Happy Birthday…

I received a message from WordPress today to say I have been blogging now for 4 years – I can hardly believe it has been so long and I have enjoyed every minute, especially getting to know such a wonderful and supportive community, many of whom have become firm friends over the years.  So thank you to all my followers and readers – I am continually amazed that anyone is interested to read about my daily life and its ups and downs!

Have a good week everyone.

a new year…a new start…

Saying goodbye to 2015 has not been hard for me, a difficult and challenging twelve months.  It is odd how the not so good bits are often more established in your memory than the good bits.  It was only when I came to upload photos of my year that I realised I had many good bits and below is a quick tour through my year with some of my highlights and only a few lowlights!


In January almost at the start of the year my mum-in-law died unexpectedly – she was only a few days away from her 91st birthday.  I love this picture of her leaning out of the upstairs window way back in the early fourties.


At the end of 2014 the cottage was stripped out ready to be re-instated – all our hard work over 10 long years ended up in a skip.  They removed the kitchen and bathroom and the place is now just a shell – even the wooden floors have been removed and temporary boards put down.


On Mothers Day we baptised my granddaughter in a beautiful little church in Heeley near to where my daughter lives.  It was a bitterly cold day but full of sunshine and daffodils.  We unpacked our treasured family Christening robe – a very delicate cotton voile dress with tiny pintucks and embroidered flowers.  I think it was made by my grandma who was a fine seamstress.



Here is baby L with her great Grandma – she was 7 months old here – a bit old for the size of the dress which only just fit and we had to have one of standby that I bought in John Lewis just in case – but all was well and she managed not to put a hole in it!


We celebrated the day amongst family and friends and everyone had one of these gorgeous cupcakes made by Caroline a girl I used to work with until she set up her own business making cakes.


I managed a few clearing out days at the beginning of the year spurred on by the wave of Kondoism sweeping blogland.  I have just to finish the rest of the house now!


Even though the cottage is looking quite forlorn inside the garden continues to flourish and after the flood it just sprang back to life – no doubt helped by the heap of cow manure brought in with the flood water from the nearby fields!


The cottage garden


Even my new long border was full of unexpected colour as Foxgloves and Poppies had self seeded here and there.


My greatest surprise though was uncovering more stones at the side of the pond – buried under a few years of leaf mould.

Uncovering stones around pond

Paving around pond


Uncovering these led me to get on and clean out the pond which lies behind those Irises.  Below is a picture taken before I cleaned it out – no water (a suspected leak) and full of mud from the falling leaves which I had to remove by the bucket load – but I persevered to the end and what a joyful moment when it was all cleaned up and the hole in the concrete that was causing the leak repaired by hubby.



Water in pond

after – just waiting for some rain now to fill it.

Middleton Well Dressing

after a few days the pond was full and the flowers surrounding it a joy to behold.

In August another kind of pool was up and running – this is our new leisure and sports centre in town – it has been long-awaited as our nearest leisure pool was in nearby Barnsley and the old sports centre was way past it’s sell by date.  I got to go on the Private Viewing tour with my architect hubby and the rest of his team who put in such a lot of hard work over the years to bring it in on time and on budget.  Friends and family of everyone who worked on the design and build as well as the people now running it were able to sample the pool and fitness suites before it was opened to the public.  I just went to take photos but I am thinking of joining soon as it is only up the road from my office and I could do with a bit of exercise!

The Leisure Pool

Another day of excitement when we had a two-week break in Scotland and took a ferry ride across to Dunoon to go and see Freda and her Open Studio.


approaching Dunoon


We had the most delightful time with Freda  – she provided afternoon tea and cakes and we had a long chat, a wander round her beautiful garden and studio.  Her pictures of the garden do not compare with how stunning it is in the flesh.  We left of course with one of her pictures and it hangs in our bedroom at home  – a reminder each morning of our wonderful day.  Find Freda here at Live Simply, Simply Live.


