mEAndering, out and about, sEAsons

sEAsons…a living Advent

Saltaire

As some of you may know I live in a small market town in West Yorkshire, that is really no more than a large village, where the Pennine Moors rise steeply above us and mill chimneys are dotted around the landscape.   Like many similar places that you may be familiar with such as Holmfirth (Last of the Summer Wine country), Hebden Bridge and Halifax these places expanded from nothing more than small hamlets during the Industrial Revolution with the building of the ‘dark satanic’ mills for the woollen, cotton and silk industry.
Titus Salt was one of the many people of this era, often influenced by a religious faith, who not only built mills and factories but also provided decent housing for their workers.  Titus Salt went one step further and created a whole village namely Saltaire which is near the city of Bradford.
When we first married we lived in an old 4 storey terrace of similar mill worker’s houses over the other side of our village and they are now quite rightly listed.  There is a small park called the ‘People’s pleasure grounds’ accessed by the bridge over the stream at the bottom of the gardens – all part of the provision for the mill workers.
I mention all this because yesterday we braved the weather to visit Saltaire Village, we hadn’t been for some years, it is now a world heritage site and I desperately wanted to see the Living Advent windows. Every year 24 of the houses take part and a window is illuminated with a festive scene with one scene being ‘opened’ daily in sequence from 1st of December until 24th December and then remaining to view until 5th January.
As you can see from the first few photos the mill is enormous and no longer used for textiles but houses an Art Gallery including a collection of David Hockney paintings, a large restaurant and three floors of books, homewares, furniture and clothing.  The homewares section has display cabinets of design classics – crockery, cutlery and glasses that most people will remember from the different eras that are now very much collectible.
 The china, dishes, pots and pans on sale are all selected for their design and quality and although some items are very expensive some are much more affordable (especially at the moment whilst certain items are much reduced).  I was in absolute heaven – I could easily have come home with almost everything in the shop but decided that I would make a mental note of anything that I felt might be useful or just plain beautiful to have and plan another trip there another day.
Before going in the mill we had a wander around the streets – there is a stretch of shops along the main road down to the mill with craft shops, restaurants and cafes – beyond this is the tight network of terraced housing built on a grid system and all the streets are named after his wife, sons and daughters, Caroline, William Henry, George, Amelia, Edward, Fanny, Herbert, Whitlam, Mary, Helen and Ada.

Some houses had larger gardens, some smaller and some of them open straight onto the pavement – I expect this represented your standing in life and the importance of the work you did at the mill.  Every house was looking very festive and I particularly loved some of the wonderful colour combinations.
What would have been little corner shops and general stores are to be found at the end of many of the streets.  This one has been turned into a Bridal shop and we also discovered the local Spa.

It was so bitterly cold and wet but we walked up and down the streets with me snapping away every time we came upon another Advent window.  As it was only mid afternoon the first few were not yet illuminated but I wanted to capture as many of them as I could.  But scroll further down and you will see they come alive after dark when we went out again after the lights had been switched on.

   

 

Even the ordinary stained glass in the windows and doors of these houses look extremely festive.

And lastly we came upon Victoria Hall, originally named Saltaire Institute, such a grand building for a village I thought it deserved a photo before we came home – apparently it cost £25,000 when it was built between 1867 and 1871 and contained a main hall seating 800, a lecture room, two art rooms, a laboratory, a gymnasium, a library of 8,500 books and a reading room.
It is currently used as a venue for weddings and conferences.

This is now my last post of the Christmas season – tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and then the start of a whole new year stretching ahead of us.  I have a few ideas in mind, a lot of reading still to do and plenty of decisions to make. 
2018 feels like it might be a good year.

Happy New Year to all my readers. x

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crEAting, drEAming, fEAsting, sEAsons

sEAsons…Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Well here we are the day before Christmas Eve and on the last leg to the finishing post –  I feel like I am taking part in one of those wind up santa races that you find in a box of crackers, and going off course from time to time in the same way.

Today I have been baking, making, wrapping and packing.

