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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drEAming, fEAsible, taking stock, trEAsure

sEAsons…time for changes

Snow view

Farmhouse

Bench in the snow

Old door

Kitchen door

And it snowed.
But how beautiful was the view from my daughter’s new house on the day after Boxing day; it was like someone had been out overnight and sprinkled a sifting of icing sugar over the moors.  
At the point when I took these pictures just after lunch it was bitterly cold with a biting wind and icy pathways and the temperature was only just reaching minus one.  Packing the car to come home took quite some time but eventually we were on our way, sad to leave.
So how was your Christmas – did Santa bring you everything you had wished for?
I had a few surprises, nice ones of course.  With my new Country Living subscription from OH came a free box of Hotel Chocolates with a festive theme.  These will be on hand when I can settle down to reading my two new books also from OH –
Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles  – beautiful photographs and his style a sheer joy to read and
‘Winter’ an anthology for the changing seasons edited by Melissa Harrison.  It is one of a series full of delightful prose and poetry.
I cannot decide which book I should read first or which chocolate I should eat first.

Hotel Chocolates

Christmas Presents

Little L was delighted with her singing Ice Cream Cart from Santa and kept us fully supplied with ice cream cones topped with cherry or chocolate sauce and sprinkles.  What a shame it was only pretend – though our calorie intake, had they been real, would have been enormous.  
I must say I am tempted to put this on my list for next year!

Christmas Presents

We are home again now and today has been a gentle day of doing a bit of this and that.
I like to get the house back in order, but slowly, nothing too hurried or frantic.
I cleared out the fridge of anything past it’s usability (which thankfully was not very much), put in a load of linens and towels to wash (and they have been out on the line in the sun), and cleared up a few messy areas.
After all the mad days of Christmas preparations it was nice to be able to sit and relax and when I do this my mind wanders off to thinking of what I might do in the coming year.
I already know in my mind that 2018 will be a year of changes.  I am not, at this point in time,  altogether sure what they will be but I know I feel like a change in many aspects of my life.
Recently I have been reading a book I can recommend called ‘Small move, big change’ by Caroline I. Arnold.  It claims to transform your life – well maybe it will and maybe it won’t but I like the content and the way she uses something called micro resolutions to do this.  
As I was reading certain chapters I could really identify with the examples she was giving as if she had a secret access to my own life in places and throwing a spotlight on it.  It did make me smile at times as I realised that when you see things written down it allows you to identify with some of the mad things we do and then wonder why we acquire bad habits that keep us stuck or from where we want to be.  And those very habits we have spent a lifetime nurturing can be working against us and are so hard to break.
I have been reading another book with similar ideas about making changes.  It  caught my eye in the library as I glanced along the shelves and I borrowed it mainly out of curiosity because of the strange title – Hell Week by Erik Bertrand Larssen.  I am a fan of all things Scandinavian so knowing that this author is Norwegian only increased that curiosity.
Keeping this summary short the title is a bit of a clue to the content and I can tell you that adopting this method of changing your habits in only one week is the complete opposite of the methods used in the previous book and certainly not for the faint-hearted or wimps like me!  For instance I know that I will not be getting up at 5am everyday to take part in Hell Week – but I would pledge to aim for a more civilised 6.30am – but this might be totally missing the point of this book as it is meant to be gruelling like the special services survival training it is based on.
Like any book it can instigate thoughts and there is always something you can take from a book that you didn’t have or know before.  That is the power and wonder of the written word.
As it seems that I have been drawn towards these books on making changes, and I am in the mood for change, then I will set out on a new journey and see where it takes me.  
I am quite excited.

 

 

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

 

crEAting, drEAming, fEAsting

sEAsons…and since we’ve no place to go

Finally I get to sit down and write.

The whole of December has been far too hectic this year, I am not sure why as I did not plan it to be quite so mad.

We closed the front door last night after saying goodbye to our final pre-Christmas visitors who had joined us for a festive drink and a few nibbles and it felt really good to wake up this morning and not be preparing for something or going anywhere – not even work as I have finished now until the New Year. Yeah.

I pottered around this morning doing the last of the washing and ironing, putting the tags and finishing touches on to the wrapped presents, even taking a few photos for my blog.

