dEAr diary ~ taking the long road

Sandhead beach

We have arrived in Scotland at the caravan.  It was a long journey as we went up the A1M to Scotch Corner and cut across on the A66 to Penrith rather than take our usual route up the M6.  The reason for this was I needed to meet with daughter No2 to show her some sketches and discuss ideas and fabrics for the Christening dress for Sweetie because when we go back home there will be less than two weeks to cut a pattern and make up the garment in time for the big day.  For new readers, Sweetie,  granddaughter No2 is growing so fast she has already outgrown the family heirloom Christening gown – so I volunteered to make a new one.

We met just outside Knaresborough in the St James retail park – it was convenient and had a Costa so we could get a drink and break our journey.

Of course as soon as I had said I would make a Christening gown the party preparations got in the way but I am not too worried about the shortage of time as I can sew quite fast – I used to have a wedding dress business making bridal and bridesmaids dresses.   Once I had the pattern made I would cut out a bridesmaid dress or two in the morning and have them completed by tea time, net petticoats and all – no pins or tacking either, and I would be going slower than normal to take extra care over the finish.   Of course a brides dress would take me a little longer because of the boning and net petticoats.

I learned to sew quickly when I took a summer job in a local dress manufacturers workroom in Cheltenham during my Fashion and Textile course.  We were expected to make around 100 dresses or skirts a day on high-speed sewing and overlocking machines – we could not pin or tack any pieces together and even zips were put in without being pinned in place.  All the cutting out of the pieces was exact and so you held them in place with your fingers as you stitched them together making sure that any side seams did not end up with one piece longer than the other when you got to the bottom.  Sleeves could be tricky as you did not run a gathering stitch around the head like a dressmaker or tailor would to ease it in – though I did do this for my bridal wear to get a nice even gather.  It was working on a fast paced production line that helped me to combine traditional couture methods with the faster trade methods and in the trade you either got good at it or you were out.

Tonight I will finish the unpacking, make up the bed and then relax and read.  It is too dark to see the garden – that will be tomorrow’s surprise and I hope it will be a nice one, though I am sure the weeds will have grown knee-high in our absence.

On the way down the peninsula by the coast road to our cottage I saw one or two seals on the beach and then a deer bounding through the woodland.   Then I spotted ‘bunny no mates’ (the white bunny that the brown ones won’t play with) in the farmer’s field to the side of our cottage.  As we had not seen him all winter we thought he must have been a gonner!

Even though I did not grow up in this region I always feel a little bit like I have come home when we reach the border at Gretna and turn the corner.  Not quite like DH does as he was born and lived in Stranraer so for him it really is coming home, whereas I grew up around Sheffield and spent many a weekend in the Derbyshire country side, which I love just as much, but there is something about being close to the sea that always gives me such a sense of peace.

When I was about twelve years old I came up to Stranraer on holiday with my mum, dad and little sister in our touring caravan.  We loved this part of Scotland and stayed on sites all around the area and often went into Stranraer, the main town here, to buy groceries and go to the bank (no cash machines back then!).    It is odd to think that I would have no doubt walked past the places where my future husband and his relatives lived – and unknowingly at that time they were to become a big part of my life eight years later.  I even wonder if we may have passed each other in the street!

 

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dEAr diary ~ a day of ideas

Hello there – it seems a while since I was here in my little space and I can’t even remember now where I have got to so apologies if what I say here has already been said once.

You might have guessed I have been busy – what’s new!

We had a weekend at home and to ourselves – if I remember we were both in the garden and I also did a few more cards – but more about that later.

This week began with our usual shopping trip on Monday, first into town for a few bits and pieces and then round to the big Sainsbury’s on the ring road for the weekly food shopping.  I say bits and pieces which they were individually but the cost collectively was surprisingly a bit much for one day.

I went to Primark first to look at jackets.  I have a brilliant hooded jacket I bought from Primark for £6 in 2004 when we bought the cottage.  It is so useful in the garden in Scotland – an all-weather coat – it has a light waterproof nylon fabric on the outside, so no bits of vegetation or the like sticks to me, with a warm fleece lining and the hood is small so doesn’t blow off with the first puff of wind – absolutely necessary when you live by the sea.  It is still going strong after many washes.