I can’t remember just when but at some point during the year hubby had a meeting down near Cambridge and we took advantage of this to go and see the Potton Self Build homes – you can actually go inside four different houses to get a feel for what it might be like if you design and build yourself.  I won’t say very much here because nothing as been finalised but watch this space.


A very different self build home – I think this cute Tree house would be every child’s dream – it was near to some gardens we were visiting in Derbyshire when my mum came to stay.

The Tree House

We also took her to Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield – one of my all time favourite places.


They just happened to have craft fair event with a Punch and Judy show.


We couldn’t go into Derbyshire without going to see one of the many Well Dressings that are held during the summer.  Middleton by Youlgreave always have plenty to do and see and such a cute little church in the middle of the village.


On our way we also stopped at Cromford Mills for lunch and found that the nearby St Mary’s church was open for viewing.  Inside the walls are decorated with wonderful wall paintings and stained glass windows by A.O.Hemming to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

Cromford Church


So maybe it has not been such a bad year after all – although I feel like I have spent most of my time at work and my promotion in May has meant a lot more responsibility when I was actually looking to reduce my hours – I must be mad but I could never ignore a challenge and it has been just that at times.  Faced with a huge backlog of work to sort out when I took over and two trainees to train it has proved almost impossible at times.  However, going forward I feel we are in a much stronger position at the beginning of this year than last.  I still miss Helen my colleague and life at work will never be the same without her.


I am looking now to choosing my new word for 2016 – many of you have already announced yours.  I struggled at first to decide and then it was there on the screen and I couldn’t ignore it – in fact it is two words that are both very appropriate for my situation at the moment in so many ways and I think they link together quite well…


Restore – to brink back, re-establish, to repair or renovate.  I definitely need to restore myself, the house, the cottage and my free time.

It is very much linked with Replenish – to fill up again and I feel like I need to recharge my batteries ready for the year ahead and all the plans I have.

Happy 2016 everyone x

a time of reflection…

A long long gap and I cannot definitely say I am truly back on the blogging scene at the moment, but just thought I would update anyone still following along.

On December 8th my good friend and colleague Helen passed away in our local Hospice after a year-long battle with secondary Breast cancer in her lung, aged 51.  Her fight has now ended and she is at peace.  She was courageous to the very end and I will always miss her and always remember her – our office is just not the same without her.

The last few months have been so difficult that blogging has not been an option – just keeping going at work and home has been enough.  Losing my mum in law at the beginning of the year and Helen at the end has not made 2015 an easy year and I am looking forward to 2016 and a fresh start.

We have still not had any work done on the cottage  – sometimes I cannot even remember what we are waiting for!  We failed to put a lick of paint on our home here in Yorkshire as well but in the next day or two we are going to be making plans to get the decorating of our house back on track.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas – we spent the day with our family with lots of joviality and far too much food but it was also tinged with sadness as throughout the day I couldn’t help thinking about Helen’s family and how they were coping with the loss of a wife and mother.

I do hope it will not be as long between posts next time.  I have missed the blogging community but time has been so precious recently that any few minutes I have had to myself have been spent catching up with a whole host of things, including some much-needed sleep.

home and away…

We came back from our jolly hols in Scotland yesterday.  It has been a mixture of hard work in our cottage garden interspersed with a little relaxation and the odd trip out (or two) – more news on this another day.



As I have been away from my blog for what seems like a lifetime I have a bit of catching up to do as well as filling regular readers in on just what has been happening over here and just where the journey has taken me recently.  But not all at once – this is merely to check in and say hi – hope you are all well and enjoying the summer.





I know tomorrow when I return to work I will hit the ground running.  I seriously wish I could leave now – all though I do love my job it has begun to take over my life and there are so many things I want to do whilst I still can.  I have lost all control on our finances and I have a heap of receipts to deal with.  Luckily the bills are always taken care of so I need not worry too much about missing a payment but I do like to balance my statements and know where my money has been spent.