Gift wrap

After an early lunch we walked down to the village, dropping off a present or two for friends on the way, and collecting a sprig of eucalyptus and Hypericum berries from the local florist for my front door decoration.

The Flower Box

I decided against making a conventional wreath this year and have done something completely different to hang by the door, but you will have to wait until tomorrow for a photo.

It has been a lovely relaxing day and I have been able to sit back and savour Christmas.

Christmas china

mantelpiece

Nativity

Christmas tree

Christmas tree

The Christmas tree is adorned with mostly vintage baubles going back to the fifties, maybe even earlier, I love the fact that they have been part of our family and displayed on many trees down the generations.  Of course our usual tiny twinkly fairy lights failed this year when we got them on the tree so we had to scramble around and make do with some older ones that used to go outside.

I even attempted making my own Christmas card – I only had a couple of hours to come up with a design and make them so it had to be very simple – it turned out to be a bit of a disaster as you can see but I have included a photo of it here because I like to keep a true record – even of my failures!  My friends who have received them won’t mind – I know I always love to receive home-made cards.

Christmas card 2017

Christmas card 2017

 

Anyway to fill you in on the rest of my Christmas so far… last weekend was spent with much joviality at our family gathering on Sunday at the Black Swan in Fearby by courtesy of the owner – my daughter’s boss.

We had our best Santa hats and jumpers on, plenty of fun and games and our musical interlude…

and quite a few selfies.

Christmas Selfie

I have mentioned before that OH and I have been busy producing a Family Album photo book for my mum and it arrived just in time from the printers to give it to her on Sunday whilst all the family were in one place.  There are over 400 photos in the book covering almost 9 decades from when my mum and dad were children, through to their wedding and our appearance.  There were plenty of family holiday snaps, family weddings and christenings, first cars, Christmas get-togethers and of course many memories of our dear dad, in fact everyone who is connected to our family is in it.

This is the moment we surprised her in a true ‘This is your Life’ style…

Photo Book

Mum was so pleased she shed a tear or two and then at the end of the evening stood up and made a lovely little speech to thank us all and tell us how much these family gatherings mean to her.  In jest someone handed her the selfie frame and here she is holding it while she delivered her thank you speech.  I think this could start a new trend for the Queen’s speech.

Speech

At this same event we were also celebrating my younger daughter and niece’s birthdays and I made them a chocolate cake to share.

I bought some of those candles that spell ‘Happy Birthday’ in silver and gold to go on top but instead of putting them on the cake I wrapped each letter in random order between the layers of the pass the parcel together with a ‘Trivia’ type question and a Celebration sweet.

Chocolate Cake

When the music stopped and a layer unwrapped to reveal another candle letter they had to stick into the cake.  When the pass the parcel finished all the letters were in the cake and ready to be lit…however not necessarily in the right order!!  But it was good fun.

Chocolate Cake

Happy Birthday

After all the hard work I have put in to making Christmas so far I decided I needed a bit of a treat – Neal’s Yard have opened a new shop in Meadowhall – absolute joy for me as I love their Frankincense Intense concentrated serum.  So appropriate for the season – I can certainly feel the love and the assistant dropped a couple of free sachets into the carrier bag – I will skip the price on this one – you can guess it is not cheap.

Neal's yard

The golden pear was something I spotted whilst rushing through Next with my mum on her shopping bonanza – £2 for a bit of Christmas sparkle.

I was also lucky enough to find a copy of L’art de la Simplicite – How to live more with less – a book I read a while ago from the library and decided that it is one to keep should I find it – not only did I find it but it was free at Waterstones with my reward stamps.

So I am truly a happy bunny.

I will be posting one more time before the big day but I would like to say a big happy Christmas to all my readers and to all the other bloggers and friends whose blogs have kept me entertained all year.  I apologise for my lack of comments in the last couple of weeks – I have been reading along with everyone’s Christmas preparations but it has been so difficult to comment on everyone I read.

Thank you also to Simone at Linden Grove for the lovely card I received this morning – what a wonderful surprise – I promise I will be writing to you soon – just be thankful I didn’t send you one of my dreadful home-made cards!!

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

beach cottage, bEAching, general chit chat

bEAching…a weekend escape

We escaped to our cottage in Scotland for a few days this last weekend – for those of you who are new readers we are camping out now in a static caravan in the garden of our cottage since the flood in 2014 made it impossible for us to use the cottage.

