Tuesday 28 January 2020

You're allowed to ...

You’re allowed to leave any story you don’t find yourself in. 
You’re allowed to leave any story you don’t love yourself in.

You’re allowed to leave a city that has dimmed your light instead of making you shine brighter, you’re allowed to pack all your bags and start over somewhere else and you’re allowed to redefine the meaning of your life.

You’re allowed to quit the job you hate even if the world tells you not to and you’re allowed to search for something that makes you look forward to tomorrow and to the rest of your life.

You’re allowed to leave someone you love if they’re treating you poorly, you’re allowed to put yourself first if you’re settling and you’re allowed to walk away when you’ve tried over and over again but nothing has changed.

You’re allowed to let toxic friends go, you’re allowed to surround yourself with love, and people who encourage and nurture you. You’re allowed to pick the kind of energy you need in your life.

You’re allowed to forgive yourself for your biggest and smallest mistakes and you’re allowed to be kind to yourself, you’re allowed to look in the mirror and actually like the person you see.

You’re allowed to set yourself free from your own expectations.

We sometimes look at leaving as a bad thing or associate it with giving up or quitting, but sometimes leaving is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Leaving allows you to change directions, to start over, to rediscover yourself and the world. Leaving sometimes saves you from staying stuck in the wrong place with the wrong people.

Leaving opens a new door for change, growth, opportunities and redemption.

You always have the choice to leave until you find where you belong and what makes you happy.

You’re even allowed to leave the old you behind and reinvent yourself.

Author: Rania Naim

Sharing this because it resonated with me, it really resonated.

Sue xx

Monday 27 January 2020

Just Bloody Well Do It

I've been umm-ing and ahh-ing over sorting out my clothes for weeks now.

Do I want this, do I want that.  

Earlier today, with just five minutes to spare before I went out into Llanrwst to go to the Post Office, I opened my half of the wardrobe, took off the hangers everything that last time I wore it was too tight, too baggy, crumpled up too quickly, just didn't feel right etc etc folded them neatly and added to them to the small pile of already sorted clothes.  

I put them all into one of my shopping bags and dropped them at the charity shop on the way past.  I didn't look on the rails for any replacements, I just collected my now emptied bag and went off to post my parcel.

Gosh that felt good.

There's a few empty hangers now and a lot more space, of course I still need to have a proper look at what's left and make sure that I have a good working wardrobe, but just having made some space feels so much better.

Top Tip of the Day

Just Bloody Well Do It

Sue xx

Sunday 26 January 2020

Simplifying the Book Collection

I finally got round to starting a Challenge of sorts on my Challenge blog yesterday.  This first one is a year long Challenge to read one hundred books over the course of this year.  I did start my reading straight after the New Year but I have just not gotten round to documenting it or writing a post until yesterday, and now we're already 26 days into this year … I get the feeling this is going to be another fast year!!  
(See Here  if you would like to read about it a bit more.)

But the main emphasis of it is to help me in my quest to down-size my book collection even more than I already have.  I say my and I  because after clumping together all of Alan's books, his fit onto less than one shelf  (the second one down in this top photo) and all the rest are mine, all mine 🤣

When we move house, hopefully later on this year, we won't have the built in bookcase that we have here behind the living room door.  We will most likely be taking this shelf/cupboard unit with us … but even that is not a certainty.  This one does hold around one hundred books on the shelves, and it's my mission to try and get my fiction and non-fiction down to this number so my whole book collection can be in one place.  As it says on my Challenge blog, I am also hoping to get my cook books down to this number too.

Now we just need to look for a house with a kitchen with room for 100 cook books on it's shelves!!

It might not seem that we are downsizing or simplifying the books that much, until you realise that a couple of years ago we had well over 600, and now after a few car boots sales last year we have 362 … I know this for a fact as I counted them all for the blog post yesterday 🙂

Sue xx

Friday 24 January 2020

Tea Towels

I was using one of my tea towels yesterday ... although Alan does I rarely dry pots with them ... so in this instance it was my blue 'Egg towel' that was in use for catching spills of marmalade as I decanted from jam pan to jars on the worktop.  I'd rather sling a tea towel in the washer than spend ages getting the worktop unsticky-ed.  

