fEAsible ~ what works for me

It is so grey outside but I quite like it – it feels restful and quiet – just right for a period of reflection and I find January is a good month just to ‘be’ rather than do.

Transition is my focus word for the year – a period of adjustment –  and I need to adjust some of my household routines to fit in better with my new circumstances.  So, since the start of this year I have been steadily working on a list of household tasks I need to do everyday now I am not working in order to …well keep order… and prevent a build up of clutter and chaos that can arise from letting things pile up.   You might have the same problem with little piles appearing in corners or on a table or worktop.  They tend to quietly build up over time because finding time to deal with them is often in short supply.

My starting point has been to think about what worked for me and what didn’t last year, what will I continue to do and what needs improvement or ditching altogether.  My word(s) last year were ‘The power of small’ and I did just that – some of the things were just little changes, some became major improvements and some…well I even surprised myself.

The small changes that worked for me are…
  • Making soup – I never seemed to have the time to do this regularly when I was working – now it is almost routine – and what is better than a hot bowl of soup full of winter vegetables.  We don’t have it for lunch everyday but I do freeze some and it is great to use at a moments notice for a  picnic.Tomato Soup

Winter Picnic

  • Taking picnics and flasks on our trips out – it might be shopping, or a day out or travelling but wherever we go the first thing we do now is make the picnic and fill the flasks.  DH is getting very good at this and not only is it a good money saver but we also prefer it to some of the cafe lunches we have had as the vegetarian choices can be limited.  It will be a real treat now to have a bought lunch and we can limit this to visits our favourite places that we enjoy.
  • LaundryKeeping up daily with the ironing and the finances – I make sure that I iron everything I washed the day before in the morning and this way the pile never builds up.  I did lapse at Christmas when I was busy doing advent activities but I am back on course again now as I love seeing my empty ironing basket.  I do the same entering my receipts and keeping a tally of my spending.Courgette plant
  • I grew courgettes in a large pot again this year and this time from seed – it is so easy and the results are so satisfying and they taste wonderful.  I am expanding this to grow some outdoor tomatoes this summer – I have earmarked a little space for them in the garden by the fence where they will have the most of the sunshine and shelter.
  • My Year Book – I can’t tell you how much pleasure this has given me and I have just started a new one this year.  I keep a list of my monthly intentions, notes of books I want to read, recipes I might find, decor and gardening ideas and bits and pieces of everything and anything and it is a great place to stick all my cuttings of things I might want to do.
…and the major improvements
  • this has to be focusing on the outside of the house – we took one step at a time completing one job then moved onto the next and the rendering and repointing has made such a big difference to the look of the house and cleaning the brickwork brought it back to look like new.  Once the weather is better we will continue with painting the front door, replacing the garage door and relaying the tarmac drive – but of course these are quite expensive projects so we need to make savings elsewhere.
  • Somatic Exercises – the Feldenkrais method – if you have never tried these then I can only recommend that you have a go.  Try the Posture Queen on you tube – it is the best way I know to help any posture problem like tense shoulders and general stiffness – it is so gentle it feels like you are not doing very much but the results can be felt after just one session.  They do take quite a while as taking it slowly is key and scheduling time for this is still difficult for me so I am going to make a positive effort to do some each day because it works.
and then the unexpected –
  • Our Italian holiday – I had forgotten how much I enjoyed travelling and seeing other countries and cultures.  Since we bought our little cottage the renovations took up all our time and holidays but having the wedding to go to gave us the nudge we needed to have a break from this and plan a proper holiday.
  • Leaving paid work – this was a ‘biggy’ – not exactly planned and not exactly ideal timing as I cannot draw my state pension yet but I am getting used to being at home, trying to get used to a drop in income and easily getting used to not rushing about all the time – though I can still feel guilty about that.

The little changes have almost become habit and I will add more changes to these as there are things that did not work for me last year and I will need to work on those.

More on this later…

Meanwhile a big welcome to my new followers and everyone that has left a comment recently – I love getting to know new readers and your ideas are always so helpful.  I promise I will get round to posting the recipes soon – I am sorry Dar that you have waited so long for the Stroganoff!

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

fEAsible…plotting, planning and preparing for Christmas

Another dark dreary day today and cold with it – light is in short supply at the moment but I did manage to get my selection bags finished and ready to go.  The only cost to me was for the fun size chocolate bars inside which I bought reduced at Halloween, the gift wrap was some left over from a previous year and the tags from old Christmas cards.  I will take pictures tomorrow as the light has gone altogether now.

I made Mushroom soup today and extra for the freezer.  It has become my favourite lunch at the moment – perhaps you can tell!  We had freshly baked rolls too from Sainsbury’s – a kind of Ciabatta bread with cheese and shaped like a boat – should have taken a picture.  They were reduced to 4 for 60p – so a bargain as well.

