Wednesday 31 July 2019

Decadent or Simple

Some mornings I want a plethora of decadent tastes, fruit, granola, yogurt, and chocolate ...

... other mornings I want it simple, just black coffee and toast.

Simple and relaxing ... and in its own way, when you are in the mood. as tasty and as pleasing as a decadent cornucopia of flavours.

What's your favourite breakfast ... and what did you have this morning?

Sue xx

And no I haven't swallowed a dictionary ... just using a couple of my favourite words.

Tuesday 30 July 2019

Flowers ... and Can Openers

Glorious flowers. picked from the front little flower bed when I was at home in home in Wales.

It's that time of year when everything is going over, too blousy, too wild, too tangled.  It's hard to appreciate the individual beauty unless you look hard.  So I looked hard and snipped gently ... and brought some in to enjoy properly.

I love the mix of natural,  slightly wild-looking blooms and the delicate rosebuds just waiting to burst open.

In other news back home we are in the midst of can-opener strife again.

Alan can use any type of can opener but I can't use anything but bog-standard Butterfly can-openers.  The little white one is just about manageable for me and I've been using this for the past few days since the old one came apart in Alan's manly hands.

But only until I can get myself a new supply of these.

Sometimes the old designs are the simplest and the best!!

Sue xx

Monday 29 July 2019

Letting Go of Books

Possibly the hardest thing for me to sort through and let go of has been my collection of books.  But finally last year something clicked and I started to drastically reduce the number that I owned.

Of this little 'Aga' collection on the top shelf in the kitchen for instance, I had just three that I actually used regularly but I had hung onto them all for ages.  Now that I have checked through them I have kept just those three and will pass these on to the next owners of the house and the Aga ... and the rest all went straight into the car boot sale box without a second thought.

It's like I've been 'cured'.

Last year we sold the dictionaries and books to the left of this photo ... this year all the 'bee' books have gone into the box ready for the car boot sale.

So NO books are now left in the office.

When we first moved into this house we brought with us this long low shelf unit, an ex-display shelf from my little shop in Ulverston.  It housed a lot of books after one of my many blogged about sort outs.

This year the shelf unit is out in the garage full of car stuff and the bits and bobs that were lying around everywhere as it is no longer needed in the house.  Because after a few big sort throughs and a number of car boot sales last year, we no longer needed it for books as what we had left ...

... moved into the gaps I had made on this set of fitted shelves behind the door of the living room.

This year there has been a further click ... and not just one!!

  Firstly, getting rid of books was suddenly much more preferable than holding onto them.  I went with the flow and sorted out whenever the mood overtook me.

This morning the shelves look like this.

The second 'click' of realisation was that I no longer had the need to own everything written by a particular writer or chef.  

For years whenever my favourite cooks ... Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater or Jamie Oliver ... brought a new book out I rushed out to to the shops to buy it, gaps in my collection were filled in from charity shops and car boot sales and then suddenly I realised that I didn't need to own them all as I wasn't actually even using them.

I sold most of the older ones last year and then this year I have been letting go of the newer ones after checking first that there was nothing in them that I actually wanted to cook.  In one book the only recipe that I used regularly was this Green Spaghetti recipe, I was about to photograph it for future use and then I realised... I use it that often I know it off by heart anyway.

The book was in the car boot sale box at the weekend.

The bottom shelf of this set of shelves now looks like this, just one Jamie Oliver book ... the one I use!!

The other shelves we have, also originally from my little shop, were filled to capacity too.

With even the cupboard being full up with magazines that I had held onto after reading.

It currently looks like this ... and the cupboard is empty!! 

And shock, horror ... I have just decided that once we move into our little flat this will be the main bookcase.  Apart from some books in our office and perhaps a few cookbooks in the tiny kitchen, this will be expected to hold the whole collection.  

I better keep whittling away at the books then.

The kitchen collection after my recent sort out currently looks like this, which I think is a very manageable number to have and use.

What do you find the hardest things to part with?