The reason I want to find a similar jacket is because I have recently taken to bringing it back down home with me to wear in the garden here but I know the day will come when I will forget to pack it when we go up to the cottage and so I thought it would be a good item to duplicate.  I looked in the ladies section of Primark but their lightweight duvet style jackets have no hoods and are very fitted; then just as we were leaving I noticed the men’s display ah ha …idea….I went to the men’s section and they had a perfect one with a hood and just a little bit more roomy which is much better for gardening.  I came away with the extra small but I will need to go back and change it for the small size for a little bit more ease so I can wear a thick jumper underneath should I need to!   Cost – a cosy £15

Then across to Wilkos to look in the gardening section for Tomato food to feed both the bulbs and the tomatoes (when I get them sown) – it was much cheaper here than anywhere else at £3.25. White DicentraOn the way I noticed (as you do) a white Dicentra for £2 hung in the packaged bulbs display – I was tempted as I have wanted one for the garden at home for a long time but in the garden centre the plants are £10 which I thought a bit steep.  I bought one and have planted it in the garden but I am doubtful about it growing as it just looked like a bag full of dry peat but I thought for the price I would give it a go – I also treated myself to a white indoor plant pot for £2.Before leaving the store I had a rummage in the crafts section as they have a lovely range of inexpensive Easter crafts to keep the kids busy. I came across these garden signs for £2 which will be useful for the Easter egg hunt we intend to do for the children at the party on Easter Sunday, weather permitting of course and, for Libbie, a sew your own felt chicken Easter basket £1.50.

I then popped into the Works as I had a £0.50p voucher and wanted to buy some polystyrene eggs  – ten for £0.50p with the voucher – I have an idea to cover them in printed tissue papers for Easter decorations for the party.  It goes against the grain to buy polystyrene but I will be keeping them for a long time to reuse – had I got more time I would have done some hand painted real eggs – but that will be another year.  I also bought a pack of stronger dowels to attach the garden signs to for £1.  The bamboo basket in the photo above was a great find in Sainsbury’s for £2.50.

The final stop was one of our local independent whole food / health shops – I often alternate between the two as I like them both and would hate to see either of them close down.  I prefer them to Holland and Barret as they sell more organic foods and are often cheaper.  Here I bought Almond oil which I use as a face cleanser and for massage, my high dose Solgar Vitamin D capsules, some Omega 3 oils and two packs of Kalo tomato stock cubes for the soup and to add flavour to rice – a grand ‘sit down’ total of £39.03.

The food shopping was pretty normal and came in a bit cheaper than usual at £52.38 this included a few extra salad bits and some nice breads for the lunch I prepared today for my sister and brother-in-law when they called in on their way up north.

I made sure to carefully whiz past the clothes and magazines – but I did buy these.I bought myself one for my desk at the beginning of the year and I love it (see here).  Now you might be wondering what I would want with five more calendars that are all for this year especially now we are in April…..well I had another idea ( I think they must have put something in the water recently!!)…. Sainsbury’s had reduced them down to £2.10 and the metal stands which are gold or black are very sturdy and allow you to remove each calendar page by unscrewing the little nuts – my idea is to keep the stands and attach my own version of next years calendars using photos DH and I take throughout the year and give them as presents to my friends at Christmas.

It could well be a gift that keeps on giving because you can use the stands over and over again so in following years I could keep giving a new set of calendar pages to  my friends to fix onto their stands.  Each year I might choose photos of a different theme such as seaside, towns, gardens etc.

Did I mention last week I bought this cardboard Peter Rabbit egg from an old-fashioned sweet shop in Saltburn.  I then bought a £1 Cadbury’s chocolate Easter egg and my idea is to remove the wrapper and decorate with little iced flowers and Libbies name to put inside.  If the chocolate egg is in two halves then I will put some of those tiny shell coated eggs inside.Easter EggSo as you can see I am full of ideas – oh and they don’t stop there  – oh no – nothing that simple – somehow I am now doing the 40th birthday cake for my SIL’s (son in-law) party on Easter Sunday …..mmmm…how did that happen…..retirement – exactly what is that??

A day of dazzling ideas and bargain buys. x

Before I go welcome to my new followers.  I will be back with more on my craft cards, the March Tally, the cottage update and a host of other things.

 

dEAr diary ~ home again, home again

…but not for long….

Back at home now – it was quite a long day yesterday; there are always little bits to take care of in the garden before leaving, watering in the plants I have moved and putting chicken wire around the emerging ones to ‘bunny’ proof them.  Then I pack and clean the caravan.  By the time we are on the road I am feeling rather shattered sometimes, but it was a good journey, not too much traffic and no motorway closures.

Today I was up and showered, finished the unpacking and then took time to catch up with the post, the messages and life at home in general. I always clean the house before we go so it is nice to walk into when we arrive home so no housework needed today.  Once everything was unpacked I then had to repack for our trip up to North Yorkshire tomorrow to stay with my younger daughter, Libbie and Sweetie for a couple of days.

In the afternoon we had to collect a parcel, return some library books and go to Sainsbury’s to buy some fresh vegetables, milk and yoghurt.  I have a Quiche to make to take with us tomorrow for our evening meal at our daughters.  Whilst in Sainsbury’s I bought my mum, who we will visit on Saturday, a lovely indoor basket of plants for Mother’s Day.  So once the car is repacked we will be all set to go again.

