up hill and down dale…

I had quite a busy weekend but mostly enjoyable.

I did my two hours of paperwork over Friday and Saturday (mentioned in my previous post) and filed all the papers and then moved on to the Mount Everest of an ironing pile and finally managed a half-way clean in our office and main bedroom.

A half-way clean in my books is one that isn’t exactly a deep clean of moving furniture or emptying cupboards but neither a lick and tickle with the duster.  It always feels good to me to have a good clear up – tidying up loose ends as I go and then giving all the surfaces a good clean.  What a shame it doesn’t stay in shape for longer!

On Friday afternoon I took my good friend and neighbour out for Afternoon Tea for her birthday at a local Garden Centre called Totties – only when we got there did we find we should have booked!  We settled on a Cheese ploughman’s with hummus instead followed by ice cream – both courses were delicious.  We both agreed it was probably more enjoyable than Afternoon tea as we both like savoury foods more than too many sweet cakes.  We will definitely go back though to sample the Afternoon tea another day – remembering to book next time.

We travelled up to the Yorkshire Dales on Sunday to meet my daughter and granddaughter at the Himalayan Garden at Grewelthorpe between Ripon and Masham. 

I was a bit disappointed that it was overcast and in places quite cool but depending on where we walked in the garden we came across unexpected pockets of warm micro-climates.

It is quite a stunning 20 acre garden with a mass of very colourful and showy rhododendrons and Azaleas on wooded slopes with winding paths that lead down into a valley with two main lakes.

Dotted amongst the planting are modern sculptures – some I liked better than others and although it is an interesting garden I personally found some of the features a bit too themed but it didn’t really detract from the beauty of the place.  

These are the sculptures we did find interesting…

perhaps not a sculpture but I quite like this feature below!

The Primula here grow in abundance…

and this jetty is my favourite spot…

You have to admire the sheer scale of the planting and dedication that has gone into this place and it is still a work in progress.  The garden has an interesting history which you can read about in the new visitor centre.  It is a private garden that is only open for a limited number of weeks in the year and you have the added bonus of being able to talk to the head gardener in the Nursery for planting advice.

In all it was a pleasant day we had a picnic in the grounds and a cup of tea from the new chalet tea room and a play on the roundabouts then set off gathering pine cones, sticks and fallen leaves for granny to carry.  I resembled a nature table by the end of the walk.  In the Plant Nursery we were tempted to buy a delicately flowered white Azalea (see below) which is now waiting on our patio for a trip to Scotland.  It is not too showy and likes shade and will blend in well in our wood at the cottage.

At the end of the day we went home with one happy little girl…

and one happy granny…

My garden tonight – a little smaller in scale than the 20 acre garden but my little corner of tranquility and how quickly everything is growing.

And now its back to work while the weather is warmer and sunny!

 

 

waiting around…

Yesterday I had a fun day out at a Legal Aid Seminar for costs lawyers over the hill in Manchester at the Hilton Hotel.  I doubt if the ins and outs of Legal Aid and its future is everyone’s cup of tea but I did actually enjoy it and we had a delicious lunch provided.  We also had a plentiful supply of Danish pastries, macaroons and the famous Hilton chocolate chip cookies served just out of the oven.  I am definitely going to make some.

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Just click on the picture to link through to Amandeline who has the recipe for them on her blog or Google Double Tree Cookie and you will find plenty of references for their ‘not so secret’, secret recipe!

On the train going the uncommunicative commuters had their heads buried in their phones, tablets and notepads with headphones on – so I sat back and enjoyed some precious thinking time.

In my quest to simplify my life one of my goals is to simplify the housework.  I do enjoy keeping house, there is nothing better for me than a good spring clean you can’t beat the distinctive smell of towels blown dry by the wind outside or a freshly washed floor or polished wood –  but I do want to streamline the process to speed up the time it takes me to make the house presentable and of course a place of joy to live in.

As I have written about here Lean is a concept I am following to simplify my life and I the seven wastes in particular provide me with plenty of food for thought – the waste of waiting being one of them.

For instance – I often have a 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?).  When I can get them outside on the line to dry it is great but then I end up with a huge pile waiting for ironing.  If I don’t get them outside to dry I end up with a huge pile of wet washing drying on the clothes horse and the end process of getting them put away ready to use again is delayed.

Another unproductive area of waiting is our bad habit of sometimes leaving the dirty dishes after we have eaten our evening meal – so the dishes are waiting far too long to be washed and put away and we are doing them when we are tired and should be relaxing.

And the worst of the waiting – we constantly buy things and then do not get to use them so they end up waiting somewhere – instances of this are all over the house from those little flossing brushes I bought to try ages ago to the Ikea wardrobe parts still packed in boxes and now waiting in the living room to be moved upstairs and assembled.

