sEAsons, trEAsure

sEAsons…autumn changes

I have just reset all our clocks today and this is quite significant as it tells me Autumn is well underway.   I always think of this as the ‘cosy’ season – staying indoors with mugs of hot chocolate and buttered toast – nights drawing in so lots of flickering candlelight from early evening – coming home and getting toasty warm by the fire with plenty of throws and blankets to hand – stews and casseroles with herby dumplings bobbing up and down – the wonderful smell of baked puddings – time to slow down and read and reflect and ponder – who doesn’t like Autumn!

In the last few days I have been rearranging a few bits and pieces around my home – switching beach pebbles and shells for conkers and tiny pumpkins to reflect the change of season albeit quite well into the season now.  I have also bought one or two new items whilst out and about this week – some useful and some just decorative even though I am decluttering sometimes you just feel like a change and the items I bought were quite modest in price.

I was tempted in Home Sense to purchase this long ceramic display tray (£6.99) it seemed a reasonable price and quite versatile.   I also treated myself to a tiny bunch of orange sweetheart roses in Sainsburys (£4) just enough to add a bit of colour indoors and cheer me up after having a hard week of medical appointments interspersed with work!  The square candle, decorated with tiny leaves pressed into the wax, was a gift from my daughter from her trip to Greece and the conkers and other nature bits are from my store cupboard and put all together I have a nice little nature table.

Autumn decor

I have had the hand embroidered cushion for a couple of years, bought in a sale at Sainsbury’s, but I have never used it in the living room before and I think the Autumn colours blend in quite well.  I filled my large glass bowl with Honesty leaves, left over from making the confetti at my younger daughters wedding a few years ago, and a smaller glass vase with conkers and tiny pumpkins.   I love all the rich, warm colours and different textures at this time of year and what a difference a few changes makes to the feel of a place.

Honesty

Autumn decor

Once all the candles are lit the living room should feel transformed into a relaxing cosy place to spend the evening.

Tea towels

And the useful purchases I mentioned – I bought two packs of these tea towels (£4.99) for three from Home Sense – they are just what I have been looking for, a good size and not too stiff or thick and a plain colour with the old-fashioned linen stripe, all my usual ones have worn thin now and are being down graded to the cleaning cloths bin.

Have a good week everyone x

 

 

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beach cottage, cottage garden, mEAndering, bEAching, drEAming, sEAsons, general chit chat

what we didn’t do on our holidays…

Hello – I’m back – well I have been back at home for over a week but soooo busy that blogging has not been an option for me.

To say I was a little disappointed on holiday is probably an understatement.  All was going to plan, we got off on time and ambled our way up country stopping for lunch and tea and arriving at the cottage early evening.  After a good nights sleep we had a lovely day in the garden the following day with the sun shining down on us and the sea so calm with a beautiful silvery cast and then the next day it happened – my back went into spasm, I couldn’t move and I spent the rest of the holiday in pain and discomfort unable to do any gardening!! We also had to abandon the visit we had planned to go up to the Cowal Open Studios at Dunoon. (Sorry we missed you Freda if you are reading this).

OH plodded on as best he could all week in the garden trying to do as much as he could inbetween the rain and the cooking.

One or two of you asked me to bring back some pictures of the garden so I thought I would show you the progress so far to the stream bank.

Remember the flood – this was the original view at the bottom of our garden with the little wooden bridge.

After the flood we were then left with this gaping void where the sea had taken not only the bridge but a slice of both our garden on the right of the picture and the farmers land on the left.

This is what it looked like back in January this year (looking from the other direction) when the engineering work had been completed and the boundary of our garden re-established using gabion baskets to form a stable edge and then black mesh laid over to create a more natural looking banking.

This is how it looks today – the grasses and wild flowers are beginning to grow back through the black mesh and the gaping void we were left with is narrower and much less obvious now and… we have grass – you can hardly call it a lawn but it looks better than the mud heap we had up until Easter.

There were pockets of colour dotted here and there in the garden – the bright orange of the nasturtiums and Monbretia, the glossy red berries and hips and the bobbing white daisy heads of the chamomile, and of course the Hydrangeas and White Anemones.