I have started my initial preparations for Christmas, I use the same checklists each year so I don’t forget to do things.  This is the first of a series of lists that I have developed over time and serve me well:-

Getting prepared and organised – step 1 – initial preparations

  • Begin a Xmas inspiration notebook or wallet –  a definite must – I collect all those usually annoying leaflets, adverts about events, recipes, decoration ideas or anything Christmassy that catches my eye.
  • Look at what didn’t work last year (see my notes HERE from last year of things to avoid or do better)
  • Do something different this yearI like to plan something new each year and this often ends up as a new tradition the following years.
  • Decide on any entertaining we might do and set a date – prepare invitations knowing if and when we might be holding a party or get together is crucial to knowing just how busy I am going to be.
  • Find the decorative Xmas box to hold incoming Xmas cards as they arrivebelieve it or not we have received our first Xmas card but it is far too early to put it up so I usually hold them all in a pretty box.
  • Review finances for last Xmas and set a new budgetI keep a note of our past Christmas spending and plan a new budget based on this.
  • Arrange the family Not so Secret Santa draw
  • Prepare the Christmas Calendar for December – I like to put everything down in one place so I have a calendar that I can see at a glance what is planned for each day in December. 

I start by putting down any dates that are fixed like birthdays, then schedule appointments, and then decide on any events we might like to attend if we can fit them in.

  • Add birthday dates first and any anniversaries (we have quite a few in December)
  • Reschedule any unnecessary appointments for after Christmas (this might be a dental check up or the like if it is non urgent I will move it to after Christmas)
  • Establish everyone’s movements (otherwise known as who is going where with whom)
  • Schedule / book appointments for hairdressers, massage etc (a little ‘me’ time)
  • Make a note of any discount nights or late night shopping
  • Schedule time with the familythis might be a night out at a restaurant or a night in with a Xmas film – something we can all do together.
  • Schedule any religious activitiesCarol singing, Crib service etc
  • Schedule a theatre night or Christmas event (this year we are going to see the Winter Wonderland lights at Dunham Massey and probably go to the Living Advent event in Saltaire)
  • Add dates for making Christmas food gifts (I usually make a few food gifts for my friends and these have to be made closer to Christmas so I need to leave a clear day or two)
  • Add last posting dates for Christmas (I have already picked up the leaflet for this year whilst I was at the post office)

This is very much the planning and plotting stage – deciding on what to do and where to go and when.  I have already done some of these things on this list – but have I missed anything?

There is a lot to fit in now into four weeks.  My next task will be the cake on Sunday and getting back to doing my lino cut Christmas card.

I was chatting with my daughter about a present for Little L for Christmas and I mentioned the subscription boxes you can order for children that come by post once a month with activities.  I signed up for something similar years ago that was run by the Early Learning Centre before they had shops and my two girls loved it when the parcel arrived each month, a box full of surprises.  I am not sure they are such good value these days but the idea is still good and we are looking into it.  She has so many presents on Christmas day that it would be nice to spread it out a bit.  Has anyone any experience of any on the market?

Tomorrow we are going back to John Lewis  – it is one of my Christmas treats in itself – I love to look at all the lovely things and get ideas.  What a shame I don’t have another free hot drink and cake voucher unless one arrives in the post in the morning!

How are your plans coming along?

 

 

 

 

 

fEAsible…November intentions

November Intentions

We are already on day twelve of November – just short of halfway so my intentions will have to be briefer than intended to get through them all by the end of a month that has only 30 days.

Waiting for little Sweetie to arrive has extended a lot of our plans for October into November but I don’t mind she is well worth it.  So this is my revised plan for November (otherwise known as what I ‘intend’ to do) –

plEAsurable and fEAsting

We have a few planned events this month

-a family celebration this coming Sunday

 -DH has booked to see 4 concerts from 16th to 25th during the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

-and I will be attending the ‘Crisis’ coffee morning at our local church on the 24th (and hopefully will have made my selection bags by then for the craft stall to sell).

bEAching

A trip to the cottage is still on the agenda –

but this might prove a little difficult to squeeze in.  We have had numerous flood warnings recently as there have been a lot of high tides in the bay but luckily I can keep updated on the village Facebook page where the locals put short videos of any adverse weather.  I do love this time of year though at the cottage – I actually like the bleakness and watching the crashing waves on the shore whilst we cosy up in the caravan.

crEAting

This is now becoming urgent and I must focus on –

-finalising my Christmas card design

-making the chocolate selection bags

-preparing for our Not so Secret Santa draw next weekend

I may have to accept that making my Calendar books for my friends will have to be postponed for another year.

trEAsury

More than ever we need to watch the pennies this year. It is with reluctance that I have decided to look over my Christmas card list and reduce it down to save on the postage costs, as even with second class stamps it is a hefty amount  – so my intention here is to resort to an email with a print your own letter card.