I can identify very strongly with the waiting time in this household and the time lag between production steps – I only ever seem to be able to do half a job and then don’t get to finish it until my next day off.

So I am on a mission to get some of the stuff off the waiting list and reduce the waiting time during production.

So for starters I am going to tackle the washing and put in a load every other day and iron it before bedtime so there is no pile building up over the week waiting to be tackled at the weekend, then the dishes and then make a start on the ‘stuff‘ – the unfinished projects –   there is one good thing it will still be there waiting for me if I don’t find the time to deal with it!

How do you tackle your unproductive waiting times?

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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

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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.

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before

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.

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approaching Dunoon

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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

simplifying the house – declutter day 3…

It is a while since my last post on decluttering (usual work and home commitments taking over) however, I had in mind all week to have a good sort through my cleaning products when I could spare a bit of time with a view to taking stock, using up and creating some space in my cupboards.

Over the last few years I inherited first my mum’s unwanted cleaning products when she moved and down sized, and then my mum-in-laws when we cleared her house.  I gave all the products a home as I cannot bear to throw out perfectly good items even though a lot of the products I don’t usually buy or use.  And of course when we emptied the kitchen at the cottage I had to bring the cleaners back home and absorb them into my cupboards here.

I generally use Bi-carb, white vinegar and elbow grease alongside Ecover all purpose cleaner for my worktops and Stardrops for floors and general cleaning jobs.   I keep Dettol to give door handles etc a good wipe over and I use washing powder to clean my sink as well as my clothes.

For those jobs that need a more specific cleaner I use Lakeland Oven cleaner (which is a gel as I do not like sprays), metal polish for my silver, Flash for paintwork and Ecover cream cleaner for the bathroom pottery and tiles.  In addition I have Ecover toilet cleaner and I keep a bottle of thick bleach which I use a teaspoon at a time to add to the water when I soak my dishcloth overnight in a little non bio washing powder.

In the garage I keep an assortment of car shampoos and waxes (not that I use these very often!), alongside a few specialised cleaners such as sugar soap when we decorate.

I have also a bit of a collection of products I have bought at sometime for a purpose  – aluminium cleaner is one of them – although now I cannot even remember what I actually needed it for and Upholstery shampoo another – I never did get to do that patch test!

So  working in true Kondo style I emptied all my cupboards of any cleaners and cloths and laid it all out on the kitchen worktop.  I must say I was quite shocked at the amount I have accumulated especially those that I haven’t used in the last 3 years.  I even found I had multiples of some products I would never think to use such as methylated Spirits – I am still wondering what I can use this for as I particularly hate the smell.

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This is just some of the cleaners – there is more outside of this snapshot!  After sorting and separating the items I normally use from those that I just want to use up I put the useful cleaners back into my trusty Muji containers.  In this one below I have oven cleaner, Stainless cookware cleaner, some mould cleaner, silver and brass wear cleaner and the aluminium cleaner (although I am still not sure what I am going to use this for)…oh and not forgetting the iron cleaner.

 Cleaners organised

I keep my rubber glove supplies in this one with some non-stick pan scrubs.Containers

And my Eco – cleaning cloths in another container.

Cleaning Cloths

I do like to look after my clothes and therefore I am very careful washing and ironing them to keep them looking good for as long as possible so I do tend to keep a variety of different washing powders and liquids.

I generally use Persil non-bio powder unless I have really grubby clothes from the garden and then I tend to add a little bio to the mix.  I use non bio liquid for the 40 degree knitwear and underwear and it is also useful to prevent those white powder marks appearing on all our black garments.  For hand wash wool and those delicate delicates I have a bottle of Ecover liquid for woollens and I also keep a container of pure soap flakes for those items that need a gentle non-detergent wash.

Yes I know I could start a regular little laundry service – it looks worse written down than seeing all the products in the cupboard LOL!  Someone tell me they have such a collection too.

Cleaners stock

I removed everything that needed using up and I am working my way through this box in the picture below.  It consists of a few almost empty items some of which I inherited and would not purchase again but do not want to waste and one or two duplicates.

Use Up Cleaners

Whilst the cleaners were out I began straight away to use up some of the almost finished bottles and in doing this I created a bit more shelf space too.   I now have some very shiny pans after using the Shine Brite and the tiles in my shower are gleaming after using some old Jif cream cleaner.

Shine Brite

 

I also got to work with the remains of the Sticky Stuff remover and cleaned the ‘sticky’ patches off a number of items.  Next I will clean up my silverware and the car might even get a wash and polish, I may even get around to cleaning that upholstery.

