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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fEAsible, taking stock

fEAsible…doing better next time

Notes to self for next December

Each year I reflect on what worked and what did not both in the run up to and over the Christmas period –  then I make notes.  This is the list I made recently to remind me of things to do better, things I want to do again and things to definitely avoid next year.

 

  • Definitely no decorating beyond end of October – there isn’t time to look for furnishings with all the extra events and general tasks in the run up to Christmas and stocks are low in the shops – we spent a lot of time and petrol money trying to buy the electric blanket for mum – it must have been on everyone’s Christmas list!
  • Buy fancy Nougat for OH stocking early from TKMAX – don’t wait until we are out shopping together or with mum as it gets too tricky to buy it secretly.
  • Negotiate with mum that she plans her visit for November again like she used to – it has crept into middle December now and this leaves me with no time on the busiest weekends and all the Christmas events that we could go to tend to be in November.
  • Make less food for our neighbour / friends get-togethers – our new neighbours just did a selection of crackers, cheese and wine with a little fruit and some dips – it was both simple and ample and you don’t have to cook anything.
  • Make Christmas cards in October –waiting until November and December are too late to experiment with ideas. This year some of the colours of my stamping inks had dried up or gone off and I had to dash to town for new ones.
  • If supplementing with bought cards buy enough of the same design – don’t buy different packs then there are no decisions to be made of who has which card.
  • Plan to draw the names for the family Not So Secret Santa and Not so Secret Santa Stockings by mid-November – to allow plenty of time to buy the gifts and order any online and take advantage of any offers.
  • Stock up on stamps early – buy a book each month to spread the cost.
  • Send an e-card to Australians with the newsletter – to save on postage costs.
  • Collate newsletter for friends and distant family in November  – to save time this year I used my blog photos and posts to remind me of significant events and highlights throughout the year.
  • Update card and address lists in January for next year – remove anyone who has died or doesn’t require a card anymore.
  • Good tip from The Sadie Diaries – take photos and make notes of décor and lighting that works – most important label those fine wire lights with the colour of the white – warm white / bright white etc – they differ quite a lot and is easier to get the right ones in the right place if you know the exact colour.
  • Also like Sadie put outside lights up in warmer November.
  • Reduce décor that is put out in the rooms – less is more – use more natural foliage as décor and simple twinkly lights and candles looked really effective this year.
  • Buy plenty of batteries when on offer – as they are so expensive full price.
  • Make a plan of December menus that are quick and easy and can be frozen – for those extra busy days. Make notes on recipes for next year.
  • Find recipes that use left-over fruit and nut and egg whites and are quick and easy.
  • Buy one roll each of Adult Christmas wrapping paper and don’t forget one roll for Children now we have more in the family.
  • Pre-write gift tags when writing cards –  to save time when wrapping gifts.
  • Put the Saltaire Living Advent event into diary – not to be missed – also check on the one in North Yorkshire.
  • Buy a few sprigs of flowers and leaves from the florist for decoration – they were really good value and you can select exactly which ones you want.

Hopefully with a few adjustments I can make next Christmas run more smoothly and have more fun.

 

 

 

fEAsible, my goals, taking stock

fEAsible…stock taking

Just as a shop closes for stock taking I have booked this week off work and locked my front door with the intention of spending some uninterrupted time reviewing and assessing my situation and options.  That sounds quite grand – but really I just feel like I need to make improvements in my life and find the time to do the things I really love to do and spend less time on the daily grind.

