seasons :: bedding down for winter

They are certainly grey wintry days at the moment that make you want to stay indoors keeping cosy and warm; reaching for a nearby throw and snuggling down to watch a film or read a book. It is the time of year when the weather can take a turn for the worse; windy, wet and often bitterly cold – we have had all three recently and I find myself yearning for a little snow as snow seems far more pleasant and of course pretty. It is the time of year when you just want to ‘bed’ down and only surface as spring appears.

Indoors I am still ploughing my way through the dirty laundry left over from Christmas and when I have washed and put it out on the line to dry it then becomes part of the ironing pile mountain. Each day I do a little bit in the hope I will ever see the bottom of the basket again – wash, dry, iron then put away. The laundry is a very circular task like prepping, cooking, eating meals then clearing up.

It is the same with our finances – each day I am doing a little bit towards reducing the pile of receipts so that I can balance the bank statements; though I know it would be more satisfying to me if I could take one project to a conclusion, but I also know that if I focus on one thing something else will not get done at all.

I am returning at the moment to my kanban board by my desk in the office / craft room. Here I can stick post it notes to a glass notice board that is marked out in sections – ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Done’.

The idea is that the tasks move across the board from ‘To do’ to ‘Done’. We each have three colums and there should never be anymore than 3 tasks waiting in the ‘In Progress’ section – only when one moves to ‘Done’ can another task be started. I often give really urgent tasks a different colour of post it note like bright pink – too many of those and I know it is panic stations.

This morning DH made tomato soup for tomorrow’s lunch before finishing off the shelving in the pantry. We decided in the end the lowest shelf didn’t really need the strip light underneath – it seems bright enough in there as it is with the two downlighters.

As I write he is doing the last little finishing touches, then it can be given a final wipe down and I can put the storage jars on the shelves.

Then sit back and admire!

I, on the other hand busied myself hanging the washing out to dry and whilst I was in the garden I reached for my camera. Our mahonia is absolutely magnificent this year and providing us with a lovely splash of colour now all the Christmas lights have been packed away.

Most of the garden has bedded down and is ‘slumbering’ nicely but the primulas have come to life and the cyclamen I planted in the autumn continue to provide me with a lot of pleasure each time I go in and out of the front door.

Even the land cress refuses to give in to the cold wet weather and packed with minerals is an added boost to the supergreen soup we make.

If I looked close enough I could see little signs of life here and there – pushing up through the cold, damp earth and decaying leaves.

For all the signs of life in the garden there has been no signs of life down our road today – not one person to nod or speak to. I think it must be hard to be on your own all day and not see a soul so with this in mind I have added ‘call aunty M and my mum for a chat’ to my list.

creating health and wellbeing

I made the physio appointment today for Friday. It isn’t with the guy I had wanted as he is booked until the end of January and I don’t feel my knee will last that long. I am worried to exercise it now and do the wrong ones – I need specific advise from an expert.

I didn’t attend yoga in the end for the same reasons really – too worried I might put too much of a strain on it even though my teacher is good and will adapt postures to suit need.

I did do a meditation session today….yeah! It was difficult at first to quieten down but soon I was drifting away in my own little heaven, like letting soft waves wash gently over you and after doing it and feeling so good I wonder why I don’t do it everyday – who wouldn’t like to feel completely relaxed and on cloud nine all the time. Of course the answer is distractions and interuptions and giving way to a hundred and one other things I feel I must be doing.

At the moment the CD I am listening to came free with this book. The narrator of the seven various meditations has a very calming, unhurried voice who keeps telling me it is OK if my mind wanders or I don’t feel anything in particular. You just feel what you feel, no right or wrong. I am actually looking forward to tomorrow’s session.

I keep munching the apples too and need to stock up with more soon.

My memory though is pathetic – I forgot the weigh in yet again this morning – I am now worried this may be a form of self sabotage, denial even. I do know the reason though – it is simply that my dressing gown is in the laundry system and I have been getting up and dressing straight away so by the time I remember I need to weigh myself I do not want to undress again.

