dear diary :: capturing daily life

I suppose in true British and blogging style I need to comment on the weather. There has not been one telephone conversation with friends and family this past week (and there were a lot) when we did not discuss the weather. Ice and icicles everywhere and that biting cold wind. The only exposed part of me when we ventured out was around my face so I doubled up on a very thick moisturiser to try and prevent me getting, what felt like, freezer burn.

Last weekend we stayed home in the warm not even going out for the daily allowed constitutional and I thought I would quite like to have another go with some DAS air drying clay that I bought about 2 years ago…… another project hanging around and overlooked for too long.

I wanted to have another go at making some gift tags and maybe try my hand at some little wall hangers. Although, I enjoyed experimenting with it I can’t say it is my favourite craft and so this might be the last time I do actually use it but it was good to have another go and now I can put that craft to bed. One of my aims this year is to simplify the craft materials that I have by making a decision on just which crafts I am going to focus on as I seem to dabble a bit here and a bit there and never really get to grips with any of them.

So these are some of the little tags and hanging plaques I made – quite cute but a lot of work and they still need sanding and smoothing – but that will be another day.

In the meantime my next knitting project will be for the two girls – Little L and Sweetie – a lightweight summer top in a 4 ply Rowan yarn that I bought last year from the lovely craft shop in Castle Douglas on our visit to Scotland. As I have two tops to knit I will keep it simple and have chosen the plainer of the two styles but have yet to decide on the higher or lower neckline. I am starting now with the hope that I can finish them by the time we see some sunshine and warmer weather. Casting on might even take place tonight if the mood takes me.

The childcare went well this week with little Freddie – he produced some lovely masterpieces with stickers and wax crayons and we managed a walk each day despite the temperature never getting above zero. Stopping to watch the ducks on this resourceful tiny duck pond in the backyard of a nearby terraced house is a favourite but it does make you feel even colder watching them splash about in the freezing cold water.

Even though we felt quite exhausted from looking after little Freddie we made the effort to drive up to see our ‘bubble’ daughter in North Yorkshire yesterday complete with a large homemade trifle and chocolate cake. She is currently on her own with the two girls, Little L who is only six and now being homeschooled (when Sweetie allows). Being just two Sweetie is rather a little whirlwind and a bit disruptive in the home classroom set up! My daughter is also finding it hard to get her own work done to the deadlines she has and many an evening is up until well after midnight trying to work while the children sleep.

She needed a break as it has been a long haul for her since Christmas especially with the schools being closed. There are far more subjects to get through in a day than there is time. We spent the day entertaining the grandchildren to give her a bit of a break and then we had a brisk walk together around her lovely village well wrapped up against the freezing cold.

Sweetie insisted she took a wooden spoon with her on the walk and spent most of the time trying to scoop and eat what was left of the snow on the verges!

Unfortunately, the picture I took is rather blurred but I think you can see that I have captured the fact that she was certainly on a mission.

We went back home to thaw out with some welcome hot chocoate and a piece of the Valentine’s cake I had made as a treat for all of us. Nothing special other than it was heart shaped, filled with fresh cream and topped with as much chocolate and sprinkles as I thought was indulgent but still permissable (which was a lot).

We all tucked in and consumed it without a murmur. Not a crumb left today.

My attempt at making a Valentine’s card for DH was altogether less successful – I was very short of time and had to resort to a rubber stamp again like last year – but, I am told, it is the thought that counts – mine is the one on the right. He made one for me, the one on the left, which is much better and quite sweet.

Homemade is so much nicer and must have saved us a tidy £6 or £7 on bought cards.

So another busy week for us and we are preparing for an even busier one next week which will include Shrove Tuesday and half term – but, like any pancake lover, I have my lemons ready. As far as housework is concerned I have done very little and I feel as if my world is in a bit of a muddle; with Covid, the cold spell and having many of our family dependant on our help it is hard not to feel both stretched and overwhelmed.

 My focus word this year is consistency and how strange then that an email dropped into my inbox about a podcast entitled ‘Why consistency is the key to Success’

It grabbed my attention and I am all ears.

