Saturday, 25 January 2014


I really don't like January.  This one seems to be dragging on a bit.  The relentless rain and wind are beginning to get everyone down and ten minutes at the school gates in an afternoon reveals that contempt for the month runs deep.  We are all tired, fed up and oh, so bored.  The mornings are getting darker, I'm sure of it and even though the weather man insists it is mild for the time of year, it still feels pretty chilly to me.  The damp seeps into my bones and makes me feel old and gloomy as I shuffle about dressed like a tramp in many layers, with a cup of scalding hot tea in my hands.  The only thing that keeps my spirits up is the certain knowledge that we are at least heading into the light side of the year.  Oh Spring, do hurry up!

On the whole, it has been a rubbish week.  H2 is unhappy at school, partly because he is getting emotionally ready for high school, although he has a while to go yet.  He is bored with the limitations of primary school and is desperate to spread his wings a little and learn more.  Pea is feeling bogged down with the amount of work she has.  Revision and homework is too much for anyone.  Young people need to have a bit of fun now and then, particularly if they are working hard at school, as all too soon they will be adults with all the joys of mortgages, bills to pay and families to care for.  Enjoy it while you're young I say.  H1 just hates school in general, but there's not much I can do about that, sadly.

The dogs spend a lot of their time pacing about, looking for some action to alleviate their boredom.  Not much to be had around here, I'm afraid.  They (and I) have endured some very damp walks this week, which are not joyful for anyone, especially with the amount of mud they bring back with them.  Brian the Blueberry is looking terribly unwell in the poly tunnel.  The cold has got to him, despite his layers of cosy fleece, and his frail twig-like branches have gone brown.  Oops, not good.  H1 covered him up with a bucket so hopefully that will save his little life and he will live to a ripe old age.  The snowdrops in the garden are in full bloom and look like a sprinkling of snow around the base of a possibly-but-not-quite-dead tree.  Something lovely happened during the week; for two days the rain clouds parted and the sun shone through, quite unexpectedly.  It was delightful and my mood and spirits soared like birds on a soft breeze.  While I was putting the washing out (yes, it dried!) I could feel the warmth of it's rays on my back and in those few moments I felt that life is really rather wonderful.  Funny how weather has such and impact on our lives.  All the mums at the school gate were smiling and chatting about how lovely it was to have a dry, sunny day.  We are all so desperate!

I discovered this one morning.  The warmth of the sun had brought out tiny shoots of Hawthorn.  Real, zingy, fresh green.  Yippee!  A joy to see and confirmation that things are starting to change for the better.  The birds were singing like they meant it while the sun was out and some blue tits have been investigating Pea's bird box.  Buds are appearing on trees and tiny plants pop up in my unknown garden almost every day.  During a nasty rainy day this week, Postie dropped a small box through my door.  It contained the seed order I had placed only last weekend.  That certainly put a smile on my face!  How I love seeds.  The promise that is held in those tiny specks of dust and the garden you can create with them is only limited by your imagination - and your budget.  I wanted to buy all the seeds we need for the kitchen garden and a kind of cottage garden cutting meadow we want to create, for less than £35.00.  When Pea and I added it up, I'd potentially spent over £40.  Difficult decision, but I ruthlessly crossed off lavender and aubergines and brought the total down to £35.41.   Forty one pence over budget; I can live with that.

And I got such a lot too, look!

Next I sent for some seed potatoes (Pink Fir Apple) and some shallot sets.  They arrived two days later, so as you can imagine, I was a very happy bunny for a few days.  Now I need a new note pad and a few hours to sort out a planting plan for the kitchen garden and a seed sowing list.  The cottage garden meadow thingy will just evolve.  There are already some plants there, so I think it will be best to just fill in the gaps and see how things go.  Most of them are hardy annuals that we can collect the seed from and sow again next year and if we take lots of photos and write notes, we can make improvements as we need to.  So much fun!

Yesterday however, was again cold and wet.  I went to Welsh class and was delighted to see my former tutor back with us again after having a nasty accident in the Autumn.  To say she broke her wrist is an under statement; she basically mangled it and now has lots of bits of metal in it to hold it all together.  We all really missed her (although I loved having Babs teach us too) and it was lovely to have her back.  Those feelings of kindness towards here were, however, short lived as she proceeded to work us to death with a determination to get us all speaking Welsh if it is the last thing she ever does.  Knowing how we are as a class, it probably will be the last thing she does.  I don't believe she broke her arm at all.....

