the podcast believes that many of us overestimate what we can do in a short period of time and wildly underestimate what we’re capable of accomplishing over a decade or a number of years. Above all, he is a believer in process over outcome, the journey not the destination.

So my blog is aptly titled as I am all about the journey and my chosen word could be the key to a good year for me.

Then coincidently on the 5th February Freda at Live Simply Simply Live asked her readers ‘are you remembering your word’ …………well, surprisingly, yes I am………does my life reflect my chosen word………well maybe not yet but I am on a journey and little bits of consistency, like the snowdrops in the garden, are appearing slowly here and there.

Have a good week everyone. x

dear diary :: a bit of this and a bit of that

At last on Monday we managed to buy a leek – well three actually, the very last three in fact and to get those DH had to pop round to the smaller town centre Sainsbury’s whilst I continued shopping at the larger branch on the ring road which had a row of empty boxes again where the leeks should be.

Well after all, what is life during the bleak winter months without any leeks? The Homity pies, hearty leek and lentil stew and leek and potato soup on my menu plan can now go ahead after two weeks of being without. Maybe it is just our area that has been ‘leek’less – has anyone else struggled to buy them?

Despite the leek shortage January felt like a very rewarding month in many ways. We managed two celebrations under Covid lockdown rules – have survived the first month of childcare for little Freddie (or should I say he survived us) – our finances, although not as healthy as I would wish, are not as bad as I thought and I have completed two of my craft projects. So not a bad start to the year and on top of it all I have really been enjoying all the snow which we have had to varying degrees; sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.

We have had some lovely little walks with Freddie to see the sheep and cows nearby. Occasionally, we have ventured out in the drizzle but Freddie is well wrapped up in his dinosaur cosy toes and these modern pushchairs have see through rain covers which help – it is just granny and grandad that get wet!

We had our Covid test last week which was negative and always good to know that we are not asymptomatic and therefore not unknowingly spreading the virus – not that we have seen anyone or go anywhere other than for the food shopping.

So I am now looking forward to February – a shorter month but hopefully slightly longer days in terms of daylight. My calendar tells me the highlights of this month will be Valentine’s day and Shrove Tuesday and I am looking for some ideas to mark the occasion – not that we would normally go out to a restaurant for Valentine’s day but I feel I should perhaps make the effort to produce a nice meal or bake a cake, (I know any excuse for a cake)…….and I am thinking it has to be chocolate cake as I haven’t had any for ages.

As usual I have plans. I intend completing a few more craft projects whilst I have a little momentum going here, at the same time I do need to attempt a bit more decluttering and cleaning (I am motivated here by everyone else in blogland doing a declutter and don’t want to feel left out!)……….and if there is time a trip to a garden centre to buy some seed potatoes.

As things are slowly beginning to stir in the garden I am slowly beginning to think about what I might grow this year and picked up a couple of packets of seeds in Sainsbury’s this week, dwarf sunflowers and mixed petunias – most of the annuals did well last year apart from the zinnias – I am not sure where I went wrong with those but as I have more packets of free seeds I will try again.

The bulbs inside the greenhouse and outside in pots are just beginning to make themselves known. I can even see a tiny bud on the outdoor Narcissus peeking through the snow.

I made the final January birthday card for one of my oldest friends and other than a Valentine’s day card I have no birthdays to make for in February. I have been using the last of the pressed flowers and the stock of concertina cards I once bought for a different project that never really materialised (I expect we have all been there!).

For the gift I found a delightful little china bowl and handleless mug in Sainsbury’s from the Habitat range with a simple bright orange circle pattern and contrasting navy blue. This particular friend likes bright colours so I hope she likes it. I never worry if people pass my gifts on if they are not to their taste – you cannot get it right every time. Before wrapping the gift in cellophane I filled the mug with some Lily O’Brien creamy caramel and sea salt chocolate discs – which I can say are very moreish.

I am rather tempted to buy a dish and mug for myself as the colours would go well in my new kitchen (which is pale grey but has accent colours of burnt orange) – so I may even treat myself…….. though goodness knows I don’t really need any more china.

This week I treated myself to some tulips – usually I dither over the colour – I love them all but this time I knew I would pick the orange to go with bowl full of oranges and nectarines on the widow sill – it is my colour of the moment and an inexpensive vibrant splash of colour that is so cheerful on these drab winter days.

And at last I have found the time to sew mum’s cushion cover that she knitted for me a long time ago. Mum has knitted all her life, not so much in her later years, but she is still a very neat knitter – when I told her I had finished the cushion she remembered that she had started one for herself and it has given her the motivation to search it out and finish it. I told her I would sew it up for her if she does finish the knitting, but I won’t be able to leave it as long as the one she made for me as she is 95 afterall and time for her is quite precious.

When I get down to it there are two rooms that need a good going over – our main bedroom and the office come craft room – they also need decorating but that will have to wait a while – for now I will be happy to just declutter, thoroughly clean them and maybe rearrange, though where I will put all the ‘decluttered’ stuff I have no idea.

