Tuesday, 30 January 2018

In Print

Most of my birthday gifts come in the form of cash these days, and I tend to use it to buy useful things, replacing items of clothing that have worn out over the year, fabric to make quilts, things for the garden, or it goes into savings for whatever big spend we have coming up.

Not this year. 

I spent it on beautiful things with no real function whatsoever. I bought some earrings, by Rachel Hearne. They reminded me of Viners Studio cutlery, which I love.

and a print for above my chest of drawers in the bedroom

It's a very nice collagraph by Julie Evans, part of the Glad - Var exhibition at Arteria in Lancaster. 

Dan is 40 next month and his Mum asked him to think of something he might like to mark the occasion. He decided on a Japanese woodblock print to live alongside the painting we inherited from his Great Grandfather from his time working in Kobe in the 1930s. So we headed off to York to look at the Japanese Print Shop - a place I must have walked past hundreds of times as it was on my route to work, but had never visited before, probably because I thought everything would be too expensive. 

We parked at Poppleton Park & Ride and took the bus into the centre, very convenient as it was raining when we arrived, no waiting for a bus, we hopped straight on (£2.90 return). We headed straight for my treat which was a trip to the art gallery (free with Art Pass) to see Paul Nash and the Uncanny Landscape which was just fantastic, lots of photographs and prints I'd never seen before, plus a very entertaining collection of John Stezaker collages, well worth a look if you're in town, the exhibition runs until April.

After quite some time in the print shop, Dan was undecided, but I wasn't

I went for this small print.

Because I just can't have enough orange!

We left the shop to give Dan some time to think and after an hour or so he still hadn't decided, we went back to the shop, he took a deep breath and picked my favourite of his shortlist (I hadn't influenced him in any way). He's decided to keep it wrapped until his birthday so I can't share it here, but it's a beautiful diptych of cranes. We didn't have to wait for a bus on the way back either, straight on and a nice sit down before the journey home. Success!

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Back To Bed

I made it to the charity shop for my shift on Tuesday, flopped down onto a box, sat there for ten minutes then came home again. I was not ready to be back!

Even though it was, in some senses, a wasted journey, in another sense it was good. I needed to be reminded that there is a huge difference between having a slow walk around a farm shop, or doing a bit of housework, and walking to work and standing up for half a day. So I am taking this week off and only doing one shift (hopefully) next week. I really want to cram in some good sleep over the next few days and nights as Dan is off work next week and we have a couple of things pencilled in. 

The novelty of teetering around in a housecoat, swooning onto a couch in dramatic fashion has very much worn off so I am thankful to have been well enough to do a bit of cooking this week It is so nice to be back to proper meals, recently we've eaten noodles (Dan made this under my direction)

rice, basically the same meal but rice instead of noodles


a huge pan of soup, which tastes far better than it looks here!

and finally, pie, well, two pies so I don't have to cook again tonight

This one is (half eaten) squash and butterbean with some sweet potato fries. There's a bit of an orange theme this week, suits the decor I suppose!

Monday, 22 January 2018

New New Year

All I want to do is eat fruit and be outside 

So says the latest note I've added to the front page of my phone, I have stared out of the window like one of those sad dogs on rescue adverts for the past couple of weeks. I'm neither a great fan of the outdoors nor eating fruit, but I want to remember that it's what I've always wanted. 

After a couple of weeks I'm finally starting to feel a bit more like my usual self. We went to the football on Saturday, my first time out of the house for 10 days, other than nipping to the Co-op in the car the night before. Wow, it was tiring! We stumped up cash for the car park as there is no way I'd have got up the hill to the place we usually park for free. 

We don't get much snow here so I loved seeing the snow topped hills from my seat and breathing in the cold, crisp air, and eating soup, soup is always good. We went to Little Barista as usual (although there are two new places for vegans to eat in Burnley - One Sixty, formerly Red Triangle, and Gourmet Munchies which is in the market hall). I had the most delicious vegetable and kale soup so packed with veg, lentils and quinoa, served with a slice of toast, I was also offered dairy free spread which was a nice touch. Now it's all I want to eat, so Sunday saw us head off to a farm shop, not the cheapest shop in the world but a nice place for a mooch around. 

And I stocked up on goodies, I don't think I've even seen the fridge for about a week!

