drEAming, general chit chat

drEAming…of Italy and a car

You may have noticed that I have been quiet the last few days – no I haven’t come down with anything – thankfully – although we had 3 people go home last Wednesday, I was pleased it was my last day and I could escape the germs.  I have been wiping desks, door handles and key boards each morning with my Dettol wipes just to try to keep them away.  Coughs and sneezes from work colleagues are harder to avoid!
No, the reason for my absence is that I have been a little overwhelmed lately  – well a lot overwhelmed actually.
I have a couple of large projects on the go at the moment and they are taking up all my spare time.  Once the time has been put in to deal with these the end results should be very enjoyable!
The first mammoth project is that I have to change my car before it is no longer useable.  It is sixteen years old and due an MOT by the end of this month and I already know it won’t pass so I decided that enough is enough and I need to buy a new one.  One that will last me another 16 years and hopefully one where the heater works during the journey to work not just as I drive into the car park, and where I can open or lock all the doors at once. 
After slogging around the showrooms, reading reviews and taking a test drive I have settled on one and placed an order – just got to arrange the insurance and then sit back and wait for delivery.  I am so sad though to be saying goodbye to my old faithfull friend – I just get so upset at the final parting.
The other project on the go is what I am referring to as the ‘Italian Job’
We are invited to my niece’s wedding in Italy (she is marrying an Italian) in April.  The ceremony and reception takes place in a small village in Northern Italy near Verona and Vicenza and not far from Venice.  We intend to make a small holiday of it and go for 9 days – three of which will be taken up getting to the wedding, enjoying the wedding day and then saying our goodbyes and moving on.  We will be meeting up with my two daughters for the wedding itself but then each of us are planning to go off in different directions. 
After the wedding OH and I have decided on a few days in Vicenza followed by a few days in Venice before flying home. 
We will need to book a hotel to stay in on landing at Venice Marco Polo then move round to the outskirts of Vicenza to another hotel closer to the wedding venue for 3 days.  Then another short move to an apartment for 3 nights in the centre of Vicenza to experience Italian life and finally moving to Venice for the remaining three days.  Four different hotels / apartments in all.  That’s a lot of packing and unpacking and a lot of booking.
The choosing of all these different places to stay has been a bit of a headache and so time-consuming – scrolling through endless internet pages of hotels in the region – what did we do before the internet?  Places that look OK on Booking.com can look quite different when viewing the travellers own photos on Tripadvisor.  I really hate it when you see a lovely hotel room on a website – stylish and clean and then discover that this is their only room of that decorative standard and on arrival you are shown to something quite different and very shabby in appearance (and I don’t mean in a chic way).
We have booked the flights, the hotel for the wedding and the train connection so far but still many bookings to go yet.  It is not a cheap way to take a holiday either – I can see why people opt for a package deal.
So I may be quiet for a few more days yet…I am still following and reading along though with everyone’s blogs and hopefully all will be back to normal again soon and blogging will resume.  If anyone has any tips for Italian travel they will be very welcome.

