bEAching, celebrations, cottage garden, crEAting, fEAsible, fEAsting, holidays, mEAndering, taking stock, trEAsury

drEAming…January – did I blink and miss it?

I feel like I have been ‘off the circuit’ for months rather than days and January has whizzed past so fast that I never got to post the list of my intentions for the month but I will try to capture the best bits in a quick summary.

 

  • fEAsting –

    Celebrate Burns Night – as you can just about see from the Polaroids above a great night spent with 6 friends, 3 Haggis (one vegetarian), 12 Scotch pies, 2 Macaroni pies and a heap of tatties and neeps not to mention plenty of gravy and wine whilst singing along to the tunes of bonny Scotland –  I even made the Cranachan this year – it was delicious and although hesitant at first everyone gave it the thumbs up – just a touch more Whisky next year!

 

  • trEAsury –

Buying a new car – after much deliberation and contemplation and counting the pennies – here she is my new car ‘Hetty’ Hyundai.

 

After 16 years driving the same car day in, day out she is taking a bit of getting used to especially as she is much higher than my old Citroen Saxo and at times I am feeling a little travel sick.

I am sure we will settle in together soon!

  • crEAting –

Making birthday cards for January birthdays – they had to be quick and simple so I used some brightly coloured ink pads and these tiny flower stamps and just dotted the flowers around – each one is slightly different.  They also made good Thank you cards too.

 

  • fEAsible –

taking stock and planning but first the reading and researching – with the long dull winter days what could be more perfect than getting warm and cosy and reading – most of the books below have been borrowed from our local library.  I am interested to cut down our spending as much as possible both to save money and to simplify my life by owning less stuff.

The book titled Deep Country by Neil Ansell is an excellent account of a man who takes himself off to live in a cottage in a remote part of the Welsh Hills for 5 years where he has no modern conveniences such as electricity or running water, no transport and no phone.  His nearest neighbours are just the wild creatures – fauna and flora of the surrounding woods and fields – I was captivated by this book – not only because he describes in detail the amusing behaviours of the birds and animals he comes across on his daily walks, but part of me was envious of this simple but rich lifestyle.

 

 

  • mEAndering –

The ‘Italian Job’ – booking the accommodation and flights for our trip to Italy in April for our niece’s wedding.

This task was both a chore and a delight – looking at the beautiful pictures of the region from Venice to Verona and deciding where we wanted to stay and what we might do and then the difficulty of making all the travel arrangements to get everything to join up.  Now everything is booked apart from a taxi to take us to the wedding ceremony – for that we will have to email the hotel for advice.

  • bEAching –

My final intention for January was to have a few days at the cottage (caravan) in Scotland – to check the place over and also begin clearing out the undergrowth in the upper wood – not forgetting buying the haggis for Burn’s night.  We set off on the Friday with snow lying on the ground in Yorkshire and we heard on the news it was bad at Shap but the M6 was still flowing so we decided to risk the journey knowing that we could turn back or put up in a hotel if need be.

As it turned out the worst bit of the journey was actually only 6 miles away from here going over the moors to Manchester and the stretch of the M62 by Scammonden – there was nothing around Manchester itself.

As you might expect it was a very cold night in the caravan – the temperatures had dropped to almost freezing but thankfully we have double glazing and central heating.  We put the electric blanket on to air the bed and even after we switched it off we stayed toasty warm all night.

On the Saturday it was a gloriously sunny day with blue skies and an even deeper blue coloured, calm sea.

 

We had a leisurely breakfast and a trip into our nearest town Stranraer to change the empty spare gas bottle – with the cold weather it is always best to be well stocked.

We had a potter around the town – I bought a couple of birthday gifts for the January birthdays and a very large family sized pack of Persil on offer at Tesco for £9 (Morrisons had it on offer at £10!) – I like a bargain.

Back at the caravan the sun was out and it was such a lovely afternoon we put on our gardening gear – fleece joggers, padded jackets, hats, scarves and boots and looking like arctic explorers went up into the upper wood to do some clearing.  We have to do the wood clearance at this time of year whilst the undergrowth is not growing.  We pruned the elders that spring up in any bit of a clearing and had a go at the brambles.  Elders make good shredding or should I say Elder branches go through the shredder easily, they are straight thin branches and not thorny like Hawthorn.

The large spider legged pond cover we bought last year in a sale from Agriframes seems to be doing the job of keeping the leaves off the pond – I presume the wind from the recent gales must blow straight through the structure as there is no way to anchor it down but yet it had not moved an inch – luckily.

 

 

There are bulbs coming up everywhere in the garden and snowdrops well in bud.  To my horror though the three-cornered leek is everywhere you would not even know I had dug up so much of it last year even to the point of digging out every last tiny bulb over a 2 metre area – even the ones that were like microscopic beads.  To no avail – it has spread over winter with a vengeance.  So it is back to searching the internet for a remedy – surely there is a pesticide for this persistent pest of a weed.

