dear diary >> unsettling times…

Having just got back home after our recent trip up to North Yorkshire to visit mum then my daughter and the two grandchildren Little L and Sweetie we unpacked, washed, shopped and then repacked and I am now writing this from Scotland…it may even be published this time, I have written a few posts recently but then never pressed go and they remain on my drafts list incomplete. Like many other bloggers the recent invasion of Ukraine has left me lost for words, scratching around in the dark looking to find a chink of light that will help me make sense of the world right now. This is a photo taken on the Pennine Moors above us in Yorkshire of the sunset the other evening – it is such a peaceful place – and probably a stark contrast at the moment to the ruins of some of the Ukraine cities – I stood gazing at this for ages and couldn’t help wondering what might the future be for our world.

And how, I keep wondering, can one man cause so much suffering, so much bloodshed and so much heartache and what are we going to wake up to next in the morning?

After the last two years of Covid and restrictions and a feeling of uncertainty I think we were all hoping for a better 2022, and now as spring and the promise of better weather are almost within our grasp, at last….it seems our hopes are fading fast.

Life is so unsettling at the moment and all the problems that have been gathering around me at quite a pace over the last few months have now paled into insignificance compared with those faced by the people of Ukraine…but each day I wake up they are still there and ignoring them is not making them either go away or any easier to sort out.

Mum is becoming quite hard work for my sister and one of the team of carers who go in on alternate days has refused to go. She was mum’s favourite but sometimes mum has been quite nasty with her. At 96 she now feels she has the right to speak her mind, but often what is in her mind is not endearing her to the people who are trying to help her. I can understand mum’s frustration at losing her mobility and being practically housebound but the other residents in the apartments are finding her hardwork and avoid going to see her leaving her more isolated than ever. I ring her each evening, we will have the same conversation many times over, usually she has to establish if we are at home or in Scotland and when we will next be going to see her, after only a few minutes she will have forgotten what I said and will ask me again and so it goes on for the next 40 minutes. To make matters worse she has a habit of holding the phone upside down so I cannot hear her properly but that is not quite so bad as when part way through our call she sometimes switches to trying to talk to me on the TV remote and I can hear her saying ‘can you hear me’! I cannot see there is any solution.

Sadly, it has also got to the point now where we dread coming up to our cottage, wondering what we will find this time, what changes await us. Joe and his wife are here at the moment in the remaining caravan on the little site below us, the light was on when we arrived last night and it felt quite comforting to see an old face and have a neighbour. The caravaners were our friends and now they are almost all gone. Thankfully Joe has no plans to leave at the moment.

There must have been an excess of rain up here because the roads had large pools of water along the verges. The tarmac lane from the main road down to our cottage eventually comes to an end and then we have to drive over a wide strip of grass just outside our property to reach our hardstanding by the garage, (the lane and grass belong to the caravan site owner – we have right of access over it). We could see that the grass was soddened and so parked at the end of the lane and walked over the grass on foot to unpack the car – it took us ages squelching about in the mud…..I might have uttered a few choice words at the time. I cannot ever remember in all the time we have been coming here that the grassy bit was this bad or this waterlogged. Once unpacked we moved the car onto a patch of gravel on the other side of the lane so it won’t get stuck in the mud. It is not actually our land and no doubt the new owner won’t like it but the other option is that we will churn up his grass trying to get in and out of our property.

We have two sizeable farm gates at the entrance to our little cottage and just before we left for home on our last visit the gate post of the left hand one had rotted and sheered off at ground level and toppled over bringing the gate down with it. All DH could do at the time was to prop the gate back in place but the wind must have blown it over. Of course it is another job on the list – I am not sure if it has even made it on to the top ten of urgent things, but it must be close. The new caravan site owner did send us a text to let us know – it seemed a neighbourly thing to do but then on the end of the text he asked if we would consider letting him have a part of our woodland for his business! I probably don’t have to tell you what our answer is to that.

The lady who came once a fortnight to cut our grass has given us notice because her knees are so painful and swollen the doctor told her that to continue would certainly make them worse. So we have to find someone new…it will go on the list….the list is getting too long for comfort…I keep folding it in half so I don’t have to look at all of it at once….but I am not sure it really helps.

No doubt we will weather these storms – all we can do is carry on trying to cope with the problems as they come up.

