fEAsible ~ April intentions

What a lovely month April is – like a bridge between winter being well behind us and the promise of a warm and sunny summer to come.

As we are already six days into the month and we have a family party coming up on Easter Sunday me thinks my intentions this month will have to be limited and swiftly executed.

sEAsons

Another season upon us and another time of celebration coming up with Easter being near to the end of the month…a time for swapping a few decorations and accessories around in the house; putting away woolly hats, gloves and scarfs (I keep trying and then have had to bring them out again) and a few winter ornaments and bringing out something more colourful that reflects this season more.   I have in mind to do some Easter decor this year as it looks so pretty in the magazines; a twiggy branch maybe with painted or decorated Easter eggs and a host of flowers.  I have ideas (then I always have ideas – just not the time!).

crEAting

I really must complete the little hooded jumper I started before Sweetie has grown out of it, and she is growing fast (nicknamed pudding for the moment, but not in earshot).

  I have in mind to do some more cards and finish the Easter cards I started.  I am going to try to print my own Easter greetings to stick on this time as I have not found anything appropriate in the shops.    I only send a few out to family that I know look forward to receiving them and one or two friends that I like to keep in contact with more than just a card at Christmas.

My next big project will be to make some progress on the Christening gown for Sweetie.  I have some ideas for the design – my daughter would like it to be similar to our traditional vintage family gown and we have already bought the cotton lace, I just need to find some fabric and cut a pattern.

fEAsting

I am assuming that by the end of April we will be enjoying salad once again and some lighter meals.  I have put on a few pounds recently over the winter months and I am ever hopeful that they will drop off once we are not eating the calorie dense winter foods.  That is my theory anyway…if the change of diet doesn’t work I shall have to do something more drastic.  I have already swapped back to the fat-free yoghurt for breakfast and soon with a change of menu we will be eating fewer potatoes and starchy veg.

Don’t ask me how (it wasn’t exactly at gun point) but I find that I have agreed to hold my SIL’s 40th birthday celebrations at our house as theirs is even smaller (and if you remember has all new cream carpets laid!).   It will be mostly family… approx 20 people but even so I shall need to make the house and garden presentable, not perfect …it would never be that, but presentable.   My daughter is going to order most of the buffet food from M&S, because I cannot guarantee that our oven would be working, and MIL is chipping in with pies and scotch eggs.  I may have mentioned before that sometimes my oven heats up and sometimes it doesn’t but certainly is not reliable enough to cope with getting food cooked on time for a party.  His birthday coincides with Easter Sunday so we will be doing an Easter egg hunt too for the grandchildren, and nephew.

It is looking like the new pantry is going to be put on hold yet again!

homestEAd

At least with the appearance of Spring I can escape into the garden for a while to release the stress.  I have a few new plants to put in that I bought with my voucher.  There are a few gaps to fill in and I would like to add a little more colour.   I have seeds to sow too, tomatoes and courgettes, hopefully this weekend.  If the weather is right I will also be treating the lawns with some feed and weed; for one reason or another we didn’t get it done last year.

clEAn and lEAn

DH, under careful supervision, will be getting underway with the outdoor spring clean and painting the front door (in time for the party) …. and if it has dried out the new shed. Meanwhile I will be having a thorough clean in the main rooms, tracking down cobwebs and wiping down the woodwork to freshen the place up ready for the party.  Last month I had begun clearing and cleaning the office but that will have to wait now as no-one will be going in there – I will just do that old trick of closing the door.

mEAndering

Looking at our agenda for the month I think there will be little time for any trips so our Scottish visit will now have to wait until after Easter as I really don’t feel I can squeeze too much in.  My sister is away again next week so I may be called upon to go up and see mum for a day or two as she is not getting out by herself now other than across the road to the little shop for her paper and the Deli for a morning coffee.  Last Saturday while we were up in North Yorkshire at my daughters we took her out to Saltburn for lunch and Sandsend for a drink and a Yorkshire curd tart (they were delicious) and she was so grateful to get out for a while.  We had a lovely day.

Most importantly I have to look for suitable fabric for the Christening dress – Fabric shops are rare now but there are places in Bradford and Harrogate so we will treat it as a nice day out at the same time and see where we end up.

hEAlth

During the time I am at home I have in mind to give myself a bit of a spring clean with a juice detox for a day followed by a brown rice and vegetable diet for a few days as this is very cleansing and full of vitamins and minerals.  My system feels a bit sluggish after the winter.

