Monday 24 September 2018

Starting to Stem the Plastic Tide ...

Hi there everyone 😀

For a while now I have been pondering on ways to try and use less plastic. I don’t think it’s just the Blue Planet effect, but that certainly seems to have created a whole new level of awareness and drive across whole nations.

There is also lots of evidence of large companies starting to try and do their bit by changing packaging and offering less plastic heavy options.

We’ve been doing our bit on the carrier bag front for a long time, well before the charge came in for single use carrier bags, and always have a stack of jute shopping bags in the boot of the car.

We also try and recycle as much as we can, often having far more waste in our recycling bin than our general waste bin. I have to say though, I do often wonder as to what does actually happen to this recycling. Does it really all get sorted as it should? I would like to think so, but would really love to be able to follow a bin of recycling through the system to see what happens to it.

We also make use of our local recycling centre when we have waste that can’t go in the bin, such as small electrical and larger items. Plenty of stuff also makes its way to the local charity shop, where it is easy to park and drop stuff off.

The movement to try and reduce the amount of plastics we use is most definitely growing. On Gardeners World Monty is making a concerted effort and is sharing what they are doing at Longmeadow, which will hopefully increase awareness amongst the gardening fraternity. 

I must say we have been using toilet roll middles for starting off sweet peas and beans for years. They fit perfectly in large mushroom containers, so these manage to get repurposed too. I also make sure that I reuse pots and trays that come with new plant purchases until they fall to bits, rather than buying new ones.
We did try our hand at composting and am sad to say that we have done away with this, though I do now always feel bad when I am putting my veg peelings and paper shredding into the kitchen bin.

A few weeks ago I saw a video clip on Facebook from Martin Lewis. It was a bit like the ice bucket challenge. He committed to reducing the amount of plastic he used by three ways and then nominated three other people to do the same. I hope this gets traction as I guess every little will really help.

There are a few changes that I’ve been thinking about lately as being things that would be practical for us to perhaps try and the first was seeing how well beeswax wraps actually work.

These are intended to reduce the use of cling film and sandwich bags and there are some really pretty designs to be found on line.

Prices do range quite considerably and I managed to find some that weren’t so expensive that if we didn’t get on with them we would have wasted a load of money and, if we liked them, we could perhaps pay a bit more for a better selection of design.

I found ours on Facebook from Becky's Beeswax Wraps. They were £7, including postage and they came within a couple of days of ordering.
The fabrics weren’t quite as pretty as some of those that I’d seen but they were ok, though I was a bit disappointed to see how small they were in reality. It would be interesting to see how useful they would actually be ... would they be big enough?

I was more interested in finding out if they would actually work. Would they create an air proof seal like cling film or a plastic sandwich bag did?

Martin made the first use, using one of the largest to wrap his sandwich wrap for lunch. Normally he would put this in a sandwich bag, though I would normally use a small plastic tub.

His verdict was that getting a proper seal was not the quickest or easiest of processes, as it involved waiting for the beeswax to meld under the warmth of his hands and this took longer that just chucking the wrap in a poly bag. He ended up using a couple of elastic bands to make sure that it didn’t all unravel in his bag.

He was happy with how it kept his wrap fresh though and washing and drying it was easy enough. It will be interesting to see how it lasts over time.

Since then I've managed to use both of the round ones to seal stuff in glass bowls and they've been great. I wouldn't say they give a totally air tight seal, but they've been fine for what I've wanted.

My verdict so far is that I like them and they have helped us reduce the amount of cling film and poly bags that we use. They can't be used with raw meat and to get a good seal elastic bands are a must, but so far, so good.

They wash easily and we haven'd had to re-invigorate them in the oven yet, but I will keep you posted.

I have had a look on line to see how easy it would be to make these myself and I think I might give it a go, so watch this space 🐝🐝🐝


Friday 21 September 2018

Joy in the Everyday Ordinary - September, 11-20

Hi there everyone 😀

We are currently in the midst of a two week holiday on the very lovely North Cornwall coast, one of our favourite haunts that we haven't managed to visit for a while. In fact ... we haven't been since well before the start of my blog so I am really looking forward to sharing lots with you when we get back home.

We are staying in a lovely holiday cottage, a 2 minute walk from Widemouth Bay, just outside of Bude. Mum and dad are at their caravan just along the coast, David, Alison and Bobby are in a cottage not too far away and our friends Lesley and Tom have been staying in a chalet on a site a bit further up the coast, they are on their way home as I type.

We've had a lovely first week but are spending a welcome day in ... just chilling, listening to the wind of Storm Bronagh and having a bit of down time.

