beaching :: simple pleasures

The low road to the village – once a road and now only a footpath.

We are at the cottage at last – it has been a long time since we were here.  It was a turbulent summer, but for now the dust has settled and daily life resumes.  Things have not resolved though – and won’t for a while – the outcome is a long way off and like Brexit we will have to live with uncertainty, until certainty gains some ground.  But I firmly believe in the fact that good always comes out of bad.  Just not quick enough sometimes!

I had forgotten how some very simple pleasures can ignite a feeling of well-being and here at the cottage simple is one of the great attractions.  Snuggling down at night under a heavier duvet than we are used to – I like the weight of it – it would feel too stifling at home where the bedrooms retain the heat longer with better insulated walls – but here I need the extra warmth to keep away the chill in the caravan once the heating is turned off.   I am reminded of my childhood long before we had central heating in the bedrooms and a sense of being wrapped up tightly against the cold night air – at the same time bringing feelings of security too.

Lying, warm and cosy in bed in the caravan I listen to the beat of the rain on the roof.  Steady at first, then a sudden torrential burst, but like the roar of the sea at night, soothing in its rhythm.  At other times there is absolute silence here and always, once the lights are out, an inky black darkness which is only lit on the nights we have a full moon.  We have street lights at home, security lights too and any chink in the curtain throws light into the bedroom no matter how hard I try to keep it out; there is never a moment when the world is completely black to us. 

Here there are no street lights – only nature lights a path.  There was talk of putting solar lighting along the low road, which is a path leading into the village that runs alongside the beach – I hope not as the nesting birds and wildlife in the surrounding bushes need darkness…..we need darkness.

There are other pleasures here too – cooking by gas, the whistling of the kettle on the hob, cupboards that hold ‘just enough’ to get by and no more.  There is a sparseness of decoration that brings quietness to this little temporary home – a vase of tiny sea shells, a jam jar of coloured sea glass and a display of beach pebbles or pine cones collected on our walks.

We have time here too – time to eat breakfast and read, time to ponder and collect our thoughts even managing to put them into some kind of order.  We watch the rabbits scampering around and the birds foraging in the undergrowth for food – they have all day – we have all day.  And I ask myself how it is once we are back at home life takes over again, demands surface and problems begin to mount up.

The Rosa rugose hedge running alongside the lane is dripping with rosehips.  The abundance of nature here is wonderful – the hedgerows and woodland – the call of the cuckoo and wood pigeon mingled with the cry of the gulls – the expanse of deserted seashore.

One of my first tasks will be to pick a few herbs and flowers from the garden to bring inside, whatever is still in bloom. I am annoyed with myself that I forgot my flower press; I will have to assemble a makeshift one from a stack of heavy books and some kitchen paper.  I have ideas to make some gift tags and cards from the pressed petals.

There was a huge amount of windfall apples lying on the ground – I salvaged a few and left the rest for the wild life to devour. Hopefully, the ones remaining on the tree will fall before the weeks out.

The rain continued to lunchtime so after our initial walk around to inspect the garden we decided to go for a walk to the village whilst it stayed dry.  The garden will have to wait for another day – it has waited our return all summer and many of the plants have grown unchecked to dizzy heights, whilst others have been and gone leaving only a skeleton behind to suggest they had once been there at all.

For the benefit of new readers we are camping out in a caravan pending the reinstatement of our cottage after the flood – you can read our tale should you be interested in the tab Beach Cottage above.

dear diary :: nothing to report

I have nothing much to report today. I spent most of the day getting to grips with our finances, checking bank statements and noting the balances, as they have been left to fend for themselves in the last few busy weeks. Goodness knows what shape we are in – I know my purse is quite empty. When I have totted up and taken away all will be revealed – as it is almost the end of May I will be doing my end of April and May Tally together this time but I do not expect that I have managed anything remotely frugal or cost saving – quite the opposite money has flowed out of our accounts like the rapids.

Feeling a bit stressed at the moment I decided to rearrange our Scotland visit to simplify things a bit more by rearranging a few appointments to give us a clear week away sometime in June. This will give us a little more time at home to get some of the half started projects completed, the washing and ironing up to date and restore my sanity before we head off again.

Apart from that I have done very little and it has been absolute bliss.

I will leave you with a few pictures taken today from around the garden.

