crEAting Christmas…days 3 & 4

As we left for home yesterday we drove past the sad little bay just round the corner from our cottage where the recent tragedy happened, all was completely calm and peaceful now as if nothing had happened and at that moment a rainbow appeared.It is a community in mourning, feeling the loss of a friend and neighbour – many of the locals are calling for a road barrier to be put in place now so this loss of life does not happen again in the future when the sea is at high tide.  The sea that I love so much has suddenly become quite a fearful place but even so now I am back in landlocked Yorkshire I miss going to sleep with the roar of the waves in the background.

As we were on the road yesterday I had a really simple Advent activity – something only available to ‘us northerners’ and something I look forward to getting each year…

…the Booths Christmas Book and for you southerners (and any readers from other parts of the world) Booths is a family run grocers business founded in 1847 and now a chain of supermarkets across the North of England and often refered to as the Waitrose of the North.  It trades on quality, local produce and great customer service.   Their release each Christmas of their hardback, bound book is always eagerly awaited by all their shoppers and followers.Our nearest store is – a bit too far away for a our weekly shopping but we always call in on our way to or back from Scotland at the Penrith or Kendal branch.  It is packed with photographs of deliciously tempting Christmas fayre to order or buy in store interspersed with a few recipes to make.

So I collected mine yesterday and spent my elevenses this morning pouring over all the Christmas food on offer and a quick look at the recipes in the back.  I find it remarkable that Booths can produce such a lovely little book and give it away free – I was a truly happy bunny.

Todays activity…As you may remember from last year I decided to do something different to the usual wreath on our front door so I hung my chicken wire cone see post here (a left over from my daughter’s wedding that hung on the Church gateposts full of flowers) and this time filled it Christmas foliage.  I quite liked it so have done it again this year.  If you don’t find wreaths easy to make this is a simple alternative…

…first bend some chicken wire to form a cone shape – making a hanging loop at the point on the back.  Pack the front and sides with moss (I had collected a small heap in the summer in readiness).  Find an empty jam jar and push down into the cone as far as it will fit and so it is not visible. Remove the jar again and push some chicken wire into the jar to hold the stems steady when filling with foliage.  Fill the jar with cold water and start arranging pieces of foliage. Hold the cone steady in a small bucket then lower the jar into the cone making sure it is a snug fit. At the moment I am using some dried red hydrangea heads and a dried white one, some ivy and a few holly stems.  As we get closer to Christmas I will swap these for eucalyptus, holly and Hypericum like last years.

I have hung mine to the side of our main door but they are quite light and will hang on a door.As you can see I am no florist but it is not too difficult to get a pleasing arrangement.  You could add sprayed leaves, ribbon or pretty much anything.  Just remember to keep topping up the jar of water.

We have placed a small rooted Christmas tree by the front door (only £10 at Wilko) and put a few lights on it.  DH has still to do the rest of the lights in the front garden and paint the front door – I will take a few photos when it is all finished.

Whilst in Scotland we went over to Portpatrick for a stroll by the harbour and found they were having their annual Christmas craft fair in the village hall so went for a look around.  There was some lovely things to buy – after much deliberation and bearing in mind I had to limit my spending I chose these……a pack of watercolour notelets (right) painted by a local artist to support the Aldouran Wetland Garden and these two pretty little felted Christmas tree cards for each of my daughters – made by a local crafter.

I also bought a few other bits and pieces whilst we were out and about – goodies that I never see down here in Yorkshire.The frilly cake band takes me back to my childhood and reminds me of Christmases past – they would appear each Christmas round our Christmas cake – at 99p I just had to have one.  The packet contains an iced ginger cake – we always buy one when we are at the cottage but usually we get the un-iced version – these too are only £1 from Tesco or Morrisons but I have never seen them south of the border.  I thought the iced one would be a nice treat for Christmas. And on the way home a few small inexpensive things for Christmas from Tebay services of all places – each of these little tissue parcels were a £1 – you will have to wait a while until I unwrap them to find out what is in them.