 

 

We had bought a pond cover to install over our pond to try to minimise the amount of leaves that fall into the pond at this time of year.  It was not an easy thing to put together and seemed to have a few basic design faults which added to the frustration, but it is now in place so we will have to see how it goes.

On my only day in the garden we managed to clear a patch and sow the grass seed where we wanted to extend the lawn on the wood side garden.  Once this has taken we will plant a few shade loving shrubs along the banking to give it some structure.  I am not sure the netting is going to keep out the wood pigeons.

 

Whilst indisposed for most of the holiday there was little to do (with no internet or TV) other than read.  I had taken a number of library books and one in particular I found quite thought-provoking and I will come back to this another day as the ideas are quite useful.  I also made use of this time reading all the diet and health articles I had clipped from my pile of magazines and taken with me on holiday. I learnt a lot and will be putting my findings into practice over the next few weeks and will share this with you.

On the last evening after having been straightened out by the local osteopath ready for the journey home the next day we celebrated with a meal out at Henry’s in Stranraer and then took a detour on the way back to the cottage to Portpatrick a delightful little harbour village.  The white-painted Harbour Masters cottage by the lighthouse with its mustard yellow window mullions and contrasting blue shutters (that are often tight shut against the winter storms) is one of my favourite houses.

As the day was drawing to an early close I captured the last of the sun setting over the Irish sea.

 

Back at home it has been a busy week and a half as we have been going up and down to North Yorkshire on my days off to help my younger daughter move.   She is now renting a place further away from Masham but this one has central heating and double glazing.

Luckily my back has fully recovered and I have been scrubbing cookers (she has two – an oil-fired Rayburn which they have had difficulty keeping lit and the back up electric oven in the adjoining laundry room).  I have no idea how to work a Rayburn but I hear they have already made pancakes so must have overcome the lighting problems.

I am ever hopeful that one day they will be able to afford their own home but the prices in the area are far too high for first time buyers.  Each time she rents we end up fixing things that really the landlord should be doing but typically never do.

At work it has been a round of appraisals and notice of forthcoming changes that will be implemented soon.  Since the appointment recently of two new directors we have been told to expect plenty of change.  On average I believe we have had some kind of change every three months for the past 3 years even before the new directors!  As they say nothing ever stays the same and the family feel our firm once boasted has now disappeared.  I meet people in the corridor and I don’t even know they are new employees.

Onwards and upwards.  I need to have a good catch up with everyone now.

 

mEAndering, open gardens, sEAsons

“What is one to say about June…

… the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise
of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
–  Gertrude Jekyll,  On Gardening

 

Last Sunday we decided to take the day off from cleaning and clearing and go down into Derbyshire for a walk around the open gardens in the village of Birchover near Bakewell.

It was if you remember a very hot day and not a lot of shade for me but I was determined to see as many of the gardens as possible I just had to walk more quickly around the ones out in the open.  Luckily most people have a tree or two which provided me with some cover when I needed it.

We began our tour at an artists garden – this was my absolute favourite although my photo does not do it justice.

I have never seen a garden with such a limited colour palette before but this one really works.  There were three basic colours –  green of course with many shades and tones  of purple and cream through to lemon.  The planting was casual and mainly Ferns, Irises, Alchemilla Mollis, Geranium and Lavender and the majestic plant to the right (which may be a Thalictrum?) all surrounding a daisy lawn.  The paint colour of the house toned in well with the garden.  The effect was amazing.

Behind this ladies cottage is a tiny white-painted chalet used as an artist’s studio and gallery complete with wood burning stove.  This would be my absolute dream.

 

Before long we headed for the village hall named the Reading Rooms were they were serving tea and cakes.

 

 

The hall has now had a full refurbishment and is well used by all members of the community.

The notice on the wall made interesting reading – the hall opened in 1907, but only men were allowed to go and read the newspapers provided to broaden their horizons.   The rules state that 3 newspapers had to be provided (which I forgot to make a note of but I think one was the Sporting Times!) and no women were allowed.

