miscellanEA

quick update…

Just an update before I have a little enforced blog break – I have the week off work and I really feel I need a bit of a rest though I suspect the garden at our cottage will keep us busy.  As you know we have no internet connection at the cottage unless we can find a Wi-fi spot in a nearby cafe!

It is always a bit fraught at work getting through enough tasks to feel everything is in hand until I return.  I finished late last night making sure any urgent tasks had been taken care of, then cleared off my desk, switched my Out of Office on and picked up my wage slip (just happens to be payday too).

Then headed off to Sainsbury’s – grabbed a hot chocolate and a nice but naughty Egg custard to keep me fuelled until supper time then raced round the store to get a few groceries and a bottle of Whisky (this is for my friend’s birthday not me).  Unfortunately we will miss the party celebrations at the weekend but I do need this holiday.  As luck would have it when I paid at the checkout I was handed a petrol coupon for double Nectar points which will help with the petrol costs on holiday.

On the way past the beauty and toiletries aisles I checked to see if the hair dryer I had my eye on was on offer – I was quite alarmed to find it had actually gone up by £10!  Inflation is it seems is running a bit high.  Will buy it from John Lewis or Argos at £15 less.

Have a good week and will catch up with everyone on my return.

x

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miscellanEA

the beauty of a sunset…

I am back in Yorkshire again after a glorious week in Scotland, but straight back to work last Monday – so no time for blogging.

We had a leisurely drive up on the Bank Holiday Saturday stopping at Booths in Penrith for refreshments and our free drink, then a bag of award-winning chips in Castle Douglas (naughty but very nice) –  and they make the best takeaway cup of tea.

On arrival at the cottage we found two white bunnies munching on our garden – by the end of the week I was convinced that they are someones escaped domestic rabbits.  The wild brown bunnies on the hillside kept chasing them away and at night instead of diving into a burrow they were ‘nesting’ in the long grass as one might snuggle down in straw in a cage.

White Bunny

We had some pretty long days in the garden – at last the wooden compost bins have been completely emptied and moved back into place since they were pushed forward by the pressure of the flood water.

I spent my time and efforts getting to grips with the weeding, more weeding and more pruning, but there are some areas now coming together and looking much better.

This is the pond area when we first uncovered it a few years ago.

This is the same area now.

The Primula are out at last and I am quite pleased to see this area flourishing – the planting is softening the stone around the pond.

You can only just see the little seat we made on our last visit and the colour of the wood is starting to tone down already.

The pathways meandering through the lower wood are beginning to look quite inviting.

My Delphinium bed on the left is just starting to come to life  – it was inspired by a visit we had to a garden where the Delphiniums grew wild in the wood – I had never thought that they would grow so easily in dappled shady conditions.  I have planted mixed colours of sky blue, white and deep velvety blue and I intend to keep adding to them to form a large swathe across this bed – only the sky blue are out at the moment and I may even miss the rest of them flowering by our next visit.

I love the different shades of green in the wood and all the variety of leaf shapes but I find it can be tricky to balance this with dashes of colour here and there to give it interest without overdoing it.

You may remember the Daisy path…

You will see below it is a bit overgrown now and has been totally neglected since the flood and required some attention so the postman does not have to squeeze his way through to our letter box!  So last week I set to and tackled the jungle only to have my

second encounter with the local wildlife.  Unfortunately whilst pruning the Rosa Rugosa on the left of the picture I uncovered a bird’s nest hidden amongst the undergrowth near the ground.  At first I thought it was some dead grass then realised it was a nest as soon as I saw the little yellow beak opening and closing.

I pulled away immediately hoping that the mother would not abandon her offspring – is this likely – I don’t know enough about birds?  A little while later I crept back and put some of the prunings back to give it more cover again and before we left I checked again and am delighted to say mother (possibly a Chiffchaff) and baby are still doing well!  The rest of the clearing in this area will have to be done another day.

Apart from one gloomy day of rain the weather all week was absolutely gorgeous and each evening we took the opportunity to have a stroll along the beach to the village.  The sunset one night was amazing – my little camera does not do it justice.  