In and amongst, like most of you, I am trying to find a way through these rising prices but if through sanctions, my gas, electricity and fuel has to rise even more to help the Ukraine people then so be it, if the price of some foods like flour and oil becomes too costly to buy or too scarce then I will put up with that too…I am willing to make sacrifices if it will help to stop this ridiculous war.

So I am spending quite a bit of time roaming the aisles of the supermarket gathering up any reduced priced items that we normally buy, using the Smartscan and Clubcard offers and collecting reward points (though these may well be donated to the Ukraine crisis fund). We are using the oven as little as possible and making most of our meals on the hob. We have decided there a few things we can give up or buy cheaper and somethings we will not be buying at all if I can make them.

I am reluctant to stop buying as much fresh fruit and veg – it is the staple of our diet and as you know I buy mainly organic to support the farmers who are growing sustainably. We make our own soup each day using veg that is on offer or needs using up. When the oven is on I have batch baked pastry cases and sponge cakes for the freezer, in fact the freezer is groaning

This week I made this farmhouse fruit cake to take with us to the cottage. Using a very old Stork margerine recipe (so old the ingredients are only in pounds and ounces and the oven temp in Fahrenheit) I was able to use up all the left over bits of dried fruit from when I made the Christmas cake, although I no longer use block margerine like Stork prefering instead to use the Pure dairy free olive oil spread free from nasties.

I figured the best way to cut our spending is to not go shopping at all other than for food or necessities and that way I am not tempted to buy things I don’t really need.

I have been shopping though.

I needed to buy a new bedsheet – I only have two (one on the bed, one in the wash) and one on the guest bed (not that we have had any guests for a long time!). DH woke up one morning to find a rip in the sheet almost the full length of the bed, it had worn quite thin over time and there was no way I could repair it. We also need to replace the wooden blind in our living room. As we have some John Lewis vouchers we headed over to Cheadle branch have a quick look at theirs. The ready made blind we wanted is now discontinued and their made to measure ones are too costly for our budget. We tried a few other places and have seen one in B&Q which we have put on standby. Because of the size and shape of our window we have to remove at least a third of the slats of the ready made ones as they come as a standard 180cm length; DH is not at all phased by the alterations needed – he ‘cut to fit’ the one we presently have but we are seriously looking at having a made to measure one through Swift blinds who just happen to operate their business only a few miles away from us and their prices are quite reasonable.

The fitted bed sheet was easier to find and I just bought an ordinary white one from their Anyday range which is £13 and good quality. On the way out I passed the clearance section and spotted this double cotton duvet set. It was the remaining one of last summer’s range and was marked half price (£32.50 originally £65) so quite a bargain and good quality. The colour will go well in our main bedroom – when it is decorated that is – and although I don’t normally buy florals I do like the Scandi style print on this. The coupons we had covered both purchases so they costs me nothing.

Having a John Lewis / Waitrose reward card meant that by taking 5 empty beauty products that can be recycled (any make) I could have £5 off any beauty product purchase. This offer is not continuous but keeps coming round so that I am able to take advantage of it and buy the Liz Earle shampoo and conditioner that I use when I need one and although they have just had another price rise to £13 each (ouch) it meant I only had to pay £8.

So that was my shopping expedition for this month and probably all I will be buying other than food. I have been busy making and baking and when I get back home I will be sowing seeds ready for growing a few bedding plants for the planters and this year I will probably grow tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes and some salad leaves to eek out the food bill.

Well I will leave you all here and maybe even manage a couple of posts from Scotland. The cottage garden is just waking up and I can’t wait to get out there to tidy up a bit. x

dear diary >> improving

The weather is certainly improving as I write this post but it is not the topic I am about to talk about. Regular readers might remember my chosen focus word for this year is improvement. I have really taken the word on board and somehow it seems much more manageable than words that I have chosen in the past and then, like a New Year’s resolution, sadly neglected., I am quite excited and committed to this word already.

My idea is to consistently make the tiniest and simplest of improvements across all the different areas of my life and each one, no matter how small or how insignificant, will be an improvement on what I had before.

So here are a few improvements that I have been working on this week:-

The treasury – I am sure that, like many readers and bloggers, costcutting is at the top of everyone’s agenda. With prices rising sharply and the £1 in our pockets buying so much less it is becomming a matter of urgency that I both curb our spending and look where I can to make savings. Big savings.