Today for lunch we used up a dish of leftover mashed potato that was in the fridge so as not to waste it – I heated it up in my ceramic green non stick pan and sprinkled over a handful of grated cheshire cheese, cooked a few mushrooms and added a can of baked beans. There was a bit of healthy side to it somewhere I think and it was warming and delicious.

Tonight we are having the remains of the shepherd’s pie with broad beans (steamed of course). Broad beans are packed with protein and fibre as well as being a good source of both folate and B vitamins, and they contain high concentrations of dopamine – for this reason they are being researched as a possible benefit for anyone with Parkinsons disease.

Starting too many changes is not the aim of my game here but I feel that from tomorrow I will make a big effort to become better hydrated by drinking more and see if this makes a difference to my health.

I have never been a big drinker (alcoholic or otherwise) – at work I always had a small china mug, none of these super sized ‘buckets’ for me. Presently I wake up and have to drink a full glass of water to take my tiny Thyroxine tablet and propel it past my gut into my intestine for it to work properly. I then have an hour to wait before food – but I often end up waiting two – I need to know if this is good or bad thing as yet I haven’t read anything that would tell me. I do know that restricting the hours that you eat is beneficial or thought to be – but that will be for me to investigate another day.

After breakfast I have a cup of green tea and another mid morning then it is a cup of ginger tea after lunch. From then on I have ordinary black tea with milk and a mug of hot milk with an added spoonful of slippery elm at bedtime. The slippery elm is good for lining the gut.

You may notice I don’t actually drink any more water other than in my tea so this is what I will try and rectify by having at least one more glass throughout the day.

I desperately need to get down to planning some meals before we have to go shopping again. We will not need very much as our new pantry actually looks stuffed full of food – I cannot believe that so much came out of our kitchen cupboards.

So after just a few days my health and well being changes list now looks like this:-

  • an apple a day – check
  • a meditation session – check
  • green tea, one or more cups a day – check
  • ginger tea, one or more cups a day – check
  • a healthy breakfast -yoghurt and fruit followed by museli – I think it is
  • a healthy lunch – mostly
  • a healthy evening meal – most days

The question is how long can I keep this up??

dear diary :: gradually moving into the slow lane

There is no doubt that I am slowing down a little and can feel the pressure and urgency of the run up to Christmas fading away now. If a job isn’t finished today I can quite comfortably carry it over until tomorrow and not worry about it.

On Sunday I collected together all the Christmas decorations dotted around the house – I decided I might try storing them in a different place – yet to be identified….and in a different container to the many small boxes they occupied. So at the moment they are pending in the craft room waiting for a new home.

It feels good to have space around me now – not that I had many decorations this year, they were kept to an absolute minimum – but the clearer ledges and tops of the units look simple and uncluttered . Not ready yet for spring colour, like my calendar suggests, I am continuing with winter whites around the house, plenty of white candles, white flowers, and white pottery. A quiet representation of the time of year.

After removing all the Christmas cards I can now display all the thank you cards that keep arriving through the post. It is so nice when people take the time to say thank you and I have been writing out my own cards and delivering them.

There are birthdays to attend to as well – inside this envelope…..

is the last of my pressed flower cards, so card making is another project for my list – but perhaps another day.

This morning I sat down to look at decluttering and updating some of my document files on the computer. I seem to have duplicate files here and there taking up space. I had intended to just do a couple of files but once I started I found it hard to stop and actually spent most of the day deleting old files to the recycle bin.

It is amazing what I found though -articles I had copied down into Word and not got back to reading, craft ideas and ideas for meal plans – in fact a wealth of information at my fingertips.

The weather this morning was cold…. extremely cold and quite blustery but just right for putting the sheets and pillowcases outside on the line, and it all dried in no time but we had to run out and hold it down with extra pegs.

I just managed to catch the best of the weather as after lunch it rained ……heavily. But now the ironing pile is growing faster than I can iron.

DH was busy cutting the pantry wall shelving to size until it got too gloomy to carry on. Only two more shelves to go and then I can start to fill them with my storage jars. He also renewed the car insurance for both cars – a hefty bill – but it is far cheaper to pay the whole lot at once, a monthly direct debit is dearer as they add on a credit fee.

