dear diary :: roamin in the gloamin once again…

Just dropping by again to say hello from bonnie Scotland.

It has been a while but one daughter is now moved and settling in well and all the empty boxes have been passed onto to someone else – boxes are so hard to come by these days. Everything went to plan on the day and I was assigned the job of cupboard cleaner and organiser in the kitchen so now of course my daughter cannot find anything and when I go next time I probably won’t find anything either as she will have rearranged everything to suit her. Still the main thing was that all the boxes, but for a few craft items and nick nacks, were emptied and put away by the time we left.

We are now in Scotland once again with a to do list as long as a toilet roll. The woodland walk is in full bloom with pretty white sweet woodruff, pink dicentras and the elegant Solomon’s seal.

The pond is full of rotting leaves as we couldn’t clean it out last year because of the restrictions on our visits or put the pond net over last September to catch the autumn leaf fall. Thankfully, with little rain it is quite dry so will be easier to scoop out and clean then refill with fresh water though it is not a pleasant job and not one I look forward to. The primulas have multiplied and look stunning, I do need to plant some more of the deep orange coloured primulas though as they appear to have gone.

We have plenty of thick moss to scrape off all the paths and then we will spray some cleaner onto them to remove any residual bits. The cows have been watching our every move with curiosity all week.

After a mornings work we stopped for light refreshments! These small assorted danish pastries courtesy of Tesco are one of my treats when we come up here. There are five in a box so we always share the jam centred ones.

In the afternoon we visited Castle Kennedy gardens. (Jayne at The View from Bag End has more lovely pictures here from her recent visit to the area.) We always manage to fit in a visit when we come up and I really missed not being able to go during last year so it was lovely to see that it is open for visitors once again.

This is a very special place for us as DH’s grandfather was head gardener here from the late 20’s up to sometime in the 60’s when he retired. His granny and grandad lived in the head gardener’s cottage on the hill by the little bridge that takes you into the car park. DH stayed here for a while when he was younger with his mum and dad when they moved back from Ireland and he tramped daily around the estate trying to keep up with his grandad.

Because of our connection to the place we held our elder daughter’s wedding here in 2016 and had a marquee by the old ruined castle that sits next to the walled garden and the cute little wooden tea room.

The wedding was in July so the walled garden was at its best.

And the marquee took in the spectacular views across the estate and of course all our guests could relax and roam around the grounds during the afternoon.

And when it went dark in the evening it was quite magical.

Of course her wedding day would not have been complete without having the old tea room part of this big day. It has over the years had many coats of paint and also had the floor levelled so the tables no longer have blocks of wood beneath the legs to even them up. Today it has even had the addition of a disabled ramp.

The guests all enjoyed the afternoon tea provided on the picnic tables.

Everything was homemade and done on a tight budget – I made all the invitations, confetti, table flowers and favours….

…spent hours making yards and yards of bunting and a few hours decorating the marquee and putting up cheap white paper lanterns from a very wobbly ladder.

So it was lovely to wander around in the same warm sunshine that we had enjoyed that day with our memories and see that thankfully the place remains quite unchanged. We had gone specially to see the magnificent collection of rhododendrons that are in bloom at this time of year – they are renowned all over the world and they did not disappoint. They were stunning.

Many of them were planted by DH’s grandfather who also propogated many of the hybrids on the estate such as ‘Lord Stair’ and one named after himself RW Rye. He was awarded an RHS gold medal for them and of course we have his rhododendron in both our gardens. He is also credited as the person who propogated the pale lavender buddleia named ‘Loch Inch’ which many people will have in their gardens.

The round lily pond which is 1/4 of a mile across is another feature which is absolutely glorious.

The ‘newer castle’ built around 1860 is where Lord and Lady Stair reside and is situated between the two locks (the Black Loch – Loch Crindil and the White Loch- Loch Inch) and has magnificent views across the landscape.

We spent the afternoon sketching in the sunshine before treating ourselves to tea and scones – it was so nice to do something quite creative for once though I need a lot of practise I am decidedly rusty, especially the watercolour which is spectacularly bad – but at least I made a start – it takes time to get back into it.

