dEAr diary ~ a happy new year

2019Hello everyone and a Happy New Year to all my followers and readers.

I just thought I would drop by for a few minutes whilst there is calm once more.  It is so quiet here today I feel the house is fast asleep – recovering from the busyness of the last few weeks.

We spent Christmas Eve delivering gifts to friends and then had an unexpected visit from my elder daughter and SIL in the evening.  Unintentionally, we were late to bed and then quite late up on Christmas morning – this did not matter though as DH and I spent Christmas day on our own, through choice, as we did not relish a further trek up to North Yorkshire after having been up there on the Sunday before for the family party, and both our daughters were spending Christmas with their respective in-laws.

It was the first time ever we have been completely alone on Christmas Day but I actually enjoyed it.  We had no deadlines to meet for meals, no one to entertain and it was a chance to take advantage of the quiet time after a busy month and a busy year.  In fact I will make sure we have a day like this every year – perhaps not on Christmas Day but maybe at some point over Christmas.  Of course it is much easier to plan a day of doing nothing when everyone else is occupied.Christmas Tree

I had some lovely gifts from my friends and vouchers for John Lewis from our family Not so Secret Santa.  Perfect.  Here are a few of my favourite.These delicate handmade wire snowdrops… a little felted bird… a stack of hand made soaps and some pot pourri… two printed mugs on a matching little tray.

Last night we spent the evening with some of our dearest friends, feasting, laughing and playing games  – a wonderful way to see the new year in.

So now we are in 2019 already looking back on 2018, which for me was quite a mixed year; we started the year in January with the sad loss of 3 family members and then a few months later celebrated the marriage of one and the birth of another.  So like many other families it is always in a continuous state of ebb and flow.

During the last few days I have been planning and plotting and also pondering on a new focus word… but at the point of writing this has not revealed itself to me yet; but I am not in any particular hurry.  My focus word last year was  The Power of Small and indeed I did make small adjustments to various aspects of my life which then produced some major and unexpected changes – the most notable being leaving my job and the security that brings.

I always love this month of January it never feels bleak to me – I am eager to set new goals, think about new challenges and looking forward to what the new year may bring, even those little unexpected surprises.  Of course I want it to be all good things but I know that will never be the case – I only hope that the inevitable problems when they come are not insurmountable or too traumatic that I will not be able to cope.

But for now all around me is good – my friends and family are all relatively well, we have a warm home plenty of food and I am feeling quite blessed.

A good start to the year so far.

 

 

 

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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 ~ day 17

Mince pies Mince piesDay 17 – I swapped my Advent task today to make the mince pies  – after all Christmas would not be Christmas without them even though I can only eat one or two as they don’t really agree with me now.  I often bake these tiny ones as they make a lovely token gift and this batch was to take in to my old workplace for my former colleagues.

I was eager to try out the new kitchen tool I found at the local hardware store when we were in Scotland.  It is a wooden pastry tamper – it cost about £5 and is double ended for pressing the pastry of small or large circles into the trays.

I was impressed – it works a treat and gives the pies a professional look.  To save time I used the ready-made roll of all butter short crust pastry – I like the fact it has all natural ingredients.  I was a bit disappointed that the finished pastry case is a little on the thick side; if I used it again I would put the rolling-pin over it to make it slightly thinner.

Mince piesThe thickness didn’t affect the taste though, the pastry was ‘melt in the mouth’ with no soggy bottoms.  After a dusting of icing sugar I packaged them up onto these little white trays (I collected during the year from Chocolate Mini Rolls) lined with a doyley and added a sprinkling of confetti – green metallic holly leaves. Mince piesI also took in a tray of the chocolates.  Well it is Christmas.

It is getting very close now to the big day – most of my list has been ticked off and just a few bits and pieces left to do but if they don’t get done I wouldn’t be worried. The traffic in town and the village is building up and the shops getting busier so it is taking longer to do anything that requires leaving the house.  I expect it will get worse over the weekend.

There still seems to be an awful lot of stock to shift in the shops and the prices are steadily dropping but there is nothing now that I need to buy.  We have all the gifts ready and a spare emergency one just in case.  My family Not so Secret Santa gift was for my younger daughter and she needed a coat that fit her now she has had the baby.  I bought part of it for her birthday too (as it is in December) and suggested she start wearing it now rather than wait for Christmas.  We wouldn’t normally do that but there was no point in her being cold until Christmas Day.

We have a family 21st party on Sunday at my sisters and then I am looking forward to a quiet Christmas at home.

 

fEAsible ~ plotting, planning and preparing for Christmas

Another dark dreary day today and cold with it – light is in short supply at the moment but I did manage to get my selection bags finished and ready to go.  The only cost to me was for the fun size chocolate bars inside which I bought reduced at Halloween, the gift wrap was some left over from a previous year and the tags from old Christmas cards.  I will take pictures tomorrow as the light has gone altogether now.

I made Mushroom soup today and extra for the freezer.  It has become my favourite lunch at the moment – perhaps you can tell!  We had freshly baked rolls too from Sainsbury’s – a kind of Ciabatta bread with cheese and shaped like a boat – should have taken a picture.  They were reduced to 4 for 60p – so a bargain as well.

