Sunday 31 July 2022

Plastic Free July


It's been Plastic Free July for a whole month and I've not managed to mention it once ... yup, I admit it I am a bad blogger  😄

Most of you know me well enough by now to know that I recycle, I reuse, I most definintely re-purpose and I basically do the very best I can.  Hardly any of the plastic that I do get is single use plastic and the few things that I do get are recycled wherever possible to the correct place.

Something that I switched to at the start of last year when it became increasingly difficult to get washing powder tablets in cardboard boxes, was the smol range of products. 

 I started with a free trial of the washing capsules, which come through your letterbox in a sturdy cardboard box.  The trial proved to me that they did everything that I needed them to do and I signed up for a regular subscription after a week of using them.

The box is so childproof that it drove me to distraction, but if you have children this is a good thing.

There are instructions on how to open it and information on everything else that you need to know.

But I cheat, and for ease of use as soon as mine arrive I tip them into my little enamel pan ...

... and store them next to the little enamel bucket that holds the pegs.

A few months after starting with the washing capsules and when I had used up my supply of fabric conditioner I added bottles of the smol fabric conditioner to my order and trialled that.  It's very good and does exactly what it's supposed to but without leaving you scented like a pine forest or a rose garden.

You can choose how many laundry capsules you want to receive and also how often you want to receive them, ditto with the fabric conditioner and any of the other cleaning supplies that you might want to try.  There are also dishwasher tablets and surface sprays, (neither of which I use) so you could get all your cleaning supplies from one place and through the post

But the most important thing for me is that it gets the washing clean, smelling fresh and not synthetic and everything arrives just when I need it and if my needs change I can update how often I want to receive something.

If you would like a free trial like I did, just click HERE to go to the smol website and choose the item you would like to sample, and for just £1 towards the postage you will have enough of the product you choose to get a good idea of if it's right for you.

This is not in any way a sponsored post, just something that I use regularly and highly recommend.

Sue xx

Friday 29 July 2022

A Thank You from The Ration Challenge Team


I got an email from Matt at the Ration Challenge team on Monday and it seemed only fair to share it with you.  Between us we managed to raise the astonishing figure of £2,251, this includes the donations of some lovely people who had been unable to donate during the week but kept good on their promise to donate when they could.  Thank you all so much.

To quote directly from the email -

It’s been just over a month since we, along with many of you, finished the challenge, and thinking back, we continue to be humbled and inspired by everything you have achieved.

Over the past few months, you have shown the power of compassion and kindness, and together, you have raised more than £400,000 which will provide emergency food, healthcare and life-saving support to people who need it most. THANK YOU.

We are truly humbled by this community - by your passion and your dedication and by all the ways you supported one another. We have been inspired by your stories - the reasons you took the challenge and the learnings you are taking away from it. And we are grateful for your incredible fundraising efforts and achievements. We hope this video reminds you of the amazing experience we shared together.

And here is the video for you to watch too, as you were the lovely lot that supported me so well during my Ration Challenge Week.  

We did it together.

Thank you.

Sue xx

Wednesday 27 July 2022

A Previous Life ... Lavender, Lovely Hubby and Worm Tea

Especially for the person who asked when it was that I started blogging, it was back in 2008 with my shop blog 'Lavender's Blue ...' which was also the name of my tiny shop in Ulverston, Cumbria.  

It was meant to mostly be about my little cat Archie as Shop Cat but he had other ideas, and it ended up being about the lavender and gifts that I sold, day to day shop life and the customers that came in.

I loved arranging my pretty wares, nothing stayed in the same place for long and the window changed at least once a week.  Well it was so tiny it was easy to do. 💜

The shop smelled deliciously fragrant, mostly as you would expect from Lavender but there were occasional forays into other essential oils and soaps.

We occasionally sold at Shows, this was  the North Lonsdale Show just outside Ulverston.

But my heart was really in the shop, upstairs nicknamed 'Grannie's Attic' (because, yes ... I was already a granny back then) the lavender mixed nicely with new collectibles and pretty vintage bits and pieces, and my customers loved to climb the tiny staircase and rummage through baskets of lace and a rail of clothes.

And when we made the split second decision to start  our new life in the country ... after a chat one day in the shop when Alan had brought me a cup of coffee from the coffee shop opposite and sat on the stairs drinking his while I drank mine ... and it was time to close the shop and move onto pastures new it all morphed very nicely into doing the monthly Farmers Markets in our new village setting.