We decided that today would be a ‘rest’ day and we are walking to the village and up the steep hill out towards the Mull to see one of the Open Gardens at a cottage that adjoins one we nearly put in an offer for, but we bought our cottage instead so it will be interesting to see what they have made of the garden.

The weather has been so hot here everything is beginning to look parched and dry and many of the flowers are soon over. Even the foxgloves have bent over heads from a lack of water. Our garden ranges from peaty and waterlogged to dry sandy dust and my style of gardening is just to let the self seeders find their own home where they are happiest.

So that is all my news so far which just leaves me to say a warm welcome to all my new followers and sorry for the lack of posts – life just gets incredibly busy and my energy levels incredibly diminished – but I hope everyone reading is enjoying the good weather, though personally I could easily tolerate it much cooler but at least the sea breeze helps to cool me down. I have had to garden all week wherever there is shade so I have been constantly moving around and consequently no one patch or task is fully complete. We have also spent some time over a concerning problem that has arisen because the new owner of the caravan site next door wants to put a locked gate at the top of our lane over which we have a right of access to our cottage. This would be very restrictive for anyone coming to the cottage if we had to hand out keys to everyone who has to have access, especially when we start to have contractors on site again to renovate the cottage.

Nothing ever stays the same for long these days and it is so easy to get swept up by other people’s agendas – I am feeling pretty upset by it all especially as it has been such a difficult time with the flood and then the Covid restrictions.

But tomorrow is another day as they say!

Back soon x

meandering :: down by the harbour

It was bitterly cold on Thursday with a capital B. We poked our heads out of the caravan door and quickly retreated back inside. We could see snow on the distant hills and the civil engineer confirmed that he had driven through snow in Dumfries on his way to us. It was a quick meeting with him – too cold to stand outside for long discussing the burn banking and what we might do to stop further erosion. We talked quickly and once he had gone I did a quick turn around the garden to see if there was any part of it sheltered from the howling wind passing through…. but it seemed to be circulating all around the cottage from every direction and so it was declared a definite no gardening day. 

So instead we gave in and went out.  At least it was toastie warm in the car. We packed a flask of soup and bread roll and decided to drive around the bay to the Machars across the water from us. 

We took the scenic coast road round to Stairhaven and ate our lunch in the picnic area looking out across the sea.  The place was deserted and peaceful. Wonderful. We then drove on further into Port William.  Anyone who has been there will know it is quite a cold place anyway by the harbour so it didn’t seem quite the time to stop for a stroll.  We drove on through Monreith and Glasserton and at the crossroads chose the windy road down to the Isle of Whithorn and parked by the little harbour. 

I don’t ever remember seeing it without water and the boats bobbing up and down but yesterday the tide was well out and all the boats quite still like they were sleeping. It felt warm sitting in the sun so we braved the elements and went for a stroll around the village.  The wind had dropped a little by now so it seemed a shame to have come so far and not to have a walk around. There were plenty of bright little planters dotted around filled with a wonderful mix of tulips. A good use of an old boat. I have shown pictures of this village before but I can never capture too many photos here and of course the light is always different. For anyone wanting to see more pictures of the Isle of Whithorn click here.

The cute little Tower House.

We decided against a walk to St Ninian’s Cave this time – much better on a warm day.

There has been a big problem in the area with overnighters sleeping in laybys and everywhere you go there are signs saying no overnight parking. Many of the grassy parking areas don’t have any facilities or they have been closed due to lockdown and the virus so people without their own facilities on board have been resorting to using bottles and crisp bags…..I won’t go into detail……but many volunteers have spent an afternoon clearing up this mess and picking up a mountain of rubbish.

We noticed many of the houses around the harbour have changed hands since we last came and have been spruced up a bit by their new owners; a lick of paint, a house name sign and a pot of bay or olive trees on the doorstep seemed to be the norm. I much prefer the properties to be done up sympathetically and not over done or as I would say ‘done in’ or done to death. The character of the village would disappear if it becomes too gentrifeid by comers in with too much money. Many of the wee country cottages are now being extended and turned into monstrosity mansions and look quite out of place in the countryside.

I do like a bit of dilapidated and shabby though (even without the chic) – it has a kind of charm.

