good wine, good food, good company and a good clean up…

As you may have noticed there has been a short break in transmission recently – for no other reason than I have been a little busy.  We had friends round for supper the weekend before last and of course that generated a bit of a mad tidy up downstairs. Actually it was more than a tidy up and I was quite shocked at the number of cobwebs I found hiding in corners, it must have been longer than I thought since I last had a good clean.

We managed to get the boxes of Ikea wardrobes out of the living room (they had been there since earlier in the year) and up to the new bedroom and at last they have been assembled and put in place – but more on that in a future post when the ‘new’ room will be revealed.

Whilst giving the living room a thorough clean I not only vacuumed all the books but decluttered all the cupboards, shelves and knick-knacks.

We don’t have a lot of DVD’s as we have little time for watching them but we did have one or two that we once bought for £1 or so and won’t watch again so into the charity bag along with one or two CD’s that have over stayed their welcome.  I am aiming to keep only those items that I feel earn their keep – or in Kondo terms the ones that spark joy.

Our DVD collection is probably less than 20 films and the ones that remain are all those that I will watch again and again from time to time.  Amongst the keepers are the feel good films – Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice, the funny films – Mr Hulots Holiday and Playtime by Jaques Tatti – and the thriller ones (well as thrilled as I am prepared to be) – Premonition and Before I go to Sleep and not forgetting my favourite box sets – The Good Life and Darling Buds of May.

Whilst sorting through the pile I came across this DVD with Doris Day and have put it to one side to watch one evening as I really cannot remember if I have seen it or not but it looks like a bit of light entertainment for a cosy Friday evening.

 

Anyway back to the cleaning – I have a lot of glassware in the living room – I am not sure why I am attracted to glassware but it is always useful for holding things such as shells…

 

 

and pebbles from the beach…

 

and ‘arty’ creations made by one of my daughters at Art College …this is a small square of glass with interesting textures and colours and I have slotted it into this vase as a means of displaying it…

 

and the latest addition to my collection (a gift for my birthday) are these two vases, also bookends and perfect for displaying my favourite books.  I just love them – the books and the vases – one side has my tiny shell collection from Lady Bay near our cottage and the other I will fill with a stem or two of flowers from the garden.

I wash the glassware in hot soapy water and then dry and polish until gleaming – it instantly makes a room look cleaner.

By the time I had finished the whole room looked and felt so much fresher and neater and I was quite pleased at the transformation.

At the end of the first day I had managed to fill a bag with bits and pieces for the charity shop.

The next day I was up early and started on the kitchen and dining room – not as thorough a clean this time but passable.  I left just enough time to make myself presentable, lay the table and start on the supper before my friends arrived at a quarter to eight.

We were not eating until 8.30 and I had decided to keep the buffet supper fairly simple due to a shortage of time –  the choice was between a homemade feast in a dirty house or a simple ready-made affair in a clean one!

I baked some small new potatoes in the oven which I simply served topped with butter and heated through a selection of buffet style food of pulled pork pasties, greek filo spinach and ricotta parcels and Higgedy veggie rolls  – added a mixed side salad, a few tomatoes and a dish of beetroot.

For afters we had a selection of cheeses and chutney with crackers and finished off with profiteroles and cream.

After all this food on the Saturday evening I had a light breakfast on Sunday morning just yoghurt and fruit – not that I ever have a cooked breakfast anyway but I did skip my usual bowl of Muesli.

 

It was so nice to get up to a tidy house – it is well worth asking friends round to get things done!

 

simplifying and the art of ritual…

 

I realised today that I have taken on too many commitments for the end of the week and I am going to have to try to rearrange some for another day.  We are out tomorrow night with friends, then having some friends around for supper on Saturday and at the moment I am scheduled to go out on Friday afternoon for my birthday treat –  afternoon tea with my friend and neighbour.

 

I am sure I will struggle to get the house prepared and will be running short of time.  I desperately need to have my hair cut and I had wanted to treat myself to a massage.  Added to which every time I look out of the window – any window I see many jobs to do in the garden.

 

I mention the above as I am now reading Chapter 2 entitled ‘In praise of minimalism’ from the book I mentioned ‘L’art de la Simplicite’

subtitle – Time: waste less, make the most of more.

