drEAming, mEAndering, out and about, random thoughts

autumn journeys…

Fond memories of times past.

On our way to Edinburgh last weekend we took a detour off the A702 to visit the pretty historic conservation village of West Linton.  Fifteen miles outside Edinburgh and at the foothills of the Pentland Hills this tiny village, steeped in history, with evidence of pre-historic occupation is one of the oldest market settlements in Scotland.

In 1974, a mere twenty years of age and studying Fashion and Textiles at Cheltenham Art college I stayed here for a weeks holiday with my then to be husband (with his long curly hair) in this tiny caravan that we had hired.  The same caravan site we found is now a housing estate!

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To say all the other vans on the site were larger than this is no lie – we booked the caravan through an advert in the local Cheltenham paper and had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for other than it was affordable for two ‘impoverished’ students.  On arrival at the site we wandered around every caravan looking for the right number and kept disregarding this one until after eliminating all the others it finally dawned on us that yes this tiny 2 berth was our home for the week!!

We had no transport of our own as we had been ‘dropped off’ by my parents who were on their way to Pitlochry for a holiday in their own touring caravan.   To get anywhere we had to rely on the local bus service going either north to Edinburgh or south to the little town of Biggar.

Each morning we would walk into the village of West Linton and wander round taking in the history and scenery and always ending with a coffee in the Old Bakehouse where the waitresses all dressed in long Victorian styled Laura Ashley print dresses complete with white mop caps and aprons.

 

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It is now a Bistro and looking more like a pub inside than a tea room.

We could still recognise most of the shops – the post office, the chemist and especially the newsagent where we bought a jigsaw to do during the evenings and had to sleep on top of it when we made the bed up at night as there was no other table top.

 

 

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We remembered the quaint cottages and unusual street names…

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the intricate wall plaques and historic artefacts dotted around…

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and the curious central clock tower…

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We had a pleasant walk around reminiscing about those few wonderful days – going back after so many years  was quite emotional.

Before we left we had a final look at this little building in the square, today it is used as the Village Centre – but back then it was a registry office for births, deaths and marriages.

 

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This tiny building evoked such strong memories for us tinged slightly with sadness of what might have been.  We were young, in love, and like many, full of hopes and dreams for our future and each day as we walked past we were so tempted to go and get married – just the two of us with no fuss.  The only thing that stopped us in the end was the fact that my mum would never have forgiven us!

This is the same building in 1974 with me stood in the doorway.

West Linton 1974

We finally married in 1976 during the July heat wave a church wedding with sit down reception of ham salad and trifle for 60 guests with disco afterwards.  We had the full works – wedding dress and veil, bridesmaids, cake and all the trimmings (which pleased my mum) and although so far it has been happy ever after we do wonder what course our lives would have taken had we married in West Linton.

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drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about

chef of the year – cook off…

I had an unusual and exciting day on Tuesday.  I should have been at work but booked the day off at the last-minute and headed off to Birmingham with my OH for the day.  We met my younger daughter and granddaughter down there at Birmingham University College for the grand final of the Anchor Care Homes Chef of the Year competition.

Our son-in-law works as a chef in one of the Anchor homes and was one of the seven finalists in the competition and we had been invited to go and cheer him on.

Getting into Birmingham was a bit of an ordeal and we passed the turning we required a couple of times ending up firstly in Solihull and then Edgbaston both on the south side when we actually wanted a street just off the North of the centre!

The competition was stiff and the conditions tough too.

It was held in one of the training rooms at the University and each participant only had a preparation surface of about 3 square feet plus a hob, the ovens did not have a temperature gauge (so a bit of guess-work required) and there was a severe lack of spoons and other useful pieces of equipment.  It was the first time they had been in this kitchen and so had no time to get familiar with it or the equipment on offer.

The two course meal had to be appropriate to feed an elderly resident in one of the care homes and had to be both nutritious and fall within a strict budget as well as being imaginative but not over the top – no Heston Blumenthal creations!  Each meal had to be presented 3 times – one plate for the judges, one for the photographer and one suitable for a resident on a dysphagia diet so the chosen menu had to be adaptable to make as a pureed version.