So after all that brain work and a horrid afternoon of wind and rain, I decided that today I would buy chocolate.  It has been the kind of week that needs a restful few days at the end of it with the pleasure of eating chocolate, knowing it is well deserved and not greedy at all.  So I bought a large (ish) Toblerone this morning and have only eaten two triangles so far.  I am saving the rest for tonight, when the curtains are drawn against the night, the fire is on and everyone is warm and cosy.  Apart from Pea though, as she has gone ice skating with her friends and won't be back until the 9.15pm train.  So I will have to leave my comfy nest and go and get her.  Bet she's having an amazing time.

Only one more week of January and then February will be upon us, thank goodness.  We will all feel better then, and won't have long to wait until the half term holidays.  The year will be underway and the better days just around the corner.  Tea, cake, good books and warm fires are the antidotes to January days and nights. Diets and exercise can wait a while!

Have a good weekend and beat the January blues! xxx

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Home Comforts

Another dark, cold, wet and windy day has dawned.  H1 is still at home suffering with an ear infection.  Pea is still battling with a massive load of homework and revision and H2 talks about Lego from the moment he awakes until he finally snuggles down to sleep at night.  At 7 this morning he perched on the edge of my chair and began his monologue.  I sat with my legs curled under me, hands wrapped round a mug of steaming hot tea, trying to warm up and muster enthusiasm for the day ahead.  My mind was not yet in this world and I treasure those minutes of silence at the beginning of the day, before it's all systems go.  I gently persuaded him to go and toast some crumpets for his breakfast, then I let my mind go back to it's early morning wandering.

When I arrived back home after depositing H2 at school, the day seemed to be attempting to brighten up a bit.  Full of optimism, I loaded the washing machine and hung out a good line full to dry in the wind.  By mid morning the rain had set in and I had to dash out, in between cleaning the bathroom and making the beds, to fetch it all in again and drape it over the clothes horse in the hall way.  H1 had a shower and dressed while I made him a toasted hot cross bun for breakfast.  Well he's poorly so he deserves a treat.  Actually on a horrid, miserable day like this we all deserve a treat and I think there is only one thing that can hit the mark; jam roly poly. Yesss!

This book is full of old-fashioned food.  You know, normal cooking that people have largely forgotten about nowadays.  Food that you cook then sit down at a table and eat with your family.  I think it's so sad that many children can't use a knife and fork properly because they have never had a family meal at a table and learnt how to eat.  Each evening the four of us all squash together round our small kitchen table and have dinner.  It's never anything fancy, sometimes it is just egg and chips or salad or lamb chops and veg.  I don't always make a pudding during the week so we have fruit, or if I've baked we will have some of that.  I try to save big meals for Sundays and keep things simpler mid week, that way we won't pile on too many unwanted pounds!  However, there are times when comfort food is needed and that's why jam roly poly is on the menu for tonight.  We will be having salad and Scotch eggs to begin and then we can really enjoy a good stodgy pudding.

Once made it needs two hours steaming then it just needs a jug of custard (Bird's will do nicely) and a spoon!  Mine is presently undergoing this process, neatly wrapped in it's coat of baking paper.

It looks a bit sad and anaemic before it is cooked, but the smell of hot raspberry jam when you unwrap it is so mouthwatering and you just know this will stick to your ribs and keep you going through a long, dark evening. Yum!