The office is always my headache place, too much paper, too much craft, too much filing and generally too much stuff. I keep trying to whittle it down but somehow it all bounces back. I look at the two large magazine holders of instruction leaflets and think do I need to keep these then DH will come along and say ‘do we have the leaflet that came with so and so’? as he needs to check something. Is it on the internet I say – the answer is usually our item is so old and discontinued there is nothing he can find that is relevant……lucky I keep them then.

I did manage to sell one of the baby cribs – a beautiful white wooden traditional one we bought from John Lewis for our grandchildren. They have now moved on to cots and beds and the cribs are redundant but somehow they have made their way to our house for me to dispose of them! It has taken me ages to get around to taking photos and writing the descriptions for Ebay but I couldn’t pass on the offer they sent me for the £1 maximum selling fees and having sold one of them so quickly I am happy to have a little extra space now in the spare room.

I have also listed some shoes and clothes on Ebay and a retro telephone we took off the wall in the kitchen and didn’t want to replace – not sure if many of the items will sell or not but so far I have made £70 with just two of them.

So that is about all my current news for now I feel I have rambled on far too long. As I write this the heavy snow that prevented us from having little Freddie on Tuesday has completely gone but I am sure this might not be the last of it.

Hope you are all coping well – at times I am almost forgetting this new life we have carved out for ourselves is not normal but it is all we have for now so I am making the best of it and I must say although exhausting it is lovely to spend so much time with our grandson. Stay safe everyone. x

dear diary :: a week of celebrations

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A week of celebrations together with childcare for 3 days and I am cream crackered.

I am not sure if this lockdown makes things easier or harder as far as celebrations are concerned. With my mum being 95 on Tuesday this week and little Freddie just two on Wednesday I had to do something to mark the occasion for each of them, (and from a distance in the case of my mum) and in neither case, because of lockdown, would it be a big party. Sometimes a big party is easier.

As I wouldn’t be seeing my mum (who lives in North Yorkshire) I had a posy of flowers delivered to her from a florist in Thirsk (one that my daughter had used at Christmas and recommended) and I would also recommend them as they couldn’t have been more helpful. This is the link for anyone nearby alina-florist.

I couldn’t have them delivered direct to mum as I wasn’t sure they would get in the apartment building and if they did I wasn’t sure mum would get to her door. So I had them delivered to my sister’s the day before as she was going to be with mum on her birthday and she had arranged that a local deli would provide them with a take away afternoon tea.

The flowers were beautiful.

The afternoon tea I am told was delicious – and it certainly looks it – and my sister had taken the time to get mum’s best Royal Albert china out with the tiered cake stand and matching teapot – there is nothing better than a little pink loveliness on these occasions. Mum got loads of cards and had a really nice day even though it was just the two of them. We did a Zoom ‘party’ for her last Sunday so she could see the family all together.

For little Freddie it was up to DH and I to make a little birthday tea, complete with dinosaur birthday cake and games, as his birthday fell on one of our childcare days. It was not easy trying to put the roll out icing on the cake whilst looking after him -I found it rather difficult to get rid of the folds around the bottom and there was no time for any undue faffing. To add to the difficulties the strips of grass DH had made had become rather brittle overnight and broke into pieces.

I loved the little dinosaurs that DH had made using the cutters I had sent for on the internet from http://www.cake-stuff.com and choosing the neon colour mix of ready roll over the usual primary was the right choice. Little Freddie was delighted with the finished cake and that is all that matters. I am not even sure why I am showing you a picture of yet another cake disaster!

I also finished the jumper – just in time for him to get a little wear out of it. Sewing it together did get easier as I got into the swing of it and no doubt by the time I finish another jumper I will be much more proficient.

The weather has been so wet, windy and cold there was no chance of getting outside – the best we managed was the shopping on Monday night. To amuse little Freddie during these long days, limited to indoors, we set up a tub of water to play in – he loved it but could not have been any wetter afterwards had we stood him outside in the torrential rain!

So childcare is over for this week and now it is my time for four whole days to myself. I have necessary and urgent paperwork and banking to do and should I find we have some money in our account I will be very surprised. January is the month for my car tax and insurance, MOT and servicing – yes January is all about the car – never buy a car at this time of year or you are stuck with the bills in January for ever after.

After paperwork must come a few household chores, definitely the oven and perhaps the shower – neither are my favourite jobs, I find both require the skills of a contortionist to get into the nooks and crannies – though I can’t complain as much now I have the high level oven…can I?

And when all that is done I must get back to doing some of the half started craft projects – in fact I might even tackle the projects before the chores.

Have a good weekend everyone. x

seasons :: in the depth of winter

There can be no doubt that we are well into the middle of winter now; dark nights, even darker mornings, icy cold fingers, heavy falls of pristine white snow, roaring fires, woollen blankets, hot water bottles, piping hot mugs of cocoa or ginger tea laced with honey and the remains of the Christmas cake – I love it all.

Well maybe not the dark mornings.

Even though I always think of January and February as hibernation time this year I do feel we have had weeks of hibernation already with the restrictions we have been under in our area since………………..well I can’t even remember now but it has been a long time.