If any of you think the fireplace looks a bit familiar, it might be as it has starred in quite a few of the older Midsomer Murder episodes as our village was frequently used as a location.  Each time we see a repeat showing the hall and the fireplace I shout out 'there's MY fireplace'. 😄

The lavender goodies were popular and after a few months were joined by farm fresh eggs, and deliveries by Lovely Hubby of bags of manure, compost and worm tea.

Here's the man himself when he was caught for posterity after doing a delivery of a trailer load of compost, and calling in at the Village Hall for a bacon butty on his way back.  

He also joined the rota for making the bacon butties that were sold along with the teas and coffees for the early Sunday morning shoppers.

My stall at Tetsworth Farmers Market.

It was always nice to get out of the working clothes and wellies and be in a nice clean hall with cups of coffee and friendly customers, and we both enjoyed the break from the farm.

Maud, Betty and Martha in The Orchard

So there you go, a real blast from the past and a trip down memory lane.  

So to answer the question ... I have been blogging since 2008 in many formats and with quite a few different blogs and as there are lots of you don't know me from the earlier blogs if you have any questions please ask away in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.  

And those of you who have been reading from the very beginning ... WOW hasn't the time just flown by!!

Sue xx 

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Weeds, Bread ... and Answers on a Postcard


I've been a blogger for so long that I'm used to having either my camera or phone to hand to snap various things that I suddenly have an idea that I might use for a blog post.

But sometimes the photos then live on the computer for quite a while,  so when I look through the files for each month I wonder 'What on earth was I going to write about this?'

Oranges and Lemons anyone?

An obvious lunchtime sandwich containing perhaps salad and something!!

My favourite weed, now sporting lovely little delicate flowers.

I know what this is ... it was going to be a decluttering Before and After, but nothing left the house (or even the jug) so I guess it was just a This is How it Is.  Not a very good spot the difference eh  😂

And the grand finale ... a loaf of bread!!

Nope, I have absolutely no idea what I was going to write about this ... answers on a postcard please. 😃

Gosh I write such eloquent and interesting blog posts ...  occasionally!

Sue xx 

Sunday 24 July 2022

Free Seeds Once Again


It felt a bit like a blast from the past moment the other day when I got back from the supermarket and unpacked my shopping.  I had treated myself to a copy of Grow Your Own magazine, which as usual came with lots of free seeds and various offers.

I used to buy both this magazine and Kitchen Garden magazine regularly and got a subscription once or twice to take advantage of the great offers they used to do with so many seeds to start you off that I had them coming out of my ears ... well not quite literally, but almost!  This particular edition came with five packs of seeds that I definintely wanted and could sow right now in my new long planter, so it seemed like a good purchase.  

But I definitely do not like Coriander so if anyone would like a free packet of seeds shout out in the comments below and I will post them off to you.

Sue xx

Friday 22 July 2022

This Weeks Base


Most weeks I do a batch cook of something that goes into the fridge to give me a head start on meals for the rest of the week, and usually to act as inspiration for what to have for my tea each night.  It makes life so simple if you have even one thing ready and waiting to be used.

Some weeks it can be a full packet of pasta, cooked, cooled and then stored in my largest container.  To be eaten hot for the first meal, perhaps cold the next day or two as a salad or as an addition to a Buddha bowl and then maybe used as the filling for a pasta pie ... is there anything nicer than carbs on carbs. 😄

This week it was forecast to be hot so my choice was to make a large bowl of coleslaw base.

I kept it very simple, just half a white cabbage shredded, four carrots that needed using up, simply sliced and cut quite chunky, and then one red onion, first quartered and then very finely sliced as it was very strongly flavoured.  Leaving the dressing off means that I can vary it to go with whatever I decide to have it with ... or just nibble at it plain when I'm stood at the fridge with that 'what can I have for lunch look on my face'.

There was so much I filled my large lidded bowl and then put the extra into the smaller one to be used for my lunch later on with a few nuts and seeds added, and a large dollop of Garlic Mayo.

To keep salad fresh all week I add a folded square of dampened kitchen paper.  Each day I turn the container over and give it a shake ... so one day the paper is on the top and the next it is on the bottom ... the contents usually stay perfectly fresh for a full week this way.

If any doesn't get eaten it will be the base for a bowl of soup for the weekend, now that the temperature is more tolerable.  I have some Rosemary Focaccia buns in the freezer that I bought on yellow sticker offer so they would be the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup.

I'm not shopping much this week as I have lots of food in and I would rather have a week of eating my way through the fridge and freezer.  I am going shopping with Alan later, but that's mostly because he said he's going to Booth's for a coffee first ... and it would be rude to expect him to do it alone.  😁

Sue xx

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Seasons Change, and So Do We


Just recently the world feels as though it is ramping up to something urgent, as though there's something we need to do and something that if we don't do it, will make us slide off into a sea of oblivion.