I have a few bits and pieces to take with me to our daughters – a quiche for Boxing Day, some surprise Lemon Curd (I am surprised I actually got to make it this morning!), the new Christmas Monopoly and one or two books for any quiet moments – with a 3-year-old (who am I kidding!)..

I am a big fan of Miss Read and I shall settle down to reread my very battered copy of Miss Clare Remembers, an all time favourite.

I have had some great moments this month but it has been hard work too and I have many ‘notes to self’ to take heed of next year – one of them being to sort out OH’s presents sooner and the other to let some things go.

When we were invited round to our new neighbours for a Cheese and wine evening recently (with our next door but one neighbours that we are already good friends with) I asked if we should bring anything – ‘just bring yourselves’ they said.

I should have taken notice.

But me being me I spent the afternoon making some of my home-made chocolates to take that I usually make for our neighbour get togethers, and gave each of them one of my home-made cards.  Of course they were all delighted and remarked that they didn’t know where I found the time –  and then realised why I am always pushed for time!

But I do love to make things.

So before I go here is the idea I had for my Christmas decoration instead of a wreath – I used the chicken wire cones I made for my daughter’s wedding that we hung on the gateposts of the church and the old gate at the rear entrance filled with Hydrangeas from our cottage garden.

 I thought they might be nice filled with winter foliage so I gathered some moss from the garden (there is plenty with all this damp weather) and packed out the sides of the cones leaving room for the ‘hidden’ jam jar sunk into the centre where I place the stems.  As you can see I am no flower arranger but I like the casual look.  I could have hung it on the door but I quite like it hung on the contrasting paler brickwork as our door is dark brown.

All that is left now is to wish you all a very Happy Christmas.

It would be nice if it snowed now to make it a good old White Christmas but I think the most we are going to get is a bit of frost!

I have enjoyed reading along with everyone’s blogs this year – the general ups and downs of everyday life – and I am looking forward to joining you again throughout 2018  – so Happy New Year too (if I don’t get back here before then) xx

 

sEAsons

sEAsons…but the fire is so delightful

It is snowing here and we are snuggled up by the fire all cosy and warm…

The fruit cake is made and being fed daily (or when I remember) with a trickle of brandy – it smells heavenly and almost too good to wait until Christmas to eat it.  I will probably cut it when we have the neighbours round – it won’t get decorated this year but then I don’t like marzipan and icing is too sweet for me so I end up chopping it all off again.  I have in the past decorated it with a glaze over a fruit and nut topping.  Time is too short this year.

I love opening the box of Christmas decorations and rediscovering my little treasure trove.  Each year though I find I am putting fewer and fewer decorations out and maybe after Christmas I will give away the ones that no longer ‘spark joy’ for me.

The Christmas tree is in the garage and will be brought into the house soon for decorating, the majority of my cards are written and posted and the hand delivered ones will follow.  I still hope I might make the ones for my close friends but I will see how next week goes.  I have my daughter’s birthday next week too so will probably call in to see her on our trip North when we take mum home.

Mum arrived today and it will be nothing but none stop shopping now for the weekend – luckily my back, which suddenly ‘went’ on Monday, is a lot better and just in time too.  I don’t have a lot of shopping to do myself but I help my mum with the bits and pieces she likes to buy.  I do enjoy looking in the shops at Christmas there are some lovely things but I have no desire to own them just look like you would if you went to a museum.  I am definitely getting into a more minimalist mindset these days after creating more space in my home – I now crave more but that starts buy not buying more, no matter how much I am tempted.

I buy a present for my young nephew who will have clothes, my niece (who is 20 and will just want the money) and then my granddaughter.  I have bought my one family Secret Santa present and a few of the Secret Stocking gifts for OH.  I often make my close friends a crafty gift – we just give little gifts of about £6 or £7.

I have read a few blogs recently where some people are finding the gift side of Christmas difficult and it seems to be one of the issues that can really spoil Christmas and family relations.  A few years ago we had a family discussion about the present buying as we had the younger generation saving to buy homes of their own and the older generation reaching pensionable age so money was tighter for some of us.  As a family we were also struggling to find gifts for some of us who already had most things and we were spending far too much time at the shops and missing the festive Christmas events – so we agreed to give a Secret Santa a go.