One of the many joys of my life is making compost.  I know it's a bit weird, but as I love Planet Earth and don't want to be responsible for causing any harm to it, I get an enormous amount of pleasure from composting things that otherwise would go in the bin and eventually to landfill.  When we lived in the cottage I couldn't really garden in the way I wanted to, as I knew we were only there temporarily and the garden was mainly looked after by the owner.  Moving to our tiny house in the woods has brought an opportunity to rescue a slightly neglected, but once very much loved, garden and with it the chance to sow seeds and be creative with nature.  And I can make compost!
At the back of the poly tunnel is a huge area of dead trees, nettles and brambles; perfect for wild life.  Among it all were two compost bins, perfectly usable and not full of rats or snakes.  Pea and I pulled them out and repositioned them in more useful places; one by what will be the kitchen garden and one next to the poly tunnel.  We had to dig one into the ground a bit as it kept blowing about the garden in all the storms.  It seems perfectly happy there and I quite enjoy trotting across the garden to empty my bucket of kitchen scraps into it.  By autumn we should have a bin full of well rotted compost to spread over the garden and all from things that would have been thrown away.  I seem to derive great pleasure from some of the most simple, seemingly mundane things in life; pudding for tea, home made compost and a walk with the dogs at the end of the day.  It is hard to believe that in mid January we are heading into the light half of the year.  Two minutes of extra light every day means that we can begin our post-tea time walks again.  And boy do I need to after eating that roly poly!

It was drizzling a bit, but the wind had dropped and the sun set was so gorgeous, it was worth forcing myself out into the fading light.

A flooded field made an impromptu home for ducks.

A water logged lane showed the sky her reflection as it wound like a pink ribbon between the blackened hedges.  It was getting dark and time to go home.  Waiting for me was a pile of tea time dishes, a very untidy kitchen and two dogs that would need the mud scraping off them before being fed and allowed back indoors.  Simple pleasures are the best!

Enjoy your home comforts and simple pleasures today. xxx

Monday, 13 January 2014

Springing Up

The first day of the first weekend of the first term of the new year bought the first day of Spring.  Well not really; it is still only January, but it sure did feel like Spring!  Pea and I were willing to fall in with Nature as she fooled us with her warm(ish) sunshine, blue skies and fluffy white clouds.  Hardly a breath of breeze ruffled the still bare branches of the trees and after weeks of gales and heavy rain, we were eager for a taste of things to come.  After a quick trip into town where we purchased a blueberry bush that we named Brian, after Brian Cox the Physicist and several bulbs of Stargazer lillies and dahlias, we spent the rest of the day outside.

I had planned to do an enormous amount of washing and take advantage of such a perfect drying day, but what happened?  I washed all the school uniform and some other items of clothing that I tripped over while picking up bits of uniform off the floor, and hung them out on the line.  Then we went to buy plants, then we went for a really long walk and then we had dinner.  By that time the sun was slowly sinking into the earth once more and the air was decidedly fresh.  Too late to get anything else dry and the uniform was getting damp.  Half a task completed is better than not bothering in the first place I suppose, so I had to content myself with that.

But to miss this would have been a crime, so I'm very glad we made the most of it.  The dogs had a brilliant time sniffing new places and really enjoyed a long walk.  Poor H1 missed it as he came home on Friday feeling poorly.  He spent most of the weekend in bed and hardly ate a thing, which is a real cause for concern.  H2 came with us but lagged behind and had a face like someone being dragged to the gallows instead of on a lovely country walk.  Misery.  The promise of a bacon and egg sandwich for lunch helped to put a spring in his step and he was home before we were.

Pea was bouncing about with excitement most of the day and would have had me buy everything Wilkos had to offer in the bulb and seed line, but I managed to restrain her and remind her (and myself) that it is still Winter and therefore too early to be planting seeds just yet.  Purchasing her blueberry twig (far too small to be called a bush) contented her for a while, until she saw the bulbs and corms.  I was having my usual amount of trouble deciding what to buy and indeed if I should buy anything at all this early.  I casually picked up a pack of dahlia corms and noticed that there was a tiny, green shoot growing inside the pack.  Pea saw my weak spot before I even realised I was displaying such behaviour and pounced like a jaguar on a shrew.  'You have to buy it,' she said.  'No I don't', I replied, carefully replacing the pack from whence it came.  'Look, it's growing!' she insisted, 'It's trying to live, it needs love and help.  Buy it!'  For crying out loud, she could persuade Eskimos to buy ice.  She is relentless (in a nice way) and won't give up until her victim has conceded her point and does her bidding.  Yes, I bought the struggling dahlias.  I was always going to, I just needed permission to blithely spend the money.  All £2.50 of it.  Oh the guilt!

Anyway, they are awaiting slightly warmer days before I can plant them in tubs and place them next to the bench in a sunny spot in the garden, where they will look pretty and the lilly will scent the entire garden with it's heady perfume.

