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!!

Advertisements
cleaning, decluttering, drEAming, nEAtening, organising, random thoughts, rEArranging, simplifying

simply reading and planning and doing…

What a shock to the system being back at work this week and how tired I have been each night  – far too tired to blog.  The good news though is that my working Thursday is now a thing of the past – I will be doing Monday to Wednesday at work and Thursday to Sunday at home – a much better balance in my opinion. I couldn’t wait to get started.

It was quite a long holiday break that we had this year well over 2 weeks and it is surprising how difficult it has been to pick up my routine now we are home – I say that like I have one – I do for the most part!

Now I need to develop a new routine to take me forwards so I have been thinking that Thursday will be my official cleaning day.  That does sound like I don’t ever clean on the other days of the week and sometimes this might be correct on a busy week but I usually manage bits and pieces of tidying rather than cleaning as well as the basic chores of washing up and making beds.  After a few days sitting in the office at the computer I find it is quite nice to do something active and domestic so cleaning will fit in well.

Over our holidays I have been doing a lot of reading – you know the kind of book that is titled –  ‘help I need to get my life and home sorted out and in balance’.  I have a stack of books on the subject by my bed – some from the library and others from my book shelf for a reread or on my Audio books to listen to while I dust.  I am especially into a little book I discovered in the library called ‘L’art de la Simplicite – How to live more with less by Dominique Loreau,  it can seem a bit repetitive in places but I am liking the approach to ‘simplism’.

I apologise in advance for the poor photo quality I was dog tired when taking these pics last night.  I think Thursday may be the designated cleaning day but Friday is going to be the designated recovery day.

The areas I am looking to improve are housekeeping or house management (if you want to encompass the whole of running a house and its upkeep), health, finances and fitness.  I am looking for ways to make each category simple and less time-consuming to deal with.

From my reading there is a common thread running through the advise and that is to have less stuff to deal with – back to the decluttering then.  The other common thread is routine and habit – even in the area of fitness choosing just 2 exercises to do daily is better than nothing and gets a routine and discipline going.  I decided this is just the approach I need together with my leaning towards the Lean and 5S  that I have spoken about here before.

 

To get stuck in on my first designated cleaning day I decided that I would perhaps fall in line with the fly lady zone but when I went on her website it was the living room this week and I felt our main bedroom needed a good going over more urgently and decided on this instead.

I emptied each of the drawers and the wardrobe – cleaned everything down and had a bit of a declutter and I found a few items that I hadn’t used since the last clear out so decided they were for the charity pile.

Everything looks neater and fresher and a bit of a sparkle now.

I have been using Neal’s Yard frankincense Intense face cream and serum since Christmas (a bit pricey but worth it and goes a long way) – this was part of my Secret Santa gift and I am well impressed – I can feel the serum working straight away and it glides over my skin easily.  I think the texture has improved all though the blemishes and freckles I accept will never go away.  The sun damage to my fair skin was probably done much earlier in my childhood when the effects of the sun were not as well understood.  Anyway back to the story – I picked out everything I am using each day in creams and lotions and potions and any leftovers of stuff I will not be repurchasing are to go in the use up box.  If unused and unopened they will go to charity.

So in my drawers now I only have what I like and use.  It is very liberating to do this and I aim to do the same throughout the house – no more hanging on to things just in case – not even the free sachets.

Sorting the current selection of clothes in the wardrobe was harder as I confess I found 3 items I have bought recently and not yet worn and shock horror still have tags on – I think too late to return though.  It isn’t that I don’t like them but I am thinking if I haven’t managed a day to wear them yet after 6 weeks perhaps they are not exactly my favourites.

One of the tops in particular was a bit of a mad buy as it reminded me of my Art college days – a summer weekend at Reading Festival sleeping out under the stars listening to Genesis dressed in flowing embroidered cheesecloth with my long tousled ginger hair and probably no suncream in sight but not a care in the world other than how to get through the mud to the washroom!  The top I bought in Sainsbury’s 25% off week is a fine cheesecloth like cotton, gypsy style with embroidered panel and probably represented this memory – I have put it on 3 times now to go out in it and then changed at the last moment – I am no longer this free-flowing gypsy person!  I think it is going to be a charity gift.

Of course I have only been able to do my own clothes and so I just arranged OH’s ties neatly on the rack fixed to the inside of the wardrobe door knowing that a lot of them will not be worn again but at least they look ‘organised’ until I can get OH to look through them.

I will have to revisit the wardrobe again but I have given those ‘I’m a bit unsure’ items a final chance to be worn – if not they will go out at the end of the summer.  I sometimes find that there is a reason for not wearing something apart from it feeling tighter and if something does not feel quite right then I am not happy wearing it.

By the time I had done all the sorting I only managed to vacuum the walls, the carpet and the surfaces and didn’t get to move the furniture out – that will have to be another time.

Of course because I will not be working Thursday the figure on my monthly pay slip will be much reduced from now on and I shall have to economise further to take into account this drop in income.  Our fridge at the moment is virtually empty – this is good as it means we have manage to eat up everything we bought for the week.  I am sure I could scrape a couple of meals together from the store cupboard and freezer but there would be little fresh veg – home-grown courgettes, carrots and frozen peas are left over and I have a tin of sweetcorn and maybe an egg or two – perhaps Fritters!

Just off to plan my other days off now – have a good weekend.

fEAsting, financial focusing, gardening, homestEAding, meal planning, mEAndering, out and about, trEAsury

economising update…

I haven’t done a post for ages on our economising so thought a bit of an update in order.