The whole 2 hour competition and then the judging afterwards was filmed and shown live on Facebook which made it even more tense.

Whilst the judging was underway we got to taste the food that had been photographed.  As I am vegetarian I headed straight for the puddings and skipped the main meals that were mainly meat or fish.  This was the only vegetarian option made by the only female chef.

Son in law had made a beautiful creamy Creme Brulee but unfortunately it had curdled slightly just at the bottom due to the difficult conditions and no doubt lost him a few marks but it still tasted heavenly.

The winner was one of those chocolate puddings with a melted centre, equally delicious – oops sorry in my haste to taste I forgot to get a snap of the winning dish!

Sadly son-in-law (2nd from the left) did not win but he did a tremendous job and everyone was a winner.

Little L was so good throughout and kept saying ‘that’s my daddy cooking’ – you can tell who stole the show!

She was the only child there and in fact the University security staff had to be persuaded to let her in.

She brought her own brand of ‘Granny’ and Mr Fox with her to watch!

When it was all over we headed for the nearest coffee bar to relax and then just had time for a wander through the Grand Central shopping centre on New Street.

Birmingham is a very vibrant city and has come a long way from the Birmingham I remember back in the 70’s when we visited from Cheltenham.  The architecture was particularly interesting to us.

 

It was fascinating to see shops that we would never have up here in Huddersfield… 

in particular I liked the pop up Ice Cream roll shop where they shaped and froze down ice cream mixed with fruits on a flat cold metal plate and then cut and served this in rolls.

The Killer cereal cafe also caught my eye…

with their vast range of very unhealthy but colourful boxes of cereals to choose from…

and the Not Dogs vegetarian hot dog stall…I know I could not live in a city now full-time but it was nice to go for the day and experience the hustle and bustle and see different shops I didn’t know existed – but at the end of the day I was glad to leave it all behind.

In comparison to the revamped and impressive shopping and city centre we stopped off at the Tamworth Motorway services for a drink on the way home and found it to be really run down since our last visit a number of years ago and due to the heavy rainfall that evening came complete with puddles of water all over the seating area from the leaking roof.  They had large recycling bins against the walls for customers to scrape their unwanted food into which probably added to the very unpleasant smell that permeated throughout the place – absolutely dire.

In all though it was a pleasant change from going to work and I look forward to Son-in-law being part of next years competition.

 

 

celebrations, drEAming, fEAsting, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about

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!

 

mEAndering, open gardens, out and about

eat, beach, sleep, repeat…

We had quite an eventful weekend looking after my granddaughter and my mother, now affectionately known as Great Granny,  me being Granny now of course!  We had already planned to stay with my mum last weekend but in the middle of the week we received an SOS call from my daughter asking if we could look after Baby L (now little L due to the growth spurt) for two days at the weekend due to staff shortages.  So nothing else for it but to take both on at once whilst staying in my mum’s apartment.

 

On Friday I took the train as planned to Eaglescliffe, just outside Yarm in North Yorkshire, and mum met me on the station, then after off loading my bags at her apartment we took a taxi to Teeside Park to do a bit of chatting, lunching and shopping.

 

On Saturday morning we were joined by my husband who had driven up collecting our granddaughter little L on the way.  We headed off to nearby  Saltburn by the Sea for the day.  It took us a while to park as the weather was so hot everyone had the same idea to go to the seaside.

We finally got a spot in the car park down by the sea and then took a ride on the Cliff Tramway which goes up the steep cliff side, 102 feet above sea level, into the town centre so we could find a place for lunch.  We had a ploughman’s in my favourite cafe a little Deli called Real Meals.

Saltburn has that quaint British seaside feeling – it is a Victorian Spa town with amazing iron work verandas along the shop fronts.  I always find I get a strong feel good factor when I am there.  You will note the lack of pictures but holding on to a 3-year-old and a 91-year-old does not allow for much photo taking.

After lunch we strolled along by the shops then made our way back down the hill to the bottom of the cliff by road – bad move – it is extremely steep for both the push chair and a ninety-one year old – in fact I am not sure who was clinging on to who in the end!