Lettuce leaves
Courgette
Aquilegia

Just to add a big thank you for all the lovely comments about caring for my mum and myself during this difficult time – I know many of you can identify with the issues I am facing at present and I do value your support.

fEAsible ~ the importance of lists

I mentioned in my previous post that I had been planning – most of my planning still takes place in my ancient A5 planner  – I was introduced to planners at work in the 80’s, it came with my promotion – a leather ‘Time System’ planner but the better known Filofax is very similar and more recently the Bullet Journal system is now the new time planner, only more decorative.Everything was recorded in my planner – both for work and home and I didn’t go anywhere without it.  I still smile now when I remember those early days of time management planners – whenever I attended a meeting for work everyone else would arrive carrying theirs too and we would end the meeting synchronizing planner time!  I still use mine out of habit –  paper has always been my thing.

My planner is divided by a series of sections and each is full of ideas, lists and tasks – at the end of the day there is something very satisfying about making a little tick mark against a completed task, especially a task that has been rolling over week after week from one list to another most annoyingly.

ListsRecently I bought a book titled L’art de la Liste by the same author Dominique Loreau who wrote L’art de la Simplicité: How to Live More with Less.  She throws a whole new perspective on my love of lists.  She likens a list to a haiku (an expressive Japanese poem) or a journal as it becomes a record of your life and suggests the advantage of making lists allows us to rethink and restructure our ideas.

After a recent clear out I found a stack of my old to do lists and notes, which I have put aside to shred or burn on the cottage bonfire.  They can be quite enlightening and a reminder of what I have actually done with my time over the years.  After reading the book I may decide not burn them after all – but then that is not in keeping with a simple and minimalistic lifestyle…

– so such is my dilemma.

My word for the year is ‘transition’   as I am currently undergoing a period of big changes so my transformation to a simpler more streamlined home and lifestyle will require new routines that fit better with my new life.  Streamlining is an ongoing task and a bit like peeling away the layers of an onion.  It requires a slow steady approach and to help support my clearing out, paring down and keeping order I need to prevent future piles of stuff from reforming and building up again when I have an unexpected busy period or take my eye off the ball – which I know I will do.

Clutter spots seem to be contagious in this house and my main enemies are the washing and ironing pile, the finances, incoming emails and reading blogs and leaving comments – if I get busy they don’t get done.

So when I read the simple advice in The Joy of Less by Francine Jay to have a daily maintenance plan I knew this was the answer, after all I have time now in the mornings to do more as I am no longer rushing out to work.  Taking a few minutes each day to address the problem areas should help to keep the house in good order.  So this is my basic list:-

  • Put on one load of washing – this must be a full load where possible to save water and energy and is not always necessary every day but checking is.
  • Ironing – iron whatever I washed the day before
  • Finances – enter the receipts, balance statements and action anything waiting to be dealt with.
  • Check and reply to or delete incoming emails for the day
  • Blog comments – I include this in the list as keeping up with blogs I read and making comments is better done daily otherwise I find I have too much catching up to do.

I thought it important as well to throw in a bit of daily self-care – something that I should do more of but… oh well you know how it is – so I made a start by adding these to the list:-

  • Take supplements – currently my Vitamin D with my breakfast
  • Eat one apple a day – my contribution to a healthy diet and usually my mid morning snack
  • Exercises – at the moment I am following Posture Queen’s Somatic exercises to help my neck and shoulders, hips and knees.

I began my new routine in the New Year  – I switched my week on two pages diary in my planner for a page a day style, with more space I can keep a daily check list that I tick off as I go and this does help me to keep on track and stick to it.  When my routine was a bit disrupted last week with the arrival of baby X  I didn’t end up with a huge backlog of jobs as I was already on top of things.

I am really pleased – it could be working.

I am sure once my new routines are established I can add in a few more.  Getting the daily jobs done and out-of-the-way should leave me more time for the fun things in life.

 

 

 

dEAr diary ~ just catching up with myself

Hi everyone and to my new followers – it has been a few days since my last post and a busy few days – I have been on a bit of a roll and not had time to stop and blog or have been too tired to write anything meaningful.  I have been keeping up with you all though even if I haven’t left a comment – Sadie, I love your videos – you are so creative.

Before I go on I must just mention that a few people keep asking me about the capital ‘EA’ in my titles and categories – well I hate to disappoint – there is no profound reason for this – it has no meaning other than I noticed when defining my categories at the very start of my blog that they all contained the letters EA – so nothing more than me having a play around on words.  The added advantage is that it does make it unmistakably my blog.

So with that out of the way on with the knit and natter – but without the knitting bit….

