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.

 

 

 

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crEAting Christmas ~ days 19 to 24

Christmas Eve has arrived.  There was still a lot of hustle and bustle in the village earlier – the last-minute dash to the Co-op and Post Office for those forgotten items; but in the main people are settling down at home now and soon calm will descend on the village again.  We were out this afternoon completing my final Advent task.  This is how my Advent days 19 to 24 panned out…

Day 19 my task read ‘make lemon curd for gifts and save a jar to keep’.Lemon Curd Lemon Curd Lemon CurdI had just four organic lemons to make some lemon curd – there was enough for 3 jars – one jar went to my younger daughter yesterday and another into a home made hamper for my elder daughter and of course one saved just for me for my toast tomorrow.

Day 20 was set aside to make a gift for three of my closest friends.  I  bought some of those wall calendars that you can put your own photos in.  I needed 3 and was lucky to find that Boots did three for the price of two so they only cost me £5.33 each plus printing costs.For each friend we chose a selection of photos some months included pictures of themselves (unseen footage) and we also found photos of places they might recognise.

Day 21 this advent task was the grand wrapping day.  I always like to make my gifts more individual by wrapping each of them differently – I think it makes a gift mean so much more. 

I filled a bag with a few goodies for my mum to enjoy…

You may remember the gift envelopes I made from last years Christmas cards in January (see here).  For the smaller gifts I often use printed tissue paper – I absolutely loved this old-fashioned Christmas design with the holly.  The little clay dove tag I made in a previous year. With difficult presents I wrap them in tissue paper and then put them into plain craft bags that have been stamped or you could stick a Christmas picture onto the bag from an old Christmas card.The calendars were wrapped in plain brown paper and then stamped with snow flakes.I also keep a roll of wrapping paper when I want something just a bit special and try to tie in the colours of the paper with a tag made from …you guessed it…an old Christmas card.

Day 22  – ‘set some time aside to read a favourite Christmas book’

Who can avoid reading Miss Read at Christmas time – tales of village folk and their country ways.  I wanted to get the Village Christmas but could not find it to buy and the library do not seem to stock her anymore.  So I settled for rereading an old copy of Battles at Thrush Green and after tea watched another episode of Poirot.Miss Read

Day 23 – ‘a birthday party celebration’

For this we made our way once again up to North Yorkshire on the A1(M) putting the car onto automatic (Ha ha!) to go to my sister’s house where we were celebrating my niece’s 21st birthday with family and friends.  It was a lovely do and I got to see Little L and Sweetie once again and also exchange any gifts.  My sister now has the largest house and it is a perfect entertaining space (not that I am deeply envious or anything!).  The draw back is I cannot even make a cuppa tea as there is no kettle, only one of those strange taps, and I have to guess which cupboard houses the fridge from a bank of cabinets and I always choose the wrong one.

Day 24 – Christmas Eve…delivering the remainder of our presents to our friends.  This is so enjoyable as most people have done all they are going to do by now and we can go from house to house enjoying a drink, a biscuit and a natter.  This year took rather longer than expected so I over ran and have missed the Crib Service which was included in my Advent task so I might go to the Midnight Mass later.

So that is the end of my Advent activities – I switched a couple of tasks as I was running out of time.  The little tea cosy and napkins are half started but will have to wait until later in the week before I get the sewing machine out again.

And just before I go you might remember a picture of some little tissue wrapped parcels I had after our recent visit to Scotland see here.   They were inexpensive items of one pound or just over.  This is what was inside.Two glass owls, 5 baubles in the shape of pine cones and a tiny red father Christmas.

I am not sure when I will post again – a few days rest perhaps – but I wish you all a very

   Happy Christmas and New Year

xxx

 

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

 

 

dEAr diary ~ a bit of a ‘Crisis’

LemonsHonestyBird FeederA really pleasant day today, the sun was shining, which is always encouraging, and I was looking forward to the Crisis at Christmas coffee morning at our local church to see all those friends from the village that I don’t see often enough.

I arrived early to avoid the crush and have a good look at the stalls – plants, home baking, pots of jams and chutney, books, crafts, cards, bric a brac and the customary Tombola.  There was a good turnout; plenty of hustle and bustle so I would think that they will raise well over the £3000 they reached last year for Crisis (Crisis is a charitable organisation who help the homeless to rebuild their lives and also provide a dinner and shelter at Christmas).  My selection bags had nearly all been sold by the time I left and most of the stalls were looking quite empty.Sweet ShopThe Winter Children I came away with a pack of sweet shop jars for £2.50 for Little L (who has asked Santa for a shop this year) and selected two books for a donation of £2 – they look brand new; the murder mystery one I will pass on to my mum when she visits – and The Winter Children I was attracted to by the title and I live in hope that I will find some time to read at Christmas.