When what we actually need to do is slow down, take a breath, regroup our thoughts ... and relax.

At the moment it feels as though just at the time that many of us are either short of money, or deciding to be more careful with the money that we have, we are being bombarded with advertisements telling us we have to have this or without this item we would fall apart, or our lives won't be worth living.

I completely understand the large and small businesses need to be selling to us, needing to up their profits year on year just to stay afloat.  Being an ex-shop owner and shop manager myself I know the need to grow your business by at least 10% year on year ... but when does it stop?

It stops for each of us when we decide to ignore the hype, the sales patter and the need to  be 'like everyone else'.  It stops when we are happy in our own skin, happy with our own homes and happy to walk the path that we want to walk.

This final declutter of mine that is ticking over slowly but surely is making me very thoughtful.  

There is less to get rid of this time around.  There is not the keep one get rid of the three spares mentality this time, mostly because there are no spares.  Instead this final time it's more thought provoking, in a strange way it's deeper and more final.  It makes me question why I bought the items, why I thought I needed them and how would my life be better or worse without them.

It's enjoyable in a very strange but satisfying way.

But the more I whittle away at what I have, the more the adverts that are everywhere jar my senses, annoy my head and hurt my heart.  There is talk everywhere of the earth having limited resources and the need for us to change and then there are the adverts that tell us we need this and that. 

It does not compute!

Sue xx

Tuesday 19 July 2022

Cat Shelf, Pigeon Friends and Unwanted Tongs


Ginger is making good use of his new shelf ladder combo.

No longer do we hear the thud of paws as he re-enters the garden from the back, instead he creeps up on us or just sits there and surveys all that he can see.  He's having a twice daily face-off with a pair of very fat pigeons just recently.  He sits on his little ledge or under the bench outside my door and stares at them as they parade very noisily up and down the fence opposite ... it honestly sounds as though they are wearing tiny hobnail boots.  Each glares at the other, but there's no attempt to chase them on Ginger's part and no attempt to fly off or do anything other than stare at him on theirs, it's very strange.

It's too hot for much decluttering at the moment, but I did manage to do this drawer while I was waiting for the kettle to boil and the sink to fill yesterday.

As spot the difference's go there's not that much to see!!

A bit tidier, a bit cleaner and that's about it.

Only two items went in the box of things that I'm getting rid of.  The rolling pin although beautiful and tactile just doesn't roll 'right' and if you roll a lot of pastry you'll know what I mean.  Perhaps it's a specialist one for something that I don't actually do ... does anyone know?

I picked it up a long time ago at an antiques fair along with a very old basket and some other kitchenalia.  The tongs ... well I just don't use them, they've been at the very back of the drawer for over a year and have not been fished out once.

I will be giving Alan first refusal of anything that I am getting rid of, it's going to be a very random box of stuff by the time I've  finished!!

A final word from Ginger ... "Where are my pigeon friends, they are due just about now?"

Elizabethd ... he hasn't rang the bell ... yet!!   😄

Sue xx

Saturday 16 July 2022

Our Luxury Narrowboat Holiday On Board Legato

Grab yourself a cup of coffee ... or something cooler ... and settle back for a little round up of our holiday, as requested.

The weather was beautifully kind to us over the days of our luxury narrowboat holiday.  

Although the mornings saw us briefly in jackets as we meandered along the canal at 3mph, the outer layers were soon taken off and we basked in blue skies and sunshine, so much so that by the end of our four days of cruising we both had red faces and Alan a nose that got redder and redder as each hour progressed.

The pace of life along the canal is so relaxing, well you do have to snap out of it occasionally then you come to narrow bridges, boats on either side that are moored up or boats heading towards you that sometimes seem to forget until the last moment that you should pass each other on the right-hand side.  But mostly you find you relax into it and rely on each other to point out hazards or things of interest.

I discovered that I am absolutely fascinated with bridges.  

The stone they are made of, the worn well-trodden flights of stone steps beside some of them, the rickety fences and gates by others, and the cobbled towpaths that go beneath them all had me transfixed.

Luckily Alan was the designated Skipper and me in my position as 'Crew' could occasionally take my attention away from hazards ahead and relish the wildlife, the bridges and the green, green fields and magnificent trees that line the canal in so many places.

Our first nights mooring was simply at the side of the canal.  

After having the hour long tuition journey out of the marina, taking in all the information we needed to know about how everything on the boat worked, how to drive it, turn it completely around and the rules of the canal and then returning Eammon the owner back to the starting point, then setting off ourselves and travelling for a couple of hours we were ready to just tie her up, let the dogs have a run around and crack open the wine.