Reaching the bottom we then decided to catch the little train that runs along the valley bottom through the pleasure grounds ending at the tea rooms and Italian Gardens.  I had no idea any of this existed and it was quite exciting exploring the windy paths and hidden corners.  We skipped the tea rooms having just had lunch but did treat ourselves to an ice cream each.

  We walked back so that we could take Little L on the swings and slide along the way.

After this we just had time to fit in a bit of playing time with a bucket and spade on the beach by the pier and find a cup of tea in the nearby cafe for my mum together with a take away pensioners fish and chip tea.  So everyone was happy but I must say I did feel a little worn out trying to cater for two opposing age groups.

On Sunday I was woken early by guess who springing out of bed like a Kangaroo and wide awake saying – ‘Hello granny are we going to play’?

After building bricks and getting the whole ‘chocolate bunny’ family sorted in the Sylvanian Family house we had a trip over to Bedale for lunch and then went round the corner to Crakehall a beautiful little English village with expansive village green on which stands the church.

At the far end is Crakehall Hall and the owners of this beautiful house had opened their gardens to the public for charity.

 

It was a glorious day again but with a slight breeze and we wandered around admiring the plants and taking photos.  This hidden secret garden was my favourite with the fluffy yellow Alchemilla Mollis mixed with Lavender and Delphiniums – a classic country garden.

We came across a tree swing in the Orchard and then ‘wow’ a trampoline – Little L had a fab time on this while Great Granny headed once again for the tea tent and a sit down.

After more tea and cakes we dropped off Little L back with mum and Great Granny back at her apartment and then drove back to our own home exhausted but relieved it had all gone quite so well and everyone seemed to have a lovely time.

back soon x

 

 

 

 

drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about

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

cleaning, mEAndering, nEAtening, out and about

up hill and down dale…

I had quite a busy weekend but mostly enjoyable.

I did my two hours of paperwork over Friday and Saturday (mentioned in my previous post) and filed all the papers and then moved on to the Mount Everest of an ironing pile and finally managed a half-way clean in our office and main bedroom.

A half-way clean in my books is one that isn’t exactly a deep clean of moving furniture or emptying cupboards but neither a lick and tickle with the duster.  It always feels good to me to have a good clear up – tidying up loose ends as I go and then giving all the surfaces a good clean.  What a shame it doesn’t stay in shape for longer!

On Friday afternoon I took my good friend and neighbour out for Afternoon Tea for her birthday at a local Garden Centre called Totties – only when we got there did we find we should have booked!  We settled on a Cheese ploughman’s with hummus instead followed by ice cream – both courses were delicious.  We both agreed it was probably more enjoyable than Afternoon tea as we both like savoury foods more than too many sweet cakes.  We will definitely go back though to sample the Afternoon tea another day – remembering to book next time.

We travelled up to the Yorkshire Dales on Sunday to meet my daughter and granddaughter at the Himalayan Garden at Grewelthorpe between Ripon and Masham. 

I was a bit disappointed that it was overcast and in places quite cool but depending on where we walked in the garden we came across unexpected pockets of warm micro-climates.

It is quite a stunning 20 acre garden with a mass of very colourful and showy rhododendrons and Azaleas on wooded slopes with winding paths that lead down into a valley with two main lakes.

Dotted amongst the planting are modern sculptures – some I liked better than others and although it is an interesting garden I personally found some of the features a bit too themed but it didn’t really detract from the beauty of the place.  

These are the sculptures we did find interesting…

perhaps not a sculpture but I quite like this feature below!

The Primula here grow in abundance…

and this jetty is my favourite spot…

You have to admire the sheer scale of the planting and dedication that has gone into this place and it is still a work in progress.  The garden has an interesting history which you can read about in the new visitor centre.  It is a private garden that is only open for a limited number of weeks in the year and you have the added bonus of being able to talk to the head gardener in the Nursery for planting advice.

In all it was a pleasant day we had a picnic in the grounds and a cup of tea from the new chalet tea room and a play on the roundabouts then set off gathering pine cones, sticks and fallen leaves for granny to carry.  I resembled a nature table by the end of the walk.  In the Plant Nursery we were tempted to buy a delicately flowered white Azalea (see below) which is now waiting on our patio for a trip to Scotland.  It is not too showy and likes shade and will blend in well in our wood at the cottage.