Through all the horrific incidents that are happening around us at the moment these pictures remind me that the world is really quite a beautiful and awesome place and so I will leave you with an update about another mother and daughter who are also doing well – after a difficult couple of weeks my colleague and her daughter, who were in the Manchester Arena bombing, bravely attended the free concert One Love Manchester on Sunday night and after a few anxious moments did enjoy being there, able to share the experience and emotion with other people who had been involved that night in the terrorist attack.

Her story is frightening – it has changed her in a way that makes her constantly looking out for every possible danger in any situation but her daughters resolve not to let it affect her life is admirable.  When they decided to go to the free concert they contacted a local family taxi firm to book transport there and back and at once were offered the service free of charge.  The owners of the taxi firm also took them for a meal before the concert and looked after them delivering them home safely – a clear example that there are still so many more good people out there who rally round to offer help and support at times like this and we have to hold on to that.

 

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a sad, sad day…

For all the people who witnessed todays incident at Westminster and those who are lying injured and critically ill in hospital and for those families who have suffered the loss of a loved one my thoughts and prayers are with you all. x

 

fEAsting, miscellanEA, random thoughts, rEArranging, wEAlth

a busy week so far…

It has been a mad week with so little time for myself that today I have hardly done anything but a little light cleaning and a bit of clearing up and putting away.  Still it felt good not to have to go work and to get my house back in some semblance of order.

Yesterday evening was our fund-raising event in memory of my dearest friend and colleague.  I haven’t been told a figure for how much money we raised for the hospice (where Helen spent her last few days) but I am sure it must have been quite e bit given the amount of people there.  Her mum, step dad and younger daughter all attended which was lovely and they won a raffle prize too – how lucky was that.

Tomorrow we are venturing further north to go and collect my granddaughter who is coming to stay overnight.  She is 2½ now and loves baking, animals and trains so we are (weather permitting) going on a train ride a few miles away from here at Clayton West on the Kirklees light Railway.  I like trains too so we will both be excited.  Perhaps we might even bake a few buns to take home for mummy and daddy – I bought a tub of chocolate drops and sprinkles from Sainsbury’s the other night just in case.

Meal Planning

We couldn’t make pancakes on pancake day due to time pressures so we had Mushroom and Leek pancakes tonight.  I make them with buckwheat flour rather than ordinary but I have only found it available to buy in 3lb bags so I need to find some other recipes that use buckwheat so it is not wasted. The menu planning is still going well though when I am short of time the plan ends up as a quick scribbled list in my notebook.  Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to search out and try new recipes in the last few weeks so we have been relying on old favourites.

Housekeeping

Airing CupboardThe airing cupboard is now up and running and I love having a cupboard where I open the door and inside the contents are only items we need and use – there is nothing in here that you might call clutter or surplus to requirements and it has an equal amount of space : stuff which is quite pleasing to me.

Airing Cupboard

It is fresh, white and bright with the new strip of LED lights that comes on automatically when we open the door.  At the very bottom of the cupboard just out of the picture we installed a heater  – a 40W tube equivalent to a light bulb and will just keep the cupboard warm enough to air the ironed clothes and linens which can be stored on the lowest empty slatted shelf.

Airing Cupboard

 

 

I have cream towels and white towels  (the white ones are from the cottage – I thought we may as well be using them here at home) this makes washing them easy as they all go in the wash together.  The white ones I bought in 2004 from Primark Home and they have been really good and stay soft when washed and dried inside (I don’t have a drier so cannot ‘fluff’ them up).  To keep my linens and towels smelling nice I place bars of scented soap and satchets on top of the piles.

I am eager now to get started on our next project in the house.

Finances

I saw an article in a magazine recently that suggested it is a good idea to spend one to two hours a week on your finances, keeping yourself up to date with changing interest rates and checking for good deals.  I would include in this time checking those online bills for utilities.  It is so easy to get the email saying your bill is ready for viewing and then ignoring it.  We found quite a few mistakes on our BT bills and Npower.