Smartshop (Sainsbury’s scanner shopping), offers good discounts for nectar card holders using the hand held scanner (this is not the same as the individual self scan checkouts). DH collects up these offers (whilst I do the main shopping that we take to the normal checkout); first he goes and finds the items that are reduced on my card and goes around again to find the ones on his card – although it is the same nectar account the card numbers end in a different number and we are sent different offers. Here is the receipt from last week – we took advantage of 8 offers on my nectar card, the actual price an ordinary shopper would pay by going through the manned checkout would have been £18.70.

We paid £13.28 by using the scanner – a huge saving of £5.42 for items we would be buying anyway, plus we collect the nectar points on top some of which have extra points. The muesli alone had a saving of £1.05 per box so we bought three boxes to stock up.

I have had a flurry of coupons recently too – some more useful than others. The M&S coupons for £7 being the most worthwhile and their offer of a free bar of chocolate a bonus.

In the post on Saturday arrived a letter from Dobbies to say they have given me a free upgrade to their Dobbies Plus card for one year. This entitles me to a free cup of tea and coffee each month, 10% off all plants, bulbs and seeds, a special birthday treat and 2 points for every £1 spent. Normally you pay £12 for the year to have this card – I wouldn’t pay to have it but I have no objection to it being free for the moment. Every little helps if it avoids paying full price for anything.

Of course the biggest challenge is to avoid temptation and not buy anything we don’t really need. Going to the shops less is a good way of avoiding tempatation!

Meal planning – one improvement I am making in the kitchen is to adjust my winter menus so that I make more meals that can be cooked on the hob such as lentil stew, curry, chickpea and rice – this way I don’t have the oven on as often which will hopefully reduce the electricity bills. I do like baked potatoes in the winter (well anytime really) so at the weekend with some potatoes baking in the oven I made a batch of pastry and baked a selection of quiche bases for the freezer whilst the oven was on. Today we had ratatouille and baked potatoes and again whilst the potatoes were baking I made a batch of chocolate sponge mixture and filled four sandwich tins. They are all in the freezer now and I feel quite pleased with myself for making the effort.

Health – such an important area of my life now as I am heading towards another major birthday (still a couple of years to go yet).

It often feels like an uphill struggle to keep relatively healthy as creaks and groans appear daily and the inevitable sagging has set in – so I need all the help I can get. Adding a little more nutritional value to my diet without resorting to buying expensive supplements is hopefully going to improve my health – so I was delighted to find these packets of milled mixed seeds and nuts in Sainsbury’s containing ground Flaxseeds, Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts (13%), Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Almonds (10%), Chia Seeds providing Vitamin E, Fibre and Omega 3. I sprinkle a good two dessertspoonfuls of the mix over my bowl of spelt flakes each morning, but you can use it on pasta or crumbles to make a crunchy topping. An instant easy healthy improvement.

Housekeeping – I have a few spots around the house that need just a little bit of love and attention. Nothing major, just a tiny adjustment – a task that may only take me minutes to complete. I am searching them out and one by one will be addressing each issue. It might be a messy drawer or a plant that needs reviving or an item that needs to be kept in a better place.

Today it was this hand sanitiser in the bathroom. Since the pandemic this bottle of Carex handgel has stood on our bathroom shelf for use both by us and visitors alike. It has always bothered me since the day it took up residence – a rather unattractive plastic bottle and not one I really want on show. I noticed in Tesco they were still selling these little soap dispensers at £4, I bought a couple when we first got the caravan for handsoap. So now I have poured the hand sanitiser into the new container and voila such an immediate improvement.

In the garden – the outside is another area that often needs a bit of attention. The long trough at the front of our house was looking a bit dull since the pansies all keeled over and lost the will to live. So for a few pounds in the sale at the local garden centre I bought 3 lovely cyclamen in pots for a splash of winter colour (I have left them in the pots and sunk them into the compost) so they will lift out easily when I want to replace them with some spring bulbs.

A large tray of lemon polyanthus was on sale too and I have dotted these about the garden and put a few in the tub beside the front door. Another of my little improvements.

Tomorrow we are looking to collect the new dining table from Leeds, weather permitting. The new table will be a big improvement to the kitchen.

Have a good day everyone x

dear diary >> home again, home again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good day everyone.

dear diary :: here and there…

Hello everyone….I know I have been a little quiet in the last few days, but life here is as hectic as ever. 

We had one of those crazy weekends (two weekends ago now) starting on the Friday taking our grandson little Freddie to the park for a few hours.