It was a good cup of tea and a delicious slice of Victoria sandwich cake made by the village ladies.

Lower down the lane is the church of St Michael’s originally built as a private chapel for the owners of Rowtor Hall.

It is a modest church with a tiny graveyard sited next to the huge old vicarage (now a private residence).  In the large picture below you can see that this would have been the garden entrance from the hall which then became the vicarage from what I understand.

 

In contrast to the traditional window in the chancel the stained glass windows pictured below in the South wall are the work of acclaimed artist Brian Clarke and generously gifted to the village.  Clarke lived in Birchover for a number of years and his work has worldwide recognition.

 

The striking clear colours and simple shapes are stunning.

 

The pew ends had been delicately decorated with a few wild flowers for the event.

On leaving the church we decided to wander further down the lane to stay in the shade.

The notice above is asking the Council not to spray this section of verge to preserve the wild flowers and the organic garden beyond.

 

We eventually came across Rowtor Rocks – a series of caves and intriguing rocks to explore  – we will definitely go back and have a walk around here another day.  This is just one of the unusual caves at the entrance.

 

Such a beautiful day the light dancing on the water and through the overhanging trees was quite spectacular.

We walked all the way up to Rocking Stone Farm with the promise of Pimms and strawberries – well worth the trek even in the heat.

We walked back into the village and spent another hour wandering from garden to garden.  On the South side of the village all the gardens seemed to have a stream running through or a babbling brook probably coming from the same source and occasionally disappearing underground in places.  Most of the gardens had made a feature of the water like the picture below.

Out on the main street under the shade of the trees was a pottery stall run by two lovely ladies who belonged to a co-operative pottery studio.

 

This little bowl in particular caught my eye  – I am told it is a bubble glaze – and you might now spot it on my dining room table!

 

mEAndering, out and about, sEAsons

eggscellent…

Easter is here…

Happy Easter 2017

I don’t know about you but I am ready for a few days off work to gather my thoughts and wind down a bit.  I don’t usually buy ‘Easter paraphernalia’ but couldn’t resist this little pottery hen – only £1.50 from our recent visit to Tadcaster.

Last weekend we had my lovely mum come down to stay for a long weekend and it coincided with the gorgeous warm sunny weather.  On the Saturday we took a trip out down to Cromford Mills in Derbyshire and after a little light lunching we decided to have a walk up to the village of Cromford.  I hope I have managed to capture on camera a feel for this delightful little mill village built around quite a steep hillside and all centred around the mill-pond.

The village with its historic workers houses  is now protected by a Conservation Order and is a good example of housing built during the Industrial Revolution to encourage people to come and work in the mills from the surrounding countryside.

I liked this higgledy – piggledy vegetable plot and garden just beside the road leading to the village – it reminds me of the ones we saw in France crammed into any nook and cranny – I must remember to go back in the summer for another look when I am sure it will be full of vegetables.

Here is mum – she is 91 now (and she won’t thank me for mentioning that!) – still as active as ever and loves going out – we have a job to keep her in.  Unfortunately, the little tea shop in the picture was closed for the afternoon.

As you enter the village just off the main road you come to the market place – it was a bit noisy for us  – the sunny weather had brought all the tourists out and bikers – so we headed off to a quieter corner and started climbing the hill just to the rear of the Fish and Chip shop.  This little lane runs around the back of the Mill Pond.

It starts with The Boat Inn the local pub – one of many in this village – must have been for the thirsty mill workers.  Look at the quaint little opening window on the upper left – this type of window is typical of this village as you will see as we go on.

Halfway up the hill we came across the Post Office always good to see one that has survived – that bright red box a symbol of English village life, continuing despite the modern ways we are adopting to kill them off!

A short distance away is the famous bookshop – Scarthin Books.  Click the link and have a browse on their website. This out-of-the-way little shop expands like the Tardis  – with books, old, new, antiquarian and children’s – they have events, publications, gifts and a vegetarian cafe!  Sadly we did not have time to make the most of our discovery but definitely will have another visit soon.