In a nutshell the author of the podcast believes that many of us overestimate what we can do in a short period of time and wildly underestimate what we’re capable of accomplishing over a decade or a number of years. Above all, he is a believer in process over outcome, the journey not the destination.

So my blog is aptly titled as I am all about the journey and my chosen word could be the key to a good year for me.

Then coincidently on the 5th February Freda at Live Simply Simply Live asked her readers ‘are you remembering your word’ …………well, surprisingly, yes I am………does my life reflect my chosen word………well maybe not yet but I am on a journey and little bits of consistency, like the snowdrops in the garden, are appearing slowly here and there.

Have a good week everyone. x

dear diary :: a bit of this and a bit of that

At last on Monday we managed to buy a leek – well three actually, the very last three in fact and to get those DH had to pop round to the smaller town centre Sainsbury’s whilst I continued shopping at the larger branch on the ring road which had a row of empty boxes again where the leeks should be.

Well after all, what is life during the bleak winter months without any leeks? The Homity pies, hearty leek and lentil stew and leek and potato soup on my menu plan can now go ahead after two weeks of being without. Maybe it is just our area that has been ‘leek’less – has anyone else struggled to buy them?

Despite the leek shortage January felt like a very rewarding month in many ways. We managed two celebrations under Covid lockdown rules – have survived the first month of childcare for little Freddie (or should I say he survived us) – our finances, although not as healthy as I would wish, are not as bad as I thought and I have completed two of my craft projects. So not a bad start to the year and on top of it all I have really been enjoying all the snow which we have had to varying degrees; sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.

We have had some lovely little walks with Freddie to see the sheep and cows nearby. Occasionally, we have ventured out in the drizzle but Freddie is well wrapped up in his dinosaur cosy toes and these modern pushchairs have see through rain covers which help – it is just granny and grandad that get wet!

We had our Covid test last week which was negative and always good to know that we are not asymptomatic and therefore not unknowingly spreading the virus – not that we have seen anyone or go anywhere other than for the food shopping.

So I am now looking forward to February – a shorter month but hopefully slightly longer days in terms of daylight. My calendar tells me the highlights of this month will be Valentine’s day and Shrove Tuesday and I am looking for some ideas to mark the occasion – not that we would normally go out to a restaurant for Valentine’s day but I feel I should perhaps make the effort to produce a nice meal or bake a cake, (I know any excuse for a cake)…….and I am thinking it has to be chocolate cake as I haven’t had any for ages.

As usual I have plans. I intend completing a few more craft projects whilst I have a little momentum going here, at the same time I do need to attempt a bit more decluttering and cleaning (I am motivated here by everyone else in blogland doing a declutter and don’t want to feel left out!)……….and if there is time a trip to a garden centre to buy some seed potatoes.

As things are slowly beginning to stir in the garden I am slowly beginning to think about what I might grow this year and picked up a couple of packets of seeds in Sainsbury’s this week, dwarf sunflowers and mixed petunias – most of the annuals did well last year apart from the zinnias – I am not sure where I went wrong with those but as I have more packets of free seeds I will try again.

The bulbs inside the greenhouse and outside in pots are just beginning to make themselves known. I can even see a tiny bud on the outdoor Narcissus peeking through the snow.

I made the final January birthday card for one of my oldest friends and other than a Valentine’s day card I have no birthdays to make for in February. I have been using the last of the pressed flowers and the stock of concertina cards I once bought for a different project that never really materialised (I expect we have all been there!).

For the gift I found a delightful little china bowl and handleless mug in Sainsbury’s from the Habitat range with a simple bright orange circle pattern and contrasting navy blue. This particular friend likes bright colours so I hope she likes it. I never worry if people pass my gifts on if they are not to their taste – you cannot get it right every time. Before wrapping the gift in cellophane I filled the mug with some Lily O’Brien creamy caramel and sea salt chocolate discs – which I can say are very moreish.

I am rather tempted to buy a dish and mug for myself as the colours would go well in my new kitchen (which is pale grey but has accent colours of burnt orange) – so I may even treat myself…….. though goodness knows I don’t really need any more china.