I have no need to buy any new trimmings this year but we do need to get the Christmas lights out as I think we had to cobble together the tree lights last year and may need to buy new ones.  As Sainsburys are having their Nectar Point Double Up event this week I am making a note of everything we can buy from Sainsburys using my £99 of reward points which is equal to almost £200 of goods.  We need to get there early to have the pick of the wine and other Christmas goods on offer.  I will also be putting some printer inks in my basket as this is a good buy.

rEAranging and nEAtening

Rather than continuing with any more decluttering I will be clearing the remaining piles of items going out and calling it a day for this year.  I have old postcards to give to a bookshop in Buxton, and a lot of ‘shredding’ from our files to dispose of (which I may burn at the cottage on a bonfire).  Last week I managed to take the final bags to Oxfam and gave some old work papers back to work for their shredding bin.

I have been doing a thorough clean of a lot of the rooms alongside the decluttering but this month I will concentrate on the kitchen as it has taken a back seat again recently and I need to clean the oven and on top of the cupboards.

I have been running the freezer down and I propose to give this a clean and then restock with some Christmas meals, more soup and a few other bits.

fEAsting

I  usually make my Christmas cake after the church Crisis coffee morning which is always scheduled for the last but one Saturday in November.  This stems from the time when I organised this event and could not do anything towards our Christmas until it was over.  I have bought all the ingredients ready and I will soak the fruit a few days prior to baking.

I will also make more soup to have on hand as December gets busier and we need some quick nutritious meals.

homestEAd

After the long wait I think we can finally call the shed company to have ours delivered and erected and then all the gardening stuff can be moved out of the garage.  We have been waiting for a day when we could say we would be at home.  I think we can do that now.

mEAndering

Finally no month would be complete without a few days out and about.  There are numerous events on in the region but I will probably settle on a day out in Derbyshire – Buxton or Bakewell maybe – with a picnic of course.

So with barely 3 weeks to go I had better get a move on.

 

 

fEAsible…October review

I really enjoyed October, I had time to test out new routines, catch up with a lot of paperwork, reorganise some areas in the house, declutter a little more and spend time with Little L.

But now I have to focus on November and the Christmas plans, I haven’t a lot in mind this Christmas due to circumstances within the family we have no big events so it will be a minimal, simple time for us.

We are STILL waiting the arrival of the new baby – we have been on amber alert for over a week now and still no sign.  Until baby arrives we cannot have the shed delivered and erected (it is made and waiting), or go up to Scotland or go very far at all so many of our October plans are running over into November.

So how did I do with my ‘intentions’ last month –

appEArance

…well I finally found time just for me-for a little self-care, a reflexology session and back massage (wonderful), a trip to the hairdressers and a homemade pampering session.

Neal's YardAs Neal’s Yard strapline says I certainly felt the love.

mEAndering

Sadly we didn’t get to the Manchester Artists Book Fair but we did have some great days out and about in our local parks and a visit to Kiplin Hall in North Yorkshire for lunch with my mum. 

crEAte

I haven’t had time to focus on a lot of craft work as I didn’t want to lose the momentum of clearing the house but I was able to gather a few Autumn treasures, the colours are so  beautiful at this time of year I could happily sit and sketch or paint for hours.

I have made a start on the lino cut Christmas card sketching out a few ideas which I will develop into a final print.

On our recent trip to the Wigtown Book Fair I was inspired by the work of artist Astrid Jaekel.  Many of the buildings and walls in Wigtown had been  decorated like giant canvases in striking black and white prints ….

…in a similar way I used some little rubber bird stamps I have and a black ink pad to create a few simple birthday cards.

fEAsting

With plenty of apples from our tree to use up I baked Apple cake – eaten with or without butter – delicious either way, a cake for my brother’s birthday and of course the Halloween buns with help from Little L.For lunch I have made a lot of soup trying out a number of different recipes.  We loved them all and they are now firm favourites – perfect for the cooler weather.     homestEAd

Progress was made on the home front too.  Whilst DH sorted out the pebbles, cleaning and relaying them around the house (after the mess of the rendering), I did the easy bit of buying a new pot which is currently just planted with a few pansies to brighten up our front doorstep.  I had intended Cyclamens but I have still to find some that are a reasonable price.We did quite a bit in the garden whilst the weather was good, weeding borders for the last time this year, gathering up the pots into a more sheltered position and covering up the garden furniture – we are all ready now for any bad weather to come.

trEAsury

Being on a tight budget there is not a lot of leeway now to spend on anything we really don’t need and in any case I am making a big effort not to buy more stuff as I am clearing the clutter but this little patterned storage jar from Next is just perfect for my teabags, was a reasonable £6 and just breaks up the empty space left where I removed the three old glass tea, coffee and sugar storage jars from the worktop.  I will be reusing these for rice in my new pantry when DH fits it out.

The wooden bookmark was a great find in a craft shop – also inexpensive but perfect for the person I was giving it to.

