bEAching, celebrations, cottage garden, crEAting, fEAsible, fEAsting, holidays, mEAndering, taking stock, trEAsury

drEAming…January – did I blink and miss it?

I feel like I have been ‘off the circuit’ for months rather than days and January has whizzed past so fast that I never got to post the list of my intentions for the month but I will try to capture the best bits in a quick summary.

 

  • fEAsting –

    Celebrate Burns Night – as you can just about see from the Polaroids above a great night spent with 6 friends, 3 Haggis (one vegetarian), 12 Scotch pies, 2 Macaroni pies and a heap of tatties and neeps not to mention plenty of gravy and wine whilst singing along to the tunes of bonny Scotland –  I even made the Cranachan this year – it was delicious and although hesitant at first everyone gave it the thumbs up – just a touch more Whisky next year!

 

  • trEAsury –

Buying a new car – after much deliberation and contemplation and counting the pennies – here she is my new car ‘Hetty’ Hyundai.

 

After 16 years driving the same car day in, day out she is taking a bit of getting used to especially as she is much higher than my old Citroen Saxo and at times I am feeling a little travel sick.

I am sure we will settle in together soon!

  • crEAting –

Making birthday cards for January birthdays – they had to be quick and simple so I used some brightly coloured ink pads and these tiny flower stamps and just dotted the flowers around – each one is slightly different.  They also made good Thank you cards too.

 

  • fEAsible –

taking stock and planning but first the reading and researching – with the long dull winter days what could be more perfect than getting warm and cosy and reading – most of the books below have been borrowed from our local library.  I am interested to cut down our spending as much as possible both to save money and to simplify my life by owning less stuff.

The book titled Deep Country by Neil Ansell is an excellent account of a man who takes himself off to live in a cottage in a remote part of the Welsh Hills for 5 years where he has no modern conveniences such as electricity or running water, no transport and no phone.  His nearest neighbours are just the wild creatures – fauna and flora of the surrounding woods and fields – I was captivated by this book – not only because he describes in detail the amusing behaviours of the birds and animals he comes across on his daily walks, but part of me was envious of this simple but rich lifestyle.

 

 

  • mEAndering –

The ‘Italian Job’ – booking the accommodation and flights for our trip to Italy in April for our niece’s wedding.

This task was both a chore and a delight – looking at the beautiful pictures of the region from Venice to Verona and deciding where we wanted to stay and what we might do and then the difficulty of making all the travel arrangements to get everything to join up.  Now everything is booked apart from a taxi to take us to the wedding ceremony – for that we will have to email the hotel for advice.

  • bEAching –

My final intention for January was to have a few days at the cottage (caravan) in Scotland – to check the place over and also begin clearing out the undergrowth in the upper wood – not forgetting buying the haggis for Burn’s night.  We set off on the Friday with snow lying on the ground in Yorkshire and we heard on the news it was bad at Shap but the M6 was still flowing so we decided to risk the journey knowing that we could turn back or put up in a hotel if need be.

As it turned out the worst bit of the journey was actually only 6 miles away from here going over the moors to Manchester and the stretch of the M62 by Scammonden – there was nothing around Manchester itself.

As you might expect it was a very cold night in the caravan – the temperatures had dropped to almost freezing but thankfully we have double glazing and central heating.  We put the electric blanket on to air the bed and even after we switched it off we stayed toasty warm all night.

On the Saturday it was a gloriously sunny day with blue skies and an even deeper blue coloured, calm sea.

 

We had a leisurely breakfast and a trip into our nearest town Stranraer to change the empty spare gas bottle – with the cold weather it is always best to be well stocked.

We had a potter around the town – I bought a couple of birthday gifts for the January birthdays and a very large family sized pack of Persil on offer at Tesco for £9 (Morrisons had it on offer at £10!) – I like a bargain.

Back at the caravan the sun was out and it was such a lovely afternoon we put on our gardening gear – fleece joggers, padded jackets, hats, scarves and boots and looking like arctic explorers went up into the upper wood to do some clearing.  We have to do the wood clearance at this time of year whilst the undergrowth is not growing.  We pruned the elders that spring up in any bit of a clearing and had a go at the brambles.  Elders make good shredding or should I say Elder branches go through the shredder easily, they are straight thin branches and not thorny like Hawthorn.