Welcome to my new followers too.  Christmas is a lovely time in Blogland – everyone is so busy making and baking.

Back tomorrow for Day 5 of Advent. x

 

 

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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

sEAsons…Autumn it is then

Cow ParsleyThe Autumn Equinox is official this weekend – I was really sorry to see summer go but I have to admit it has felt so much more like autumn these past few days than it has at this time in previous years.The weather has been so unpredictable – one minute sunshine, the next rain interspersed with anything from a light breeze to a howling gale.  In the calmer moments I have been out and about capturing the hedgerows turning I love the varied mix of vibrant green and red at this time of year, the colours echo those of Christmas.Virginia Creeper Before we left for Scotland I had already switched over to my warmer clothes and these last few days I have been snuggled up in my Parker and woolly hat before venturing our for an evening stroll down to the village and back – well more of a brisk walk really as there is rather a bite in the evening air and a shrill wind blowing off the sea – so we have not lingered – tonight we took the torch with us too as it was dark quite early.Rosa RugosaI did not go in the garden at all today, DH finished the ‘winterising’ of the caravan and then the garage door and I sat inside attending to our finances.  I had a heap of receipts to log, statements to balance and a new budget to set- after all this is not a holiday I still have chores to do!

We have been making more and more cooked evening meals too recently – curries, Cauliflower and Broccoli bakes, nut roasts and baked potatoes – always my favourite – and salads have now been reduced to lunchtime only.FernI was amazed at the colour still in the garden here in Scotland – the pictures were taken yesterday –  but then we are in the Gulf Stream and many of the plants are quite sheltered.

The Valerian – still protected with netting from being eaten by the pesky bunnies are doing well.  This was the tray of plants given to me by Elizabeth MacGregor when we visited her nursery in Kirkudbright at the end of the season last year.  Having such a large garden you have to think of planting in threes or fives to get a good swathe of colour and mass so a whole tray full of around twenty plants was wonderful – an instant garden – thank you Elizabeth!

ValerianThe Chamomile self seeds all over but it is very welcome here on the seaside garden.Chamomile

LavenderThis Fuchsia and Lavender were both one of those cheap plants from Morrison’s – I bought them to fill a bit of a gap in the border when the other shrubs were small and newly planted. They definitely like it here. FuschiaI am not even sure where this white Agapanthus came from I don’t remember buying one but it has sneaked into the border under the Viburnum.White Agapanthus The trailing Nasturtiums flower well into November and are a lovely burst of colour on a grey day.Nasturtium The wild Fuchsia by the pond still providing a little colour now all the summer flowers are over.Wild FuschiaBelow is my dad’s hydrangea taken from his garden after he died – it stands majestically in a central position on the edge of the lower woodland walk. Hydrangea And lastly the Bramley apples – they have been abundant this year and much rosier now than when we picked some on our last visit.  So many windfalls – …we have been giving them away and will probably put some outside our gates for the walkers to take. Bramley ApplesDo help yourself!

 

 

sEAsons…counting down – already?

This landed on my door mat yesterday…

Really??

I am not even ready for autumn yet – I was still enjoying summer.

– well Mr Sainsbury I know you mean well and you want us to get ahead and you might well be counting down to Christmas but not here in my house – not just yet – try again in November.

I find this is consumerism at its worst – I am sure a lot of us keep having thoughts of Christmas; who will be where with whom, what gifts or cards might I make – some of you may even have those underway or have a cupboard stocked ready with gifts and cards from last years sales.

I have noticed Christmas cards on display in the shops since the end of July – there will be more things creeping in day by day now as the shops fight to get in there first and increase their yearly profits.  It seems that the start of the new school term is the signal to roll out anything Christmas with a gap in between for the Halloween merchandise.