Couldn't find kale so chose some spring greens instead

I also topped up the pantry

At the start of the year my plan had been to make soup on a Monday and a Thursday, of course that never happened so I'm starting again today. My to-do list today is very short - make soup, put laundry away, it's going to take a while to get my energy levels back to normal, I am still exhausted, but being back in the kitchen feels so good! Tomorrow, I will go outside!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Just In Time/ Just In Case

The only productive thing I've done all week is to use some blackened bananas to make muffins, using this recipe (I replaced the lemon juice with apple cider vinegar). 

For the past couple of months we've been using up things from the pantry, initially because we thought the pantry would be refitted this year, but also just to but down the amount of food we have in the house at any time. We haven't been shopping "properly" since Christmas, just to the corner shop for bunny greens and other small bits and bobs, but I am amazed at how well we've managed. There are so many ways to eat not all that unhealthily with what we had lying around, plus the bag of veggie balls we bought from Ikea when we were in Manchester last weekend. Just in time shopping is working for us. 

I mentioned recently I have started keeping an emergency jar of pasta sauce (cheap and cheerful from Home Bargains) and a couple of tins of soup/ chilli/ whatever in the pantry, they have been worth their weight in gold this week. I started feeling a bit off colour on Tuesday evening, by Wednesday afternoon I couldn't move out of my chair. Dan's been really busy this week, and going everywhere on his bike due to lack of car so it was a huge relief to everyone that he didn't have to think about cooking when he got home, and that there's no fresh food going to waste while I'm out of action. Just in case shopping works for us too. 

That may not make sense, I am still in a fug, I listened to the news yesterday and it all seemed so strange that I'm not fully sure it wasn't just a really weird dream. Is any of this real?

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

You Had One Job

This is a whinge, mainly about the hundreds of pounds streaming out of our lives on ridiculous rubbish each month. 

We set off to go to the supermarket/ pizza place last night for celebratory treats, I hadn't even got in the car and I could hear a weird noise. The newly repaired (at no small cost) car now has a weird bangy steering problem that it didn't have before it went in to have the clutch repaired. The mechanic is "mystified". I'm sure it's an amazing coincidence and nothing to do with anything they did.

I will never get into that car again, I am done with it. I have no clue what we're going to do but as I refuse to spend any more money at the garage I assume we're going to be carless for a while. Were we not also trainless at the moment it might not be so bad!

The New Year period of positivity well and truly ended yesterday! And there wasn't even any cake!

Whinge over.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Canny Landscape*

Yesterday Dan bundled me into our hire car with a picnic and we set off on a mystery journey. 

me, waiting for Dan
We had a hire car as ours has been at the garage again with clutch problems, we have it back now but the hire car came in handy. The guy at the hire centre asked Dan about his plans for the weeknd and when he said we were going to watch Burnley play Man City he said "I hope you win, have an upgrade" so instead of a tiny Aygo we ended up with a Mokka, it was huge!

Anyway, when we turned onto the A66 I thought we were going to Bowes Museum, but no, we sailed right past Barnard Castle and on to Newcastle! As soon as I knew we were going there it was obvious we were going to Laing Art Gallery to see the Paul Nash exhibition (ends January 14th). Before the gallery opened there was just time to see another beautiful part of the city, no, not the football ground, the Civic Centre.

Isn't it just gorgeous, this is how beautiful a mid-century building can look when looked after! The building, designed by George Kenyon was opened by King Olav V of Norway in 1968.

River God Tyne, David Wynne

It was an amazingly beautiful day, cold but so clear with fabulous sunshine, the walls looked like gold.

Public building like this always remind me that nothing is too good for ordinary people**. 

So many highlights of this day, I can't pick just one, but it certainly wasn't the moment we saw someone cycling on the A1 (M), thankfully the police arrived as we passed by. A beautiful day that inspired me even more to make my own surroundings more special, even in their simplicity. 

*Paul Nash and the Uncanny Landscape is on at York Art Gallery until April 15th). 

** Berthold Lubetkin

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Blue And A Little Bit Green

A few weeks ago I really started to notice how any single use items and therefore how much waste was generated at football matches - beer "glasses", coffee cups, wrappers for pies, trays holding chips, packets of crisps, chocolate bars etc. Yesterday we saw things to cheer us a little bit when we went to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. 

First of all getting to the match, it's a 25 minute walk from the centre of Manchester with a well lit designated walking route, there are bike racks at the stadium for those choosing to cycle. The stadium has its own metrolink (tram) station for easy access, and although prices have recently increased it's a fairly inexpensive way to travel, we paid £2.80 each return to the park and ride, parking was free. There are also plenty of buses back into the city centre. 

The stadium (designed by Arup) was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and converted to a football ground the following year. Anyway, there are all manner of nods to sustainability.