In this chapter it talks about simplifying your life and embracing every moment including time to do nothing.  If I had time to do nothing I would have heaps of time to get everything done…wouldn’t I?

 

Simplify your domestic tasks and find time to develop your creativity, pamper your body and sharpen your mental faculties.

This is most definitely one of my goals – how to achieve this is perhaps the one big question in my life.

 

I do love domesticity even the tasks some people may think of as mundane – washing dishes, ironing clothes and putting everything back in place neat and orderly.  To do this with everything though I find difficult and tasks start to pile up over the week.

 

Reading on the book talks about repetitive, everyday tasks and developing simple actions as rituals.  I must confess I have never thought about eating or cleaning as a ritual but it has caught my attention.  Rituals, it says, can bring comfort – they should be a source of extreme satisfaction.  She then suggests some rituals such as the ‘writing ritual’, the ‘bath ritual’, the ‘shopping ritual’, and the ‘flower ritual’.

 

She suggests you think about your own personal rituals and what they bring to your life.

 

I was surprised to find I have quite a few rituals already-

The morning ritual

A morning ritual of showering and getting ready for work but not on my days off.  (Just to clarify on this – I do shower but I may have pottered around the house for an hour in my dressing gown beforehand!).  On my working days it means I am ready to start the day at a reasonable hour and could answer the door to anyone from 8am onwards not looking too scary!  Not so on my days off.

The going to bed ritual

I have a ritual for going to bed – I will always remove the dirt and grime of the day from my face with a cleanser then use washing cream to freshen my skin and put on plenty of night cream – I need it –  but I never make it to bed at the same time each night.

The breakfast ritual

I have a ritual for breakfast – I usually eat the same food – Yoghurt, sometimes with fruit followed by muesli and soya milk – I am not sure this is a great ritual and would like to vary my diet more. It is however a breakfast that keeps me going all morning if I do not get a break.

The pedicure ritual

I pamper my feet at least once a week with a soak, a bit of a massage with oils, plenty of creams and potions and a pedicure although I never get as far as painting my nails.  I have ugly feet so try to make them look better by treating them well.  So I think I can include this as a ritual and one that actually helps me to feel better about my feet – they are probably the softest most cared for part of my body!!

The shopping ritual

I have a shopping ritual but it hardly ever occurs on the same day.  I like going round to Sainsbury’s one night after work and sitting for 10 minutes in their café having my hot chocolate treat before having a wander round the clothes, the housewares, the magazines and even the plants.  Then I will go hunting for grocery bargains and lastly choosing from all the fresh veg.  The downside of this ritual is the temptation!

 

The writing ritual

The book mentions writing as a ritual – I did write a lot more in my journal but since I have been blogging I find this is infrequent now and this is a shame as rereading my journals reminds me of my life’s journey and all those little things I might have forgotten if I had not written them down.

The coffee and a chat ritual

I also have a ritual of popping round to my neighbour’s house on a Friday afternoon to share our weekly news and have a cuppa – lovely.

The fallen spiritual ritual

I used to have a ritual of going to church – latterly the Quakers but I rarely go now.  Of all the things I would like to do going back to the Quakers would be way up the list.

 

It is apparent now I have catalogued my rituals – well the ones I can think of tonight – that I need to look at doing them more regularly in some cases and fine tuning them a little more in others so that they are what a ritual should really be – a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order – and where I can take simple pleasure from these tasks.

There are other rituals I would like to develop – perhaps buying flowers every week for the house – maybe even growing cutting flowers, reading a book, sketching or painting daily, taking a daily photograph, crafting …I could go on but I have to be realistic.  This exercise has shown me I can perhaps fit in a few more rituals to my daily life if like the book suggests I manage to simplify my domestic tasks to allow time for creative ones.

Do you have rituals in your life?

be prepared…

 

Whilst we had a really good time on safari at the weekend it all took quite a bit of planning and it is in this area that I find I need to take some control over and look at simplifying the procedure of preparation and packing for an event.

 

I did quite a bit of ‘getting ready’ the day before but on Sunday morning I still found that I was less than ready to get up and go.  Analysing the situation I can see how all the extra few minutes easily begin to mount up and cause unnecessary delays and stress.