Back soon x

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drEAming, general chit chat

drEAming…looking back on our non-plastic kitchen

Did I mention that when we were Art students in the early seventies we were big on saving the planet – the generation that came a while after us during the Thatcher years seemed to completely ignore the topic and it became a spend, spend, spend world and consumerism was born in a big way.
One of the ways we tried to ‘save the planet’ was that we had an almost fully non-plastic kitchen.  With all the recent discussion in the news of plastic waste I was reminded of our efforts back then and that it is not actually that hard to achieve it just takes a bit of adjustment.
We carefully selected our kitchen contents and only bought items of glass, wood, enamel, metal,  china or pot.  Looking back it is incredible that we managed a whole kitchen by today’s standards as most people have Tupperware, or plastic washing up bowls and formica counter tops not to mention all the groceries we buy and store in the kitchen that come packaged in plastics.
We lived in rented accommodation back then –  a tiny 3 bedroom terraced house in Cheltenham just off the high street behind the Co-op on Grosvenor Terrace.  Ours was the blue house – they were all painted a different colour.  The living room was so small it didn’t even accommodate a 3 piece suite.  The dining table was squashed in here in the corner as there was no dining room nor a dining kitchen.
The kitchen was in fact more like an old scullery down a passage at the back of the house which opened up in to a bit of a dismal yard with no rear access but at least we could hang a washing line out there.  The windows in the kitchen were the original painted metal frames and the floor was made of those red clay tiles.  The whole house was cold at times but even more so in the kitchen – there was no heating at all in any of the rooms and all we could afford then was a two bar electric fire for the living room.  We just shivered in the other rooms and dived into bed quickly!
The bathroom was quite colourful a yellow toilet, pink basin and white bath – no doubt whatever the landlord could find going cheap at the time!
The only items in the kitchen, which was about 8′ x 6′, was an old gas cooker, a white pottery sink in the corner and the previous tenants had left a small wooden dresser on the back wall.  There were no kitchen units or wall cupboards built-in or otherwise.
Being a handy kind of man OH set to and made a kitchen unit to fit next to the gas cooker from some MDF and old packing cases that we found  – as you can imagine trying to cook when you have no horizontal surface to put anything on is near impossible.   The unit didn’t have anything posh like doors it looked more like a bookcase with a work top on it – you would call it open shelving these days and you would be thought of as extremely modern.  In those days you were thought of as a poor student!  The work top was a huge slab of dark grey slate – about 3″ thick and 3′ long with a round hole in one end.  We found it on some waste land and somehow using that old technique of rollers Egyptian style managed to roll it home and then called on friends to help lift it on top of the frame – whether any other resident that came after us ever got it out again would be another story!  It was a brilliant place for putting down hot pans though!
We painted the dresser grey – it scrubbed up quite well.  We also acquired a fridge at this point – our first ever, second or third hand of course.  The door seal on the fridge and the wire shelving coated in plastic was one of the few things that had plastic and unavoidable.
We used enamel buckets and basins and a wire metal dish drainer.  We had a dish mop and dish brush made of real bristle and wood – which you can still buy in some hardware stores.  Our cooking utensils were wooden or metal – no plastic handles allowed.
For food storage we used the old-fashioned glass jars with ground stoppers and glass basins with a saucer on top to keep food and left overs safe and fresh in the fridge.
We had no Tupperware or plastic bowls.  We only bought foods that were free from plastic wrappings, our vegetables were packed in paper bags and the cheese and butter wrapped in greaseproof paper.  Sauces came in jars and most food items were free of any tamper proof shrink wrapped cellophane or plastic display trays.  We used Stardrops for washing up and cleaning as this came in a glass bottle as did the milk.
The waste bin was one of those old style pails with a lid made of enamel. In fact we generated so little waste our old tin dustbin in the yard was rarely full of any rubbish – which is just as well as we had to carry it through the house to the front doorstep on bin day.
With all the discussions recently in the news about China and our plastic waste it is no bad thing that we should review our use of plastics especially the single use of plastics for packaging.  Remembering our kitchen all those years ago and how some of the values we held then have fallen by the wayside a bit over the years I am mindful now in the light of the current plastics awareness that is sweeping the country that I must make an effort to reject plastic once again and challenge myself to having a non- plastic kitchen.
Of course it would be wrong to get rid of anything plastic by throwing it away better we hang on to it now for as long as possible and when we have to renew look for an alternative material, but we can avoid such things as squeezy sauce bottles opting for the glass ones instead or buying vegetables that are loose not prepackaged.  Every small change will eventually make a difference.  I possibly won’t be going back to a 3″ thick slate work top though!!

 

drEAming, general chit chat

drEAming…of a happy New Year

 

Goodbye to 2017 already and hello 2018.
I feel like the year has whizzed by and although I haven’t done half of what I intended to do a lot has happened over the twelve months – the good thing about keeping a blog is that the year is well documented.  It was quite enlightening for me to look back at all that I have achieved.
And now I am looking forward – I particularly love this moment – the fresh start feeling that a new year brings.
The world is quiet outside my window this morning – the new year celebrations and fireworks over – calm at last has descended.  It would be nice to think that everywhere was closed today – a day off for everyone like it used to be… but sadly not;  there are still many shopping opportunities in Meadowhall and I presume every shopping mall up and down the country – but that is not for me, not today – today I am going to savour the quiet and just be still with my thoughts.
This is just a few highlights of last year –
January – we started the year with the reinstatement of the stream bank at the cottage.  It all looked a bit bleak but by October the grasses and wild flowers had begun to grow through the black mesh so that once again it now looks like a natural banking.      

 

Autumn Homekeeping
February – was mostly spent in the home having a major declutter, evaluating and reorganising cupboards.

 

March – was our yearly trip to see the village pantomime that my sister and BIL take part in – such a wonderful community spirit.

 

April – we were back in our cottage garden – taming the jungle and uncovering more of the stones around the little pond like an archeological dig.

 

Birdhouse

In the summer months we built a birdhouse…

 

Courgette

 planted a Courgette…

 

and enjoyed our tiny garden here in Yorkshire.