The large spider legged pond cover we bought last year in a sale from Agriframes seems to be doing the job of keeping the leaves off the pond – I presume the wind from the recent gales must blow straight through the structure as there is no way to anchor it down but yet it had not moved an inch – luckily.

 

 

There are bulbs coming up everywhere in the garden and snowdrops well in bud.  To my horror though the three-cornered leek is everywhere you would not even know I had dug up so much of it last year even to the point of digging out every last tiny bulb over a 2 metre area – even the ones that were like microscopic beads.  To no avail – it has spread over winter with a vengeance.  So it is back to searching the internet for a remedy – surely there is a pesticide for this persistent pest of a weed.

 

There was a surprising amount of colour around the garden –  the Mahonia Charity and Viburnum in flower…

 

 

Berries still remain on the Hypericum…

 

 

and elsewhere evidence of shoots bursting into life…

 

or about to…

 

 

The light eventually faded and we had to come inside – I made a nice hot 2 day lentil curry for tea to warm us up whilst OH promptly fell asleep and snored blissfully on the sofa after a job well done!

Opening the curtains on Sunday morning confirmed the weather we could hear from inside the caravan – wet, windy and cold – not a day to venture out and certainly not a day for the garden.  We had to turn our attentions to amuse ourselves inside.

For me it was plotting and planning as well as reading a stack of magazine articles I had clipped in my recent clear-out interspersed by just watching the waves as the sea crashed around at the bottom of the garden.

By the end of the afternoon the weather was a little warmer and calmer but the light was fading fast so still no chance of gardening.

At tea time I began to collect our bits and pieces together ready to pack for leaving on the Monday.  We had to be in town for 11am as the local Osteopath (with the magic touch) was going to work on fixing my bad shoulder before we travelled home.

I know the main problem with all my muscles is due to lack of exercise and I will be taking small steps to address this soon.

I actually feel quite pleased with myself that I completed all my intentions for January – I decided this year I would try and focus on one project at once – unfortunately it was unavoidable that planning the Italian Job and buying a new car collided a bit but thankfully they both got sorted.

In a day or two I will be posting my intentions for February so stay tuned.

Back soon x

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crafts, crEAting

crEAting…nothing goes to waste

I am sure everyone is left with a huge pile of Christmas cards after Christmas is over and the decorations are down.  I have plans for all mine.
For any that I particularly like or think are useful I turn them into gift tags for next year.  If they are very large cards I will cut them into suitable sizes depending on the design.

 

Then I cut across the corners like a luggage label and punch a hole.

For smaller tags I might only use part of a card in this case the upper part…

and shape the corners and punch a hole the same.

You can experiment with any part of a card – it doesn’t have to be the whole of the picture.

This particular card would not be useful again because of the date 2017 – but I had other ideas.

I will use this part as a tag on my tray of homemade chocolates that I make at Christmas…

and the numbers will be useful for the future and can be stuck onto a 2nd or 7th birthday card.

Sometimes the design and proportions of a card do not make good tags as they are a little too large but I crop them down to a suitable place…

and paste it onto an envelope and use these as money envelopes when I am giving cash or a cheque instead of a gift.  In our family when we give cards for birthdays we never stick the envelope closed so that we can then re-use it so I always have a good  stock of colours and sizes and pasting the card onto the envelope covers up the previous name on the front.

This card had a beautiful laser cut pattern on the front so I carefully detached this for future use.

Then cropped down the rest of the card to make another money envelope.
One or two cards I will keep for inspiration when I am making my own cards from lino cuts.

And then there are always one or two that I hang on to – if someone has sent me a handmade card I like to keep them (not all of them but a few).  I also like to keep one or two that I absolutely love and often they are the very small but simple cards that I pick out for my mantel piece display which I tend to colour co-ordinate to be more effective.   This way some of my favourite cards are re-used – it may sound a bit of an odd habit – but it works for me.   I mark these with a red sticker on the back so I know they are older ones and keep them stored in a box for next year should I want to reuse them. 

mantelpiece

So of the cards I received this year I have made some money cards,

  a selection of gift tags…
and I will find something to make with this for next year…

Of the remaining I will be selecting some to use for an advent calendar next year and the rest of them I will just cut the front part off and these will go to a local charity who will repurpose them as new cards for next Christmas and the insides will go to the recycle bin in Sainsbury’s. ( Or like Sue over at the Cottage at the End of the Lane she uses hers for her shopping lists).

