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

dear diary :: it’s been a while

Hello there….long time no see.  I thought I would be back sooner than this but recent events have kept me busy and I am not just referring to the dreaded virus.

Thank you for all your lovely comments and well wishes, advice and suggestions on my last post – they were much appreciated and I hope you don’t mind me not answering them individually, it was difficult to sit at the computer until my back recovered.

Although I was housebound for a few days with my bad back I am now fully recovered…..just in time to be housebound once again because of the virus!

I feel as if I am about to journey through a long dark tunnel, not really knowing where the end will be.  Plans we might have made for this year are now well and truly abandoned as are any visits to Scotland to our cottage and caravan.  The garden up there will no doubt become wild over time and all the hard work we have put in over the years will be quickly lost.  It feels like a repeat of what happened when the cottage flooded and 10 years of renovations were wiped out within hours.

We are managing to cope though – in fact we are in a very privileged positon both of us being at home and living on the state pension of DH and mine soon to come in May….we have few of the financial worries that others are facing, although this might come along after when we find many thousands wiped off the value of our private pension pot that we have not, as yet, had to draw on.

My main concern now is for my family and in particular for my dear mum – I am heartbroken for her as she faces weeks of isolation at a time when she cannot really look after herself.  For those readers who do not know my mum is 94 and struggling to walk now because of osteoarthritis in her right hip, added to which she recently caught a sickness bug which completely wiped her out and the main reason for my extended absence in blogland.  We managed to sort out some ‘aids’ for around the home and a walker so that she can get about her flat better and more safely. She is up and down each day, one day not even being able to get out of bed and the next feeling brighter and more able. Luckily a neighbour had been popping in to make her a cup of tea and my sister went every day but she had not fancied eating very much at all and had become quite weak.

I was unable to travel up to see her when she was first ill as I found it too painful to sit in the car because of my back. As soon as I could I was exercising my back each day, but it wasn’t until Mother’s Day that I was able to go up there, just before the travel clamp down came – we went knowing it would be my last chance to see her for the forseeable future. We took the little tin trough of pink carnations to cheer her up and a picnic which we ate indoors with her – she tucked into our home made leek and potato soup and a cheese and pickle sandwich – I expect she was quite ravenous not having eaten much for the past two weeks because of the sickness bug. I had also made her a fresh cream chocolate cake – her favourite – and left some in the fridge for later.

Because she hadn’t been out for a few weeks and hadn’t been able to watch the TV she had no idea how bad things have become in the world because of the coronavirus. We would have liked to take her for a short run in the car to the coast so she could see the outside world but she was not well enough and we would not have wanted to add to the madness that was out there that day.  Instead we watched an old black and white film on TV together and just having some company for the afternoon cheered her up no end.

With the new government rules of no unnecessary travel in place I will not see her again for a long while added to which it is uncertain whether my sister will be allowed into my mum’s apartment block to care for her ….the apartment manager told me that it might be that only official carers will be allowed in soon. The apartments are classed as Independent Living, so if you need carers the management company are saying that you should not be living there.  The only option for any residents that are not able to look after themselves may be to go into a care home but I can tell you these places are already booked up as the NHS are moving recovering patients into them to convalesce and free up hospital beds.

It has been such a worry for me but I have managed to set up one teatime slot for 3 days a week with a carer who will go in and help mum and provide some human contact and this should help if my sister is not allowed access.  All the residents have been told they must stay in their own apartments and not pop in and out to see their friends and must keep their distance from one another. There are no papers being delivered either and as very few have the internet they are becoming more and more isolated.

As you can imagine mum is not happy at having a stranger forced upon her but we will see how she adapts in the next few days and I hope she will accept their help and not send them away.   She also heard last week that her appointment to see the musculoskeletal clinic has now been cancelled – she was devastated – she was only a week away….it seems so cruel when she is in such pain.

In between all the phone calls and dramas I have been baking and trying hard not to waste any food.  I had left over cream to use up from mum’s chocolate cake so I baked a batch of fruit scones….a little indulgent, but quite delicious.

