homestEAd ~ the delights of Spring

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sensitive Plant”

Crocus Iris Snowdrop

The weather was so lovely at the weekend you could sense the fresh clean smell of Spring in the air – I just had to down tools inside and go outside for a while.  In the space of a couple of hours I had tidied up a few of the borders, gathered the last of the leaves and replaced some of the earth scratched up by the local cats.   The cats can be quite a problem so to protect the emerging plants and prevent them from being uprooted I pushed a few more twiggy sticks around the shoots – at least the crocus in the lawn are safe.

It is very encouraging at this time of year to see little buds appearing on most of the plants and signs of life poking through the ground here and there – I just hope any future frosts or snow does not damage them.

I also had a visit to our local independent garden centre because I still had £60 left on my voucher (the one the partners gave me when I left work).  The expiry date was 2nd February  this year but I managed to persuade them to extend it for another month as they have very little stock of anything at the moment – the season for them has not yet started and they do not sell many garden tools or gardening products like the large national garden centres.

In the end we decided on a Braeburn apple tree on M27 rootstock for our Scottish garden as it is a good time for planting and we will be visiting our cottage (caravan) in a few days time and can take it with us in the car.

We have a bit of a mystery in that in Scotland we have a Bramley apple tree and it has always fruited well – abundantly well last Autumn – but they are not self-fertile and are actually classed as triploid (requiring two other apple trees)  but there are no other apple trees or crab apples in our garden or the neighbourhood yet it keeps on producing fruit.  The Braeburn is self fertile but might be a reluctant fruiter so far North – we are banking on the mild Gulf stream climate that we have at the cottage to help it along but it may not like the winds.  We will give it a go.

With the remaining money I chose another of the glazed Heritage pots to match the one below that I bought last Autumn only a smaller sized one this time.I have always thought the one I got to put beside our front door looks a bit lonely so now it will have some company.  With the last £6 on the voucher I bought three pots of lovely pink tulips to go in it.

Today the weather is much cooler again and quite windy – good for the washing though – I have been working my way down all the dust sheets from the decorating at my daughter’s house.  I think we have more than we need now between us so the worst of them will be going out, they are not even fit for the rag bin.

I always like this time of year  – I feel energised to start cleaning and clearing, blowing away the cobwebs that have gathered in the corners over the winter and at the moment I am a little more motivated after feeling rather lethargic and probably a little lazy since Christmas.

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dEAr diary ~ a shortage of time

“I’m busy, man, too busy. There’s a lamentable absence of free time”.
Juan Pablo Montoya

Firstly welcome to my new followers and apologies for the longer than intended absence – I hadn’t actually intended an absence at all…of any kind, but there you are… it happened…and even though I have tried a few times to sit and write this post I have been unsuccessful each time in finishing it.  I seem to have been busy – a kind of business that involves a lot of this and that and not a lot of anything I would call really productive.

But surprisingly things have been getting done and as it has been a while since I last did a post I’ll just fill you in quickly.

Baby X now has a name but for the purpose of my blog I will be referring to him as Freddie.  His cousin Little L is fast growing into Big L now – but I just cannot refer to her as Big L so she will now be known on my blog as Libbie.  So there you have my merry little band of three grandchildren – Libbie, Sweetie and Freddie.

On the first Friday in February we set off mid morning for North Yorkshire to go to the village pantomime that my sister and her DH were taking part in.  The sun was shining and the traffic not too bad.  We treated ourselves to a Costa lunch of toasties at the Wetherby services as we were saving our homemade soup for tea at our daughter’s house.

We had a further stop in Thirsk for a walk around and a browse in my favourite independent book shop White Rose books.  I picked up a copy of this book for £3.99 reduced from £12.99 and bought a book token for my mum for her birthday, then on to Holland and Barrett to get a packet of yummy chocolate raisins for the pantomime later.Little Sew & SewThere are some delightful projects to make inside – I particularly like the embroidered peg bag.We had tea with my daughter and then set off for the panto with Libbie (Little L) who if you remember was ‘super’ excited – unfortunately the snow became very bad on the way through Bedale and we didn’t know whether to turn back or press on.  In the end we kept going and made it to the village hall to the north of Northallerton just in time for the start.

