update for August…

Surprisingly, I managed to get down my pile of paper work though it took me two whole days and a lot of concentration to balance the statements, change mobile provider and file.  OH signed us up to a new gas provider EDF so we are hoping for savings there and better customer service in the event we need to contact them.   I also discovered in checking our accounts that more interest had been added to one or two of our ISA savings which was a nice surprise.

Once the finances were back under control I decided to turn my attentions to doing more decluttering and organising and have been spending quite a bit of time reorganising the storage in the bedrooms.

The new wardrobe in the recently decorated bedroom is now my linen store which has freed up space in the main wardrobe in our bedroom.  As luck would have it my younger daughter, who is in North Yorkshire, is moving soon to a bigger house so she will take a lot of the excess towels and linens that I have found and don’t really need freeing up even more space.

I have also assigned one of the drawers to hold my fabrics.  I was quite ruthless going through the fabric pieces and reduced the amount I am keeping to a more manageable level.  I came across a number of projects that have been hanging around for ages:-

  • A knitted cushion made by my mum but it requires sewing together.
  • A Xmas stocking that I found had a pin left inside lodged in the padding – this needed unpicking a little at the top edge – the pin removing and then sewing back up so I did this straight away and it didn’t even get a mention on my To-do list.  It took all of 10 minutes and it must have been waiting for a few months!
  • As we have 3 new family members now – the partners of each of my daughters and my granddaughter  – I need to make three additional Xmas stockings. I have the fabric ready to make them I just need some time to get down to doing it.
  • Bunting – left over from the wedding I have a number of cut out flags and I always intended sewing these together.The bits and pieces of fabric from the wedding bunting too small for flags will be used to make patchwork squares or strips for a memory quilt for my daughter.
  • I bought a set of tea towels from Sainsbury’s with hens printed on intending to make a tea cosy.
  • A silk scarf that I bought turned out to be a square with fringing all round rather than a long scarf.  I was never keen on the fringing so decided to remove it – a 10 minute job and now I have a new scarf.

 

and a pile of fringing!

So out of seven sewing tasks I did 2 of them within half an hour but I need to put aside some time to complete at least the cushion cover and the new Xmas stockings very soon.

Whilst all the sorting has been going on we have been putting the finishing touches to the newly decorated room.

OH made the wardrobe door handles as I wanted white-painted wood and IKEA do not sell theses without the free-standing wardrobe they go with.  The last coat has gone on and these have now been screwed in place.

He has also put up some narrow picture ledges for the books and pictures, cut down the blind and fitted it today – we have gone for just a plain white one and are not putting curtains up again – I like the simplicity of the blind – you might think otherwise when you see it.

For the time being we have put the old carpet back down.  Although it is 20 years old it is still in reasonable condition but the colour looks a bit too creamy now against the cooler grey walls, however, it will be better than having dusty floorboards until all the rest of the house is done and we have the same colour carpet put down throughout.

The duvet quilt cover I have bought is not what I had originally intended either – the one piece of furniture, besides the bed, that we are keeping in this room is a vintage blue Lloyd loom bedside cabinet that once belonged to my mum-in-law and it is something that I have always coveted since I first visited my mum-in-law’s house back in the seventies and now it is ours.  To tie in the blue I decided on a duvet cover from Next children range called Vintage Ditsy which features a very similar blue to the cabinet amongst the pink flower print.  I had not intended it to be flowery at all in this room – but there you go!

Rather than me trying to describe everything I will take some photos soon.  I am back at work tomorrow so it will be later this week. Promise.

Meanwhile here are some photos taken whilst at the caravan the weekend before last and a progress report.

 

We now have grass again on the seaside side of our garden – the contractors laid down new topsoil and grass seed once they finished the reconstruction of our stream bank – albeit complete with many dock leaves – but our main problem is with the rabbits eating our new plants.  We extended the trellis border making it wider to accommodate some seaside plants that we bought in the summer.  We are hoping they will seed and spread quickly and eventually provide a natural look along the stream bank.  We have had to put chicken wire around these until either the plants recover or the rabbits get fed up and move on to something else – hopefully the docks!