This is the run up to us leaving the house –

The presents

Although I had wrapped the presents for little L the day before I had run out of paper and decided to put the jumper and jeggings I had bought for her as an extra into a gift bag – but for some reason I had only thought it and not done it so had to scrabble around to find a suitable birthday gift bag and then write a tag before we left.  I had also got distracted at the time and left the presents I had wrapped without gift tags or any finishing touches – you know the kind a bit of glittery Wasi tape or some curling ribbon.

Time waster No 1 – not buying enough wrapping paper or following a task through to completion so that was a 15-minute delay.

The Picnic

We had decided on a simple picnic – my idea of making some little Quiches did not quite materialise and so we opted for the Higgidy vegetarian Cheese and Chutney rolls some home-made coleslaw and salad with a wholemeal roll with cheese and pickle.  For pudding we decided that we would be buying ice creams anyway so did not take anything additional other than some fruit. OH sorted the food but the new picnic plates I had bought recently in Sainsbury’s sale were still unwashed and had sticky labels on them.  I had been asked to take them with me in case there were not enough of the paper animal plates.

Time waster no 2 – I had not pre washed the new plates and removed the sticky labels – another 10 minutes’ delay to scrub off the labels.

The weather

Of course in England you can never be sure of the weather not only from one hour to another but also from one county to another.  The forecast had said mainly overcast possible rain at 3pm, however, just before we were leaving the sun had appeared and it was feeling quite warm. Unfortunately, in my haste to get dressed I had not thought I would need to put sun tan cream on other than my face which I do automatically all summer.

I should have known better and put some cream on after my shower before getting dressed as this is far easier at this stage than trying to lavish greasy sun cream onto exposed areas whilst fully clothed.

Time waster No 3 – never believe the forecasts just expect extremes of weather and prepare accordingly – another 10 minutes’ delay.

The extras

In addition, I had to search out my umbrella, sunhat, long distance driving glasses, jumper in case of cold weather, coat in case of rain and do a dozen other checks of items to take just in case.  I would normally have many of these items duplicated in our pre-prepared black travel bag but I am down to one umbrella, one sun hat and one pair of glasses and I have to keep borrowing them for work until I remember to go out and buy new replacements.  As well, sods law, the big golf umbrella broke the day before.

Time waster No 4 – not collecting the bits and pieces together the night before as it is amazing how long it can take just to do this – in this case another 10 minutes.

The car

Once we had gathered all the bags together by the door I realised I had not checked to see if the rear seats were back in place in the car.  We have an estate car and tend to have the rear seats down for maximum space when going to the cottage but often they do not get put back into position after we have unpacked the car.  Today was such an instance.

Time waster No 5 – putting the seats up – this may only take 5 minutes but each time waster adds up.

The technology

We thought we had been really organised with all our technology the night before and put mobiles and camera batteries on charge but not thought about my video camera (battery absolutely dead) or the Polaroid camera which takes ordinary AA batteries.  As we wanted to use up some of the Polaroid film bought for the wedding last year and Elder daughter had bought me a selfie frame and props for my birthday the Polaroid camera was crucial to our plans.  Of course when we looked at the Polaroid we discovered that the old batteries had leaked so we had to set to and clean up the battery compartment and then try to find five new batteries.

Time waster No 6 – 35 minutes’ delay to clean up, find batteries and test the camera.

The outcome

Needless to say by now we were running late – luckily we had left plenty of time but it was hardly the best start to the day and we left the house with a bit of a bomb site to come back to and me chuntering as we set off down the road!

 

We always have a lot of comings and goings to prepare for at our house – I seem to spend my time packing and unpacking so I am determined that I will simplify this task by being better prepared.  My downfall is obviously not preparing enough the day before and thinking I can leave some bits to do on the day – many more than I have time for.

 

I have friends coming round for the evening next Saturday night so let’s see if I can prepare for this any better.  We (yes that is a we not just I) have to clean up the house and I am hoping the painting will be finished so we can get the wardrobes out of our living room and in place in the bedroom by then.  I know already I always buy far too much food and think I am feeding an army so I need to make a simple menu plan and set a strict budget.  It is just a supper buffet rather than an evening meal but the couple are both meat eaters and one does not eat nuts and the other no fruit.