 

We visited a number of Open Gardens for inspiration…

 

played on the beach…

 

and celebrated a 3rd birthday at the Zoo

 

As Autumn arrived we completed the decorating of the mezzanine bedroom…

 

and drove down to Birmingham to watch our SIL compete as one of seven finalists in the Anchor Care Homes Chef of the Year.

 

October – we had a trip down memory lane as we passed through the historic village of West Linton on our way to Edinburgh

 

November – as the cooler weather takes hold I spent more time in the kitchen baking and trying out new recipes…

 

and of course making a few gifts for the ‘Crisis’ craft fair at church.

 

December – saw us collecting together and scanning a lifetime of photographs to make my mum a special family album photo book

 

Christmas Selfie

and celebrating with the family at our Not so Secret Santa present swap…

 

just enough time for making Lemon Curd for the girls…

 

and my Christmas ‘wreath’ for the door although it was not a wreath and I didn’t hang it on the door!

 

and finally a visit to the Living Advent in Saltaire Village.

 

All in all a good year – of course there was a fair share of ups and downs, trials and tribulations – but interspersed with many positive moments.
I know many bloggers now will be choosing a focus word for the year and I am looking forward to reading about these.  Over the last month I have been thinking long and hard of what I might like to accomplish in 2018 and unless I suddenly change my mind I have now settled on a focus for this year and all will be revealed soon.
Have a lovely Bank Holiday…back soon x
beach cottage, bEAching, general chit chat

bEAching…a weekend escape

We escaped to our cottage in Scotland for a few days this last weekend – for those of you who are new readers we are camping out now in a static caravan in the garden of our cottage since the flood in 2014 made it impossible for us to use the cottage.

We had already been warned of bad weather up and down the country so went with no expectations of getting in the garden and instead I went prepared with a few indoor jobs and a pile of books and magazines to read.   I actually like this time of year – the place is deserted and kind of bleak looking but it has a beauty of its own in the greyness.

Unexpectedly Friday was dry and sunny, although bitterly cold, and we decided to make the best of the weather and have lunch out and then drive over to Portpatrick and Stranraer and have a wander around before the weather turned.  The shops are well stocked with Christmas gifts and trimmings so much so that I actually wondered who will buy it all.  Many of the smaller gift shops and cafes in the area are only opening at the weekend even over the Christmas season as trade appears to be very slow this year – it is such a shame for these small businesses who rely very much on the extra boost to trade that tourism brings.  We always try to support these shops where we can buying locally and not buying goods down here to take up there.

We stayed indoors on Saturday as the heavy rain forecasted had set in and continued through the night so it was like sleeping in a tin box and because we are so close to the sea the constant roar of the waves crashing around made it even harder to sleep through the noise.

I filled my time trawling through old family photos that, once edited, will be part of a photo book we are compiling to have printed by Blurb books for my mum’s Christmas present.  We did the same for my mum in law some years ago capturing a snapshot of her life and she was really pleased with it.

With hundreds of photos I found it quite hard deciding what to put in or leave out – some of the older photos bring back very happy memories for me as we had so much fun as a family especially in the 1950’s and 1960’s when I was growing up so it was quite a slow job.  I can even remember all the dresses that I am wearing as they were made by my grandma and the cardigans and jumpers knitted by my mum.  Here are just a few of my favourites –

1954 – This is me with my family when I was only a week or two old – note the old-fashioned dustbin and air raid shelter in the background – granddad had turned it into a garden shed…

1957 – Does anyone out there recognise this Lion – could it be in Skegness or Scarborough?

1957 – somewhere in Torquay – Dad (on the right of the picture) used the automatic setting on the camera and we are all laughing as he only just made it into the picture – an early form of selfie!  Wonderful bathing costumes though…

Great Gran (back left) always had her Sunday best hat on even on a picnic – mum in the centre looking glamorous as ever…

1958 – The Promenade at Blackpool – mum and my Aunt in their very fashionable headscarves and me in my knitted Pixie hat!

1958 – One of my favourite pictures my Aunt and Uncle improvising when camping by washing up in the cake tin – we went everywhere with that tent – hardly a deluxe model it looks like it is about to collapse and I think it often did but all added to the fun…

1958 – me again with Spot the dog picking wild flowers (certainly not allowed now) – always into mischief, we did everything together…

1964 – I am 10 years old here and we are collecting the tiny four berth caravan that was going to be our home for over 6 months on the site where Dad built his own house…

and this is the house – quite an achievement – dad had the help of  3 brickies / joiners and laid all the drains himself – whenever we wondered where dad was he would be mixing concrete or digging trenches.  During this time mum fell unexpectedly pregnant with my sister and she was born just after we managed to move in…

1966 – me with my mum and little sister – anyone remember these pushchairs? – pre buggy days – you could sit either way round but it was hard work heaving them on and off a bus.