I am not sure if I will manage a post in the next few days but I will as soon as possible.  I am looking forward to looking after Sweetie for the day on Friday;  Libbie (Little L) will be at school and their mum will be having her dental work done.  Ouch!

A day of unpacking and unwinding, repacking and rewinding. x

 

 

dEAr diary ~ busy making life calmer

I finally took the plunge and started a Yoga class today.  It is the same lovely teacher Anita that I had a few years ago and she now does a class in my own village – so within walking distance if I choose to walk.  I went in the car today as it was quite drizzly and I don’t have anything large enough to carry my Yoga mat in to keep it dry (well that is my excuse).

Spending time to listen to and notice how my body feels and moves felt rather strange at first – it takes practice to be still and calm and breathe.   It all went quite well but there is a limit to the amount of arm lifting I can do on my left side – which is partly the reason I am going to try to retain flexibility.  Doing Yoga certainly highlights any problem areas – I never knew that anyone could bend and twist that far!!!  I came away a little more creaky but things had loosened up here and there and I felt all the better for it and I must make an effort to practice at home between sessions.

Yesterday was spent dodging around the house doing a bit of this and that interspersed with phone calls – why does everyone call on a Monday?…I shouldn’t complain, and I am not really, it is always lovely to hear from people.  Both my daughters can chat away easily for a couple of hours – even when I am about to see them in person and I would never cut them short unless I had some good reason like an appointment to attend – after all what are mums for but to hear the ups and downs of their lives and either rejoice or commiserate with them and offer advice if it is wanted, though I am pleased to say they are both very good problem solvers which makes me quite redundant.

I was a bit frustrated yesterday that I could only put the washing out on the line for brief periods between the almost constant drizzle – didn’t the weather man know it was Monday either and I needed to get my washing dry!  The reason for the rush is we are heading up to the cottage in a day or two for a few days and I realised that when we came back from Scotland a couple of weeks ago I never quite finished washing all our gardening clothes – they get so grubby I always pre-soak them in a bucket but I had mum visiting at the time so pushed the washing basket in the ‘soon to be Pantry’, old cloakroom out-of-the-way and then promptly forgot about them.

I managed to fit in some baking too – an apple cake to take to Scotland made with the last 2 eggs and the leftover portion of cooked apple we took from the freezer to accompany our Nut loaf on Sunday so by the time we went shopping yesterday afternoon the cupboard really was bare as we had worked our way through the very last of the food.  I spent £58 on groceries for this week taking advantage of the offer on Oatabix and Lurpak butter.  We will be making some meals to take with us to Scotland – Tomato soup and Shepherd’s pie.  I also bought some Higgedy Cheese and Onion rolls for the journey – unfortunately they were not on offer but still cheaper than buying food on or off the motorway.  We will get a free drink at Booths cafe if we take our own cups.  I do take a bit of food up with us as it is almost impossible to buy Cheshire or Wensleydale cheese up there and I like a crumbly cheese.  I do like to buy from the local shops in Stranraer to support them where I can.

Whilst we were out shopping yesterday afternoon we had other bits and pieces to attend to……the bits being an urgent need to look for decent loppers for the garden yet again.  We need extra strong Anvil loppers, preferably geared and preferably telescopic and definitely light to handle.  We had recently bought what we thought were the perfect pair made by Spear and Jackson but when we used them in the cottage garden on our last visit, although they cut through old branches brilliantly, by the 2nd day we noticed the handle on one side had bent inwards preventing the telescopic handle from working.  So back to Argos they went for a full refund but we are now on the search for some that cut just as well but won’t bend out of shape.

I made a quick visit to The Range to check out those ready printed messages for some cards I made (this will be another post).  I was not impressed by the price but reluctantly bought a couple of sheets and a packet of assorted messages as I intend to do more of these basic cards using up my stock of decorated papers – cost £3.  The silver and gold typeface and borders on these pre-printed labels does make a difference and I cannot print these metallic colours on my printer or I would have made my own.  A silvery grey is the best I can do.

I also returned my four pillows to Sainsbury’s for the full refund – so I am now on the hunt to replace these.  Whilst in Sainsbury’s I decided to buy two more long-sleeved T-shirts, they had a black one and a white one – so now I have four all together with the previous two grey ones I have. I am thinking that might be my total spend on clothes for the year this year and then I remembered I would need a ‘posher’ outfit for the Christening(s).  I noticed in passing that Roman have some nice inexpensive spring dresses in at the moment.  The drawback with this shop is you cannot return for a refund – they only give a gift card so you are then committed to buying something from them.  Trying on in the changing room is not the same as doing it at home with all the right accessories to hand.