I had a cup of tea, a home-baked cake and a natter, made a few promises to have a catch up and get together over the festive period and then came home.After lunch I spooned more brandy into the fruit for the cake (I might even need to buy another bottle), the lemons are reserved to make lemon curd.  The aroma in the kitchen is just lovely at this time of year it is certainly the best place to be and through the kitchen window I could see the birds scurrying around in the undergrowth and checking the bird feeders for peanuts which to their dismay were empty…so armed with seed, peanuts and a half coconut shell of fat I went outside to refill all the feeders. Bird TableApart from the cold it was quite pleasant in the garden and I stopped to take a few photos as there are one or two little pockets of colour here and there – the silvery leaves of the Honesty and the glorious bright red berries of the Cotoneaster, they almost glow in this grey winter light.Yesterday we had to go to B&Q for a piece of wood for DH to finish the shelving in the shed.  We have reused as much as we can from the old melamine wardrobe but he was short of an upright.  B&Q have started a waste wood bin like Ikea and you can take what you like for a small donation (Ikea is for free).  We were out of luck though as the wood in the waste bin was not a suitable size this time.

Whilst on the retail park I went to look around Home Bargains, a huge shed of a place, I don’t go very often but you can often find a bargain.  Amongst all the stuff piled floor to ceiling I spotted this – a small wooden letter rack painted white, can be wall hung and being quite shallow a perfect size – and only £2.49.  I bought one for my notice board in the kitchen to keep my Care Cards in (see HERE for new readers), and one for the laundry room to keep my washing instructions in.  I think I might go back for a third for the office so I can put the outgoing mail and cards in.  I know it says letters on it but this could be painted out.During the afternoon I spent some more time on designing my Christmas card – mostly playing around with ideas and sketches.  I think I might have a design at last and hope to start cutting the lino tomorrow after I have made the cake and lemon curd.

Tonight DH went to another of his concerts – the one last week must have been a prominent composer as it was attended by the BBC for a live broadcast.  He had to leave around tea time so cooked himself some of the fresh ravioli from a packet that only takes 3-4 minutes, while he was out I made a vegetable lasagne with green lentils which takes more like 40 -50 minutes but will cover two nights meals.  I don’t know about you but I am enjoying cooking and eating some of the hot meals that we haven’t eaten for a while.

More Christmas makes and bakes tomorrow…

dEAr diary ~ reading matter and a natter

A visit to work today to see my old colleagues – I was late as the town was so busy there was nowhere to park – good job it was only a visit.  I chose a good day as the new lady was out in the Leeds office.  I handed round all my thank you notes, I had intended to make my own but in the end I used bought ones.  We all went out for a coffee and a natter to catch up – but I am still glad I am not there anymore, change is very evident and not all sounding good but I don’t have to worry about that any longer.

After my visit I spent a whole hour in the library, bliss, and something I haven’t done for many years – just browsing and picking up anything that caught my eye.  I tend to read non-fiction more than fiction I have this quest for knowledge – always have and at the moment I am in to decluttering and simplifying my life in a big way, so I am not sure if I will find any new advice in the books I chose but it is always worth a read.

One of the books ‘Simplify your Life’  by Naomi Saunders I have read before but thought a refresh might be good.  ‘Declutter your Life’ by Gill Hasson speaks for itself – if I learn anything new and profound I will let you all know!  ‘Today is the Day You Change your Life’ by Elaine Harrison and ‘Leap Year’ by Helen Russell is mostly about those small steps that can make a big difference.  You might remember my word for this year (which is actually a phrase) is ‘ The Power of Small’ so the books are an expansion of this and I hope I might learn something from them.

My other 3 choice of books are more to do with health – ‘Corrective Exercise’ by Kesh Patel, ‘Vaccines’ by Dr Richard Halvorsen and one that I am eager to know more about ‘The Telomere Effect’ by Nobel Prize Winner Dr Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel.

So an early night tonight so I can make a start on one of them and I have no doubt the decluttering and cleaning will begin again tomorrow.

 

 

clEAn and lEAn ~ in the kitchen

Day one – begin at the beginning…

I decided that I should begin at the beginning but like a tangled ball of wool I am not sure where that is exactly.  But a start must be made.

I am already making sure I rise by 8am – perhaps that is late in your book but in mine I love that extra hour of sleep I have now that I am not going to work and it suits me – I feel more refreshed.  I will adjust this back to 7am soon as I think early risers do get more done but for now I am just enjoying some rest.