Help!

 

 

on safari…

How lucky were we today with the weather.

We had arranged to meet at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster to celebrate Little L’s third birthday (which is actually Tuesday) and of course my elder daughter and partner’s 1st Wedding Anniversary with as many of the family that could make it – my sister, hubby and daughter, my brother and mum, younger daughter and her partner – twelve of us in all – I think.

If you remember a year ago our elder daughter was married in Scotland near to our cottage on the Castle Kennedy estate where her granddad was once head gardener.  We had a lovely sunny day then and it stayed fine for us today –

Castle Kennedy Gardens

see more pictures here.

I cannot believe it is a year since we were celebrating their marriage and putting on such a big event – at least todays event was more manageable once we had all the family in one place!

We eventually found each other in the Lion car park (thank goodness for mobiles – though I mistakenly rang my sister-in-laws number instead of my brothers – she is in Spain – costly mistake!) and headed for the picnic area taking up 3 picnic tables to have our lunch.  Of course isn’t it always the case that everyone else’s picnic always looks inviting!  My brother had taken a full Sunday lunch for himself (not a roast but an individual Quiche with new potatoes and salad) his cool bag was larger than anyones!

 

We had all the trimmings as one should for a little girls 3rd birthday with a wild life theme – a pretty flamingo dress, raspberry jelly, a jungle table-cloth, animal paper hats, animal paper plates,

pink flamingo straws,

a monkey and

a monkey chocolate cake with 3 candles.

Given the windy conditions it is a miracle we ever got them alight!

With my family it is difficult snapping a photo of us all together at one time so as usual some of us are missing on this photo and so are the paper hats that everyone was made to wear!

After lunch we followed the trail around the park to see the Leemar…

Tigers…

and my favourites – the Giraffes…

 

 

Finally a much needed cup of tea in the Masai cafe to revive our feet and a final wave goodbye to the animals.

And all too soon the end of a perfect day (isn’t life just so exciting when you are only 3!) – after a quick head count to make sure that no-one had been left behind or eaten by a wild animal and a few Polaroid selfie shots with all the family this time – elder daughter and partner then drove off into the sunset to spend their anniversary night in a more romantic setting of a hotel in the dales – needless to say the family will not be joining them – though I did suggest it LOL!

 

simply reading and planning and doing…

What a shock to the system being back at work this week and how tired I have been each night  – far too tired to blog.  The good news though is that my working Thursday is now a thing of the past – I will be doing Monday to Wednesday at work and Thursday to Sunday at home – a much better balance in my opinion. I couldn’t wait to get started.

It was quite a long holiday break that we had this year well over 2 weeks and it is surprising how difficult it has been to pick up my routine now we are home – I say that like I have one – I do for the most part!

Now I need to develop a new routine to take me forwards so I have been thinking that Thursday will be my official cleaning day.  That does sound like I don’t ever clean on the other days of the week and sometimes this might be correct on a busy week but I usually manage bits and pieces of tidying rather than cleaning as well as the basic chores of washing up and making beds.  After a few days sitting in the office at the computer I find it is quite nice to do something active and domestic so cleaning will fit in well.

Over our holidays I have been doing a lot of reading – you know the kind of book that is titled –  ‘help I need to get my life and home sorted out and in balance’.  I have a stack of books on the subject by my bed – some from the library and others from my book shelf for a reread or on my Audio books to listen to while I dust.  I am especially into a little book I discovered in the library called ‘L’art de la Simplicite – How to live more with less by Dominique Loreau,  it can seem a bit repetitive in places but I am liking the approach to ‘simplism’.

I apologise in advance for the poor photo quality I was dog tired when taking these pics last night.  I think Thursday may be the designated cleaning day but Friday is going to be the designated recovery day.

The areas I am looking to improve are housekeeping or house management (if you want to encompass the whole of running a house and its upkeep), health, finances and fitness.  I am looking for ways to make each category simple and less time-consuming to deal with.

From my reading there is a common thread running through the advise and that is to have less stuff to deal with – back to the decluttering then.  The other common thread is routine and habit – even in the area of fitness choosing just 2 exercises to do daily is better than nothing and gets a routine and discipline going.  I decided this is just the approach I need together with my leaning towards the Lean and 5S  that I have spoken about here before.