Throughout the month we did have plenty of no spend days and the trips to the local park provided our free entertainment.  We have been very careful at the supermarket only buying food to a menu plan or to take advantage of any offers and by making plenty of soup we have avoided being wasteful with the vegetables.  On our outings we packed sandwiches and have taken drinks in a flask to help keep costs down if we need to eat when we are out.  It does take time to plan all this but once you get into the swing of things it does become easier.

rEAranging and nEAtening

It would seem that all my efforts to simplify and declutter are beginning to pay off.  With less stuff around I feel so much better in myself and much more organised – I can certainly feel the weight of the stuff, that has felt like a burden to me for so long, lifting.  It is so much easier to locate the things we do need to find and use.

  At the moment I am tackling the paper mountain in the office/craftroom.  This includes anything from receipts and bills to recipes and garden clippings and everything else in between.  Of course since we had the flood at the cottage I am nervous about not keeping receipts as without them we could not have claimed for our contents.  As I had kept every receipt since we bought the place there was no question of not being reimbursed but they do take up space – the alternative is to scan them onto the computer.

managEAble

On the planning side I have been gathering together bits and pieces for my Christmas notebook (I decided to reuse an old A5 filofax that I have rather than buy a new notebook).  Any craft ideas, gift ideas or recipes for the festive period are being filed in here along with such things as the posting dates for Christmas cards and other information that I may need.

Last night I booked to go on the Dunham Massey Christmas Lights trail with some of our friends in December.  It is a National Trust property in Cheshire, a beautiful old Georgian house and this magical light show in the grounds is now in its second year.  This is a real treat – not cheap and even National Trust members have to pay but I am really looking forward to going – just a little disappointed we won’t be able to take Little L as she lives too far away and our booking is on a school night.

We will probably go to the Saltaire Advent Window event too but in contrast this is a free event and well worth going to.

Halloween Pumpkin

So that was a quick round-up of October – a very productive month for me – I feel I achieved a lot and the piles waiting to go out to new homes is going down bit by bit as I dispose of the items I no longer need or want.  Once you begin to uncover more space I find you just want more.

Just as a matter of interest I popped into my old work today – I had birthday presents to take to some friends there and a box of old work related papers for shredding.  It was lovely to see everyone but I was not prepared for the news that the new lady has now handed in her notice.  Rumour has it that she would have been asked to leave anyway as many of the workforce have had some difficult dealings with her.  At least the management are now aware of her bad behaviour themselves as she holds nothing back and has been extremely rude to everyone and anyone including the directors; in fact one of the directors is having to sit at my old desk to keep an eye on her at present until her departure to prevent further problems arising between her and my old team – she has been quite nasty to them at times and to think I stuck up for her when she first arrived – my lovely hard-working team do not deserve to be treated like they have been since I left and she took over.

It was in my opinion only a matter of time before this happened – people like this usually hang themselves without any help from others.  I just hope the new Solicitors that are taking her on are well prepared!

I will keep you updated when I am able about the baby – surely it cannot be much longer amybe tonight will be the night!

Back soon X

fEAsible…plans for October

October

October –  the beginning of the fourth and final quarter of the year.  So much colour and texture about this month and I had great fun foraging about in the hedgerows collecting foliage.

For me it is a bit of the lull before the storm, the storm being the ‘frenzy’ that sets in around November with the countdown to Christmas.  I want to make the most of this month to prepare for the ‘frenzy’ or at least try to keep the frenzy at bay by putting plans in place early.

Like most people now I am drawing the blinds and curtains early against the darker evenings and struggling with the darker mornings but at least I can look forward to some cosy evenings watching one or two of the new Autumn dramas on TV and a black and white film or two on the Talking Pictures channel.

As the garden will be demanding less and less of my attention once the tidying up is done I am going to use my time indoors to carry on with the major decluttering and creating a better run, more spacious household.

I will be pulling out a few new seasonal recipes to try, and hopefully finding lots of inspiration and ideas to fill both my sketchbook and Christmas notebook, and planning, planning, planning.

It is only 31 days so I will have to work fast on my intentions for this month as there is so much I would like to do. This is the list:-

appEArance

I have been so busy during the summer I feel I have neglected myself . So I have booked a reflexology session and back massage with a voucher I have been given,  a hair appointment and I will treat myself to a DIY home facial, pedicure and manicure

Put the finishing touches to my new streamlined winter wardrobe.

crEAting

Now I am no longer working I want to use some of my new-found time filling my sketchbook with ideas and drawings and creating a lino cut for my Christmas card as well as making my Christmas gifts

mEAandering

The Artists book fair in Manchester is back at a new venue – a brilliant event.

I also intend getting out and about locally exploring nearby places closer to home

fEAsting

Meal planning using seasonal vegetables and trying some new supper recipes.  Baking with the last of our home grown apples and buying the ingredients for my Christmas cake in readiness for next month

homestEAd

completing the house exterior, putting new shed in place and planting bulbs

rEAarranging and nEAtening

decluttering the kitchen – the final touches

recycle, reuse, reduce, recover, repair

trEAsury

Dealing with the limited cash flow, maintaining plenty of no spend days and finding free events and outings

managEAble

Starting a new notebook specifically for my Xmas plans and ideas

(thanks to Slamseys Journal for the idea of using the foliage I had collected for my October picture).