This week I treated myself to some tulips – usually I dither over the colour – I love them all but this time I knew I would pick the orange to go with bowl full of oranges and nectarines on the widow sill – it is my colour of the moment and an inexpensive vibrant splash of colour that is so cheerful on these drab winter days.

And at last I have found the time to sew mum’s cushion cover that she knitted for me a long time ago. Mum has knitted all her life, not so much in her later years, but she is still a very neat knitter – when I told her I had finished the cushion she remembered that she had started one for herself and it has given her the motivation to search it out and finish it. I told her I would sew it up for her if she does finish the knitting, but I won’t be able to leave it as long as the one she made for me as she is 95 afterall and time for her is quite precious.

When I get down to it there are two rooms that need a good going over – our main bedroom and the office come craft room – they also need decorating but that will have to wait a while – for now I will be happy to just declutter, thoroughly clean them and maybe rearrange, though where I will put all the ‘decluttered’ stuff I have no idea.

The office is always my headache place, too much paper, too much craft, too much filing and generally too much stuff. I keep trying to whittle it down but somehow it all bounces back. I look at the two large magazine holders of instruction leaflets and think do I need to keep these then DH will come along and say ‘do we have the leaflet that came with so and so’? as he needs to check something. Is it on the internet I say – the answer is usually our item is so old and discontinued there is nothing he can find that is relevant……lucky I keep them then.

I did manage to sell one of the baby cribs – a beautiful white wooden traditional one we bought from John Lewis for our grandchildren. They have now moved on to cots and beds and the cribs are redundant but somehow they have made their way to our house for me to dispose of them! It has taken me ages to get around to taking photos and writing the descriptions for Ebay but I couldn’t pass on the offer they sent me for the £1 maximum selling fees and having sold one of them so quickly I am happy to have a little extra space now in the spare room.

I have also listed some shoes and clothes on Ebay and a retro telephone we took off the wall in the kitchen and didn’t want to replace – not sure if many of the items will sell or not but so far I have made £70 with just two of them.

So that is about all my current news for now I feel I have rambled on far too long. As I write this the heavy snow that prevented us from having little Freddie on Tuesday has completely gone but I am sure this might not be the last of it.

Hope you are all coping well – at times I am almost forgetting this new life we have carved out for ourselves is not normal but it is all we have for now so I am making the best of it and I must say although exhausting it is lovely to spend so much time with our grandson. Stay safe everyone. x

seasons :: in the depth of winter

There can be no doubt that we are well into the middle of winter now; dark nights, even darker mornings, icy cold fingers, heavy falls of pristine white snow, roaring fires, woollen blankets, hot water bottles, piping hot mugs of cocoa or ginger tea laced with honey and the remains of the Christmas cake – I love it all.

Well maybe not the dark mornings.

Even though I always think of January and February as hibernation time this year I do feel we have had weeks of hibernation already with the restrictions we have been under in our area since………………..well I can’t even remember now but it has been a long time.

So walking has become the new norm for us each day for our allotted hour of exercise; a brisk walk down to the village and back if the weather is very cold, sometimes with little Freddie wrapped up snuggly in his pushchair and sometimes on our own. This week we woke up to even more snow and it was truly a walk in a winter wonderland with a wealth of delightful sights to capture…… and even our sprawling village with rows of soot blackened terraced houses looks rather pretty in the snow.

And of course our back garden has just as many interesting corners here and there. The sunlight sweeping across the snow on Friday was so beautiful……….and beneath this snowy carpet are little signs that the snowdrops are emerging…….

…and I know I am a little crazy but who doesn’t want to hang out the sheets and pillowcases in the sunshine, even with all the snow around. I love the way the sheets freeze into stiff boards but thaw out again as soon as I bring them inside to iron and I just adore that fresh outdoor smell – nothing beats it.

The snow was so deep on Thursday childcare had to be abandoned and little Freddie had to stay home with mum and dad. We missed him. Instead we spent a leisurely day keeping warm and just pottering; a little light pottering after a few energetic days with a two year old was very welcome.

I had managed to clear the Christmas decorations away last weekend and they are all back in their boxes in the loft (nothing much was decluttered so I had to find a little more space for the one or two new bits I had bought) – the Christmas tree is back in the greenhouse for a while until the worst of this cold spell is over and we can repot it in some decent compost.