Turn around at the bookshop and you have this delightful view across the Mill Pond below complete with very photographic swan.

At the crest of the hill now – it is interesting that there is layer upon layer of houses squeezed into the hillside – I expect the delivery men must have fun delivering large items here.  This little round bay is again typical of this area – rather a French feel don’t you think?

I had to have a snap of this window box – the restricted colour range make it work so well against the black painted window box.

We are now about to descend the hill as the lane winds down and narrows at this point by these cottages.  Is this Canary Creeper – I wasn’t sure – does anyone recognise it – it certainly brightened up this shady corner.

I don’t usually go peeping into people’s windows but as we passed this one something caught my eye  – the window was extremely dirty and on further inspection I was amazed to see a disused room spilling over with tiny baskets.  I quite like the resulting atmospheric picture.

At the bottom of the hill again now and back onto the busier road.

Cromford

Turning to the left we followed the road around the front of the Mill Pond it was here we realised that the empty cottage with the room full of baskets was part of this Basketware company!  Note the large black pipe suspended above the gate opening.  Follow it further along the wall to the right…

and it continues to the old waterwheel.

 

Beyond this we came to the Mill Pond and saw the earlier swan’s mate – nesting under the Willow tree.

Just having a change of position.

This is the view now looking back across the pond to where we had just come from – I must say that the hill we walked up does not look very steep at all from this view-point.

You can just make out the bookshop from here and the male swan still paddling away enjoying the weather!

We arrived back at the market place again and decided to go and seek out the original mill workers houses on the other side of the main road and up yet another hill.  Cromford was only a tiny hamlet when Arkwright arrived in 1771 and to attract workers to his mill, like many other famous places such as Saltaire in Yorkshire, he built housing and facilities to form the village we see today even including setting up the market.

All the way up the hill the 3 storey terraced houses (where the originals have been preserved) have one of these little opening windows within the larger main Georgian styled window. 

I was quite intrigued by them and presume the reason is because they needed to have some form of ventilation within the large fixed windows.  As you can see they are not sliding sash like the modernised house next door in this photo.

This is the street of original mill workers cottages – such low doorways and I expect very low ceilings but oh so cute.

In and amongst a cluster of cottages on our way back into the centre of the village we came across this  – a stone lined pit sunk into Cromford Slough named the Bear Pit by the locals.  It is a great piece of hydraulic engineering constructed in 1785 by Sir Richard Arkwright to regulate the amount of water feeding the mills.

In one of the nearby gardens was a majestic Magnolia tree in full bloom.

Cromford Mill

We walked back to the mill and finished our tour with a homemade ice-cream.

We drove on to Wirksworth a small nearby Market town to find a cafe for some refreshments.

We found a few notable things to mention  – one being the Blacks Head, a pub in the corner of the Market place – now having a new sign – the previous showing a rather controversial picture of a grinning black man with turban.  Delving into the history of the pub it is probable however, that the name is just a shortened version of a name once used in the past – the Blackamoor’s Head.

Following a lane leading back down into the bottom of the town I took a photo (sorry for the poor light quality) of this well clipped tree which is unusual as  I think it is Beech.

Happy Easter 2017

That was the end of our afternoon – we had left home intending to visit Lea Gardens but as you can see we got a bit diverted and never made it!!

Have a lovely Easter x

sEAsons, trEAsure

the nicest thing about the rain…

…is it stops eventually!  AA Milne

Daffodils

Don’t you just love the Pooh quotes – they always make me smile – the rain hasn’t stopped here all weekend – so no gardening possible for me –  I even had to go shopping in the rain this afternoon something I dislike doing on a Sunday but needs must.

I had a number of items to look for mainly for the caravan – a doormat, various sticky hooks for the keys and other items that require hanging and a small dish drainer.  You have to be quite creative in a caravan as space is tight.  I headed to Wilko’s as this often good hunting ground for such items and I wasn’t disappointed- though the dish drainer came from Sainsbury’s.