So I am going to set aside two hours this weekend to deal with the following financial tasks

  • car insurance to accept
  • cancel the separate breakdown cover (it is covered in the car insurance)
  • pay the credit card bill
  • check the bank accounts
  • open a savings account for Mr I that has a 5% return

Thrifting

This week Saintsbury’s gave me a coupon for 8p off petrol if I spent £15 on clothes.  It seemed like a good deal to me as I had seen a jumper for work for £18.  I also had a few rewards points coupons and one triple points so these are mounting up nicely.  Other than that I have not spent any money other than the groceries this week and a couple of birthday presents.

Have a good weekend x

being thrifty, celebrations, fEAsible, fEAsting, food shopping, meal planning, miscellanEA, my goals, taking stock, wEAlth

a new word for a new year…

My Focus Word for 2017

After much thought and deliberation I have decided on my focus word for the year and it is

economise

Taken from the Greek oikos meaning house and nemein meaning manage –  economise is the careful management of resources, careful use of something

I like the sound of carefully managing resources as I feel our throw away society is something I prefer not to be part of and I want to see just how resourceful I can be this year.

As well, due to impending changes in our household income  I need to cut down on unnecessary spending.  Becoming resourceful with our resources in order to ‘minimalise’ our purchases will also feed my desire to simplify and ‘minimalise’ our possessions.  Now we have the caravan whilst waiting for the cottage to be sorted we only have room for what is absolutely necessary and I love living with such a drastic reduction of ‘things’.  At the moment we only have 2 cups – so we have to keep on washing them up to reuse – it is quite challenging to see what we can get by with but also quite liberating.

The plan

Already this year I have been writing a Menu plan for the week – this seems to be the most effective way to save money,  reduce food waste and eat healthily.

At present I am shopping in my cupboards and only buying fresh vegetables and other necessities to add to what I already have to be able to make 7 healthier home-made meals each week.

I find it hard to admit that I am not sure what my food bill was each week over the last year – it was so manic that just getting through the week was a challenge on its own.  I ended up in Sainsbury’s with no plan and often duplicating items I already had in my cupboards.  We have probably eaten far more ready-made meals than ever before – pizza, vegetable samosas and quiche are the pre-prepared foods we normally fall back on together with those pots of chilled sauces for pasta.

I believe almost all of my lunches at work last year will have been bought and I dread to think the number of baked potatoes with cheese and coleslaw I got through but it will be quite a few – luckily it is my favourite lunchtime meal.

When I run my end of year spending report on my computer program all will be revealed and I don’t think it will be a pretty sight.  I know I will be upset at the amount of money I will have spent and wasted.

I find that at this time of year it is so easy to start off on the right foot but then as life takes over our good intentions fall away.  I have yet to resolve this recurring situation and I am thinking hard of a way to keep on track even through busy periods.

Below are some of my ideas to get me into Economy mode and at the same time increasing the number of nutritional  meals we have to improve our health.  I buy as much organic produce as possible – I like to think my food is free from any contaminants or artificial flavourings etc. –  this already makes my shopping dearer than the average, however, on the plus side we are both vegetarian so no expensive fish or meat in my trolley.  Having said that some vegetables can be quite expensive bought at the wrong time.

  • Having a menu plan is the number one priority – it only takes 20 minutes to write a simple plan for the week.  For me it is best done on a Sunday so that my new plan begins on a Monday – on a busy week even this amount of time can be difficult to find so my plan is to have some pre-written menus for these weeks to tide me over.
  • Keeping up with what is in the store cupboards, fridge and freezer is the second priority and including these foods in the menu plan helps to keep everything rotating and avoid food going past it’s sell by date.
  • Only buying store cupboard items with long dates on them when they are on offer such as cereal, packets of Passata, tea bags rice etc.  Some foods that I buy are rarely on offer but others come round fairly frequently.  Having a quick look as I go along the aisles to check the offers is worthwhile and saves money on those staple items.
  • Trying out new recipes to add variety to the weekly meal plan.  Test these on a weekend and time how long they take.  Having lots of very quick meals can become quite boring to the point where we often go off a certain meal.
  • Planning the menus around seasonal produce – this saves money as fruit and veg in season is usually cheaper.
  • Look out for coupons and vouchers.  As I shop at Sainsbury’s I automatically get Nectar points but I also get coupons at the till with either money off or additional Nectar points.  Make a point of buying the item on the coupon if it is something I would use or normally buy.
  • Remember to freeze left over bits of foods that have been opened but only a small amount used – such as tomato paste, coconut milk etc.  Also grate and freeze cheese and breadcrumbs and mix up and freeze crumble topping.