This way none of the cards end up in my waste bin and most of the usable parts of a card are reused in some way.

 

crEAting, drEAming, fEAsting, sEAsons

sEAsons…Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Well here we are the day before Christmas Eve and on the last leg to the finishing post –  I feel like I am taking part in one of those wind up santa races that you find in a box of crackers, and going off course from time to time in the same way.

Today I have been baking, making, wrapping and packing.

I have a few bits and pieces to take with me to our daughters – a quiche for Boxing Day, some surprise Lemon Curd (I am surprised I actually got to make it this morning!), the new Christmas Monopoly and one or two books for any quiet moments – with a 3-year-old (who am I kidding!)..

I am a big fan of Miss Read and I shall settle down to reread my very battered copy of Miss Clare Remembers, an all time favourite.

I have had some great moments this month but it has been hard work too and I have many ‘notes to self’ to take heed of next year – one of them being to sort out OH’s presents sooner and the other to let some things go.

When we were invited round to our new neighbours for a Cheese and wine evening recently (with our next door but one neighbours that we are already good friends with) I asked if we should bring anything – ‘just bring yourselves’ they said.

I should have taken notice.

But me being me I spent the afternoon making some of my home-made chocolates to take that I usually make for our neighbour get togethers, and gave each of them one of my home-made cards.  Of course they were all delighted and remarked that they didn’t know where I found the time –  and then realised why I am always pushed for time!

But I do love to make things.

So before I go here is the idea I had for my Christmas decoration instead of a wreath – I used the chicken wire cones I made for my daughter’s wedding that we hung on the gateposts of the church and the old gate at the rear entrance filled with Hydrangeas from our cottage garden.

 I thought they might be nice filled with winter foliage so I gathered some moss from the garden (there is plenty with all this damp weather) and packed out the sides of the cones leaving room for the ‘hidden’ jam jar sunk into the centre where I place the stems.  As you can see I am no flower arranger but I like the casual look.  I could have hung it on the door but I quite like it hung on the contrasting paler brickwork as our door is dark brown.

All that is left now is to wish you all a very Happy Christmas.

It would be nice if it snowed now to make it a good old White Christmas but I think the most we are going to get is a bit of frost!

I have enjoyed reading along with everyone’s blogs this year – the general ups and downs of everyday life – and I am looking forward to joining you again throughout 2018  – so Happy New Year too (if I don’t get back here before then) xx

 

crEAting, drEAming, fEAsting

sEAsons…and since we’ve no place to go

Finally I get to sit down and write.

The whole of December has been far too hectic this year, I am not sure why as I did not plan it to be quite so mad.

We closed the front door last night after saying goodbye to our final pre-Christmas visitors who had joined us for a festive drink and a few nibbles and it felt really good to wake up this morning and not be preparing for something or going anywhere – not even work as I have finished now until the New Year. Yeah.

I pottered around this morning doing the last of the washing and ironing, putting the tags and finishing touches on to the wrapped presents, even taking a few photos for my blog.

Gift wrap

After an early lunch we walked down to the village, dropping off a present or two for friends on the way, and collecting a sprig of eucalyptus and Hypericum berries from the local florist for my front door decoration.

The Flower Box

I decided against making a conventional wreath this year and have done something completely different to hang by the door, but you will have to wait until tomorrow for a photo.

It has been a lovely relaxing day and I have been able to sit back and savour Christmas.

Christmas china

mantelpiece

Nativity

Christmas tree

Christmas tree

The Christmas tree is adorned with mostly vintage baubles going back to the fifties, maybe even earlier, I love the fact that they have been part of our family and displayed on many trees down the generations.  Of course our usual tiny twinkly fairy lights failed this year when we got them on the tree so we had to scramble around and make do with some older ones that used to go outside.