Well I have chattered on enough it is time to do some more packing.  Hopefully we will have internet connection at the cottage so there will be no long intermission here.

A day of sorting out contortions – me after the Yoga class and the loppers.

……Oh and before I go welcome to my new followers – enjoy the journey – not sure where we might end up!  For those who have their own blogs I will be over to your place for a read soon.

 

 

dEAr diary ~ what the postman brought today…

It has been wet, wet, wet today and windy – I felt sorry for the postman – the last two days he has had nothing to deliver here and walked passed but today surprisingly there was a bundle of letters landed on our mat and before lunchtime too.

Firstly, the handwritten one – they are always the most exciting as we hardly receive any mail this way now.  I opened it eagerly to find a lovely invitation to granny and granddad for Sweetie’s christening in May at Healey church up in North Yorkshire.   I think granny here might just be making her a Christening dress for the occasion – we usually use our family heirloom made of fine cotton lawn and lace but Sweetie is a little pudding and she will be older than 6 months by May so it is doubtful it is going to fit her then and the fabric is getting very delicate now and we do not want to risk a rip.  So granny is on standby to make one.

Next, I opened the envelope from Boots containing some money off and extra point’s vouchers, valid until June – always useful to keep in my purse, although I don’t buy very much from Boots now but when I do I take advantage of their offers and buy 3 at once, if I can claim extra points all the better.

A curious letter with an Argos franked stamp on the envelope but actually from Sainsbury’s with a product recall on the Goose Feather and Duck down pillows I bought in the sale after Christmas – there is a fire safety issue with them and I can return them for a full refund.  I found mine a bit too full anyway so I won’t be too upset to give them back – but not sure what mum will sleep on when she comes!

We also had a credit card statement with a zero balance as we have not made any internet purchases during the last period – I was extremely pleased with this – I don’t shop a lot on the internet but it is useful for DH to buy obscure hinges and man stuff when he is doing one of his maintenance projects and mending broken bits and pieces around the house.

So all in all mainly good news and no bills…

…and then there was the usual pile of junk leaflets which I put straight into the recycle bin – I have even got past the point of reading them first before I dispose of them – what a waste of paper and resources.

We spent the rest of the day with little Freddie who is also growing each time we see him and is much more alert now.  He tends to sleep well at night  but not so much during the mornings – I suppose that is the better way round.

Tomorrow we travel to Leeds – we have decided on park and ride as we are attending three free seminars in the centre of Leeds delivered by Hargreaves and Lansdowne.  They are all to do with pensions, planning and advice and we certainly need some.  I am hoping we will hear something to our advantage.

In between all this I am continuing to clear clutter and simplify.  I have been in the shower room – this is an easy room to do as it is one where I have invested a lot of time previously to reduce the stuff that accumulates in there so it was more of a maintenance activity this time round.  The craft room and office that I am clutter clearing at the moment is more difficult to negotiate.  I have still got mounds of special craft papers, blank cards and envelopes, embellishments etc but I am loath to get rid of things just in case I find time to make some cards – but I ask myself just how likely is that?

A day of delights and dithering.

dEAr diary ~ bonnie Scotland

We travelled up to Scotland (to our wreck of a cottage by the sea) last Thursday it was a gorgeous Spring day.

We stopped for a picnic lunch close to the start of our journey at a place called Windy Hill just off the M62 not far from where we live rather than pull into the services.  The layby looks over a beautiful expanse of wild untouched moorland which if you kept walking from here into the distance would eventually meet up with the famous Saddleworth moor. Now look behind me – not so quiet and untouched as this is the busy M62 cutting through across the Pennines at its highest point.Now look again – every verge as far as the eye can see littered with rubbish. We drove 250 miles in all, mainly on motorway and a major ‘A’ road, and every verge revealed so much litter – even this lay by near Dumfries in bonnie Scotland!  Not so bonnie at the moment.Dumfries and Galloway Council in their wisdom have removed many of their litter bins from the lay-bys on the A75 down to Stranraer – a decision they may live to regret.

I am saddened – our journey was like driving through a landfill site – just who is it that is leaving this litter and feels the need to throw it out of their cars as they drive along rather than take it home and put it in their bin?

……On a brighter note we had a lovely few days at the cottage (staying in the caravan still).  We had not expected such good weather and we spent all our time in the garden.  It was so peaceful broken only by the sound of birdsong and the waves of the sea.

As usual even though I had rid the borders of every weed possible on our last visit it looked like we had done nothing.