I do dry up occasionally but they are mostly in daily use for a myriad of different things, including hand drying, lifting things out of the Aga and when they are not to be found hanging on the Aga they can turn up anywhere in the kitchen.

It suddenly hit me that I have been using these same three tea towels for a long time and I decided to look on my old blog for when they were gifted to me in return for a review.  It turns out it was way back in April 2011 - 


So ... they have been in daily use since then, that's almost 9 years … nine years!!

No wonder they are looking a little tired.  The blue 'egg' one is stained after a few too many spills of damson and blackberry jam making and so is now kept purely for this purpose.  The blue 'veggie' one is frayed at one edge where the seam eventually came undone, which is only to be expected ... imagine how many times these have been through the washing machine, it really can't be counted.  The cream coloured 'gardeners calender' one is just faded.

But they are all still in regular use and will continue to be for some time yet.  I love them to bits, once they have reached the end of their lives I guess they will briefly be floor cloths or tractor wiping cloths, but not yet.

Living simply means using what you have for as long as you can and only changing it when there really is no other option, and that's exactly what I intend to do with these old timers.

Sue xx

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Sort of Cosy Cat

I've made up the fire for tonight.  

Although Ginger seems to think that is already cosy enough in front of it just as it is ... or maybe he's just claiming his space ready for later.

Last nights fire … Suky was sat with me on the sofa.  She had been next to Ginger, hence the Pug sized shape available on the dog bed … but I think she got too hot.  The room was actually quite dark although the photo has come out nice and bright instead of the atmospheric shots I normally get at night.

In other news ... Mavis has learnt to focus on YouTube clips on my phone!!

  Here she is watching Madelaine Olivia announcing her engagement, it's not the ring Mavis is interested in, she heard Roxie the dog making some noises and came over for a look.  Although both dogs and Ginger watch television and see what is happening, none of them have been able to focus on the phone before, so Mavis' talents are clearly growing 🙂

Sue xx

Monday 20 January 2020

Jammin' on a Monday Morning

Well not really jamming … but marmalading didn't have the same ring to it   😁

I was upset this morning, it was icy cold and everything was frozen solid,  I was out topping up the chickens and wild bird drinkers with warm water when I found a poor little mouse drowned in a bucket of icy water.  I immediately went round checking for more accidents waiting to happen but once I had tipped his little body out of the pot and left it on it's side I couldn't get his icy perfection and sad demise out of my head. 

Luckily last night I had put my sugar packets and marmalade mix tin to warm in my jam pan on top of the Aga, so once the dogs were walked around the white frosty paddock I kept myself busy filling the kitchen with the aroma of cooking lemons and sticky marmalade.

While the marmalade was slowly brought to a boil, and then left bubble away on top of the Aga ...

... the glass jars were sterilising in the bottom oven,

and the lids were in a bath of boiling water in a jug.

Fifteen minutes later I had ten jars of lemon marmalade cooling down on the rack.

After taking the now empty marmalade mix tin out to put into the recycling bin I wrote out enough labels to put onto the jars once they are cold.  Not a bad bit of work for a cold Monday in January.

 I have three more tins of marmalade mix in the cupboard, one more lemon and two orange.  Rather than moving house with the tins of mix, empty jars and bags of sugar I intend combining the three and just moving with filled jars of marmalade.

Top Tip of the Day

Fill your jam pan with hot slightly soapy water and leave to soak while you sit on the computer with a cup of coffee.  Everything washes up so much easier after a soak … and I'm much nicer after a cup of coffee  🙂

Sue xx

Sunday 19 January 2020

Snippets of Home - 4

Here it is, the final 'Snippet of Home', the final tour around our Welsh house.  Really I guess it should have been the first, but you know me, never one to do things the right way around  🤣

This is how the outside of the house looks after the two sided re-rendering ... which meant chipping right back to the 120 year old bricks, sealing them and then rendering with two coats of render and then re-painting the two sides visible in this photograph with three coats of paint.  It  has made the house look almost exactly the same as it was before the work.  But those of you in the know will spot that the four brand new windowsills are no longer painted black as the old cracked ones were, but that is the only visible difference.  Luckily I photographed the work as it progressed so I can prove we have had it all done.