I am trying to visit the supermarket as little as possible – this requires a lot of forward planning with menus to make sure we eat the fruit and veggies that have a shorter life first. Any green stalks and leaves cut off the vegetables go into our green soup. We even sprinkled the left over cous cous over the last batch together with some parmesan cheese as a garnish – it was actually quite nice.

I have been cleaning too.  This virus makes me feel quite grubby every time we have been out for our essentials so I have been giving the bathroom and kitchen an extra dose of elbow grease and detox spray.

When the sun was out last week we had a lovely walk up towards the moors above where we live – there were people about but not too many and when we passed it was at a safe distance.  Looking across the valley everything seemed so deceivingly normal and like the cat and the sheep, basking in the warmth of the sunshine, we felt relieved that spring had finally made an appearance.

Of course it was short lived and this week we have been plunged back into a cold spell with hail falling occasionally and a bitterly cold wind. So what better way of keeping warm than doing a spot of cooking in the kitchen. I had eggs to use up and a few pieces of cauliflower so made these little cheesy savouries in a muffin tin to have with some fresh salad.

I then used up the last of the mushrooms and leeks by making these individual pies topped with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

We are managing to eek out all our groceries so that our visits to the supermarket are as few as possible. I have spent some time this week reorganising my recipe folders and searching out new recipes to try. I will spend the rest of the week with a long overdue task of reorganising a box full of photos. I will at the same time be looking for one or two of my elder daughter to make a photo book of her life so far for her 40th birthday which is coming up soon. There will be no big party or celebration for her – everything is cancelled – we will have to have a party by internet connection of some kind. I am not sure how you can play party games via Skype or Zoom but we will find a way!

I have a great deal of catch up to do in blogland so will be hopping over to my favourite places and hopefully will not leave it as long next time to write another post.

Hoping all is well with you too. Many safe distance hugs to everyone. x

dear diary :: out and about and little treats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dear diary :: still looking like winter

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

So I am keeping myself busy….and warm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care everyone and stay warm x

dear diary :: cold winter Sundays

We are back to rain and wind here at the foot of the Pennines in West Yorkshire, in fact the sun rarely managed a smile all week.

Valentine’s day came and went with only minimal acknowledgement here – a few heart shaped jammy dodgers from Ikea and an exchange of cards and kisses, but it is good to mark the occasion even in a small way. He loved the little card I made for him but I think he probably liked the biscuits more!

We actually spent the day at my daughter’s house looking after little Freddie for a while so she could indulge in a long lie in and nurse her bad cold and cough. The winter bugs had caught up with her when she returned to work last week and she had struggled in for the three days previously and was now feeling a bit fed up with herself and in need of a bit of mum’s cosseting.

Little Freddie had not been too well either with conjunctivitis and a cold so when it was time for his nap we wrapped him up well put him in the pushchair and went for a walk to the nearby Co-op to buy something for lunch – he promptly fell asleep so to get out of the cold we treated ourselves to a hot drink and a toasted teacake, oozing with butter, in a nearby cafe. He slept for a good 3 hours in all, I reckon he was catching up for all the disturbed nights he had recently.

Even through all this awful weather there are signs of new life springing up everywhere but it would be a little too early yet to start thinkng about a thorough spring cleaning session. Instead I am just concentrating on getting the washing and ironing up to date and rearranging a few cupboards and drawers in preparation.

Last Thursday we decided to go down to Sheffield (city of my birth), I love to go as it holds such wonderful memories for me from my childhood. My family survived many a bomb during the WW2 blitz over the four days of continued bombing between 12th and 15th December 1940. My grandma’s sister had her house totally destroyed but luckily she was in a shelter with her family at the time so came out of it unharmed.

Most of the city centre had to be rebuilt after the war and Sheffield continues the rebuilding with a major regeneration scheme called Heart of the City phases 1 & 2. I love the way that the old and the new sit side by side. This building site around Charter Square and the Pepperpot building is at the back of the John Lewis store on Barker’s Pool which was built in the sixties – to the right of the picture is the huge new HSBC building.