Sue xx

Saturday 27 July 2019

Jettisoning Stuff

Another weekend, another car boot sale.  Well, the same venue but mostly different stock.

We were loaded up ready for action last night and in place and selling for 10am this morning.  It's very civilised here in our neck of the woods, no 6am start times for car boot sales.  It was thankfully much, much cooler and very pleasant to stand selling and chatting with all the lovely folk that came to the stall. 

There were lots of dogs around too for Suky to bark at and for Mavis to ignore.  Mavis just took to her bed after a few minutes of watching people go by and had a lovely lazy morning while Mum and Dad worked hard, but generally had fun.

The rainclouds started to roll slowly in by 2.30pm and we began tidying and packing away.  Making sure the boxes were ready for next time.  Now we're home and having counted the money ... a grand total of £163.50 ... and had a cup of coffee we are now awaiting the arrival of two buyers who are buying larger items off us from Facebook Marketplace.  

It's all sell, sell, sell here at the moment, but jettisoning the stuff is a wonderful feeling.

I mentioned getting rid of all my old diaries the other day and after a quick check through them for any important information ... a few things which I quickly copied into my new Filofax ... they are now in the pile ready for a little bonfire.

It's a good job I did check, as stuck in one of them was this, the original disc from when we appeared on Escape to the Country a few years ago.  It would have been a shame to lose the chance to watch Alan teaching people how to feed hungry Large Black piglets and the views of our lovely Oxfordshire home with the pigs in the fields.

Sue xx

Friday 26 July 2019

Jill's Babies

We were supposed to be getting chicken free here in Wales to make lurching between our two addresses a much easier proposition ... but Jill the Lavender Pekin Bantam and Dancer our little cockerel had other ideas!!

Jill managed to successfully hatch out three of the eggs she was sitting on, they were all her own eggs so the chicks are Pekin Bantams.  The third little chick only lasted a week as she took her eyes off it and it decided to try swimming in deep water.  But raising two out of three is a good success rate for this first time Mum.

I'm purposely not naming them or getting attached ...

... not that she's letting me.  

She's very good at alerting them to any impending danger including giant humans approaching for a cuddle. I had to trap this little one to be able to pick her up for a photo

But it was worth it.  She is gorgeous as is her little black sister.  

They are about a month old now, born on or around the 20th June.  They now have lots of lovely new feathers and are well able to fly short distances.

Meaning that from time to time they are on the opposite side of the fence to Mum!!

Still not getting attached.

Not getting attached.

But awww ... they are cute  😉

Sue xx

Thursday 25 July 2019

Magnolias and Bees

The Magnolia's flowering like mad this year.  

Week after week of day-long flowers ... yes, I know they are really the blossom of the Magnolia plant but how can something so huge and so magnificent be called a blossom, it is a floral delight.

In other nature-y news, I was walking around the paddock with the dogs yesterday in the cool of the early morning, knowing that later it would be much too hot for a certain little Puggy lady to want a walk.  When I came upon this little fuzzy buzzy bee lethargically plodding along in the grass.  Not wanting to uproot him from his spot in the field I knew he needed some sustainance so I pulled off a freshly opened foxglove flower and in he crawled.  Thirty seconds later he came out slightly refreshed but not totally back to normal.

So I got him another one.

It worked a treat, and after his treat he looked much more like a fuzzy buzzy busy bumble bee should look. We left him to it and went back to put the first load of washing out on the line.  I'm making full use of this wonderful sunshine, heat and the gentle breeze to get all the washing from the Van washed dried before I return at the weekend.

Sue xx

Wednesday 24 July 2019

They Took All the Trees

We used to have this view from the living room window in our Welsh hillside home.

It is, as they say, a view to die for and a real feature of our home.  Views from every window, the countryside lush and green or stark and white in Winter.  A view to drink in, one that stops you in your tracks.

I used to imagine the thousands of lives going on in the branches of the trees and bushes that lined the railway line.  I watched in the dusk of the evening as a white owl used to swoop across the field diving low to pick up some small creature trying desperately to run for cover.  The sheep would lie in the cooling shade offered by the trees and forage for tasty bits to supplement their grassy diet.