Well, I wish I could say that the house is sparkling clean, all the clutter has gone and I am super organised when in fact only parts of the house are clean (maybe not with the sparkle) some of the clutter has gone and I am still trying to be organised.

It all takes time.

On Saturday we had a mammoth outing, a mixture of errands and shopping.  It took us most of the day.  We off-loaded a couple more bags to the Charity shop, returned the library books, returned a couple of tops to Sainsbury’s,  bought some bags of gravel to finish the concrete for the shed base, bought the new brackets to hold the ladder outside on the wall, bought a mattress topper from IKEA and bought a cheap sweatshirt from Primark for DH (probably to mix the concrete in!).  At the end of it all we shared a toastie in Costa with my loyalty points, had a hot drink each and a little treat from Next – I bought a (just couldn’t leave it in the shop) grey and white patterned storage jar for my teabags to keep on the counter top, £6 and DH found a mechanical pencil reduced in the sale in the Paperchase concession shop for £4.

We managed to do all this without paying for any parking and came home happy, but tired bunnies.

Further progress has been made in the home office / craft room well that is what we call it but it is actually masquerading as a paper mountain – or is it a paper mountain masquerading as a home office?  How can two fairly simple lives collect such a lot of paper – I feel we are drowning in the stuff.  This is just a bit of it.Piece by piece I have tackled pile after pile.  I have reduced my craft folder clippings to only those ideas I know I might make at sometime, the recipes ditto.  I threw out all but a few of my clippings on health, diet and exercise; ditto the clippings of kitchens, decorating ideas and home styling.  And some more books to go.     I washed the rest of the vintage doilies and mats that came from my mum’s house – keeping any I thought I might use in some way in future and the rest will go to the CS.

I have made soup, soup and more soup – mushroom, leek and potato, green veg and the latest was tomato – all delicious and so quick and easy to make.  My lovely neighbour gave me these – the last of her tomatoes from her outdoor plants so I will be making more of this during the week and looking to grow some myself next year.

I did a thorough clean of the living room and cleared out or rearranged a few ornaments …– my one piece of Autumn decor is a tiny pine cone on the mantel piece, my new hand-made ‘crafty’ vase from Dunoon containing a dried hydrangea head and a bamboo plate displaying a few Autumn nature table finds – subtle but simple.

I am rather liking the minimalist approach and I won’t have to store any of it in fact it will compost very well.

Remember my new routines that I am setting up – they are not going too badly.  In fact I surprise myself sometimes.  So far I have attended to my emails and finances every morning – we should make it to pay-day on Friday (if that is what you call collecting the state pension) although we don’t actually have to queue up and collect it, it is just deposited in our bank.  Nothing to spare though this month which is a bit disappointing;  C+ for effort but must try harder next month.

The food shopping is working out at about £50 week with one week a little more when I bought toilet rolls and some multiples of items on offer and a load of nuts for the Christmas nut loaves, chocolates and cake.  I had a full refund on the M&S potatoes as there were so many bad ones in the bag I took them back.  I am going to aim for £45 a week for the groceries next month.

The unexpected items this month  –  the gravel and cement for the gap above (how six bags of gravel can fit into such a small space is amazing), ladder brackets, car bulbs and the mattress topper (which is actually for my daughter’s bed not ours so I can get a good nights sleep when we stay there!).  Baby still not appeared and we live in hope it will come soon.

I am already thinking about the November expenses – 4 birthdays and a wedding anniversary – no funerals (that I know of) – but there could be a 5th birthday of course if someone doesn’t get a move on.

Oh and did I mention the cheque for the tax refund came yesterday – how is that for service – quicker than my posts that’s for sure.  DH has a nice letter too from the tax man –  after my phone call last week to the inland revenue he has been given part of my tax allowance for the year under the new married tax allowance rules to reduce his tax bill –  such is love!

Not much more to say – it has been windy here in Yorkshire but good for drying the washing.

Have a good week who knows I might find time between paper sorting to post again soon x

 

 

 

trEAsury ~ simplifying money matters

As autumn is underway now and my world of paid work is but a distant memory I still feel I haven’t settled into any worthwhile routines or daily rhythms.  I suppose they take time to shape and develop, so I am going to give them a bit of a nudge and create some that are a bit more in step with my life now and reflect the simplified life I want to achieve.

You may have noticed over the years that I am hopeless at routines – evidenced by my erratic posts – I plan to do things then get absorbed in something else.