 

 

 

 

 

fEAsible…September review

Well September seemed a short month I cannot believe it is over so quickly.  I set my intentions at the beginning of the month – (I find it helps to make a list of what I would like to do in the coming month) – not everything gets done and I don’t always do what I intended – the review helps me to realise that I did actually do something!

sEAsons

As summer moved briskly into autumn it was time to switch over my clothes.  I carefully laundered and packed away the lightweight garments for next year discarding anything that was very worn or in some cases hardly worn at all because they were those inevitable mistake purchases.

I completely emptied and cleaned out the wardrobe and drawers to reorganise the space.   A lot of old favourites put back out on the rail and a few more items relegated to the charity bag – the mistakes from last year!

The finished result is so much better – filled with nice warm snuggly clothes to see me through the winter season – a much simplified collection with space to breathe.  One or two items are still held in that state of temporary pondering whether they stay or go.

homestEAd

Do you have projects  that just seem to rumble on and on  – dealing with the exterior of our house has been one of them and it has taken up most of this year but at last I think we are looking at being watertight this winter.  The rendering of the top half of our house was quite a major job and although the men worked hard and have done a good job there was such a lot of tidying up to do, much more than we anticipated.  The pebble gravel round the house needs taking up, cleaning and putting back down again to get rid of the bits of render that fell into it despite the protective sheet the contractor put down.

Before our trip to Scotland DH was busy washing down the remaining brickwork beneath to remove the tiny splashes of render and re-staining all the windows.  Then he put back the burglar alarm and outside light.  The shed is on order at last, as space is a bit restricted we cannot have one more than 4 feet wide but we have ordered one that is an extra foot long – seven feet instead of the usual six.  It is only an extra foot but sometimes that can make all the difference.

Once the gravel is cleaned the shed should be ready for delivery and by then the compost bins will be back in place (I have so much missed using my compost bins).  All that is left on the exterior list then is to get a new front door and garage door and hire a contractor to redo the driveway.

Then the outside of our house will have had a complete makeover.

mEAndering

I could have spent the whole of September meandering – so many events to choose from and by chance we happened to be in Scotland for the Wigtown Book Fair (post about this to come) some very creative artists on show at the fringe events and an exhibition of miniature books.

Over the Heritage weekend we visited the little chapel in Matlock Dale (you can read about it here) – one of the best days, we really enjoyed it and especially finding the surprise tea room in the woods afterwards.

nEAtening

I love a good declutter, the planning, the cleaning, the clearing and creating more space so I started this job in the kitchen with a burst of enthusiasm.  I have been reordering and moving around, trying to simplify the cupboards so everything is within easy reach and flows better.  I often find that once you start the clearing process and letting things go it is easier to let more go.

I have been using up a lot of the food from the clear out and my food cupboards will soon look like Mother Hubbards.  I don’t plan to restock with any ‘just in case’ food as it was obvious we weren’t using it, maybe keep a tin of beans and a tin of fruit in case of emergencies other than that it will be the usual pantry goods to make a meal or drink; dried pasta, flour, sugar, cereal, coffee and teabags and jars of jam,  sauce, chutney and oil for dressing and cooking etc.

crEAting

In terms of crafting I have ideas but not produced anything substantial yet.  I plan to earmark a day a week to do nothing else and build on that. Autumn is a great time for inspiration and I have collected a few nature bits to sketch and maybe use these to turn into a lino cut.

fEAsting

Sadly my home-grown courgettes are just about finished – completely organic – we really enjoyed them.  This year I grew them from seed rather than buying plants – I had forgotten just how easy they are.

As the weather has become colder we are definitely on warmer meals.  I have been introducing a few more adventurous hot sandwich lunches and also made a start on reducing my recipe clippings – even thrown away a number from my folders that I know I won’t make or I have duplicates of.

rEAding

Plenty of bedtime reading this month.  Mainly on the theme of living simply and discarding.  I particularly love the little book called A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind – it is pure domestic simplicity. Another interesting book which I have had for years is Swimming with Piranha makes you Hungry by Colin Turner – a strange title maybe but full of valuable advice on simplifying. It is good to have a re-read of a book from time to time.

trEAsury

I had the intention during September that I would set out a new budget for our new circumstances.  The budget did not materialise even though it was a high priority on my list – some how I managed to ignore it as sorting out the house inside and out seemed to take over and I just never found the time.  But as you know I have plans for getting down to this and already I am implementing the daily task of recording our finances in the hope that little and often will stop it mounting up.

bEAching

The recent trip to Scotland to our cottage (caravan) was such a rejuvenating time.