As soon as I am up I wash and dress so that I don’t  mooch around in my dressing gown (which in my case could turn into an all-day attire if I am not careful).   It is remarkable how quickly you form a routine and I don’t want to get into bad habits that I then have to try and dismantle.

a Monk's Guide to a clean house

It is strange that we had the visit to Mount Grace priory  – I was quite intrigued by the life of the monks especially as I have been reading a tiny book entitled A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto.  He is a Shin-Buddhist monk who talks about the ritual of cleaning and how this helps to have a calmer, happier life creating a refuge from today’s busy world.  The monks have few possessions but what they do have they keep well maintained and clean – everything they have is of value and valued.  The ideas in the book are that your external environment is a reflection of your internal environment – your body and mind.

Sounds good to me so with my cards spread out on the desk I have chosen to first of all declutter and clean my house as I agree with Shoukei that a tidy clean house not only makes for a tidy clean mind but also gives me some sense of order to my life.  It seemed sensible to begin in the kitchen and in particular to start in the food cupboards.

In true Kondo style I removed all the food from the cupboards – tins, packets, jars and storage containers and covered most of the table and the worktops with the contents.  I was quite shocked seeing it all spread out before me on mass like this and it made me wonder how the two of us would ever eat such a mountain of food and why was I going shopping each week for more?

Decluttering the food cupboards

I think the main problem is that some of the packets, jars and tins of food get overlooked as often we might need other ingredients or more time to make something – sound familiar?   I have jars of fruit compote to make crumbles and tins of evaporated milk to make rice pudding yet we don’t really eat puddings I just like the idea of them!

I noticed that with one particular cupboard we tend to use the food at the front and ignore the items at the back – that old 20:80 rule even applies to food it seems.  Recently through lack of time I have made a sketchy menu plan then bought the items to make the dishes rather than making dishes that use up some of the older items.

I also found the remnants of items I have bought for our various visitor’s benefit that we don’t eat and I have been left with the surplus when they have gone home.

The items out of date were the easy ones to dispose of (the guilt not so).  Most of these items were for baking which I have not done for ages and when Little L came and we baked we were limited in what we made by what I could find still in date!

decluttering the cupboardsThen I put red stickers on anything with a use by date in August and September so I can make a menu plan to include these and find suitable recipes.

Finally I refilled the storage containers and grouped together any multiple items.  The visitors foods I will off load onto the visitors!

I couldn’t  decide whether it is a good idea to carry some stock or not.  My keep it simple, lean and minimalist side says just keep exactly what you need and only buy it when you need it therefore reducing storage space and preventing waste when things go out of date.  My thrifty, just in case side, says stock up when there are offers to save money and also in case of emergency like getting snowed in.  Though I must say I can’t ever remember having such an emergency that we have not had enough food.

In the end I decided that I would take the lean approach to keeping a stock of the most used items which is to keep one in hand and when you start to use that one you then replace it.  Some items I use very little of such as honey or flour so I will continue to replace these as I am getting to the end of the one I am using.  For some basic items like instant coffee, butter, jam and cereal I will continue to buy in multiples when on offer as the savings are beneficial and I might keep an emergency kit of baked beans, tinned fruit and other bits during the winter months in case of bad weather.

After a thorough clean and sort I rearranged some of the cupboards (DH will love this as he hates it when I have a move round as he cannot find anything). I am still in the process of switching things about a bit and trying some items in new places as well as using up the red sticker foods.  Once eaten I probably will not be replacing all of these items –  as they are nearly out of date we obviously don’t eat them very often and most of it is ‘puddings’.  The olive oil is the end of a bottle – for some reason we had opened a new one before finishing the old one.

I have designated one cupboard as a ‘stock’ cupboard to take the duplicates – think of it like a mini supermarket – so when we finish something we can check if we have one already before putting it on the shopping list.

So far my cupboards are looking a whole lot leaner and certainly a lot neater  – it is a bit of a work in progress at the moment but when I am satisfied with the outcome I will post some pictures.  I am actually enjoying the process but I really need to change my shopping habits in future to make sure the food we buy is the food we eat.

In conjunction with this exercise I have been going through my recipe folders looking for new recipes to try and at the same time doing a bit of decluttering here – only keeping the ones I know I would make.  The test for this being would I make this for tea tonight? – if the answer is no because it is too long and complicated or requires ingredients we would not normally buy such as buttermilk then it has been removed and put in the recycle bin.

DH thinks it is hilarious that I have spent so much time clipping recipes from magazines then spending more time putting them into a folder only to spend yet more time removing them.  He is right of course so much wasted time when I know I will only make 20% of them.

I am a slow learner!