This tube and drain are part of the rainwater harvesting system (and as we know, Manchester is no stranger to rain!), all water collected is reused around the campus (the stadium itself and the academy next door). There are also air source heat pumps and lighting is now LED. If you're interested there's more to read about it in this article. There is even talk of generating energy too see here . My suggestion would be to use the labour of people climbing the steps up the their seats, we were up on the top tier. 

I didn't really start thinking about this until we got inside (or I would have done more research) but I noticed something written on the side of the drinking glasses 

via huhtamaki.com
The products used in the concourse bars are compostable, recyclable or biodegradable. As well as these drinking vessels chips were served in a paper cup (I wasn't able to investigate these but I think they're the same brand) or in a sack - not only is a sack of chips an amazing thing and gets the thumbs up from me, but it was actually a paper sack, not a plastic tray.

And those all important bins to make waste disposal a little bit easier. It was great to see so many little things in place, obviously it's easier for a new stadium to implement this kind of scheme but it was great to see it, even though most people would never ever notice. 

Friday, 5 January 2018

Sun Comes Up Another Day Begins

And the sun did come up this morning! 

Dan set off before the sun even made an appearance as he decided to walk the 5 and a half miles to work, we don't have the car at the moment and don't collect the hire car until this evening. I got up early too to get a good start to the day.

I headed to town to buy birthday gifts, drop things off at the charity shop and generally have a wander around. As I passed the end of the main street I could see the sea so headed off to the prom for a peek .

I wasn't alone, there were the usual dog walkers, other people like me just having a stroll and even families building sandcastles, it was perfect beach conditions. 

I even had a small paddle with my shopping trolley!

When I got home I put out some laundry and decided to do some of the clearing up I should have done in the autumn in the garden. 

It still looks bad, but the green waste bin is now full, it is progress.

While I was clearing I spotted a sign of things to come 

This is a good day.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Small Things To Make Life Better

New Year Resolution joy continues unabashed.

Wednesdays are the day the house starts to fall into chaos, I'm supposed to finish at the charity shop at one, but rarely leave before two, often much later.  By the time I've nipped to the shops for anything we may need and eaten some lunch it's nearly time to start thinking about the evening. The day just goes.

Yesterday was a particularly busy and frustrating day at the shop so I hardly did anything when I got home. So today is a just keep moving day. On wet, chilly winter days it's easy to not keep moving and to just keep sitting under a quilt drinking tea, so I moved into the dining area. Being in there is great as there's always stuff to do and once I start doing something then I tend to find other things until I reach something that could be classed as momentum. But for breaks (of which there are many) I like to sit and browse but our dining chairs aren't really cut out for leisure.

exciting view into dynamic everyday life
Not suitable for a tea break even with the unattractive seat pad. The solution to both getting up and doing things AND relaxing was staring me right in the face (and has been for the past nine months or so).

instant glamour
One of the very comfy polyprop chairs we have hanging around. I swear I could do great things if I was only a little more quick on the uptake!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Decluttered 2017

I think the house is reasonably clutter free, everything has a place and in general (other than hay) the place is tidy. However, it was still ridiculously easy to find all these things to chuck/ recycle/ donate. I may have missed a few things from the very start of the year. I'm still finding that much of the stuff I get rid of was given to us by other people, not stuff we bought ourselves - 2018 is starting in the same manner!

1. pair jeggings, ripped
2. pink cardi, horrible
3. pyjamas, never wear
4. large t-shirt style nightie, never wear
5. trainer type shoes, never wear
6. slippers, safety hazard

7. large blue bowl and 6 small dipping bowls

8. wooden thing that held dried fruit (gift)
9-17. cook books
18. spiralizer 
19. recipe card box, broken

20. toolbox

21-33. large pieces of fabric that I'll never use
34. pile of small fabric scraps, bits of ribbon, short lengths of thread etc
35. ceramic toothbrush holder
36. 4 wood placemats
37. broken veg steaming thing
38. dvd player
39. assorted cables and leads 
40. brown rug, brown

41. foundation, dried up
42. pile of magazines
43. hairbrush 
44 - 50. bags of assorted stuff to charity shop, belonged to someone else
51. washing machine 
52. 17 items from the sock/underwear drawer
53. leggings, transparent
54. pile of nonsense from the kitchen (see below for a small selection)

55. watch - broke into a million pieces at the football
56. metal VW camper tin, had been in a cupboard for years
57-60. three skirts and a t-shirt, just not me 
61. butter dish
62. teapot
63. slow cooker
64. dress - holey
65. 12 magazines
66. shirt
67. big pile of garden pots
68. birdhouse - given to someone as a surprise for their daughter.