We had already been warned of bad weather up and down the country so went with no expectations of getting in the garden and instead I went prepared with a few indoor jobs and a pile of books and magazines to read.   I actually like this time of year – the place is deserted and kind of bleak looking but it has a beauty of its own in the greyness.

Unexpectedly Friday was dry and sunny, although bitterly cold, and we decided to make the best of the weather and have lunch out and then drive over to Portpatrick and Stranraer and have a wander around before the weather turned.  The shops are well stocked with Christmas gifts and trimmings so much so that I actually wondered who will buy it all.  Many of the smaller gift shops and cafes in the area are only opening at the weekend even over the Christmas season as trade appears to be very slow this year – it is such a shame for these small businesses who rely very much on the extra boost to trade that tourism brings.  We always try to support these shops where we can buying locally and not buying goods down here to take up there.

We stayed indoors on Saturday as the heavy rain forecasted had set in and continued through the night so it was like sleeping in a tin box and because we are so close to the sea the constant roar of the waves crashing around made it even harder to sleep through the noise.

I filled my time trawling through old family photos that, once edited, will be part of a photo book we are compiling to have printed by Blurb books for my mum’s Christmas present.  We did the same for my mum in law some years ago capturing a snapshot of her life and she was really pleased with it.

With hundreds of photos I found it quite hard deciding what to put in or leave out – some of the older photos bring back very happy memories for me as we had so much fun as a family especially in the 1950’s and 1960’s when I was growing up so it was quite a slow job.  I can even remember all the dresses that I am wearing as they were made by my grandma and the cardigans and jumpers knitted by my mum.  Here are just a few of my favourites –

1954 – This is me with my family when I was only a week or two old – note the old-fashioned dustbin and air raid shelter in the background – granddad had turned it into a garden shed…

1957 – Does anyone out there recognise this Lion – could it be in Skegness or Scarborough?

1957 – somewhere in Torquay – Dad (on the right of the picture) used the automatic setting on the camera and we are all laughing as he only just made it into the picture – an early form of selfie!  Wonderful bathing costumes though…

Great Gran (back left) always had her Sunday best hat on even on a picnic – mum in the centre looking glamorous as ever…

1958 – The Promenade at Blackpool – mum and my Aunt in their very fashionable headscarves and me in my knitted Pixie hat!

1958 – One of my favourite pictures my Aunt and Uncle improvising when camping by washing up in the cake tin – we went everywhere with that tent – hardly a deluxe model it looks like it is about to collapse and I think it often did but all added to the fun…

1958 – me again with Spot the dog picking wild flowers (certainly not allowed now) – always into mischief, we did everything together…

1964 – I am 10 years old here and we are collecting the tiny four berth caravan that was going to be our home for over 6 months on the site where Dad built his own house…

and this is the house – quite an achievement – dad had the help of  3 brickies / joiners and laid all the drains himself – whenever we wondered where dad was he would be mixing concrete or digging trenches.  During this time mum fell unexpectedly pregnant with my sister and she was born just after we managed to move in…

1966 – me with my mum and little sister – anyone remember these pushchairs? – pre buggy days – you could sit either way round but it was hard work heaving them on and off a bus.

Ah well enough of the ‘Good old days’ and back to the Christmas preparations – I also began the Advent calendars on Saturday but found they are not as quick to do as I thought and getting the photos for mum sorted has to take priority so we can meet the Blurb book deadline.  I am thinking now that I may have to abandon the calendars until next year.

 

On the positive side we now have our family get together date fixed and it only took about 100 messages to one another via Messenger (what did we do before Facebook) until at last everyone is able to agree on a time, a date and a place which is just as well because there is very few weekends left and I now have only one free weekend to get everything done – the cake, the nut roast and the cards and gifts.

On the decorating side the new bed arrived Monday and the wardrobe doors Tuesday, so now it is just the finishing touches.  The old bed that is to go to my daughter’s house is proving difficult to transport – too big for our estate and the little van my daughter can have loan of is just that…too little!  So we have to find a creative way of squeezing it into our estate – I will leave that job to OH.  If we cannot move it I have visions of it being part of our living room decorations over Christmas so I will just drape some tinsel over it!

This week I am looking to bake the cake and start the Christmas cards.  How are your plans going?

Back soon x