dear diary ~ happy ‘blog’ birthday to me

I was spurred on to write this anniversary post after reading one yesterday by an all time favourite blog of mine ‘Johnny jumps up’ which I have been following for a number of years. She has given a lovely account of the changes she has noticed about herself and her life since she started the blog which made me think about any changes that have happened in my own life.

I began the first blog ‘Where the journey takes me’ on January 4th 2012 after much deliberation – but it turns out that it is one of the better choices I have made in my life and I love reading my favourite blogs as much as I love writing for my own. Sadly many bloggers have dropped off along the way but I intend to keep going as long as possible and would like to think I might even be blogging when I get to 90 like Pat on her blog ‘The Weaver of Grass’.

So what changes have happened if any?

This has taken some very careful consideration – delving into my past is always a little scary – I think I can say that the simple life that attracts me comes and goes – just when it is within my grasp and life is feeling ordered and calm – I hit a crisis or a drama which can turn my world upside down. In August 2014 we experienced an horrific flood to our little cottage by the sea in Scotland. It was intended as our retirement home and we had been renovating it at weekends and holidays for exactly 10 years, in fact we had just had the place reroofed so that water did not get in from above! It wasn’t the sea that caused the flood but just the sheer volume of water rolling down the hills a bit like what happened in Boscastle.

Only two weeks previously we had been overjoyed at the arrival of our first grandchild Little L and this was to be quite a life changer for us.

In 2015 my colleague became terminally ill with secondary lung cancer and I had to increase my hours to cope with the volume of work which was quite specialised so there was no-one available to help without some serious training. I remember being dog tired all the time and even had to log on to my computer during any holidays I had to deal with work.

In the January 2016 my daughter announced that she was booking her wedding in Scotland for the July, so only 6 months to prepare and only about 2 weeks to get a dress on order. I spent the next few months organising and booking things for her and then designed the invites and made what seemed like miles of bunting for the marquee. Although stressful it was a nicer stress than dealing with the insurance company for the flood (which was still going on at this point) or the grief from the loss of my colleague.

In 2017 I was able to throw myself into domesticity once again…still hoping for that simple life. DH and I started hosting a Burns night at home in Yorkshire with our closest friends which we do every year now. Work became a bit manic whilst I trained two new people to replace my colleague – one either side of me asking questions all day until my head was buzzing. Eventually work settled down and I was able to reduce my hours once again. We bought a small static caravan to put in the garden at the cottage with a view to renovating the cottage once again as the insurance company had paid us out at last. Things were looking up.

In July 2018 I had my last day at work on my wedding anniversary I welcomed the end of my busy working life and felt at last that I could now concentrate on doing all the things I had not had time for…more crafting, baking, housekeeping and going out for day trips with DH. Sadly, our retirement to Scotland was not going to plan as work on the cottage had still not begun but we were able to go up there for longer periods now that we were both retired.

After running out of photo space I started this new blog ‘Where the journey takes me 2’ and also paid to have the adverts removed as they seemed to be creating a problem for readers. Whenever I go onto my old blog now I am glad that I made this decision as the amount of adverts that WordPress put on is very distracting.

By the end of 2018 we welcomed our second grandchild into the family – Sweetie- and in January 2019 Freddie came on the scene. We spent as much time as possible with them and they have certainly given us so much joy. Everything bumped along as normal with some small ups and downs along the way until July 2019 when our little world was shattered once again as one of my daughters suddenly overnight found herself alone and coping with two young children after a tragic event no-one could have forseen and which has changed all our plans for the future.

More than three years on it is now looking like there will be no retirement to Scotland and our plans for the cottage are yet to be finalised after having many changes of mind over its’ future. The garden at the cottage is still my little paradise but I have thrown myself into the garden here at home and grow what I can in the space we have. My investment in the little greenhouse was another of my better choices. I love it.

Of course last year was almost a write off being stricken with a bad back and limited mobility for many months. It did tell me how important gardening was to me when I could barely bend down and I do hope I will be able to do more in the furture. My ageing mum is also a constant worry as she has limited mobility too but hers will never be any better and her memory is none too good either making communication difficult. Having to give my sister (who lives close to her and does 3 days of care) some respite from her more frequently, together with being required to cover parts of the school holidays with child care leaves us with much less time to go to Scotland for any decent length of time.