So walking has become the new norm for us each day for our allotted hour of exercise; a brisk walk down to the village and back if the weather is very cold, sometimes with little Freddie wrapped up snuggly in his pushchair and sometimes on our own. This week we woke up to even more snow and it was truly a walk in a winter wonderland with a wealth of delightful sights to capture…… and even our sprawling village with rows of soot blackened terraced houses looks rather pretty in the snow.

And of course our back garden has just as many interesting corners here and there. The sunlight sweeping across the snow on Friday was so beautiful……….and beneath this snowy carpet are little signs that the snowdrops are emerging…….

…and I know I am a little crazy but who doesn’t want to hang out the sheets and pillowcases in the sunshine, even with all the snow around. I love the way the sheets freeze into stiff boards but thaw out again as soon as I bring them inside to iron and I just adore that fresh outdoor smell – nothing beats it.

The snow was so deep on Thursday childcare had to be abandoned and little Freddie had to stay home with mum and dad. We missed him. Instead we spent a leisurely day keeping warm and just pottering; a little light pottering after a few energetic days with a two year old was very welcome.

I had managed to clear the Christmas decorations away last weekend and they are all back in their boxes in the loft (nothing much was decluttered so I had to find a little more space for the one or two new bits I had bought) – the Christmas tree is back in the greenhouse for a while until the worst of this cold spell is over and we can repot it in some decent compost.

On my January task list I wrote ‘ make bird feeders’.

I had saved an article from my mum’s Woman’s Weekly magazine with a recipe to make your own using half coconut shells and a pack of lard. I had bought the lard before Christmas as it is not something I normally use being vegetarian and during last year I saved the coconut shells from the ready made feeders I bought in Sainsbury’s to feed the birds during the winter months and they were far too nice to throw away. So I had a go – the recipe was easy – just melt the fat and pour onto a mix of different bird foods – grated cheese, raisins, chopped peanuts and wild bird seeds. Then leave to set……

….hang out and wait.

In and amongst the childcare I have been busy making little thank you cards with the last of the pressed flowers to deliver or post to my friends on our walks – I like to write a personal thank you for any Christmas presents I receive and I did have some rather nice ones this year from my friends – a little bird must have mentioned to them that I have a new greenhouse.

This handmade seed tray and tamper was one of my favourites together with this tin of string by Emma Bridgewater. My friends know me so well.

There has been a great deal of tea drinking going on this week – I always start the day with a cup of ginger tea and Manuka honey with a slice of orange or lemon – whatever is to hand – and my afternoon cup of tea is not quite the same without a slice of cake.

Soon the Christmas cake will be finished – which is really no bad thing as I intend to restore our more healthy diet soon but that will have to wait until after the birthday cake I am making is eaten up too.

I have quite a few birthdays this month none more important than my mum’s (she is 95 this year) and little Freddie who will be two. I made and froze the sponges yesterday afternoon and bought some cute dinosaur cutters on the internet and a pack of multi coloured neon roll out icing to make a cake for Freddie, (maybe mum would like a dinosaur cake too but she is getting a posy of flowers delivered….I hope).

Looking after Freddie has meant early mornings – he arrives at 8am – so that has meant earlier bedtimes for us the night before but this has given me a chance to begin reading one or two of the new books I received for Christmas as well as one or two old favourites – and the new issue of Country Living magazine dropped onto the mat the other day – that always makes it a good day.

Presently, I am struggling with sewing up the jumper I knitted way back for Little Freddie for his birthday (in fact I should be doing it now and not get distracted blogging). It was going to be a Christmas present but guess what – I ran out of time to finish it. Thank goodness for You Tube is all I can say and although my efforts are not brilliant it has been a satisfying project and I will probably attempt to knit something else especially as there is very little else we can do during lockdown. But I do enjoy making things and I have a few balls of wool waiting for me in my craft drawer and a piece of pretty soft corduroy fabric to make something for the girls, Little L and Sweetie.

I have so many plans to finish a lot of the half started projects and I need to overhaul our finances and soon it will be time for the big spring clean – the house is beginning to feel a little grubby and jaded in places but maybe that is because of the contrast to the spanking new kitchen…………….but before that can happen I need to do a little decluttering and this might even extend to throwing out more old papers in the files. I don’t know about you but I find maintaining a balance of keeping what we need and what we might need is pretty hard. Once or twice I have regretted giving something away or shredding a document.

I strive to make everything we keep in our house useful and used. The clutter always builds up again quickly if you take your eye off the ball for any length of time – I am positive it breeds – it certainly does in dark corners or hidden away at the back of drawers and any flat surface. I have this idea that I need to go through the house and make every area organised, sparkling clean and well presented.

Once the birthdays are out of the way this week I will endeavour to blog about the new kitchen and show you some before and after photos. We have Eddie the kitchen fitter coming on Tuesday to replace a cupboard door that hides the fridge as a tiny piece of the coating had chipped off during the first few days of use and the manufacturer though it might have been a defective one.