The panto was brilliant, Libbie laughed and cheered and clapped – she loved the fact her Uncle N was the baddy and Aunty A was Aladdin in a wonderful glittery costume.  It was a very fun night and afterwards we decided that we would try to get back to my daughter’s house outside Masham, rather than stay at my sisters.  A decision we may have lived to regret!  We took a longer alternative route back via the A1(M).  Two of the lanes were still running thanks to the lorries but once we got back onto the country lanes towards Masham it almost turned out to be a challenge too far as the snow was covering and becoming quite slippy and we were down to 20 mph.  Just after midnight we had got as far as Fearby but still had a few miles to go to Leighton Resevoir,  which is in the middle of nowhere on a road full of steep twist and turns and ungritted.  I am still not sure how we got up the final hill to my daughter’s farmhouse but with a wing and a prayer we did and of course stayed the night with her.  Libbie slept through the whole adventure in the back of the car – but never again. The next morning we woke to brilliant sunshine and the snow had started to melt.  The roads were clear once again and it was hard to believe it was the same place we had struggled to drive through in the early hours.  DH and Libbie went out to make snow castles and then we headed home stopping here and there to admire the beautiful views as we drove past the resevoir and back into Masham. Leighton Resevoir Fearby Since then I have been busy helping with little Freddie  – his mum, my elder daughter, had to go back again to hospital with her problem but hopefully all will be well now.

When I have had some free time I have been turning my attentions to jobs around the home  – It feels like an endless task list and I seem to have a number of projects on the go in each room but slowly it is all starting to come together.  I find that going back over a space I have already cleared often throws up more things that I no longer wish to keep.

The paperwork continues to be a headache and to add to this I have amassed a large number of files on my computer so I have been giving this a bit of a spring clean to get rid of old stuff and free up some space.   It is quite time-consuming going through a mass of folders but just like having a major clear out in my physical files clearing out my files on the computer feels just as good and I don’t have to bother shredding or burning it all.

I have also been giving our finances a bit of a makeover too, trying to simplify matters where I can and in doing so we were invited to a financial review with the Nationwide, our main banking and savings provider, and this proved quite useful.  We have transferred money to better interest accounts and closed down old ones no longer required.

We had a nice surprise too – the HMRC made an error with our marriage allowance application which has now been straightened out after a phone call and I await a cheque for £238 – every little helps. ValentineWe didn’t really celebrate Valentine’s day other than exchange cards.  I have had my Valentine card for a while now – I must have bought it a couple of years ago and then forgotten about it.  I often make my own but when I found it during a recent clear out I thought it would save me the job of making one and it is quite cute – I love the fact it has a little flask on the end of the bench – very appropriate for us now – I have no doubt this is what DH and I will look like in a few years time!

DH made one for me (he probably hadn’t thought about a card until the shops were shut) – but I think it is rather sweet and means so much more to me than a bought one.ValentinesThe meal planning continues and for some reason we have had a few pastry dishes.  The Carrot and Leek pasties were a hit and great for picnics – I will make them again –  and this week I made a cheese and tomato Quiche.Quiche QuicheTonight it is curry and it would have helped if I had known we didn’t have any curry paste in the cupboards.  We had to have a mad dash to the local supermarket but their range is limited so I had to buy a jar.  I am wondering if it will freeze – anyone tried this?

Hope everyone is well – I have been trying to keep up with all the blogs I visit though may not have commented very much.  I usually post a list of my monthly intentions at the beginning of the month but I might just start these again in March – February is not a long month and with the new baby each day has been a bit unpredictable for us so we have not been making many plans.

Back soon x

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

trEAsury ~ the January tally

For anyone following along with my state pension adventures – the objective this month, as with most months, was to spend less but some things just cannot be avoided – like the inevitable bills and fuel… and the most unavoidable but disastrous… taking my purse out with me!

I managed to roll over £84 of the last pension payment to this month but as the pension is paid 4 weekly (I promise I won’t gripe about this again) I won’t know if I have any spare funds until my next pension income on the 15th February.  My intention is to take out a percentage to save before I spend.

Transport costs

We did well on the fuel – just one fill up needed approx £75 for a full tank – we have not been very far this month and no trips up North and it has made such a difference – but we will be going on Friday (though this will come into February’s budget) – after all I cannot miss seeing my sister in a pantomime and Little L is going with us too this year and as she tells me “I am ‘super’ excited granny”, I only hope it doesn’t snow too much.

It was a heavy month for the cars – multi-insurance cover was due, road tax and a yearly service.

Health costs

Like the car I also had a maintenance check up at the dentist which is now £21.60 on the NHS and much cheaper than the car maintenance – maybe the NHS will do my car service next year.

Utilities

The general household utility bills are on a monthly standing order for the gas, electricity, telephone / internet and council tax.  Our council tax is paid in 10 monthly instalments so we don’t pay in February and March so this will help boost the float in the bill account.