When I was young my dad used to bring the Christmas tree home with him after work on Christmas Eve together with a couple of new china dishes specially for my mum from the local market.  We would have tea and then decorate it before bed.  Of course the decorations were fewer than we would have these days and we had already put up some homemade paper chains and those pretty expanding concertina cut tissue paper decorations that were strung from corner to corner across the room (I can’t even remember what they were called but someone may know).  Christmas then was much more contained – now it seems to sprawl across many weeks and months, making it a very watered down occasion for me to the point when sometimes I just want it all over with.

We all have to plan ahead these days and there are many preparations that we might be doing quietly at home but I really don’t want this time from September to December to become the ‘Christmas season’ when there is so much to see and do in autumn first.

Please can we not slow down a bit!

I would be interested to know your thoughts.

 

 

sEAsons…summer garden catch up

Just a catch up.  Due to my lack of blogging I haven’t done an update on the garden – both here in Yorkshire and the one at the cottage in Scotland.

Starting in Scotland –

During the winter months we set about clearing some of the dead branches in the upper wood and pruning a few self seeded Elders whilst the undergrowth lay dormant. Milk crates we have found are a necessity in a big garden – they have a multitude of uses!  You may see it featuring in a lot of my photos.

Below in comparison is the same view on our last visit at the beginning of June now the trees are in leaf.

We hadn’t been to the cottage since the end of March and this is what met us – a lovely wild flower garden however, this is actually lawn or should I say grass as it is nowhere near lawn quality and sadly it had to be cut.

Remember the stream to the sea after the flood when part of the banking was washed away with the little bridge.

Below is the same banking last year  – the grass has started to grow on the bare earth.

This is what it looked like at the beginning of June – such a big improvement.

The wild flowers are coming back and providing little pockets of colour.  I am hoping the large yellow flag Irises will take root again.

And soon it will be back to how it was except of course a lot wider than before the flood.    If you want to read about our cottage and the flood go to the menu bar above.

Anyone who is a regular reader of my blog will know about my beloved pond and the excavation work that has been going on to uncover the buried stones.  This is what I found last April.

We added a plank to the top of the old posts to form a seat and planted some Primulas here and there which are nicely self seeding around the pond.

And this is what it looked like when we visited at the beginning of June – flanked with Rogersia and Aconitum, wild yellow Iris and Primula it is looking quite lush.  It is one of my favourite spots and if ever you can’t find me in the garden always look here first!

 

And now in our tiny Yorkshire garden – at the moment this is my favourite little corner – it is the shady side of the garden – Viburnum Tinus, Escallonia (I am not sure of the variety but it is deciduous) dripping in sprays of tiny pink flowers and forming a beautiful canopy over the corner.

The large fibreglass dish beneath was my dads and he had it planted with annuals and grasses but I like it empty and will probably fill it with water when our water butt is back in action and we have some rain.

I was really excited to see the Peony I bought two years ago has at last produced a flower – I can’t even remember the name so if anyone can identify it do tell me.

The black ironwork stand above was another item I brought from my dad’s garden  – it is not really my thing but it reminds me of dad and it has actually grown on me and when planted up with annuals and trailers it stands in the corner of the patio  and gives the arrangement of pots some height.

The Sweet Peas or rather the would be – no flowers to be seen yet and still a way to grow unless I have got a dwarf variety.

I have had to dismantle the display on the patio to put the pots into a shadier place in the garden whilst we are away.  Fingers crossed they don’t dry out in the heat.

And lastly do you remember we have been waiting all winter to have the house re-pointed – I thought the weather was never going to stop raining but at last it happened on the weekend of the royal wedding and then DH cleaned up the brick work with water and a stiff brush – it looks like a new house again now.

So that is the update – and we are now about to embark on another gardening marathon at the cottage so stay tuned.  We never know quite what to expect when we go up and it has been a good three weeks since we were last there.  On the Mull 3 weeks is a very long time and the mild micro climate means everything grows really quickly including the weeds.

back soon x