They seem to be leaving the Delphiniums in the Woodland walk alone this year and I have a nice clump of them  – some are still to flower.  I love this deep blue against the orange of the Monbrettia.

There is not a lot of colour going on around the pond at the moment so I might add some late summer / early Autumn planting to rectify this next year although I often quite like to have a parts of the garden that are just restful – the pond is definitely a Spring / early summer corner.

For bursts of colour you cannot beat Hydrangeas – this is one of my favourites and it really brightens up this spot by the daisy path.

Back at home I now have Sweet Peas to cut at last – I planted them late and so this is the first of them – a lovely velvety deep purple with a sprig of  – you’ve guessed it – orange Monbrettia – it colour coordinated so well with my mixed fresh fruits for breakfast today.

During my ‘sorting out’ I discovered some instructions and directions that I had photocopied to turn into care cards – see here if you are unfamiliar with my way of dealing with this kind of information – I have now laminated these and they can be placed where I need them to refer to.

Tomorrow is work again and it will be a day or two before I can get back to the decluttering.  My next project is to go through the boxes in the wardrobe in the middle bedroom to reduce the amount of stored ‘stuff’ and get the room emptied ready to decorate.  The wardrobe in here which has sliding doors is to be dismantled to make way for a newer version.

Back soon x

 

 

 

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home for a rest…

Back home from our two-week holiday and break in Scotland at the cottage – you may have noticed my absence.  The weather in our part of Scotland (the South West corner) has been absolutely glorious – so many hot sunny days and blue skies – who needs to go abroad!

Thank you to everyone for your recent comments on my previous posts –  I was not ignoring you all I have no internet connection at the cottage and so am oblivious to life in the rest of the world. I would normally reply to your comments but time is a bit scarce at the moment as I have a lot of catching up to do both in the house and in blogland so please accept this general acknowledgement.

Whilst we were on holiday (which I will write about in another post) I had my birthday, and also a funeral to attend  – not on the same day but close.  The call to say that OH’s uncle from the Scottish side of the family had unexpectedly passed away came as we were enjoying the first day of our holiday but being close to Kilmarnock (82 miles up the road from our cottage) we decided it would be fairly easy to attend the funeral.

Not everyone gets to go to a funeral on holiday and like most people we had not packed clothes for such an occasion so we had no option but to go in our holiday attire – the best we could do was black jeans each, a suitable top for me and dark t-shirt and jumper for OH and yes as you can imagine we did stand out from the crowd who were quite soberly and traditionally dressed, the men in black suits, white shirts and black ties and the women black dresses or skirts, but the family did not mind rather they were pleased to see us.

The funeral director and staff did however show a look of horror once or twice especially when the announcer called for any family members to enter the crematorium chapel first and we stepped forward – until then it was probably thought we were just passers-by!

Being on holiday for my birthday does mean I have spent a lot of my day today opening cards and presents and answering messages.  So back to the unpacking now as it is work again for me tomorrow.

I will just leave you with a few holiday snaps…

 

Kipford and Rockcliffe 

Ardwell Walled Gardens

Broadstones Stranraer

Across Agnew Park Stranraer

 

 

back home and back to work…

I have been back home now for over a week but not had the time to put pen to paper (so to speak), not that I have anything very exciting to say – life has just been rolling along in the usual non-eventful way.

I spent a lovely few days in the woodland garden in Scotland rumaging around in the undergrowth like a wayward squirrel but this was followed by a few stressful days on my return to work which has thrown up that question again of ‘just how long do I intend to go on working’?  I am a few years off collecting my state pension but to tell the truth I don’t feel I want to work to sixty six as life is short and there are new challenges I would like to attempt before I get too old and creaky!

So I am in deep thinking mode at the moment which has been robbing me of quite a bit of sleep.