The cottage garden is much further north than our garden at home in West Yorkshire but is much further on due to the milder weather of the Gulf stream.  Most of the daffodils are already out – each year new ones are springing up all over  – I am always surprised at some of the places they choose to grow – these are growing through some beach pebbles in quite a dark spot hidden from the sun but seem happy enough. The catkins on the corkscrew Hazel are just coming into flower.The big surprise was our family Rhododendron growing in the lower wood (named after DH’s grandfather who grew it for the Castle Kennedy estate, he was head gardener).  We grew this from a cutting, it is an early flowering variety but even this is quite early and the one at home in our garden is only just in bud. And some even more unexpected news – coming home late yesterday evening we left the M62 at Milnrow as usual and drove through New Hey, Denshaw and Delph towards Marsden and to our surprise came across about 8 fire engines and a few police cars parked on the verge side with flashing lights.  At first we thought there had been a bad collision on the road but as our view opened up we saw the mass of fire on the moorland (this is looking from the other side of the moor you see in the top photo).  It was quite bizarre as the fire raged in straight lines across the open moorland – some of the burning lines zig zagged across the moors way into the distance.We stopped on the side of the road with many other passers-by to take pictures and spoke to some of the fire beaters who were having a break.  They told us it may have started in the nearby lay-by and could have been just a cigarette.  Although quite spectacular it is sad for all the wildlife that will have been harmed by this.

….Today we have been busy unpacking, washing and shopping as tomorrow we travel up to North Yorkshire to collect my mum again and bring her back to stay with us for a few days – needless to say I will probably not have the energy or time to write very much for a day or two as mum is quite high maintenance now, bless her.  My sister is having her respite – she is feeling a little stressed trying to sort out all my mum’s recent health problems, she seems to have developed a lot of niggly complaints that need my sister’s constant attention.

Any plans we had are now put on hold once again for a few days – I am finding it increasingly hard to pick up where we left off on a project and we are ending up with a load of unfinished jobs.  Every time we turn into our drive I am reminded that we still have to paint the front door, then there is the shed waiting for a coat of weatherproofing paint and we must get in touch with the contractor who does the resurfacing for the driveway – that is just to mention a few but all of them require warmer weather and I think it is about to turn cold again according to the forecasts.

The plans for the pantry are progressing slowly – during the cold spell DH moved the cupboard in the garage housing our household cleaners and ‘stuff’ to a different position to make room for yet another cupboard to house the vac and outdoor gardening coats which are presently kept in what will be the new pantry.  We will have to have another visit to IKEA to get the new cupboard but that is no hardship for me – I love to have a browse around.  Once this is in place we can move the coats and vac out and I think we will be ready to strip the walls of the old wallpaper and put in the new cupboards and shelves.

So I will leave you there and I hope to be back in a day or two – unfortunately my constant coming and going at the moment on my blog is just a reflection of all the coming and going in my life.

Welcome to my new followers and sorry if my posts are a bit erratic at the moment and a bit of a ramble.

Back soon x

 

 

 

 

dEAr diary ~ a shortage of time

“I’m busy, man, too busy. There’s a lamentable absence of free time”.
Juan Pablo Montoya

Firstly welcome to my new followers and apologies for the longer than intended absence – I hadn’t actually intended an absence at all…of any kind, but there you are… it happened…and even though I have tried a few times to sit and write this post I have been unsuccessful each time in finishing it.  I seem to have been busy – a kind of business that involves a lot of this and that and not a lot of anything I would call really productive.

But surprisingly things have been getting done and as it has been a while since I last did a post I’ll just fill you in quickly.

Baby X now has a name but for the purpose of my blog I will be referring to him as Freddie.  His cousin Little L is fast growing into Big L now – but I just cannot refer to her as Big L so she will now be known on my blog as Libbie.  So there you have my merry little band of three grandchildren – Libbie, Sweetie and Freddie.

On the first Friday in February we set off mid morning for North Yorkshire to go to the village pantomime that my sister and her DH were taking part in.  The sun was shining and the traffic not too bad.  We treated ourselves to a Costa lunch of toasties at the Wetherby services as we were saving our homemade soup for tea at our daughter’s house.

We had a further stop in Thirsk for a walk around and a browse in my favourite independent book shop White Rose books.  I picked up a copy of this book for £3.99 reduced from £12.99 and bought a book token for my mum for her birthday, then on to Holland and Barrett to get a packet of yummy chocolate raisins for the pantomime later.Little Sew & SewThere are some delightful projects to make inside – I particularly like the embroidered peg bag.We had tea with my daughter and then set off for the panto with Libbie (Little L) who if you remember was ‘super’ excited – unfortunately the snow became very bad on the way through Bedale and we didn’t know whether to turn back or press on.  In the end we kept going and made it to the village hall to the north of Northallerton just in time for the start.

