And it snowed.
But how beautiful was the view from my daughter’s new house on the day after Boxing day; it was like someone had been out overnight and sprinkled a sifting of icing sugar over the moors.
At the point when I took these pictures just after lunch it was bitterly cold with a biting wind and icy pathways and the temperature was only just reaching minus one. Packing the car to come home took quite some time but eventually we were on our way, sad to leave.
So how was your Christmas – did Santa bring you everything you had wished for?
I had a few surprises, nice ones of course. With my new Country Living subscription from OH came a free box of Hotel Chocolates with a festive theme. These will be on hand when I can settle down to reading my two new books also from OH –
Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles – beautiful photographs and his style a sheer joy to read and
‘Winter’ an anthology for the changing seasons edited by Melissa Harrison. It is one of a series full of delightful prose and poetry.
I cannot decide which book I should read first or which chocolate I should eat first.
Little L was delighted with her singing Ice Cream Cart from Santa and kept us fully supplied with ice cream cones topped with cherry or chocolate sauce and sprinkles. What a shame it was only pretend – though our calorie intake, had they been real, would have been enormous.
I must say I am tempted to put this on my list for next year!
We are home again now and today has been a gentle day of doing a bit of this and that.
I like to get the house back in order, but slowly, nothing too hurried or frantic.
I cleared out the fridge of anything past it’s usability (which thankfully was not very much), put in a load of linens and towels to wash (and they have been out on the line in the sun), and cleared up a few messy areas.
After all the mad days of Christmas preparations it was nice to be able to sit and relax and when I do this my mind wanders off to thinking of what I might do in the coming year.
I already know in my mind that 2018 will be a year of changes. I am not, at this point in time, altogether sure what they will be but I know I feel like a change in many aspects of my life.
Recently I have been reading a book I can recommend called ‘Small move, big change’ by Caroline I. Arnold. It claims to transform your life – well maybe it will and maybe it won’t but I like the content and the way she uses something called micro resolutions to do this.
As I was reading certain chapters I could really identify with the examples she was giving as if she had a secret access to my own life in places and throwing a spotlight on it. It did make me smile at times as I realised that when you see things written down it allows you to identify with some of the mad things we do and then wonder why we acquire bad habits that keep us stuck or from where we want to be. And those very habits we have spent a lifetime nurturing can be working against us and are so hard to break.
I have been reading another book with similar ideas about making changes. It caught my eye in the library as I glanced along the shelves and I borrowed it mainly out of curiosity because of the strange title – Hell Week by Erik Bertrand Larssen. I am a fan of all things Scandinavian so knowing that this author is Norwegian only increased that curiosity.
Keeping this summary short the title is a bit of a clue to the content and I can tell you that adopting this method of changing your habits in only one week is the complete opposite of the methods used in the previous book and certainly not for the faint-hearted or wimps like me! For instance I know that I will not be getting up at 5am everyday to take part in Hell Week – but I would pledge to aim for a more civilised 6.30am – but this might be totally missing the point of this book as it is meant to be gruelling like the special services survival training it is based on.
Like any book it can instigate thoughts and there is always something you can take from a book that you didn’t have or know before. That is the power and wonder of the written word.
As it seems that I have been drawn towards these books on making changes, and I am in the mood for change, then I will set out on a new journey and see where it takes me.
I am quite excited.
I have a few goals for November, which I prefer to call my intentions, if and when I have the time. Not everything on my list will get done, some will undoubtedly spill over into December but having a list helps to focus my thoughts. There are tasks I must do and ideas for things I would like to do so I am planning on a good mix of both. I am looking forward to the fun things.
Finish decorating the guest bedroom and furnish within budget
Design and make a Christmas card – using up some of the blank cards and envelopes
Make advent calendars and crackers
Make mini selection boxes for the charity coffee morning using up the trick or treat fun sized chocolate bars
Bake Christmas cake and Nut Roast
Have a day out and pack up a winter picnic – homemade soup, fresh rolls, hot chocolate and go somewhere ‘Christmassy’ like the market towns of Bakewell, Ashbourne or Howarth
Tidy up in the garden
Clean the outside paintwork and porch
Put the festive outdoor lights up
Make mum a Christmas ‘This is your life’ style book using old photos and slides
Send out the family ‘Not so Secret Santa’ wish lists and rule sheet
Organise the family pre-Christmas get together event
Make and send out the Neighbours pre-Christmas get together invites
Have a Christmas ‘looking’ day at John Lewis
Visit the Sheffield Millennium Galleries Christmas Crafts shop
Plan for mum’s late night shopping weekend visit and book to see a local drama group play
Plenty of cleaning
Leave some time for self – book in a hair appointment and facial treat and buy a new party dress / Christmas outfit
Quite a list and only 30 days in November, thirteen of which have already been and gone. How are your plans for Christmas going – that is if you are already planning!