He knows the routine well now – buy a 25p bag of duck food from the little cafe and go straight round to feed the ducks, then on to the fountain taking the short cut down the very steep grassy bank with grandad holding on to him for dear life, whilst I follow with the pushchair on the sensible windy path. We then walk round to the lovely revamped conservatory at the bottom of the park that has a cafe with an outdoor courtyard space – perfect to avoid Covid. We order tea (or coffee and Freddie has milk) and a couple of slices each of thick brown toast with butter and marmalade. Of course he always wants to spread the marmalade on himself even though it is tricky to handle the large knife ….ugh the stickiness.

We then saunter back through the park playing football until we reach the swings. This particular visit we saw a tight rope walker practising between two of the large park trees. Then it was back home to mum for Freddie and back home for us to start repacking ready for our next trip.

On Saturday we set off for North Yorkshire to meet my daughter and the two girls in Northallerton – one of my favourite market towns. We browsed all the shops on both sides of the main street plus the market stalls. The girls are always well behaved in shops and love to look at all that is on offer but never natter to be bought anything. I did in fact buy Sweetie some new shoes for her birthday in November but she is going to start wearing them now so her feet don’t grow out of them before she is three in a few weeks time; at this age, like little seedlings, they seem to grow overnight. She was delighted – they are a muted shade of pink with sparkly bits.

We stayed overnight with my daughter and had an early start on the Sunday morning to drive up to my sister’s village above Northallerton to see the Scarecrow trail which began at 10am. My sister was on her respite holiday so couldn’t be with us but she had baked some chocolate squares for the cake stall so we bought a piece each.

We had great fun spotting the scarecrows and eating the homemade cakes, though the chocolate topping fell clean off Little L’s piece onto the pavement. Here are just a few of our favourites.

Of course we had to stop Sweetie from helping herself to a banana!
The mole hunter made us smile!
Go compare
Paddington Bear – you can tell Sweetie is just eyeing up the marmalade sandwiches in the suitcase!
I just had to add this into the photos – I have never seen such a crop of mushrooms before on someone’s front lawn!

At 12 0’clock we said goodbye to Little L, Sweetie and my daughter and drove on another 10 miles to visit my mum (who is in an apartment near Yarm). For our lunch I had made a batch of leek and potato soup which we ate with some fresh rolls followed by a pizza and some pots of deli salads – coleslaw, beetroot and potato salad. I had not had time to make a pudding at home so I bought some fresh cream chocolate eclairs courtesy of Sainsbury’s. After lunch we had a long chat, did a few jobs, prepared some tea for her to have later and put her hair in rollers (she sleeps in them – always has) then said our goodbyes and drove home.

We arrived back quite late having been delayed on the M62 with the heavy traffic and felt quite worn out – I just put a few bits away and then went to bed.

On Monday morning we had to make the difficult and disappointing decision not to travel up to Scotland the next day to go and see Freda’s exhibition in Dunoon – given our comings and goings over the past few weeks it would have been a journey too far and I know my limitations.

So after a brief rest on Monday we spent most of the week table hunting…. which was long overdue.  We have a kitchen diner and when we had our new kitchen installed this time last year we enlarged the kitchen area by a few inches but this left the dining room side slightly smaller and our old and much loved pine farmhouse table no longer fits comfortably into the space. We knew this would be the case but gaining more circulation space in the kitchen has been well worth it and our farmhouse table is going to a good home.

After plodding around a few shops and searching on the internet we finally chose one we both liked and it is on order now with a 12 week lead time.   Our old table has quite a history as we bought it in 1979 just after we married and the children grew up painting and crafting on it, I have sewn and baked on it and I think it has even had hot pans on it.  We never really worried about having to protect it and just scrub it clean with soapy water – the many marks it has gained over time have just added to the well-used look.  It is essentially a kitchen table rather than a posh dining table so we ruled out glass tops or veneered wood for the new one as it would be impossible for us to have anything that isn’t robust enough to take whatever we or the grandchildren throw at it.  

The one we have chosen should fit the bill – it will be quite a change as the new table is quite modern looking (and won’t be to everyone’s taste) but will fit in better with the sleek simple lines of the new kitchen; it is also extendable so when the extra leaf is used it will come to the same size as our old one and when it is just the two of us there will be much more space to walk around it.   So now we just have to find a reasonable price for the chairs we have chosen and get them on order too.

Now that major task is a tick on the list and the weather not so suitable for gardening I have turned my attentions to the house and decided it needs a jolly good sort out….a major home edit and a good clean. 