The panto was brilliant, Libbie laughed and cheered and clapped – she loved the fact her Uncle N was the baddy and Aunty A was Aladdin in a wonderful glittery costume.  It was a very fun night and afterwards we decided that we would try to get back to my daughter’s house outside Masham, rather than stay at my sisters.  A decision we may have lived to regret!  We took a longer alternative route back via the A1(M).  Two of the lanes were still running thanks to the lorries but once we got back onto the country lanes towards Masham it almost turned out to be a challenge too far as the snow was covering and becoming quite slippy and we were down to 20 mph.  Just after midnight we had got as far as Fearby but still had a few miles to go to Leighton Resevoir,  which is in the middle of nowhere on a road full of steep twist and turns and ungritted.  I am still not sure how we got up the final hill to my daughter’s farmhouse but with a wing and a prayer we did and of course stayed the night with her.  Libbie slept through the whole adventure in the back of the car – but never again. The next morning we woke to brilliant sunshine and the snow had started to melt.  The roads were clear once again and it was hard to believe it was the same place we had struggled to drive through in the early hours.  DH and Libbie went out to make snow castles and then we headed home stopping here and there to admire the beautiful views as we drove past the resevoir and back into Masham. Leighton Resevoir Fearby Since then I have been busy helping with little Freddie  – his mum, my elder daughter, had to go back again to hospital with her problem but hopefully all will be well now.

When I have had some free time I have been turning my attentions to jobs around the home  – It feels like an endless task list and I seem to have a number of projects on the go in each room but slowly it is all starting to come together.  I find that going back over a space I have already cleared often throws up more things that I no longer wish to keep.

The paperwork continues to be a headache and to add to this I have amassed a large number of files on my computer so I have been giving this a bit of a spring clean to get rid of old stuff and free up some space.   It is quite time-consuming going through a mass of folders but just like having a major clear out in my physical files clearing out my files on the computer feels just as good and I don’t have to bother shredding or burning it all.

I have also been giving our finances a bit of a makeover too, trying to simplify matters where I can and in doing so we were invited to a financial review with the Nationwide, our main banking and savings provider, and this proved quite useful.  We have transferred money to better interest accounts and closed down old ones no longer required.

We had a nice surprise too – the HMRC made an error with our marriage allowance application which has now been straightened out after a phone call and I await a cheque for £238 – every little helps. ValentineWe didn’t really celebrate Valentine’s day other than exchange cards.  I have had my Valentine card for a while now – I must have bought it a couple of years ago and then forgotten about it.  I often make my own but when I found it during a recent clear out I thought it would save me the job of making one and it is quite cute – I love the fact it has a little flask on the end of the bench – very appropriate for us now – I have no doubt this is what DH and I will look like in a few years time!

DH made one for me (he probably hadn’t thought about a card until the shops were shut) – but I think it is rather sweet and means so much more to me than a bought one.ValentinesThe meal planning continues and for some reason we have had a few pastry dishes.  The Carrot and Leek pasties were a hit and great for picnics – I will make them again –  and this week I made a cheese and tomato Quiche.Quiche QuicheTonight it is curry and it would have helped if I had known we didn’t have any curry paste in the cupboards.  We had to have a mad dash to the local supermarket but their range is limited so I had to buy a jar.  I am wondering if it will freeze – anyone tried this?

Hope everyone is well – I have been trying to keep up with all the blogs I visit though may not have commented very much.  I usually post a list of my monthly intentions at the beginning of the month but I might just start these again in March – February is not a long month and with the new baby each day has been a bit unpredictable for us so we have not been making many plans.

Back soon x

 

 

 

 

 

 

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dEAr diary ~ shopping, crafting and more preparing

We set off for our planned date with John Lewis yesterday with a packed lunch and flask, a bit later than intended – not even sure why, I think I had a lot to get ready – vouchers, list of requirements, carrier bags, some bits to drop off at my brothers on the way home – so it took us longer than I thought to get out of the door.   What a surprise when we drove up the road  and onto the moor that takes us over the tops of Saddleworth to Greenfield, Mossley, Ashton, Stockport and finally Cheadle Royal our destination – there was a covering of snow. On the way home it was thick fog too and a bit hairy coming over the winding moor road but at least it was still open as often when there is any snowfall it is soon closed off and we have been stuck getting home a few times, you really have to watch the weather here if you venture far when it snows.

We had a lovely day looking at all the gorgeous things in the John Lewis store – these were my favourite (apologies for the mobile photo) – 4 champagne glasses by Waterford Crystal Mixology a mere £255 for the four!  Obviously they will be on my Christmas list and obviously I won’t be getting them!  But I can admire them.