The front door looking neat and tidy, with the pots re-planted with seasonal flowers to compliment the dormant Summer perennials that will reappear in a few months.  Somehow the Bay is still alive in the front pot … this is the longest I have ever managed to keep a Bay tree alive.

The conservatory/garden room on the third side of the house, looking a bit cluttered but we are just in the process of clearing areas and making the outside look neater.

The bench where we sit to admire the view opposite … in warmer weather!!

The vast expanse of tarmac that was a condition of the planning application to widen our entrance driveway off the main road.  We had to provide a complete turning ability for a large vehicle pulling a animal trailer so that it could go out facing forward after pulling in that way … we managed it.

The four vehicle garage space, currently holding two cars, a tractor and the clutter-y outdoor stuff we are selling.   The wood cladded area with the windows is Alan's mancave, a woodworking workshop …

…  which also holds the control room and night-time battery bank for the 45 solar panels that are hidden from view on the large expanse of roof.

Looking across towards the tunnels and our paddock.

The metal cover in the corner this side of the low walls gives us access to check the massive water tank that is hidden under the tarmac in this area.  This collects rainwater off the garage/workshop roof and is used for all outside jobs and watering the plants in the polytunnel.  Pumped up to and accessed for use, by a tap on the left hand gatepost.

Our land extends to the top of the hill above the trees to the left, to the post you can see in the distance straight ahead and to the grass verge at the side of the main road to the right.  A total of approximately five acres.

The front gates with the little piggy post toppers.

This is the view from the conservatory, across to Chicken World and showing the extent of our land at this side.  

It goes to a triangular point at the far end of Chicken World where it has the road on one side and backs on to our nearest neighbours small woodland and field on the other.  Everything to the right of this photograph from behind the shed and woodstore is also our property, again up to the top of the hill.

A little glimpse into the access pathway to our woodland.  This completely closes up during Summer when nature claims the area back and brambles, bushes and greenery spread from the trees to our hedge, meaning a prickly walk if you want to go upwards.

And that's it, our little patch of North Wales.  

Productive, hard-working and glorious in the right weather, with views to die for at the right time of year  … and enough rain at times to float an ark.

Sue xx

Friday 17 January 2020

Just Do Your Best ...

There's so much in the news, in magazines and on social media at the moment about climate change, about saving what's left of our beautiful planet for future generations and the drastic things we need to do urgently to change things for the better ... if indeed that is even possible.

The fires, the floods, the extremes of weather that are happening in all the countries of the world are enough to make anyone panic and worry that there is so much we need to do and NOW!!

We can all do our bit, and if we all do our best that is a good start.

We don't have to be perfect in what we do, we just need to carefully move in the right direction.  We can cut down on our plastic use as soon as we can, keeping it only for the things that it is really useful for.  We can of course most definitely try and stop most of the single use plastics where ever we can.  We can cut down on car journeys, on flying abroad, on food wastage and excessive spending on clothes, shoes and household commodities.

My lovely Mum came to me the other week with a box of cotton buds ... the older sort with the plastic sticks … and asked  'What can I do with these?'.  Her first  thought was to get rid of them as soon as  possible but we came to the conclusion that she should use them, after all whether she did or didn't they would end up in landfill.  Better for them to fulfil their purpose before being disposed of than be thrown away unused.  Her next box, which most likely will not even to be purchased until next year will have the cardboard middles and be of no major problem to the environment.

It's little things like this that can confuse people and make them jettison perfectly good things and then have to go out and buy more things to replace them.  It's easy to have a knee jerk reaction and suddenly want all your cupboards to be full of glass jars rather than plastic tubs for instance, but you do have to stop and think.

When I first shared this photograph of one of my food cupboards on my Challenge blog last year, a reader emailed asking where I had got all my mis-matched jars from as she wanted to buy some for herself.  I wrote back with the truth, here, there and everywhere.  Mostly charity shops, car boot sales, jars that I had bought that had held sauces, mayonnaises, pickles etc.  I told her it would be cheaper and much more satisfying to slowly accumulate her own selection as I had done, than to dash out and visit a kitchen supplies shop.

