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

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?)…

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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

A quick turn around the garden…

I can’t believe it has been two weeks since my last post and I am amazed myself that I haven’t had any time to sit down and write but there it is.

So you may well ask what have I been doing?

Two weekends ago we had a flying visit to Scotland – the weather was just right for gardening and I spent the whole of Saturday in the undergrowth with my little furry friends here uncovering signs of life on my woodland walk.

Bees on Crocuses

Come and have a little wander…

Woodland Walk March

Remember this is in Scotland and even though we pick up the milder weather of the Gulf stream everything is much later coming out up there.  Soon this part of the garden will be covered in a mass of  Dicentra, Heuchera sanguinea  and Solomons Seal.

Woodland Walk March

Even the Fatsia along the stream bank has survived the harsh salt laden winter winds and has kept its glossy leaves.

Streambank March

Below is the site where the large Pines once stood before the gales a couple of years ago – I actually like the old tree stumps although I would have preferred to still have the trees of course.  It would weaken the stream bank to remove the stumps but it is almost impossible to mow the grass and using the strimmer is extra work so I have ideas that I will turn this into a stumpery and plant different species of ferns here mingled with suitable stream bank plants.   I love the way the moss is spreading over the mounds.

Stream bank proposed Fernery

In my garden at home here in Yorkshire I have put the bulbs I bought a few weeks ago into pots to brighten up the front garden.

Pots of spring bulbs

…and this little beauty below is a primrose coloured Rhododendron  – it is very special to our family and has pride of place in our garden. It was specially bred and named after my hubby’s grandfather, R W Rye, when he worked as head gardener from 1921 at Lochinch Castle, Stranraer for the Earl of Stair (whose mother Davina Bowes-Lyon is a first cousin of the Queen).  It received the Award of Merit at the Royal Horticultural Society in 1951.   We have taken a few cuttings over the years as it is not widely available in garden centres and I will be planting one at the cottage very soon.

RW Rye

The rest of my time apart from another trip to see our kitchen planner has been spent decluttering and cleaning my house and it is finally beginning to take shape and any month now I will be ready to begin the decorating!

More about that another night.  I have a bit of catching up to do with everyone – I have been reading most posts but apologies for my lack of comments recently.

 

My new Focus for this month…

It is so lovely to see little signs of Spring creeping in everywhere, the lighter nights and mornings, sunnier days and the first burst of  colour as the Spring flowers emerge. I feel winter is definitely behind us now and we can give a huge stretch and come out of hibernation.
It is with this in mind that I have decided to dedicate my focus this month to an energetic Spring Clean and I must say I can’t wait to get started.

Spring Clean

After the long winter months I can finally blow away the cobwebs, throw the windows open wide and  let some fresh air into the house, put the washing out onto the line to dry and clean, scrub, clean until every nook and cranny in the house sparkles.

Washing Day

If you click on the drop down menu above on the tab Focus 2014 you can see my plan for March.  Each day I will tackle a different task which will lead me to my goal of a clean house.
For those of you who have been following along I will be updating you on my previous projects for January and February – focusing on Finances and Simplifying my Space, the former actually proved to be easier than the latter and I think this is mainly due to the fact that I could do a very small financial related task in the evening, whilst the clearing tended to be left for my days at home.
Did you watch the video about Innermost House on my previous post – I know some of you did and there were mixed comments but I think the general consensus was that there was something quite magical about it even if it is definitely not for you. 
For anyone who missed it here is the link again – Innermost House
…and for those who would like to see more this is another video called ‘On the way home’

I have watched them a few times over now as I see and hear different things at each viewing –  there is something of the spirit of the place that I would like to capture and apply to my own home – for instance I love the fact that she has ‘chosen’ what she wants to live with her in the house.  As the documentary says there is nothing superfluous there and that really appeals to me so whilst I continue to simplify my space I will be putting this into practice and really choosing only the items I want to live with.
Did you notice that when asked if she was a Luddite she didn’t rush off to Google – instead she took a beautiful leather bound book off the shelf and looked the word up.  We often have to resort to this method when we are at our cottage as we have no computer up there, or internet connection or phone line even and funnily enough I never miss it.  If we need to know the answer to something we go into town and generally ask Billy in the Hire Shop he is our Google  – a font of all knowledge or (and Dar will love this) we visit our local library – but you have to leave plenty of time because you will be drawn into a lovely long chat with the librarians.
Most people commented on hearing the sounds in the documentary – the sounds of nature that are often go unheard these days with all the background noise pollution we suffer from having electricity and engines surrounding us.  I must say that I might find the lack of listening to music a problem as I expect having no electricity would mean no means of playing CD’s etc.  Maybe they have musical instruments and I definitely would have to have room for my piano.
And just what is in her cupboards?  I am curious to know what she is keeping in there – what chosen articles are allowed to be part of her life.  I have so many unanswered questions and each time I watch it I want to know more – I expect you can tell that it has had a profound affect on me!!
After discovering her website I will be definitely settling down tonight for a good read. www.innermosthouse.com
My meal plan for the week, grocery spending and what I have bought last month will all be on my re-routed blog click here.

