Saturday, 29 July 2017


Back In October I wrote about how we'd chopped back the plant jumble of roses and honeysuckle at the back of the garden in the hope they'd grow back and we could have things looking less messy. 

There is plenty of life there now. Not only do the birds love it now we've chopped back the overgrowth from the garden behind, we have roses! 

I know absolutely nothing about roses, other than this one is pink

and this one is yellow!

There's far more going on at ground level too, I've planted a few shade-loving things but there are surprises coming up all the time, which is why we're waiting until next year before making any big moves with this area. 

Lots and lots of these, I don't know what they are. They've been flattened by the wind a little, but they're still really pretty. 

In May (I can't believe it was so recently) Dan made a small path to use as a shortcut from the patio to the pebbles made with some left over logs and the remaining bits of pallets we'd been given. You can see it here. It too has started to fill out nicely. It's hard to photograph as it's the part of the garden that goes from bright sun to deep shade. 

The thyme and mint that I rescued from an old planter has done really well. We also put in some lime mint, chamomile, alpine strawberries, and a teeny wintergreen plant that had been swamped elsewhere in the garden. Here it is from around the same angle as the picture in the other post.

Doesn't look quite as sandy as before!

The pallet edging is almost certainly my favourite thing we've done to the garden, although I love the pebbles too, now they've been here for a year little springs of alpines have started to thrive between the stones, just what I wanted. Things are thriving in there, such as the alpines. In the main bed they fine, plenty of flowers and all that stuff, but since moving to the pallet border they have taken off. The plant below is about five times the size in the space of a few months. 

I know it's hardly a shock "garden looks great in summer" but it is a great time to be out there, well when it's not raining!

Friday, 28 July 2017

Freebie and Bargain of the Week

Not much to report this week.

Dan came home with assorted teas, passed on by a work colleague. We in turn passed some on to others and left ourselves with a couple of packs.

I picked up a few books from the library

I want to cosy up the spare bedroom, so hopefully I'll find some inspiration here. Also hoping to get inspiration for the menu plan next month. That's about it, a nice simple week. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Chip Chip Chip

Recently the freezer has filled up, and filled up without very much finding its way back out again, so getting things back to manageable levels has been my focus. Junk food had started to find its way into the house (and I haven't enjoyed most of it much) so we've been working through it. 

No photos, I've fallen out of the habit. 

Recently we've eaten - 

a home made chana masala (delicious)
a couple of wraps
2 lots of roast veg
some veg gyoza, they had soy in which was  bit meaty for me so Dan ate most of them
2 sausages 
2 bean burgers
1/2 butternut squash
roast sweet potatoes
assorted bread rolls and other stashed bread

There's a bit of room to move now. It inspired me to do the same with the pantry as the same thing has been happening, lots going in, not much coming out. 

I'm working my way through the massive tinned pulses order from the other month, still not a massive fan but there you go.

A tin of potatoes I bought for a game on social media

Tonight we're having the jackfuit that's been in there since Christmas

Red lentils (probably the first time I've been out of red lentils)

Dan finished some cereal he didn't really enjoy 

I'm currently making soup using a small amount of pasta we have hanging around, which will also use up some sad looking spinach from the fridge. 

That's more than I thought!

The habit I'm going to work on this week is to do with washing up. I do not like washing up at all and it seems as though there is a constant supply of it mounting up. Dan does the main wash in the evening, but throughout the day I wash up after breakfast and when I'm cooking as much as possible. BUT the dishes hang around in the drainer. I have to start doing the drying and putting away because for some reason I find it a huge drain to see stuff hanging around, what seems to be all of the time. 

It's such a small thing but I know it will make a massive difference. Also, not having a cup of tea or snacks in the evening will make a big difference in many ways - especially waking up without there being things to do before we can start our day. I can't be the only one, does anyone else have that one small task around the house that really makes you roll your eyes or cause you frustration?

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Slowly The Ball Rolls

I have made so many changes that are so small they would be invisible to the untrained eye. 

Cellulose cloths for example. I bought them in the spirit of being more environmentally conscious, they don't work for us, so today I'm heading out to buy some washing up sponges. It turns out Dan was right, having a cloth flapping around for days before being washed is not nice at all (I only wash two or three loads each week so kitchen cloths might be in a basket for a while). And the amount of times things have had to be rewashed was ridiculous, although I realise that this is probably just a case of a bad workman blaming their tools. Plus,  when I see how much excess and waste passes through the shop every single week I find it a little harder to tie myself in knots over the matter. 

