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.

bEAching, cleaning, cottage garden, gardening, homestEAding, nEAtening, sEAsons

A quick turn around the garden…

I can’t believe it has been two weeks since my last post and I am amazed myself that I haven’t had any time to sit down and write but there it is.

So you may well ask what have I been doing?

Two weekends ago we had a flying visit to Scotland – the weather was just right for gardening and I spent the whole of Saturday in the undergrowth with my little furry friends here uncovering signs of life on my woodland walk.

Bees on Crocuses

Come and have a little wander…

Woodland Walk March

Remember this is in Scotland and even though we pick up the milder weather of the Gulf stream everything is much later coming out up there.  Soon this part of the garden will be covered in a mass of  Dicentra, Heuchera sanguinea  and Solomons Seal.

Woodland Walk March

Even the Fatsia along the stream bank has survived the harsh salt laden winter winds and has kept its glossy leaves.

Streambank March

Below is the site where the large Pines once stood before the gales a couple of years ago – I actually like the old tree stumps although I would have preferred to still have the trees of course.  It would weaken the stream bank to remove the stumps but it is almost impossible to mow the grass and using the strimmer is extra work so I have ideas that I will turn this into a stumpery and plant different species of ferns here mingled with suitable stream bank plants.   I love the way the moss is spreading over the mounds.

Stream bank proposed Fernery

In my garden at home here in Yorkshire I have put the bulbs I bought a few weeks ago into pots to brighten up the front garden.

Pots of spring bulbs

…and this little beauty below is a primrose coloured Rhododendron  – it is very special to our family and has pride of place in our garden. It was specially bred and named after my hubby’s grandfather, R W Rye, when he worked as head gardener from 1921 at Lochinch Castle, Stranraer for the Earl of Stair (whose mother Davina Bowes-Lyon is a first cousin of the Queen).  It received the Award of Merit at the Royal Horticultural Society in 1951.   We have taken a few cuttings over the years as it is not widely available in garden centres and I will be planting one at the cottage very soon.

RW Rye

The rest of my time apart from another trip to see our kitchen planner has been spent decluttering and cleaning my house and it is finally beginning to take shape and any month now I will be ready to begin the decorating!

More about that another night.  I have a bit of catching up to do with everyone – I have been reading most posts but apologies for my lack of comments recently.


cleaning, fEAsible, nEAtening, sEAsons

My new Focus for this month…

It is so lovely to see little signs of Spring creeping in everywhere, the lighter nights and mornings, sunnier days and the first burst of  colour as the Spring flowers emerge. I feel winter is definitely behind us now and we can give a huge stretch and come out of hibernation.
It is with this in mind that I have decided to dedicate my focus this month to an energetic Spring Clean and I must say I can’t wait to get started.

Spring Clean

After the long winter months I can finally blow away the cobwebs, throw the windows open wide and  let some fresh air into the house, put the washing out onto the line to dry and clean, scrub, clean until every nook and cranny in the house sparkles.