Our limit is £50 per person and one person buys a gift for one other.  In November I send each person their own Wish List and they write down up to 10 items so it is still a surprise on the day what you might get and if anyone genuinely wants a surprise they just tick the box provided.

The surprise is often in what other people wish for on their lists and it can be a bit difficult to disguise a wheelbarrow or ironing board  (yes I would not have thought of buying those as a present before!).   Once the lists are written I put each persons name in a hat and draw them out.  Then we pass our list to the person who will be buying for us.

We still buy as usual for the children so they are not included in the Secret Santa.

Having only one present to buy we now make more of the live name draw night (which we do on Facebook with everyone tuning in at 9pm one Friday night for the grand event) even some of my friends tune in as well because they also like our Not so Secret Santa name draw!

Just before Christmas we get together for the big family present swap as we can’t all be together now on Christmas day, but we don’t open our gifts .  Instead we have a small buffet complete with Christmas hats,  jumpers and crackers.  Afterwards we play lots of games like pass the parcel, hot and cold or the Banana game.

We complete the evening with a musical session using an array of instruments that once came out of previous crackers and this has become the highlight of the evening.  After a few years of practice I can honestly say that we are no better, have no rhythm and sometimes or most times have the wrong notes.  In fact we have only once completed a tune that has sounded remotely like it should and there is nothing difficult about Jingle Bells is there?

Last year we introduced selfie props and a picture frame and snapped some wonderful photos.

In addition to the Not so Secret Santa my very immediate family (our two daughters and partners, myself and OH) do a Secret Santa Stocking in the same way with a £20 limit.  This year I am doing a stocking for my OH.

So I can only say have a go at something different you can always change back – we all agree though that we would not go back to the old way of shopping for everyone but equally we would not like to not buy anything either.  This has the best of both worlds for us. Our only problem is agreeing a venue and date for all 16 of us.  It took nearly 100 messages this time with our busy schedules but even that became a fun afternoon in itself.

being thrifty, sEAsons, trEAsury

sEAsons…oh the weather outside is frightful

Here we are the 3rd December it’s bitterly cold outside and snow keeps threatening and the countdown to Christmas has really begun.

Little L has sent her letter to Santa and we have all completed our family ‘Not so Secret Santa’ wish lists and passed them on to the relevant person.

This year I am buying a gift for my son in law and my OH is buying for my sister – she has a wish list as long as your arm but that makes it easier to pick a few things to the value of £50.  The big present swap and family party will be in two weeks time and I am generally in charge of crackers, games, silly hats and the music.

But first things first – I have mum’s photo book to finish and the computer is playing up – soon it will be me with frustration.

I have my fruit soaking ready to make my cake today and we bought a Christmas tree from Waitrose last night, a nice bushy 4 or 5 foot rooted one and it comes with a large red pot for £35 and all we have to do is bring it into the living room and decorate.  We used my £18 off a £90 shop voucher and also got a bargain on 3 gifts at £10 which were 3 for 2 (which conveniently brought the gifts into my £7 limit)  and also managed to find one of my sisters gifts – a stick blender.

To make up the £90 I also stocked up on a few items I can only buy from Waitrose and a few that we normally buy in Sainsbury’s that were on offer here.  So I was quite pleased with my purchases and the savings I made – the total came to more than £90 but with the coupon and £10 saving on the gifts I think I got quite a lot for the money.

Next Thursday mum arrives to stay and try out the brand new guest room – I need a heated underblanket for mum to replace the two hot water bottles she used to have.  This item is proving difficult to purchase as stock in the shops is low – everyone must be having one for Christmas, but I did manage to buy my plain white duvet cover for the new bed and a new plain white sheet for our bedroom as one of the two sheets had ripped right through in the last wash because it had worn so thin.

To finish the room we need to put up a picture or two and find a bedside table, but apart from that it is ready to go.

If I get time at the end of the day I will compose my Christmas letter that I usually send out to update relatives and friends and perhaps write a card or two.

Back soon x

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

 

 

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

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!