On my January task list I wrote ‘ make bird feeders’.

I had saved an article from my mum’s Woman’s Weekly magazine with a recipe to make your own using half coconut shells and a pack of lard. I had bought the lard before Christmas as it is not something I normally use being vegetarian and during last year I saved the coconut shells from the ready made feeders I bought in Sainsbury’s to feed the birds during the winter months and they were far too nice to throw away. So I had a go – the recipe was easy – just melt the fat and pour onto a mix of different bird foods – grated cheese, raisins, chopped peanuts and wild bird seeds. Then leave to set……

….hang out and wait.

In and amongst the childcare I have been busy making little thank you cards with the last of the pressed flowers to deliver or post to my friends on our walks – I like to write a personal thank you for any Christmas presents I receive and I did have some rather nice ones this year from my friends – a little bird must have mentioned to them that I have a new greenhouse.

This handmade seed tray and tamper was one of my favourites together with this tin of string by Emma Bridgewater. My friends know me so well.

There has been a great deal of tea drinking going on this week – I always start the day with a cup of ginger tea and Manuka honey with a slice of orange or lemon – whatever is to hand – and my afternoon cup of tea is not quite the same without a slice of cake.

Soon the Christmas cake will be finished – which is really no bad thing as I intend to restore our more healthy diet soon but that will have to wait until after the birthday cake I am making is eaten up too.

I have quite a few birthdays this month none more important than my mum’s (she is 95 this year) and little Freddie who will be two. I made and froze the sponges yesterday afternoon and bought some cute dinosaur cutters on the internet and a pack of multi coloured neon roll out icing to make a cake for Freddie, (maybe mum would like a dinosaur cake too but she is getting a posy of flowers delivered….I hope).

Looking after Freddie has meant early mornings – he arrives at 8am – so that has meant earlier bedtimes for us the night before but this has given me a chance to begin reading one or two of the new books I received for Christmas as well as one or two old favourites – and the new issue of Country Living magazine dropped onto the mat the other day – that always makes it a good day.

Presently, I am struggling with sewing up the jumper I knitted way back for Little Freddie for his birthday (in fact I should be doing it now and not get distracted blogging). It was going to be a Christmas present but guess what – I ran out of time to finish it. Thank goodness for You Tube is all I can say and although my efforts are not brilliant it has been a satisfying project and I will probably attempt to knit something else especially as there is very little else we can do during lockdown. But I do enjoy making things and I have a few balls of wool waiting for me in my craft drawer and a piece of pretty soft corduroy fabric to make something for the girls, Little L and Sweetie.

I have so many plans to finish a lot of the half started projects and I need to overhaul our finances and soon it will be time for the big spring clean – the house is beginning to feel a little grubby and jaded in places but maybe that is because of the contrast to the spanking new kitchen…………….but before that can happen I need to do a little decluttering and this might even extend to throwing out more old papers in the files. I don’t know about you but I find maintaining a balance of keeping what we need and what we might need is pretty hard. Once or twice I have regretted giving something away or shredding a document.

I strive to make everything we keep in our house useful and used. The clutter always builds up again quickly if you take your eye off the ball for any length of time – I am positive it breeds – it certainly does in dark corners or hidden away at the back of drawers and any flat surface. I have this idea that I need to go through the house and make every area organised, sparkling clean and well presented.

Once the birthdays are out of the way this week I will endeavour to blog about the new kitchen and show you some before and after photos. We have Eddie the kitchen fitter coming on Tuesday to replace a cupboard door that hides the fridge as a tiny piece of the coating had chipped off during the first few days of use and the manufacturer though it might have been a defective one.

DH has got a bad back at the moment so that lets him off starting to prepare the laundry room beyond the kitchen for painting and the new flooring. It won’t however get him out of the Zoom call we are having with the family and my mum to wish her a happy 95th birthday.

Well I think that is all for this week – I do hope everyone is well and managing to overcome this doom and gloom. Everything is now hinging on the vaccine – I hope nothing goes wrong.