 

There was a surprising amount of colour around the garden –  the Mahonia Charity and Viburnum in flower…

 

 

Berries still remain on the Hypericum…

 

 

and elsewhere evidence of shoots bursting into life…

 

or about to…

 

 

The light eventually faded and we had to come inside – I made a nice hot 2 day lentil curry for tea to warm us up whilst OH promptly fell asleep and snored blissfully on the sofa after a job well done!

Opening the curtains on Sunday morning confirmed the weather we could hear from inside the caravan – wet, windy and cold – not a day to venture out and certainly not a day for the garden.  We had to turn our attentions to amuse ourselves inside.

For me it was plotting and planning as well as reading a stack of magazine articles I had clipped in my recent clear-out interspersed by just watching the waves as the sea crashed around at the bottom of the garden.

By the end of the afternoon the weather was a little warmer and calmer but the light was fading fast so still no chance of gardening.

At tea time I began to collect our bits and pieces together ready to pack for leaving on the Monday.  We had to be in town for 11am as the local Osteopath (with the magic touch) was going to work on fixing my bad shoulder before we travelled home.

I know the main problem with all my muscles is due to lack of exercise and I will be taking small steps to address this soon.

I actually feel quite pleased with myself that I completed all my intentions for January – I decided this year I would try and focus on one project at once – unfortunately it was unavoidable that planning the Italian Job and buying a new car collided a bit but thankfully they both got sorted.

In a day or two I will be posting my intentions for February so stay tuned.

Back soon x

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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

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.

 

beach cottage, bEAching, drEAming, general chit chat, holidays, mEAndering

home for a rest…

Back home from our two-week holiday and break in Scotland at the cottage – you may have noticed my absence.  The weather in our part of Scotland (the South West corner) has been absolutely glorious – so many hot sunny days and blue skies – who needs to go abroad!

Thank you to everyone for your recent comments on my previous posts –  I was not ignoring you all I have no internet connection at the cottage and so am oblivious to life in the rest of the world. I would normally reply to your comments but time is a bit scarce at the moment as I have a lot of catching up to do both in the house and in blogland so please accept this general acknowledgement.

Whilst we were on holiday (which I will write about in another post) I had my birthday, and also a funeral to attend  – not on the same day but close.  The call to say that OH’s uncle from the Scottish side of the family had unexpectedly passed away came as we were enjoying the first day of our holiday but being close to Kilmarnock (82 miles up the road from our cottage) we decided it would be fairly easy to attend the funeral.

Not everyone gets to go to a funeral on holiday and like most people we had not packed clothes for such an occasion so we had no option but to go in our holiday attire – the best we could do was black jeans each, a suitable top for me and dark t-shirt and jumper for OH and yes as you can imagine we did stand out from the crowd who were quite soberly and traditionally dressed, the men in black suits, white shirts and black ties and the women black dresses or skirts, but the family did not mind rather they were pleased to see us.

The funeral director and staff did however show a look of horror once or twice especially when the announcer called for any family members to enter the crematorium chapel first and we stepped forward – until then it was probably thought we were just passers-by!

Being on holiday for my birthday does mean I have spent a lot of my day today opening cards and presents and answering messages.  So back to the unpacking now as it is work again for me tomorrow.

I will just leave you with a few holiday snaps…

 

Kipford and Rockcliffe 

Ardwell Walled Gardens

Broadstones Stranraer

Across Agnew Park Stranraer

 

 

bEAching, cottage garden, decorating, homestEAding

back home and back to work…

I have been back home now for over a week but not had the time to put pen to paper (so to speak), not that I have anything very exciting to say – life has just been rolling along in the usual non-eventful way.

I spent a lovely few days in the woodland garden in Scotland rumaging around in the undergrowth like a wayward squirrel but this was followed by a few stressful days on my return to work which has thrown up that question again of ‘just how long do I intend to go on working’?  I am a few years off collecting my state pension but to tell the truth I don’t feel I want to work to sixty six as life is short and there are new challenges I would like to attempt before I get too old and creaky!

So I am in deep thinking mode at the moment which has been robbing me of quite a bit of sleep.

On the domestic front…

We have a number of projects on the go – far too many – both at home and in Scotland.  I should have named this blog My Double Life or Coming and Going – some days I wake up and don’t know which place I am in!  We never intended to have 2 homes for long but the flood at the cottage has delayed our plans to move up there.

Here at home we are decorating my younger daughters bedroom to use when my granddaughter comes to stay. It was a bit tricky taking a decent picture and didn’t help facing into the light that floods in from the Velux in the roof.

 

bedroom makeover

As you can see it is looking quite dated now with the lacquered pine that has mellowed and yellowed over time and is in need of a revamp. My daughter and her friends loved this room with the mezzanine sleeping platform over the shower room accessed by a ‘Samba” staircase.  You can lay in bed at night and see the stars.

The other end of the room has a normal window overlooking the back garden.  The room is quite narrow only about ten feet wide as it is directly above the garage and laundry room.

bedroom makeover 2

Sometime in the nineties whilst at art college my daughter added the stencilling feature to the staircase but this is really past its prime now.

Nineties stenciling

So it will be covered up and all the pine wood painted to give it a whole new cleaner and fresher look and bring it up to date.  More posts on the makeover later.