Ah well enough of the ‘Good old days’ and back to the Christmas preparations – I also began the Advent calendars on Saturday but found they are not as quick to do as I thought and getting the photos for mum sorted has to take priority so we can meet the Blurb book deadline.  I am thinking now that I may have to abandon the calendars until next year.

 

On the positive side we now have our family get together date fixed and it only took about 100 messages to one another via Messenger (what did we do before Facebook) until at last everyone is able to agree on a time, a date and a place which is just as well because there is very few weekends left and I now have only one free weekend to get everything done – the cake, the nut roast and the cards and gifts.

On the decorating side the new bed arrived Monday and the wardrobe doors Tuesday, so now it is just the finishing touches.  The old bed that is to go to my daughter’s house is proving difficult to transport – too big for our estate and the little van my daughter can have loan of is just that…too little!  So we have to find a creative way of squeezing it into our estate – I will leave that job to OH.  If we cannot move it I have visions of it being part of our living room decorations over Christmas so I will just drape some tinsel over it!

This week I am looking to bake the cake and start the Christmas cards.  How are your plans going?

Back soon x

decluttering, decorating, drEAming, general chit chat, homestEAding, rEArranging, simplifying

slow progress…

As you can tell I have been having a bit of a play around on my blog and fancied a bit of a change – a bit like decorating.  I will be updating my blogroll as a lot of the sites I used to follow are sadly no more or do not blog anymore.  There seems to be quite a few people who have given up recently and I really enjoyed their blogs but I can understand the time pressures of life get in the way and I think once you have a gap it is hard to get back into the routine of blogging – I know this from experience having had a good year off in 2016.  One of the hardest parts is not so much writing on your own blog but having to catch up with the news on everyone else’s.  So much had happened in that year.

I am continuing my quest for a simplified life and continuing the good sort out at home – and I am loving it every time I declutter a space I feel a sense of the whole place feeling lighter and more manageable.  I even felt I needed to do my blog as well and perhaps get rid of any clutter that has collected here so you may see things disappearing along the tabs as these have never worked for me  – I may keep the craft tab as it is a record of the few things I manage to make at Christmas.

As I am simplifying and trying to pare down to the bare minimum we need (or really want to keep in the case of items that are more sentimental than useful) I am starting to ‘beautify’ each area.  I am not sure this is the right descriptive word for what I am doing but it is close enough.  In essence I am looking at each space I clear and the decorative quality of how my possessions are displayed and how it makes me and the room feel.

Rather than going out shopping for anything new I am firstly shopping at home – reviewing what I already have then swapping things around a bit, putting decorative items together in different rooms.

Our new ‘guest room’ is coming along slowly but progress is being made and we are still planning that it will be ready in November for my mum’s visit to go Christmas shopping.  OH has now dismantled the 1980’s MFI mirrored sliding wardrobes and a very nice man has been to measure up to fit new ones which will also have sliding doors because of the tight space.

I was amazed at how much bigger the room looks without the wardrobes but wardrobes are a bit of a necessity and this is the only place that is suitable to put them.  They will be slightly shorter in width but slightly deeper in-depth and so we have had to move the double socket a bit more to the right and then repair the wall.  Whilst doing this a new double socket has been added on the other end of the same wall and the bed will fit comfortably between them.  We have also had the single socket on the window wall made into a double.  Six sockets should surely be enough for anyone and any amount of technology/electrical appliances in the future.

Sockets

With that job done we are now moving on to filling the holes and cracks.  There is, I can assure you, a Polyfilla for any job – fine cracks, big holes, cracks that have movement – I think we have got the whole Pollyfilla range in the garage!

Decorator's Caulk

I had been undecided on the colours I would have for this room – the base colour will be the same soft pale grey of the previous room.  The wardrobes are also grey but slightly deeper than the walls and the accent colour I first thought of was a blue probably duck egg maybe turquoise or teal, however, I have had a big change of heart and I have now settled on a soft vintage pale blush colour and natural linen.

I still intend to keep the room in a Scandinavian style but with a tiny bit of blingy metallic added here and there.  Sparkle is not my usual style but will suit my mum – she is not a blue fan either but loves that dusky pink colour so I think she will like the room when it is finished.  Whilst in TK Max the other day I came across some pretty pink and grey patterned storage boxes which have a silver strip across the lid closure and go perfectly with my chosen colour palette.  I also came away with a candle in a pink tinged silver jar.