We bought  a gift for Little L (reduced by 20% in the Black Friday deals), a Magic set for my nephew (which wasn’t reduced but still in budget) and a couple of small gifts for Little L to put in the Christmas Eve box I am filling with her mum.  We won’t see her at Christmas and I have decided to buy a short 3 monthly subscription from Toucan boxes for children starting after Christmas, to see how it goes, rather than a ‘main’ present so the Christmas Eve box will just be a little extra and I quite like the idea that not everything has to be opened on one day.

Her mum has some new flamingo pyjamas which will go in the box, I have bought a 99p pack of plasticine, a small pack of Christmas joke cards (for some reason she loves telling jokes but so far only remembers two), I found a lovely Emma Bridgewater spoon with coloured spots on the handle for her too.  I will add a book and some felt tips etc which I will get from the Works or Sainsbury’s and one or two other inexpensive bits.

With my gift card from leaving work I bought a cosy brushed cotton duvet cover for the colder winter months in large grey check so now I have to decide between this and the Dorma one I bought from Dunelm.  I won’t be keeping both but needed to see them in our bedroom to decide.

Sainsbury’s is attached to the John Lewis in Cheadle and we had a drink in the afternoon in their cafe (really to save a bit of money) – the difference in service between the two shops is notable!  We waited 15 minutes to be served at Sainsburys and we were only second in the queue, we had arrived when they were changing shifts – the person leaving just down tools and left and I can honestly say in no way does it resembles the very precise hand over at the changing of the guard.  We had a look around the small Habitat section on the way out – I loved the old Habitat stores and really miss them now.  This small stand they have in the corner of Sainsburys looks quite pitiful to what Habitat was in its heyday.

The selection bags were all ready to be delivered today  – I had quite a production line going so in the end they didn’t take very long to finish.

I intended to get back to making my cards this morning but I ran out of time so it will be tomorrow; I saw some lovely cards yesterday on display but homemade are fun to do and so much cheaper as I already have a stack of blanks and all the printing gear.

Because I ran out of time to soak my fruit for the cake yesterday it was the first task on the list this morning.  I just love that smell of brandy mixed in the dried fruit with the peel from the citrus fruit.  I wil bake it on Sunday and make Lemon Curd at the same time to use up the lemons.

Saturday morning is the Crisis coffee morning at church – I am going with a friend for a coffee, a chat and a look at the Xmas goodies to buy on the stalls.

Back soon x

 

dEAr diary ~ home again, home again

We are back home again from our weekend away.  We had a lovely time at the family gathering it is so nice to be together for Sunday lunch and a catch up; and show off the new arrival.  A friend had made this cake to celebrate my daughter’s 10th wedding anniversary.  Little L wore her new sparkly party dress and everyone had a good time.

But it is good to be home again and hopefully at home now for a while.  The recent trips up and down to North Yorkshire (about a 2 hour journey) have taken their toll and I am feeling rather weary at the moment and have only just finished all the unpacking and putting away once more, but not the catching up with finances and washing.

It is bitterly cold here and wet with it… and gloomy – I have the lights on in the house and I have put the heating on this afternoon for an hour; it certainly looks wintry out there to me.I made Tomato soup yesterday and more soup today, a minted green soup with watercress, spinach, lettuce and pea.  We had some for lunch and I have put the rest in the freezer for another day.  Hot soup on a cold day is perfect for lunch.  It was too cold to be cleaning out the freezer today so I have postponed this job yet again for another day.

I did manage to cut out the paper for the eight selection bags – there was just enough – and I will make these into bags tomorrow morning when the light is better.

Yesterday we went to Sainsbury’s to do the grocery shopping.  I have planned a few easy meals for this week whilst I catch up with myself; Shepherds pie with lentils and Vegetable Lasagne which will do two nights each and then an omelette and salad for Sunday when the oven will be needed for the Christmas cake.   It wasn’t a big shop as we are coming to the end of this month’s pension allowance – our next payment will be this Friday though I am intending that the four weekly pension amount stretches to cover the whole of a calendar month and that way the 13th payment can go into savings.  As long as we keep within the £160 a week then we are doing OK and so far so good but it does take a lot of effort.

Starting in January I will be trying to save 10% of the pension  – £64 every 4 weeks amounts to a healthy £832.00 for the year plus the £200 fuel allowance  will give us £1000, so I will need to cut costs further to do this.  I always saved when we had a wage so I don’t really want to stop now but I have needed time to get used to living on a pension and to see how far it will stretch.  Unfortunately, it is not very elastic.

I am finding food expensive even though we make most of our own meals, waste very little and do not eat meat or fish.  As you know we eat organic foods were we can and especially fruit and veg as I like the fact they are not sprayed with pesticides and they have been farmed in a way that does not harm either me or the environment; I don’t compromise on this even if it costs me more…and generally it does!  It is a constant battle against rising prices or shrinking products.I keep getting vouchers at Sainsbury’s for bonus Nectar points but only if I spend over £100 – which I don’t.  Waitrose have sent me a coupon for £22 off a £110 shop.  This we might use nearer Christmas and buy one of their rooted trees again.