Grocery and household costs

The groceries and household (toothpaste, toilet rolls etc) are working out at about £70 a week.  It has been a 5 week month for us and if you count it to the time we will be shopping again on the 5th February it will be almost 6 weeks so the average drops to £60 a week.  This is still disappointing and there are a few reasons that it has not dropped more –

  • Price rises – the supermarkets will insist on adding an extra 50p here and there as if we don’t notice.
  • I have been taking advantage of any items on offer that we normally use, but are not actually on my shopping list, and buying in multiples – it seems more cost-effective over the year to do this.
  • We are now spending a lot less on buying food and drink in Cafés when out and about – but of course the food has to come from somewhere so we are buying in extra bread and veg to make soup and sandwiches to take with us and this then comes within our grocery budget but obviously homemade food is far cheaper than buying out.  I also buy the wrapped chocolate biscuits or Cadbury’s mini rolls – whatever is on offer – to take with us if we do stop to have a drink anywhere – then we don’t have to buy expensive cakes and traybakes.
  • Although I am making a weekly menu plan I have not, as yet, been thinking in terms of how to make an individual meal cheaper or mix in some very cheap meals with some dearer ones over the week.   This will be my next step to reducing the food bill.  For instance a packet of brown lentils cost about 65p but mixed nuts for nut roast are £4 a packet, so a shepherd’s pie is far cheaper than a nut roast for us.  I am not a pasta fan but I could probably manage one pasta meal a week and pasta is very economical.  We perhaps have more cheese than we should too, so I could maybe cut down on our cheesy meals and use more pulses.
  • Fruit is just not cheap in this country out of season (and sometimes in season).  I have a small amount of mixed fruits each morning with my plain yoghurt to get my Vitamin C quota for the day, usually blueberries, oranges and grapefruit.  It is the blueberries that are the most expensive.  I have tried the frozen ones but for me they seem to have little taste and a watery texture.  To blend them to a puree means missing out on the fibre.

When I think about making savings in the food budget I always have to balance up the health costs too.  We are pretty healthy but I would not like to skimp on fruit and vegetables and as you know I always buy organically grown, even though it is dearer, as I feel passionately about supporting sustainable good husbandry practice that protects our countryside and wildlife.  I know this is not possible for a lot of people as price has to be the overriding factor but for as long as I can I will – there are many more economies I can make in other areas.

Home and garden purchases

Nothing major bought in this category so I was quite shocked to find I had spent £90 on bits and pieces for the house – inexpensive in themselves but collectively I spent far too much.

  • I bought 3 white wicker baskets reduced at Sainsbury’s to £5.33.  They have proved very useful though.
  • I took advantage of the Sainsbury’s after Christmas sale and bought 2 feather and down pillows £13.33 each to replace some worn out ones on our bed.
  • I also bought a natural cotton zipped pillow protector from John Lewis to protect the new feather pillows.  I thought there were two in the pack but it turns out there is only one so at £14 each that is expensive – more than the pillows.  I went for the natural cotton ones because the cheaper polyester have some kind of protective treatment on them and that put me off buying them.  I am dithering on this one – might return them.
  • My hot water bottle had also perished so I replaced that @ £2.99 from the Range (good value) but whilst I was there I bought 2 large plastic storage boxes for the loft to replace the old cardboard bankers boxes and they were £4.99 each which I think are much cheaper at Ikea. Oh well you win some you lose some.  I don’t like buying plastic but I think the items I am storing are much better protected in storage bins with lids than in cardboard.
  • My other two impulse buys are a wire magazine rack from Sainsbury’s reduced to £2.70 – hardly a bank breaker and I got one of the proper wire stands for my large Kilner drinks dispenser with tap, at £5.99 so I don’t have to balance it on an up turned bowl at parties and it should be much safer and easier to use.
  • And lastly I purchased 2 cushion covers in the sale at Dunelm – a pink fluffy one (I blame Sadie for this – the pink thing again!) and a lovely dark grey felt fabric with embroidered leaves that has a nice Scandinavian feel to it.  Total cost for both £16.  This was a bit of an impulse buy too – I should really have made some covers myself for my spare cushion pads.So although I didn’t think I was buying anything very much over the month obviously the spreadsheet tells a different story.

Gifts and card costs 

Gifts and cards came in at £54.99 this includes the gifts for the new baby and a 60th birthday present.  I failed to make cards this month again but it is on the agenda and would have saved me £6.50.

I also bought a few packs of Christmas cards in the sales for £4.22.  I now have 37 cards (11p a card) ready for next Christmas.

Crafts and hobbies

I was passing the craft shop in Holmfirth yesterday and decided to buy 4 different sized crotchet hooks and a ball of light grey DK wool to get me started.  I had just bought a Crotchet magazine in Sainsbury’s whilst doing the weekly shop on Tuesday it came with 8 small balls of wool included in the pack and I intend to sit in the evenings and have a go.  I can always resort to knitting if it doesn’t work out and goodness knows I have plenty of grandchildren now to knit for.