The stock take…

Recently I have thought long and hard about where my focus should lie this year – we have quite a few projects on the go at the moment – we are still moving along slowly with the redecorating and outdoor maintenance of our Yorkshire home whilst trying to sort out the cottage in Scotland we bought for our retirement;  which our plans for this have been put on hold ever since the flood in 2014 (crikey was it that long ago!).  So with 2 houses, 2 gardens and a demanding job time is in short supply.  We seem to spend a lot of time talking about our plans and then something happens and we don’t get to implement them so end up virtually at a standstill.
In and amongst the ‘projects’ I still strive to create a simplified lifestyle and limit both my possessions and spending.  I will avoid calling it a minimalist lifestyle but over the last year I have reduced certain areas of my home down to ‘minimal’ requirements – anyone following along will have seen the posts about my new airing cupboard and linen cupboard which I am extremely pleased with – every time I open the door on these cupboards I have an enormous feeling of satisfaction and this is the blueprint for how I would like the rest of the house to look – everything has a place but there is also a feeling of space – of having ‘just enough’ and no excess or clutter.  I have also found that by getting rid of the excess I now have more room to keep those items I once kept stored away in the loft or the back of a cupboard in places where I can see them so as the Kondo phrase goes they ‘spark joy’ in me. So this is certainly something I want to continue throughout the house as we get to redecorate each room.
Finding time is one of my biggest problems.  In an attempt to understand why I am always short of time, rushing from one thing to another, never having time to make plans and trying to fit too much into one day I have noticed recently how many of the habits I have acquired over the years are tending to work against me and so I decided it really is time for a change.  A change of habits.  With this in mind I have been reading a number of books on change for ideas on how I can break old habits no longer serving me and make new ones.  But ones that will last.   I know this is the time many people will be making new year resolutions but I have fallen foul of doing this in the past and found that my good intentions have lasted for all of the first month and then as life takes hold again I lapse.  This too it seems has become yet another bad habit.
I mentioned recently two books I was quite taken with –
‘Small move, big change’ by Caroline I. Arnold and Hell Week by Erik Bertrand Larssen
Each has different views and different methods.
I also like the book L’art de Simplicite where the author talks about rituals in everyday life.
Other inspiration has come from a couple of bloggers with You Tube videos – At Home with Nicki and Pick up Limes with Sadia Badiei
I quite like the way that Nicki makes every area of her home beautiful – perhaps not my taste exactly, certainly not my level of spending and everything in her home seems pretty transient which does not sit well with me but there are aspects that I can relate to.  Sadia is a nutritionist and minimalist and again her change into becoming a morning person in small steps appealed to me.

So to the point –

with all this in mind my focus word this year is not a word – this maybe breaks all the rules – but I am not worried about that – my word is actually a phrase –

THE POWER OF SMALL

From everything I have read the one key idea that keeps repeating and resonating with me is just this – start small.  In this way you don’t set yourself up for failure and when one small change is mastered you are one step closer to your goal.

My aims for the coming year –

So my aim is to start this year on a new journey and  create a new map by making small changes – perhaps introduce one small change each week – it might be to eat an extra piece of fruit, going to bed 15 minutes earlier or having a quick tidy up each evening – these are just examples but each change will be with the intention of a larger end goal such as eating healthier non processed foods, having more sleep and waking up refreshed or keeping the house ‘visitor ready’ as Sybil says in her new years resolution – and I think this is an excellent concept.
Alongside this I will be completing one small task each day – it will quite probably be something on my list or around the house that has been waiting for ages, waiting for a time when I can get to it.  I had to laugh at Nine to Five’s recent post about her piece of chalk – this is just what I mean and a good analogy.  My whole house and life on a bad day can represent that piece of chalk.
Some of the tasks on my list have been there most of last year – they are actually projects and that is why they remain in ‘waiting’ mode as they always seem to big to attempt – so I will need to break them down into smaller 5 minute tasks to make a start.  Other stuff hanging around is actually waiting for a decision – I am not good at decisions so this will be a big challenge for me.
By doing just one small thing each day I will have completed 365 tasks over the year.
The ‘smallness’ also comes into play in other ways in that I want to achieve a few targets such as – a small capsule wardrobe, have a smaller  number of possessions, live comfortably within a smaller budget so we can save more for retirement,  buying a smaller amount of things – only things we really need, contribute back to society starting in a small way – I want to have an abundantly rich life but not in terms of things and possessions, rather friendships and experiences.
The changes I make will be many (I hope) and will involve all areas of my personal and home life.
I have a whole week free to get myself started, I will start by taking photographic evidence of my home and life as it is now and this will give me a very visual comparison at the end of the year.  Month by month I intend to review what I have done and how I am doing – so I hope you will read along and offer suggestions from time to time.
Well those are my plans for the year – I have read one or two interesting posts by other bloggers who have declared their intentions for the year – how are yours going?
drEAming, fEAsible, taking stock, trEAsure

sEAsons…time for changes

Snow view

Farmhouse

Bench in the snow

Old door

Kitchen door

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.

Hotel Chocolates

Christmas Presents

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!

Christmas Presents

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.