So what have I learned about myself along the way – I realise just how resilient as a family we are – we have had some very stressful times and yet managed to keep going and mostly keep smiling. Maybe because of enduring some hard times we sailed through the pandemic and I loved being in lockdown with no demands on us – it was as close to the simple life as I fear I may ever get. But I am not complaining, nor disappointed as I know that family and their happiness is everything to me even though it takes up much of my time and leaves me busier than ever and far removed from the simple life I long for. I also know that I am not alone with many of my problems and readers often comment on their own similar troubles or often give good advice.

Looking over my blog it appears from all the posts and photos that I do like organising events and making things for them – weddings, parties, get togethers, family picnics and celebrations and this probably stems from my past life in fashion when I organised fashion shows and photo shoots – if I had my time again perhaps I would have taken an events manager’s course at University – such a course didn’t exist when I applied for Art College.

I also know that sustainability is important to me – recycling, reusing and cutting down on waste and stuff. I want to feel I will leave this world knowing that it is on a better course than it is at present so that my grandchildren have a future and that the destruction we are causing is turned around.

I do like to be organised and although I think I like the idea of routines in my life I can honestly say that I don’t really have any – going to work each day was as close to a routine as I got and now I am retired an hour or two of pottering before breakfast and an evening meal at about 6.45pm, followed by a nightly call to my mum are my only daily routines but in between anything might happen and usually not what I had planned but more what I impulsively feel like doing. I think my blog and my random posting is testimony to this.

I am not just impulsive, often to my detriment, I know there are certain things I leave to the last minute – I am one of those people who work better under pressure but afterwards always wonder why I didn’t begin earlier and I admire all those bloggers who are able to plan and execute a task well ahead of time. I am hopeless at challenges too or keeping up with some of the monthly ‘join in’ posts with other bloggers – I know there is another Scrap Happy Challenge post on the horizon and I haven’t even thought about it yet.

However, blogging at my own speed and taking photos has been an absolute joy over the past eleven years – my camera skills have certainly improved, my spelling may have too…I hope. It can be helpful to look back over both my blogs from time to time as they are a useful record of all my crafting achievements and I am sometimes surprised at the amount I actually get done even though I would like it to be more. When I see the wealth of creativity on many of the blogs I visit I do often feel that I don’t apply myself enough to do more but I will be working on this with my new Focus word ‘contentment’ and allow myself to be content with what I do achieve.

So I think I can say that although I have not by any means reached that wonderful life of simplicity I continue to work on it and see small improvements – as my blog title suggests it is a journey and one day I will arrive.

I promise that this will be the longest post of 2023 and if you have got this far through my ramblings you deserve a cup of tea. x

dear diary ~ happy New Year 2023

A very happy and healthy New Year to all my blog friends and readers and may it be all you are wishing it to be.

You may have noticed I have a new look for a new year – I felt like a change and you may have noticed I have been tinkering around with my blog a bit recently and moving and deleting things. My blog roll is now under the tab above named ‘Lovely Places to Go‘ – I hope I have got everyone on there.

I have been planning and listing to excess in the last few days and it is time for me to choose a new Focus word for the year. Last year’s word Improvement worked out so well I intend to carry this on as well.

As usual many words went through my mind but the one I kept coming back to is Contentment. I Googled it to find the dictionary lists it as meaning;

Contentment: “a state of happiness and satisfaction”

When you feel content you are more likely to feel grateful for the small pleasures in life and it is usually these small everyday pleasures that make us happy. Sometimes life gets so busy here I often miss those little pleasures.

When I think back to both my grandparents, my in laws and my dad they were all very contented people and happy with their lot. I meet many people who are not, they always seem to be striving for the next thing but the enjoyment it brings once obtained seems fleeting.

Over the last few years I have been making a big effort to buy less and be content with what we have – it can be a struggle at times as the shops display such an array of tempting goodies to buy and it can be hard to walk away without slipping something into my basket, but all these little bits and pieces add up to more clutter and as the ‘stuff’ builds up once again will require decluttering at some future time. As I have continued to declutter through the house and at the same time tried hard not to buy new things in their place I have been loving the emptier spaces, though there is still a lot of room for improvement. It is quite noticeable now that many people, unless you are a true hoarder, are constantly decluttering – and I am too; yet I never remember either of my grandmas having these mammoth decluttering sessions and when I think about it I presume it is because they did not buy ‘stuff’ in the first place.