Having said that I did arrive home yesterday to a letter from Yorkshire Water saying we had not paid them.  For some reason when we had the meter installed last year I thought we had switched to direct debit but it appears not and I should have reset the standing order in April.

My other mail was an assortment of the usual marketing junk, voting papers for building societies and bank statements which I still get on paper; hidden amongst the pile was my most recent issue of Country Living so that brought a smile to my face and eased the pain of dealing with all the rest.

I spent most of today unpacking – funny that it seems to take longer to unpack than pack – but  because it was hot during the two weeks we were away and the rented cottage we stayed in had a washing machine most of the clothes I took came back clean and could just go straight into the drawers leaving only two or three small loads of washing to do which I did manage to get outside and dry on the line before the heavens opened.


Now I only have the really dirty gardening clothes to wash but these will have to have a pre-soak as we have both spent the best part of the fortnight scrambling around in the undergrowth.  The cottage may still be in a dire need of repair but the garden has certainly sprung to life and become even more vigorous since the flood  – all that fertiliser washing down over the fields I expect.  I don’t suppose there are many people who take their gardening outfits on holiday LoL!!  I should really splash out on some designer gear – something a little more special than Sainsbury’s own t-shirts and stretchy jeans.  Perhaps Joanna Lumley takes her gardening clothes when she holidays at her cotttage up the road from us!

My travel items have been sorted, refilled and repacked ready for our next visit and what my long-suffering hubby calls ‘the mobile library’ that we take is back on the book shelves – this consists of three bags full of a variety of gardening books and note books just in case I need to know the best place for a plant or need some design inspiration.  Of course since the flood we have to take everything up and down with us now unless it will keep in the garage – but usually this is just the gardening tools that we store in there as it is a bit too damp for most things.

Annoyingly I have found that the mice quite like to eat gardening gloves and shred my green kneeling pad to bits to build their nests so I have to hide them in a drawer!

I am now in the throes of planning out July.  I have a few appointments – hair, eyes, mammogram and one to make for a massage using my mother’s day token.  I have a few birthdays and anniversaries; my sister-in-law, myself, a couple of friends and our wedding anniversary.  I desperately need to go shopping for clothes and shoes  – a combination of a little excess weight acquired during our last few months of very unhealthy eating and having a big clear out leaving me with very little to wear!  We desperately need to buy a new computer and shredder too.  Part of my lack of posting has been down to the temperament of my computer which is on a go slow at present and nothing we do will make it get a move on not even the threat of a new one.

Luckily it is only time not money that prevents me from buying one.  The good thing about working all hours is there is no time to shop so you spend very little whilst all the extra overtime money builds up.

Well I have written more than I thought – my aim is to keep it short and sweet and try to make an hour for blogging whenever I can.

Back to crazy world tomorrow – must get some sleep in.


waste not want not…


Continuing with the waste of Overproduction…

Since writing the previous post on using the ‘lean’ principles in everyday and domestic life to add value by avoiding waste I am very conscious of buying too much and creating future waste – I just have to look around my house to see the result of this. I wonder why I do buy things sometimes, as more often than not they are not on my shopping list – rather I see something and decide impulsively that I would quite like it, or even worse that I believe I cannot live without it!

As well, I buy because I can; my income, though fairly modest, is such that I do not even have to think about the cost of a small purchase. I often wonder what fortune I might have amassed over the years if I had not squandered my money on all these low-cost hasty purchases.

All this buying has generated a lot of waste and the constant necessity to declutter. I am not alone in this as there seems to be some kind of decluttering fever in blogland at the moment – maybe it isn’t just me that is feeling the need to gain back some space and feel free from the responsibility of storing and looking after stuff.

Are we desiring less but actually buying more?

At the beginning of last year I decided to document everything I bought that wasn’t food. (You can see this here on my rerouted blog). I thought this exercise was going to be a doddle after all I was trying to seriously cut down on what I bought anyway so I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time photographing my purchases – how wrong I was!