Then on to Boots as I had a few toiletries on the list – I use Liz Earle’s shampoo and conditioner – a bit pricey (for me) but I like the natural ingredients and it suits my hair and scalp.  I find you need very little to get a good lather so it goes a long way.  I took advantage of the double and triple points coupon I had been sent by post this week.

As it is Sunday my usual health food stores are closed so I had to go to Holland and Barrett for some Aloe Vera juice- to help my digestion (should have thought better of eating the sprouts we had with our meal on Friday – they tasted very odd and shortly after my digestion was, shall we say, a bit disturbed and a bit nauseous, and hasn’t fully recovered all weekend).  They had a half price offer on so I added in a tub of vegetarian gravy powder.

 

Finally, I popped into TK Max and found a small decorated box to keep my bits and pieces in on the bedside table and this unusual little white enamel pot with a stainless steel lid that I can keep cotton wool in at the caravan.

 

On my way to the till I spotted a lightweight duvet jacket with hood for my granddaughter.  It folds up into a really tiny package and I thought it is one of those handy items for the summer that you can squeeze into your handbag on a day out just in case of a shower or cool breeze.

 

With Easter in mind –  I picked up a cute little decorated box in Wilko’s for £1.50 and I will fill it with coloured paper straw and hide some little bite sized Lindt bunnies in there to give to my granddaughter.

 

Also in Wilko’s I spotted a rather nice glasses case which I need so my reading glasses don’t get damaged in my handbag.  My last one wore out ages ago and I have been without since.

So quite a fruitful shopping trip – although in terms of spending maybe I have spent a touch more than I intended – but they were all fairly low priced items and I did avoid stopping in Costa for a drink so saved a bit of money there.

The bowl of daffodils above arrived by post and were a surprise from my granddaughter for having her to stay overnight last weekend – (I think my daughter might have had a hand in this as even though my clever little 2 year old can work an iPad with no trouble I am not sure she has yet mastered internet shopping)!

Apologies for the quality of photographs it was quite dark in the house when I returned home after shopping and I am a bit short of time, but no doubt you get the gist!

Thank you for all the tips and hints about eBay in the comments.  It looks like I need to watch out for a few drawbacks.  I must say I am quite daunted by it all even though part of my job is to train people on our computer software programs and I maintain the software at work –  I am not a savvy online shopper.

bEAching, sEAsons, trEAsury

searching out those good deals…


We are home again after a few days at the caravan.  The weather was rather mixed but when it was sunny it was quite warm and we could get out into the garden clearing ditches and mowing the lawn.

RW Rye

We have the same rhododendron – (R.W.Rye – a beautiful small yellow flower) – in our garden in Yorkshire and our cottage garden in Scotland and surprisingly the one in Yorkshire is just about to burst into flower while the one in Scotland is almost over!

Down at the edge of the wood under the apple tree the crocuses are poking through the undergrowth – Spring is definitely here.

Carrying on from my last post about the piece of advice I read recently in a magazine –

‘Devote an hour a week to staying on top of your money’ Dr Heather McGregor author of Financial Advice for Independent Women.

Use the time to check statements, sort out bills and making sure you are getting the best deals.

I have even cut this out and stuck it in my Filofax.

I am presuming this advice is also helpful if you are still trying to acquire some money to get on top of!

I already devote some time each week (where time allows) to track my spending and balance statements this helps me to identify where my money is going and where I would like it to go.  Most of my bills are paid by standing order or direct debit so I never fail to pay them but it is the amount of the bills that are in question – can I get a cheaper deal and save money?

Devoting a bit more time to searching out good deals should help me to hold on to more of it.  I dislike having to do it but fixing deals with utilities has become a way of life now, the same for insurance cover and mortgages.  My gran had none of these problems – she would receive a quarterly bill for the exact amount she had used and pay it in cash the same day – simple – now it is anything but simple.