Have a good week everyone. xx

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 :: welcome to the new year

A very Happy New Year to everyone.

A new year and a new start for me – I have been away from my little space here for far too long – habits can soon take over, even ones you don’t particularly want, and I found that finding the time to blog became harder and harder. I have tried to keep up with reading my favourite blogs but only as a commentless reader. I hope once I get back into the rhythm that you will be hearing from me a lot more. I have certainly missed you all and hope you are all in good health.

I couldn’t even tell you where all the time has gone since I was last here in July – it has just evaporated; but I can say I have been busier than ever, despite the Covid restrictions.

As I write this now it is the first day that I have nothing, nothing I must attend to and I can truly relax and not feel there is something I have to do or someone I have to call and best of all it is snowing outside and looks absolutely beautiful.

And yes that is my new greenhouse you can see in the garden – the best Christmas present ever.

Just after my last post in July we managed a trip to Scotland to the cottage – the maintenance jobs and problems awaiting us because we had not been allowed to travel was extensive and upsetting and in the end we had to stay on a few extra days to sort out all the problems. What a good job we drained down the caravan when we left as little did we know then it would be our last visit of the year.

Since our return in August we had many trips to see my mum when my sister needed some respite and restrictions allowed and soon mum will be celebrating her 95th birthday though we do not know what we will be able to do and have nothing planned – we know a party will not be possible other than on Zoom.

Most of September and October was taken up with installing the new kitchen….yes the new kitchen….I know I can’t believe it either but it is, as I had hoped, absolutely wonderful even allowing for the fact I am still getting to grips with the new hob and oven and we have not even tried the dishwasher yet. I will no doubt be overloading you with pictures of the transformation soon.

Back in November my daughter helped to decorate the railings outside Little L’s school with these poppies made from plastic bottle bottoms that she and some of the school children collected and painted.

They were so effective and equally as striking as the cute little display in her village.

We also celebrated a very special birthday for two year old Sweetie – no party as such just granny and grandad and a chocolate caterpillar cake.

In the run up to Christmas we managed to do all of the Christmassy things but in a simple and quieter fashion this year. Didn’t it look so wonderfully festive everywhere when the decorations went up? Most villages and towns had an abundance of lights this year – it was such a cheery and welcome sight and it will seem quite drab when they all come down again.

I made and iced the cake and Little L carefully placed all the decorations on it.

Delightful. I love the way she wanted them all lined up like soldiers! We finished it off with an old fashioned paper cake frill that I found to go around the sides. Little L also made the truffles which did not last long and were simply delicious.

I turned old Christmas cards from last year into money and voucher envelopes, they looked quite effective mounted onto some black envelopes I had in my craft cupboard with the messages written in a silver coloured pen.

For my own homemade Christmas cards I decided on a simple wreath design and hand painted each one in watercolour paints and then over stamped with a rubber stamp and copper ink.

I always try and make the gifts I give to my closest friends and this year I made up a mini cheese board for each of them with a selection of cheeses, oat cakes and chutney using a paddle board I bought from Ikea and covering the display with a large cellophane roasting bag.

And for other friends that I don’t exchange gifts with I made little posies of flowers.

After all the restrictions placed on us for weeks on end it was a major treat to be able to go to an outdoor lantern event which was well managed and the weather kindly stayed dry.

We also had great fun at our usual family Secret Santa get together – this year though it was through Zoom – playing Bingo and name that Christmas tune amongst other games – with Sean the Sheep of course.

On New Year’s day we had a walk at a local nature reserve. At barely above freezing the ground was hard and each of the puddles had a skim of ice with some quite superb patterns – it was irresistable to crack like popping bubble wrap.

And now I am thinking of the days and months stretching ahead – I am trying not to think that they will be dark days as this virus twists and turns and continues to be such a nuisance in our lives. I want to use the time wisely and I want to carve out a new normal for us – I have a feeling this is going to go on longer than anyone had first thought.

As with most beginnings I am trying to think of a suitable word that will sum up what I am aiming for this year. Flourish was the word I chose last year and in many ways I did – I learnt a lot about myself during the lockdown and we also learnt to do without very much whilst still living well.