DH has got a bad back at the moment so that lets him off starting to prepare the laundry room beyond the kitchen for painting and the new flooring. It won’t however get him out of the Zoom call we are having with the family and my mum to wish her a happy 95th birthday.

Well I think that is all for this week – I do hope everyone is well and managing to overcome this doom and gloom. Everything is now hinging on the vaccine – I hope nothing goes wrong.

Have a good week everyone. xx

dear diary :: a new year, a new word

It came to me in an instant – ‘consistency‘ is what I need right now in my life….a simple rhythm to my life, a little bit of routine and normality……a little more ebb and flow.

Reliable, unchanging, expected – consistency is all the things that the Covid virus is not. It may seem very boring and humdrum to some but a little consistency is what I yearn for at the moment; I need to know I will wake up in the morning and the day will be rather more structured than it has been of late and at a pace I can cope with – it will not be quite so messy and unpredictable as it has been since the end of the first lockdown.

So last Sunday night it was settled and committed to paper…...

‘Consistency’ would be my new focus word for 2021.

Well that was the plan on Sunday night – I would get my life back into some kind of routine so that I could do all the things that I had abandoned over the past few weeks such as meal planning, a daily walk, a little crafting, even some cleaning and housework and more than ever I felt so ready to get blogging once again ……but oh dear by Monday night, only 24 hours later, my life and my plans had changed in an instant once again – this time all it took was a telephone call from one of our daughters after the Boris briefing on TV.

Somehow we volunteered ourselves into taking on the childcare of little Freddie, who will be two in a few days time, for 3 full days a week rather than him going to nursery (and when I say full days that is what I mean 8am to almost 6pm). Long days indeed to entertain a little one but I am looking forward to spending more time with him after not being able to see him for months.

Our decision was made after the sudden change of mind by the government over primary and secondary schools and hearing the thoughts of a GP friend who sits on the primary care trust board for the region. He was alarmed at the figures he saw for the rate of spread and said he would not be sending his children to school or nursery even if Boris didn’t close them.

Like the hesitancy with the primary schools we felt that nursery schools might be kept open only to be closed a few days later and by this time, like some of the primary school children, they would have been and mixed with one another. So we are being cautious for now and just waiting to see if the nurseries might close as they have in Scotland. If they don’t and the infection figures begin to decline we will revise our decision.

All this means that I will have a lot less time for me to put all my new plans in place and probably less time for blogging – but I will do what I can when I can.

So early on Tuesday morning we woke, not only to snow, but to little Freddie on the doorstep complete with high chair, changing bag and a large box of toys! I only hope we have the stamina to last the course!

Even with little Freddie helping I did manage to make a birthday card for a friend and deliver it and we have had a lovely, if not brisk, walk each day with Freddie in the snow.

I have a large stock of these blank concertina cards in my craft room which I want to use up; so together with a selection of pressed flowers from the ones I pressed during the summer I attempted an idea for a little card I called ‘Nature Notes‘.

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Instead of a fresh bunch of flowers I gave her this little laser cut wooden snowdrop I bought from an artisan craft stall in John Lewis a while ago. The package was perfect to push through her letterbox as they are sheilding again. She emailed me later to say how delighted she was with her gift and card – she does some beautiful crafts herself so always appreciates my handmade creations concoctions!

Apart from childcare and walking nothing much else got done here during the week and anything we do need to do will be done on our four days off (Friday to Monday). DH has been back on soup management with a lovely batch of tomato and leek and potato and I have been planning menus again – simple menus for the moment but it is a start. It is a pleasure to cook in our new kitchen – if not a learning curve with a new induction hob, double oven and dishwasher to master. I will do a post on the new kitchen soon – I need to find some before pictures so you can see the difference.

I will leave you with some pictures from our walk yesterday up towards the moors above our village. The views up there are stunning and being surrounded by nature makes the world feel quite perfect and untouched by the virus.

A lovely surprise to find some tiny catkins starting to grow on the trees.

Before I go I would like to say a very special thank you to all my blogging friends for the lovely comments welcoming me back to blogland – I am touched – and I was so pleased to hear everyone is fine and coping in their own way and that you all managed a relatively good Christmas despite the strange times.

So my mission this week is to work out a way, and goodness knows I keep trying, to weave our commitments and busy life into a more calm and balanced life.

Possible or not – I don’t know?

dear diary :: welcome to the new year

A very Happy New Year to everyone.

A new year and a new start for me – I have been away from my little space here for far too long – habits can soon take over, even ones you don’t particularly want, and I found that finding the time to blog became harder and harder. I have tried to keep up with reading my favourite blogs but only as a commentless reader. I hope once I get back into the rhythm that you will be hearing from me a lot more. I have certainly missed you all and hope you are all in good health.

I couldn’t even tell you where all the time has gone since I was last here in July – it has just evaporated; but I can say I have been busier than ever, despite the Covid restrictions.

As I write this now it is the first day that I have nothing, nothing I must attend to and I can truly relax and not feel there is something I have to do or someone I have to call and best of all it is snowing outside and looks absolutely beautiful.

And yes that is my new greenhouse you can see in the garden – the best Christmas present ever.