By the time March came round I realised this was getting to be quite a time-consuming project because I actually bought more items than I thought I would and as soon as Easter arrived with the better weather my attentions had to be prioritised towards the garden. It was a useful exercise though because I can visually see items in the photos that I bought and haven’t used or I found not to be useful after all.

Simplicity of living and avoidance of waste

Whilst thinking about waste and unnecessary buying I keep going back to one of my favourite discoveries – Innermost House – for those following along with my journey you might remember Innermost House if not click here to discover for yourself. The simplicity of living and freedom from buying that this video promotes is something that I aspire to achieve.

You would perhaps think that Simplistic living is quite an easy goal to accomplish but I think it is a constant struggle. The world wants me to spend. I watch the TV and I am subjected to advertising, I go to the shops and I am attracted by the displays and the most recent fashion must haves, I hand over my money at the checkout and they hand me back vouchers so I will return and spend more.

Worse still I don’t even need to have cash anymore I just hand over a piece of plastic and I don’t feel the loss of my hard-earned money. And just when I think I can’t spend anymore because all the shops are closed I log on to the internet and all my movements are being tracked so that I am bombarded with adverts of products I might like to buy from the sites I visit.

Not buying more must surely begin with being content with what I already have and not being tempted into buying things unnecessarily. I can look back at the world my grandparents knew and see that they were far more content with their lot. Their world was definitely simpler, their choice was limited and their income also limited their choice.

Going back to my task of Simplifying my house, one of my main goals  in the decluttering battle is to be much more careful when shopping to avoid being wasteful. I really do not want to be throwing out items that I only bought a few months before, whether that is clothes, household contents or food and I do not want to get rid of loads of stuff only to find that a month or two down the line the house has filled up once again.

Limiting my spending

To stop this happening I have thought of a number of things I have decided to do

  • I am looking to put some kind of limit onto the amount of items I have in any one category.  For instance I could limit myself to one magazine a month, 6 pairs of shoes, 6 sets of underwear, a capsule wardrobe, 1 bookcase of books etc this way items can only be replaced rather than be added to.
  • I will repair and maintain the items we already have where possible rather than replace them with new
  • I will avoid the need to keep any ‘just in case’ items
  • I will decline taking other people’s bags of decluttered items that are passed on
  • I will suggest tokens for my birthdays that I can use for a massage, facial or a meal, something that I do not have to keep or suggest a donation to my favourite charity.
  • l will borrow books from the library
  • I will limit my store cupboard supplies
  • I will try harder to plan weekly menus to cut down on food waste
  • I will make a concentrated effort to make my own cards from my craft cupboard materials.
  • I will only keep what I really use unless it is for sentimental reasons

I am sure there are more ways than this to minimise the ‘stuff’ from creeping back in.  I may be wrong, and do tell me if I am, but Kondo never says exactly how she deals with any accumulted stuff after the initial declutter, it is as though she expects it will never be a problem again.  Her message is always to apply the test of does it ‘give joy’ but quite often that urge to buy and spend and therefore accumulate is the very ‘Joy’ bit – albeit quite short lived in most cases.  In this world of plenty having that bit more does not register with us until the bit more has become a bit of a mountain!

I have no doubt I could keep on forever buying and decluttering but I prefer not to –  it seems such a waste of effort and time and resources not to mention space so I need to take a stand now.

Perhaps I will even get back to photographing and logging all my purchases again as a way of avoiding future waste.


“and the Spring arose on the garden fair…

“And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

We spent Easter week at the cottage..not in the cottage exactly as it is still without kitchen / bathroom / power / water and floors!  We stayed in a beautifully spacious cottage up the road.  We were busy in the garden all week – I love this time of year when everything is just coming to life.  Of course all the plants are much later in Scotland but the weather last week was so sunny and warm you could almost see the buds bursting open.

Cottage front garden

Below is the seaside garden – a lot of the top soil washed away with the flood water but it wasn’t the jungle I had prepared myself for.  There is no point in us doing anything at this side as the contractors will be coming and going so best to wait.