I will be keeping up with the Yoga, it has proved beneficial and I intend to do extra sessions at home.

trEAsury

No big plans for this month other than to mind the spending and buy nothing that is not a considered purchase.  DH has already been doing some utility switching with the fuel companies; he has also been preparing to leave BT when the contract ends in May.  We have been looking at a new company with a good customer service record.  It is not the cheapest but sounds reliable and is far cheaper than BT can offer us to renew.

We will be seeing the financial advisor after which we can make some serious headway with investing the money we have saved towards our retirement and make decisions about the cottage.

Meanwhile we are still working out ways to save as much money as we can or should I say ways to spend less money.  I will talk more about this more on my March tally post.

 

So that is my list of intentions for April – it is always interesting for me to see what I managed to accomplish at the end when I look back over the month.  I keep trying not to pack too much in and keep a balance of rest and play but then find I am caught up in other people’s agendas…. but when it is family that need a helping hand I do like to help out where I can.

How are your plans going?

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fEAsible ~ March review

I wrote at the beginning of March that we were beginning to lose that cold nip in the air…. but here at the beginning of April we have it back again and a possibility of snow.  Really isn’t it Spring now?  …..well it has hailed once or twice here and covered the grass with icy crystals.  March was certainly a busy month …I would even say a ‘far too’ busy month, and if I didn’t achieve all my intentions then it wasn’t for the lack of trying.  It is always a shorter condensed month at home when we spend some time in Scotland and usually I have to roll over some things I had intended to do.

Nothing new there then.

On the whole I was pleased with getting started on the knitting, a yoga class and attending the financial seminars – all part of my ‘transitioning’ plans for this year.

So looking back on last month how did I do?

appEArance

I joined the weekly Yoga class – I have done two sessions now, one of them last Tuesday morning.  Anita had kindly tailored this class around shoulder exercises which helped my restricted left arm and although it is a bit achy now it feels better for the movement.   I must remember to move more and not get stuck on the computer for long periods.

I have been doing some facial massage using the free facial oil samples sent to me by Neal’s Yard.  I am following some instructions I tore out of a magazine  – I am not sure I can see a big difference but it certainly leaves your skin very soft.   I think the wrinkles are still there though!   No matter how many times I thought about it I never got to mix together the ingredients for the facemask so that is next on the list.  I have a small avocado in the fridge to use up so I will add a sprinkling of oatmeal and lemon juice.

homestEAd

Both gardens have had the majority of our time and attention this month.  We bought new heavy-duty anvil loppers and have been severely cutting back some of the overgrown shrubs.  It takes time to get them into a pleasing shape and decide which of the buds to cut down to  not to mention dealing with the mountain of prunings afterwards.

DH put up the new cupboard in the garage to house our vacuum cleaner and gardening coats and remove them from what is to become the pantry.  We actually bought a new upright Dyson because we wanted a small lighter weight one (like we bought for the caravan) but not cordless and so we had to move fast as once the stock of these in the shops has gone they will be unavailable.  Our problem with the cordless is that the batteries are so expensive to replace once they stop charging properly as all these cordless machines do in time, and I like the flexible hoses on the corded vacuums for doing the stairs.

There has been no other work done in the pantry, and no paint put on the front door and no spring cleaning of the gutters and paths – these will be some of the roll over tasks for April.

clEAn and lEAn

I had intended to do more spring cleaning than I found I had time for so I am reverting to clearing out and cleaning in small stages and this is working better for me.

Instead of trying to tackle the whole office at once, which was a bit of an overwhelm, I began with the two desk drawers – the top drawer that houses all the stationery items, post it notes, highlighter pens, punch, calculator, ruler etc……and the lower drawer that contains anything money related – current receipts, card readers, some left over travel money and cheque books (that are rarely used now). I hope you can tell these are the ‘after’ photos as I had a big clear out and only put back the items that are frequently used.  Any infrequently used items have now been moved into the craft cupboard in one of those sectioned A4 storage boxes and the older household receipts are in a box file on the shelving unit.

Having only what I need to hand and getting rid of any surplus ‘stuff’ has made it a joy to open these drawers every day and easier to tidy my desk each time I use it.

Tackling the clear out and cleaning in small stages gives me chance to evaluate what I need and use and work with it for a few days until the space is simplified down to the basics.Moving on to the craft items my first task was to sort through the mass of ribbons I had collected over the years.  I had a stack of narrow ribbon hanger loops that are used to keep garments on the hangers in shops and I always cut them off – they are perfect for using on cards and tags and I have tied them up into neat bundles by colour range.

crEAting

March has probably been my most creative month since the advent period last December – and I have enjoyed it.  I finally got started on the knitting and made some cards – not quite so productive as many bloggers are but I am pleased with myself for carving out some time to just do something.I still have to sew the little knitted jumper together before I can finish knitting the hood.  I think I would have done it sooner if I felt I knew what I was doing – but ready or not I will have to have a go.