Laundry liquid. This is a mixed one in hindsight. I'd been using soapnuts for a year and still hadn't made up my mind about them, so I bought some laundry liquid and offered the nuts to someone else. The first load I did with the liquid was the first time in a year Dan's tricky t-shirt had that smell, you know that weird musty smell. It's only ever this one t-shirt, what is it made of? Plus the smell of the liquid was overpowering even though I was using 1/4 of the stated dose, wow. 

No menu planning. Can't decide about this either. I don't think it's made things harder really, but I have possibly been over buying. Certainly cooking if my waistline is anything to go by!

Switching to working on Wednesday mornings, undecided about this too. Looking out of the window at the rain today makes me think leaving the house is a very bad idea. Being home in the early afternoon, and removing the obligation of going for coffee every now and again is a very good thing indeed. 

In thoroughly good news a bathroom man came to the house last night for a session of tutting and measuring, we'll see how scary the quote is next week. He's off on his boat for the rest of the week to count swans. I liked him far more than I thought I would after learning about the swans, animal lovers are welcome here.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017


Over the past little while I've been making some changes, and a key to this has been to strike while the iron's hot, although that hasn't extended to actual ironing. Ironing happens most when I'm making a quilt - the board is up most of the time so what's a few extra bits when there's so much pressing to be done?

As I think I mentioned, I have been listening to the Happier podcast and it has helped me to get so much done. One of my very favourite happiness hacks was to start reading a new book as soon as I've finished the current one. Simple but great advice for someone who can go a long time between reads. The Kindle is now my number one buddy, hmmm, maybe number two after my new phone and I have read so much in the past month. It also helps that we went to an event in Lancaster, part of the writing festival, where we heard Ian Martin (a writer and so-called swearing consultant for the tv show The Thick of It). His book Epic Space  was loaded onto my little friend before we'd left the building.

We've had to move lightly since we moved here, we'd only been in this house for 6 weeks when the 2010 election took place and since then we've been paying redundancy roulette with each wave of government cuts, so we've been a bit scared to make any big spending decisions, just in case we need the money for extravagant things like eating and keeping warm. 

But even moving lightly we can move differently and doing something now, while the iron's hot has been a very good thing. If I think it's a good idea to tackle a small task then I do it there and then, and it's been working out well. When it's sunny I've been out in the garden, rather than waiting for the weekend or some other undefined time. Yesterday I ran all my little errands - post office, library, walk on the beach, look for the few odd things on the shopping list - and it was the right choice, today it's chilly and damp, not really tramping around with heavy bags weather at all, even if I had the motivation, which I do not. 

So, yeah, doing stuff is good, it gets stuff done, and without getting wet.

Speaking of which we still haven't sorted out someone to do the bathroom. This week, I promise. 

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Styling My Home

Ages ago my parents offered me two carboys from their house, they've had them for years. I remember them from when I was little, until Father obtained a huge whisky bottle from the Naval Club he used to go to one was filled with change, the other was a bottle garden. 

The smaller of the two we've had in the house for quite a while and hold Dan's toy cars - ideal for when the smalls come to visit as they love both the cars and having to get them out of the bottle. The other was in the garage for ages, until I mentioned to Dan that we had used it as a bottle garden and he was taken with the idea. Today we, to the best of our ability put the plan into action. 

We decided it would add a bit of something to the spare bedroom, I fear it may be a broken toe if a visitor staggers around too much in the dark after a great night out.

The mouth of the bottle is too small even for my tiny lady hands so it was a delicate operation involving bamboo canes and a cut up tetrapak funnel, but we got the plants in without too much stress. The compost package says I'm to leave the plants for now and water in a few days using tepid rainwater. Looks gorgeous doesn't it. The reality is a teeny bit different

Absolutely filthy! Some kind of rag on a bendy stick is needed to clean things up a bit. But not before I've had some crumpets. 

The other bottle, as well as containing the cars, is a bunny deterrent, or at least an early warning system if they get too close to the electrical cables - we can't just use Lego all the time.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Freebie And Bargain of the Week

Including a little bit of last week. Also not really freebies and bargains as such, but good things that didn't cost much. Bit of a misleading title all things considered. 

£2 all-day parking in Manchester so we could nip to the Whitworth to catch the last day of the mini Lucienne Day exhibition.