On the domestic front…

We have a number of projects on the go – far too many – both at home and in Scotland.  I should have named this blog My Double Life or Coming and Going – some days I wake up and don’t know which place I am in!  We never intended to have 2 homes for long but the flood at the cottage has delayed our plans to move up there.

Here at home we are decorating my younger daughters bedroom to use when my granddaughter comes to stay. It was a bit tricky taking a decent picture and didn’t help facing into the light that floods in from the Velux in the roof.

 

bedroom makeover

As you can see it is looking quite dated now with the lacquered pine that has mellowed and yellowed over time and is in need of a revamp. My daughter and her friends loved this room with the mezzanine sleeping platform over the shower room accessed by a ‘Samba” staircase.  You can lay in bed at night and see the stars.

The other end of the room has a normal window overlooking the back garden.  The room is quite narrow only about ten feet wide as it is directly above the garage and laundry room.

bedroom makeover 2

Sometime in the nineties whilst at art college my daughter added the stencilling feature to the staircase but this is really past its prime now.

Nineties stenciling

So it will be covered up and all the pine wood painted to give it a whole new cleaner and fresher look and bring it up to date.  More posts on the makeover later.

In the garden in Scotland…

By the pond

I spent more time around the pond – cutting back the Fernery and clearing the water of dead leaves.  We added a plank on top of the two wooden posts I discovered beside the pond last time so we can sit there, have a cuppa, and admire the garden – I planted a few more Primula in and amongst the stones and transplanted lots of Foxgloves into the wild flower patch just out of sight of this photo.

I have the Fuchsias  to prune back at the edge of the pond but then we can sit back and wait for everything to grow and flower.

 

a different kind of leak…

We are headed for Scotland today – yeah – a whole week of gardening – I hope the weather improves – looking quite cold and only sunny in the earlier part of the week.  Never mind we will be snug in the caravan but better order an extra-large bottle of gas – the central heating is great but obviously it drains the gas quickly.

The Swift engineer will be coming to replace the carpet in the caravan – we had a leak from the radiator when we first put the central heating on – the anti freeze is very sticky so the carpet dried stained and stiff – hence the replacement.

Whilst we are up there I have a long list of jobs one of which is to attend to a different kind of leek and make further in roads in clearing the wild garlic – after having a bit of a google I have found that our wild garlic is actually most likely to be Allium triquetrum – the three-cornered leek – looks like a white bell in flower (good in ham sandwiches they say – no use to us vegetarians then).  Spreads like mad and difficult to get rid of it.  I was hoping perhaps the rabbits might like to eat it instead of my Delphiniums!

See you in a week. x

 

“weeds are flowers too…

… once you get to know them”    

A. A. Milne, said by Eeyore from in ‘Winnie the Pooh’

 

We returned last week from 6 blissful days at the cottage (but in the caravan) – the weather was quite mixed but we managed a spell in the garden.  The mild weather at the Mull this winter has meant that everything has continued to grow.  I have French Lavender in the trellis border coming in to flower which made the clipping back hard to do.

I love the deep purple colour of these tulips –  I can’t even remember planting them!

I also love the wild flowers but left to their own devices they take over the garden.  As you can see here the wild garlic is rampant and the bare patches are where I spent a good hour or two pulling up bulb after bulb in an attempt to curb the spread.  There are a few patches like this is the garden and through the lawn.  Bulbs are far worse than rooted plants to weed out so I am resigned to the fact that I will have to weed over and over to get rid of them completely.  The smell is quite nice though even if I am intolerant of garlic in food!

We also have an army of rabbits who have been digging in the borders – they go for the roots of plants – so all my plants have stones around the base and in some cases wire netting to prevent them getting close.

Hubby was on ditch management – clearing out the earth and leaves from the ditch that divides the garden and woodland walk from the main part of the wood.  It is a heavy job heaving shovels of wet mud up onto the banking – once it has dried out I can then move it to other parts of the garden.

His other project this visit was to make some caravan steps – we have been managing with an old milk crate but as the caravan is 2 feet off the ground it is a bit of a drop coming out of the van with no steadying handrail.  We had a large assortment of wood in the garage from other projects and with a delivery of decking planks as well we have managed to make some steps with a useful platform outside the door for around £60.