Just after my last post in July we managed a trip to Scotland to the cottage – the maintenance jobs and problems awaiting us because we had not been allowed to travel was extensive and upsetting and in the end we had to stay on a few extra days to sort out all the problems. What a good job we drained down the caravan when we left as little did we know then it would be our last visit of the year.

Since our return in August we had many trips to see my mum when my sister needed some respite and restrictions allowed and soon mum will be celebrating her 95th birthday though we do not know what we will be able to do and have nothing planned – we know a party will not be possible other than on Zoom.

Most of September and October was taken up with installing the new kitchen….yes the new kitchen….I know I can’t believe it either but it is, as I had hoped, absolutely wonderful even allowing for the fact I am still getting to grips with the new hob and oven and we have not even tried the dishwasher yet. I will no doubt be overloading you with pictures of the transformation soon.

Back in November my daughter helped to decorate the railings outside Little L’s school with these poppies made from plastic bottle bottoms that she and some of the school children collected and painted.

They were so effective and equally as striking as the cute little display in her village.

We also celebrated a very special birthday for two year old Sweetie – no party as such just granny and grandad and a chocolate caterpillar cake.

In the run up to Christmas we managed to do all of the Christmassy things but in a simple and quieter fashion this year. Didn’t it look so wonderfully festive everywhere when the decorations went up? Most villages and towns had an abundance of lights this year – it was such a cheery and welcome sight and it will seem quite drab when they all come down again.

I made and iced the cake and Little L carefully placed all the decorations on it.

Delightful. I love the way she wanted them all lined up like soldiers! We finished it off with an old fashioned paper cake frill that I found to go around the sides. Little L also made the truffles which did not last long and were simply delicious.

I turned old Christmas cards from last year into money and voucher envelopes, they looked quite effective mounted onto some black envelopes I had in my craft cupboard with the messages written in a silver coloured pen.

For my own homemade Christmas cards I decided on a simple wreath design and hand painted each one in watercolour paints and then over stamped with a rubber stamp and copper ink.

I always try and make the gifts I give to my closest friends and this year I made up a mini cheese board for each of them with a selection of cheeses, oat cakes and chutney using a paddle board I bought from Ikea and covering the display with a large cellophane roasting bag.

And for other friends that I don’t exchange gifts with I made little posies of flowers.

After all the restrictions placed on us for weeks on end it was a major treat to be able to go to an outdoor lantern event which was well managed and the weather kindly stayed dry.

We also had great fun at our usual family Secret Santa get together – this year though it was through Zoom – playing Bingo and name that Christmas tune amongst other games – with Sean the Sheep of course.

On New Year’s day we had a walk at a local nature reserve. At barely above freezing the ground was hard and each of the puddles had a skim of ice with some quite superb patterns – it was irresistable to crack like popping bubble wrap.

And now I am thinking of the days and months stretching ahead – I am trying not to think that they will be dark days as this virus twists and turns and continues to be such a nuisance in our lives. I want to use the time wisely and I want to carve out a new normal for us – I have a feeling this is going to go on longer than anyone had first thought.

As with most beginnings I am trying to think of a suitable word that will sum up what I am aiming for this year. Flourish was the word I chose last year and in many ways I did – I learnt a lot about myself during the lockdown and we also learnt to do without very much whilst still living well.

I will need a few more ‘thinking’ days before I settle on something, so watch this space.

So I have little more to say at the moment – I am going to have a visit into blogland to see what everyone is up to and say hi.

seasons :: summer sweetens all to me

Six months, half a year……… gone already. I was wondering to myself what I had to show for it. Time is such a puzzle – often passing slowly at a snails pace and then too fast for comfort.

I am wondering too what promises July holds – my birthday mid month – so one of my favourite times of the year; warm weather, picnics, trips to the seaside, country walks – blissfully perfect summer days. Covid will not spoil this month for me and neither will this rather wet and windy spell of weather.

The start to July has been, like most of June, a bit of a wash out and has not felt very summery at all, but I remain hopeful. Our walks have been in the drizzle this last week, but it is good to get outside and breathe the fresh air without a mask. Each time I have picked a few flowers from the hedgerows to press or dry to collect the seeds. I am excited everytime I come across white foxgloves – I am not sure what it is about them, I just love their pure and majestic splendour, especially amongst a group of pink ones…..and I encourage them into the garden.

And how is everyone……getting to grips with the new rules and freedom? We rarely venture out but we did go into town last Monday for non-food essentials – to replenish our low stocks. I need not have worried over our safety as the town was deserted and some shops not even open. Luckily, one of our healthfood shops was up and running but with very low stocks, even now I am not sure if he is just selling his remaining stock to close down – I didn’t ask as maybe he doesn’t know either and maybe his future will depend on customer numbers.

We had WH Smiths to ourselves – I only wanted blotting paper for my flower press BUT I found myself browsing the magazines before I left – it feels like a long time since I have had a browse of anything, but with no-one to disturb me I carried on and could not leave empty handed when I saw a copy of Country Living Vintage Home magazine alone on the shelf. There is a new edition coming out in August too.