Regaining ORDER – my achievements for February

The Task List

This month I did extremely well at my tasks list – I even surprised myself.  I cleared all my urgent tasks and the finance and paperwork tasks from my Master Tasks List.  I did not get to complete many of my Health and Self tasks so this will be my main focus for March.  I need to find a good podiatrist for my painful foot problems and have my hair done which is booked in for next week.  In addition I should get back to practising Yoga and start preparing myself some healthier meals and remember to take my supplements.

The Big Clean

This continues – so far I have done the Shower Room and our Main Bedroom and wardrobe.  I have been decluttering the Office / Craft room and Kitchen as I go along and soon this will be ready for a good clean.  The bags ready for the charity shop are waiting to be taken this week and hopefully with my almost no spend policy the house will benefit from the extra space for a while.

Included in the Big Clean plan are the cars – so far I have done the inside of mine and both the inside and outside of my husbands last weekend.  It feels so much better to drive around in a super clean car.  Once my car has been into the garage yet again for a new Lambda Sensor (not even sure what this is!) fitting I will give it a good wash and polish.

Taking Stock

I have managed to use up plenty of the hand soap, washing up liquid, washing powders, face creams and tissues without having to buy them at the shops, but I haven’t been quite as good with the stocks in my food cupboards and although I intended to run these stocks down by finding new recipes to use up the items in my cupboards I fell back into my old routine of making easy and favourite meals which hasn’t really addressed my problem.  I did use a jar of Bonne Maman Apricot fruit by making a crumble with coconut added to the topping and this was well received – so much so that I will have to go and buy another jar now to make another!  This month I have a huge amount of frozen fruit to use up so I want to make smoothies and healthy puddings (if there is such a thing).

Counting the Pennies

Our finances are going well and in February I managed to balance all our bank accounts, pay any outstanding bills and set a new budget.  The car is fully taxed and insured and has had its yearly maintenance service and MOT done and I have a renewed my parking permit. It is definitely not cheap running a car and maybe I should seriously consider the bus but I have reservations about this because it is quite a walk to the bus stop here – fine in summer but not so good in winter – and  I do like the comfort and freedom that having a car gives me and it also allows me to do the weekly shop one night in the week after work and this gives us the benefit of more time at the weekend.

We have re-invested our ISA’s in a 3 year fixed account and I applied for my new passport – which arrived last week.  My one outstanding task is to close down an ING savings account which has a very poor interest rate and only a balance of £4.00.  I am not sure how you close down an internet account but that is on my list for March.

My stumbling blocks

I am looking to overcome my problem of getting back to chaos and address each of the reasons that makes this happen.  I will challenge myself this month to put things away after use and allowing myself time for the clear up after doing a task.  The things that don’t get put away are often the things that either don’t have a proper home or they are not stored in the right place and I will be monitoring this during March to see if I can come up with the most common reason for not putting something away with a view to be able to solve this.

In one of my favourite books ‘Why am I so disorganised’ sort out your stuff – Dr Marylin Paul writes about picking one habit you want to change and practise this recording your progress in a journal.  She also talks about ‘getting back to ready’ and this is something I am trying to keep up with.  Every time I cook a meal I aim to wash and dry the dishes and clear the kitchen up completely so that it is ready for preparing the next.  Every time I do a load of washing I intend to dry it, iron it and after it is aired put the clothes / linen away so that I do not end up with a six-foot high ironing pile gathering dust and all our clothes are clean and pressed and ready to wear.

So that was February and all in all not such a bad month but still a long way to go to get everything in my life back to ORDER