Can’t wait to get stuck in.

dear diary :: homecoming

Well that was a long journey down home, but then we did stop for a break in Castle Douglas, which is one of my favourite places on the way to the border, and of course I was tempted into all the lovely little shops there.

The lady in the craft shop kindly exchanged the packet containing a circular crotchet hook (never knew there was such a thing) that I had bought on our way to the cottage for a circular knitting needle that I had intended to buy! They don’t normally do exchanges (she must have taken pity on me) but there was a price difference to rectify , the knitting needle being £2 less than the crotchet hook, so the attempt to do an exchange on the till didn’t work…no matter I said I will have a look around and buy something else so you don’t have to do a refund. It wasn’t hard to find things, in fact I spent another £10 so she did quite well out of the exchange! I bought some of those moulded cardboard pumpkins for painting or decoupage, some coloured raffia skeins for present wrapping and a sheet of the decoupage tissue paper.

Moving on to the Artists and Craftmakers Cooperative shop I found a lovely little card for my friend. He is 81 today and has need of nothing, but he does like wood – he taught woodwork at school and used to make wooden things himself. The card has a tiny piece of decorated driftwood on it which I then put into this natural wood frame from Dunelm to make a picture.

In the Designs Gallery Bookshop I discovered these pretty little packs of decorated letter wring papers that fold up to post (I forgot to take a picture before I wrapped them but you can see them here-https://cardsandgiftwrap.co.uk/product-category/stationery/cards-and-letterwriting/pigeon-folded-letters) perfect for another friend whose birthday is tomorrow.

This morning I had to make four very quick birthday cards for 3 friends and my niece. I wanted them to reflect the change of season so I used a recent water colour sketch I did at the cottage of the hawthorn berries and overlaid part of a poem by Samuel Butler which is very suitable for the season. It is wonderful what you can do on the computer these days!

With all the crafty bits out of the way and the cards written and presents wrapped ready to deliver or post we took a walk down to the village and dropped off the card and present to today’s recipient. I am spending what is left of the day making Lentil Shepherds pie to go with some fresh sweetheart cabbage, then I will do a few Somatic exercises to loosen up my tight hips from the long journey home and afterwards probably collapse for the evening in front of the TV for a couple of hours of catch up. We missed the Manhunt series with Martin Clunes so that will be first on the list.

Yesterday we unpacked all the bags, sorted the heap of washing into piles (I am praying for good weather to get all the washing done and outside on the line) and then went food shopping. We don’t normally go on a Friday and as expected it was busy. We had to weave around the shelf stackers and their cage trollies who were out in force down each of the aisles nd one or two items I had to pick out of their stock cages or off the top of the fitments where they keep boxes of extra stock before it is put out onto the shelves. The pasta shelves looked like they had been raided but thankfully no-one was interested in the organic wholewheat spaghetti and I could have taken a box full. Not being greedy I only took 2 packets.

Generally for my pantry stocks of jars, cans, dried foods etc I replace items only when they come on offer with the red shelf tickets unless I am desparate enough or have run out of something and am forced to buy it at full price. I also find myself rejigging the menu plan a bit in the fruit and veg aisles to accomodate any offers. This week the mushrooms were on offer so we bought extra to make a large batch of mushroom soup. Other fresh foods I buy weekly like milk and yoghurt from the chiller aisles I have to rely on striking lucky with any offers.

In the past we have tried the Sainsbury’s SmartShop self scan using their handsets – four times to be exact – Scan, bag and go they advertise, it couldn’t be simpler – but each time there was a problem for us and it wasn’t simple far from it so we gave up went back to the normal checkout method. However, Sainsbury’s are now offering extra reductions on certain items when you do a Smart Shop which is also linked to the Nectar card. Now I have no intentions of going back to doing a full shop using their Smart Shop method but I was attracted by the hefty reductions offered on the Nectar card of items we do normally buy (about 10 in all and they change weekly) so I sent DH round with the Smart Shop handset and a basket to gather up all the offer items and take them through the self scan whilst I did the bulk of the shopping in the normal way.

I am not sure this is exactly what Sainsbury’s have in mind! They are trying to steer everyone over to their Smart Shop way of shopping and have already started reducing the number of tills. I am presuming that tempting people with these extra offers is their new line of attack. So I just thought I would play them at their own game – it worked quite well and gave DH something to do whilst I concentrated on doing the bulk of the shopping from the menu plan…oh and having a casual look around the magazines, the clothes and the homewares without him hovering over me (I was good though and no purchases made from these departments). We will try doing this again next week – it seems a fairly easy way to save a bit more money to me.