Plus Barbara Brown and part of the Manchester International Festival, the latter was a taster for our trip to Northlight Mill in Brierfield the following day for part of Home1947

The (very emotional) installation here concerned the partition of India 70 years ago. It was small but beautifully formed and the Super Slow Way volunteers were fantastic, informative and we had some really interesting discussions. See more here

We took the opportunity to nip into Burnley for coffee and cake at Little Barista (Howe Walk), and to nip to the garden centre well, it was Sunday), plants 10 for £10, just what we were after. The staff at the cafe remember us for some reason and although we already had cake we were offered a slice of their delicious cherry and almond cake on the house!

A domestic victory too, after ignoring it for a very long time, the mini beasts have accepted their bed!

I had a horrible day at the charity shop on Tuesday, I really struggled with the window - it was a war themed one, not my thing at all, but the manager wanted it as there's a local war weekend next month. However on Wednesday I spoke to an elderly lady who loved it, she held my hand for a long time as she told me how lovely it was to see the uniforms and that we had taken the time to put the display together. A number of other people told me their family stories too which was nice and made the whole thing worth it.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Form Is Temporary, Class Is Permanent

As Bill Shankley apparently said. 

Today's Power Hour started a little later today as I had my hair cut. I've never been a fan of visiting the hairdresser and could go for many months or even a couple of years between visits. So Now I make the next appointment at the end of my current appointment, I know most people probably do that anyway, but it's the one small change that has lead to the biggest improvement in my appearance. 

We were talking last night and Dan said to me "well, I wish you were tidier but...". I wish tidiness was something that came easily to me too but it doesn't, so it's my focus for the next little while, the key to this is doing one thing at a time - easy to say, easy to forget. 

The one tiny change that has improved my week is to start using a tray. I mentioned recently that I'd started to use a cupboardless space in my kitchen to store my cookbooks. Well, there were a few too many for the makeshift shelf I have, so I rescued a tray from the donation pile and put it to use!

I also used the power hour to regain control of the fridge. Dan has been doing quite a lot of food prep recently for one reason and another so I had no clue what was going on in there, although I was aware that the freezer is fuller than full. So today I set about cleaning and reorganising things, in the hope that I'll get cracking with some cooking again. 

There's not a lot in there but there's nut roast and a things for sandwiches, and just enough veg to make a sausage casserole and a stir fry, which is better than I thought when I opened the door. 

We also have some new light shades, they've made a big difference to the feel of the rooms, even though they're not in the rooms we thought they'd be in but there you go. Oh yes, the other major home improvement of the week is to do with the back door. Our back door is in the living area and as we still haven't repaired the window after it fell out the other month (the window is still where it should be, we just can't open it). So my problem was that having the door open to get some fresh air meant the door flapped open and shut every now and again. My stylish and effective solution?

A shopping bag. 

You see, the door can't swing open too far, nor can it slam shut. I'm such a genius, please stand by for my style blog for surely it will be the new home of domestic inspiration.  

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Thursday Power Hour

Things that can be done at any time are frequently left undone.

This sentence could pretty much have summed up my life recently. I'm at home most of the time so I rarely have pressure to get things done at a certain time, I can come and go as I please, but for someone like me that can be a recipe for disaster. 

A little while ago I started having a Thursday power hour, in my case it's a power morning but hour sounds better due to rhyming, I don't think it rhymes when Dan says it but it does when I do. Plus, he'd never saying a phrase like that unless he was mocking me. In my house a power hour isn't the drinking game, although it does sound like fun, but the Gretchen Rubin idea to take one hour per week to do all those little tasks that never seem to make it to the top of the to-do list. I love it. For naturally organised people it's probably not a big deal, for me whose natural state is to be all over the show it's great.

It's also the day I've chosen to not exercise so it's great to have an active day planned, I also choose Thursdays to be the day I have things delivered, make appointments and plan anything that needs to be planned. It gets things out of the way all in one go. The extra added bonus of this is that when I am waiting in for a delivery, workman or whatever I don't get that feeling that I'm just hanging around, waiting, but even waiting isn't all that bad anymore with tracking and receiving a text telling me my one-hour slot. 

The kind of things I do include - minor repairs or DIY jobs (touching up paint, sticking things back together, finally replacing that whatever that's been hanging around for months), garden stuff such as dividing plants, moving things around, any paperwork, phonecalls or important emails (not that I have much of that), snipping herbs and actually getting them into the freezer before they're beyond. That kind of thing, alone these things aren't very much at all, but when they're done life is just better

Friday, 7 July 2017

Painted Nails

Recent changes have been small, as changes often are. 