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
I am not used to working Thursdays now so it was a bit of a long week for me last week waiting until Friday for a day off work. Due to the Birmingham visit on Tuesday I had to work on Thursday which has recently become my cleaning day – so no cleaning done. Dilemma then when I woke up on Friday morning – do I clean today instead or do the paperwork that is normally designated for Fridays.
The paperwork won!
It is a sit down job and I was quite tired by Friday morning so cleaning seemed far too energetic and I had a ‘ladies who lunch’ date with my friend which I knew would break up part of the day.
Surprisingly my desk was reasonably tidy and I got stuck in. First job was to write a to do list – I now use Todoist as I can’t install Microsoft works on the Mac – it was the closest program to the one I had but not as good and I refuse to pay to upgrade to the premium service. The list seemed never-ending in fact so long that even if I retired tomorrow I feel sure I would not get to the end.
So then I did a shorter version to capture the really urgent tasks but it still looks a bit daunting.
Having assembled a frightening list I then made a note of any upcoming appointments and put reminders in my diary. I also checked the September birthdays and made a mental note to see if I can find suitable cards from my supply to save me buying any more. I have more than enough blank cards in my craft cupboard and just need to find some time to make some and this would be a good economy as I spend far too much on cards over a year.
Then it was down to bill paying – the plumber for the recent radiator leak (yes I know more water problems), the roofer (who has done a small repair for us to prevent a future leak) and Yorkshire Water for our water bill (it seems a little ironic that we have to pay so much for water when we seem to attract more than our fair share of free water into our lives in the form of leaks and floods!).
Whilst online transferring the payments I did a quick check of our bank statements to assess our situation. We have of course spent quite a bit on paint and new furniture recently for the bedroom we have just decorated – I didn’t set a budget as such but I always know when something is more than we should be spending. The wardrobes were our dearest item and then the drawers and the small bookcase but the two blinds were very reasonable at £16 and we made the wardrobe door handles. The duvet cover with pillowslips only came as a pack of two at £32 making them £16 each, the fleecy throw was £4 and a few picture frames at £3 or £4 each. Everything else we already had.
Within our usual day-to-day spending there is always room to economise more. The dearest item by far this week was the petrol we bought for the journey to Birmingham. My neighbour has recently been sent three Sainsbury’s 12p off petrol coupons, I go there every week and they have not sent me or OH any – so feeling a trifle miffed about that.
I am however still taking packed lunches to work so saving a good £10 a week there even allowing for the extra food on the weekly shopping bill. I have a £20 gift token for Boots so I will wait until there are offers on the brands I use or put it towards a new hairdryer – mine stopped working one day recently, the same week as the iron died on me!
We have just changed gas providers from Npower to EDF for a cheaper deal – the electricity is already on a reasonable fixed rate and with our BT line we pay up front for the year which is cheaper and try not to go over the hour with our calls which are free for the first 60 minutes – difficult when you have 2 daughters, a mother and a sister (and not forgetting my brother) who all like a long chat. I will just have to start keeping the timer by the phone and cut them off after 55 minutes!
As I can’t reduce most of the bills any further I can only look to the housekeeping and transport costs – food, petrol, cleaning and toiletries to make more savings.
Over the rest of the weekend I extended sorting the paperwork to a mammoth session of decluttering and streamlining the files in the office. I am not sure where the mountain of paper came from to throw out but the files are so much lighter now. There is far too much paper to shred – I can’t put it in the recycle bin as too much sensitive information so we will take it on holiday with us to Scotland and have a bonfire at the cottage.
So after my sorting out session everything is in order and up to date, I even managed to set up the log in account for my new workplace pension. We have always preferred the ethical funds for OH’s pension where we have been given a choice and it has performed well over the years so I was pleased to find I could choose an ethical one with our workplace pension provider. I am not sure I will accrue very much between now and retirement but I won’t be refusing the ‘free’ money paid in by my employer and the government as every little helps!
My next job is my heap (I exaggerate not here) of magazine cuttings – I am not sure why I find such a pleasure in hoarding articles and pictures torn from magazines. I spend time neatly filing them into folders – all subjects – gardening, craft, health, decorating ideas, recipes etc but now I have a whole shelf full of files dedicated to magazine cuttings plus the heap waiting to be filed.
I realise I have a problem and as an example of how chronic my addiction is I have articles on health issues I don’t even suffer with…well not yet anyway! I have more diets than I could possibly try out and more craft ideas than I would even want to attempt – after all why would I want to crotchet a hot water bottle cover really when I can’t even crotchet! In my perfect life I might consider it but when it takes me all my time to go to work, shop, cook and clean a crotchet hot water bottle cover is probably on the end of my do to list. (Just checking I did add this on to the end of my list!)
So I am resolving to be ruthless – my OH is not convinced – he knows me and my cuttings well! Watch this space…
Surprisingly, I managed to get down my pile of paper work though it took me two whole days and a lot of concentration to balance the statements, change mobile provider and file. OH signed us up to a new gas provider EDF so we are hoping for savings there and better customer service in the event we need to contact them. I also discovered in checking our accounts that more interest had been added to one or two of our ISA savings which was a nice surprise.