January is a good place to start. My first intention is to shop the house – I have been making lists of what I might need to buy and what I don’t really need to buy and this month will become the test. Where possible I will be using up, reusing, repurposing, recycling and even upcycling……anything to avoid buying.

I will be shopping in the pantry, fridge and freezer this month for food and only buying in any necessary groceries that we require as well as fresh fruit and veg, milk and bread. In fact I have bread flour never opened so this might be the time to make my own. I have a mind to run the pantry shelves and freezer down to almost nothing and definitely find ways of using up some of the bits and pieces left over from making birthday cakes and chocolates. I have quite a bit of coloured roll out icing which will go hard if not used, half a jar of mincemeat and a full tub of crystalised ginger…..I need to set time aside for a baking session.

The only item of clothing I really need is some new boots; mine can be a bit leaky in wet weather, but at a push I could probably make the ones I have last yet another year.

I have a stack of homemade and recycled cards now for most occassions and a stash of presents in the drawer so no need to buy these for a while.

Since I began knitting again I have collected quite a few balls of wool in the drawer so I am looking to make another jumper for one of the grandchildren and maybe have a go at some socks. I admire all you bloggers that knit those wonderful pairs of socks I see – maybe someone might direct me to some instructions suitable for a beginner.

In my mind there is no time like January for giving the house a good clean and I have a cupboard full of cleaning products to use up, mainly inherited from other people that I can’t waste even if I am not keen on them, and hopefully I can create a bit more space in the cleaning cupboard.

Once the inside is spick and span and I have cleared out and organised all the drawers and cupboards I will start looking at what seeds I have to use up to. I will have to buy seed potatoes though – but they won’t break the bank. We are still using our Christmas potatoes, they were well worth planting last Autumn and a real treat this time of year.

There will be no getting away from buying decorating products once we start on the laundry room and our main bedroom, but I think I might wait to do this until after all the upcoming birthday celebrations, Burns night and perhaps a trip to the cottage.

Looking forward to hearing all your plans and gaining some inspiration.

dear diary :: a new year, a new word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possible or not – I don’t know?

dear diary :: calm amidst turmoil

Hello everyone – I hope you are all well and safe. We are. Well safe at least from the virus and thank you for your messages of concern, I had not realised I had been away quite this long. Truth is my neck, shoulders and lower back have not been good again lately so I have been trying to stay off the computer and do more exercises to release the build up of tension I get in these areas; it seems most things I want to do, whether it be sewing, cooking or reading blogs, involve long periods with my head down – not a good posture.

It has also been difficult recently dealing with my mum from a distance as she goes into decline both physically and mentally and I am feeling the strain. Mum has just realised, now she is able to go to my sister’s house, that she doesn’t have the strength anymore to manouvre herself in and out of the car without the help of my sister’s husband and that shopping is looking like an activity she will not be participating in any longer.

The restrictions imposed on her, both from the Covid virus and her mobility, are now sending her into a state of depresion and witnessing the news on TV day after day of the recent events is making her feel quite angry. She is never able to disassociate herself from what is going on in the world, even though there is little she can do about it. The recent removal of the statue and the ongoing protests are causing her a great deal of irritation, though, I suspect this is an easy target for her anger at the moment when in reality she is probably angry with the fact that she is so immobile. My problem is trying to calm her down each evening when I phone her and we just keep going over the same topics with me trying to find a way for her to accept that people feel very strongly, enough to gather and protest even in these dangerous times with a killer virus still out there. I have always been a person able to see both sides of an issue – perhaps not always a good thing.

As the assistant in Sainsbury’s said to me the other day when I got chatting to him in the vegetable aisle “it is not just the case that Black Lives Matter but rather Every Life Matters”….he was black so had an interesting point of view on this and I tend to agree with him.

As for the fate of the statues – this is a hard call and I suspect will be yet another division in our society where we already have the north / south, rich / poor, leave / remain, black / white divides.

In our local town we have dear old Harold Wilson on a pedestal (for those overseas readers – a past Labour Prime Minister born locally of a working class family) located prominently just outside the railway station – I suspect many of the young people passing him daily are not even aware of who he was or what he is celebrated for. He took the place of an earlier statue of Sir Robert Peel who just crumbled away! Although Harold was a great campaigner for the rights of the underprivileged, like most of the people commemorated by a statue, he also had a few stains to his character. In Harold’s case, although far from being racist, he did authorise military aid during the Nigerian Civil War, an act that directly cost the lives of millions of black Africans (largely the Biafrans), in return for a supply of cheap oil. The photos of emaciated black children dying of hunger caused a huge political outcry when they were published in Britain and although the Nigerian Civil War of the 1960s is quite forgotten today it is still an episode in our history of overseas intervention by British military that remains.