Finally I made my way round to the local sewing shop which was a little busier so I didn’t loiter in there for very long – I bought some fabric to finish the patchwork quilt but I am now having second thoughts about the colours and may use it to make little Sweetie a dress instead. I have this idea (always dangerous in my case) to make a summer dress with a floral cotton skirt and a knitted cotton bodice – I would say a crotched bodice but I don’t crotchet. If any reader knows of a pattern for a toddler that has a knitted bodice and fabric skirt I would be delighted if you could send me a link.

I managed to get the interfacing to make my new tablemats (did I not mention these before?). How could I resist this tea towel fabric with the colourful vegetables – the reverse will be plain white with one or two of the vegetables embroidered onto one corner. I have taken a tracing and will do a practise piece.

But, like many of my projects, it is a work in progress…….. so more on this later.

The shopping experience in town was better than I expected but I think it will be something that I only do now once in a while.

Little L has been busy too making this birthday card for DH. It has great significance for us as DH is called Grandad Monkey by Little L to distinguish him from her other grandad. DH once jokingly called her a little monkey and she immediately told him she was not a monkey she was a little girl but the term stuck and from being quite little this is how she has always remembered him.

We also saw my mum last weekend; it was lovely to see the smile on her face. We had homemade tomato and red pepper soup for lunch followed by a homemade cheese and tomato quiche, new potatoes and salad and a fresh cream chocolate sponge for dessert. All her favourite foods. We left two large slices of cake in the fridge for later….she was so grateful for our visit, it really cheered her up and we had a lovely chat, not that either of us had done very much to talk about.

The rain has set in this week so washing and gardening have not taken place and instead I have been cleaning and ironing. I always thought it was our busy lives that prevented me from having a cleaning routine but now I know that is not the truth; since lockdown I have had all the time in the world to get myself into a solid routine as far as the cleaning goes, but I now realise I tend to follow the weather and although I do like to clean and tend the house… if it is nice I am generally out in the garden.

The garden has been really neglected this week but I must give it some attention before we go away. Besides being quite windswept it is looking rather sad and sorry; flowers struggling to come out and those that have are wet and soggy. The lawns are waiting to be cut and everywhere we have tiny cherries blown from the tree – sadly, too hard and bitter to eat.

I was inspired by a page I noticed in the Country Living Vintage Home magazine I bought on making seed packets – what better way I thought to use my flower sketches from my sketchbooks.

So with a bit of scanning and printing, and adding lettering onto the pictures I came up with these – they are just prototypes at the moment but you get the idea and I will post about them again when I have made the whole collection.

We are presently waiting in the wings (so to speak) wondering if a trip to Scotland is ever going to materialise. We hear on the news from Nicola that Dumfries and Galloway have a sudden spike in cases around Gretna and Annan, Lockerbie and Dumfries and we canot get to the Mull without passing through these places. Is it OK for us to go we wonder, we are self contained at the cottage but will the locals be worried if we do?

I have become quite lazy over the last few months of lockdown and the thought of packing now feels like an enormous effort. I cannot for the life of me remember what we have stored at the caravan and what I brought home. I have a very handy packing list but this does not tell the whole picture, so it might just be a case of guesswork.

I have already baked an apple cake and two tiny crumbles to take with us and I have nut roast in the freezer. Everything else we will make up there but I will need a menu plan as we intend to take the food with us so we are not invading the local shops; as much as they want the business they do not want the virus and as part of the area is in lockdown we will respect that. If we take everything with us we will be completely self sufficient.

So I have nothing left to say other than my next post will hopefully be from bonnie Scotland. The journey and days at the cottage will be a new and different experience I expect like all the changes we are coping with since Covid took over our lives.

Take care everyone and stay safe. x

dear diary :: cherishing the last of the lazy days

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Goodness me, I don’t know about you but if I have to have one more conversation on the topic of the virus I think I will go mad! No matter who I phone or chat to the conversation always ends up, unintentionally of course, back to the virus – how we are doing, what we are doing, comparing notes and our understanding of the rules…..our lives are now defined by something we cannot even see and it is exhausting going over and over the same discussions.

I will say here in this post that we are all still well, still being cautious and ‘alert’ and that is enough on the subject I shall say no more!

So on to some much more mundane things – during the hot dry spell I had a tidy up in the shed – it always amazes me how much I manage to store in there and how many of the items I use most of the time. It certainly earns its keep. To free up a bit more space inside the shed some of the garden things that won’t hurt to be in the weather outdoors have now been reallocated to new places.

There is a space behind our shed out of sight where we store the bins, both wheelie and composting and the bags of potting compost, empty plantpots, and a stack of white plastic patio chairs for when we have garden parties. The fence between us and our neighbour provides a good vertical storage area as DH hammered in some nails to hang the wire netting cones and the riddle.

It is the same fence to which DH fixed the bracket for my hanging basket in the garden. I am well pleased, especially since the nasturtiums are now flowering at the same time as the foxgloves.

I do like a few strong clashing colours and they brighten up this corner of the garden as you can see in the longer view below.