I was so pleased to find that this old block comprising of street level shops with accomodation above will not be pulled down – Sheffield Council acknowledge the strong feeling to keep many of the historical buildings. Only the frontages of these buildings will remain with a modern extension being built behind. Places like this are part of the heritage of Sheffield, the silversmiths and cutlers worked in these areas and derserve a place of rememberance in the new look city centre. The glass corner to the right that you can see lit up is currently being used as a site office but was up until very recently the workshop of a local jeweller, a family business, who has now moved across the road. I loved to pass by and see them working at their machines making the rings and jewellery that they sold in the shop below.

Across the street the old Salvation Army building, built like a fortress, has sadly been empty for many years now but such a fine building and waiting to be loved once again. There are plans I believe to turn it into a fine restaurant.

Walking through the completed part of this new scheme Sheffield always goes in for bold landscaping – these ‘sculptural’ rocks are huge when you walk beside them. Sheffield is of course famous for its steel and this is usually quite evident in much of new city landscaping projects. My grandad worked in the steel works, as did many of the men in my family – it was not an easy job and it is good that there is a lasting tribute to all their hard labours.

Although our trip over there was predominantly to go to Ikea to get an extra shelf for the pantry and a couple of storage jars we couldn’t leave without popping into the John Lewis store. Last week I received a notification that members of the John Lewis reward scheme can exchange any 5 empty beauty products for a £5 voucher to spend on any beauty product they sell. I took my 5 empty bottles and bought this Liz Earle shampoo for £5.62 it normally costs £12.50 but there is a 15% discount offer at the moment as well as my £5 voucher so it was quite a good bargain. I also picked up my free copy of the Waitrose magazine which has one or two recipes I might try out.

In The Works I bought a few bits and pieces for Little L ready for Easter – she loves to make things and can’t decide if she wants to be an artist or a ballerina when she grows up. We always have great fun making things together. In Hobbycraft I bought these tiny star cutters ready for my next cake (shame I didn’t have these when I made the cake for little Freddie’s first birthday), and a pack of clear stamps that have Thank You on them as the rubber on my wooden one has now gone hard and won’t print very well.

Yesterday we indulged and bought some pastries from the Co-op for after lunch – I put them close to the healthier apples – I know which will go first!

The knitting is well underway now (well for me that is) and growing quite quickly; I know you experienced knitters out there would be announcing the completion by now but I am pleased just to have reached the neckline without any unravelling or dropped stitches. I am contemplating how to form a decent neckline – it looks like it could be a place where a little skill is needed….oh dear!

Hope everyone has had a restful weekend and is ready for the week ahead. We are expecting a visit from the kitchen planner tomorrow (weather permitting this time). I think we have almost made up our minds on many of the appliances, doors and colours – now we have to make sure everything will fit and that it will all come within our limited budget.

dear diary :: oh my, oh my…

It has been a long time and a long time away from the old key board – not intentional I assure you and I hope that in the days that have passed you are all well and thoroughly enjoyed January.

Like my life, the changes in the weather have been so unsettling recently that no two days have hardly been the same. We have swung from bitterly cold to blustery winds with a lashing or two of rain in between….. and a day of snow.

So exactly what have I been doing, you might ask?

….and isn’t it hard to remember?

January is a busy month for us with birthdays and on top of that we have more than a few special remembrance days of my father-in-law, mother-in-law, a close uncle and yesterday for my dear old dad – who fell ill during January before he died. It would seem that my family like to fit in one good ‘last Christmas’ before departing from us. It is hard looking back and remembering all the good times we had with each of them, these memories are so precious to me and I like to have some quiet time alone, just me and the photo albums.

After writing my last post (on the 21st January) we managed to squeeze in an appointment with the kitchen planner in Sheffield to discuss the possibility of a new kitchen (yeah) and take up the discounted deal on offer. We arranged for the planner to come over on the following Tuesday to take measurements and look at our space and advise on what might fit in it, but unfortunately that was the day it snowed here so had to be cancelled and is now rearranged for later in February. In the meantime we are trudging endlessly around kitchen showrooms looking for ideas and at the appliances we will need to install. Already it feels like an expensive project.

On the Friday (24th) we had a lovely trip out to our local theatre to see Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn – you either love him or you don’t – I like his humour and both the play and actors were brilliant. It is ages since we had an evening at the theatre; we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and agreed that we really do need to get out more.