We have generated a large shredding pile of shrub prunings so I will need to spend an afternoon with the shredder – the resulting wooden pellets make good ground cover for the paths on the woodland walk.

On this visit I decided to concentrate on the pond for a couple of days.  We have had to do some heavy pruning of the self seeded Elder at the back of the pond and on our next visit will cut back the Fuchsia as well as the ‘Fernery’ – I have to do this every two years as they creep over their demarcation line and also the old leaves start looking dry and discoloured – cutting them down to ground level allows fresh young green growth to sprout and in no time we will have the Fernery back in full force – just a little less of it!

This is a picture from 2 years ago when I began to clean up the pond and I uncovered a layer of buried stones around the edge.

This is it fully cleaned out

The wild yellow Irises were a strong group at this time flanking the right hand side slope of the pond.

Some of the Irises struggled to survive last year under the deep shade of the Elder branches that had taken over at the back of the pond.  This year when I removed some of the rotting roots I discovered more stones beneath the clumps and the rest of the afternoon was spent on a bit of an archeological dig.  Below is a picture of my discovery – a beautiful old flat stone with a hole in the middle.  What purpose this stone originally served I have no idea but it makes a nice flat platform to the edge of my pond and I am sure the Irises will once again multiply quickly to fill the empty spaces.

The two wooden stumps must have once held a seat and we hope to replace this using a piece of wood from our wood pile in the garage.

When photographed from a distance you can see the extent of the stones – all this was buried under leaf mould.  the Elder has been pruned back to about 2′ as it does grow very quickly.

This was the edge of the pond last year when the Primula and irises were in full bloom it is one of my favourite spots in the garden.

Can’t wait for this years show.

searching out those good deals…


We are home again after a few days at the caravan.  The weather was rather mixed but when it was sunny it was quite warm and we could get out into the garden clearing ditches and mowing the lawn.

RW Rye

We have the same rhododendron – (R.W.Rye – a beautiful small yellow flower) – in our garden in Yorkshire and our cottage garden in Scotland and surprisingly the one in Yorkshire is just about to burst into flower while the one in Scotland is almost over!

Down at the edge of the wood under the apple tree the crocuses are poking through the undergrowth – Spring is definitely here.

Carrying on from my last post about the piece of advice I read recently in a magazine –

‘Devote an hour a week to staying on top of your money’ Dr Heather McGregor author of Financial Advice for Independent Women.

Use the time to check statements, sort out bills and making sure you are getting the best deals.

I have even cut this out and stuck it in my Filofax.

I am presuming this advice is also helpful if you are still trying to acquire some money to get on top of!

I already devote some time each week (where time allows) to track my spending and balance statements this helps me to identify where my money is going and where I would like it to go.  Most of my bills are paid by standing order or direct debit so I never fail to pay them but it is the amount of the bills that are in question – can I get a cheaper deal and save money?

Devoting a bit more time to searching out good deals should help me to hold on to more of it.  I dislike having to do it but fixing deals with utilities has become a way of life now, the same for insurance cover and mortgages.  My gran had none of these problems – she would receive a quarterly bill for the exact amount she had used and pay it in cash the same day – simple – now it is anything but simple.

My successes so far on economising

  • A new fixed deal rate for our electricity and gas to avoid the imminent price hikes.
  • Paying up front for the BT phone line for a year in advance and haggling for a better unlimited broad band and anytime calls deal.
  • Opening a 5% interest return Flexclusive saver account with Nationwide – open to anyone with a Flexaccount and you can pay in up to £500 a month.  The account is only for a year then you take t he money, close the account and open a new one.
  • Meal planning to save on the grocery shopping and avoiding wasted food.
  • I have bought a packet of individually wrapped flapjacks and some chocolate mini rolls these will go with us when we go out and stop for a drink in Costa – I object to paying £2.25 or more for one of their tray bakes and will reduce our bill from around £9 to around £5.
  • If we have to park in town we can use Sainsbury’s car park if we buy something for over £5.  We may as well spend £5 on stocking up on rice or birthday cards and get something for the parking rather than paying £4 and getting nothing.
  • We discovered by accident that we could have a good discount on our car insurance with Aviva because we have a pension with them.  I think Aviva may be one of those companies who do not participate in the comparison sites.