Now I have caught the creating bug I have been looking for new ideas.  I borrowed these two books from the library.The cards turned out quite well – they are not great works of art but they have reduced my pile of decorative papers and blank cards and will save me money on buying them – so a win win situation.

trEAsury

The ISA’s that matured last month remain as instant access accounts for the moment as we will be arranging a free advice session with the lovely man from Hargreaves Lansdown and hopefully have a better idea afterwards of where to invest it.

I will be posting my March financial tally soon to review how we coped financially through this month.  As readers may know I work out our finances on a calendar month basis and have found the four weekly pension payment to be difficult to manage – but this month I have I had a bit of a brain wave which will might just solve the problem  – I will talk about it more on the ‘Tally’ post.

fEAsting

I continue to plan menus in order to save money and food waste and have been making some of those good old-fashioned favourites like these Homity Pies and creamy rice puddings.   Spring might be upon us but needless to say with the recent turn in the weather we are still making homemade soup and have not yet swapped our winter meals for anything a bit lighter. On Shrove Tuesday I made savoury pancakes stuffed with leeks and mushrooms and baked in a cheese sauce.  This year to save money I didn’t buy the buckwheat flour and used ordinary, that was a big mistake as they came out a bit too ‘claggy’ for me; the buckwheat has a better flavour and makes a less ‘gooey’ pancake more to my liking.  I did eat them but did not enjoy them as much. Mother’s day I spent the whole day gardening at home – which is just what I needed after being away so much.  We had easy meals –  just DH and I together  – so for me this was a perfect day.  We had a visit in the evening from my elder daughter who lives locally and brought the beautiful bouquet; the day before we had been staying at my younger daughter’s house and she gave me gardening vouchers.  Libbie (Little L) chose the card with the sequins – they change direction to reveal a golden heart – I will keep it for her.  Of course both my daughters are mothers themselves now, so I try and take a back seat so they can enjoy Mothering Sunday with their children.

mEAndering

We had our trip up to Scotland.  We worked far too hard up there – we must learn to pace ourselves more now we are that bit older and that bit more creaky.  Apart from the aches and pains we did enjoy our time away and a stroll along the beach.  The sea air (or the Vitamin Sea) as Jill calls it on her blog ‘Land of the Big Sky’ is the best prescription after a long winter.

When mum was down here visiting we had our usual day out in Derbyshire; stopping for a picnic lunch in Foolow beside the duck pond. Afterwards we had a change from Tissington and went instead to the nearby little village of Hartington to test out their tea room of course.  I bought a knitted thermal hat for £4.99 in the sale at the Country Store for next winter.  I may need it now if it does snow.

So that was my month – full of ups and downs as most of them are but everyone managed to keep well and although the spring cleaning didn’t really get underway I am now the proud owner of an empty ironing basket;  the days of the ironing mountain are long gone – I am keeping up to doing a little each day and it feels so good to walk past the empty basket.  It has become such a habit I can now focus on something else that I wish to change.

back again soon with a new list of my April intentions.

have a lovely weekend everyone x

fEAsible ~ March intentions

(of what I need to or would like to do this month)

In the words of the great Tolstoy from Anna Karenina – “Spring is the time of plans and projects.”
As the weather begins to lose that cold, nippy air and the mornings begin lighter and brighter, this month is often the time of year when everyone feels that great urge to have a good spring clean – shaking off the winter in more ways than one.  And although not technically Spring until 20th March this year I am going with the Meteorological Spring which began on the first. Most of my intentions for March are centred around a revival of one kind or another; myself, the garden and the house.

appEArance

As we are approaching a new season I feel I need to give myself a bit of  a makeover again appearance wise, especially to lose those few extra winter pounds that creep on from nowhere.   I have already had a haircut recently and gone just a teeny bit shorter but my skin needs a bit of attention now as those cold winter months and long days of the central heating blasting away drying the air do nothing much for it; a facial perhaps and maybe I will give those Yoga face exercises a go and try to contort my sagging jowls into something a little tighter and lifted. I have also signed up for a weekly yoga class starting sometime later this month in the village as part of my ‘transition’ into retirement living.  I will keep you posted on this one.

homestEAd

Like me the garden also needs a bit of attention in one or two areas.  There are plants to remove that are not doing too well – a Hydrangea on a windy corner that needs replacing with something a bit more robust and a straggly rose in a warm spot by the fence where I intend to grow my outdoor tomatoes this year.  We  also have unwanted twitch grass poking its way up through cracks in our path which definitely needs to go.