I've started wearing nail polish, only on my toes at this point for practical reasons. I hadn't used it for years because there was no point, but then I thought do things differently and splashed out £3.99 on a bottle of Barry M Blue Glacier metallic gloop. I love it. It must have had an effect on me as I bought a new phone this week and it turns out I chose one in the same colour.

Speaking of which, I had a reasonably basic phone because there was no point in having anything fancier. I now have a fancier one and can do things with it. I mean, the main thing I'm doing with it is sending everyone pictures of Ron Swanson via Telegram, but it's a fun thing to do. Anything can be pointless or meaningful depending on the meaning I ascribe to it and fun is as good a reason to do something as anything else. 

I got rid of the junk drawer, in the past I'd found it useful for holding things I needed but didn't always want to put away "properly". When I opened the drawer it just contained things I didn't want to deal with. My "favourite" Christmas decoration that had broken a few years earlier and I hadn't repaired - packs of cards and other trinkets people had given to me, old batteries that never made it to the tip, the usual bits and bobs of ife. So the pens went into the pen case, the screwdriver, tape measure and other household things went into the drawer with things like that and the rest, well most of it was recycled or went into the bin.

So much of my clutter these days was just stuff I didn't want to deal with, because it made me feel bad that it was going to end up in the bin, so if I kept it I wasn't being wasteful and "not green". Or they were things that had a home, so it didn't really matter if they just hung around the place because as my mum would say "they're not eating anything". Again, as I have said so many times, often the things I was getting rid of were things I hadn't bought myself and so they had meaning for someone else but not for me.

We decided to get rid of some vintage plates that had belonged to Dan's Grandmother, they were chipped or crazed so we would never have used them, we ended up with them because Dan's Dad didn't want to have to deal with them so he passed the problem along. The best of them have been kept for use as soap dishes and plant saucers, but the rest have gone. I have repeatedly put my foot down about people giving me things, but it's just the way my family are, they won't change and I don't expect them to. The main difference now is that they can't expect to see that stuff when they come to visit, and they can deal with their feelings about it.  

And so by the end of Monday there was an empty drawer and two empty cupboards in the kitchen, with no other areas seeming any more cramped. Then I thought about the wine glasses we had been keeping hold of, I hate wine so soon after I had a third empty cupboard. 

Monday, 3 July 2017

Being Honest

I've learned quite a lot during the holiday that went wrong. 

On Tuesday I woke up with a cold, by Thursday Dan had it too, so instead of getting out and about we were forced to spend lots of time at home. And other than the being ill aspect of it, we really had a great time, and were surprisingly productive.

A couple of things I also realised - firstly I really, really, really, really dislike picnics. I was going to say I just dislike making them, but that's not true, for the most part eating them is a bit annoying too. Having to deal with thinking about lunch when I've only just had my breakfast is not something I relish, and as for making it the night before - I have eaten enough curled or soggy butties to last me a lifetime. Plus, I don't think they save us any money. For those picnic lovers around I salute you, but they're not for me. I'd rather shove a jug of water and a tub of seeds in my bag then deal with food when I get home than go through the picnic process. So we have said no more.  

this is the one picnic I did make (but didn't eat) during the holiday. My version of the Pret turmeric cauliflower salad

Secondly, it's really hard to slow down, but it is good to have a well stocked pantry. Thirdly, being honest with myself isn't hard, it's just weird. I went through my wardrobe again and chucked a few things into the rag/charity shop bag. I also finally let something go I'd been hanging onto for sentimental reasons. 

I bought this skirt from Whistles in 2002 when I was more foolish even than I am now and spent money like it was going out of style. I wore it once, but I kept it, by the time I came to wear it next, about three years later, I'd lost so much weight it fell down as soon as I zipped it up. Even though I'm fatter now I can still get it on without unfastening it. But I'd kept it all this time because I just wasn't prepared to get rid of it, presumably because it represented something about a life I no longer have. 

When I fished it out from the top, hidden shelf in my wardrobe and gave it the once over I realised, it's really unattractive! It cost me a fortune, the pattern doesn't even match, it's just a ugly pattern and it's not even fully lined. Ridiculous.

Finally, I am so bored of tracking our spending. It has been of zero use in terms of reducing our spending, the one thing that has made it worthwhile is that we've been working out some financial stuff and when Dan has asked me when we did x or y I've had the information to hand, rather than having to go through old posts here or look at social media updates for clues. 

Second final thing - Dan today is calling people to get quotes for the bathroom revamp, we have finally hit our savings target! Hooray!