At the end of the day we went home with one happy little girl…

and one happy granny…

My garden tonight – a little smaller in scale than the 20 acre garden but my little corner of tranquility and how quickly everything is growing.

And now its back to work while the weather is warmer and sunny!

 

 

fEAsting, financial focusing, gardening, homestEAding, meal planning, mEAndering, out and about, trEAsury

economising update…

I haven’t done a post for ages on our economising so thought a bit of an update in order.

It is slow progress but at least there is progress.  I have now moved our savings into higher interest rate accounts, although the rates are still comparatively low, but any interest is better than nothing.  These savings will help to make our pension go further in the future when we stop working so it is important for us to make the most of what we have.

One of the best rates for us at the moment is actually the Flexclusive saver from Nationwide  paying 5% gross over the year.  It is one of those regular savings account where you save up to £500 a month and this accumulates over the year – you cannot put in a lump sum at the start.  At the end of the year you have to close the account and start again.

On the spending side I have managed to balance the books so to speak and deal with the outstanding paperwork.  I think it took me longer than the two hours I am trying to set aside each week and last week I did not do anything at all deciding instead to go in the garden.

I have sorted out all our new outgoing payments such as the increased Council tax and my yearly parking contract and have fixed the utility bills for a while though these need constant watching for better deals.  I find it tiring to have to search around on the internet and compare all the time – thank goodness we don’t have to do this for the mortgage.

Since the New Year I am still planning a menu for the week although it is often a bit of a rushed flexible list; however, it is having the required effect and cutting down on any waste food.  I have also started planning and taking a packed lunch to work – mostly I have a mixed salad, a cabbage and carrot slaw with walnuts (homemade by OH) and then some protein – a piece Nut Loaf or Quiche or just a boiled egg – sometimes it is leftovers.   This saves me about £3.50 a day.

I  have two months overtime to claim this payday a total of about 50 hours so quite a nice boost to the savings pot although I have a few items I want to buy and I might even treat myself  – perhaps a relaxing massage or reflexology treatment.

When we go out we have been making the effort to pack a picnic – actually I am enjoying these and have a few recipes to try that I can freeze in individual portions.  Tomorrow we are going up to North Yorkshire with a picnic to see my granddaughter and visit the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park at Grewelthorpe.  I have a feeling the plant nursery is going to be far too tempting perhaps this will be my treat rather than a massage!

Sainsbury’s have been very good recently and keep giving me a triple points coupon and the reward points are already building up again – I have now got £64.24p.  Morrisons have also given me a £5 coupon to spend (we tend to get our petrol here).  It will come in useful when we go to Scotland as the two supermarkets in Stranraer are Tesco and Morrisons.

And the not so economical

I had a bit of a spending spree last week on items that I had run out of or worn out and a few that had not been planned for but caught my eye  – this is the list;-

  • I needed some face cream and I use Neal’s yard which is not the cheapest but it suits my sensitive skin
  •  one or two gorgeous little outfits for my granddaughter from Sainsbury’s £18
  • a white top for work from Sainsbury’s £10
  • some new Tayberry Mucker gardening boots £35  from the internet as my old ones are wearing out.  They are a bit like moon boots but very flexible with comfy fur-lined soles – I wouldn’t be without them so much better than my old wellies.

Tayberry Mucker Boots

  • a bird house from Sainsbury’s £8 and OH has put this in the garden, attached to the top of a pole. I think the pole cost more than the bird house!

 

We also bought a few items for the garden last weekend from the Garden Centre with my birthday tokens (some National Garden vouchers) which covered the cost and although I could have been thrifty and grown my own herbs I felt it was just nice to treat myself and the large bottles of feed / bug spray will hopefully last a very long time – here is the not very thrifty list:-

  • A Gazebo to go in the shady border £35
  • some organic seaweed feed £7.49
  • an organic greenfly spray £6.99
  • a courgette plant, some mint and fennel £5.49
  • a posh garden fork by Burgon and Ball £9.99
  • a paving knife also by Burgon and Ball £9.99I love my new shiny stainless steel hand tools – my old fork has hardly any wooden handle left it is so worn – but must be well over 20 years old.

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend x