homestEAd…out in the garden

Another glorious day today, bright, sunny and clear blue skies – after stripping the bed and throwing the bedding in the washer I was tempted out into the garden and ended up staying out all day…with the washing.  I planted Allium, narcissus and tulip bulbs, cleared the last of the leaves that had fallen into the borders and spread a bit of manure around some of the plants.CyclamenThe Cyclamens are now planted in the front border by the footpath providing a splash of colour, although there is still quite a bit here and there in the garden.HebeMeanwhile DH spent time on the new shed.  It is has now been slotted into the space at the side of our house and waiting a fit out inside – a few tool hooks and some shelving.  We are reusing some white melamine that was once part of the wardrobe in my eldest daughter’s room, it is still in good condition so a shame to waste it and it will create a bit more space in the garage.

The shed is draped in polythene sheet for the moment to protect it from the rain and allow it to dry out enough to paint.  It will be so good to get the gardening equipment out of the garage and back to where it should be. Once the shed is finished DH will be concentrating on painting the front door.  We have plans to get a new one but to make it look more presentable for the time being we are going to paint the present one.

I may have mentioned that we had been contacted by the National Statistics Office to take part in a survey.  We agreed to be in today and the nice gentleman came at 5pm which was helpful as by then it was far too dark to garden.  The questions were not difficult – mainly about education, career and our present circumstances.  It was hard remembering just how many GCE’s I have though and what the subjects were;  no-one has asked me that for a long time.

I still have the selection bags to make.I tried out a couple of prototypes (apologies for the colour – flash light is never great) using the wrapping paper and some old cut up Christmas cards as tags.  I will probably go with the one on the left with the string tie though each tag will be different.  I have made a note of the paper size I used on the trial one so I can cut them out and make them up all at once and have a bit of a production line going…putting 5 assorted fun sized chocolate bars into each bag will make 8 bags.

Tomorrow I shall have to decide whether to make the bags or clean out my freezer – I doubt I will get both done as I will need to iron the bedding I washed today and also pack to go back up to our daughter’s for the celebration this weekend.  I am really looking forward to seeing Little L and Sweetie again.

But not the packing!

So a few more jobs off the list – shame I have to add some new ones on.

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dEAr diary…a week of domesticity

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

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

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

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

Apple cake

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

Mushroom soup

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

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

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

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

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

Repairs

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

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

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

Mending

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

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

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

Reduce

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

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

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

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

Repurpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a lovely weekend. x

 

 

 

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

homestEAd…a few pleasureable chores

Roses

I woke up to sunshine this morning and no rain in sight – still quite cool though, but I don’t mind that – I can just put a jumper on.  I had a few chores and errands to attend to – the most important was a visit to my friend.

It was so lovely outside I decided to walk over to my friend’s house with these flowers and a card – she has just lost her dad  – I know just how she will be feeling.  It is twelve years since my dad died and the loss never goes away.

I like to customise my gifts of flowers by wrapping them myself to make them a bit more special.  I also like to give small posy sized bunches of flowers rather than large bouquets but these can be hard to find in a supermarket so I just bought a small bunch of those ballerina blush pink roses from Sainsbury’s.  I removed all their cellophane packaging and then wrapped them in plain brown parcel paper lined with the pretty tissue paper that came in the carrier bag with my Neal’s Yard creams and tied them with cord.  I always keep a stash of used tissue paper – it comes in useful for many things – a quick smoothing over with the iron and voila it is like new and this has such a striking pattern I couldn’t throw it away.  I added a little brown parcel tag that I had stamped with a simple message.

Once back home I filled my bathroom cupboard with the stock of lotions and potions I had bought on Wednesday.  Unlike my recent hesitation with keeping too many grocery products I do like to see a good stock of toiletries – I only buy them when on offer and as few of them come from the supermarket stocking up means I can avoid having to go to town or Meadowhall all the time when something runs out.

Neal's Yard

I love the iconic blue glass bottles from Neal’s Yard and the fact that using these means they can leave out preservatives from most of their products.  They are fully recyclable but I often find uses for them anyway. The little serum bottles I wash out and refill with my own mix of essential oils and use this for massaging my tense neck and shoulders after a hard day or my feet when I have a home style pedicure.   Sheer bliss.

Most of the ironing is done now – I find ironing the linen quite rewarding – I love getting into a freshly made bed at night, somehow I am sure I sleep better.  You cannot beat the smell and feel of line dried linen, especially on a windy day – I try to catch it just as it is still slightly damp and then spray with a linen spray and iron immediately – the mix of outdoor freshness with a little scent makes it a pleasurable task – this is my all time favourite with Orange Blossom and Bergamot essential oils – I am hoping I can recreate something similar myself when the bottle runs out as it is no longer available.