Tomorrow night is shopping night so I will be on the look out for more bargains.  Have a good week.

highlights from the week…

During last week I was on holiday from work so we decided to head up to the caravan in Scotland for a few days whilst also arranging to meet the engineer who came to get our water and gas connected.

I was sitting in the caravan looking out over a calm, silvery winter sea during the time just before dusk sets in.  The wood-pigeon was gently cooing outside and inside a very peaceful quiet. Just like in the cottage we have no means of communicating with the outside world – it feels almost like being on a desert island – all we can do is just sit and be.  A very odd experience – 250 miles away from our usual existence at home where there is always some pressing ‘To Do’ to be done and I would normally, like a lot of the population, be at work.  I quite enjoyed this break – so did hubby who was often found gently dozing in the corner!

The highlight of the trip was at last we have running water, central heating, a flushing toilet, fully operational shower and gas cooking facilities.  Thank goodness for all these modern inventions – being without such comforts is good for the soul once in a while as it reminds us of how grateful we should be for these services we take for granted and how they free up our lives.  For the last few weeks we have managed with containers of water, a bucket under the van to catch the sink waste and a chemical camping toilet to catch the other waste!  I won’t go into detail here!!  We had to have a wash with one bowl of water each and clean our teeth with a glassful.  All hot water had to be boiled on our little gas camping stove and our meals consisted of soup, soup and more soup – the easiest thing to heat up when you only have one gas ring.

The caravan is now a real home from home and is actually warmer, cleaner and more comfortable than our cottage was whilst we attended to the renovations.  But it does not have the character or the space.

Now the caravan is fully up and running we can turn our attention to the garden maintenance.  It suffered a lot last year due to shortage of time and the cottage being out of action still.  We had to limit our visits and stay at a nearby B&B or hire another cottage.

Many parts of the garden were badly affected by the flood and all though most of it has sprung back there are still some strange effects to overcome even now. The lawn and borders on the wood side of the cottage are covered in wild garlic leaves, the bulbs being washed through the garden and scattered by the flood water.  The only way is to dig them out by hand one at a time.  So far I have done a patch about one metre square – the amount of garden affected by this is probably 20 metres square – some of it appears in clumps and others more scatterd – funnily enough the ones in clumps are easier to pull out than the numerous single bulbs dotted around.  Any good ideas anyone?

The stream bank is looking so much better and as soon as we hit a drier patch the contractor will be back to spread the top soil and re-seed the area.  The black protective mesh will eventually allow the vegetation to grow through it and it will look like a natural grassy stream bank.  Of course the stream bed is much wider now but will probably, hopefully, look narrower again as the vegetation takes hold.

 

Stream Bank

 

Back at home now we celebrated Burns night here in England with a few friends – it was a great night and always reminds us how good it is to have a get together.  I have never cooked Haggis before but it was quite easy – not so easy is mashing a huge pot of potatoes and turnip.

For eight of us (5 meat eaters and 3 vegetarians) I spent

2 x Haggis  £5.00

1 x Haggis veggie £2.50

1 large bag Potatoes £1.29

2 x Swede £0.80

1 pot beef gravy £2.00 (already had some veggie gravy)

8 mini Scotch pies  £2.70

2 macaroni pies £1.15

Add in some Scottish delicacies

1 box Tunnocks chocolate teacakes £1.60

1pkt Tunnocks Caramel wafers £1.60

1pkt mini Scottie shortbread  £1.00

 

A total of £19.64 or £2.46 a head – one friend brought fruit kebabs for a starter and another friend a Rhubarb crumble for afters.  So quite an economy meal.