Saturday was our Burns’ night supper that we host for some of our closest friends and in memory of my Scottish father-in-law who died on Burns’ night (after attending a Burns’ night supper himself at his local church, though I might add his death was not a consequence of the food!).

It has become a bit of a tradition now and each year we add in something new. This year we made Cock-a-Leekie soup as a starter but being vegetarian without the ‘cock’ – so just ‘Leekie’ soup – which was actually just our leek and potato soup recipe – it went down very well though and instead of rolls I made Parmesan crisps (not very Scottish I know but very nice all the same).

We did a special version of the kanban board to help us prepare for the evening and the glass in the patio doors proved to be an effective place to stick all the individual post it note tasks. I decorated a few places around the house with a touch of tartan and placed candlelit lanterns outside in the garden.

The evening was a success even though we were all crammed into our tiny dining area and one of the meat haggis exploded in the oven with quite a bang. The Cranachan recipe using porridge oats was certainly not as good as last year’s version using oatmeal, but enjoyable none the less and I have made a note of this for next year. We managed to polish off all the Tunnoch’s caramel wafers and chocolate teacakes and down a dram or two of whisky before everyone left for home and we climbed into bed at around 3am – so rather a late start to Sunday (….well what was left of it).

Sunday I cleaned the oven to remove the dreaded bits of haggis from every nook and cranny it had attached itself to.

The following Monday we had a trip over to the south of Manchester for the Citroen specialist to adjust the suspension on our car. It is much better now and actually glides over the bumps as it should and even better he only charged £40 which was good news for us after the hundreds we have given to the local Citroen garage in their attempts to get it sorted.

I had hair and physio appointments and was looking forward to a restful weekend but our plans had to change suddenly when both mum and our younger daughter in North Yorkshire required our services urgently. After the physio session on Thursday we hastily packed and shot off to stay with our daughter and the two grandchildren.

Our daughter only moved into her new house last November in a new area and Little L has started a new school…. just when we thought they were all settled – it appears that not all is well with her new landlady and the property she is renting she may not be able to stay in the house (obviously I cannot go into detail here but through no fault of her own may have to move again) – we are waiting for more news on this and as is the case these days no one can discuss the matter with her. What a good job we had not had the time to order the new wardrobes.

My mum had not been well all week and my sister had to go away for a long weekend so she needed our help. She is feeling very down at the moment because she cannot get out and about like she used to. She had an x-ray on her hip, knees and feet last week and my sister who accompanied her saw the x-rays and the radiologist explained what was what – apparently her right hip does not look good, there is no fluid surrounding it and the bones are wearing away. She now has to wait 3 months for an appointment at the clinic to discuss what can or cannot be done. I am amazed at how quickly she has gone downhill; when we went on Saturday to take her out for the day she could barely walk to the car.

As she didn’t need us to take her for any shopping we had a run out over to Saltburn for lunch at the deli cafe and then went down the coast to Sandsend. It is a lovely run and en route we ventured off the main coast road and went along the single track road to explore Goldsborough and Kettleness.

Goldsborough, which is tiny and off the beaten track, does still have a pub called The Fox and Hounds, whilst further on Kettleness village is just a cluster of tiny cottages on the headland since the rest of the village plunged into the sea one stormy night in 1829. The most notable feature is a little abandoned chapel on the way down to the village after this you can go no further and have to turn around and go back.

On Sunday we gave my daughter a break and took the girls, Little L and Sweetie, out for a few hours. It was damp and cold so going to the playground or park was out. Little L had a few pounds in her purse and a book token so we went into Thirsk so she could find a book. The White Rose Book Cafe is one of my favourite places and after a lengthy browse around we had lunch there and eventually Little L settled on a book about boats.

We are home again now but returned to find my elder daughter who lives locally to us had not been well all weekend with a sickness bug caught from her husband and so her return to work yesterday after a lengthy maternity leave has had to be postponed a day or two!!

I think that is all my main news to tell and so today I am catching up with myself. There is paper work to do, washing, ironing and a lot of endless ‘bitty’ bits and pieces.