Beyond the trees and bushes I would see glimpses as trains travelled down the track and each morning and each evening I would see the same small group of water birds flying down and then up the river.  

It's always the way that when you leave somewhere and come back to it at a later date you notice more than if you are there day in day out.

But I didn't expect to come back to this.

Last time I was here ... only just over a week ago ... they were busy thinning out the trees along the train track, some big wig has obviously decided they might as well go the whole hog and remove virtually all the trees and bushes.

Now the trains whizz by noisily, there are fewer birds .... they have nothing to land on, my mind can't wander to the possibility of baby birds in nests and thousands of insects and small creatures making a life for themselves in their woodland homes ... they are all gone.

No wonder then that this song has been playing out in my head since the moment I first took in our new non-improved view.

Sue xx

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Slowing Things Down to Simple

I'm slowing things down in my life and at both my homes at the moment.  

After lots of soul searching, long dog walks with the wind in our faces and our minds free to wander.  Cosy evenings of long chats over wine and coffee, and lots of discussions, we have both agreed a course of action that will see us both happier in what we have chosen to do.

We don't want to run out of time to be happy we have chosen to be happy now, and with some compromise on both our parts ... like proper grown ups do ... we have found our way forward.

We are continuing to downscale our belongings, selling at the car boot sales and on Facebook Marketplace everything that is surplus to requirements and that can make us some money to add to our little pot of savings.

We will work on our Welsh home over the course of the next year to get it into a perfect state to put on the market ... if all goes to plan in late Spring of next year, and once our current tenant decides to leave our little flat near Llandudno we will claim it back and make it our own.  Redecorating, and redesigning what is there to make it our small and simple home and office space.  

Of course while all this is going on I will still be living my Smaller life over the border in England.  You know the one I mean ... it involves copious amounts of coffee, ridiculously long lie-ins or early morning baking, and lots and lots of little Puggy dog walks along riverbanks and canals.

Alan's office base will be at home in Wales, from where he will supervise the building work that need to be done to the house, and bit by bit bring the chaos that is our little Welsh hillside under control ready for passing it along to the next owner.  

And we will meet up at weekends or mid-week, whenever there is the chance to be together when we want to be.  To do the things we want to do together ... when we have done the things we want to do independently. 

A very grown-up solution.

I knew I would have to grow up a little bit one day!!

Sue xx


Monday 22 July 2019

When the Rain Lashes Down

When the rain lashes down all night on the roof of the Van like a Yorkshireman learning to tap dance in his hobnail boots, and the winds blow unknown things around with sporadic clatters and bangs it's good to have a leisurely breakfast and then a morning pottering in the kitchen.

The rain has stopped now, and the Van door is clipped open.  The warm wind stirs the beaded curtain and outside the song of hundreds of relieved birds, drying out after a wild wet night sing their morning chorus.

It really is the perfect time to grab a cook book and gather together ingredients from my still full cupboard.  Within minutes there is a pan of Dahl puttering away on the hob filling the air with the most wonderful aroma.

Taken from a book with such an appropriate name.

Cosy after a rough night in the Van, with enough Dahl for at least four meals cooking away on the hob it's a good start to a fresh new week.   Are we going to have the intense heat that the weather forecasters have promised us ... at the moment is seems improbable,  but the warm winds could be the start of it.

Anyway me and the dogs are heading along the motorway to Wales in a couple of hours after a ricey, dahly lunch and a quick hoover round. .  Leaving a nice clean van ... and tubs of Dahl in the freezer ready for our next visit.

Sue xx

Sunday 21 July 2019

A New Hobby

It would be worrying

If it wasn't so bloody relaxing 

My new hobby

Is day dreaming 


Saturday 20 July 2019

Next - The Kitchen This Year

Last year I designed, and with some help from Alan constructed, this little shelf, cubbyhole and drawer set up.