There are still a lot of cleaners to wade through but my cupboards feel a bit lighter – I just hope no one else is thinking of moving and giving me their unwanted stuff!  Even though these products may not exactly ‘bring me joy’ I cannot throw them out as Kondo would mainly because I have the environment on my conscience  – but at least now spring is on the way I can make an effort to get cleaning.

The Not so Secret Santa…

We had quite a busy weekend – I cleared up the kitchen and laundry room whilst hubby put the first watered down coat of paint on the newly plastered ceiling in the bathroom so that we can fit the downlights soon.  Progress is being made at last.

On Sunday we had a trip to Meadowhall, our local shopping mall – it was horrendously busy and the only reason we went was to take some boots back to Clinkards that I decided didn’t fit that well after all and to buy hubby a much-needed new winter coat.  The busyness of it all reminded me of why we don’t usually go there near Christmas although near Christmas now seems to start in October!

By popular demand our family are going to partake in the ‘Not so Secret Santa’ again this year.  We will spend £50 and buy for one person.  Then that is it …done, shopping over!

We had great fun last year just with the lists.  Each person had to make a list of up to 10 items they would like as a gift this is to help the person buying it and that is where the Not so Secret bit comes in or you can opt for a gift card or if you are really brave a complete surprise.   Last year the lists consisted of anything from a meal for two at the Hilton to an extra wide ironing board!

The live draw of names of who is buying for who took place courtesy of Facebook one evening as most of our family are on Facebook  – a bit like the live football draws.  Technology can be useful sometimes although some of our friends on Facebook thought we had gone mad and some wanted to join in!

Meet the family

We will then meet for the big present swap one weekend before Christmas and have our usual family party with crackers and games and of course we have a new addition to the family this year with baby L.

 

Before I go just thought I would mention that I have won a book about the Minimalists from Sue over at  Our New Life in the Country

I know I couldn’t believe it either especially since I have been away from blogging for a while and had only just got back to having a read around my favourite blogs and left Sue a comment.  I can’t wait to start reading – hope you have got it wrapped and ready to post Sue!

I must also say welcome to all my new followers – I hope you realise this will be a bumpy journey you have signed up for – I might come and go a bit over the next few months as we are trying to get our little cottage back to being habitable once more.  At the moment we are awaiting the strip out but once the reinstatement begins I imagine we will have to go up to Scotland quite frequently to supervise and my posts might be a bit thin once again.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, the lovely fickleness of an April day!…

 by William Hamilton Gibson.

Follow up

April so soon but at least winter is well behind us now and even though it may swing from warm to cold we will be working our way towards summer.

Mum went home last Sunday after a few hectic days shopping and visiting.  I managed not to buy anything but we did spend a lot on eating out and parking – but then I do not see her very often.  On Sunday we drove her home and called at my younger daughters on the way back.  Did I mention she is expecting and I will be a granny soon – in July the same date as my birthday!  What a birthday gift!!

For my focus this month I am concentrating on following up on the 3 past challenges for January, February and March.  There are still outstanding tasks to be completed and this seems like an appropriate time before moving on to any new goals.

Firstly  my Finances – these are almost complete after a major over haul in January.  I have to set up the Council Tax standing order in April but that is all that is left of the bills until later in the year when I will look around at house insurance.

My Housekeeping budget for March was so far off track this month I am not very happy with myself for allowing the spending to get a little out of control again.  I will be doing an update post of this soon so you will be able to see the error of my ways!

I have been quite good at keeping track of my day-to-day spending ( I mean writing it down not spending less – though I am trying).  I do need to get my lunches sorted out but that will be another months focus.  Introducing too many changes at once leads to failure in this house.  My system for dealing with the financial paperwork is working well – over the last 3 months I have kept on top of the filing and balanced the accounts and statements each month.  I have also built up enough of a float so that I do not break into my new wage, paid on the 20th, until the end of the month.

A couple of weekends ago I cleared out the files and produced a rather large pile of shredding – it took me 2 hours one Sunday morning but the files are much lighter now and I managed to get rid of any duplicate and outdated information.

I have a separate file for each of our bank accounts and keep the latest bank leaflets that they send about the charges and changes.  I could probably get the latest bank charges off the internet as well as the terms and conditions.  As we are never overdrawn we would be highly unlikely to incur charges.  I suspect I am keeping far too much just in case and that I could find the same information online.

February I concentrated on the decluttering.  This is still ongoing but I am being extremely thorough with the areas I have looked at.  My dressing table is wonderful (one magazine I read called it a beauty station and I quite like that term).  It is so easy to find all I need and put it away again – having a truly minimalist approach and reaping the rewards of this is the encouragement I need to get rid of things I might otherwise have found hard to part with.    The shower room cupboard also had a thorough clear out – everything in there is used – only the body brush and guest toiletries are occasional use items and I have trimmed these down.