I even attempted making my own Christmas card – I only had a couple of hours to come up with a design and make them so it had to be very simple – it turned out to be a bit of a disaster as you can see but I have included a photo of it here because I like to keep a true record – even of my failures!  My friends who have received them won’t mind – I know I always love to receive home-made cards.

Christmas card 2017

Christmas card 2017

 

Anyway to fill you in on the rest of my Christmas so far… last weekend was spent with much joviality at our family gathering on Sunday at the Black Swan in Fearby by courtesy of the owner – my daughter’s boss.

We had our best Santa hats and jumpers on, plenty of fun and games and our musical interlude…

and quite a few selfies.

Christmas Selfie

I have mentioned before that OH and I have been busy producing a Family Album photo book for my mum and it arrived just in time from the printers to give it to her on Sunday whilst all the family were in one place.  There are over 400 photos in the book covering almost 9 decades from when my mum and dad were children, through to their wedding and our appearance.  There were plenty of family holiday snaps, family weddings and christenings, first cars, Christmas get-togethers and of course many memories of our dear dad, in fact everyone who is connected to our family is in it.

This is the moment we surprised her in a true ‘This is your Life’ style…

Photo Book

Mum was so pleased she shed a tear or two and then at the end of the evening stood up and made a lovely little speech to thank us all and tell us how much these family gatherings mean to her.  In jest someone handed her the selfie frame and here she is holding it while she delivered her thank you speech.  I think this could start a new trend for the Queen’s speech.

Speech

At this same event we were also celebrating my younger daughter and niece’s birthdays and I made them a chocolate cake to share.

I bought some of those candles that spell ‘Happy Birthday’ in silver and gold to go on top but instead of putting them on the cake I wrapped each letter in random order between the layers of the pass the parcel together with a ‘Trivia’ type question and a Celebration sweet.

Chocolate Cake

When the music stopped and a layer unwrapped to reveal another candle letter they had to stick into the cake.  When the pass the parcel finished all the letters were in the cake and ready to be lit…however not necessarily in the right order!!  But it was good fun.

Chocolate Cake

Happy Birthday

After all the hard work I have put in to making Christmas so far I decided I needed a bit of a treat – Neal’s Yard have opened a new shop in Meadowhall – absolute joy for me as I love their Frankincense Intense concentrated serum.  So appropriate for the season – I can certainly feel the love and the assistant dropped a couple of free sachets into the carrier bag – I will skip the price on this one – you can guess it is not cheap.

Neal's yard

The golden pear was something I spotted whilst rushing through Next with my mum on her shopping bonanza – £2 for a bit of Christmas sparkle.

I was also lucky enough to find a copy of L’art de la Simplicite – How to live more with less – a book I read a while ago from the library and decided that it is one to keep should I find it – not only did I find it but it was free at Waterstones with my reward stamps.

So I am truly a happy bunny.

I will be posting one more time before the big day but I would like to say a big happy Christmas to all my readers and to all the other bloggers and friends whose blogs have kept me entertained all year.  I apologise for my lack of comments in the last couple of weeks – I have been reading along with everyone’s Christmas preparations but it has been so difficult to comment on everyone I read.

Thank you also to Simone at Linden Grove for the lovely card I received this morning – what a wonderful surprise – I promise I will be writing to you soon – just be thankful I didn’t send you one of my dreadful home-made cards!!

crafts, crEAting

crEAting…growing and repotting and a bit of crafting

On my kitchen windowsill at the moment I am trying to root these succulents; they were originally part of a Mother’s day gift from my daughter two years ago but eventually outgrew the moss filled glass bowl they came in.  Although the arrangement was very attractive I am not actually a succulent fan and have no idea what the plants are called other than I thought one of them might be a Wandering Jew (if I am allowed to say that) or a Money plant (though I haven’t noticed it growing any yet) but I am not sure and stand to be corrected.

It seemed a shame to let them die so we rescued and repotted the two main plants in fresh compost and new pots, trimming them back to encourage more growth from the base, and the straggly parts we snipped off have been plunged into a jam jar of water in the hope that they will root.  Succulents I think are fairly easy to root from any part of the stem – again correct me here someone if I am wrong.