And my favourite picture of all – I do so want to make some little red gingham curtains for this tiny boat and take it home with me.

Well I hope you enjoyed the tour – today was a much better temperature – good gardening weather and I have pictures of the garden (when I remember to take them) to show next time – those wonderful before and after – and in some cases just the after when I forget the before!

Back soon x

dear diary :: on a brighter note

Thank you for all the comments yesterday – I really value your support and comments. I know most people probably have some family issues from time to time without actually being a dysfunctional family. As a family we have always stuck together and we will get through this. I know that mum is a very unhappy person at the moment and lashing out at everyone but I am surprised that this now includes my sister as she has always been her favourite; she is eleven years younger than me and the baby of the family so she was left at home with mum and dad from being six years old when my brother and I left for Art College. They have always been so close, worn the same style clothes and at one time had similar tastes in furniture and spent a lot of their time together including holidays so it is sad to hear how she is starting to complain so much about her.

On Sunday we will go up to North Yorkshire to see her for the day and give my sister the Sunday off. I usually take a homemade Quiche, a trifle and a chocolate cake (all mum’s favourites) and of course some Sainsbury’s shopping – unlike my sister I do go to Sainsbury’s so it really won’t be any trouble. I am hoping my visit will cheer her up and have a lasting effect for a while. I might even take my box of photos so she can sit and reminisce for a while of the ‘good old days’ and I will politely listen as if I have never heard the stories before (even though it will be the umpteenth time I have been told them!).

The washer comes today and DH failed to get the new flooring down in the utility – there was no hope really once the leaks had to be dealt with but at least we have made a start on stripping the walls.

We decided not to change the units in here, even though we have had them for years, probably 30 years, but they are plain grey so back in fashion and go quite well with our new cabinets in the kitchen. They consist of a double wall cupboard and one of those slim line pull out larder cupboards with wire shelving. A good clean down and some new handles and I think they will be fine. I bought the wallpaper a few years ago now and I got it out the other day to see if I still liked it….and yes I do. There is only one wall papered the rest are painted so I only got two rolls as it was £20 a roll so I hope the pattern repeat is not too wasteful.

We had a long walk with Freddie in the afternoon. DH decided to down tools and go with us, but it was mostly in the rain – the cold damp rain.

We walked down the rough old mill road to the site of the dye mill – now demolished – until we could go no further with the pushchair.

We then walked back and along the road which runs parallel to the pleasure grounds but much higher up and it runs above this old terrace of mill houses where we once lived. I loved my old house it had four stories and some beautiful old features. By the time we sold we had lived there for 8 years and had done quite a bit of renovating. The modern estate house we are in now was only a stop gap for 3 years until we found our dream home. That was 36 years ago and we never did move to our dream home – instead once the girls had left home we bought the ‘retirement’ cottage in Scotland and began our 10 years of renovations before the flood took all that away.

We continued a little way down this road having a good nosy over the railings to see what our old neighbours had been doing to their houses – a lick of paint, some new windows but it is more or less the same as when we lived there. Eventually we cut off along a disused driveway and came across another snicket running through a more recent estate that took us back to the village. By the time we reached home the rain was quite heavy and our coats rather soaked.

Today is our recovery day after the childcare and I have lots to do on the list – chase up John Lewis again for one who have so far failed to send the ‘care package’ they promised last Friday. I also need to make the food to take up to mum’s for lunch and plant the pots of bulbs if they have not died of thirst in the greenhouse. Then I must try and tidy up this chaos around me, all I did last night was tidy the toys away and make our evening meal before collapsing in a heap.

I did pop my head around the door of the spare room that has become a temporary store for the laundry heap, pending the new washer. It had not self destructed – or washed itself – this new washer had better be good it has a lot of work to do.

Hope you have a good weekend everyone.

dear diary :: the ups and downs of caring

Some hard playing today – both Master Freddie and I are worn out! He has gone home now and after we have had our tea and I have rung my mum I will be unwinding and then an early night. It was a bit of a rush this morning trying to get showered and my hair dried and styled (if you can call it that as it has now grown out of all recognition of a hairstyle) before Master Freddie appeared.