We had a couple of very pleasant, lazy days sitting in the cool shade of the garden and sketching whilst it was far too hot to do anything else. It has been too long since I had my paintbox out and I am quite rusty. Foxgloves are the trickiest flowers to capture even after many attempts, but they were the only flowers near enough to the seat in the shade to sketch – I will persevere.

Something new is appearing in the garden daily now. The rose that I dug up and moved, because it always suffered from brown spot and never did much where it was, is now in a pot on the patio and is blooming. It has recovered well from it’s heavy prune – I felt I had been a bit brutal at the time but it has thrived with healthy green leaves and is in bud – it looks more like it did when I first bought it many years ago.

The petals of the peony above will have fallen now, swept away by the force of the winds last night. Such extremes of weather we are experiencing at the moment – one minute I am rushing around watering like mad and the next staking and protecting – but there is only so much you can do and then you have to leave the rest to chance.

The tall spires of the sidalcea in the sunny border are almost ready to bloom when we have the next bout of sunshine and will look like a mass of pale pink marshmallow.

For some reason the zinnias that I sowed indoors in April have not taken off yet, they have been quite reluctant to grow at any pace and may well miss the season altogether at this rate.

Whilst the cistus (rock rose) has been tremendous this year with so many continuous flowers appearing each day.

I have waited patiently for these little orange beauties to grow and open – Californian poppies – free Sarah Raven seeds with the May issue of Gardener’s World. I have not been disappointed, the colour is stunning.

Then there is the courgette plant which must like this position so much it has grown to giant proportions and producing flowers that are a full 10″ wide. I am not sure I will be decorating my salads with these – rather using them as the salad bowl maybe!

As we come out of our hibernation I know I will be sorry to leave this slow and leisurely time behind but we have duties to fulfil – a drive up to North Yorkshire to visit to my mum today – just for the afternoon, but it will give my sister a little time off – she must be quite exhausted doing all the caring. We will be travelling light but with a basket laden with all my mum’s favourite foods; a homemade quiche to have for lunch with salad and a few new Jersey Royals, a fresh cream chocolate sponge cake for afters and half a dozen small tins of creamed mushrooms to have on toast for her tea and a further half dozen tins of whole plum tomatoes, items I can get in my local Sainsbury’s that are unavailable where she is and will stock up her store cupboard for a few weeks.

Scotland is opening up too for travel from 3rd July so we will be making plans to go up to the cottage and stay in the caravan on site sometime soon – and I will get to see my beloved garden (or perhaps jungle) at long last. I feel a lot of hard work coming on.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend whatever you may or may not be doing. Stay safe. xx

dear diary :: home grown, home sewn

Hello there – I hope you are all well and still managing to dodge the virus.  The weeks are passing quickly now as we are rolling on into June and the recent warmer weather has been so welcome; though we desperately need rain – a good soaking would do my lawns the world of good and today looks like it might be the day as we have quite a gloomy cast to the sky.

We are still well here and following the old lockdown rules….well pretty much, and trying hard to keep our 2 metre distance when we have to go to a supermarket but in my region it seems like lockdown, even this ‘easedown’, is suddenly being ignored by a number of people who are resuming a more full on normal life very quickly – I see children from many different households playing together outside in the cul-de-sac, visitors coming and going to the houses nearby – even my neighbour had a professional family photo shoot last weekend and two visitors appeared on the drive later and disappeared indoors with three very large helium balloons for their son’s birthday.  I have seen cafes open with people sat inside drinking coffee around a very small table and a carpet shop open – and I thought both of these businesses should still be closed.

I am feeling a little bit cross with Boris at the moment – I felt his ten minute speech outlining the easing of lockdown was not complex just rather unclear in delivery; even his own ministers gave a different version each time when questioned afterwards for further clarification.  The initial three word advice of ‘Stay at home’ was very clear – replacing this with a 50 page document that resembles the Highway Code (that one tried desparately to memorise before a driving test) is not quite the same.

So in his own defence Boris has to resort to telling people to just use good old fashioned British common sense – something that I think is quite open to many different interpretations. Does he mean the same common sense he has shown during this pandemic when he carried on shaking hands, long after it had been deemed unsafe, or like the times he appeared in the earlier briefings almost shoulder to shoulder with Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance as they talked about the 2 metre distancing rule and then all three of them caught the virus, or forgetting to include care homes as being a potential risk and dropping the idea of testing, or even like his own father who totally ignored his advice to the public not to go to the pub for a drink – do you mean this kind of British common sense Boris – well, there is little hope for us then?

But enough about this dreary topic – I write to record and remember for myself and some topics are just worthy of an airing from time to time but there is enough to hear on the news each day without me ranting on and at the end of the day everyone will choose their own way through this with common sense in place or not. So lets move on quickly to life here at home.

So far it is good and as you can imagine I have spent most of my time in the garden – this lovely warm spell has given the seedlings a growth spurt but I am still reluctant to plant out yet as I have not had the opportunity to completely harden them off while the temperature continues to drop overnight almost to frost point, and now we have this raging wind sweeping down off the moors above us and just as the garden is beginning to look quite delightful in places too.