In the front garden we have an Amelanchier, which at one time was a beautiful tree but sadly succumbed to Honey fungus – we had to chop it down and treat the area of earth around where it grew with some concoction that you can buy specially, but so horrendous I thought it might render the whole garden barren.  Surprisingly from a piece of remaining root it has started to regrow without any signs of the fungus but as a multi-stem shrub rather than a tree.  It needs a bit of thinning out and the height reducing – but I will wait until the blossom falls first.

The Buddleia also need to be pruned harder to reduce the height – I never prune them too hard until winter has passed and Spring has a firm hold.

I always like to have a good Spring clean outdoors as winter passes so the paths will be pressure washed to remove all the grime and that green coating of algae that has accumulated then I will ask DH to get the big ladder out and wash down the plastic drainpipes and gutters and maybe persuade him to wash the windows too.

The front door is on the list too for a coat of paint  – this project was abandoned once the weather turned last November but as soon as it remains dry and warm again for a few days we might grab the chance to finish it.

We definitely need to move on the pantry  – we have advanced and chosen all the units and worktops – they are just to collect from IKEA.  Before that we shall get the little room stripped of the old tiles and wallpaper and ready to decorate. (Another little job for DH – but keep that one quiet!)

clEAn and lEAn

Whilst DH cleans the outside I will be giving the inside a good Spring clean from top to bottom – but I know I have limited time this month so I will be selective in the areas I choose to do.  As I have been working steadily on the office / craftroom recently, having a major decluttering session, making it much leaner I will continue focusing here.  I have already been clearing out old papers, craft stuff and books but there is still much to do.  I include my computer in this task (only because I mainly use it in this room) for a bit of a digital declutter too.  It is an easy job to sit in the evenings doing a few folders and clearing out a lot of old document files but there is more to do…much more.

crEAtive

As I have chosen the office/ craft room to declutter it makes sense to get some of those half started sewing projects finished.  I have tea cosies cut out to complete and one or two items of clothing to mend.

At last I have started knitting again after more than twenty years – all you bloggers out there have been my inspiration to have another go.  I chose an easy Sirdar pattern – a little jumper for Sweetie for the Autumn – and so far so good, I have remembered how to cast on, knit a rib and do a simple stocking stitch.  Things did get a bit tricky when it came to decreasing for the armholes and casting off but thanks to Google I managed to get the gist of what I needed to do and have only had one dropped stitch I had to rectify.  The front and back are complete and it actually looks like a jumper – my aim is to finish this project by the end of March.

trEAsury

I had a good month last month as far as our coffers are concerned.  I moved ISA’s around for better rates and closed old accounts down.  As is often the case we were broken off in mid flow because of our trip to Scotland and now mum’s visit.  I should really make more notes of where I get too as interruptions are a common occurrence for me now and my memory not so good.  I still have two mature ISA’s to find new homes for this month but as usual I have been dithering about how long to fix them for.  No interest rate is outstanding not even for a five-year fix.

Another ‘transition’ for us is living on a pension.  For the last two months after careful management of our meagre income we have had money leftover at the end of each pension payment but my aim now is to put away 10% or more when we receive it – a standing order will be hopeless for this as you know the pension dates are 4 weekly, not calendar monthly, so I may have to do the putting away bit manually each month unless anyone has any brilliant ideas on how to manage this otherwise.

fEAsting

I noticed from my calendar this month is packed with those little celebratory moments – Shrove Tuesday, Mothering Sunday, the first day of Spring and St Patrick’s Day.  I will be making pancakes of course and adjusting our menus as we move forward into Spring –  I am not ready to give up our warming lunchtime soup just yet but I feel the need to make  our meals generally a little lighter – so I am on the hunt for new recipes that fit the bill for this months menu plans.  I must also look at making my own biscuits or buns to freeze – although we don’t eat many sweet things they do go well with a flask of hot chocolate when we are out and about and it will save us a few pounds on the grocery bill in bought biscuits.

mEAndering

This will most likely be another trip to Scotland fairly soon – we have a huge amount to do up there.  I will be posting an update soon but this last visit was rather rushed so the pictures of the cottage I meant to take for the update never happened.

Whilst mum is here we will be having a nice day out in Derbyshire – probably Buxton or Tissington or maybe both as it is a while since we  have been there.

So there you have my best of intentions for the month – I am always hopeful of what I might achieve by the end and by making plans at the beginning  it keeps me much more focused.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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).