We love watching Toddler Club together but all that singing, twirling, bopping and jumping around does tell on me, but he always likes me to join in and do the actions with him. At least the music covers all the creaking I make!

And who doesn’t love Hey Duggie – it is far too good for just children to watch – it reminds me of the Magic Roundabout that we all watched as a family just before the news and a lot of the humour in that was perhaps aimed at adults.

The utility room progresses…..s l o w l y……but is at least progressing. I have my doubts that DH can get the floor down now in time but it will be what it will be and at least the new washer will be plumbed into new pipework that doesn’t leak.

We had our usual walk today – Master Freddie loves to post a letter in the big red box outside the post office in the village so today we made a card using some of my stamps and inks for his mummy and daddy. It was a master piece (sorry forgot to take a picture) and then put it into an envelope and put it in the post. They will get a nice surprise in a day or two – and maybe Freddie will when it arrives and he recognises it as the one he posted. Of course both Freddie and granny had more ink on them than the card – but it was fun.

We saw the ducks in the tiny garden of one of the houses, counted the dongs on the church clock when it struck two…..

….and found little pockets of daffodils – even in some gloomy corners.

Despite the tiredness looking after Master Freddie is such a joy although not much housework is getting done here – a quick run round with the vacuum cleaner (does anyone else refer to it as the hoover?) to remove the Play-doh bits from the carpet (thanks for the warning Mary – no lasting damage thank goodness) and that was it – everything else will have to wait until the weekend…..well Saturday as we are planning on going up to see my mum on Sunday to give my sister a day off.

Caring for my mum is not proving to be the same kind of joy especially for my sister who lives near to her and sees her on the days the carers don’t go in. We have just had our Covid test which was negative so we like to go when we know we are at our safest and not likely to take anything in to her flat. My sister is struggling and there is little I can do to help ease the burden for her at the moment. Mum is very down with her situation – not just the virus and the lockdown but more because she cannot do anything by herself anymore and is reliant on others and they never do anything in the way she wants it doing. She has got into the habit of sitting all day and this is actually not helping her hip or shoulder as the lack of movement, the consultant told her, is costing her muscle tone and exacerbating the problem. She is not able to look after herself properly but would hate to go into a home and in any case would make the carer’s lives and ours a misery with complaints. At the moment she has a carer going in on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 4pm and they can never do anything right and one or two have had their rotas changed so they can have a break from her. Many of the other residents just avoid her now wheras at one time would pop in. She is definitely becoming more negative as time goes on and doesn’t have a good word to say about anyone at the moment, not even my sister.

Last week she refused to eatany of the shopping my sister had taken her because she had bought it from Tesco and not Sainsbury’s. Apparently she cannot eat Tesco’s food and the corned beef wasn’t very nice even though she had not even opened it, she could tell it wasn’t very nice just looking at it. She is even convinced that Heinz tomato soup does not taste the same from Tesco – it is inferior to Sainsbury’s so she won’t eat that either. So guess who will be going to Sainsbury’s on Saturday to pick up some food for her. Should I be indulging her? Sister quite rightly is often in tears.

Mum has always been one of life’s complainers – but she is my mum and I want to do the best for her and so does my sister but she is not making it easy to care and look after her.

Life, I think, is about to get much more difficult.

dear diary :: progress (maybe)

There may be progress but I am not sure – DH continued in the utility room today – for one of the smallest rooms in our house we are experiencing far too many problems. The hot water pipe was disconnected and a new piece of that white plastic stand pipe purchased ( the one at the back of the machine that you hook the rubber hose into for the water to drain away) as it needed to be a few centimetres taller for this new washer (wouldn’t you just know it). DH came out of Wickes yesterday with the wrong circumference size in error and luckily I spotted it as he was loading it into the car so he had to return it only to find the 40cm he needed was out of stock. Back to B&Q.

When he was replacing the pipe into the ‘U’ bend trap or whatever it is (see how technical I am here) it did not fit and he realised the old pipe had at sometime been modified and rammed in – but not very well. So back again to town this morning to get a new trap thingy. That is all in place now and the wallpaper steamer was rolled out to remove the old wallpaper and paint which has been flaking off with all the moisture in there. The paint came off like a dream in the kitchen and dining room right down to the bare plaster – in the utility it is not budging…..an inch!

