Tuesday 30 May 2023

From McDonald's to a Stately Home

We're just back from a four day weekend away in Hereford.  We stayed at the Holme Lacey House Warner Leisure hotel and had a lovely relaxing 70's weekend break ... although if I hear one more Suzi Quatro track I will scream.  😄
We left all the furry children in the care of Jason and Tash and set off in good time, although travelling on the Friday of a Bank Holiday weekend was not the best of ideas, but we finally made it to our destination after six hours on the road.  

At about the halfway point we stopped for a while, the services was packed but it was a very necessary stop.  I find it difficult to accept that Alan is still doing all the long distance driving and I always feel guilty.  

Unfortunately, ALL the queues for food at the services were ridiculous except for MacDonald's which was having a very brief lull as we arrived.  We made the best of a bad job and I discovered that MacDonald's black coffee is actually very tasty and less than half the price of a small Americano from Costa.  Why didn't I discover this years ago when we used to commute from Cumbria to Berkshire every week for our jobs.  I still don't like MacDonald's food though ... is it even actually food?  It sat like a lead balloon in my stomach for hours after I had eaten it.

The front doors of the hotel, a welcome sight after the long journey.

We had a wander around part of the grounds opposite the doors just after we arrived, so that Alan could point you in the direction of the view.

It was lovely sitting on the wall and drinking in the rolling hills and watching the wildlife ... I do miss having a view from home.

Just one of the 'proper posh' ceilings in the main rooms.

We were sat waiting for a quiz to start when I took this ... sadly we didn't do very well, so we had to go and commiserate with ourselves over a drink on the terrace, now that went so much better. 😁

Each night there was entertainment from the 70's.  

The first night was a Carpenters tribute act, not bad at all.  The second night a Fleetwood Mac cover band, I don't know much about Fleetwood Mac but Alan was impressed, and then on the final night the room was really rocking with T. Rox.  A T.Rex tribute act but who also sang songs by Mud, Slade, Bryan Ferry and even a couple of Bay City Rollers tracks.  They really got everyone up and dancing the night away.

Of course Alan couldn't resist sitting on one of the lions for a photo opportunity.

It was a relaxing few days and we both enjoyed most aspects of it, especially the food as it was so nice not to have to think of what to make every night ... or have to wash up after it.  

But somehow now that I am back home I am glad that I'm back to simplicity, and to be honest I would much rather have my caravan back and the little clubhouse that was there if you wanted entertainment on a Friday or Saturday night, or could be easily ignored if you just wanted your own company and a glass of wine on your own patio with snoring dogs at your feet.

As we drove through the gates of the hotel to head for home I was actually looking forward to getting home and my own bed ... even if I did have to think what was for tea and wonder what I had in the freezer.

Sue xx

Monday 29 May 2023

Magical Older Dogs


There something magical about older dogs, and cats too for that matter.

They settle down to be comfortable in their own skin, but just like us older humans they can have those wonderful crazy moments of sheer joy and unbridled lust for life.  Their fur turns greyer, their eyes look cloudier but wiser and when they look up at you, their human friend, you can almost see the shared history they are remembering.

Suky aged two.

Suky aged 11.

Mavis aged two.

Mavis aged 12.

Ginger aged four.

Ginger aged 13.

Magical older friends. 💝

Sue xx

Saturday 27 May 2023

To Love and to Startle


I love this ☝ꜛ

I love the simplicity of it and the message it carries

I love that it reminded me that I have never said I Love You to my readers.

Some of you have followed me for years, far too many years of waffle perhaps

 On different blogs of various topics containing posts that are short and concise or that ramble on for days.

You have been there in the written word, via comments, emails and Messenger

You have been there in person, chatting over our car-boot stalls, in our home over glasses of wine, dishes of curry ... and lots and lots of cups of coffee on the patio in Wales.

So just this once

I will say

I love you.

Was that startling?

Sue xx

Thursday 25 May 2023

Books, Reading ... and Housework

I've been really into my reading at the moment, and also rather weirdly looking over to my various book storage areas on a regular basis.  I've been almost drinking in watching the books that are patiently queueing for their turn to be read.

It's the time of year when you can quite legitimately grab a book and sit outside for a while in the warmth of the sunshine, when it decides to show it's face.  The forecast for the next two weeks is for much better weather, so perhaps some more of my books will be joining me outside on the patio.

Maybe books need vitamin D too.  😁

Books as ornaments ... hell yes!!

These books haven't been touched for far too long, dusted yes, read no.  I will remedy that at the weekend and take the first of the Helen Forrester's away with me.  Tuppence to Cross the Mersey is one of my favourite books.

I often wonder which of my books I would choose if I had to pick just my favourite one hundred to keep and have to lose all of the others in some strange book disappearing calamity ... this would be among the ones kept for sure.

The Garden Cottage Diaries would also be on the list.  

The last book I read, Chicken Boy was really good if you have an interest in chickens and has earnt it's place on the shelf ... if not on The Top One Hundred List.