I have a bit of a backlog of receipts to enter onto my computer Money program, so I have grouped them by weeks and intend to do one batch a day each morning. Only then can I balance the accounts and run the reports that will tell me how much we have spent in each category for the year.

Little by little I am doing a bit of tidying up and sorting out – I am hoping by the end of the week to have made some impression on the house and it will not only appear tidy on the surface but be tidy in the cupboards and behind the scenes.

Creating health and wellbeing

I am hoping my new focus on my health and well being will improve my memory as I forgot to weigh myself and take vital measurements again this morning. This requires a post it note reminder on the bathroom door tonight!

So far I can report that I have eaten, all but for one day, an apple each morning. The meditation has not gone quite so well and the reason for this is that once I start a job I hate to break off. With so many extra household chores at the moment removing decorations, stripping beds and putting the house back together, the meditation sessions have been furthest from my mind. Just when I think about doing it I glance at the clock and find it is time to make the next meal.

The meals are going well though – lunch was homemade supergreen soup with some left over crusty bread and last night we had courgettes, mushrooms, celery and onion on a bed of couscous with grilled halloumi slices followed by some fresh raspberries (reduced yellow sticker from Tesco) and just a smidgen of ice cream.

For lunch today we had homemade mushroom soup and tonight a lentil shepherd’s pie with carrot, leek, celery and onion and topped with mashed swede and potato. Unfortunately, I am a bit of a potato fiend and ideally I need to cut down on eating quite so many so I did a slightly higher ratio of swede.

Today is the start of the Yoga class – my knee is still not good and I am still deciding if I should go. I did phone the physio yesterday for an appointment to get an assessment done but didn’t get through so will try again today.

At the moment I am reading an interesting book called Get Well Soon by Nick Duerden who wrote the book after having a very debilitating illness which so far in the book was diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue syndrome after a severe bout of flu. There is very little the NHS can do to help this condition and at the time it was a very controversial subject (probably still is) – there is no magic pill or cure and the book is an account of how he tries to help himself through all kinds of diet, exercise and complimentary therapies to get well. So far he is finding that not a lot of what he tries is helping to alleviate the profound tiredness he is experiencing. As the book progresses I am supposing he does find an answer.

Until I can settle down into a routine of meditation it would not be a good idea for me to introduce any further changes that require time. I am however going to start taking a few supplements that I have identified as being advantages. I already take a daily Vitamin D capsule as my consultant says we don’t get enough in this country during the winter months and quite a lot of the population are found to be extremely lacking when tested.

My neighbour who is Polish and her husband who is English both had a few tests done whilst visiting Poland before Christmas. They cost £30 and they could order a range of tests for such things as cholesterol, diabetes, cancer markers, arthritis and vitamins etc quite easily over there; they just tick off the ones they require from a long list. The results came back within a few days and showed that she was borderline for Vitamin D levels and he was severely lacking. What a shame these kind of walk in requests for blood tests are not available over here – after listening to the health care they get over there it feels like the NHS is quite behind the times over here.

sEAsons ~ winter is the time for home

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
– Edith Sitwell

Ivy

RaindropsWe have had the icy cold days with a frosting of snow recently and then we had the rain… but it brought slightly milder weather with it, which has been quite welcome…today it is cold once again but very sunny.    Although I like the winter months the cold has got to my bones a bit – I must be getting older. The full force of the winter weather can be seen further afield out on the moors above us where there are wonderful and ever-changing vistas to capture – I love the bleak atmosphere that surrounds this expanse of wilderness  – there are no trees, no buildings and no people.  Even the sky can seem quite dark and foreboding at times.  Only days ago this road was closed to a heavy snowfall and ice and we had to find alternative routes on lower ground – yesterday as you see it is quite passable with only a light dusting over the hills.  The beauty of this untouched landscape is breathtaking no matter when you pass through.

Around the garden there are plenty of delightful things happening at the moment despite the weather.  I haven’t ventured outside very much but I have noticed little pockets of colour and a show of buds here and there.  Sometimes everything looks deceptively still and quiet beneath the carpet of leaves but on closer inspection there are shoots appearing and the bulbs I planted only a couple of months ago and these Snowdrops are beginning to push through the earth – a sign that spring will be here soon. Snowdrops To prevent the local cats doing their business and scratching around in the bare patches of earth where the bulbs lie beneath  I pushed a few twigs, from the hydrangea prunings,  into the ground as a deterent and to protect them and I noticed they are starting to bud and have actually taken root.  Anyone want an hydrangea there will be far to many to keep!Spring bulbsWhilst it is so cold I find the best thing to do is stay warm indoors in the kitchen making those nourishing winter comfort dishes.  Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese bake is always a favourite here and plenty of nut roasts with root vegetables.Cauliflower Cheese bake Mushroom soupMaking plenty of soup is still on the menu too – I have found a pack each of white and chestnut mushrooms mixed together make a very quick soup for lunch – add a  leek and a stick or two of celery and a generous handful of fresh parsley for flavour…

…and use up any leftover large ripe tomatoes to make a very warming Tomato Soup with red pepper and a little carrot and a touch of paprika, run through the blender and sprinkle with a good spoonful of parmesan cheese….Tomato soupOn those days when we only have enough soup left for one we share it and I serve a mini bowl of soup with a ploughman’s lunch to use up the thick crusts of bread.For some reason I always feel January is a good month for home life and a little housekeeping – not a deep spring clean and certainly nothing too strenuous but just enough to freshen the place up once all the Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed away.

I have spent time in each room adding decorative bits and pieces and moving pictures around;  just using what I already have and switching things about.  Remember the dried oranges and limes I made at Christmas;  they have mellowed now but still add a touch of colour to these grey winter days and continue to fragrance the air. dried oranges My daughter bought me this lovely glass showcase perfect to display little bits and bobs.  I chose this lino-cut print with the red fox and the little red bird to go with my hand carved wooden robins – the bold black and white with a splash of colourful red seems quite appropriate for now.In the corner of the dining room the yellow tulips from Aldi for £1.89 are so wonderfully vibrant and cheerful – and very reasonably priced – I will certainly be visiting the store for more flowers in future as they have lasted so well.Tulips TulipsAnother small but new pleasure in my life is this desk calendar on a gold metal stand – Sadie over at Notes from an Ordinary Life introduced me to pink and I must say I am hooked – I saw this in Sainsbury’s and somehow it found its way into my trolley last week – it cost me £7 but it can be used again and again if I make and print my own calendar sheets next year when this one is finished.  I am looking forward to making my own too – I might try out some decorative stamps or lino-cuts.CalendarWe have done very little shopping so far this year as there is not very much that we need other than a new kitchen.   During the sales I got a great deal on the Neal’s Yard items – the face cream and serum I use was being offered at a discount in a gift box so not only did I get it cheaper but there is a free eye cream with it.  I also love their sturdy boxes and reuse these for all kinds of things.Mum must be getting more forgetful as for the first time in years (and I mean years) she didn’t buy me my usual slim handbag diary for Christmas so I looked for a cheap one in Poundland  – I should be able to spot this colourful one easily in my handbag – I carry one about to jot down appointment times, phone numbers or anything I need to make a note of whilst I am out (most people would probably use their phones but I am not a phone user – I still like paper – you don’t have to remember to charge it!).  Whilst out shopping I also took advantage of the reductions on Christmas cards and bought a couple of packs with 50% off to put away for next Christmas.

Staying snug and warm by the fire, watching old movies in the afternoon on the Talking Pictures channel, laughing at ‘For the Love of Ada’ – a comedy from the 70’s ,  a little reorganising and cleaning around the house, a few bright spots of colour placed here and there in each room, writing thank you notes to friends, flicking through my magazines for ideas and lots of planning for the year ahead – a pleasurable way to get through the long grey days of winter.

As Edith Sitwell says – winter is a time for home.

Baby X is now doing well – I think we are on the turn and mum and dad are easing into a routine – one with little sleep – but starting to find their feet now and feel more confident – they dealt with the problems that arose very well and deserved a medal for their perseverance – having a tiny baby relying on you for everything is especially hard when mum herself has post delivery problems that needs attention too.  Thank you for all your good wishes – it is very much appreciated.

I will be putting a tab at the top of my blog just for recipes of anything I mention here – do bear with me this may take a little time to do.

Hope you are enjoying your winter days x