 

In addition to the planned meals I have a one or two quick standby meals in the freezer just in case.  Last week it was a ready-made pasta sauce to add to whole wheat pasta and this week a pizza. If I don’t need to use them then I will save money by not having to replace them.

My lunch at work is the area I need to get to grips with – I am more likely to eat a sandwich at home and prefer baked potatoes at work rather than too much bread. My current idea is to buy a ready done baked potato but take my own fillings and salad. This should cut the cost down and I can also organise myself to make soup for the week and freeze in smaller portions.

 

So far this year we have really enjoyed getting back to proper home cooked meals and saved money at the same time.  I actually prefer the winter salads I make of shredded cabbage, carrot and beetroot and raw cauliflower florets – I like the crunchy texture.  I find the bagged lettuce quite limp and wasteful.  Any remaining salad items have made delicious sandwiches served with home-made soup for lunch at the weekend. The meal plan for this week was a little different as we were on holiday from work and stayed at the caravan for 4 days and had to rely more on easy to make meals.  On Saturday night we are hosting a Burns Night Supper with some friends – we brought the haggis back from Scotland (vegetarian for us) together with some mini steak pies and macaroni pies, not sure of the nutritional quality of these!

 

I will put the menus in the tabs above – here is the quick link

Weekly Menu Plan January 2017

 

Just to update on the caravan we now have running water and central heating and a fully operational shower.  The Swift engineer who was coming to replace the fridge socket however did not arrive – or rather he did come but thought we were on the caravan site next door – as this is all closed up for the winter he went away again.  So fridge socket still not sorted…watch this space!

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Happy Birthday…

I received a message from WordPress today to say I have been blogging now for 4 years – I can hardly believe it has been so long and I have enjoyed every minute, especially getting to know such a wonderful and supportive community, many of whom have become firm friends over the years.  So thank you to all my followers and readers – I am continually amazed that anyone is interested to read about my daily life and its ups and downs!

Have a good week everyone.

bEAching, clEAning, cottage garden, drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, miscellanEA, out and about

a new year…a new start…

Saying goodbye to 2015 has not been hard for me, a difficult and challenging twelve months.  It is odd how the not so good bits are often more established in your memory than the good bits.  It was only when I came to upload photos of my year that I realised I had many good bits and below is a quick tour through my year with some of my highlights and only a few lowlights!

 

In January almost at the start of the year my mum-in-law died unexpectedly – she was only a few days away from her 91st birthday.  I love this picture of her leaning out of the upstairs window way back in the early fourties.

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At the end of 2014 the cottage was stripped out ready to be re-instated – all our hard work over 10 long years ended up in a skip.  They removed the kitchen and bathroom and the place is now just a shell – even the wooden floors have been removed and temporary boards put down.

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On Mothers Day we baptised my granddaughter in a beautiful little church in Heeley near to where my daughter lives.  It was a bitterly cold day but full of sunshine and daffodils.  We unpacked our treasured family Christening robe – a very delicate cotton voile dress with tiny pintucks and embroidered flowers.  I think it was made by my grandma who was a fine seamstress.

 

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Here is baby L with her great Grandma – she was 7 months old here – a bit old for the size of the dress which only just fit and we had to have one of standby that I bought in John Lewis just in case – but all was well and she managed not to put a hole in it!

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We celebrated the day amongst family and friends and everyone had one of these gorgeous cupcakes made by Caroline a girl I used to work with until she set up her own business making cakes.

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I managed a few clearing out days at the beginning of the year spurred on by the wave of Kondoism sweeping blogland.  I have just to finish the rest of the house now!