I will need a few more ‘thinking’ days before I settle on something, so watch this space.

So I have little more to say at the moment – I am going to have a visit into blogland to see what everyone is up to and say hi.

dear diary :: still looking like winter

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

So I am keeping myself busy….and warm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care everyone and stay warm x

dear diary :: a time for home

The sun streaming through the windows yesterday morning was a cheerful sight to wake up to and it made my snap decision to do some sewing an easy one. Sadly, the better weather did not last and by the afternoon we were back to lashing rain and grey lifeless skies.

Even today the rain continues to fall and is far too wet to go outside with the camera – but the patterns of the raindrops on our window panes are quite delightful and worth capturing.

Being indoors and just being at home is all I need in winter. I busy myself with small jobs around the house, finishing projects here and there and keeping warm in the kitchen making and baking and using up any food so it doesn’t go to waste.

I took the opportunity yesterday to make the cot duvet cover and a matching pillowslip for little Sweetie. I bought the fabric a while ago from John Lewis, it wasn’t exactly cheap but cheaper than buying a ready made duvet cover. I chose two fabrics, one with unicorns (all little girls love unicorns it seems) and one with tiny pink hearts for the reverse. The unicorn fabric was more expensive than the pink hearts so I tried to manage with as little as possible – maybe a little too little as I found when I came to measure up and cut out – but I skimped by; after all Sweetie will not be in a cot for long and then will be moving on to a larger duvet.

I was so pleased at the end of the day to have another task to cross off my list.

During the morning we received a letter in the post addressed to ‘Granny and Grandad’ – inside was a beautiful card made by Little L with a message inside and some tiny feathers – don’t things like this just tug at the heartstrings. It will have pride of place on the mantelpiece.

The jumper is moving on – the back is finished and I am now counting stitches again on the few rows of pattern on the front – it takes all my concentration and lo behold anyone that interupts me – DH knows by now to keep well out of the way when he hears me counting out loud. Despite the difficult bits I keep encountering I do find it quite relaxing to knit in the evenings – my shoulders and neck however think otherwise and have become a bit tense recently so I may have to have a few nights off.

The kitchen planner came on Monday and we spent a good three hours measuring, discussing and looking at what might fit into our tiny kitchen and selecting possible samples of cabinet colour and worktop. Of course you always hit stumbling blocks and compromises have to be made but I shall be glad just to have some new units that are not coming apart. The kitchen we have now is almost 40 years old, pan drawers were not on the radar back then and hardly anyone had a dishwasher – now we would like both, although, I would not be too disappointed if I couldn’t fit a dishwasher in, what you have never had you will never miss.

There are questions to be answered of course……….do I need a self cleaning oven or a steam oven, a dishwasher that has no child lock or one that doesn’t signal the end of the cycle – I really don’t know because I have managed without these things up till now. Should we go with a ceramic hob or induction and should it have four rings or two rings and an oblong area? It is all foreign to me – any suggestions gratefully received – the appliances are such a big outlay if you get it wrong.

By the end of the session our minds were buzzing but I do feel we are now a little closer to a final design. The visuals they produce make it so much easier to see the finished plans – how did we ever manage without them?

On Sunday prior to the kitchen planner coming I had the great idea of cleaning out our china cupboards in the dining area. It was not one of my best ideas but as it was another wet day we had decided to stay in and stay warm – I find it a very tiring job but one filled with satisfaction afterwards.

Whenever I clean out these two cupboards I am reminded of how much china I actually own, it is a great weakness of mine, where one person might buy shoes, I buy china. I love it all and most of it is in constant use. I decided some bits and pieces can now move into the pantry – bread baskets and wooden tablemats which we only use occasionally when we have guests or the family round.

I emptied the cabinets one at a time to avoid overload and then cleaned inside and out, lovingly dusting the contents with a clean tea cloth before replacing them (in a ‘pleasing arrangement’ as DH says). I just love my ‘proper’ Ainsley patterned china dinner service, I know they are not fashionable any longer – does anyone still hold dinner parties anymore? – but I would never part with mine in fact we used it on Burns night. Each piece we have was either a gift or chosen with care from the seconds factory down in Stoke on Trent. So although most of it is not perfect it is perfect in my eyes.