The washer comes on Friday and DH has not even started on the flooring yet.

I took Master Freddie out for a walk; down to the village to post a letter and then round the back way, which is a little longer than going straight home, to give DH more time to himself. I didn’t take any photographs today but I do have some from last week’s walk when we went through the pleasure grounds and I snapped a few more snickets and ginnels, so I will show you these.

The pleasure grounds were made for the mill workers and run alongside a stream that once served the old dye mill further up the valley – we used to live over the bridge on the other side. You follow a winding path through a wooded glade along the valley bottom.

Evidence here and there of a little yarn bombing or is it pom-pom bombing?

And many fairies live here…..

As well as some pretty frightening animals.

Eventually you pass the waterfall and come to a small fenced playground at the end which is well used by the little ones. Just a swing, a slide and a rocker but they provide hours of entertainment.

As we leave the pleasure grounds we are in a very old part of the village with some lovely old cottages……

….and the old co-op – established in 1827, it was one of the first co-operative societies and was formed nearly 20 years before the more famous Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers. It is unusual to find Georgian buildings in and around Huddersfield, which is mainly dominated by the heavy Victorian buildings, so this little Georgian terrace is one of my favourites.

And this is what I would call a ginnel – a passage way between a row of terraced houses that leads you round to the back.

This house has an even more unusual ginnel not only leading to the back of the house but also to the downstairs.

We made our way back through the maze of snickets which link this old part of the mill village to the main town and the main road. Pushing a pram up here was quite a workout.

Master Freddie will be here tomorrow – it is playdoh day I think. I am sure he would rather help out with the paint stripping so I have to keep him distracted – playdoh will do just that! I hope.

dear diary :: a bright new day

Thankfully today the rain stopped at about 11 o’clock and we took our chance to get out for a walk with little Freddie. We have been exploring places we haven’t been before around our village; wandering through some of the older housing estates of 60’s semis and rows of Victorian terraces to reach some of the little lanes that run along the valley bottom or take you up and over the hills, but all of them eventually come to a dead end or a narrow track as they hit the moors. We have discovered many a snicket and one today that was suitable for the pushchair, not all of them are – it is amazing what you find. The growing amount of dog dirt on the paths isn’t amazing though and I managed to wheel the pushchair through some…yuck. DH had to disinfect the wheels when we got home as the pushchair has to be carried backwards and forwards in the car.

We got back at midday and immediately organised some lunch – Freddie loves the celery soup that DH makes, it seems to be his favourite. After lunch Freddie had some quiet time with DH, he didn’t actually fall asleep but I think he recharged his batteries (DH too). Meanwhile I washed up, had a turn around the garden in the warm unexpected sunshine (yes I did say sunshine) and then wrote the menus for the week and a shopping list ready for our shopping trip to the supermarket once Freddie had been collected after tea.

Whilst we are doing the childcare I am keeping meals fairly simple and have decided that trying out new recipes will have to wait as just getting any simple meal together when the tiredness sets in is enough at the moment.

But I feel much brighter today and the sunshine certainly helped to lift my spirits – I feel much more in control after a day’s recovery in the peace and quiet yesterday and a bit of a rush around the house with the duster and the vac. DH made a lentil Shepherd’s pie which thankfully covered tonight’s tea as well.

The shopping was expensive tonight as I bought a large box of washing powder, two tubes of toothpaste on offer and a pack of toilet rolls…..and one of those large tubs of Lurpack butter that was still on offer and will join the two I bought last week in the fridge. I buy as many items as I can when they are on offer and my pantry is groaning with certain staple foods like coffee, teabags and cereal.

Thank you for all your comments on the previous post you really do have some good advice and of course I know my own circumstances during these strange times are not in the least unique and that many of you are having a tough time too, if not far worse. And Jayne – yes I know how fortunate I am and I am truly grateful that I can spend so much of my time with little Freddie – I missed him so much during last year when we had periods when we couldn’t see him and I know when the time comes soon for him to return to nursery I will not want to give him up. It has been so hard for everyone not being able to pop round to see family and friends, to celebrate birthdays or just have a cuppa and a natter at someone’s kitchen table. We never realised what a wonderful life we had before until all this happened.