We spent time on the beach…time in the garden…

and time out and about in Dunoon, Portpatrick and Wigtown and loved every minute.

In all September was a success for me – perhaps not doing exactly what I had planned and never doing enough, but I look back on the month with a feeling of satisfaction.

I am now working on my October intentions.

Back soon x

trEAsury…simplifying money matters

As autumn is underway now and my world of paid work is but a distant memory I still feel I haven’t settled into any worthwhile routines or daily rhythms.  I suppose they take time to shape and develop, so I am going to give them a bit of a nudge and create some that are a bit more in step with my life now and reflect the simplified life I want to achieve.

You may have noticed over the years that I am hopeless at routines – evidenced by my erratic posts – I plan to do things then get absorbed in something else.

I did have a really good ‘getting to work’ routine – well I did have 19 years of practice – but I don’t need that now (the work routine not the practice of course).  In fact I could be tempted to sneak back to bed in the mornings – but I don’t.   Honest.

Since stopping work I find my mornings are spent doing a bit of this and that, checking emails, reading blog posts, tidying, ironing – but nothing consistent or that could be considered a routine.  I tend to agree with the idea that a good morning routine is the foundation of any successful day as well as starting early – unfortunately, I am no morning person either – so that will be challenging too.

One of the daily routines I am going to tag onto my morning routine, such as it is, will be a daily financial check so that I can keep a close eye on our spending.  As the effects of being on a limited income are now being felt I can vouch for the fact that a single *state pension alone does not go very far and the monthly bills soon eat their way into the bulk of it.  I need to take action so we don’t overspend and start drawing on our retirement fund.  I don’t intend to dip into that unless it is absolutely vital.

I read somewhere that you should take time each day to actively manage your wealth and set aside a further 30 minutes to an hour every week to review your budget and handle the associated paperwork mountain – statements, bills, insurance and utilities.  Now I have the time each day I plan to adopt this daily and weekly routine to help me to keep on track and highlight any areas I think we may be overspending.

I am also determined to simplify the process, it seems to take far too long and perhaps one of the reasons why I often put off doing it or just can’t find the time to sit down and do it.  And so it all builds up and then takes a long time to sort out.  I think little and often would be much better – it is worth a try – so during October this will be one of my main goals.

So, starting today, and first thing every morning I will get into the habit of overviewing my finances for ten minutes, noting the amount of cash at the start of the day and recording the previous day’s receipts and spending.  Each week I will then balance statements, pay bills and check the bank balances.

Well that is the plan and by starting small I might even succeed.  I must admit I quite like a financial challenge – in my teen years I was always good at managing my pocket-money and setting aside enough each week to buy all my relatives a present for Christmas – usually from the Co-op in the village where each year they had a wonderful display of bath salts and embroidered hankies – you know the kind of thing.

I must admit the stack of paperwork on my desk at home waiting for my return is a bit daunting almost as high as my ironing pile was a few weeks ago. I have been very inattentive to our finances since leaving work other than keeping in mind that I shouldn’t be spending as much as I was…on anything.  I should have set up a new budget by now more in keeping with our new income but confess I just haven’t got round to it.

After banging on the calculator for a few hours, adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying the *state pension I decided is not going to go very far (no overtime available and not much chance of a pay rise!), and annoyingly paid every 4 weeks on a different day each month, so my conclusion is we need to conserve money where we can and be vigilant at recording and monitoring our spending and challenge ourselves to plenty of ‘no spend days’.

Today just happens to have been one of them.  We survived.

*I still can’t quite believe I am talking about a living on a pension (where did all those years go before this point).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dEAr diary…thoughts on planning

Life goes more slowly down here on the Mull; lots of time to ponder, reflect and make plans that I don’t often allow myself at home.

I feel the year is slipping away quickly now and I am conscious of that ‘big’ event, which we don’t mention just yet, looming on the horizon and I need to make some tentative plans sooner rather than later.Last November I bought myself a gorgeous pale pink and gold leather look notebook from W H Smiths to record my monthly intentions – these are ideas of what I want to do (and sometimes must do) during the coming month in the various aspects of my life – home, self, outings etc.  I have mentioned this before in a previous post and you can read my monthly intentions by clicking on the fEAsible intentions category in the sidebar. I also make a list of thirty or thirty-one simple tasks that I can complete during the month (basically one a day) and tick them off as I go. It is also a place where I capture my thoughts, record notes and ideas, jot down website addresses or telephone numbers and stick in clippings of anything that grabs my attention – new finds and discoveries, seasonal looks, a new product, a book to read or a recipe idea – just about anything I want to make a note of – it has become a bit of a jumbled catchall but I actually feel it works well for me and keeps all of those bits and pieces in one place.

At the moment my pages for September are full of Autumn colours and ideas and quite a few notes and lists with regards to my ongoing decluttering project.