It is a good job we took full advantage of Nature's gift as Sunday was a horrid day.  Cold, windy and wet.  We didn't mind too much as there were things to do indoors, like homework, hoovering and cooking Sunday dinner.  I made a toad-in-the-hole with thick pork and leek sausages and quartered apples and onions.  We had mashed potatoes and roasted parsnips with it, which may have been a mistake as we could barely move afterwards.  The steamed syrup sponge I made for pudding had to wait until mid afternoon before we could manage it.  It was lovely with a cup of tea after a brisk walk with the dogs.  H1 was still feeling poorly but managed some lunch then fell asleep in the lounge while watching Red Dwarf.  He always watches that when he doesn't feel well or is tired.  It's his comfort food.  This morning he woke feeling worse, so I took him to the doctor.  We sat in the waiting room for an hour before we were called in.  There was one doctor on duty and about 20 people had come and gone in the waiting room.  Finally the doctor came out and called our name.  She had a good look at H1 and said he has an ear infection and gave him some tablets.  Then we went home.  Thank goodness for that, it felt like we'd been away for days.  At least we know what it is and he can just rest and let the medicine do it's thing.  True to form, MAL is sleeping on the ill person's legs offering love and care and Puppy is pretending it's nothing to do with him.

The rain is still falling and the wind is blowing with intent and it feels cold.  No wonder the dogs are snuggled up.  I made some ginger biscuits on Friday night and drizzled melted dark chocolate over them.  As the last piece of Christmas cake has been eaten, (by me I must admit) I have nothing to nibble with my afternoon panad.  I wonder if there are any ginger biscuits left?  I must be mad, of course there aren't.  I doubt they even got to the end of Saturday.

Must make them in secret next time.

Hope you have a good day, wrap up warm and eat a biscuit! xxx

Friday, 10 January 2014

No Comment

It's Friday and the first week of the new term is coming to an end.  H1 had a GCSE exam yesterday, which he felt went pretty well. In his usual laid back way, he's hoping for a B but will be OK with a C.  Pea has AS mocks coming up in a few weeks, so she is revising hard for those.  She's hoping for an A* and won't be happy with anything less.   H2 and his friend have begun making a model of a Griffin for the Urdd Eisteddfod, but he isn't happy as his art teacher seems to think it's her entry and won't let them use their own ideas.  The lanes and countryside are full of mud and huge puddles, so a walk with the dogs results in vigorous rubbing down and a filthy kitchen and the compost bin has blown over leaving a small forlorn pile of veg peelings behind it.  Just a normal week, then.

Regular readers of my blog may have noticed that I don't get many comments.  When I began blogging over a year ago, I worried that either no one read my posts or that they were so boring no one came back to read again.  After a little while I stopped worrying and remembered the reason I began blogging in the first place and that was for the love of writing and sharing my every day life.  The fact that any one reads it is a bonus and a real delight to me.  Gradually the comments came; not thick and fast by any means, but a trickle of people who left kind and heartfelt words that meant far more than a thousand people all telling me how wonderful I am and how gorgeous my life looks.  (Like most people's lives, it can be pretty rubbish at times.)  I blog because I love it and if at times I dry up and have no enthusiasm for it, I wait until I feel better.  It doesn't matter.  I try to be honest and not flower things up.  Plenty of things go wrong and plenty of things are wonderful, but wonderful in a small way, like the wind drying my washing or finding the perfect birthday present unexpectedly.  Or discovering snowdrops coming up in my new garden.

When readers leave several comments it feels like getting a message from a friend and even though I may never have met these ladies, it makes me happy to hear from them.  Earlier this week I received a comment from someone who didn't leave a name, but it was so nice to read that I will add it here so you can read it too, not as a way to blow my own trumpet, but to say thank you to the anonymous writer. A Stitch in Time
Anyway, if you leave a comment I am delighted to receive it, but if you just enjoy visiting my blog for whatever reason, and never leave a message, it doesn't matter, I am happy either way and feel truly honoured you take time out of your own busy lives to bother to read about mine. Thank you for doing that.