My successes so far on economising

  • A new fixed deal rate for our electricity and gas to avoid the imminent price hikes.
  • Paying up front for the BT phone line for a year in advance and haggling for a better unlimited broad band and anytime calls deal.
  • Opening a 5% interest return Flexclusive saver account with Nationwide – open to anyone with a Flexaccount and you can pay in up to £500 a month.  The account is only for a year then you take t he money, close the account and open a new one.
  • Meal planning to save on the grocery shopping and avoiding wasted food.
  • I have bought a packet of individually wrapped flapjacks and some chocolate mini rolls these will go with us when we go out and stop for a drink in Costa – I object to paying £2.25 or more for one of their tray bakes and will reduce our bill from around £9 to around £5.
  • If we have to park in town we can use Sainsbury’s car park if we buy something for over £5.  We may as well spend £5 on stocking up on rice or birthday cards and get something for the parking rather than paying £4 and getting nothing.
  • We discovered by accident that we could have a good discount on our car insurance with Aviva because we have a pension with them.  I think Aviva may be one of those companies who do not participate in the comparison sites.

Tomorrow night is shopping night so I will be on the look out for more bargains.  Have a good week.

being thrifty, fEAsting, hEAlth, healthy eating, meal planning, sEAsons, trEAsury

menu plan monday…

It is definitely that time of year when every magazine you look at has eye-catching headlines such as ‘Best Year ever’,  ‘Your time to shine’,  Make 2017 your year of change’  – I can never decide whether this is motivating or suggests that we are lacking a certain amount of satisfaction with our lives and are left wanting more or different.

The start of the New Year does seem to bring with it a desire to change many aspects of our life that we are disappointed with and of course we all begin with such good intentions but often by the time we are midway through February we have slipped back into our old habits and the resolutions we made become a distant memory.

If I were to make a list of all the things I would like to change it would be so long I wouldn’t have a hope of fulfilling them all this or any other year.  So then I start wondering why I want to change and I can only say to try to make my life feel better – less stressful – more as I imagine it could be – certainly happier, healthier, perhaps a little wealthier – plenty of me time, family time – a well run house, a glorious garden and even some room for creativity.  Of course I then have to wonder why on earth I am not already living this perfect life!

However, in my Economy mode I am whizzing straight past all the magazines with such appealing headlines – I already have a subscription to Country Living magazine (Xmas present) so for as long as I can hold out that is my lot.

This month I am concentrating on compiling Menu plans – mainly for our evening meal at present and then I will deal with my lunches later so I don’t make things too difficult for myself all at once.  I am aiming for low-cost, no waste, nutritional meals using seasonal fruit and veg as much as possible and also using up items from my store cupboard, fridge and freezer.  See the list here.

I have laminated my Good Food – Get 5-a-day every day chart of seasonal winter fruit and veg – this tells me all the British grown fruit and veg and also those items from further afield that are in season and therefore should not be too expensive.  Blueberries and Strawberries are not on the list so I will use up any frozen berries to go with my natural yoghurt for breakfast.

 

dsc08065

 

My menu plan this week uses up a few items already in my stock cupboard but most of the veg I will have to buy fresh as I only have celery, carrots and onions left over together with some rather soft radish and a bit of dubious broccoli.

The sprouts, parsnip, leeks, cabbage and beetroot are all in season and British, the Sweet potato is also in season although not grown here.

The items not listed as seasonal are broccoli, green beans and mushrooms.

I am introducing 3 new recipes this week –

  • Vegetable Stew (substituting Sweet potato for the Butternut squash – this will also use up the remaining leek from the Stroganoff on Tuesday).
  • Spiced Chickpea bakes
  • Herby Brown Rice Salad

From my choice of fruit and veg I am told that I will be enhancing my Beta – carotene intake effective against viruses and bacteria, Vitamin C  for my immune system and phytochemical that help the digestive system.

I am looking forward to making the new recipes – if they pass the taste test then I will put them into my recipe binder – if not they will go straight in the bin so I am not keeping recipes that I will never make again.  Any modifications I will add notes to the recipe for next time.

I will be going shopping tomorrow night so will then know just how economical my shop is (or not!) in financial terms – bearing in mind the cold weather a warming Vegetable Stew sounds just right this week.

Have a good week.