Once the finances were back under control I decided to turn my attentions to doing more decluttering and organising and have been spending quite a bit of time reorganising the storage in the bedrooms.
The new wardrobe in the recently decorated bedroom is now my linen store which has freed up space in the main wardrobe in our bedroom. As luck would have it my younger daughter, who is in North Yorkshire, is moving soon to a bigger house so she will take a lot of the excess towels and linens that I have found and don’t really need freeing up even more space.
I have also assigned one of the drawers to hold my fabrics. I was quite ruthless going through the fabric pieces and reduced the amount I am keeping to a more manageable level. I came across a number of projects that have been hanging around for ages:-
- A knitted cushion made by my mum but it requires sewing together.
- A Xmas stocking that I found had a pin left inside lodged in the padding – this needed unpicking a little at the top edge – the pin removing and then sewing back up so I did this straight away and it didn’t even get a mention on my To-do list. It took all of 10 minutes and it must have been waiting for a few months!
- As we have 3 new family members now – the partners of each of my daughters and my granddaughter – I need to make three additional Xmas stockings. I have the fabric ready to make them I just need some time to get down to doing it.
- Bunting – left over from the wedding I have a number of cut out flags and I always intended sewing these together.The bits and pieces of fabric from the wedding bunting too small for flags will be used to make patchwork squares or strips for a memory quilt for my daughter.
- I bought a set of tea towels from Sainsbury’s with hens printed on intending to make a tea cosy.
- A silk scarf that I bought turned out to be a square with fringing all round rather than a long scarf. I was never keen on the fringing so decided to remove it – a 10 minute job and now I have a new scarf.
and a pile of fringing!
So out of seven sewing tasks I did 2 of them within half an hour but I need to put aside some time to complete at least the cushion cover and the new Xmas stockings very soon.
Whilst all the sorting has been going on we have been putting the finishing touches to the newly decorated room.
OH made the wardrobe door handles as I wanted white-painted wood and IKEA do not sell theses without the free-standing wardrobe they go with. The last coat has gone on and these have now been screwed in place.
He has also put up some narrow picture ledges for the books and pictures, cut down the blind and fitted it today – we have gone for just a plain white one and are not putting curtains up again – I like the simplicity of the blind – you might think otherwise when you see it.
For the time being we have put the old carpet back down. Although it is 20 years old it is still in reasonable condition but the colour looks a bit too creamy now against the cooler grey walls, however, it will be better than having dusty floorboards until all the rest of the house is done and we have the same colour carpet put down throughout.
The duvet quilt cover I have bought is not what I had originally intended either – the one piece of furniture, besides the bed, that we are keeping in this room is a vintage blue Lloyd loom bedside cabinet that once belonged to my mum-in-law and it is something that I have always coveted since I first visited my mum-in-law’s house back in the seventies and now it is ours. To tie in the blue I decided on a duvet cover from Next children range called Vintage Ditsy which features a very similar blue to the cabinet amongst the pink flower print. I had not intended it to be flowery at all in this room – but there you go!
Rather than me trying to describe everything I will take some photos soon. I am back at work tomorrow so it will be later this week. Promise.
Meanwhile here are some photos taken whilst at the caravan the weekend before last and a progress report.
We now have grass again on the seaside side of our garden – the contractors laid down new topsoil and grass seed once they finished the reconstruction of our stream bank – albeit complete with many dock leaves – but our main problem is with the rabbits eating our new plants. We extended the trellis border making it wider to accommodate some seaside plants that we bought in the summer. We are hoping they will seed and spread quickly and eventually provide a natural look along the stream bank. We have had to put chicken wire around these until either the plants recover or the rabbits get fed up and move on to something else – hopefully the docks!
They seem to be leaving the Delphiniums in the Woodland walk alone this year and I have a nice clump of them – some are still to flower. I love this deep blue against the orange of the Monbrettia.
There is not a lot of colour going on around the pond at the moment so I might add some late summer / early Autumn planting to rectify this next year although I often quite like to have a parts of the garden that are just restful – the pond is definitely a Spring / early summer corner.
For bursts of colour you cannot beat Hydrangeas – this is one of my favourites and it really brightens up this spot by the daisy path.
Back at home I now have Sweet Peas to cut at last – I planted them late and so this is the first of them – a lovely velvety deep purple with a sprig of – you’ve guessed it – orange Monbrettia – it colour coordinated so well with my mixed fresh fruits for breakfast today.
During my ‘sorting out’ I discovered some instructions and directions that I had photocopied to turn into care cards – see here if you are unfamiliar with my way of dealing with this kind of information – I have now laminated these and they can be placed where I need them to refer to.
Tomorrow is work again and it will be a day or two before I can get back to the decluttering. My next project is to go through the boxes in the wardrobe in the middle bedroom to reduce the amount of stored ‘stuff’ and get the room emptied ready to decorate. The wardrobe in here which has sliding doors is to be dismantled to make way for a newer version.
Back soon x
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 –
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.