So busy days ahead I feel. The garden here needs sorting out, tidying up and putting to bed. I have ripe tomatoes in the greenhouse and outdoors to pick and what seems like a final courgette. I have a fancy to sow some winter salad under the cloches (just an idea at the moment) and I have packets of bulbs waiting in the wings to plant.

Then there is the laundry, some cleaning and a bit of reordering in the house to attend to. I had already switched over the contents of my wardrobe for the new season before we went to the cottage and I have adventurous plans whirling around in my head for putting in some drawers and shelving inside the wardrobe so it is better fitted out……. when we can carve out some time.

Have a relaxing Sunday everyone x

dear diary :: more of the same

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The last of the catkins…

…the appearance of tiny Celandines on the grass verges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dear diary :: 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 :: weathering the weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

creating health and wellbeing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dear diary :: another celebration

We arrived home late from Scotland, but safe and sound, on Saturday night. Saturday is the best night to travel back down – the motorways have few heavy goods vehicles and not many cars either, having said that you can still see some horrendous accidents so it was no surprise to witness four ambulances shooting past one after the other along the northbound carriageway of the M61. I always send up a little prayer for those involved and those who are there to treat the victims and then thank God that we remain safe as often it is just the fact of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – a few seconds more or less and that crash could have been us.

On Sunday we surfaced very late and then had to rush off down to town before the early Sunday closing to get bits and pieces for the next project, my grandson’s birthday cake. I am not sure why I volunteered to do the cake, I had less than 24 hours to produce something and I had no idea how I was going to decorate it – other than it would have to be buttercream and some sprinkles. I had to invent something from the few decorating items I could find in Sainsbury’s and being in such a rush of course everything went wrong.

I wanted a tall cake with 3 layers but didn’t have enough sandwich tins of the right size so decided to make one large cake and slice it into three – the mixture takes longer to cook in one tin so I felt it came out a bit drier than when you divide the mixture between sandwich tins. I am still not sure what happened with the buttercream – one minute it was fine then all of a sudden it seemed to be all whippy and too much air – it might have been because I used semi skimmed milk rather than whole milk when I added the liquid. You can see the odd texture in the photo. It was far too late to do anything about it so I just had to slap it on and hope for the best. The stars cut out of the blue fondant icing were a bit of an afterthought to cover up the texture of the buttercream – the problems didn’t seem to affect the taste though. Everyone said it tasted really nice. Thank goodness. It isn’t my best creation but it did the job and little Freddie loved the candle and sparkler.

Making a cake is probably no cheaper than just buying a ready made one from the supermarket. I used to make all the birthday cakes for our two daughters – I have done fairy castles and toadstools, horseriding and ballerina, jungle scenes and pretty flowers, but I am really beginning to think my cake making days are at an end.

As it was so close to the recent christening we just made little Freddie a small tea party to mark the occasion of his very first birthday with both sets of grandparents and mum and dad. He enjoyed himself and thoroughly entertained us – although he didn’t really know what a birthday is.

My daughter had made these delightful little decorations for the tea party out of some wrapping paper and tissue.

Whilst in Castle Douglas on the way back home from Scotland I had a bit of a shopping spree as you can see in the photo – altogether my little haul was less than £15 – so I don’t feel that is too extravagant. In the craft centre I bought these little wooden rabbits ready for Easter.

……and for £2.59 I also bought this instruction card to make the patchwork quilt in the picture using my own fabrics. You buy the card and on the back are all the instructions and measurements for cutting out the strips and squares of fabric to make this design. I have a lot of pretty cotton fabric left over from making the bunting for my daughter’s wedding and it is on my list to make a quilt – I love the design of this one and the colours and fabrics are very close to the ones I have.

I couldn’t leave Castle Douglas without popping in to Tessara – a tiny shop full of beautiful gifts and homewares. There was a sale on and I bought the silver photo frame for my mantel piece – having 3 grandchildren now I need plenty of photo frames.

Today we had a bit of a clear up of outstanding tasks – booking my car service, rearranging an appointment and chatting with a Citroen specialist about our car problems. I also made a few pressed flower cards – so quite a productive day.

I now have to start thinking about our next two projects – our new kitchen and the Burns night supper on Saturday.