One thing I did do after thinking carefully about it in late Spring last year, was to sort out all my plastic food storage boxes.  Yes I could have kept them and re-used them for years to come, but these were in good condition, I had far too many of them and the sight of all that plastic in my cupboard was getting me down.  So I sold all these and a few more at a car boot sale last year.

And put the money I made towards buying these.  The round ones all stack inside each other saving me space too. 

Doing that made me feel better and meant that the people who bought all my plastic storage boxes would not be going to shops buying them and creating even more demand for more to be produced.

Before you start being hard on yourself, or feeling like there's nothing you can do, think of all the things you are already doing, have already done and are planning to do in the near future.  It's lots of us doing little things that adds up so much more than a few of us doing everything possible.

Things I am doing my best at, at the moment:

Cutting right back on single use plastics

Reusing, re-purposing and recycling

Using my cloth shopping bags and not buying any plastic carrier bags

Eating a plant based diet

Selling unwanted items at car boot sales at low prices to people that want them more than me

Selling, and also giving things away free on Facebook Marketplace

Making sure I have NO food waste whatsoever

Simplifying my whole lifestyle

Reducing my living space 

Giving up my love of speed and instead driving to maximise my fuel efficiency

Heating the house with wood from our own woodland

Using the solar energy harvested by our 45 solar panels

Outdoors only using collected rainwater collected in our water buts and 10,000 gallon underground storage tank, for watering plants, washing cars etc

Following people on social media who inspire me to make more changes, and not make me feel inadequate that I'm not doing enough already

Sharing what I do to help give others ideas about what they can do.

I'm sure there is more but that's my list for now.

What are you doing ... or does it all feel like a bit too much at the moment?

Sue xx

Thursday 16 January 2020

Simply Hummus

I was asked the other day about a hummus recipe, so as I was making some to put into the fridge for this week I though I would take a few photos.

My recipe … it's taken from Ella Woodward/Mills' first book Deliciously Ella.  I've never really found a recipe to beat it for simplicity.  

Although saying that, I did use a slightly simplified version when I did The Ration Challenge for charity last year on my other blog.  Swapping out the tahini for a tablespoon of peanut butter as that was all I had, and using mostly water rather than oil.

When I'm making anything these days I tend to get all the ingredients out on the worktop and then as I use them put anything not completely used up away again.  It keeps the kitchen tidy and it makes sure I don't forget to add anything that I should.

Can you spot the omission from the recipe?

Yes, I forgot to get out my lemon juice!!  I always use bottled juice rather than fresh lemons in recipes as it is handier and much cheaper.  As someone who only really like lemon in water and not on food I actually prefer my hummus without it after tasting the finished product!!

Once you have the basic hummus whizzed up, it is important to taste and adjust it to your own taste buds.  I ended up adding another clove of garlic, more oil and lots more salt and pepper to this particular batch.

I put half of the mix into two little tubs and then added a beetroot from a ready-cooked vacuum pack to the hummus left in the food processor,  and whizzed it up again.

Which then gave me three portions of gloriously pink hummus.  One for my lunch with dippable additions of celery, cherry tomatoes and a toasted wholemeal pitta bread, and two more to go into the fridge for another day.

I've found hummus keeps quite happily in sealed tubs in the fridge for up to a week.

Simply Hummus ❣

Sue xx

Tuesday 14 January 2020

Trust the Journey - Getting to Know Me

Many times during the course of my life I have taken a leap of faith.

Giving up a job with no other job to go to, but finding one within days and being all the more happier for doing so.  

Selling all our possessions and moving a hundred miles from my family with a husband that wanted to be nearer to his family, to live in a flat neither of us had seen and for him to start his own window cleaning business.

Leaving a husband of 26 years because I knew he was so engrained in a rut that I was desperately trying to climb out of for the sanity of myself and my younger son.  By this time my elder son was in the Army.

Renting a house for the two of us and my four cats because I saw a board go up in the street behind the shop I was working in at the time.  I saw it on the Monday, we were living in it by the following week.  With only a bed each, lots of boxes of books and two armchairs that came with the house.  