Ironing

DH has been working his way up the cherry tree pruning branch by branch – it looks a little stark now but I know come next summer it will be heading for our windows at a rate of knots once again.  What a shame the scaffolding around the house isn’t nearer the cherry tree – it would have served a dual purpose.  As I mentioned to Mary (who is a bit concerned as to DH’s safety)  I think climbing the cherry tree might just be his boy scout side coming out and he will soon realise he is getting a bit past that now!!

Tomorrow if the weather holds we have planned to attend the Bakewell Open Gardens event – we attended a couple of years ago and found some fascinating places we didn’t even know existed.  The nice thing about Bakewell is that the open gardens are in a different part of the town each year so they are full of new surprises.

If by any chance it does rain as forecast then it will be more ironing (yes there is still more to go yet) and maybe some paperwork to attend to (for paperwork read bills to pay!)  I have already prepared the guest room for my mum coming – I might just add a few flowers by the bedside tomorrow.  I think she may well get a shock on Tuesday morning when she wakes up and opens the blind to see the builders staring back at her from the scaffold!!

homestEAd…the grass is always greener

Yesterday was quite a long day over at daughter’s house.  I was too tired even to write a post.  I didn’t even feel that satisfaction of a job well done either as progress was slow to non-existent.  DH was similar, he is doing the hallway – preparation stage, so not a lot to see other than filled in cracks and holes.

Isn’t it always the way that one day you seem to make a lot of progress and then the next hardly any.  This was definitely a hardly any.

I am challenged at the moment by both the hot weather and a bit of dithering on my part over the patch of garden I am ‘transforming’ at present.

Before I cleared this part it had been home to the many raspberry plants but had also acquired rosebay willow-herb and the large-leaved Persicania (Knotweed).  The raspberry plants have since been relocated to the back of the garden and we will make a proper frame to support them soon.

I thought I had a plan – my idea was to put gravel down on this bit of garden on the other side of the path to create a little seating area with a few plants mainly in pots and an obelisk towards the back corner and incorporating the plants already in situ.

My problem here was twofold – next doors fence which is stepped due to the gradient has a little gap at each bottom right hand corner and the gravel on the other side of the fence keeps spilling through.  So an edging board is required to prevent this – and that will need help in the shape of a bit of muscle to hammer the supporting pegs and boards in place.

The second problem is the two existing plants to the left of the photo beyond the pole – a large patch of Johnson’s blue geranium (flowering over) and the yellow flower I pictured in my last post (still blooming).  I was going to work around these and put some stone edging around them to make a border but after playing around in a variety of ways nothing seemed to work well and in the end I decided to keep the design clean and simple – remove the plants and gravel the whole area otherwise the whole thing was in danger of becoming bitty.

To be able to make a start today I will have to wait until the afternoon when there will be some shade over the plot.  There is quite a bit of earth to remove to get to a level low enough for the path edging to contain the gravel once it is laid.  There lies another problem – what to do with all the spare soil – probably a raised bed in the vegetable patch by the shed.

The aim of this garden transformation is to make the garden look more appealing and low maintenance.  Most of their neighbourhood are young,  first time buyers, both working so they seem to prefer all lawn or all gravel or a mixture of both but nothing that needs very much maintenance.

We are spending a minimum amount for maximum reward and keeping most of the mature shrubs that give the garden some shape and interest. The turf from B&Q for the extension to the existing lawn (well grass) cost about £50 but well worth it.  It covers the patch that had two really old straggly shrubs well past their best and removing them has opened up this space considerably and added some visual length to the garden.

The new grass has grown remarkably well despite this hot weather and was the greenest kid on the block by far (apart from the astro turf next door!).

There was great excitement yesterday for the first cutting and we all stood round afterwards admiring.  The join and difference in colour is not as noticeable now it is cut (I should have taken an after photo so you will have to take my word for it!) and with some extra care and attention and a bit more grass feed and weed the older part should start to thicken out and green up to match.

The large silver Senecio (or Brachyglottis as it has been renamed – I hate that name so I always revert to its former) in the middle of the picture has almost finished flowering and will be due a bit of a trim to contain it in the space.

So before I go round to sort my daughter’s garden I have a little bit to do in my own then back to work again tomorrow  – only 7 days to go now to the big day.

Thank you to everyone for your great suggestions for when I leave work – I am storing up the information and when I get some time for myself to think about my next moves I will be sharing them with you.

Oh and welcome to my new followers – I can never quite believe anyone would want to sign up for my daily ramblings!

But for now while the sun shines I need to make …a seating area!

Back soon x