I must make a note to self to plant more alliums come September – I just love the way their heads bob around in quite a disorderly fashion above the other plants in the borders.

We managed to find a few pieces of wood so that DH could fix another shelf to the underneath part of this old galvanised steel seed tray bench which has become my potting bench. Having an extra shelf will allow me to keep pots and bits and pieces to hand and will no doubt be a good place to put the trays of plants to harden off overnight….when that time comes.

I have also been repurposing and recycling – not in a big way but it has helped me to use up a few odds and ends that I might otherwise not have had a use for and I have spent a few enjoyable days in my workroom creating new out of old.

I like the idea of altering and reusing a card and giving it a longer and new lease of life – some cards are just too nice to throw away and I have a box full of old card fronts so I made a couple of special cards for two dear friends of mine using cut down pieces of old cards that had once been sent to me, and a third to use up some decorative papers and embellishments from my craft collection with a few punched out mini butterflies using the punch given to me by the friend who I have made the card for.  

I have a stock of blank tri-fold concertina cards that I bought so long ago I cannot even remember why I bought them – but they do make rather nice birthday cards and I was able to find a relevant birthday verse on the internet to paste inside.

Although I quite enjoyed the cutting and pasting they are not my usual style of card making – though my friends seem to like them – but I much prefer to originate my own work and the beginnings of these cards below are much more satisfying to make, but as yet the idea is very much a work in progress. Here I am using some of the flowers I pressed a while ago and mounting them onto the blank concertina cards to form some kind of nature notes card.

To continue with this I am waiting now for a new batch of flowers in the press, I have been snipping away in the garden…..forget-me-nots, buttercups and more daisies and collecting anything that catches my eye like some tiny maple keys in the supermarket car park.

The repurposing has not stopped at card making.  I discovered a length of fabric that I bought many years ago to make a bench cushion in a drawer in the loft whilst checking to see if I had anything suitable to make masks out of.  The woven upholstery weight blue check cotton fabric matched the little blue painted bench that we had back then.  Sadly the bench fell apart from old age a couple of years ago and the cushion never got made. 

We have a new metal bench now on the patio with a mesh seat that definitely needs a rug or cushion for comfort so yesterday I cut out the cushion pieces and made a filling from an old cot duvet I had put aside to take to a textile bank.  It is perfect – I folded the wadding over into 4 layers and recovered it with the Vilene covering to stuff the cushion. 

I decided to hold the wadding in place by doing some mock tufting – I didn’t want to put buttons on as sitting on them might be uncomfortable so I just used some heavy weight sewing cotton to draw both sides of the cushion together at the intersection of each of the large checks on the fabric, I also inserted two ties at one end of the cushion so it can be rolled up when not in use and tied in place for storage. It is not quite complete yet – a little more tufting to do but it does feel quite uplifting to get some of these projects finished and the repurposing means I have a new item at little cost and will no doubt last for a long time to come – probably longer than the bench!

Even in these slow living times I cannot believe how quickly the weeks go by and housework has taken a back seat here lately – I haven’t felt much in the mood during the hot weather and a quick tidy round and a hoover has kept things ticking over nicely. 

Adding a few fresh flowers instantly brightens the place up and hopefuly detracts from seeing any dust! I love the way the colour of these tulips I bought last week blend in perfectly with the colour palette of this picture, an oil painting by the Scottish atrist Hazel Campbell…it was quite accidental but rather a nice accident.

Whilst we have been staying at home I have developed more of a routine and one that allows me to distinguish between week and weekend in these lockdown days that just roll on in quite a monotonous way.   I have been washing on a Monday and Tuesday and avoiding the weekends; I quite like keeping the weekends a bit more special and not cleaning or washing; eating a ‘proper’ Sunday dinner (even a vegetarian version) also helps to keep the weekend a little more defined.

So although I am often to be found in the kitchen when I am not in the garden or workroom you would notice that I am cooking and baking rather than cleaning.  

I picked out a few untried recipes from my folder, one of which was a new nut roast recipe that I wanted to make – just for a change.  This one contains chopped tomatoes from a packet or tin, so has quite a loose open texture and goes well as a substitute for a Sunday roast with the usual veg and gravy or cold with salad.  The recipe made a full 2lb loaf tin so half of it was cut up into slices to put in the freezer for later.

We had the first slice with roast parsnips, cabbage, cooked apple and a Yorkshire….smothered in gravy.

We have a birthday tomorrow on Bank Holiday Monday – it is DH’s but I won’t disclose which year – I will just say in the later part of the sixties, but thankfully not yet seventy – I only say thankfully as the years are galloping away now and feels like there is still so much we want to do and see in so little time.

To cheer him up I will make a cake and maybe we will go out in the car for a run, not to a popular beauty spot….just somewhere off the beaten track with a flask of hot chocolate and some cake and maybe take our sketchbooks. And then no doubt there will be a Zoom get together with some of the family.

Stay safe everyone and a warm welcome to more readers and followers….and apologies for anyone who has noticed my lack of comments recently on my favourite blogs – I am still reading along as time allows. x