I am now looking for a bedside table of modest price – I came across a rather unusual Scandinavian style retro ones on the Sue Ryder site but they are not the right colours.

So I continue to browse around.

Have a good week everyone x

 

drEAming, fEAsible, general chit chat, taking stock, trEAsury

expanding time, expanding work…

Even though I have four days off work now I seem to struggle to get everything done in the house that I would normally have done in the 3 days I had before.

This suggests to me that Parkinson’s Law “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” has some truth in it!

It may be down to the fact that having more time has allowed me to do each task in some depth – whether it is the mountain of paperwork or the dusting each job now is being done very thoroughly and at last I can see the paperwork pile reducing to the point where I will be working on the ‘stuff’ that I receive during the week – rather than working on last week’s, or last months or longer.

I have been doing more than my set 2 hours recently on the financial tasks and what I term ‘paperwork’ as we have got a few important items to attend to which require careful reading and even more careful decisions – ones that will affect us financially long-term – I don’t know about you but I find these quite difficult.  If I say the word Pensions you will probably know what I mean.

Gradually I have cleared out a lot of old papers from the files and I have reached the point where I am completely up to date with the filing and can now do it as I go along.  I have also spent quite a few hours entering receipts and logging our spending on our Money Program on the computer.  Every account is now fully balanced and the advantage of this program is that I can run reports that will tell me how much I am spending each week in any given category – it would even tell me in which shops I spend the most money – the possibilities are endless!

When I have gathered all the information I can begin to look at making any reductions and adjustments. I am expecting a few shocks when I see the totals so far for the year.  Spending the odd fiver a week on something can add up to quite a lot over the year.  Items like magazines are typical of this kind of spending (even though I believe I have been very good recently and picked them up and then put them back on the shelf again one or two have accidentally fallen into my trolley!).  And then there are birthday cards and gifts this is always a category where the figures creep up but I have managed to buy some nice gifts at very reasonable bargain prices.

I know our food spending is working out at about £50 a week – we eat well usually in the sense that we buy as much organic food as we can and a lot of fruit and vegetables and make a good many of our meals from scratch (though this does not necessarily mean we always make healthy meals!).  When pushed for time we will often compromise and buy the main bit of the meal ready-made like Nut Cutlets and add a plateful of vegetables.

With more attention to our menu planning I know I could reduce this by another £10 easily.  I have noticed that the price for having a drink or lunch out is creeping up and although it is a nice treat now and again it does add up to quite an amount over the year.

I have some additional points vouchers for Sainsbury’s for items that I would usually buy which is good and I was handed another 5 x points voucher this evening to put towards my full shop next week.  So my total rewards value now stands at £101.44 which I am saving towards Christmas or one of their double up events if they run it again this year in November.

Stay tuned for my next update. x

drEAming, general chit chat, getting things done, managEAble, rEArranging, simplifying

decluttering my inbox…

My intention today was to have a really good clean in the house but by the time we had seen the man who came to measure up for our new sliding wardrobes in what will be the guest room, when we have decorated it, the urge to get scrubbing had waned and I became sidetracked by checking my emails.

Then somehow I have managed to spend most of the afternoon clearing out old emails from my inbox all 755 and doing a bit of reorganising of folders.  I now have zero emails in my inbox (but that won’t last long) and anything that needs some further consideration is in a follow-up folder at the top of the folder list.  I have fifteen follow-up items to deal with, some of which require an email answer.  Anything I need to keep goes into an appropriate folder.

I have also unsubscribed from a number of those emails that arrive in my inbox and I find that I never open them – just delete them – but often they begin to stack up if I don’t log in to read my emails everyday and especially when we are at the cottage and do not have an internet connection.

I actually feel much better in myself for doing this task – it was prompted by something I read yesterday in the book How to Get Things Done by Richard Templar

Basically he suggests that you don’t work a week behind and gave emails as a prime example.  You can deal with today’s emails or last Wednesday’s emails it takes the same amount of time but one keeps you on top of the game and is more efficient.

 

This made absolute sense to me as I find I am often reading last weeks emails and sometimes last months.  In the big clear out I unexpectedly found an email received in August and still unread from my insurance company which had got lost amongst the many subscription emails that come in daily.

So now with less junk I should be able to spot the requests for the meter readings or the insurance renewal more easily.

Yes, I definitely feel good tonight after that major declutter- all I need to do now is make sure I leave 10 to 15 minutes a day to check on my inbox and read and deal with the new items.

I am looking at other areas of my life where I might be working a week behind – do you have this problem?

Have a good weekend. x