This month has been heavy on gifts and fuel costs too.  Travelling up and down to North Yorkshire is expensive and there is no easy way to reduce this when a third of our immediate family live a couple of hours away, other than not seeing them.  We always make sandwiches and a flask for the journey up there but are often forced to buy a Costa toastie and a drink on our return and motorway services prices are much inflated so as well as the fuel cost being high the snacks we bought when travelling was also an unavoidable expense. Luckily I am able to cut the costs of the gifts by recycling unwanted items and taking advantage of sales.   We also sold 3 unwanted items on eBay this week so have gained £38 in my PayPal account which has boosted the kitty. Another saving of £5.80 was the voucher for a free hot drink and scone at John Lewis when we went to buy my daughter’s gift and because we went to the Cheadle branch the parking was free.

We will wait to see what the weather is doing tomorrow before making any definite plans.  I have selection bags to make, a freezer to clean and some fresh mushrooms for soup.

 

dEAr diary ~ a bit of this and that

Yesterday was my first full day at home for a while – I had no errands or shopping to do or any reason to go out and it seemed a bit of a luxury and a chance to get a few jobs done.  We have been away quite a bit recently and I often feel I spend my life packing and unpacking – I wish there was an easier way as I find it is quite disruptive to having a routine.   I had a few bits to catch up on, putting things away that had crept out of cupboards and drawers while my back was turned, keeping up with the financial records – receipts, bills and balancing the recent statement that dropped on our mat the other day.

It looked like a sunny, breezy day so I put my new towels in the washer to hang out later – the washer is being a bit temperamental when I wash towels – as soon as it reaches the tight spin it starts rocking violently even after I am so careful to try and balance the load – then it goes into fault mode and I have to reset.  The end result is towels that are still quite wet, not very helpful in the winter and I hope this doesn’t mean I have to get the engineer in. DH went out in the garden to rake up the last of the leaves and move the bags of rubble created from the pebble cleaning from the front to the side of the house out of sight.  Our local tip refuse to take rubble now they advise getting a skip (really for 3 bags of rubble?).  No doubt this is the reason for the rise in fly tipping around this area.  We are waiting for our daughter to order a skip to take away her old fireplace and will add our rubble to hers.

I have still the bulbs to plant and to add to that I managed to buy some Cyclamens for the garden.  The day before we left for North Yorkshire last week (re: on new baby alert) I received an email from Wyevale Garden Centres with a £5 voucher to spend but it would expire on the Sunday and we would be away.  As they have a place near the motorway junction we were heading for DH did a slight detour so I could spend my £5 – after all I couldn’t ignore a free fiver.  The Cyclamens were £4 each so I put £3 towards the voucher and bought two of the larger varieties which I thought was quite a bargain.

On Sunday evening on a bit of a whim I decided to go through my craft stamps – the clear ones that mostly came free with magazines.  There are a lot that I never use and wouldn’t use – so I will pass these on.  The sheets themselves are all shapes and sizes and a bit of a nightmare to store and taking up quite a bit of space.  So my solution was to put the individual stamps onto a piece of acetate film and drop this into a small self sealing plastic bag.  So now they are better organised and easier to find the one I want and a bit less clutter.

I had planned to start making a prototype for the little ‘fun size chocolate selection bags’ yesterday afternoon.  I usually make them from brown craft paper but this time I am using up an old roll of Christmas wrapping paper.  When I have finished them they will then be donated to the Crisis coffee morning at church to sell and raise funds for the homeless at Christmas. But I put this on hold to tidy up the kitchen and one thing led to another and before I knew it I was cleaning my oven and mopping floors.

During the tidy up I must have decided to keep the Santa mug as I have taken the label off the bottom and washed it!  It will be just right for hot chocolate and Little L will love it when she comes, I must look out for some Christmas paper straws.

I  received my Neal’s Yard order of a bottle of Arnica and Seaweed bath foam.  I had an email for 20% off and free postage just as I had used the last drop of my current bottle so I took advantage.  The ‘polystyrene’ chips used in their packaging are actually made of some kind of biodegradable material that dissolves to nothing if you put them in the sink and run water on them. Brilliant.

Then the postman delivered a letter from Sainsburys with a 1500 bonus Nectar points voucher to scan on my next visit to the store.  I must be on a roll with vouchers, points and money off at the moment  – as the TV ad goes ‘every little helps’ and I am not complaining.

After the long awaited new baby is our long awaited new shed.