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my previous posts, they are much appreciated. I will be trying to catch up with all you lovely bloggers out there but might be doing a little more reading than commenting until I am up to date.

And of course welcome to all my new followers. x

creating health and well being

Needless to say this part of my life has been a little neglected of late. I should be reporting that I am exercising everyday, eating very healthy meals and remebering to drink more water and take my supplements.

I am working on it!

Truth is I will have to start over – not completely as nothing in life is ever wasted – but just get back on track and it would be a good idea to find my exercise sheet that I had developed with my physiotherapist.

creating a simpler Christmas * day 5

Day 5 to 8 is all about creating simple enjoyment and Christmas traditions

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and hoorah, the car is back – fully recovered and repaired and it has also had a good wash (it needed it too). It did cost us just short of £400 for the pleasure – and it probably did breakdown from having a spray of grit, from passing the grit spreader on the motorway, thrown up under the car and into the ball bearing that is part of the hydraulics that snapped – but we are mobile again and we can carry on with plan (A) today which is to drive up to North Yorkshire to collect my mum who is coming to stay for a few days on her annual Christmas shopping visit.

We do very little Christmas shopping these days as mum cannot walk as well as she could but she loves to go to the same places we have always been – they have become a tradition and are quite enjoyable if not a little tiring.

So it will be a trip down to town on Friday, then round to Sainsbury’s to check out their clothes and buy all the family a tin of biscuits each – something my dad started when he was alive; finishing with a fish and chip supper at Compo’s restaurant (broccoli bake for me) where my brother will join us.

Saturday will be a trip out to Derbyshire for lunch – we usually go to the little village of Tissington but as it gets quite busy there now I am wondering whether to reserve a table. Afterwards we will go down to Ashbourne or over to the Chatsworth farm shop or maybe even Bakewell to visit the pudding shop.

On Sunday we will have a leisurely drive back up North to take her home, possibly stopping in Thirsk to browse in the White Rose book shop and see what is on display outside the greengrocers where they sell very reasonable flowers and plants.

The next few days of meandering will form part of my creating Christmas after all it is not all about the ‘making’ but also about enjoying the festivities out there. I love to see all the villages and market towns in Derbyshire dressed and decorated for Christmas – it has that ‘olde worlde’ feeling that is so typically English.

And it is surprising what you can find over a garden wall.

The photos above are all from our previous Christmas trips but I am hoping I will get chance to take a few new photos….. but don’t hold your breath as just getting mum in and out of the car and on her feet and then keeping her there takes a lot of effort -trying to take pictures on top is almost impossible!

At least I hope there will not be any guitar players where we intend to go.

We were given an early Christmas present at the christening with instructions to open on 1st December; I promptly forgot but remembered this morning and what a lovely surprise – a Pukka Advent calendar (though not for DH he doesn’t drink tea – so they are all for me!) and I have a few days to catch up on.

I have no idea what the tea ‘tulsi clarity’ will taste like but no doubt all will become clear on the 7th. Today I have mint refresh – just right with a chocolate mint if I had one….do you think a packet of Maltesers a good substitute?

I hope to pop in over the next few days with tales of our meanderings and a few photos -but you know how it is! x

dear diary :: there’s no place like home

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my last post. I am sure we will be making some time soon to get the cottage plans sorted but it is no use starting when we know we have a Christening to organise, a first birthday party to attend and Christmas looming on the horizon.

After leaving Scotland we drove down to North Yorkshire to stay with my daughter and the two grandchildren Little L and Sweetie. We tend to stay with my daughter now rather than with my mum as she cannot manage washing and changing the bedding anymore in her spare room. She is about 30 miles from my daughter’s house so we are able to take her out for a drive but eat and sleep at my daughters.

On Saturday we went out to a garden centre just outside Northallerton for lunch and on Sunday we had an absolutely beautiful run down through the North Yorkshire moors to Helmsley – a dry sunny day cold and crisp and the trees turning a wonderful golden orange colour. I have no photos as mum requires full attendance on her now all the time we are out.

On the Monday and Tuesday we went out with the girls and one of our visits was to the Druid’s Temple at Swinton Bivouac. Little L ran in and out of the caves and hidey holes that make up this Stonehenge type folly hidden in the surrounding woods. Sweetie just slept through it all as usual and only woke up when food was mentioned!