But I need somewhere to start capturing ideas I have for Christmas well before I get to December and last year I found this notebook a bit limiting in space to contain everything I wanted to make a note of for the Christmas period.  So I have decided I will buy a new notebook and dedicate it solely for this purpose.

I have this bizarre notion that by planning well ahead in my notebook I will make Christmas a simple fuss free affair this year – cosy nights by the fire in soft candlelight, sipping a glass of mulled wine and savouring a ‘just baked’ mince pie whilst watching Little Women and writing my homemade Christmas cards (in good time); the gifts all wrapped neatly in hand printed paper with exquisite handmade tags, a simple wreath hanging on the door and fairy lights outside twinkling in the tree.  Everything will be as peaceful as the season suggests.

I live in hope!

Already I have ideas to make my own Christmas cards again this year and some gifts for my friends but I need to start soon to have them made in time.Lino cutIn previous years I have tried different methods and used various materials but I really enjoyed doing the lino cut – this was my first attempt back in 2013.  Lino cuts are good for printing in bulk (I need about 75 cards) and I have a good stock of card blanks and envelopes that would be good to use up.

Yesterday we drove up to the Cowal Peninsula in the south of Argyll and Bute to visit the Open Studios around Dunoon.  It is one of my favourite places – the approaching view from the ferry is breathtaking and we had a wonderful day, mainly dry and sunny which always helps.  A delicious lunch was kindly provided by Freda, my blogging friend from Live Simply, Simply Live, who lives close by.  We ate in a sheltered spot in her beautiful garden and had a general chat and catch up before saying goodbye to go on the studio trail.  Time was quite short but we managed to see two potters, a wood-carver and a lady who did lino cut pictures.

I bought a lovely little pot to remind me of our visit (no doubt I will be putting a picture on soon) and seeing all the work of these talented craftsmen has certainly inspired me to do more myself, especially having a go at more lino cuts.

In the meantime until we go home you will find me wrestling with the weeds in the garden here. x

 

fEAsible…plans for September

September is upon us already and I think like most people who have made comments on this and other blogs I am not ready to give summer up just yet and so my autumn will not start until 23rd September in line with the astronomical calendar!

The weather is still warm and sunny here – not the stifling heat we had earlier but quite a pleasant warmth.  Still pleasant enough for picnics and eating outdoors; still pleasant enough to take an evening stroll, and just right for foraging in the hedgerows.

The evenings are certainly cooler though – I keep reaching for a cosy throw whilst I am sitting watching TV rather than turning the fire on to take off the chill.  In my notebook I have been planning September – all our commitments have come to an end; school starts on Tuesday and my mum has returned home…September is all mine.

Like at the beginning of the year I am turning my intentions once again to the home  – some of my good intentions and routines have been abandoned during the carefree summer months and the house is looking a bit neglected.  Cooking, cleaning and neatening always feels deeply satisfying to me and September is the perfect month to begin again –  preparing the home and garden for the coming winter months and getting back into a routine – albeit for me it will be a new routine now I no longer working.

Recently I have been having a serious clear out in my kitchen and dining room.  I began with the food and then moved on to the crockery, pans and all the oddments that are held in the drawers and at the back of the cupboards.  It is not an easy task.  Decisions have to be made. But space is created.

I find that once I have been over everything it is good to go back again and I will often find more items to discard.

So for as long as the weather holds I have many plans for September…

mEAndering

Stillingfleet, Hartington and Glazebury all have gardens or well dressing events.  There is also Heritage Open Days on 13th to 16th September.  So much to choose from.  We will certainly be having a few days out.

A trip to Scotland to our cottage

homestEAd

 buy a new shed and erect

reinstate the compost bins

source a new front door

source a new garage door

hire a contractor to renew the driveway

revamp the front garden

nEAtening

the kitchen cupboards – continuing the decluttering and simplifying

crEAting

outdoor sketching and card making

fEAsting

meal planning for late summer early autumn meals

baking with my homegrown apples

rEAding

I have an extensive library of books by my bed and I intend to read more on the subject of simplifying and living with less.

trEAsury

looking at our new reduced budget to make ends meet

So that seems plenty to be going on with – I will be back with pictures of my declutter- it is very much an ongoing project at the moment.

 

 

rEAdy, stEAdy…dash then crash

Today has been one of those days when you feel you are on overload and I spent the day dashing around trying to fulfil obligations.

The day began quite well – I woke early at 6am – it felt a little too early, I could have slept more but decided, as it is cooler at the beginning of the day, I would get up and just have a bit of a potter around the house putting oddments away.  I had little piles here and there throughout the house and an ironing pile that must be reaching a metre high – but although it is annoying me today was definitely not a day for ironing.

Most of my birthday flowers are still hanging on despite this heat – I have changed the water several times and removed any dead ones.  I love having so many about the house.  My daughter had also surprised me and put a tiny vase with a sprig of flowering lemon balm and thyme by my bedside yesterday.