These are certainly busy times.

dear diary :: when it’s dismal outside

Could the weather be more dull or drizzly? I can see where the saying ‘feeling under the weather’ comes from as it can feel a touch depressing. I am even struggling to take photos inside in the gloom. DH is just drinking more of his strong coffee to keep awake – at least it is on offer – half price at Sainsbury’s so I have stocked up big time. I need to keep him going whilst he is doing the decorating – he has now moved on to putting more primer coats on the woodwork.

It can seem a slow job when you are eagerly waiting for it to be finished. I haven’t taken any photos today as there isn’t a marked difference to the previous ones….not that you will see in a photo.

Yesterday turned out to be a bit of a strange day – nothing like I had planned…. but that is not unusual. I was up at the normal hour about 7.30am and had breakfast with my new mats – I promise you will be tired of seeing them soon – but I am so loving them and the difference these two little mats have made I just have to photograph them. Often!

Only an hour or two into the morning and I had the first phone call of the day – my younger daughter – more chat about the upcoming birthday gathering. It seems we have both bought a number one candle for on top of the cake – so at the moment she is ’11’ – hers is a pink one – mine is rainbow coloured so I will save mine for little Freddie – he will be one in January!

By the time we had finished I was late starting the soup – leek and potato today as we hadn’t had this for a while and it is so lovely and colourful – you can’t beat homemade soup when it’s dismal outside.

I like to add some decent chunks of carrot to mine and I only part blend the soup to give it some body but only enough so that most of the veggies are still identifyable.

After lunch I wrote all the birthday cards for November and also a letter or two to get in the post, I like to send hand written letters when I can it is a dying art like postcards…but aren’t they lovely to receive.

We then headed for town again.

I needed to buy the interfacing for the other two tablemats at our indoor market hall and look around some of the out of town retail shops – Mothercare, TK Max, Boots and Next as well as pop into the Range for some double sided tape. Everywhere had such a tempting array of goods I was almost wishing I was back at work and had my monthly wage to be able to buy some of the things I saw. But I reminded myself I really don’t need anything very much and just bought one or two low priced things to satisfy that desire to buy something.

I went for the interfacing first to get that off my list so I didn’t forget it (it has been known for me to come back having totally forgotten what I had originally gone to town for – I am easily distracted!).

On my travels around the shops I found a roll of light brown parcel paper – often it is a very yellowy dark brown but I am quite particular about my brown paper LOL! and prefer the lighter greyer colour for printing on to use as wrapping paper at Christmas. I popped into Boots as I noticed the cotton wool pads are on offer – 3 for 2 this week – so that is my supplies replenished for the coming months, and I got extra points on them too as a bonus.

I thought the Christmas tree shaped vol au vents Sadie mentioned on her blog are really nice – they are doing them in Waitrose too but then I noticed this set of cutters in TK Max for £2.99 so guess what…..I will be having a go at making my own nearer to Christmas with the two smaller cutters and maybe some gingerbread with the larger one.

Pleased with my purchases we came home, made tea and then snuggled down for the evening – I was too tired by this time to even light the candles but that didn’t matter, however, life is not straight forward is it – just as I was relaxing I had another phone call from my daughter to say she had heard through the family grapevine that grandma was not well.

I had only spoken to my mum (who is 93 and lives in one of those lovely retirement apartments near my sister in North Yorkshire) the evening before and she was fine. When I spoke to her last night she was in bed resting and said she had woken up feeling quite off and dizzy yesterday morning and thought it was her blood pressure. My sister had called the doctor who came out to her and he agreed with her diagnosis. They will send someone out to her to take her blood today and run some tests. I hope she is better by Sunday for the get together.

Another Neal’s yard catalogue dropped through my door with a 20% off voucher on the back. As many readers know I love their products and I don’t think you can beat their Intense facial serum but I can only just afford it when it is discounted. I could order it online but I much prefer a day out to Sheffield to their nearest store – it is on the list.

Just as I was preparing for bed my elder daughter rang to chat about the upcoming Christening preparations….. again……. even the Royal Christenings will not have been so well planned – her job at work is managing projects and it continues into her home life – she always examines every detail quite carefully – from car parking at the church and venue to the sandwich fillings, I guarantee everything will be well thought out and I am the sounding board!

So an unintentional late night.

My daughter is coming round today with little Freddie so we can carry on the conversation and finalise a few more bits – maybe I might just get the other two tablemats made in and amongst while she is here. x