69. multiple bags to the charity shop inc. electricals - belonged to someone else
70. emergency car kit, duplicate
71. many many many plastic plant pots, probably 60+
72. planter, broken
73. bags of rags
74. general garage junk - empty compost bags, cardboard carpet rolls etc
75. extra blinds slats
76. 4 magazines 
77. tins of paint
78. Christmas tree
79. carbon monoxide alarm

80. threads and other assorted craft stuff, 4 small containers
81. 5 pairs of sock
82. shawl
83. 4 tops - sweaty
84. dress
85. skirt
86. two jumpers (identical)
87. silver skirt
88. 2 mop heads
89. 110 tealights and 7 candles (gave the tealights to another vol at the shop)
90. 13 plates (2 decorative, 11 vintage)

91. 8 books
92. 2 more books
93, rabbit water dish - rabbits refused to drink from it, despite it being the same shape and size as the other dish, the only difference is that the unfavoured bowl was blue.
94. 500g bag of soapnuts (passing on to a buddy)
95. 2 wine glasses - we never drink wine
96. 2 champage glasses - be serious!
97. 2 espresso cups - I never drink espresso so how many cups do we need?
98. 4 crystal tumblers - used maybe a couple of times a year, but we have other crystal tumblers we use more often (and still that's not all that often)
99. 3 pillows
100. teddy bear
101-2. light shades

103. hideous brown lightshade, here when we moved in, had been in use in the pantry (apologies if you own this lampshade for calling it hideous, but it is)
104. small step, dangerous
105. more assorted stuff from other people - desktop pc, printer, stepladders, old medication, dvds, clothes and shoes etc. 
106. assorted craft stuff, some to charity shop, some to bin
107-8. bed covers 

109-10. two tops that for some mysterious reason had been stashed at the top of my wardrobe

111. pair of sandals that I'd been keeping for sentimental reasons only (I mean, come on!)
112-13. two aprons, never wear
114. calendar, duplicate gift
115. converse, gift, never wear
116. assorted plastic tubs - no room in new freezer
117. clothing belonging to Dan, no idea what it was, he just said he added things to the charity bag
118. Jumper, Dan's
119. assorted jars
120. chalkboard

121. teapot - made rubbish tea
122. top - holey
123. spoons etc (3)
124. work shirt (Dan)
125. hi-vis cycling jacket, no longer waterproof
126. food processor
127. decorative bottles
128. teapot, broken
129. shoes
130. Bird feeder

131. Weights bench
132. assorted fabric scraps
133. 3 bottles of perfume, Dan sneezes when I wear two of them and the third I bought recently, Dan chose the fragrance and I hate it, smells like aftershave and washing powder. 
134. a book Dan received as a secret santa gift
135. utensil pot
136. dvd

Monday, 1 January 2018

Barely Visible To The Naked Eye

One of the many things I've been inspired to do through listening to the Happier podcast  (at least I think it was from there) is that if a task will take less than two minutes to perform I should just get on and do it. So I have been doing just that, for all manner of things and it's working well. The coffee table is far tidier than usual without having to really do anything, just make changes so small they're barely noticeable. 

We found ourselves in TK Maxx the other day (yes, I received that voucher for Christmas again) and we were looking around for things on our list - specifically a water bottle and a lunchbox with compartments when Dan presented me with a utensil holder. It turns out that he has strong negative feelings about the pink one we already had, we bought it when we were selling our old house, the whole jaunty vintage style was popular so we bought a few bits to give the kitchen that look. It worked. But since then we've been living with a pink crock, not really the colour scheme of the kitchen/dining area (I don't know what the scheme is, but it's not that). We didn't buy the new thing as it wouldn't have matched this mythical colour scheme.

When we got home I had a poke around in the pantry and found a pot we used to use for storing tea, but wasn't storing anything other than a dead spider, so now we have a new thing to hold spoons. It's a small home improvement, we didn't buy something I didn't even know we wanted and have put something back into use. 

need to wipe that wall
I also dealt with something that hardly took two seconds let alone two minutes. On the worktop, next to the utensil pot is a small piece of chalk. I got rid of the chalkboard months ago, and yet, every day I have been lifting up the piece of chalk, wiping the surface under it and putting the chalk back. Why, oh why have I been doing that? The chalk has gone away. 

Maybe next time I'l put my shoes away.