 

To get stuck in on my first designated cleaning day I decided that I would perhaps fall in line with the fly lady zone but when I went on her website it was the living room this week and I felt our main bedroom needed a good going over more urgently and decided on this instead.

I emptied each of the drawers and the wardrobe – cleaned everything down and had a bit of a declutter and I found a few items that I hadn’t used since the last clear out so decided they were for the charity pile.

Everything looks neater and fresher and a bit of a sparkle now.

I have been using Neal’s Yard frankincense Intense face cream and serum since Christmas (a bit pricey but worth it and goes a long way) – this was part of my Secret Santa gift and I am well impressed – I can feel the serum working straight away and it glides over my skin easily.  I think the texture has improved all though the blemishes and freckles I accept will never go away.  The sun damage to my fair skin was probably done much earlier in my childhood when the effects of the sun were not as well understood.  Anyway back to the story – I picked out everything I am using each day in creams and lotions and potions and any leftovers of stuff I will not be repurchasing are to go in the use up box.  If unused and unopened they will go to charity.

So in my drawers now I only have what I like and use.  It is very liberating to do this and I aim to do the same throughout the house – no more hanging on to things just in case – not even the free sachets.

Sorting the current selection of clothes in the wardrobe was harder as I confess I found 3 items I have bought recently and not yet worn and shock horror still have tags on – I think too late to return though.  It isn’t that I don’t like them but I am thinking if I haven’t managed a day to wear them yet after 6 weeks perhaps they are not exactly my favourites.

One of the tops in particular was a bit of a mad buy as it reminded me of my Art college days – a summer weekend at Reading Festival sleeping out under the stars listening to Genesis dressed in flowing embroidered cheesecloth with my long tousled ginger hair and probably no suncream in sight but not a care in the world other than how to get through the mud to the washroom!  The top I bought in Sainsbury’s 25% off week is a fine cheesecloth like cotton, gypsy style with embroidered panel and probably represented this memory – I have put it on 3 times now to go out in it and then changed at the last moment – I am no longer this free-flowing gypsy person!  I think it is going to be a charity gift.

Of course I have only been able to do my own clothes and so I just arranged OH’s ties neatly on the rack fixed to the inside of the wardrobe door knowing that a lot of them will not be worn again but at least they look ‘organised’ until I can get OH to look through them.

I will have to revisit the wardrobe again but I have given those ‘I’m a bit unsure’ items a final chance to be worn – if not they will go out at the end of the summer.  I sometimes find that there is a reason for not wearing something apart from it feeling tighter and if something does not feel quite right then I am not happy wearing it.

By the time I had done all the sorting I only managed to vacuum the walls, the carpet and the surfaces and didn’t get to move the furniture out – that will have to be another time.

Of course because I will not be working Thursday the figure on my monthly pay slip will be much reduced from now on and I shall have to economise further to take into account this drop in income.  Our fridge at the moment is virtually empty – this is good as it means we have manage to eat up everything we bought for the week.  I am sure I could scrape a couple of meals together from the store cupboard and freezer but there would be little fresh veg – home-grown courgettes, carrots and frozen peas are left over and I have a tin of sweetcorn and maybe an egg or two – perhaps Fritters!

Just off to plan my other days off now – have a good weekend.

home for a rest…

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will just leave you with a few holiday snaps…

 

Kipford and Rockcliffe 

Ardwell Walled Gardens

Broadstones Stranraer

Across Agnew Park Stranraer

 

 

weekend plans…

By the time you read this on Friday morning I will be on the train North to Yarm where I will be spending the weekend with my mum – OH will drive up and join us on Saturday but Friday is just mum and me time.  Also joining us on Saturday for the rest of the weekend (which wasn’t part of the original plan but childcare was urgently needed) is baby L my granddaughter – no longer a baby and soon to be three.  How time flies!

I will have an almost three-year old and a 91-year-old to entertain – I think perhaps a day in nearby Saltburn by the sea will satisfy both age groups – the Cliff lifts, the little train, the park, the pier, the donkeys and a stroll around the lovely little town centre – oh and two vegetarian cafes.  I am just hoping we have good weather.

 

 

Have a great weekend x