I'm sure we will back out and about exploring very soon but, for now, here are the small things that have brought me joy so far in September ...
 Day 11 - The plan had been to crack on with taking the bottoms off the dining room doors, after having the new carpet fitted, but rain pretty much stopped play, so we just had an indoors day instead. Paperwork, blogging and ironing for me and bathroom cleaning for Martin. Sounds dull I  know, but we were in the throes of getting through a long old list of jobs before heading off on holiday, so every one ticked off the list is a step nearer to us making our way down to North Cornwall, so there was a fair bit of incentive there to get on with stuff. I also managed to wave good bye to these Christmas tags that I'd made for an old school friend who popped round to collect them. She loved them and I always find it really rewarding seeing how people react to the things that I make for them. 
Day 12 - We managed to take the bottoms off of the dining room doors today and cleaned the bedrooms, so two steps closer to being ready for our holiday getaway. I even managed to make an addition to the pumpkin patch.

Day 13 - This gorgeous bargain autumn print arrived today. I am really excited about putting together an autumnal display on the mantel. I am sure pumpkins will feature highly.
Day 14 - Our long old drive down to the North Cornwall coast took up the best part of the day, the journey broken with an hour or so spent at Sedgemoor services playing with my favourite little monkey. How easily they are entertained and happy they are with the smallest of things as toddlers. This was our first view of the sweep of Widemouth Bay for a good few years and, as always, it was a real delight.
Day 15 - Out for our first wander around Bude and we bumped into this little monkey on the beach ... not on his own I hasten to add! It was his first real play on the beach and he absolutely loved it. It was an absolute joy to watch.
Day 16 - Wool in real autumn shades from the car boot sale in Bude today.
Day 17 - Monday and Lesley & Tom arrived today. They are staying in a holiday chalet not too far up the coast and came to us for breakfast and a wander round Bude whilst waiting to check in. We always have to have a walk out onto the breakwater when in Bude and that was what we did this afternoon. It's not the first time we've been on the breakwater with Lesley, though this time she did manage to stay dry. This was the first of, what I am sure will be many, holiday selfies.

Day 18 - We had a big day out today ... Boscastle, Tintagel, then Crackington Haven on the way back. The majority of photos that I have of Lesley and I are poor quality selfies taken on the phone. It's not very often we have a nice one taken of us on the 'big' camera, but I love this one Martin took of us looking more than a little windswept at the end of the harbour in Boscastle.

Day 19 - Another big day out. This time to Clovelly. Whilst the walk down is always a bit of a killer with our dodgy knees, the view is more than worth it.

Day 20 - It was afternoon tea for eight, nine including a little one, followed by games in the conservatory listening to the rain hammering down on the roof. This little one spent the best part of the afternoon cuddled up on the sofa with Martin, who is not much of a game player, watching TV and generally having fun. It was really heart warming to watch and, if you're wondering why Martin has been chopped out of the photo, it's because the vacuum cleaner was behind him and it just looked a bit shabby. After I realised it was there and moved it no amount of persuasion could get Bobby to look at the camera for a second photo ... sorry Martin.

So that brings us up to the end of the first week of our holiday. You can see what else we get up to for the rest of our stay in my next 'Joy in the Everyday Ordinary' posts coming soon.

Monday 17 September 2018

At Home for the Summer - #4 Back to Calke with Friends

Hi there everyone 😀

I know this post will seem a little late as we are now into Autumn but this is the last of my 'At Home for the Summer' posts for this year.

We were off out for the day with our good friends Jackie and Phil, who had managed to wangle a sneaky Friday off work so it felt like a real treat being out on a school day.

The original plan was to spend the day at Kedleston Hall, a National Trust property near Derby, followed by afternoon tea at a tiny little place nearby called The Little Shed.

However, at the last minute we discovered that Kedleston Hall isn't open on a Friday, so a quick change of plan found us back at Calke Abbey, but this time there were no bikes.

It was a scorcher of a day started off with a visit to the private apartments, which aren't normally open so this was a bit of a treat.

We then had a walk out to the gardens where the inspiration for our plant 'theatre' was looking as spectacular as ever ...
Obviously, ours isn't quite in the same class ...
Whilst we were quite late in the season there was plenty of colour to be seen in the gardens ...
With some welcome cool to be found in the potting sheds ...
The best treat of all though had to be the splash that we all had under the fresh cool water from the old pump. I can not imagine why I didn't take a photo of this, it must have been just so hot that I wasn't thinking quite straight.