We had to laugh to ourselves when we saw a familiar landmark in the distance and realised that if we were to have driven straight along the A6 we would have taken about twenty minutes by car to reach this point of our holiday journey!!

Posing with his flask of tea just minutes before the wine and beer came out!!

We slept like babies, with the water as still as anything and hardly any noise outside.  The dogs were slightly disturbed by this strange new environment but they settled down after a while.

And then it was morning and time to set off again, crossing small viaducts and going through lots of bridges as we made our way up North for a few hours.

Following the paths of the canal means you see so many fields, animals, houses and so much wildlife.  It's a beautifully slow pace to the day and you soon settle into the rhythm of the canal.

Everyone that passes, whether they be on another boat or walking or riding on the towpath says a cheery 'hello' or waves and smiles.  It makes for a happy atmosphere and a relaxed frame of mind.

We saw many swans on nests ...

... and swans that followed alongside for a while.

And then stopped in their tracks to feast on the oats we threw in for them.

We saw more Herons ... both on the waters edge and in flight ... than either of us have ever seen before.  They are such huge, graceful birds that fold away to little skinny-minnys once they are stood still.

Our second night was spent alongside Galgate Marina on the visitor moorings.

After arriving late afternoon and tying up, we walked along the tow path with the dogs and went to the canal-side pub for a late lunch  Then it was a quite night relaxing with some television, wine and nibbles.

There was some rain overnight but by the time we woke up it was all passing over and we had a healthy breakfast to combat all that alcohol and then set off on our slow travels once again.  

We carried on in the same direction at first under another couple of bridges to the nearest winding hole, to turn the boat around and head back the way we had come.

Alan did it so smoothly and before we knew it we were facing in the opposite direction and heading back.  It was time to head briefly for home to check on Ginger and leave him some fresh food.

I managed to get a shot of this amazing tree root system clinging to the stone sides of the canal that I had spotted on our outward journey.

We passed by boats that were up for sale.

Boats the like of which we had never seen before.

And lots of clusters of boats that obviously lived along the canal permanently.

The whole week was absolutely fascinating to both of us, and while Alan had his eyes mostly glued ahead to keep us safe, I could notice the details a little bit more and point out things for him to see when he could look away.

My view varied between the canal ahead, the banks and towpaths and every now and then down into the boat to see what the dogs were up to ... which was mostly snoring in their bed.  

They soon got into a rhythm and began to realise that the engine slowing right down, Mum grabbing the centre line and hopping off the boat and then Dad manoeuvring into the bank meant that it was time to clamber out of bed, stretch and shake out those little legs because soon there would be a walk, some food or just time for a play.

The boat was beautifully fitted out and everything that we could possibly need was there, plus more.  We hadn't brought any more than the absolute necessary with us so it as quite easy to keep things relatively tidy.

After feeding Ginger, watering the plants outside and making sure everything was okay at home we walked the two minutes back to the boat and resumed the holiday.  This time we were heading South to Barton Grange Marina where we had our fingers firmly crossed that we would be able to get one of the two visitor moorings on the canal itself ... we did ... phew!!

After a chippy supper we settled down for another relaxing evening on the boat.

And then before we even knew it the end of the holiday was in sight and it was time to head back taking all day to do it.  Drinking in the sounds and sights of the canal and getting a good look at everything we had spotted on the way down.

We weren't the only ones looking!!

This time each bridge brought us closer to home.

And still they had me fascinated.

And then before we knew it we were once again moored close to home and it was the final time for me to grab the centre line and pull the boat in while Alan got out the 'nappy pins' and tied the boat at the front and back to keep her safely at the towpath edge.

One of the guys from the boat company was going to meet up with us at our patch of the canal on his way back from teaching another couple the ways and working of their holiday boat and then take us back to the marina where our car was waiting.  It was the first time that Alan wasn't in charge of steering and safety, and he could completely relax and let someone else do the work for twenty minutes.

Here's a short YouTube film of us cruising on the Lancaster Canal.

We are now back home and still totally relaxed.  It's a good sort of holiday for chilling out, meeting nice people, for seeing nature and for getting back to basics ... or in our case a very luxurious 'basics'.

Did the little doggy life-jackets come in handy I hear you asking ...

YES they did ... Mavis fell in!!

The only other casualties were Alan's flask and the wooden brush off the top of the boat ... luckily all three overboard items were safely recovered.

One final photo of the Skipper.

We went with The Duck Island Boat Company who are based in Garstang Marina local to us, and who we now highly recommend.

If you have any questions just ask, I could have rambled on for hours, but I won't ... or maybe I did!!  😁

Sue xx