The idea was to free up valuable space on the worktop and it's worked a treat.  It holds lots of those useful foodstuffs that I use on an almost daily basis, my little 'Aga' tin of sachets and samples, the little chopping board ... and tucked in the cubbyhole at the end Alan's salted peanuts.  The drawers contain pegs for keeping opened bags of food airtight and closed, my little packs of Lotus biscuits are in one, there are Sesame crackers in another and the last has some folded up Stayfresh bags from Lakeland. The little 'egg crate' that used to live on the shelf was sold at the last car boot sale,  although I loved it, it was completely superfluous ... because I no longer eat eggs!

The toaster and four more jars of foodstuff fit neatly underneath. Between the cubbyhole and the drawers.  This  little set up gives us so much more space to use on the worktop.  And talking of extra worktop space ...

We found this lovely large chopping board in Sainbury's a few months ago and having it on the cooker top when the hob is not in use gives us even more space.

I also found a wall mounted paper towel holder that I fixed underneath the cupboard, making good use of some dead space in the 'brewing up' area.

Also in the kitchen/dining area I took down the wall mounted cupboard and replaced it with a more soothing to the eye wallpapered wall.  At the second attempt the wallpaper stayed up!!

Then this week I took the basket that used to be on the worktop for fresh foods, it was filling up with clutter instead of food, wrapped my little battery operated fairylights round and about it and then wedged it onto one of the screws that used to hold up the cupboard.  It makes a lovely little lighting feature in the evenings.

They are just a few little alterations and additions, but when you live in a small space  and don't want to spend lots of money, you have to adapt what you have and find ways of making that space work well for you.  As your wants and needs change so must the space to keep things easy and simple for day to day life.

Sue xx

Friday 19 July 2019

How Are Things Working Out at The Van

So how is the Van looking these days and how are the things I put in here working for me now after being here on and off for well over a year.

The living room centrepiece is obviously the fire and the mantlepiece above it.  Suky loves her little bed in front of the fire, which is rarely switched on by the way.  From this vantage point she can keep an eye on people and dogs passing by the full length window to her left, she can watch what I'm doing in the kitchen and, well just generally keep an eye on things ... and of course an ear open for the rustle of food wrappers anywhere in the Van.

I think my favourite change to the fireplace is the wallpapered surround to the actual fire.  Before I bit the bullet and did this the surround was just smooth and cream, a bog standard caravan fireplace.  Now with just a few off-cuts of wallpaper it makes the fire surround just a little bit more characterful ... and of course it ties in nicely with the wall in the dining area.

The mantlepiece itself has gone through several slight changes over the course of the last few months.  From sparse to over-filled ... always with stuff that is useful as well as decorative ... but at one stage most definitely too full!

Now  though I think I have it just right.

The larger of the boxes contains more nightlights and candles ready for refilling the holders also on the mantlepiece and in the bedroom.  The smaller one is an old money box and is useful for emptying any copper and small change from my handbag or coat pocket into until I can get back to Wales and tip it into the old enamel teapot.  The jug is currently holding some Snapdragons, at just £2.70 from Aldi I couldn't resist their beautiful muted colours.  When there are no fresh flowers it holds a few stems of silk lavender.  And of course the radio at the end means I can listen to Ken Bruce some mornings if I'm in a radio mood, otherwise it keeps the dogs company if I have to go out and leave them for any reason.

Also in the living room, last year I swapped the coffee table that came with the Van for these two cubes.  The coffee table made of its fake wood drove me mad, the whole caravan is kitted out in this contiboard type 'wood' and I really don't like it so wherever possible it is being replaced.

The cubes are great, not perfect as they are awkward to lift and shift when I clear the floor for a yoga session, but they are a firm enough resting place for cups of coffee and a soft enough one for Alan to put his feet up when he's in television watching mood.  And of course they hide a multitude of sins.  The left one has a bottom layer of DVDs and the other one has some magazines and more little coaster mats for visitors to use for their drinks.

So that's the livingroom,  come back tomorrow and I'll let you know how the kitchen is faring up.