Most of my other china is white, clean and simple. Our everyday dishes are from the Thomas china range by Rosenthal that we bought back in the late 90’s (mostly in sales as it isn’t that cheap). Before this we had numerous cheap dinner sets but found that once a piece was broken a replacement could not be found. We have never had a problem with the Thomas china it is still being made today and in fact the newer updated shapes fit in very well.

I do confess to a bit of a jug and a spoon fetish too.

I can’t say that I actually decluttered anything in here and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to find anything I did not want – it all sparks joy and I can say hand on heart that nothing in my china cupboard languishes unused but I am making a great effort not to purchase anymore….well for a while anyway.

I had food to use up in the pantry too; a ripening pear and avocado and I had ideas for these. We had the avocado mashed onto a Sainsbury’s cheese stick (my favourite rolls at the moment though not as cheesy as Tescos’) then heaped with cooked courgettes, mushrooms and tomatoes with a side salad of grated beetroot and chopped cucumber all topped with grilled halloumi slices.

I made up a recipe to use up the ripe pear. I love chocolate and pear together but rather than make a chocolate and pear cake or pudding I made a quantity of chocolate sponge mixture and divided it into some bun cases, then pressed a few chunks of diced pear gently into the top, sprinkled over a few chocolate chips and baked them in the oven.

Result…. delicious. And easy to freeze and then pack up for our picnics.

Tomorrow we shall be on our way to North Yorkshire once again – it is the school holidays and we are going to see the grandchildren for a day or two – not that we can do very much in this weather – I think a trip to the park will be out!

Hope everyone is keeping warm and has not been flooded out. x

dear diary :: a positive day, if not a little chilly

Some days can just start off more positive than others – I am not sure what makes the difference but today just happened to be a very positive one. Outside on the step and covering a few plants I could see the remains of the slushy snow; the only evidence that we had had a fall of snow overnight. It soon disappeared as the sun came out……..for all of an hour, but it did mean I could get the washing on the line, fill the bird feeders and take out the recycling. I didn’t hang around as is was bitterly cold.

I had breakfast alone as DH had a hair appointment booked this morning, so he was up, showered and off. He had a dental appointment this afternoon and we thought it was to take his tooth out but the dentist felt there was still some infection so it has been rearranged for two weeks time. DH much prefers the dentist to the hairdressers and always jokes that the hairdresser cuts his hair without even giving him an anaesthetic.

I had a leisurely breakfast watching the birds outside, mainly magpies, doing some rather daring manoeuvres to try and get the peanuts out of the little pottery acorns. DH had peeled and chopped the oranges, a job he is good at and I am not, and I combined these with a few blueberries and yoghurt followed by toast generously spread with the lemon curd I made a couple of weeks ago. I don’t usually have toast so it was a nice change from muesli and always goes well with a cup of tea. I am hoping that somewhere in this breakfast I will have satisfied a little of my vitamin C quota for the day.

Whilst DH was out I rushed upstairs to make him a Valentine card. I had no ideas in mind other than something with a heart and something pink would be appropriate. So after a rummage around in the craft drawers I came up with a few different sized heart stamps, some ink pads and a bit of glitter.

I played around a bit and came up with a prototype….well what can you expect in 15 minutes…. the first one didn’t go too well so I had another go and decided this is as good as it is going to get as I know I won’t have time to make another one…..anyway it is the thought that counts. I might even surprise him and bake a cake.

Being in craft mode I went on to make a birthday card for a colleague where I used to work. Her birthday is on Valentine’s day and I know she loves homemade cards as she makes her own too.

I have had these little daisy flowers for ages and had not really had any ideas for using them. After playing around a bit I decided to attached each fower to a wire stem using the trusty mini glue gun and then mount them onto a triangular base.

I made some butterfly cards in a similar way a few years ago by recycling the insides of envelopes – those official looking envelopes that you get with the interesting little patterns on the inside. Everyone thought they were quite cute. This is not a good picture but you get the gist.

I decided on a natural brown craft card to contrast with the white daisy flowers that have a little wooden bead in the centre and then added one of the pre-printed labels I had left over from a previous project. The card is quite tiny but will stand up easily on a mantel piece or table.