I did have a really good ‘getting to work’ routine – well I did have 19 years of practice – but I don’t need that now (the work routine not the practice of course).  In fact I could be tempted to sneak back to bed in the mornings – but I don’t.   Honest.

Since stopping work I find my mornings are spent doing a bit of this and that, checking emails, reading blog posts, tidying, ironing – but nothing consistent or that could be considered a routine.  I tend to agree with the idea that a good morning routine is the foundation of any successful day as well as starting early – unfortunately, I am no morning person either – so that will be challenging too.

One of the daily routines I am going to tag onto my morning routine, such as it is, will be a daily financial check so that I can keep a close eye on our spending.  As the effects of being on a limited income are now being felt I can vouch for the fact that a single *state pension alone does not go very far and the monthly bills soon eat their way into the bulk of it.  I need to take action so we don’t overspend and start drawing on our retirement fund.  I don’t intend to dip into that unless it is absolutely vital.

I read somewhere that you should take time each day to actively manage your wealth and set aside a further 30 minutes to an hour every week to review your budget and handle the associated paperwork mountain – statements, bills, insurance and utilities.  Now I have the time each day I plan to adopt this daily and weekly routine to help me to keep on track and highlight any areas I think we may be overspending.

I am also determined to simplify the process, it seems to take far too long and perhaps one of the reasons why I often put off doing it or just can’t find the time to sit down and do it.  And so it all builds up and then takes a long time to sort out.  I think little and often would be much better – it is worth a try – so during October this will be one of my main goals.

So, starting today, and first thing every morning I will get into the habit of overviewing my finances for ten minutes, noting the amount of cash at the start of the day and recording the previous day’s receipts and spending.  Each week I will then balance statements, pay bills and check the bank balances.

Well that is the plan and by starting small I might even succeed.  I must admit I quite like a financial challenge – in my teen years I was always good at managing my pocket-money and setting aside enough each week to buy all my relatives a present for Christmas – usually from the Co-op in the village where each year they had a wonderful display of bath salts and embroidered hankies – you know the kind of thing.

I must admit the stack of paperwork on my desk at home waiting for my return is a bit daunting almost as high as my ironing pile was a few weeks ago. I have been very inattentive to our finances since leaving work other than keeping in mind that I shouldn’t be spending as much as I was…on anything.  I should have set up a new budget by now more in keeping with our new income but confess I just haven’t got round to it.

After banging on the calculator for a few hours, adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying the *state pension I decided is not going to go very far (no overtime available and not much chance of a pay rise!), and annoyingly paid every 4 weeks on a different day each month, so my conclusion is we need to conserve money where we can and be vigilant at recording and monitoring our spending and challenge ourselves to plenty of ‘no spend days’.

Today just happens to have been one of them.  We survived.

*I still can’t quite believe I am talking about a living on a pension (where did all those years go before this point).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

clEAn and lEAn ~ thoughts on decluttering

In the book by Francine Jay called ‘The Joy of Less’ she quotes Mahatma Gandhi as saying ‘Live simply, so that others may simply live’.

I am on a mission to live simply, I feel weighed down by our stuff and consumerism but attaining simplicity is simply not that easy.  At the moment I am evaluating our lifestyle, the contents of our home and the way we accumulate and use stuff.  I need to reduce our possessions but at the same time I hate waste.  Throwing out ‘stuff’ (by which I mean disposing of it responsibly of course and not putting it in the bin) that was once bought with our hard-earned cash seems a bit wasteful but holding on to it seems worse and if I don’t feel we need it now why did we buy it in the first place.

I spent a whole day at the weekend in the kitchen and dining room continuing with the major clear out and rearrangement of my cupboards. The main aim of this clear out is to create space and make it easier to reach the items we use all the time and getting rid of anything that we have little use for.  As Francine Jay suggests deciding what to keep is far easier than deciding what to throw away.

So with everything out on the counter tops one by one I began choosing the easy stuff – the everyday and the most used.

For a number of years now we generally haven’t kept things for best.  My mum has some beautiful china and many sets of cutlery (coming from Sheffield) all packed away and she still uses the two old plates (bought from the Sheffield market many moons ago) and oddments of cutlery that she has used everyday since I was little.  She is 92 now and I doubt she will ever use her best stuff.  I decided long ago that I wouldn’t have anything put away for best as I wanted to use nice things everyday and I do.