It is slow progress but at least there is progress.  I have now moved our savings into higher interest rate accounts, although the rates are still comparatively low, but any interest is better than nothing.  These savings will help to make our pension go further in the future when we stop working so it is important for us to make the most of what we have.

One of the best rates for us at the moment is actually the Flexclusive saver from Nationwide  paying 5% gross over the year.  It is one of those regular savings account where you save up to £500 a month and this accumulates over the year – you cannot put in a lump sum at the start.  At the end of the year you have to close the account and start again.

On the spending side I have managed to balance the books so to speak and deal with the outstanding paperwork.  I think it took me longer than the two hours I am trying to set aside each week and last week I did not do anything at all deciding instead to go in the garden.

I have sorted out all our new outgoing payments such as the increased Council tax and my yearly parking contract and have fixed the utility bills for a while though these need constant watching for better deals.  I find it tiring to have to search around on the internet and compare all the time – thank goodness we don’t have to do this for the mortgage.

Since the New Year I am still planning a menu for the week although it is often a bit of a rushed flexible list; however, it is having the required effect and cutting down on any waste food.  I have also started planning and taking a packed lunch to work – mostly I have a mixed salad, a cabbage and carrot slaw with walnuts (homemade by OH) and then some protein – a piece Nut Loaf or Quiche or just a boiled egg – sometimes it is leftovers.   This saves me about £3.50 a day.

I  have two months overtime to claim this payday a total of about 50 hours so quite a nice boost to the savings pot although I have a few items I want to buy and I might even treat myself  – perhaps a relaxing massage or reflexology treatment.

When we go out we have been making the effort to pack a picnic – actually I am enjoying these and have a few recipes to try that I can freeze in individual portions.  Tomorrow we are going up to North Yorkshire with a picnic to see my granddaughter and visit the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park at Grewelthorpe.  I have a feeling the plant nursery is going to be far too tempting perhaps this will be my treat rather than a massage!

Sainsbury’s have been very good recently and keep giving me a triple points coupon and the reward points are already building up again – I have now got £64.24p.  Morrisons have also given me a £5 coupon to spend (we tend to get our petrol here).  It will come in useful when we go to Scotland as the two supermarkets in Stranraer are Tesco and Morrisons.

And the not so economical

I had a bit of a spending spree last week on items that I had run out of or worn out and a few that had not been planned for but caught my eye  – this is the list;-

  • I needed some face cream and I use Neal’s yard which is not the cheapest but it suits my sensitive skin
  •  one or two gorgeous little outfits for my granddaughter from Sainsbury’s £18
  • a white top for work from Sainsbury’s £10
  • some new Tayberry Mucker gardening boots £35  from the internet as my old ones are wearing out.  They are a bit like moon boots but very flexible with comfy fur-lined soles – I wouldn’t be without them so much better than my old wellies.

Tayberry Mucker Boots

  • a bird house from Sainsbury’s £8 and OH has put this in the garden, attached to the top of a pole. I think the pole cost more than the bird house!

 

We also bought a few items for the garden last weekend from the Garden Centre with my birthday tokens (some National Garden vouchers) which covered the cost and although I could have been thrifty and grown my own herbs I felt it was just nice to treat myself and the large bottles of feed / bug spray will hopefully last a very long time – here is the not very thrifty list:-

  • A Gazebo to go in the shady border £35
  • some organic seaweed feed £7.49
  • an organic greenfly spray £6.99
  • a courgette plant, some mint and fennel £5.49
  • a posh garden fork by Burgon and Ball £9.99
  • a paving knife also by Burgon and Ball £9.99I love my new shiny stainless steel hand tools – my old fork has hardly any wooden handle left it is so worn – but must be well over 20 years old.

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend x

appEArance, beauty, drEAming, random thoughts, trEAsure

Dry heels and a lightbulb moment…

I love giving myself a pedicure – not that I have a foot fetish or anything but I like my feet to feel smooth and look good. With my family genes I have not been blessed with the best looking feet in the world and as you know at the moment I am having a lot of foot pain so pampering them does make them a bit better.

I usually do the pedicure on a Sunday evening whilst watching TV and I keep a Muji storage container handy with all the necessary tools and potions and lotions for my feet.  I quite often buy new products to try and presently I use Neal’s Yard Seaweed and Arnica Foaming Bath as a foot soak (although expensive a little goes a long way – and I always have it on my Birthday wish list) together with a sprinkle of Epsom Salts.

Recently in one of my magazines I noticed an advert for Flexitol Heel Balm which is for dry rough feet and cracked heels and thought I would give it a try.

I always prefer natural products and so I bought the Natural formula version over the usual one.  It is best to use it morning and evening and it certainly does what it says on the tin.  My heels looked smoother within days. I can certainly recommend it.

It was during this rigorous daily program that I had one of those lightbulb moments as I noticed that giving this area a lot of care and attention everyday produced quick and amazing results and that if I applied the same kind of focus to anything I did then I could not fail to see changes happening and just like applying the heel cream twice a day soon became a habit then anything else would work in the same way.

Of course I couldn’t keep adding and adding to my daily routines with everything I do as there would not be enough time during a day to do them all so I will have to figure out what are the routines that I want to put in place that will give me the quickest and most long-lasting results.

As my heels are so much better now a daily application is all that is necessary and maybe this will reduce even further to a weekly maintenance application – in a similar way I suspect that I could reduce the intensity of focus of a lot of other routine tasks once a result has been obtained.

I just need to figure out what is the best task for me to focus on next – it could be something from my household, finance, self and health or work categories or something even more general.  As usual lots to think about.