fEAsible…a little baking and a lot more planning

Christmas cake Christmas cakeA nice quiet Sunday spent baking my Christmas cake whilst singing along to my favourite CD of Christmas Carols to get me in the mood.  DH had gone to the final concert in town and I had the afternoon to myself so once the cake was parcelled up and in the oven I had another go at my Christmas card.  I have so many varying Robins now but none are quite right and I am in two minds as to whether to ditch the idea and do something else.

On Saturday morning DH finished the shelving in the shed and today I remembered to take some pictures.  Garden shed Garden shedHe has done a fantastic job – plenty of hooks and shelving and the melamine from the old wardrobe will make the shelves easy to wipe down (and I am so pleased we could repurpose the wood and we didn’t have to take it to the landfill).  All I have to do now is put the contents back – but that will be another day – as will painting the outside as it is still too damp for the paint to stick.

We can however tackle the next maintenance job on the list – re-staining the front door surround and painting the door as it is well protected under the porch roof.   DH made a start this morning while it was both sunny and dry.

It was also completely still; no wind at all – the towels I hung on the line did not move an inch and came back in almost as damp as when I hung them out.I spent the day taking stock of what I have done and what I still have to do.  After a few hectic days I needed to check up on our finances and other bits and pieces and generally have a little time to think.

I added a few more tasks to my list as they came to mind – this time of year there are so many little jobs to remember – picking things up, dropping things off, and plenty of decisions to make – trying not to overlook anything.

Following on from my previous list of initial preparations I have a further list (no surprises there!) that is more about cleaning and preparing the house ready to decorate with the Christmas trimmings and also to make sure I have stocked up with all the basics so I don’t find myself running out to the shops on Christmas Eve for batteries or loo rolls.

One of the first things I do is to check the basic stocks in cupboards and drawers of non food items such as toiletries and household items – shampoo, toilet rolls, greaseproof paper, kitchen foil, batteries etc.  I have a reminder list of these items and I generally make a note to stock up with these things well before Christmas so I don’t run out or have to think about them when I am too busy doing other Christmas shopping.

I will then plan to eat up any of those odd bits from the freezer and clean it out.  Once this is done I can prepare some meals like the Nut loaf for our Christmas dinner and restock with the basics like peas, frozen chips and bread.

This is also a good time to have a quick check to see that any evening wear / party outfits are in good order and drop them off for dry cleaning (though I normally only buy washable clothes these days).

Finally I have a quick check over the Christmas lights to see they are in working order.

Cleaning plans

I do like my home to be relatively clean for Christmas especially before all the decorations go up and it gets difficult to clean.  I make a note of tasks that need to be done in each room and anything outside.

I like to give the downstairs rooms a good clean, knocking the dust off the lampshades!  I find that adding a bit of polish to the white goods and small appliances gives them a bit of a sparkle and of course I include giving the oven a good clean.  Once the main rooms look passable I can bring out the Christmas bits and pieces like my cute knitted Christmas pudding tea cosy and robin napkins that my daughter printed and made, my little Christmas china mug and plate and the Christmas candles and holders; by this time adding a few little finishing touches to the house it is beginning to look quite festive but not over done.  The tree and staircase garland are not installed until much nearer Christmas.

During November I will have been clipping away looking for some fresh ideas for the Christmas trimmings.  I have on the list to buy the tree and make a wreath and this I find is getting earlier each year.

DH usually decides where the outside lights are going to go – I leave this job to him and how many lights we have will depend on how much time he has to put them up and how much enthusiasm.  We lost our tree in the front garden a few years ago but still have a number of large shrubs and a climber that we fix lights to but also two tall metal cones made of sturdy chicken wire that look like Christmas trees when decorated.  I have made a note for DH to do the lights in November (thanks to Sadie from Notes from an ordinary life) in readiness for the switch on in December.

If we are having guests to stay over Christmas I will clean and prepare the guest room and check the bedding and also make a note of any specific dietary needs for any fussy visitors.

I have been doing quite a bit of the cleaning as I have decluttered recently so I feel I am well ahead but that could all change.  On a blustery day I might even wash the cushion covers and throws too so they smell fresh.

Well those are the plans so I had better get started now – lots still to do.  You would think after years of practice I must be getting better at this – but somehow it can still fee a bit of a rush to be ready on time.

 

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dEAr diary…a week of domesticity

I have been busy……….domestically so………….bliss.

There is nothing to beat the satisfaction of a few days of cleaning, clearing and crafting at the homestead

First of all I had to tackle a mountain of washing and ironing after a fortnight at the cottage.  With no easy means of washing clothing or bedding in the caravan it has to be brought home for laundering.  Once that was all line dried, ironed, aired and put away there was…Laundry

Laundrythe  apples… and yet more apples to deal with – they are now peeled, chopped, cooked and in the freezer.  I kept a few apples back to make individual crumbles (together with the last ‘use up’ jar of apricot puree from the kitchen cupboard clear out) – they are also in the freezer.  Apple and apricot crumblesAnd finally I baked an old favourite from the basic Good Housekeeping cookbook –  a mouth-watering apple and sultana cake.  This didn’t even make it as far as the freezer.

Apple cake

One of my intentions this October is to make a new recipe each week – last week I made a delicious mushroom soup for lunch – so quick and easy – topped with some left over grated cheese but it would have been equally good with croutons and a swirl of cream.