I've read all but the Kate Humble book from this little decorative pile.  Rather weirdly I don't even remember buying the Kate humble book!!

And that concludes a tour of all my living room books, I could count them I guess and see how many I actually own at the moment ...

... but I'm too busy reading to count.  😄

Could you choose your top 100 books and jettison all the others ... or do you not even own that many?

  My eldest son owns one book ... is he even mine, while my younger son owns hundreds.

Sue xx

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Rebelling Against the Adverts


I'm quietly rebelling against the adverts at the moment.

The adverts that tell me who I am

What I should wear

The foods I must eat.

The adverts that tell me I have to have this, that and the other

That life would be so much easier if I had the right shoes, dress, shopping crate.

The adverts that tell me I should stop spending money on things 

And start spending money on the memories that only they can proved me with.

I am slowly disengaging from the places where the adverts can find me.  Scrolling past them without letting them catch my eye when I am in places where they lurk, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting formerly satisfied people.

Who says we have to do, be, want, need certain things ... not me, not you, it must be they!!

Sue xx

Sunday 21 May 2023

The Seaside from Lancashire to Cumbria

We decided on the spur of a sunny moment, to head to the seaside for a coffee and some chips.

The dogs love the seaside, and although they are not allowed on the sand at this time of year there are usually enough little sandy patches that have been blown along the promenade wall for them to get a bit of sand between their toes and enjoy the sensation in a smaller way.  

Now the girls are older they simply enjoy a walk along the prom, a sit under the table while we have a coffee and a portion of chips ... Dad slips them far too many for my liking, but they never complain ... and they LOVE people watching.

It was like a non-stop parade of people and dogs, there was every sort of dog under the sun, and of course we came across a family with a Pug and a happy mini Pug-Meet was enjoyed by Jake and Suky.  Pugs usually react wonderfully when they meet their own kind.

We sat for a long time enjoying the warmth of the sun, the blue skies and the view across Morecambe Bay to the Cumbrian towns and hills across the expanse of the sea.  In the sea were jet skis, sail boats and some very brave swimmers and the beach was full of sandcastle building children having a brilliant time.

It was a lovely relaxing way to spend a  Sunday morning, and we got home in plenty of time for the dogs and Alan to still enjoy their regular Sunday afternoon nap on the sofa.

What have you been up to over the weekend?

Sue xx

Thursday 18 May 2023

Previous Gardens, Vegetables and Tyres

I was asked about my previous vegetable growing spaces and gardens and which one I loved best.  So I decided to make a post all about them.

My favourite way to grow vegetables is in a polytunnel, or 'high tunnel' as they are called in some countries.  I briefly had a greenhouse at one of our rental smallholdings and it just wasn't as good, well not for me.  Perhaps I was spoilt by my first polytunnel, and the space and atmosphere it gave me and the vegetables growing in it.

  This was my second and last polytunnel on the day it was completed ... and the crazy guys that built it for me.  I couldn't resist sharing this photo again. 😄

My vegetable garden ... or Veggie Patch as it was known ... in Wales.  

(And the last header photo from the old blog.)

August 2015

We lived there from September 2013 to March 2021 and enjoyed most of our time there.  Our reasons for leaving were summed up pretty neatly on the final post of my old blog Our New Life in the Country.  HERE

A tour in and around the polytunnel in July 2017 is HERE.

Prior to moving to Wales we lived for a couple of years near Pangbourne in Berkshire, England and this was the vegetable garden there.  

The only problem with this one was the deer that came and ate a LOT of my plants and vegetables.  As you can see from this photo we tried all sorts of deterrents to try and stop them.

Behind our first rented farmhouse in Great Haseley, Oxfordshire was my first vegetable garden, well photo shows some of it, behind me as this photo was taken were four more beds on the grassed area in front of the chicken area.

I loved this and I guess that it was this one that sealed my love of growing food for us to eat on a larger scale.  But of course this was only the tip of the iceberg ...

... here's Alan on the John Deere tractor that he restored, ploughing in the field ready for sowing, with our pigs in the field beyond.

So of course my new garden seems tiny to me, but I love it just as much, and if anything the challenge of getting something edible from it is giving me so much joy.  

No matter what available space you have whether it be the ten-plus acres as we had at first or the five acres that came next (twice) or a tiny garden or even a window sill, there's always something that you can grow that will taste wonderful and save you some money.

In fact some of my tastiest ever onions were grown in two tyres!

Sue xx

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Open Doors, Big Fat Baby Birds ... and Reading in the Sun


It's been sunny here for the last few days, but unless you are sat directly in the sunshine it's still very cold.  

I might have put the summer weight duvet on the bed the other day, but it's topped with my old patchwork quilt and now the blue lightweight quilt as well.  If it gets any colder my winter dressing gown is within reach to throw on top of that.  I feel as though I am being buried in layers and layers, but cosy is always the way forward.