As I mentioned, there are snowdrops coming up in the garden!  They are scattered in tight little clumps around the base of an almost dead tree.  I have no idea what kind of tree it is as there are no leaves on it and my landlord said he would pull it out if it is dead.  We are giving it a chance first though (yay!) and I think there are some tiny buds appearing at the very top of its branches.  I did wonder if maybe I could persuade my landlord to leave it and then I could grow a scrambling rose up it.  Oh, the romance of a rose climbing a dead tree!  There are also clumps of bluebells making an appearance here and there, to my utter delight.  I love seeing bluebells nodding their scented heads among leaf litter in dappled shade.

The bluebells (above) are coming up near the poly tunnel and looking at this picture, they have been chewed a bit!  Despite the ghastly weather, it hasn't been very cold at all, so slugs and snails are still alive and kicking and munching on new shoots.  Must get some hens...

Anyway, the poly tunnel is looking much better after Pea and I spent a few hours in there over Christmas.  You may remember my fear of finding rats and other rodents all partying like mad and refusing to leave; squatters' rights and all that.  Well, to my absolute relief (and Pea's too) all we found was a small,dry mouse nest in a little plastic plant pot.  Oh thank you!  There are so many pots, tubs and seed trays in there I will never need to buy any, which means more money to spend on seeds!  Oh and tons of compost too.

The floor is a bit untidy, as the wind keeps blowing the membrane up, but a few bricks will sort that out.  I don't care that it's got weeds and it needs a clean, I never thought I would be lucky enough to have such a magnificent thing at my disposal in my garden.  Yippee!  I am extremely happy.  Also, Pea is getting the gardening bug too, which only adds to my pleasure of it.  She would love a blueberry bush and a fig tree in here.  I don't think we could grow them in the garden as it would be too windy, so an unheated PT should suit them fine.

I found a brave little primrose this morning, and a violet and the first pulmonaria!  That's how mild it's been, these shouldn't be flowering yet, but they are a welcome sight in the dark winter days and the early bees will be thankful too.

A sunny but cold day is forecast for tomorrow, so I have warned the children that we will be stripping the beds first thing so I can get them all on the line early enough that they have a chance of drying.  Then we will be marking out and digging over the vegetable garden.  The boys buried their faces in their hands when I mentioned the above to them and threw themselves about dramatically.  Not sure why, they love it when they are out there.  They don't actually do anything to help of course and appear completely underwhelmed at anything Pea and I achieve. Somehow the magic of a whole pile of bits of tree, branches, nettles and dead leaves behind the poly tunnel has captured their imaginations, and even though chunks of aforementioned rubbish are turning up all over the garden, they are at least away from cyber space for a few hours and being normal boys instead of zombies.  Roll on Spring!

Have a lovely day and thank you so much for reading and please do not feel obliged to leave a comment! xxx

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

New Year

A Happy New Year to you all!  First of all I want to apologise for the lack of posts during December.  H1 and I were victims of on line fraud and it made me feel vulnerable and as though the world was a little too close for comfort.  I needed time to just shut the doors on it all, be with my children in our new home and get back to being me.  Christmas came at the right time for us all and we finally began to relax and look forward to the holidays.  The stormy weather meant we could do little other than stay in, watch films on telly, eat chocolate and keep warm.  Now and then we braved the wind and took the dogs up the lane for a sniff and a dig about in the hedgerows.  Now it is over; the decorations packed away in the garage and presents slotted into every day life.  The chocolate has been eaten and there is only one tiny piece of Christmas cake left...and it's mine!

Yesterday saw the children going back to school for the first day of term.  Boooo!  None of us were looking forward to the 7am start and the dark morning but sure enough it arrived and we all awoke, washed and dressed, drank tea and ate breakfast to the background music of howling wind and lashing rain.  We all shivered and got ready to head out.  Thankfully Pea and H1 now get the taxi to school and the lovely driver reverses up the track to wait for them to go out.  No more standing on lonely roads in the dark waiting for the bus or long treks home after a tiring day for them.  I am soooo grateful.  H2 and I got in the car for the 15 minute drive to his school and cranked the heating up full blast.  We haven't had much in the way of frost and ice but that wind really cuts through you.  After depositing H2 safely at the school gate and saw him wend his way sadly to the yard, head down, bag dragging along behind him, I headed for home, careful to avoid flooded lanes and fallen branches.