Anything that I wouldn’t buy again but needs using up is assigned to the ‘use up box’ and I choose one at once to use until empty.  Any stocks of toiletries I need are bought when on offer.

My next area will be to tackle the household cleaners.  These are stored in a few places –  under the sink, in the garage cupboard, in the laundry room and in my caddy as well as the duplicates in the shower room cupboard.  I know I will need to have a use up box for these.

As we will be searching out the spring and summer clothes soon and packing away the warmer autumn / winter ones I will use this time to look at creating a capsule summer wardrobe.  I need to be ruthless which will require a certain mindset.  I don’t find it easy to get rid of clothes as they represent pound notes and hard-earned money.  However I think we all know when we have to face the fact that a garment was not a good buy, doesn’t suit us any longer or doesn’t fit like it used to!

March – cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning.  Some rooms I am not doing like the kitchen because it will be upside down and full of dust soon when we have the new one installed.  I have done the shower room and part of the office and the next on the list is the living room and our bedroom.

So as you can see there is still lots to be done and I hear the garden calling me to have a good tidy up too.

I will be posting a new April page soon with more detailed plans of my Focus on Follow up.

If you are interested in the Craft it Forward and want to have a go then read my previous post and leave me a comment to sign up.

Have a good week.

Focusing on Spring Cleaning update #1…

My focus this month was on Spring Cleaning – it hasn’t gone as well as I would have liked due to the usual time constraints but this last weekend at home saw me running around with buckets, cloths and cleaners and my trusty old friend for reaching into those parts etc…the toothbrush – it gets into all those little nooks and crannies.

There is something very satisfying about a good clean or bottoming (not sure if that is just a Yorkshire word or not) at this time of year, blowing all the winter cobwebs away and leaving that wonderful fresh smell and those pristine sparkling surfaces – it certainly puts a smile on my face!

Last weekend I cleaned the shower room and at the same time decluttered the cupboard and cabinet. I removed everything from the room including the contents of the cupboards before I began.

I always start at the top and work down so I washed the ceiling and walls, then doors, woodwork and radiator. After that I tackled the shower cubicle, basin and toilet. Hubby came along later and did the light fitting and the fan and the bath mat had a wash and was hung on the line to blow dry and fluff up the pile again.

If you have ever been into an expensive bathroom showroom in the middle of the week you will see the trade secret of  how they keep their display goods so shiny and appealing – they polish them.  This works a treat at home too – after giving the pottery a good wash,  dry it down with an old cloth and then spray with some liquid beeswax polish and rub to a heavenly shine with a soft clean duster. You can do the inside and outside of the basin and bath as well as the taps and even the outside of the toilet, the cistern and the lid – though I would do this last and then wash your cloths well afterwards.

After sorting through the contents of the cupboard I was left with this pile of oddments – one or two were past their sell by date…

Cupboard Contents

but as I cannot waste anything the rest are now in my use up box – even those free satchets of shampoo that are often stuck in magazines and the little bottles of hotel freebies (don’t we all have them?)…

Use up box 2

and one by one they will be allocated to the little soap dish in the shower which I call my ‘use up’ shelf  – (at the moment I am using up this tube of conditioner – cut in half to get at those last little drops and so far I have conditioned my hair five times with the leftovers that could have been thrown away).

Use up shelf

Other items will go onto the top of my dressing table so they are at hand when I need them.

Cupboard after

So the cupboard is looking much better now and everything in there is something I use – in fact it still feels like quite a bit of stuff and I am wondering if I could slim it down even further – I am not sure I could quite get to a bar of soap and a face cloth but if I did use soap it would save me having 2 different shower gels (one mine, one hubby’s), a large tub of Aqueous washing cream, a stock of liquid hand soap and some foot wash.   My granny only used soap and maybe a few bath salts – no fancy shower gels in her day – in fact she never had a shower.  No wonder my granny didn’t have overflowing cupboards they were certainly a minimalist generation compared with ours.

Of course after all that scrubbing I was a sorry sight and needed to jump into my nice clean shower to get myself clean – it felt a bit like that moment when you have to put on a garment from your wardrobe that you have just washed and ironed!

Sunday saw me busy again in the office come craft room – I find this the hardest room to do as it is home to so many different activities and nearly all involve paper…but that is another days post.

Mum is expected for a few days visit on Thursday – I have already given the guest room a bit of a clean and filled some gorgeous little white linen bags with rose petals and placed one on her pillow and one in her drawer.

Linen Bags

 

If you don’t hear much from me soon you know that we will be out doing a marathon shop!!

 

Have a good week x