In the garden in Scotland…

By the pond

I spent more time around the pond – cutting back the Fernery and clearing the water of dead leaves.  We added a plank on top of the two wooden posts I discovered beside the pond last time so we can sit there, have a cuppa, and admire the garden – I planted a few more Primula in and amongst the stones and transplanted lots of Foxgloves into the wild flower patch just out of sight of this photo.

I have the Fuchsias  to prune back at the edge of the pond but then we can sit back and wait for everything to grow and flower.

 

bEAching, cottage garden

a different kind of leak…

We are headed for Scotland today – yeah – a whole week of gardening – I hope the weather improves – looking quite cold and only sunny in the earlier part of the week.  Never mind we will be snug in the caravan but better order an extra-large bottle of gas – the central heating is great but obviously it drains the gas quickly.

The Swift engineer will be coming to replace the carpet in the caravan – we had a leak from the radiator when we first put the central heating on – the anti freeze is very sticky so the carpet dried stained and stiff – hence the replacement.

Whilst we are up there I have a long list of jobs one of which is to attend to a different kind of leek and make further in roads in clearing the wild garlic – after having a bit of a google I have found that our wild garlic is actually most likely to be Allium triquetrum – the three-cornered leek – looks like a white bell in flower (good in ham sandwiches they say – no use to us vegetarians then).  Spreads like mad and difficult to get rid of it.  I was hoping perhaps the rabbits might like to eat it instead of my Delphiniums!

See you in a week. x

 

beach cottage, bEAching, being thrifty, celebrations, cottage garden, drEAming, fEAsting, general chit chat, trEAsury

highlights from the week…

During last week I was on holiday from work so we decided to head up to the caravan in Scotland for a few days whilst also arranging to meet the engineer who came to get our water and gas connected.

I was sitting in the caravan looking out over a calm, silvery winter sea during the time just before dusk sets in.  The wood-pigeon was gently cooing outside and inside a very peaceful quiet. Just like in the cottage we have no means of communicating with the outside world – it feels almost like being on a desert island – all we can do is just sit and be.  A very odd experience – 250 miles away from our usual existence at home where there is always some pressing ‘To Do’ to be done and I would normally, like a lot of the population, be at work.  I quite enjoyed this break – so did hubby who was often found gently dozing in the corner!

The highlight of the trip was at last we have running water, central heating, a flushing toilet, fully operational shower and gas cooking facilities.  Thank goodness for all these modern inventions – being without such comforts is good for the soul once in a while as it reminds us of how grateful we should be for these services we take for granted and how they free up our lives.  For the last few weeks we have managed with containers of water, a bucket under the van to catch the sink waste and a chemical camping toilet to catch the other waste!  I won’t go into detail here!!  We had to have a wash with one bowl of water each and clean our teeth with a glassful.  All hot water had to be boiled on our little gas camping stove and our meals consisted of soup, soup and more soup – the easiest thing to heat up when you only have one gas ring.

The caravan is now a real home from home and is actually warmer, cleaner and more comfortable than our cottage was whilst we attended to the renovations.  But it does not have the character or the space.

Now the caravan is fully up and running we can turn our attention to the garden maintenance.  It suffered a lot last year due to shortage of time and the cottage being out of action still.  We had to limit our visits and stay at a nearby B&B or hire another cottage.

Many parts of the garden were badly affected by the flood and all though most of it has sprung back there are still some strange effects to overcome even now. The lawn and borders on the wood side of the cottage are covered in wild garlic leaves, the bulbs being washed through the garden and scattered by the flood water.  The only way is to dig them out by hand one at a time.  So far I have done a patch about one metre square – the amount of garden affected by this is probably 20 metres square – some of it appears in clumps and others more scatterd – funnily enough the ones in clumps are easier to pull out than the numerous single bulbs dotted around.  Any good ideas anyone?

The stream bank is looking so much better and as soon as we hit a drier patch the contractor will be back to spread the top soil and re-seed the area.  The black protective mesh will eventually allow the vegetation to grow through it and it will look like a natural grassy stream bank.  Of course the stream bed is much wider now but will probably, hopefully, look narrower again as the vegetation takes hold.

 

Stream Bank

 

Back at home now we celebrated Burns night here in England with a few friends – it was a great night and always reminds us how good it is to have a get together.  I have never cooked Haggis before but it was quite easy – not so easy is mashing a huge pot of potatoes and turnip.

For eight of us (5 meat eaters and 3 vegetarians) I spent

2 x Haggis  £5.00

1 x Haggis veggie £2.50

1 large bag Potatoes £1.29

2 x Swede £0.80

1 pot beef gravy £2.00 (already had some veggie gravy)

8 mini Scotch pies  £2.70

2 macaroni pies £1.15

Add in some Scottish delicacies

1 box Tunnocks chocolate teacakes £1.60

1pkt Tunnocks Caramel wafers £1.60

1pkt mini Scottie shortbread  £1.00

 

A total of £19.64 or £2.46 a head – one friend brought fruit kebabs for a starter and another friend a Rhubarb crumble for afters.  So quite an economy meal.