Mushroom soup

This week we have had a green soup using up the spinach, lettuce, leek and some frozen peas.  I added a small potato for thickening, some vegetable stock and a handful of fresh parsley.  It was gone before I could photograph it!

With all this housekeeping I think I might be turning into a Stepford wife – just give me a little frilly pinny!

In and amongst the domestic chores I have continued with the decluttering to reduce our stuff and being mindful of the 5 R’s –

recycle, reuse, reduce, recover (or repurpose) and repair. 

I intend to find a new home, a new purpose, a way to recycle or repair so that nothing leaves here in the bin unless there is no other way.  This is my progress this week:-

Repairs

Just before we left for Scotland our under counter fridge in the kitchen suddenly stopped working.  It is about 32 years old – in fridge years that makes it a pensioner like us!   I thought that was it. Curtains for the fridge.  I panicked because we hope to have a new kitchen put in sometime soon and we will be looking at an integrated fridge so didn’t want to have to buy a new one, not now.  Luckily SIL (who is an electrician) stepped in and thought it was the thermostat – ordered one whilst we were away, fitted it and voila it works again.  Don’t you just love being able to repair things.  Cost – £12.

DH is betting (hoping) it lasts another 32 years!

I have a battery operated bedside alarm clock in retro style where the alarm stopped working (ironically the day before I stopped working) – so after the success with the fridge I went to see the clock man in town to enquire about a repair.  Unfortunately, I was told it was a sealed unit made as non-repairable, so nothing they could do.  I came home disappointed – so with nothing to lose DH unscrewed the back off the clock to find there is in fact a sealed electronic unit inside.  He just jiggled any accessible components about a bit and then screwed the back plate on again and what do you know it is working again.  Cost – nothing.

Mending

I have a flannelette pillowcase we use at the caravan, part of our cosy winter set, and as I was ironing it I noticed a small hole had appeared in the weave.  A small amount of Stayflex (a fabric Vylene) ironed onto the back should stop it getting any bigger and make it last longer. Cost – just my time.

Like most of you we have a lot of electrical items that need maintaining to keep them in good order and working well – it is a task that is very much neglected but one I am going to pay more attention to as it should keep them running longer and in some cases more efficiently and most of all reduce the need to replace.

I made a list of all the things this applies to and will work my way down.  First on the list I gave my iron a good self-clean to flush all the build up of limescale out and stop it landing on my clothes as I iron.  I was surprised how easy it was to do although it took me several goes until the black specks stopped coming out as it must be over 18 months since I did it if not longer.  I also cleaned the stainless steel sole plate with a tube of special cleaner and an old towel (I never have non-stick plates – I always find they do stick!).  So now it gleams and glides and I intend to put it on my monthly task list so it will be a much quicker job next time.

Reduce

Yesterday we took 4 bags of clothes, shoes, and handbags to a local charity shop so my wardrobe is looking so much sleeker now and holds no clothes  that itch or fidget me, do not fit well, do not make me feel good or are well past their best.  I still have my mother of the bride outfits to deal with but other than that it is a great feeling each morning to go to my wardrobe and know that whatever I choose will be things that I want to wear and feel good to wear even my gardening clothes.

I have also made a start on reducing my box of blank card stock.  I had little time this week so only did some quite basic stamping. 

After a bit of playing about with ideas I settled on this cute little bird card using a box of french DJECO stamps my daughter bought me.  I thought about colouring the birds but I quite liked the bold black and white.

I know my friend likes hand-made cards and also anything made of wood.  We only buy small gifts for each other so when I saw this lovely hand carved wooden bookmark in Scotland it was the perfect present.  I added a box of luxury chocolate Raisin and Hazelnut biscuits by Elizabeth Shaw (they were reduced to £1 in Sainsbury’s shhh don’t tell).

Repurpose

This is perhaps a harder challenge than the others finding a new use for something you no longer want but with a bit of sideways thinking it is possible.

I have a set of herb and spice jars with chrome lids that I bought a few years ago from Habitat.  Unfortunately the plastic jar reacts badly with the spices over time (not so much the herbs) and leaves a coating that is like a crust on the inside of the jar that cannot be cleaned off.  So gradually I am replacing them with glass ones from the Sainsbury’s new herb and spices range.

I have had to bin most of the old spice jars but one or two that had herbs in are OK and had been put in the charity pile.  I was looking around the house the other day for a container to hold a few cotton buds that I can leave at the caravan and spotted the empty herb jars on the pile…………result a perfect fit and looks quite stylish. repurpose

A busy week so far but I am getting into a routine at last,  keeping up with the finances and laundry and doing a bit of ‘stuff’ clearing each day.

DH has been making progress on the clear up outside now that the rendering is complete and refreshing the stain on the windows (ours are wooden – environmentally sound but they do need lots of maintenance).

His next task is to dig out and lay new concrete to extend the old concrete base by a couple of feet so that it will accommodate the new longer shed.  This is the side that had all the trouble with water getting in but seems bone dry and water tight now it has been rendered and repointed.

I spent most of the day on Wednesday in the front garden which looks much better – it was rather neglected this year.  The shrubs are a bit on the big side and need a good prune next year but I managed to weed and dig over the borders ready to put in the new bulbs I have bought – but guess what it has rained each day since.

Have a lovely weekend. x