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Even though the cottage is looking quite forlorn inside the garden continues to flourish and after the flood it just sprang back to life – no doubt helped by the heap of cow manure brought in with the flood water from the nearby fields!

 

The cottage garden

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Even my new long border was full of unexpected colour as Foxgloves and Poppies had self seeded here and there.

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My greatest surprise though was uncovering more stones at the side of the pond – buried under a few years of leaf mould.

Uncovering stones around pond

Paving around pond

 

Uncovering these led me to get on and clean out the pond which lies behind those Irises.  Below is a picture taken before I cleaned it out – no water (a suspected leak) and full of mud from the falling leaves which I had to remove by the bucket load – but I persevered to the end and what a joyful moment when it was all cleaned up and the hole in the concrete that was causing the leak repaired by hubby.

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before

Water in pond

after – just waiting for some rain now to fill it.

Middleton Well Dressing

after a few days the pond was full and the flowers surrounding it a joy to behold.

In August another kind of pool was up and running – this is our new leisure and sports centre in town – it has been long-awaited as our nearest leisure pool was in nearby Barnsley and the old sports centre was way past it’s sell by date.  I got to go on the Private Viewing tour with my architect hubby and the rest of his team who put in such a lot of hard work over the years to bring it in on time and on budget.  Friends and family of everyone who worked on the design and build as well as the people now running it were able to sample the pool and fitness suites before it was opened to the public.  I just went to take photos but I am thinking of joining soon as it is only up the road from my office and I could do with a bit of exercise!

The Leisure Pool

Another day of excitement when we had a two-week break in Scotland and took a ferry ride across to Dunoon to go and see Freda and her Open Studio.

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approaching Dunoon

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We had the most delightful time with Freda  – she provided afternoon tea and cakes and we had a long chat, a wander round her beautiful garden and studio.  Her pictures of the garden do not compare with how stunning it is in the flesh.  We left of course with one of her pictures and it hangs in our bedroom at home  – a reminder each morning of our wonderful day.  Find Freda here at Live Simply, Simply Live.

 

I can’t remember just when but at some point during the year hubby had a meeting down near Cambridge and we took advantage of this to go and see the Potton Self Build homes – you can actually go inside four different houses to get a feel for what it might be like if you design and build yourself.  I won’t say very much here because nothing as been finalised but watch this space.

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A very different self build home – I think this cute Tree house would be every child’s dream – it was near to some gardens we were visiting in Derbyshire when my mum came to stay.

The Tree House

We also took her to Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield – one of my all time favourite places.

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They just happened to have craft fair event with a Punch and Judy show.

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We couldn’t go into Derbyshire without going to see one of the many Well Dressings that are held during the summer.  Middleton by Youlgreave always have plenty to do and see and such a cute little church in the middle of the village.

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On our way we also stopped at Cromford Mills for lunch and found that the nearby St Mary’s church was open for viewing.  Inside the walls are decorated with wonderful wall paintings and stained glass windows by A.O.Hemming to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

Cromford Church

 

So maybe it has not been such a bad year after all – although I feel like I have spent most of my time at work and my promotion in May has meant a lot more responsibility when I was actually looking to reduce my hours – I must be mad but I could never ignore a challenge and it has been just that at times.  Faced with a huge backlog of work to sort out when I took over and two trainees to train it has proved almost impossible at times.  However, going forward I feel we are in a much stronger position at the beginning of this year than last.  I still miss Helen my colleague and life at work will never be the same without her.

 

I am looking now to choosing my new word for 2016 – many of you have already announced yours.  I struggled at first to decide and then it was there on the screen and I couldn’t ignore it – in fact it is two words that are both very appropriate for my situation at the moment in so many ways and I think they link together quite well…

Restore

Restore – to brink back, re-establish, to repair or renovate.  I definitely need to restore myself, the house, the cottage and my free time.

It is very much linked with Replenish – to fill up again and I feel like I need to recharge my batteries ready for the year ahead and all the plans I have.

Happy 2016 everyone x