Cottage garden


The woodland walk is once again taking shape – the planting here has recovered very quickly you would not even know that it was 2 feet deep in water last August.

Woodland walk

We laid fresh bark over the pathways – we had to buy this as we have no power to make our own with the shredder and a few bags does not go very far.

Woodland walk 2


I always support my Dicentras with a strip of chicken wire around the base of the plants this keeps them from being blown about and is completely hidden by the foliage as it grows.



The Primroses are now beginning to spread around and keep popping up here and there.


The burn has a few clumps of Daffodils dotted along its banks.

Stream bank

Ideally the border needs a major reshape and move around, but it may be too late to do this when we go again.

The border


One day whilst in Stranraer we took a walk along Broadstones – I love these rows of the wooden breakwaters along the beach.  Broadstones 2


Broadstones Stranraer

This is looking towards Stranraer – the beaches are becoming so much cleaner now the ferry has been moved across the bay to Cairnryan.    Towards Stranraer



This is part of the new Marina that the council are creating to attract more yachts.

Stranraer Marina


We had a lovely break – a shame a week is not long enough but being at the cottage and in the garden reminded us why we love the place so much.  Even after the flood we would find it hard to leave.  We did look around at other properties in the area as we have been undecided whether to sell the place and move on – I am not sure I could deal with another major flood and I am not sure the cottage will be reinstated even by August – one year on – but having looked at other properties we realise we would struggle to find anywhere quite the same with a wood and a sea view and so for the time being have decided to stay and battle on.

We have been contacted by the nice man at the Scottish Flood Forum – they provide help and give advice and he is coming to survey the situation and will approach the local Council on our behalf to see what their plans might be, if any, to prevent a reoccurrence in the future should we have the misfortune to experience such a heavy downpour again.  The Witches Glen from where the water came hurtling down has now reopened and the Council have rebuilt the edge of the road that had washed away and made major improvements to strengthen the stream banking.

All too soon the week was over we had to put away our gardening tools and clean our rented cottage and get ready for the journey home on the Saturday morning – the weather by now was much cooler and we could see snow on the distant Galloway hills.

Snowy hills in April


Well that is my update on our Easter break how was yours?

learning to live a little leaner…

My final day at work yesterday for a whole week – yay! – I am winding down today but as soon as I can pack a few things and jump in the car on Saturday we are headed for Scotland.  Of course we will have to stay in a rented cottage as our own is still not ready (or even close) but we will be able to go in the garden which has probably reached jungle proportions by now.

After my initial decluttering of the toiletries, my underwear drawer and the cleaning products I have ground to a bit of a halt and nothing much is getting done in the house at the moment due to my continuing heavy work commitments.

You may remember my post in February about work and how I had decided to leave but I was asked to stay if they could make things better; well rather than winding down towards retirement it seems my ‘career’ is having a sudden late onset revival and after agreeing to stay on I have been promoted this week!  It is actually the same job in essence with a new title.  Although I think much more will be expected of me  – earning my keep as it were,  and I keep wondering if I really want this right now but I won’t make that decision until I have tried it out.  I have been given full authority to sort out our department (I can’t say too much about this here as it is a touch political) and make it more efficient and organised.  A bit like decluttering I think!

With all this organising, decluttering and efficiency required both at home and work I have been reading a lot about the Lean methods used by the Japanese and I must say it makes sense to me.  Although the principles of Lean refer more to the manufacturing process and giving customer value you can use these same principles to apply to your life or other situations.  Lean concentrates on adding value – if your activities do not add value then they are wasteful in Lean terms.

Below in bold are the main ‘wastes’ associated with Lean and are taken from Lean for Dummies Cheat Sheet.

Consider the questions of each type of waste which have been translated by me into the more domestic situation of Household Management – are you able to identify with any of my wastes or perhaps you have different issues.

Apologies here to any truly Lean followers if my interpretations are a little loose. 

  • Overproduction

    – do you provide more information than is necessary or spend unnecessary amount of time on paperwork? Do you overproduce generally creating future waste?

Whenever you produce more than you need, you are creating waste.

Buying too much, making too much, storing too much can all be examples of waste in the home.  When we waste we end up throwing the waste away.  A lot of effort can be put into buying, making and storing and this is needless if you end up with waste.

I thought about this question with regards to my emails and paperwork.  My emails can be wordy – perhaps my posts are too – don’t answer that one!

In respect of the paperwork – it takes a long time – I have a lot of it – files and files in fact – do I need to hang on to it?

I also thought about the overproduction involved in managing the grocery shopping and cooking.  There is no doubt good meal planning prevents waste but can the act of meal planning be simplified by doing one menu for the month for each season – then that is it – no more planning.

Could I simplify our accounting in some way – I love my money program but is it really necessary to know where every penny was spent?  I am working on this one.

  • Waiting

    – do you spend too much time waiting for information from others or is there a time lag between production steps?

I can identify here with the time lag – I have time lag between washing and ironing the clothes and the putting away – so our house constantly resembles a Chinese laundry (am I allowed to say that these days?)

We do not wash up immediately after eating in the evenings (bad habit)

We constantly buy things and then do not get to use them – instances of this are all over the house from those little flossing brushes to a whole bathroom suite.

  • Inventory

    – work in progress – Do you have large stocks of materials and is your work in process inventory too high?

Obviously after seeing all my cleaning products together I can only say yes to this and a lot of the other ‘stuff’ in my life.  The garage is testimony to this along with the craft items, an oversupply of food in the cupboards and freezer.  I also have half-finished craft projects and maintenance projects on the go.

  • Transportation

    – Do things flow efficiently.  Could you combine deliveries or deliver things more quickly?

This can cover a number of household issues from the flow of a room – how you might organise the kitchen for instance – to the flow of doing tasks and combining errands and tasks.

Decluttering I find actually helps the flow.  Far too often I find that I am keeping things in the wrong place because something else is resident in the right place.

  • Overprocessing

    Do you needlessly work on something more than once?

Almost certainly – the constant decluttering for instance!  I might also begin something that I cannot finish and then have to come back to it later and start over.

  • Motion

    – how is work passed along the team – do people understand what is required at each step?  Do people and equipment move between tasks efficiently?

We are a team of two normally and will be once again when team daughter and partner move out LOL.  I do not think the housework is split 50:50 in our team of two.  Hubby works longer hours than me so it would seem unfair.   Hubby is generally on waste management and fix and repair, whilst I am on meal planning and production, laundry production and household maintenance and cleanliness.  It is hard to ‘pass along’ on a team of two – although I can think of a good example of this where I generate the waste and hubby moves it!  I think co-ordination could work better and I believe a bit more effort to take note of what is required at each step  – the finishing off process – would not go amiss.

  • Defects

    – how often do you find mistakes – do you make the same mistakes on a regular basis?

Oh I definitely think we do in this household – even something as simple as the washing up inspection when dishes are rejected as not properly clean and need to be done again, or items of clothing not put out in time for washing and are not included in the wash.  Receipts not being presented on time when I am trying to balance our accounts, shopping put away in the wrong place and has to be swapped around, out of stock items not being put on the shopping list ready for the weekly shop and toilet rolls not being replaced by the last user – need I go on!

  • Workforce

    – do you use time wisely?  Do you spend most of your time on activities that add value and are a high priority?

Obviously not as I am writing this post now when I should be maintaining the house and packing!


Reading both Marie Kondo’s book on decluttering, the Zero Waste Home and the Minimalists book I can see how Lean fits into all these concepts quite well.  Tightening up on all the above areas of waste could make life simpler and my stuff more manageable.  I am certainly going to give this a lot more thought over the Easter break and look at how I can apply a no waste policy to our household.



Have a good Easter x