There was plenty going on in the walled kitchen garden ...
We wandered out through the back of the walled gardens to find lots of children's activities under way, with plenty of running about in the long grass going on. We would have loved to have availed ourselves of pizzas, which were being cooked in the outdoor oven but settled for ice creams under the shade of the trees and the watchful eyes of the locals ...
We made our way back to the house for a good look round. Calke is not your typical stately home. In fact, it is described by the National Trust as 'the unstately home'.

I didn't take any photos inside but the interior of the house tells the story of the dramatic decline of the house and the people who used to live there. Gradually rooms got shut off and became unused, until pretty much only the private apartments were used. The rooms stayed this way until the property was handed to the Trust and this is how they have left them.

It's a really interesting property to explore, with lots of weird and wonderful things to see, just not necessarily where you would expect to see them. It is actually quite sad to think of this beautiful house becoming less and less used as the years passed.

Although we have visited Calke Abby before I had completely forgotten how you came out of the property and I won't say here, as it would be a big spoiler if you plan to visit, but safe to say it was lovely and cool.

Our visit over it was time to head over to The Little Shed for our afternoon tea, and not before time as we were all more than ready to eat.

Jackie had been before but it was brand new to the rest of us and we were delighted to find that it is just as described ... not much more than a little shed, but lovely, bright and quaint inside. Visiting the loo was a bit of an unusual experience and involved nipping round to the hair dressers round the corner, but other than that it was a real treat.

It was gentlemen's afternoon tea for Phil and Martin and a traditional for Jackie and I, both with as much tea as we could drink.
Well refreshed, and I don't believe I've ever said this before, but with too much cake, doggy bags were the order of the day, which made for a very welcome treat the following day ...


Tuesday 11 September 2018

Joy in the Everyday Ordinary - September, 1-10

Hi there everyone 😀

Can you believe we're in September already? This year has absolutely flown by but I am just about ready for Autumn. I think it's my favourite season.

I love the colours as the leaves start to turn, dark nights, cosying up, lighting candles, getting cold and warming up with home made soups, slow cooker dinners, celebrating birthdays and watching loads of reality TV ... please don't judge me 😳

At the beginning of the month I did start to wonder if I wanted to continue with this series of posts. It's not that I didn't have lots of little things to be thankful for or to be happy about ... I just had a few days where I forgot to take photos and I didn't wanted to cheat. Anyway, after writing my 'When September Comes' post, I felt re-invigorated and managed to capture the moments that I had missed retrospectively, so here we are with the start of Autumn 2018 ...
Day 1 - We were up and out early with the craft stall, attending a local dog show. Our journey there was a real treat with the hazy morning sun desperately trying to break through. We saw plenty of signs of the changing of the season, from fat prickly horse chestnuts to the deep brown earth of freshly ploughed fields. We just had to stop and capture the image of these round bales of hay just waiting to be taken in for the Winter. 