We travelled down home early yesterday evening and it felt so good to be back and not living out of a suitcase (or rather a selection of those blue checked laundry bags in our case). We didn’t stay anywhere long enough to fully unpack.

The house was quite cool when we arrived and being quite tired after the journey we just unpacked the car, put the food away and then went to bed early with a hot water bottle and read. Today I did the rest of the unpacking and putting things away. I had brought a few hydrangea stems home from the cottage to dry in our kitchen – although from the same bush the colours are quite variable. They do brighten up the kitchen though and I love all the muted autumn colours together.

Being away from home, even in the nicest of places, always makes me glad to be back in my own little house. Sometimes when we have been away and visited houses that are beautifully decorated and presented, like my friend’s new house the other week, it motivates me to have a good clean and declutter in my own, however, when we have been to stay at our daughter’s rented house I am always glad that we do not have to put up with the poor standards of the majority of rented property and it makes our own house look like a palace in comparison.

To say that rented properties are so expensive you get very little in return for handing over the rent money every month. It does make me feel rather cross that a tennant is expected to live with battered and substandard equipment and fittings – missing knobs, mouldy sealant, windows that don’t open, doors that don’t close and fans that won’t work as well as cracked ceilings, damp walls and poorly painted woodwork…the house she is in at present is marginally better than most she has lived in but still has its problems.

DH has spent quite a bit of time, effort and money trying to make some of our daughter’s rented properties just that little bit better to live in. Sometimes just a few little changes can make a big difference. In the present one he replaced the dirty old rag stuffed in the ventilation hole to block the draught in the kitchen wall with a proper air vent cover and this time we bought an old fashioned plunger to help unblock the drains as the plumbing is rather old and the pipework does not have a good fall on it so allows the dirty dishwasher water to gurgle up into the kitchen sink through the plug hole – not very hygenic in my mind. The plunger did help to get the water draining better.

Whilst we have been away there has been a heavy fall of leaves from our cherry tree so I spent half and hour in the garden this afternoon raking them up and piling them into a bag to make leaf mould.

Whilst on our travels I bought these from the little vegetable shop in Thirsk – they always have some very reasonable bedding plants and I couldn’t resist these colourful outdoor clematis which I will put into pots at the side of the front door.

These painted clay pots are waiting to be cleaned and then they will go on one of the stalls at our annual ‘Crisis’ coffee morning in November where we raise money for the homeless at Christmas. They are from a lady in the village where our cottage is in Scotland. She has bought an old mill building to renovate and found hundreds of these pots inside – so she leaves them at her gate for anyone to take away. I think they will be quite nice with spring bulbs in them.

That is most of my news – DH is feeling much better now and has been back in the pantry today doing a bit of sanding. The next step is to buy the paint tomorrow and make a start painting the walls and ceiling. I also need to go to town to buy food and a few bits and bobs.

I am going to make the tea now – something quite quick I think and I must go around and change the rest of the clocks as we were away during the hour change, so I keep thinking it is later than it is!

dear diary :: October…so far, so good …and not so good

Goodness, it is twelve days since my last visit here and during this time it has been quite a rollercoaster. So I thought I might just sneak in and surprise you all. Of course, there have been developments to our recent problems that erupted during the summer – not unexpected but not altogether good news either – it is a long term situation with no long term resolution.

And there has been more illness (nothing serious), some frantic moments, some joyful moments and a moment or two of sheer despair and frustration. I can’t say this is normal life by any means but I still have many blessings to count.

I captured this view across Wigtown Bay last night as we made our way to our cottage in Scotland (well, caravan for those who know the tale). I am in great need of a period of recovery, a little refreshing of body and mind and DH, who has come down with a cold, needs a bit of TLC too. The sea air and our garden will undoubtedly restore us – as Mary says, it is my happy place.

So during all the recent turmoil just what have we been up to?

Our plans to come to Scotland over a week ago changed suddenly the day before we were due to set off. You know the kind of thing where one phone call can change everything – not only did ‘the problem’ suddenly throw up more problems and angst but our younger daughter, in North Yorkshire, was not well and so we dropped everything to go and look after Little L and Sweetie for a few days so she could rest.