So that was my day – I am going to bed for my recovery sleep now (beauty sleep has long gone in my case). I shall be glad when my consultant can read my blood tests that I had done in January – he is so behind and I feel like my current medication is a bit on the low side and I need some extra Thyroxine which would also help to alleviate some of the tiredness and lack of energy. As I have no thyroid gland I am reliant on having a balanced amount of Thyroxine and enough to supress any recurrence of the cancer cells. I am even too tired to worry about it!

Tomorrow I am hoping for more sunshine so we can get out again and explore a little more. We are having Freddie for longer and so I have requested his pyjamas so that if he falls asleep after his tea he will be all ready for bed when he gets home.

On the washer front I am dithering – I like the look of three – but how do you choose a good washer – what a shame you cannot try before you buy.

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 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 :: here at last

At last we are here in Scotland at the cottage but staying in the caravan in the garden of course (as those regular readers, who know the flood story, will know).

And what of the garden? Well did you ever read the Secret Garden as a child? Then perhaps like me you can remember having an image in your mind of the moment when Mary discovers the entrance to the hidden garden and unlocks the door to discover a wild and beautiful place – well that is just what our cottage garden looks like now after 6 months of neglect. Very wild but also quite beautiful. My heart was both heavy and lifted at the same time.

The daisy path
The stone trough
Looking out to sea at the end of the trellis border
The lawn garden and pine tree border looking towards the entrance to the lower wood and woodland walk

Everything has grown in abundance including the wild flowers and those that are definitely weeds. The goosegrass is draping itself around so many plants and weighing them down.

The stone steps to the pond – all but disappeared!

Sadly, we cannot leave it in this state as even a wild garden has to be managed or the most vigorous plants eventually take over and the smaller vulnerable ones are crowded out. If left unpruned the trees and shrubs grow so tall the reduced sunlight causes the undergrowth to die back and with little light plants like ivy soon settle in and can sweep through a wood floor like a fire. It is a fine balance I have to strike in this garden to keep it in check but also keep it looking quite natural.

Looking back across the lawn garden
The entrance to the woodland walk in the lower wood
The streambank border with self seeded giant thistles

After an initial tour of the garden I estimated it would probably take us about 2 years to get it back to what it was like before, but now having spent a couple of mornings in the garden I might revise that to 3 years hard labour! Everywhere I look trees and shrubs need attention, the invasive weeds removing and many plants need thinning out or cutting back. The ivy is heading for the farmers field next door and some of the weeds have settled in so well they have tap roots more than 2 feet long.

But it is not all doom and gloom, despite the rather wild and shaggy appearance, and the fact that some areas have been fully taken over by something far too vigorous, there are delightful little corners to discover where self seeded foxgloves and poppies have made a new home.

The laneside border

The picture below is by the lower woodland pond and I now have a very green mossy path with daisies that was once bark chippings – but I quite like this and will probably keep it as it is. The little seat by the pond has disappeared altogether into the undergrowth – it may take me a while to uncover it.

The pond by the woodland walk in the lower wood

There will be plenty to keep us busy for a while – thankfully we do not have to maintain the caravan other than it needs a wash down on the outside to remove the green winter film it collects. And of course there is soup to make – mushroom maybe and tomato.

On our very last visit here back in January we did not get to replace the empty gas bottle so that was on the priority list, there is nothing like running out halfway through cooking a meal. So a trip into our nearest town of Stranraer was required in the afternoon…..that and it was good to take a break. Frequent rests are much needed at the moment until our backs are stronger and can cope with the strenuous work in the garden. Being at home for so long during lockdown just pottering around the house and our very small Yorkshire garden has left us with weaker unused muscles.

The weather was so lovely yesterday that whilst in Stranraer, which was eerily quiet, we decided to take a walk down to the harbour and round through Agnew Park. The light and cloud formation was incredible – I will leave you with a few pictures.

It is time for bed now – I am not sure I am making much sense in this ramble – I have an early start in the garden tomorrow….weather permiting. x