Once the house looked a bit straighter I had a few errands to do in town.   I would not normally have chosen to go to town on a Friday, a very hot Friday too – the roads here are busy and congested – but I had to get cards, flowers and fairy wings (don’t ask!).

I also had to do a favour for my friend and neighbour who has just come out of hospital after a hip operation and after lunch I had planned a visit to see her.

Once in town I headed for Claire’s Accessories to look for fairy wings for my granddaughter’s birthday next week – they had an offer on of buy two items and get one free.  Even so they are not very cheap for what they are but will be just what is required for Little L’s 4th birthday next week when we go on our Fairy and Pixie adventure (can’t wait!)

I popped into Clinton’s and the Card Factory to look for cards.  I needed quite a few for different occasions – a 70th birthday, a moving house, a wedding card as my new neighbours are getting married, and a wedding anniversary, (actually I should have bought two of these – one for my own anniversary next week – but I forgot my own!).

Passing Waterstones I had a quick look at their cards and came out with a book (I know I shouldn’t have but after the week I’ve had I really felt a treat was a good idea to cheer me up).  Then it was across to Sainsbury’s – a quick check for fairy wings in case they had some cheaper ones (but nothing doing), picked up a bunch of flowers and the paracetamol for my neighbour, a couple of loaves of bread and a number 4 sparkler for Little L’s cake.

On my journey home the heat and heavy traffic was almost impossible to deal with and I am so thankful for the air conditioning in my new car.  I had to take a bit of a detour and stop by a friend’s house to deliver a birthday card for her partner – I was actually thankful they were not at home and I was able to put it through the letterbox and get back home sooner.

It was 2.30 pm when I eventually arrived home to find the telephone ringing – it was the heating engineer asking if we had decided on a date for them to come to change a part in our boiler (we hadn’t – but finally agreed on 17th as we have to work around having my mum and granddaughter and go to Scotland in August).

So it was a very quick lunch and then straight round to my neighbours – not forgetting to grab the bunch of flowers and paracetamol to take with me.  At least I always get a welcoming cup of tea there – this time made for me by her hubby who is acting nurse at the moment whilst she and her new hip are recovering.

After a bit of a chat I came home wrote all the cards, delivered the wedding card for my immediate neighbour and then at last sat down for 5 minutes and fell asleep for over an hour hoping that everyone had been given the right card for the right occasion!

 

 

rEAdy…stEAdy…decorate

After sorting out a few things at home yesterday it was time to go back to my daughter’s house across town to continue helping them get their house in order.

When I say in order I am not referring to a bit of tidying or cleaning – no, by order I mean the complete works – decorating, finishing off half completed jobs and revamping not to mention the outside of the house, painting the front door and window sills, laying turf and putting down gravel.  Then there is the shed (needs a coat of paint) and the garage (ditto).

So welcome to Where the journey takes me 2 – Painters, Decorators, Odd Jobbers and Landscape Gardeners Limited.

My daughter has a small house but in the eight years they have lived there they have only finished the two bedrooms and put in a new bathroom.  We offered to help them sort the rest of the house out ready to put on the market at some future date and to make it a nicer environment for them to live in until then.

About 3 years ago they removed the dividing wall between the tiny kitchen and the dining room to make one large space and all the cabinets, worktops and the laminate floor were put in place.  It just needed decorating and the dishwasher installing which DH and SIL were responsible for doing and was finished just before our holiday.

At last they have a fully functioning kitchen and dining room and it is looking much more like a usable space.  In the dining area they have a dining suite that belonged to my mum and dad, it was one of the first pieces of furniture that they saved up to buy when they got married.

The suite is an original vintage 1950’s  – The sideboard design was first shown at the Festival of Britain, 1951 and there is one permanently displayed at the V&A.  It is mahogany with Bombay rosewood veneered doors that feature a striking double helix pattern cut to reveal white birch beneath.  It was designed by David Booth, made by Gordon Russell of Broadway and sold in Heal’s of London – although I believe my mum and dad bought it from Robert Brothers department store in Sheffield.  We have lovingly cleaned and polished it and this little family treasure looks really quite nice in its new home.

My role in this makeover (when not polishing furniture and making cups of tea) is as the landscape gardener – before our holiday I removed many old woody shrubs that had grown far too large for the space and extended the lawn – not the best time to lay turf with the hot weather but it has survived and is looking green and ready for cutting.

They have quite a few Hydrangeas which adds a nice bit of colour to the garden along with these lovely yellow flowers.  The name escapes me, I have never grown them but they do have a really long flowering time.

Tomorrow if the weather holds I will be preparing another area of the garden to lay gravel and make a seating area.  The ground is so hard now I am having to break it up with the pick.

It has been a lot of hard work, some days we have been there until 8 o’clock at night and we were glad of the break when we went on holiday.  It took a lot of ‘getting back into it’ today first day back on the job – I estimate it will take us another three weeks to complete everything if we are lucky.

I hope everyone is enjoying the rain and a rest from all the watering.

Back soon x