It was actually quite pleasant; we spent the morning at Jervaulx Abbey wandering the grounds in the warm sunshine and playing hide and seek amongst the ruins.

We found a secret door to add to Little L’s excitement, but no matter how hard she knocked no-one, not a fairy or an elf, came to answer!

After all that running round we opted for sandwiches in the abbey tea room followed by a visit to the ice cream farm and playground nearby.

Not everyone joined in the fun – some of us were catching up on our beauty sleep!

On the Sunday we battled through the pouring rain with push chair and raincovers, umbrellas and hats and took the children to Preston Park. They have a mock Victorian street with shops and a tea room.

Little L liked the old fashioned toys in the toy shop, especially the jack in a box – she realised very quickly that it would jump out at the very moment the tune got to ‘pop goes the weasel’ and watched it over and over again. In the sweetshop she bought a lolly from the policeman – he was manning the sweet shop because they were short staffed!…..not sure who was manning the police station, maybe the grocer….

On the Monday and Tuesday the weather was good again so we had a drive over to Easingwold and surrounding area. As our daughter felt so much better mid week we decided to return home. Just as we were leaving the mist was swirling across the valley – she has such stunning views to wake up to each morning.

There was not enough time for us to get to Scotland and back before the weekend, when the plasterers were booked to skim the pantry wall, so we stayed home and spent some time in the garden tidying and moving pots around, packing away garden furniture and cleaning out the shed.

It always gives me a sense of satisfaction to clean up the tools for the winter and wipe them with oil. I like the feeling that everything is packed away and in order ready for next year – and when the garden furniture covers are finally in place it signifies the end of the warmer weather and the start of the colder seasons.

Our neighbour is having her back garden completely flagged soon and was throwing away this little white metal table. I thought it too good to go to the tip so with her permission rescued it for our garden.

Just as they had said the plasterers arrived first thing Saturday morning and overboarded the ceiling in the new pantry and skimmed the back wall where the tiles were pulled off. It is now a bare shell.

The work generated quite a bit of dust throughout the downstairs so I had to set to and clean everywhere but that is the worst of the mess over with now and I am quite excited that the next step will be to decorate and then assemble the units. There is hope it will be finished before Christmas.

I borrowed a few more books from the library – one or two that have some fresh ideas in styling the home and one in particular, called Spirit of the home, I am finding quite an interesting read. I don’t know about you but some rooms in our house always feel better than others and some rooms seem to get more cluttered. I am on a mission at the moment to find everything we own a permanent place as well as reducing the amount of stuff we have – I find I have now got three empty drawers in the spare room since I had a bit more of a purge on some old clothes; but it is an ongoing project and one that will soon be put on hold as the Christmas preparations will take over.

We only have a few days here at the cottage because at the end of this week I need to go back to North Yorkshire and visit my mum and take her out for a day or two whilst my sister is away. Then we will go to my younger daughter’s house again on the way back down to stay a day or two with them and take Little L and Sweetie out once again during their half term week. I daresay we will be doing some pumpkin carving.

I am beginning to feel like a nomad and all the packing, unpacking and repacking – this has not been my best career move so far – I had far more time for myself when I was at work!!

meandering :: down country lanes

We decided at the weekend that we would take a day off in the week to go out somewhere – just the two of us – no grandchildren, no daughters and no mother – just us.

An opportunity came on Monday as the rain appeared to have stopped. I was up early and got the washing out on the line, then made a fresh batch of green soup. At 10 o’clock we decided that the weather was holding and good enough to go out; so we hastily filled a flask with hot soup and buttered some bread, brought the washing in again in case of rain, jumped in the car and headed south with a vague idea of going to Buxton. One of my forever favourite places.

We had passed through Glossop and Hayfield but feeling rather hungry by now we pulled off the road at a tiny place called Slackhall just outside Chapel en le Frith and followed a rather narrow winding country lane into what seemed like a hidden valley. Glorious.