Washing Day

If you click on the drop down menu above on the tab Focus 2014 you can see my plan for March.  Each day I will tackle a different task which will lead me to my goal of a clean house.
For those of you who have been following along I will be updating you on my previous projects for January and February – focusing on Finances and Simplifying my Space, the former actually proved to be easier than the latter and I think this is mainly due to the fact that I could do a very small financial related task in the evening, whilst the clearing tended to be left for my days at home.
Did you watch the video about Innermost House on my previous post – I know some of you did and there were mixed comments but I think the general consensus was that there was something quite magical about it even if it is definitely not for you. 
For anyone who missed it here is the link again – Innermost House
…and for those who would like to see more this is another video called ‘On the way home’
I have watched them a few times over now as I see and hear different things at each viewing –  there is something of the spirit of the place that I would like to capture and apply to my own home – for instance I love the fact that she has ‘chosen’ what she wants to live with her in the house.  As the documentary says there is nothing superfluous there and that really appeals to me so whilst I continue to simplify my space I will be putting this into practice and really choosing only the items I want to live with.
Did you notice that when asked if she was a Luddite she didn’t rush off to Google – instead she took a beautiful leather bound book off the shelf and looked the word up.  We often have to resort to this method when we are at our cottage as we have no computer up there, or internet connection or phone line even and funnily enough I never miss it.  If we need to know the answer to something we go into town and generally ask Billy in the Hire Shop he is our Google  – a font of all knowledge or (and Dar will love this) we visit our local library – but you have to leave plenty of time because you will be drawn into a lovely long chat with the librarians.
Most people commented on hearing the sounds in the documentary – the sounds of nature that are often go unheard these days with all the background noise pollution we suffer from having electricity and engines surrounding us.  I must say that I might find the lack of listening to music a problem as I expect having no electricity would mean no means of playing CD’s etc.  Maybe they have musical instruments and I definitely would have to have room for my piano.
And just what is in her cupboards?  I am curious to know what she is keeping in there – what chosen articles are allowed to be part of her life.  I have so many unanswered questions and each time I watch it I want to know more – I expect you can tell that it has had a profound affect on me!!
After discovering her website I will be definitely settling down tonight for a good read.
My meal plan for the week, grocery spending and what I have bought last month will all be on my re-routed blog click here.
drEAming, random thoughts, sEAsons

A little bit of Spring amidst the snow…

The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in..

Sylvia Plath


Tulips 2

As an alternative to the snow I thought I would add a bit of spring colour.

I love tulips, I especially love them when they twist and turn and begin to wilt, the petals opening wide like a summer Paeony.  They have a pleasing manner about them.  These are the flowers my elder daughter bought me for Mothering Sunday or in this house it is Mothering Monday as I had my mum to look after on the Sunday.  I would have loved to sit and paint these but sadly time is not on my side at the moment so I have captured them in this photo.

I thought they looked quite cheery after the snow pictures.  We managed to dig our way out so we could join the outside world at work this morning but getting there was like some kind of assault course with the final lap being the ice rink in town where we skated fearfully along the uncleared pavements.

Work today was a bit dreary and my colleague taken ill at home with one of the many bugs going around was missed.  There wasn’t even a chuckle today it was heads down and keep going.  Perhaps tomorrow will be better.  I did enjoy my lunch though, two homemade Leek and Carrot pasties with some left over baked beans.

All I wanted to do tonight was keep warm and after ringing a couple of friends to check they are OK I snuggled down to a fireside supper of last nights curry and watched a little TV.   Now it is time to prepare tomorrows To Do’s and I will be all ready for bed.  These endless cold dull days are really beginning to make everyone feel a bit down hearted, we are drifting along like the snow.   Surely warmer weather must be coming soon.




Let it snow…and snow…and snow

It is very cold here today and has only just stopped snowing after a good 36 hours of almost continuous snow.  It is Saturday tea-time now and we have been unable to get out of our cul-de-sac since Friday morning.  How lucky is it that I went shopping on Thursday evening.  So we are staying cosy and warm inside not able to do any of the things we had planned for this weekend such as visit my mum in law.  Here are a few pictures I took earlier, I would estimate we have had a good twelve inches or more so far as you can see from our blue bench below.

bench in snow

Blue Bench

Trellis in the snow

The Trellis


Drifting outside next door neighbours


The wheelie bins

Iron chairs in the snow

The Iron garden chairs

Footprints in the snow

Footprints in the snow

It is certainly beautiful when the world is all completely white and pristine I really didn’t want to spoil it when I went out to take these pictures.  The only thing that had broken the surface in our garden was the footprints of some brave cat which seem to stop outside our old cat kennel – no doubt a welcome shelter this weather.

Have you had snow where you are?

crEAting, drEAming, random thoughts, sEAsons

The Madness of March…

 The arrival of March sees the passing of winter and today the first day of March – it is dry, quite cold, but not bitter as the last few days have been and exceptionally still, a very grey day and typical of how I usually think of March but without the wind!