I was hoping they might root in time to give to the plant stall at the Christmas charity coffee morning at my local church but realise now this is a bit optimistic.

So during the week so far I have managed to do a few of my intentions from the list.  I have sent out the Not so Secret Santa wish lists and had the big draw of names out of the hat so we all know who is buying for who.  I have started the advent calendars and cut round the doors ready to decorate. I am on with arranging our family get together and present swap event and have started editing the photos for mum’s book.

Well when I say ‘I’ …OH has given me a helping hand.

In the photo there is a glimpse of my back garden through the kitchen window – it is in dire need of a tidy up and this is on my list but it has either been very cold or very wet here so that is another day and another post.

I have been concentrating on the decorating and we are almost finished so very soon I will have the big ‘guest room’ reveal.  The wardrobes have been fitted but guess what – the doors are still to be delivered because there was a scratch on the mirror.  The bed is being delivered on Monday and hopefully the doors next Tuesday – mum will follow shortly after (not delivered though!).

I am pleased with the way it looks though it has been a struggle at times finding exactly what I wanted but I have managed to throw it all together using merchandise from many different sources.  We are trying to decide on a bedside table (one we can afford and at budget price) – so at the moment we are resorting to an Ikea stool.  We also bought curtains for this room – I can’t remember ever buying curtains before – I would normally make them myself but just do not have the time.

I did buy the quilted throw I had my eye on for ages in Sainsbury’s in the double up rewards scheme they run at this time of year –  I had to hide the last one at the back of a stack of cushions on the shelf until double up day began and then go in to work earlier via Sainsbury’s that morning to make sure I got it!

 

I packaged the fun sized chocolate bars, a mix of Mars, Maltesers, Milky Way etc left over from Trick or Treat night (with a few extra added) into these brown craft bags, then stuck a stamped Christmas label to the front and this will be my donation to our local church Christmas coffee morning the proceeds going to Crisis for the homeless at Christmas.

Last time I did these I made the bags myself from a roll of brown paper but being short of time I bought these from the Range a pack of 5 was £2 so not a big outlay.  I found they sold quite well as they make a nice little gift for children – they are a bit like the old selection boxes but in a bag.

I am looking forward to ticking off a few more tasks by the end of the week – how are your plans going?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

crEAting, drEAming, general chit chat, getting things done, managEAble

the best things come in small packages…

I have quite a few birthdays in October – all friends –  and we give each other gifts that are modest in price about £5 to £8.  I usually find bits and pieces in some of the gift shops in Scotland and buy them as I see them and stash them away.

On Sunday I had a mammoth wrapping session it felt a bit like Christmas.  I like to make my modest gifts look tempting and I wrap them with care taking time to choose the paper and ribbons I think appropriate.  I often use printed tissue paper for those awkward shaped items.

I have one of those paper punch shape cutters that produces a tiny label.  I decorate these in different ways in this picture I have used some little rubber stamp pictures.  I also cut up cards for labels as it is such a shame to throw old birthday cards away.

I found the coffee coloured spotty paper in Sainsbury’s it comes on a roll and is good to keep on hand as it is useful for any occasion.

 

Here they are all ready to go with the appropriate cards.

It always feels good to have things organised and I feel quite pleased with myself that this month at least I won’t have to think about rushing around getting gifts and cards sorted out at the last minute.  Oh… if all my life was like this!

celebrations, crafts, crEAting, drEAming, fEAsting, general chit chat, sEAsons

starting with a fresh page…

I have hesitated and pondered about writing this blog post – it is not easy to begin again after my long ‘gap year’ last year, to say nothing of finding some time to sit and think of what to write.  I worry in case this is the only post I produce again this year and another unforseen crisis will suddenly strike and prevent me from having any time for blogging.   As you may well have guessed last year was not an easy one as we continued to try to sort out our flood damaged cottage with the insurers, keep up with the extra demands of work since the death of my colleague and progress the probate to a conclusion.