Day 2 - There is always a big list of jobs that we need to do at this time of year to get the garden ready for winter. We've learned the hard way that if we don't get some things done then it makes for a hard life in the spring. The first job this year was to give the privet it's autumn haircut, turning it from an unruly mess into, what has locally become known as, the 'Hovis loaf'. I love seeing it all trimmed and tidy and ready for winter and there was a real sense of satisfaction of one job being ticked off the list.
Day 3 - We did just a little bit more in the garden today, including relegating the first of the hanging baskets to the bin, to be replaced with this pretty hanging decoration that I bought on my recent visit to Snowshill Manor and Gardens. Whilst it was sad to see the start of the end of the summer floral display, I think this will do quite nicely for the winter.
Day 4 - It seems like an absolute age since I've had a good book to read so, after watching Bake Off, I headed up for an early night and made a start on one of the books I bought to take on holiday. I just couldn't wait. I really enjoyed it. A nice easy read that I finished over a couple of nights.
Day 5 - As we tend to cook all of our meals from scratch, this can become a bit of a chore on occasion. Over the last few weeks I've been trying to double up on some recipes, putting the extra in the freezer for an easy night's tea the following week. This week it was cottage pie and it is very good to know that there is one all ready and waiting for a day when we fancy cottage pie without the effort of having to cook it.
Day 6 - We worked hard today. Getting the dining room ready for the final bit of new carpet fitting on Friday. We managed to empty the room by spreading the furniture and its contents all over the house and had plenty of floor board renovation to be getting on with. Hopefully we will have managed to stop some of the creaking and rattling of cupboard contents every time we walk across the room.
Day 7 - So, that's it! Last carpet fitted and everything back as it should be and we both love it. I've lived in this house for over 20 years and this is the first time I can say that I love all of the downstairs and the stairs at the same time. Only problem now is ... that it makes the bedrooms and bathroom feel a bit tired ... sounds like next year's list is already beginning. 
Day 8 - After a pretty busy week it was a morning of enforced relaxation and celebrity gossip for me whilst waiting for my colour to go off. Whilst it was a lovely relaxing couple of hours spent I found out my hair dresser is having a baby ... bittersweet! The relaxation carried on with an evening of Strictly and X-Factor. Loving Saturday nights in the autumn.
Day 9 - Well, it was a toss up between going up the ladders to give the conifers their annual trim or taking off four interior doors to shave the bottoms off following the laying of the new carpet in the dining room. Not really feeling it for either we decided to pick up mum and head over to a vintage fair at Moira Furnace, where, totally unexpectedly, we bumped into this little man. We spent a lovely hour or so watching the little monkey get braver and braver on the children's playground before saying our good byes and having a mooch round the vintage fair and heading back home for a lazy afternoon.
Day 10 - After our day off on Sunday there was nothing for it ... the conifers were given their annual trim, which entailed lots of precarious balancing at the top of a ladder whilst waving around the Black and Decker hedge trimmers. After about a three hour stint we were all sorted and packed away ... for another year. I hate them really, but they do give us a bit of privacy and the thought of the effort involved in taking them out is a bit traumatic. For now, I've chuffed with our achievement at getting them tidied up for the winter. I spent the rest of the day curled up on the sofa doing a bit of hooky. I've wanted to have a go at these pumpkins for ages and, after a dummy run with some wool that was just the wrong colour, I managed to finish off this one and I just love it 🎃🎃🎃


Wednesday 5 September 2018

When September Comes ...

Hi there everyone 😀

There really is something about September. And by the number of songs that are written about it, it’s not just me that feels that way.

This last weekend we were were out with the craft stall at a dog show and if I hadn’t already known that it was the 1st of September and the start of a new season, our drive there really brought it home.

We were out early and there was that autumn chill in the air, despite the hazy sunshine. We drove theough the wooded countryside and could see the first signs of the leaves starting to turn. The horsechestnuts were heavy with fat spiky balls keeping their shiny brown conkers safe until they start to drop in a few weeks and there were plenty of fat juicy blackberries to be seen in the hedgerows.

The crops were in and the fields were adorned with those glorious roundels of hay, waiting to be taken in to stock the barns for the winter season.

For me it really does herald a season of new beginnings. I always feel invigorated in September, ready to start to batten down the hatches for our winter hibernation. Hoping that we do all we need to do to make the return to spring an easy one ... especially when it comes to the garden.

There are hedges to give their final trim, hanging baskets and summer pots to be emptied, faded perennials to be cut down and roses to be pruned ... all with the intention of giving us the best start next spring.

I know it might sound strange but it really does feel like a bit of a fresh start. It might be because we’ve spent the summer lolling around and enjoying the sunshine, especially this year, and now it’s time to get cracking with a final push if we want to get all our projects finished by the end of the year.

At home the last big things on the agenda to get sorted are to finish carpeting downstairs and to replace the last fence panels that didn’t get done last year. The carpet is booked in for later this week and the fence panels have been delivered and are awaiting their coat of dark oak before the tricky job of getting them in can begin.

But it’s not just that, it’s definitely the season of birthdays and holidays over here, which means lots of socialising with friends, as well as the inevitable curling up in front of the fire with the candles lit on a cold evening watching Bake Off, Strictly and X Factor, with home made soups and slow cooker dinners.

We have two getaways booked in ... we are off to North Cornwall for a couple of weeks and then later on we are off to Somerset for a week, where I hope to get to visit the Longleat festival of light, something I have wanted to do for a while.

Last year we managed a few autumnal days out and about and I hope we get to do the same this year. To get wrapped up warm for a bike ride or a walk, finished, of course, with a stop at a cosy tea room to warm up and eat cake.

So there is definitely plenty to come but, for now, I'm off to make a cottage pie ... 


Monday 3 September 2018

Joy in the Everyday Ordinary - August, 21-31

Hi there everyone 😀

Well, here we are at the beginning of September and there is definitely a sense of Autumn in the air, though I am hoping we haven't seen the last of this glorious summer that we've had this year. I'm not quite ready to put away my sandals and summer tops just yet.

There has been plenty going on in these last days of August, though we have managed to kick back and have a few lazy days too, which are always a welcome treat.