Ainsley Albany china

So I have no need to store ‘best’ things having said that I do have a pretty china dinner service – Ainsley’s Albany – (pictured above) that we collected over many years and used everyday for many years.  I do still use it at Christmas and would never part with it but it is the only thing you might call ‘best’ ware.  We mainly use the white Thomas tableware now to keep things simple and easily replaceable.

I have a few special items, the ones that you keep because they are beautiful or hold memories and they have earned a place in my cabinet but even most of these are used from time to time.

The new addition – the mug with Miss V was a leaving present from one of my colleagues – every morning for almost 19 years we would greet each other with ‘morning miss T’ and she would reply’ morning miss V’.  The mug is a wonderful reminder of our friendship.

Once the everyday, the special and the beautiful had been selected I came to the heap of ‘extra’ dishes – I am sure we all have them – the ones kept for entertaining purposes – parties, Christmas and the like – and these posed much more of a problem.   They require a lot of storage for very little use.

Although only two of us at home now we have to allow for enough dishes to cook and eat when our immediate family get together (now 7 of us and soon to be 8).  We also entertain with our larger group of friends a few times over the course of a year.  This means we have a quite a few ‘entertaining’ items;  larger serving bowls, extra plates, dip dishes, cheese boards – you name it we probably have it.

I pondered long and hard as to what I should do – a minimalist surely doesn’t have this amount of dishes stored in their cupboards.  And then I came across the wise words of Joshua Becker, author of The More of Less who it would seem had the same problem.  He realised that the minimalist life held by some people who only have two plates, two cups etc did not fit with his.  This group of people have different values and purpose.  Identifying our own values is the key; to own just the amount of things you need. Becker enjoys having people round – they belong to many different groups and they like getting together with family, friends and neighbours.

Lightbulb moment.

I enjoy entertaining and gatherings – I like cosy suppers with my friends and hosting New Year and Burn’s night – I hate paper plates and plastic cutlery unless forced to if we have a big party – so I reckon as this adds value to my life at the moment it is OK for my extra tableware to stay – but only as long as it remains useful and I do not add to it… Ever.

After some rearrangements and removal of certain items no longer required I am quite pleased with the final result.  My intention was to make everything that is most used accessible so I have tried not to stack the different sized plates on top of one another.

China cupboard

This did mean spreading out a bit more and to do this I removed the cookery books from these two shelves to create space for the less used white dishes, the table mats and my beautiful Finish red enamel bowl bought in the sixties.

I am loving the feeling of space already and the fact that everything is so much more accessible.  I have no doubt we could live with a lot less but at the moment this is our ‘right amount’ as far as dishes are concerned, a good balance of useful and beautiful.  I have chosen carefully and everything has had to have a reason to stay so I think there will be very little to declutter in future unless our circumstances change.

One minor problem now though – where do I put all the cookery books?

 

dEAr diary ~ reading matter and a natter

A visit to work today to see my old colleagues – I was late as the town was so busy there was nowhere to park – good job it was only a visit.  I chose a good day as the new lady was out in the Leeds office.  I handed round all my thank you notes, I had intended to make my own but in the end I used bought ones.  We all went out for a coffee and a natter to catch up – but I am still glad I am not there anymore, change is very evident and not all sounding good but I don’t have to worry about that any longer.

After my visit I spent a whole hour in the library, bliss, and something I haven’t done for many years – just browsing and picking up anything that caught my eye.  I tend to read non-fiction more than fiction I have this quest for knowledge – always have and at the moment I am in to decluttering and simplifying my life in a big way, so I am not sure if I will find any new advice in the books I chose but it is always worth a read.

One of the books ‘Simplify your Life’  by Naomi Saunders I have read before but thought a refresh might be good.  ‘Declutter your Life’ by Gill Hasson speaks for itself – if I learn anything new and profound I will let you all know!  ‘Today is the Day You Change your Life’ by Elaine Harrison and ‘Leap Year’ by Helen Russell is mostly about those small steps that can make a big difference.  You might remember my word for this year (which is actually a phrase) is ‘ The Power of Small’ so the books are an expansion of this and I hope I might learn something from them.

My other 3 choice of books are more to do with health – ‘Corrective Exercise’ by Kesh Patel, ‘Vaccines’ by Dr Richard Halvorsen and one that I am eager to know more about ‘The Telomere Effect’ by Nobel Prize Winner Dr Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel.

So an early night tonight so I can make a start on one of them and I have no doubt the decluttering and cleaning will begin again tomorrow.