Our local history is very much built on the textile mills owned by wealthy people like John Ramsden, Joseph Armitage, the Brooke and Brook families, John Crowther, Joseph Quarmby and many others. As far as I am aware there are no statues of them around the town, which is just as well as not all of them can be celebrated for their contribution to human welfare by any means; loss of life and limb for their mill workers was a constant daily threat, but they provided us with our many fine public buildings, schools and churches and were the major source of employment here.

In our little township one mill owner was quite philanthropic and like Sir Titus Salt of Saltaire provided homes, schools, a convalescent home and some pleasure grounds for his mill workers as well as good wages, a dining hall and baths. In fact one of these houses built in 1857 was the first house we bought after we married in the 70’s. It had a garden that stretched down to the mill stream and overlooked the pleasure grounds. The whole terrace has now been listed.

Originally built as under and over dwellings (quite a usual feature in the north) most of the houses, like the one above that we lived in, have been knocked through now to make one four storey dwelling. Sadly a lot of the original Georgian windows had already been replaced in favour of a more modern style, as on the ground floor kitchen window. As it was two houses originally we had a front door number 23 and a back door round the other side of number 21.

So our world is in a state of great unrest at the moment – but then looking at our local history I am reminded that it always has been in one way or another and I think about the words of John Ruskin, to the Merchants and Manufacturers of Bradford, regarding their plan to build a cloth exchange, 1864 during the time of the great wealth of the mill owners who were bringing about so much rapid change (rapid for those days).

“Change must come; but it is ours to determine whether change of growth, or change of death. Shall the Parthenon be in ruins on its rock, and Bolton Priory in its meadow, but these mills of yours be the consummation of the buildings of the earth, and their wheels be as the wheels of eternity ? Think you that ‘men may come and men may go,’ but mills go on for ever ?
Not so; out of these, better or worse shall come; and it is for you to choose which”.

So will we choose for better or worse?

And now we are preparing for the new changes allowed to our movements as shops open once more and tourism starts up again – I feel a sadness that our economy is so reliant on us once again going out to ‘spend, spend, spend’. We seem to go around in circles trying to balance the environment with the effects we have on it by spending and tourism.

I find the best way to overcome any feelings of hopelessness is to either go for a walk or go in the garden as nature is very calming and grounding. So a walk around the block is an excellent tonic.

This verge covered in spring by a mass of daffodils is now dotted with moon pennies and gardens that lay bare before are suddenly filled with all the delights of summer perennials.

In and amongst the exercising and walking I have done a little making and baking. A choclate cake for DH’s birthday…

……and trying out a new recipe I found on the internet using fresh raspberries. It is such an easy recipe – a deliciously melted chocolate brownie mixture, in to which you drop the fresh raspberries and bake in these tiny spring form tins…..

….and eaten when still warm from the oven and topped with fresh cream of course.

Not everything in the kitchen has been baking though – I had a roll of puff pastry and goats cheese to use up, so made my favourite savoury goats cheese and walnut tart – quick to make and always a favourite in summer to have with salad.

I also found time to finish the padded bench cushion so we can while away some time in the garden in between weeding and dead heading.

The large dish is beginning to fill out nicely now with the annuals I planted, brightening up a dull corner.

…and the peonies have opened at last. This is one I bought a few years ago with a beautiful yellow centre. I always think you can never have too many peonies in a summer garden.

So not a lot going on here – but enough at the moment – I am making the most of this time while I can to recharge my batteries. I have a hairdressing appointment booked for the middle of July – all being well – DH needs a hair cut even more than me! We look forward to the day we can go to Scotland and see our garden up there and also visit mum and the grandchildren for a hug – it is a bit of a strange time now when we are not yet safe from the virus but not quite as much at risk – I am not even sure what the rules are anymore, but then we have not introduced many changes here yet and the only shopping we continue to do is our once every other week trip to the supermarket. Maybe we will venture out more soon when I feel the coast is clear.

Stay well and safe everyone – I will be round to catch up with everyone’s blogs soon.

And if you are reading this Suzanne – I couldn’t leave a comment but I am really sorry to see you say goodbye on your blog – I will miss you. x

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