Soon after getting in, there was an almighty thunder storm.  The second we've had since Christmas.  We didn't have any thunder during all that glorious hot weather in the summer, but here we are in winter and we get thunder and lightening.  Pretty vicious it was too.    The lights kept flickering off and on again then finally with a click, everything went off.  No phone, no Internet, no lights, no heating and no mobile phone connection either.  Fortunately the stove is gas and so is the fire in the lounge, so at least I could drink tea all day and have the fire on if I needed it.  I decided to wrap up in extra clothes instead as it's cheaper!

It was the perfect excuse to indulge in a hot chocolate with the works.  A bit later the postman knocked on the door, handed me that morning's post and asked if he could please have a glass of water.  I ushered him in and he stood dripping on the mat and we talked of the weather, our children and the ease which you can get cut off from the world living in the sticks.  It does have many advantages though!  When he'd gone, I opened the parcel he left and discovered this...

Let me explain.  The first weekend of the holiday, before Christmas, was very enjoyable indeed but very busy.  All my family came over for a family party, so I had been cleaning, baking and generally getting in a flap.  My brother and sister and their families hadn't yet seen our new home, so I wanted it to look gorgeous, which of course it did anyway without my faffing about.  The party was lovely and I was finally able to relax and enjoy their company and have lots of cuddles with my niece and baby nephew.  The following day I woke feeling absolutely wiped out.  I think it was just the reaction of three months of being overly busy and a bit stressed with the amount of things that insisted on going wrong and needed bags of energy to sort out.  I sat in the lounge hugging my mug of tea and wrapped my dressing gown around my legs.  I flicked through the television channels (after wrestling the remote control off H2 who would have spent the entire day watching Almost Naked Animals, or some other ghastly programme guaranteed to numb the mind of even the most intelligent and sparky child) and to my utter delight I discovered Northanger Abbey was on that very morning.  You may know that Jane Austen wrote NA and I love JA, so it promised to be a perfect few hours.  I told the boys I had booked those two hours during which they should not endeavour to speak to me or try to engage my attention in any way whatsoever, and that I was going to get showered and dressed ready for my film.  Why?  they enquired.  Why what?  Why are you going to get dressed? they replied.  We're not.  You always get dressed, just relax, get another cup of tea and stay in your PJs all day, like us.  I ummed and ahhed a bit then thought, actually why the heck not?  I haven't done such a thing since I was a teenager or had 'flu (which isn't any fun at all if you're ill).  So that is exactly what I did.  I opened a tin of Christmas biscuits to accompany my second cup of tea and curled up ready to enjoy the film.

Explanation of above book coming up.  In Northanger Abbey, the heroine, Catherine Morland, is slightly obsessed with Gothic romances written by the then very popular novelist, Mrs Ann Radcliffe.  Her imagination works overtime on a diet of The Mysteries of Udolpho and others and gets her into a spot of bother.  Eventually the film ended and I attended to my dress and then flipped open the laptop to search for Ann Radcliffe on Amazon.  Found. Purchased. Delivered. Happy!  I started reading A Sicilian Romance over New Year and loved it, once I had sorted all the people out and a few had met sticky ends, which whittled it down to a more manageable number.  I had just finished it during the storm when Postie brought The Mysteries of Udolpho.  That, I will be starting tonight!

Arriving at school later in the afternoon, I was told by one of the other mums that lightening had struck a house in a nearby village that morning and it had burnt to the ground.  Thank Heavens everyone had got out safely and were unharmed.  What a hideous thing to happen.  I know I only rent our house, but it is our home, our sanctuary, our everything.  This weather has a lot to answer for.  Elsewhere, a telegraph pole came down and several houses lost all their power, just as it was going dark too.  We haven't been to the beach since just before Christmas as it's better to stay as far away from the sea during a storm as possible.  Way too dangerous, so I don't know how people have suffered on the coast, but I can imagine it wasn't easy.  The British Isles have really come in for a battering these last few weeks and my heart goes out to all those who spent Christmas away from their homes or have since lost their possessions and been evacuated to safety.  I sincerely hope it ends soon.

Enough rambling for now, it's nice to be back and I hope you will join me on my adventures during 2014.  Thank you for reading. xxx