Scoring the bottom part of the triangle means that you can fold it flat to put it into the envelope.

After lunch we went to the dentist and then I dropped the card for my friend in at reception before going round to the library. I found an interesting little book called Make, Mend, Bake, Save & Shine written by Jo Godfrey Wood – full of handy tips to save money and make things last as long as they can and avoid throwing things out. I am all for not throwing away things that can be reused or repurposed. It should be an interesting read.

Now I have the pantry up and running I intend to make a list of meals that I can make to use up a lot of the food in there. Seeing it all displayed on shelves rather than stacked together in the old kitchen cupboards is so much better and reminds me just what we have in stock so hopefully food will not get wasted quite as much.

I am back to bedtime now once again – don’t the days whizz round quickly – in fact I should be in bed now so I am rushing to finish this. It will be another cleaning day tomorrow and a catch up with the ironing…oh and I seem to remember I said I might bake a cake.

creating health and wellbeing

Nothing much to report on this today I feel bad as I only did two of the exercises for my knees. Must do better tomorrow and schedule in some time to do them all. My knees do benefit from the exercises when I manage to do them for more than two or three days together so I would imagine if I could just stick at it for a week I would see a good result.

On my consultants advice I take vitamin D3 – it is the best thing ever in my mind and recently I have been taking vitamin B12 which I do occasionally as I am vegetarian and this can be something we don’t get a lot of from our diet and in myself a lack of it can make me feel dizzy.

The Optima Activjuice is a food supplement to help joints and was a very reasonable £3 something from Boyes in Northallerton so I thought I would give it a go. Hypothyroidism often produces long term joint and muscle problems so I am looking to see what might improve this – I obviously cannot do anything to improve my thyroid gland as I don’t have one so I am hoping something I try might just help to alleviate the joint and muscle problems I have.

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 :: morning glory

What a beautiful day today – I spent the morning in the garden and it was gloriously sunny and warm and quite calm. The birds were twittering away and it felt like spring had arrived which is not usually this early high up in the Pennines as we are here. The jolly Budha was certainly smiling, yet we all know this kind of weather can be very deceiving and we might suddenly be plunged once again into cold, wet, wind and snow.

With this in mind I didn’t cut back very much of the dead foliage in the garden as it can be quite protective of any harsh weather still to come. I did manage to get the bulbs planted that had started growing indoors in the bag and I also repotted some tiny Irises I bought in Thirsk at the weekend as well as planting out a pot of snowdrops into the small border.

There are bulbs springing up all over the garden now and the Primulas are in full bloom.

Even the pansies have over wintered well this time.

The rhododendron grown by DH’s grandfather and named after him has some nice fat buds waiting to burst open when the time is right. I just hope this year they don’t open too soon and then get hit by later frosts. The one in our Scottish garden which was a cutting from this plant does much better.

I was so glad to see the Clematis I bought last year, and which is still in a pot, has some new leaf buds….an encouraging sign that I have not yet killed it.

In between a bit of gardening and tidying I was running in and out with the washing getting as much done as I could and out on the line while the going was good. DH had taken his car down to our local village garage to have the brake discs done ready for the MOT in April. It has been quite a hefty month or two financially for the cars with both car tax and insurance being paid on top of the recent maintenance costs and an annual service.

This afternoon I went up the road for a cup of tea and a natter with my neighbour. We usualy meet on a Friday but she will be out tomorrow. We spend a couple of hours putting the world to rights and catching up with our news – a lot can happen in a week.

Tonight I am making a cauliflower and broccoli bake for our supper. It is one of my favourite meals in the winter months and quite quick to do. After tea I expect we might just cosy down and watch some TV and maybe an early night. I have just finished my book ‘Confessions of a Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell – I enjoyed it as much as the earlier one he wrote though I would be very wary of starting a converstion with him should we ever visit his shop in Wigtown, which is round the bay from our cottage, just in case the conversation was ever recorded like many in one of his books!

Tomorrow I still have a million and one jobs to do so we should be having another day at home. Have a relaxing evening…I am! xx