We pulled into an opening to admire the view whilst eating our picnic lunch. Afterwards, I couldn’t resist picking a few of the ripe blackberries from the hedgerow down the lane. Just enough for a blackberry and apple pie to herald the start of the coming season.

Mingled with the blackberries were plenty of fat rosy hips of the wild dog roses and along the grassy verge many of the wild flowers have now died back to a delicate skeleton of seedheads in every shade of corn yellow and brown, dancing around here and there as the cooler breeze swept in waves across the valley.

The corkscrew spirals of rose bay willow herb with the fluffy white seed heads so intricate and pretty and these tiny pearl like seeds of the plant below looking like little raindrops – can anyone recognise this flower, it doesn’t seem quite like cow parsley?

Being immersed in these beautiful surroundings amongst nature and undisturbed by traffic certainly does your soul good – it was so peaceful here I really didn’t want to leave. We will be back one day with our sketchbooks.

But sadly, once lunch was over and I had filled my bag with a few choice blackberries, we had to move on in order to leave us with plenty of ‘afternoon’ to look around Buxton.

For those of you that have never been, Buxton is the heighest town in England, has more than its fair share of snow every winter and rain too and is split into two parts – the lower and higher town – divided by the slopes, a tree lined park connecting the two parts – the upper housing the Town Hall and market place and the lower the magnificent Crescent and drinking fountain – the latter a memorial to Samuael Taylor.

We parked at the higher part first and headed for the famous secondhand book shop Scrivener’s. Every corner of the five floors is piled high with books and every tight little space has a seat for browsing. I could get lost in here for hours.

Scriveners, Buxton

Then we walked down to the local museum / gallery but found it closed. Monday is not a good day. Along the snicket by the side of the museum we discovered The Green Man gallery has a new home in this adjoining building.

I had seen the building many times before because it has a distinctive turret formed by a stack of wooden bays on one corner and looks like it needs some repair and attention but has a quaint shabby chic feel to it. I have always wanted to see inside and now, it seemed, was my chance. So we followed the little green footprints to the doorway and went inside for a browse. Every surface, including some of the windows, has been ‘artistically’ painted both inside and out and the gallery spans about four floors with rooms for workshops and dedicated artists.

This was looking out of one of the green bay windows in the turret onto the slopes below through a decorated pane.

My favourite artwork had to be this unusual mosaic set into rocks…..

….and this old fireplace set in a stark, almost empty room in one of the bays and which felt like a piece of art in its own right – a ghost of the past paying homage to the fine building it might once have been.

Once outdoors again we just went for a wander around the town. I can never visit Buxton without taking pictures of the shop fronts. From the simple….

…to the more elaborate. This is by far my favourite – the old chemist on Cavendish Circus – representing a piece of old England – of days gone by – an independant shop displaying goods in the window like a treasure trove for passers buy to browse and admire.

The tiny tobacconist come toy shop on Grove Parade
Potters – the local drapers on Terrace Road – now selling Joules and Sea Salt labels, keeping up with the times whilst still holding onto everything that is endearing about this magnificent old shop.

These shops are just a joy to me – the beautiful architecture and canopied buildings – I am instantly transported back to the Victorian era when this growing Spa town was a desired destination of the genteel ladies flocking here to ‘Take the Waters’.

And then there are the buildings – to attract more visitors to this developing Spa town the Pavillion, built to replace the old Edwardian bandstand in the gardens, opened in 1871 – a glorious glass and steel structure echoing a seaside resort. This was followed by the Octagon Concert Hall – (distant left in the picture below) in 1875 and then at the turn of the century the distinctive Opera House was built.

Buxton and domes it seems go hand in hand – they are everywhere against the skyline, looming up through trees and proudly displaying its long heritage, a stately tribute to past and prosperous times. Buxton is home to the world’s largest unsupported dome (the Devonshire Dome) until more recent times – quite a structural achievement back then. But that is another day, another post.

The gardens around the Pavillion are beautifully kept since being handed over to a management company. Within these iron gates is everything for a good family day out – including a minature train and boating lake.

After a good stroll around it is always worthwhile to visit No6 The Square just opposite the entrance for one of their afternoon cream teas. Indulgent…yes, delicious…absolutely.

No 6 The Square Buxton