But…it was not all doom and gloom and the highlight of the year was my eldest daughters decision to get married in the July.  The wedding on 30th July was followed on the 31st with our Ruby Wedding anniversary and my granddaughters 2nd birthday on the 1st August – what a weekend of celebrations and cake spent with friends and family.

l1040273

I spent every spare minute between January and July planning and organising the wedding, sewing miles and miles of bunting, making confetti, favours, invitations and doing alterations.  Believe me, 6 months is not very long to do everything you have to do to for a wedding especially as it took place in Scotland 250 miles away in my husband’s home town.  Having our cottage out of action did not help but my daughter felt she could not hang on any longer for it to be fixed so we went ahead and hired a farmhouse nearby for the week.

Wedding Flowers

We had the most wonderful day – glorious weather which was just as well as the reception was very much an outdoor wedding held at Castle Kennedy Gardens on the Castle Kennedy estate owned by Lord Stair.  It was here that my daughter’s Great granddad lived and worked as head gardener from the twenties to about 1960.  The wedding ceremony took place in the nearby Inch Church where her dad was baptised and her grandparents worshipped.  So a very special place for our family and what better place for a wedding.

The style of the wedding was a mix of formal and informal but very much home made with lots of summery flowers, peonies and roses in peaches and creams.  The bridesmaids wore floaty long coral dresses and the little one ivory.  The formal ceremony took place in church and a white Morris Minor took them on to the reception.  We had an old fahsioned Afternoon Tea on picnic tables before the sit down buffet of salads and cold meats for the evening meal in the marquee, then lots of dancing.

We made plenty of these signs to get people from their hotels to the church and reception…

wedding-signs

and we made all the notices from free pieces of wood from the recycle bin outside the Ikea store in Leeds and painted them with blackboard paint…

the-running-order

We also made some of the flower arrangements ourselves…these hanging cones on the stone pillars at the entrance to the Church were made of chicken wire lined with Sphagnum moss

with a hidden jam jar of water inside to hold the flowers…

dsc07883

The bride and groom left the church to the sound of Scottish pipes…

outside-the-church

We held a drinks reception in the beautiful walled garden by the old ruin castle.

castle kennedy

With plenty of bubbles being blown

Wedding Bubbles

We also made large cut out photo frames and dotted these around the grounds for guests to take selfies…

selfies

Then it was afternoon tea on the lawns by the old painted tea room…a casual affair on the picnic tables

Afternoon Tea

 

castle-kennedy

then the afternoon interlude when our guests could wander the grounds or sit and take in the view or play games…putting up the little princess castle proved more difficult than putting up the marquee…

little-castle

but it proved to be a big hit with the kids…

Playtime

and everyone amused themselves in the sunshine whilst the bridal party had all their pictures taken…

bridal-party

Then all too soon it was time for the sit down buffet in the marquee – we decorated this ourselves with bunting and paper lampshades and large vases of hydrangeas from our cottage garden…

marquee

We designed and made the table plans that complemented the invitations and mounted these on long sticks stuck into herb pots…

seating-plans

the favours we made were tiny biodegradable seed pots (10p for 30) with a packet of wild flower seeds in printed envelopes placed inside

and a packet of Scottish shortbread made by a friends mum…

on each table was a different poem or verse about love and marriage and flowers…

table-numbers

 

Marquee

after the meal we had a lot of fun with the speeches…

the-speeches

and finally the ceilidh with music provided by the brilliant band the Veritable Ceilidh Club…

marquee-at-night

then everyone joined in the dancing and on such a warm evening we were able to spill outside  – it all looked very magical by night lit up with fairy lights and candles around the castle and large lanterns in the trees –  and not a midge in sight…how lucky were we?

marquee-outside

Once the wedding day and celebrations were over it was straight back to dealing with the insurers over the flood damage and the probate project. In October we bought a caravan to put on site at the cottage – it is wonderful to have a base at last.  No more B&B’s and hotels… a place to call  home at last until we get our cottage sorted.l1040676

Just to leave you with a recent picture of my granddaughter – she has grown quite a bit over the past year and she is just a joy to us all.

xmas-selfie

So a very apprehensive blogger is looking forward to the coming year and hoping it will be a year where we actually see some results for all our hard work during the last few difficult years.

A belated Happy New Year to you all – I have a lot of catching up to do and I hope some of my old blogging friends are still out there.