Sue xx

Thursday 18 July 2019

Good Food Days ... and a Note

Most days I start well, somedays I even manage to keep it up until bedtime ... but good food days really do make a difference to how I feel.

This mornings breakfast was pretty much my perfect breakfast,  and healthwise it had two of my five a day, plus nuts, seeds, protein in the form of peanut butter and a good base of vanilla flavoured plant based yogurt, which is fortified with calcium and vitamins.

It was really filling,  but I still managed to go back to the jar for another spoonful of peanut butter 😄

We'll see how long this keeps me satisfied for, but most days this week I've just been eating two meals a day, with a coffee and snack mid afternoon to keep me going until teatime.  Not out of any sense of deprivation or dieting it's just happened naturally, so I'm going with the flow.

Of course other days I start with a slice of toast or a biscuit, and things go downhill from there ... but we won't speak about them while I'm feeling so virtuous  🤣😃🙃

Note to all readers!

As lots of blog writers will have noticed Spam comments have been building and building in recent months.  We've had offers of massages, long rambling text in other languages and some downright rude ones telling us who to marry and who to be aware of not marrying.  Some blog readers will have noticed a tiny proportion of these slipping through the net, you have no idea of the large volume of these that we actually get!!

 The latest wave that has just started actually look like proper comments.  They come across as new readers that have just discovered your blog, but always start off by appearing on old posts.  They are always Anonymous as most are actually computer generated or mass produced.  A lot of us Bloggers allow Anonymous comments as we are aware that some of our readers do not want to sign up to any platforms, but we are having a struggle weeding out real from fake comments.

For now on my Blogs I will continue to allow Anonymous comments but ONLY if there is a name signed at the end.  As usual ALL comments on blog posts over 3 days old will be diverted to my email address for moderation by me before publication.

Thank you.

Sue xx

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Good Handwriting Days

My office space.

It's amazing what you can do with a mobile, phone, a tablet and a Filofax,  although I have to admit that I haven't gotten round to transferring anything from my my big black desk diary yet.

I will ... on a good handwriting day.  Do you have them too or is it just me.  Days when what you write is actually legible, looks neat and tidy and you enjoy making notes  and getting things in order.

Other days I rush through paragraphs, scrawl numbers down in a rush and basically write things that even I struggle to read back after a few weeks.  At one of my sons junior school parents evenings we were told by my younger sons teacher that his writing was that bad he would either be a doctor, or have to work with computers ... he works on a bank of three or four monitors and a couple of keyboards.

Oh ... did you notice something in the photo ?

Yes, the wallpaper has stayed up this time 😃🤞

I might have invest in a proper desktop computer to celebrate, then I only have to write things down on good handwriting days  💻⌨🖱🖨

Sue xx

Tuesday 16 July 2019

A Good Morning Ritual

I'm taking time just now to be 'in the moment',  immersing myself in the things that I do, the things that I watch and the things that I read.  Being aware, and awake to what is around me.

It could be something to do with the yoga that I've just started again.  Nothing fancy, no classes of hot sweaty bodies or mats and people rolled out in lines ... my idea of hell ... just me, a DVD, the living room carpet and a Pug that comes over and kisses me whenever I am flat on the floor.  It's a thirty minute start to the day to calm things down, stretch creaking old ligaments and bones out and to centre me for the day ahead.

Followed by a shower, a mug of coffee on the bench in the garden and then a wonderful riverside walk with my cute little furry companion.  We both drink in the sights and sounds of the river, the smells of freshly mown grass and the dreaded Himalayan Balsam.  Yes it's gloriously scented but it starts a fight to the death for so many of our native wildflowers lining rivers, railway tracks and country lanes 😕

Today we walked back through the caravan park, stopping to chat to couples gardening in their little van-side gardens, the guys moving a large fridge freezer from one van to another and finally to a lady straightening up slowly and painfully from a spot of low level painting.  I could have suggested yoga ... but I didn't  😄

Sue xx