I have started my initial preparations for Christmas, I use the same checklists each year so I don’t forget to do things.  This is the first of a series of lists that I have developed over time and serve me well:-

Getting prepared and organised – step 1 – initial preparations

  • Begin a Xmas inspiration notebook or wallet –  a definite must – I collect all those usually annoying leaflets, adverts about events, recipes, decoration ideas or anything Christmassy that catches my eye.
  • Look at what didn’t work last year (see my notes HERE from last year of things to avoid or do better)
  • Do something different this yearI like to plan something new each year and this often ends up as a new tradition the following years.
  • Decide on any entertaining we might do and set a date – prepare invitations knowing if and when we might be holding a party or get together is crucial to knowing just how busy I am going to be.
  • Find the decorative Xmas box to hold incoming Xmas cards as they arrivebelieve it or not we have received our first Xmas card but it is far too early to put it up so I usually hold them all in a pretty box.
  • Review finances for last Xmas and set a new budgetI keep a note of our past Christmas spending and plan a new budget based on this.
  • Arrange the family Not so Secret Santa draw
  • Prepare the Christmas Calendar for December – I like to put everything down in one place so I have a calendar that I can see at a glance what is planned for each day in December. 

I start by putting down any dates that are fixed like birthdays, then schedule appointments, and then decide on any events we might like to attend if we can fit them in.

  • Add birthday dates first and any anniversaries (we have quite a few in December)
  • Reschedule any unnecessary appointments for after Christmas (this might be a dental check up or the like if it is non urgent I will move it to after Christmas)
  • Establish everyone’s movements (otherwise known as who is going where with whom)
  • Schedule / book appointments for hairdressers, massage etc (a little ‘me’ time)
  • Make a note of any discount nights or late night shopping
  • Schedule time with the familythis might be a night out at a restaurant or a night in with a Xmas film – something we can all do together.
  • Schedule any religious activitiesCarol singing, Crib service etc
  • Schedule a theatre night or Christmas event (this year we are going to see the Winter Wonderland lights at Dunham Massey and probably go to the Living Advent event in Saltaire)
  • Add dates for making Christmas food gifts (I usually make a few food gifts for my friends and these have to be made closer to Christmas so I need to leave a clear day or two)
  • Add last posting dates for Christmas (I have already picked up the leaflet for this year whilst I was at the post office)

This is very much the planning and plotting stage – deciding on what to do and where to go and when.  I have already done some of these things on this list – but have I missed anything?

There is a lot to fit in now into four weeks.  My next task will be the cake on Sunday and getting back to doing my lino cut Christmas card.

I was chatting with my daughter about a present for Little L for Christmas and I mentioned the subscription boxes you can order for children that come by post once a month with activities.  I signed up for something similar years ago that was run by the Early Learning Centre before they had shops and my two girls loved it when the parcel arrived each month, a box full of surprises.  I am not sure they are such good value these days but the idea is still good and we are looking into it.  She has so many presents on Christmas day that it would be nice to spread it out a bit.  Has anyone any experience of any on the market?

Tomorrow we are going back to John Lewis  – it is one of my Christmas treats in itself – I love to look at all the lovely things and get ideas.  What a shame I don’t have another free hot drink and cake voucher unless one arrives in the post in the morning!

How are your plans coming along?

 

 

 

 

 

dEAr diary ~ an unexpected day out

Do you ever have one of those days that doesn’t go to plan – I expect everyone does.  It wasn’t that yesterday turned out to be a bad day just different to what I had intended.  Last night I should have been sitting down pleased with myself for cleaning the freezer or making all the selection bags, but in the end I did neither – instead we had a trip to the Trafford centre to John Lewis to pick up a present for my daughter.

We were going to order this gift on-line but then changed our minds as we preferred to see what we were buying.  I am told that the 10th anniversary is tin so we have bought her a lovely handmade dragon-fly picture frame by Lancaster and Gibbings that is made of hammered or pressed pewter (which is a metal alloy of up to 99% tin).  We will put her a temporary picture in of Little L and Sweetie until we can take one that fits the space properly.After we had purchased the photo frame we of course had to have a browse around the store looking at all the beautiful things on display.  I could easily have indulged myself and one or two things might just go on my Not so Secret Santa wish list.

Tonight DH is out at one of his music concerts, a new piece of work by contemporary composer Rebecca Saunders.  This kind of music is really not to my taste it often pushes the boundaries of music and can be creative to the extent that it is very strange.  But he enjoys it and Huddersfield is the UK’s largest international festival of new and experimental music.

I actually like having the house to myself for a few hours – I might even watch a Christmas film on the True Christmas channel – something light-hearted and funny.  I might even give myself a home pedicure after all that tramping up and down the shopping mall.

Today we head off again for North Yorkshire our second home at the moment!

Incidentally, in respect of my daughter’s wedding day (that I wrote about in my last but one post see here) which was on a Friday ten years ago in Masham town hall;  we heard that Any Questions was broadcast from there on Friday night so lucky for us the venue was not double booked all those years ago – it was strange enough having the play rehearsal going on at the time we were setting up the hall!!

Have a lovely weekend. x

PS Just a note about the John Lewis staff who are always so on the ball and helpful – they really try hard with their customer service, so thank you John Lewis.

homestEAd ~ a few pleasureable chores

Roses

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

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

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

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

Neal's Yard

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

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

Ironing

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

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

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