I also, in passing, saw one or two gardening magazines with free seeds – I weighed up the pros and cons of buying them this way.  I decided I had no use for carrots, turnips, parsnips and cabbage seeds and will only grow tomatoes, courgettes and salad leaves this year so would be better to buy individual packets of exactly what I need.

Eating out

A much reduced spend now – most of the £30 spent was from having a drink in Sainsbury’s – of course if I shopped without DH and left him at home it would be half this amount.  We can easily reduce this to zero by not having our pre-shop hot chocolate – it is just habit carrying on from when I used to go after a long day at work.  But then we all deserve a treat once in a while.

Clothing and footwear

Nothing purchased this month…nothing at all – big tick.

So that is the months analysis of our spending. As usual plenty of ups and downs in the budget – on the whole we survived and there was little hardship but my thinking is that for 2 people to live on one state pension you have to eat less and eat very cheap food, not go out anywhere unless on foot – maybe to a soup kitchen – and certainly not buy anything for the house or anyone else oh and nothing that requires too much heating to preserve the gas and electric – then you have cracked it.

Hoping to do better next month and any advice is welcome….

fEAsible ~ the importance of lists

I mentioned in my previous post that I had been planning – most of my planning still takes place in my ancient A5 planner  – I was introduced to planners at work in the 80’s, it came with my promotion – a leather ‘Time System’ planner but the better known Filofax is very similar and more recently the Bullet Journal system is now the new time planner, only more decorative.Everything was recorded in my planner – both for work and home and I didn’t go anywhere without it.  I still smile now when I remember those early days of time management planners – whenever I attended a meeting for work everyone else would arrive carrying theirs too and we would end the meeting synchronizing planner time!  I still use mine out of habit –  paper has always been my thing.

My planner is divided by a series of sections and each is full of ideas, lists and tasks – at the end of the day there is something very satisfying about making a little tick mark against a completed task, especially a task that has been rolling over week after week from one list to another most annoyingly.

ListsRecently I bought a book titled L’art de la Liste by the same author Dominique Loreau who wrote L’art de la Simplicité: How to Live More with Less.  She throws a whole new perspective on my love of lists.  She likens a list to a haiku (an expressive Japanese poem) or a journal as it becomes a record of your life and suggests the advantage of making lists allows us to rethink and restructure our ideas.

After a recent clear out I found a stack of my old to do lists and notes, which I have put aside to shred or burn on the cottage bonfire.  They can be quite enlightening and a reminder of what I have actually done with my time over the years.  After reading the book I may decide not burn them after all – but then that is not in keeping with a simple and minimalistic lifestyle…

– so such is my dilemma.

My word for the year is ‘transition’   as I am currently undergoing a period of big changes so my transformation to a simpler more streamlined home and lifestyle will require new routines that fit better with my new life.  Streamlining is an ongoing task and a bit like peeling away the layers of an onion.  It requires a slow steady approach and to help support my clearing out, paring down and keeping order I need to prevent future piles of stuff from reforming and building up again when I have an unexpected busy period or take my eye off the ball – which I know I will do.

Clutter spots seem to be contagious in this house and my main enemies are the washing and ironing pile, the finances, incoming emails and reading blogs and leaving comments – if I get busy they don’t get done.

So when I read the simple advice in The Joy of Less by Francine Jay to have a daily maintenance plan I knew this was the answer, after all I have time now in the mornings to do more as I am no longer rushing out to work.  Taking a few minutes each day to address the problem areas should help to keep the house in good order.  So this is my basic list:-

  • Put on one load of washing – this must be a full load where possible to save water and energy and is not always necessary every day but checking is.
  • Ironing – iron whatever I washed the day before
  • Finances – enter the receipts, balance statements and action anything waiting to be dealt with.
  • Check and reply to or delete incoming emails for the day
  • Blog comments – I include this in the list as keeping up with blogs I read and making comments is better done daily otherwise I find I have too much catching up to do.

I thought it important as well to throw in a bit of daily self-care – something that I should do more of but… oh well you know how it is – so I made a start by adding these to the list:-

  • Take supplements – currently my Vitamin D with my breakfast
  • Eat one apple a day – my contribution to a healthy diet and usually my mid morning snack
  • Exercises – at the moment I am following Posture Queen’s Somatic exercises to help my neck and shoulders, hips and knees.

I began my new routine in the New Year  – I switched my week on two pages diary in my planner for a page a day style, with more space I can keep a daily check list that I tick off as I go and this does help me to keep on track and stick to it.  When my routine was a bit disrupted last week with the arrival of baby X  I didn’t end up with a huge backlog of jobs as I was already on top of things.

I am really pleased – it could be working.

I am sure once my new routines are established I can add in a few more.  Getting the daily jobs done and out-of-the-way should leave me more time for the fun things in life.