Our little patio area between the house and the lodge is a real suntrap early in the mornings and if I sit still with my book and my coffee I can watch birds on the birdfeeder as they greedily divest it of it's supply of fat-balls and seeds.  By the end of this week our stock will have run dry and they can go to forage for themselves along the canal and the river.  And not a moment too soon either as this morning there was a chubby little bird sat inside the little 'house' area being fed by it's Mum ... she needs to teach it to forage for itself now it was bigger than her!!

With both our doors open all day the dogs love Summertime as it means they can go from house to lodge and back again as often as they want to, checking who is eating and who they can try and beg a tasty morsel from, they know that they have a better chance with Alan than me though. 😁 

As you can see from the photo the shade was catching up with me and it was almost time to move along to the bench which stays in full sun all through the afternoon, which was very welcome as in the shade it was still quite chilly.

Sue xx

Monday 15 May 2023

Food Shopping ... and Monday Meal Prep


Although the money part of the challenge is now over (I ran out of cash), I am still shopping mindfully and making sure that I only buy what I really need ... and of course the occasional treat.

This week I bought the items above from Booths while we were there on Saturday morning for Alan's now almost compulsory weekend breakfast bacon roll.  Of course I never refuse to go with him as he treats me to a toasted teacake and a coffee ... it would be rude not to.  😉

We had to nip to Sainsbury's before we went home for some printer paper, so I took the chance to browse the plant based offerings.  My usual spread was on offer, but only in the smaller tubs.  At first I thought, no that's too much plastic, then I thought but that would be a handy sized tub for freezing leftovers or single portions of  curry etc ... so I bought two.

This week I want to try and use up all of the fruits and vegetables in the fridge drawers, some things have been in there for far too long.  So this Monday's meal prep consisted of chopping some of the vegetables for a salad mix and some to make a tray of roasted veggies.  I washed and wrapped what was left of the celery after using some in both of my prepared trays and took the outer leaves of the lettuce off and wrapped it carefully ready for use.

Of course once the roasted vegetables were out of the oven it would have been silly not to have some for my lunch, so I made a quick portion of cous cous and sat in the sunshine, enjoying the fruits of my labours.

As well as the veggies shown here I have some cooked beetroot, half a bag of Tenderstem broccoli and half a box of cherry tomatoes, so I want to make sure I eat everything up this week.  I'm on a mission to eat more healthily as I have let things slip a bit recently ... gosh it's so easy to do isn't it.

Sue xx

Friday 12 May 2023

Books, Bedding and Chickens


I finished my latest book this morning.  It's nice when you have enjoyed a book so much that when the last page comes you just close the cover and sit and stare into space.

This book has made me want chickens all over again. 

Poppy and Daisy

Especially my beloved Lavender Pekin bantams, they were such characters.

To take my mind of the end of my book I stripped the bed, aired the winter-weight duvet, washed all the bedding and then after a few hours of it blowing gently on the line in the sunshine, used the same bedding to remake the bed this time with the summer-weight duvet inside the cover.

I should sleep well tonight, dreaming of chickens while tucked into lovely fresh cotton.

Perhaps I need to start on the next book on my pile and quash all notions of chickens running around a cute little homestead.

But maybe I'll just read a few of my old chicken posts (and another) first just for old times sake, you understand ...

Sue xx

Thursday 11 May 2023

The Garden in May


We will be winding down the bird table feeding over the next week or so.  The birds have made good use of it over the nesting period but now that everything else is blooming along the canal and in the fields beyond they will have plenty of food to keep them going and we can reclaim our garden back.

We have to do this at this time of year to dissuade them from visiting the garden for the Summer as I really don't want to share my new seedlings with them.   With less and then no actual bird food we will have less visiting birds and less mess, but don't worry come the end of Autumn Alan will be freshly stocked with food to see his feathery friends survive over the Winter months.

The apple tree is in full blossom at the moment and the compost bin is nicely doing it's thing quietly against the fence.  I was determined to find a small compost bin for all the household scraps and weeds that we produce, and this one ... found at the local garden centre in the half-price section ... does the job wonderfully, and looks nice too.

The daffodils have all gone now and the forget-me-nots are looking pretty alongside the primulas at the base of the apple tree.

Behind the newly planted large pot the vegetable planter is already filling up.  I have potatoes in the middle section, the raspberries on the righthand side with salad leaves planted in front of them, protected from the cold nights by their little plastic covers.

Around the corner by the shed we have radish, spring onion and carrots in the right-hand side of the smaller vegetable bed, covered at night by the Perspex piece from the cold frame that Ginger broke last year.  I'm glad that I took it apart as these panels are working brilliantly to keep things from the cold.

After taking this photo I planted two of my courgette plants in the little black  planter with the glass domes, they should be nice and snug in there while they establish themselves.

At the front of the lodge I have my herb bath, with lots of thyme, parsley, basil and sage,  all handy for snipping off when I am cooking a few feet away in the kitchen.

And here's a real blast from the past.  

One of my birthday presents was a years subscription to Kitchen Garden magazine, so I have a year of magazines and their free seeds to look forward to.  I am in no doubt that I will be able to squeeze a few more plants in if some interesting seeds should turn up.  😀

Sue xx