It's the time of year when we start thinking about what we want to get done before the weather turns and we start our winter hibernation. There's lots to do in the garden, though we are making the very most of the last pops of colour and are loathe to empty pots and baskets whilst there is still life and colour to be seen. 

Before we start cracking on with all of that though, here is what made me smile over the last week or so of August ...
Day 21 - Martin was off and we had a busy and productive day. He took up the stair carpet, in readiness for a new one to be fitted later in the week and I made nine of these cute little birdies, to re-stock the craft stall. I made a batch earlier in the year and they have been pretty popular. Originally they were made as pin cushions, but I think people are buying them just because they are so cute 💜
Day 22 - I got to spend another one of those lovely chilled out and relaxing days with an old friend, courtesy of the National Trust. This time we visited Snowshill Manor in The Cotswolds, followed by a mooch and lunch around Broadway. It was another lovely, lovely day 💜

Day 23 - Now I know this is not the most inspiring or colourful of photographs, but we are in the process of having our lounge, dining room and hall, stairs and landing carpeted. We had all of the decorating done last year and have only just got round to choosing and having carpet fitted. Last week the lounge was done, this week it was time for the stairs. We have gone from having a runner up the centre of the carpet to full width and we both just love how it looks and feels. It's so soft and thick underfoot and ... no more scrubbing the paintwork at the sides of the carpet ... Yay!!!
Day 24 - It was Friday and we spent the majority of the day just having a general tidy up in the garden in readiness for a BBQ with friends on the Saturday. Whilst there was plenty to be cut down there is still a fair amount of colour, especially purple for some reason 💜💜💜 I bought this agapanthus four or five years ago and it always does really well. As it's done so well I've always just left it in the pot I bought it in and last year it had about 15 flower spikes. This year, though they are beautiful, there are only five, so perhaps it is time to split and re-pot. I am aiming to do this once it has finished flowering, but will certainly be on tenterhooks next summer seeing what effect it will have had. Wish me luck 👌
Day 25 - Big BBQ day!! Weather was not good all day, with rain showers on and off. The cushions were out, then back in, then out again. Luckily the last rain shower was at about 3.30pm, so we did manage to spend the evening outside. There were eight of us so it would have been a bit of a squeeze to fit us all inside and that would have left Martin outside cooking by himself. We spent the evening chatting, eating and drinking and adding layers as the evening progressed. Jackie brought dessert and it was spectacular 🍓🍓🍓
Day 26 - Sunday and it rained all day. We had a lovely chilled out day, eating leftover BBQ and cheesecake and watching a film. The best thing though, that absolutely melted my heart, was a video that Alison sent us of Bobby. We spent a day out with them at Statfold Barn Railway back in July, where we went on a train. Alison had told us that ever since then every time he sees a train he says 'Carol and Martin'. I wasn't sure that I quite believed it, but she sent us a video clip of him playing with a picture of a train and when asked 'who's on the train?' his response, as clear as day, was 'Carol and Martin, Carol and Martin, Carol and Martin'. I must have watched it a hundred times. Just too cute for words is this little monkey 🐵🐵🐵
Day 27 - Bank Holiday Monday and we didn't leave the house. Jackie brought me these flowers on Saturday and they look gorgeous on the dining room table. The stocks smell beautiful too. 
Day 28 - After a few lazy days at home, we spent the day out and about shopping, having lunch and mooching round garden centres, where I managed to stock up on some easy holiday reading. It was a Tuesday and even though I've been retired for four years now, it still feels like a sneaky treat getting to go out for lunch on a weekday.
Day 29 - Martin had a hospital appointment and, as these always take ages, I always pack a bag of stuff to do whilst I am there. This time I managed to make up three of these cutesy owl key rings for the craft stall. 
Day 30 - This came in the post today, for our holiday in Cornwall. We always book our cottage holidays on line and I can't recall ever receiving any details through the post. This was a really exciting surprise and has made me really start to get into holiday mode.
Day 31 - Just look at what came in the post today! Orange plush fabric, and boy is it orange. It's for a larger children's blanket that I have been asked to make and I just can't wait to get started.

So, we are now at the end of August and summer is officially over.

Whilst I have loved this summer and all of the sunshine that we've seen ... I'm ready for autumn. I think I would say it's my favourite season. For us, autumn is always busy. There are holidays, lots of important birthdays and social engagements, Halloween, Bonfire night and that crazy run up to the Christmas season.

The calendar is already looking busy and I need to make sure that we don't fill up all of the 'white space', leaving ourselves plenty of time to chill out, relax and get ready for our winter hibernation.