I am already finding it difficult to remember what I did in February the month passed by so quickly.  As usual I will begin the month with an excerpt from one of my Art Journals and this is taken from Celebrating the Year 2009 (coloured writing).  The photo is of the cutest little cottage on the very tip of the Mull of Galloway, it has not been lived in for years and there are no services or piped water laid on and no road – you have to cross a field. Every time we drive around the corner and it comes into view we fall in love with it all over again.  The farmer won’t sell (we have asked already!) but I could easily see myself living here and just absorbing the peace.

Mull of Galloway 2009


“Ere frost-flower and snow-blossom faded and fell,
       and the splendor of winter had passed out of sight,
The ways of the woodlands were
fairer and stranger
than dreams that fulfill us in sleep with delight;
The breath of the mouths of the winds had hardened on tree-tops
and branches that
glittered and swayed
wonders and glories of blossom like snow
or of frost that outlightens all flowers till it

–   Algernon C. Swinburne, March: An Ode

“When we are staying at our beach cottage, just as the sun is setting at the end of the day, we often take a trip around the loop road that skirts around the end of the Mull of Galloway.  Very few people live down here, just the odd cottage or farmhouse dotted along the way.  It is a place of perfect peace and freedom.  The undisturbed wildness has natural balance and beauty.  This is the place where my soul sings, this is where I feel I have the world to myself, close to nature and closer to God. 

As we crawl along the narrow winding roads we are lucky enough to see the wild deer grazing or a fox stalking through the long grass.  Suddenly a hare will appear in the road darting quickly from side to side looking for a gateway to make its escape.  After the long winter months there can be few sights more uplifting than the grace and beauty of the Brown Hare – they are symbolic of the British countryside but are becoming increasingly rare.  March is the time when they are most active as it is their breeding season.  Although they are usually solitary, you may be lucky enough to see two hares boxing as part of their courtship ritual.

You do not have to go as far as the Mull of Galloway to spot a hare in the wild.  The best time to see one is in the evening on open grassland, especially near arable land.

 However the High Peak Estate in Derbyshire is the only place outside of Scotland and the Isle of Man that you can spot a white Mountain Hare”.

Have you got great plans for March?

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February…the promise of Spring…

crEAting, sEAsons

February – the promise of Spring…

The sun is streaming through my windows today – the memory of last weeks snow fading fast.   There is that stirring of nature and promise of Spring just around the corner.   This is what I wrote in my Celebrating the Year 2009 Art Journal (in green type) illustrated with a silk painting that I did of one of the most delicate of late winter / early spring flowers – the Snowdrop.


“The Snowdrop, in purest white array,

 First rears her head on Candlemas day.”


Snowdrops – Silk Paining 1999


LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest.  Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise!  Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

William Wordsworth1819.

“I always remember February as the month it will snow.  I was at home this year during the heavy snowfall which almost brought parts of the country to a standstill over the course of a week.  Not only is it a glorious sight to wake up to a completely white world, but even better if you are lucky enough to wake early and capture it in a completely untouched state.  Although it can sometimes be very frustrating what else brings us to the point of standing still in this hectic world?

The Snowdrop appears in February and is a symbol of hope that winter will eventually give way to spring.  Snowdrops are also known as Candlemas bells and Candlemas Day is celebrated on 2nd February.

You cannot let February slip by without a visit to one of the many Snowdrop Walks that are advertised and discover a woodland carpet of pure white snowdrops emerging from the decaying brown leaves.  Such a delightful and magical sight and one that you can never tire of.  Afterwards finish the day with a steaming hot mug of chocolate.”

Let us hope that after the heap of snow we have already experienced in January that February will be kinder to us.  I imagine that for most of us the gardening books will be coming out again and plans to spring clean and decorate are being made, if not already underway.

What are you looking forward to doing?

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January Snow
January Snow