Getting legally separated.

Spending two happy years just the two of us (and of course the puss cats) finding our feet in the world together.  No car, no money, paying my way out of the debts I had brought with me from my marriage.

 Getting divorced.

Meeting a guy on-line … and then marrying him three years later.  

Switching from managing a shop for someone else to owning one of my own, just because each night on the way home from work I passed a lonely little boarded up shop and felt it calling to me.

Giving up everything I loved to start a new life in the country.

Realising the new life was not what I wanted, as things had veered in another direction.

Being totally unafraid of starting all over again.

Having a feeling that in this my 60th year …  perhaps the best is yet to come.

There, that's me … what has been your journey?

Sue xx

Monday 13 January 2020

Snippets of Home - 3

If this was a real estate agents tour of our home you would all be fast asleep by now waiting for the next leg of the tour!!  We've looked at the downstairs and now, due to popular demand we are going to venture up the stairs to see what's going on up there.  

We put the little gate at the bottom of the stairs when we first moved in, it's just to stop the dogs from going upstairs if we don't want them to. They are allowed upstairs of course, but we just like to be able to control when.  Suky for instance loves to move from dry surface to dry surface after having a bath so she would be straight up there to roll around on the beds if we let her.

Ginger of course just squeezes through, and goes wherever he wants to much to the annoyance of the dogs.

This is taken from the little landing area halfway up the stairs.

The tiny hallway that leads to all the rooms.

The doggy doorstops that sit outside closed doors and on the landing are to stop Ginger from scratching up the carpet corners, a very naughty habit of his.

The first door leads you into the spare bedroom, it's a really good sized double.  We also use this room to store things and to dry washing on the airer and to do the ironing … what little there is of it that we actually do.

In here we also have a little television and I come up here to watch DVDs when Alan is watching something I don't like ... sport, action films or violent American series for example.  It isn't connected to anything outside the house so I can't watch any television, but I actually like it this way.

As you can see we currently have a few things stacked up ready to go back to the Van next month. 

The second door along is our room, which is a really good size for a small cottage. 

 Our bed is a king-size one and it fits neatly in the space opposite the built in wardrobes, added we think, by the last owners.  These and the little cupboard with the green door make good use of the alcove spaces either side of the chimney breast and give us all the clothes storage that we need.

Our log burner in the living room is directly below here, and the whole wall warms up nicely giving some warmth to the room on cold Winters nights.

We have mismatched bedside tables because if I had one the same size as Alan's the bedroom door wouldn't close.  So the one that used to be mine is actually in the spare room with the television stood on it and I have a sort of little telephone table/bookshelf unit which works fine for me and my books.

I just love this little green door and the framed limited edition print beside it.

I also love my 1930's sketch of a Pug by my side of the bed.

A sneaky peek into the working centre of our home.

Our house is also the business address for our Limited Company, and as such Alan is usually to be found in here anytime he's not working down South.  I used to share the office space but now it's proving very impractical to keep moving things around, so when I'm not at the Van I can be found blogging or working on my laptop at the breakfast bar in the kitchen.  

 Alan is rarely alone up there though, and a little doggy bed means that whoever chooses to keep him company can snooze in comfort.

 The final room upstairs is the smallest room of the house.  

The upstairs toilet, a godsend in the wee small hours of darkness when you just have to go.  When this was out of action for the first couple of years of us living here that trek downstairs meant you were fully awake before staggering back to bed!!

Rather weirdly this does not have frosted glass so a good thickness of net curtain was called for here!!

And that's it the completed tour of the inside of the house.

I hope you've enjoyed your little peak into our home here in Wales.  I've just been outside taking photos of the exterior and some of the areas around the house now that we've had the house fixed and re-painted.  So I could show you those if you are interested.

The white UPVC windows, doors, under the conservatory overhang and the black facias and soffits have all been cleaned by a specialist company who also unblocked and cleared all the gutters and drainpipes ready for us putting it on the market in the next few weeks.  So it's all looking lovely and fresh out there, not like the weather ... which is grey and overcast and decidedly January like.

Sue xx