Sunday, 31 December 2017

Welcome 2018

This has been a quiet year of recovery and reflection. A year of learning how to live around circumstances we never planned for. We have learned to appreciate the ones we love even more than we did. We have learned to find joy where we can. We have learned that life has to go on and we need to run with it. So many lessons from 2017. Wishing all a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

What day is it today?

I honestly had to ask the OH what day it was! It has been a whirl of visitors and entertaining so today was a day to get things done. I changed the broadband and phone to a cheaper deal. I rang the feed in tariff team with a reading for the solar panels. With all the dull weather I was pleased with the result. They have earned me 283.35 in the last 86 days. Not bad for something that sits on the roof doing its thing. The sun has been shining brightly showing up dirty windows and grittiness. It was lovely though to see the sun for a change. It must have been good because I noticed the solar nights in the garden came on. They have not been on for ages now.

You can see them faintly glowing against the fence and wall. 
When I was putting away the dishes earlier, I realised how old my pans are. They were a wedding present in 1981. They have a lifetime guarantee. I think they are doing great.
Tomorrow will be another in betweenie day where I will achieve as much as I can. I am really enjoying having the OH Home. He has been enjoying pottering around doing little jobs here and there.

We won’t take the tree down until New Years Day. A new year and a new start. 

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Bring it on.

Merry Christmas to all in Blogland. (This is not my tree) if it was I would probably not have spent the day prepping for tomorrow. All done now. I’m proud to say I haven’t been near a shop for a fair few days. I dont  like to caught up in the frenzy. I love spending time with my precious family. Daughter 1 has acute tonsillitis so hoping she will be able to come tomorrow. I will make a bed up for her so she can retire or join in at her leisure. Christmas won’t be so raw for us this year but we will never get used to having one of us  missing. Sending best wishes to you all.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Deck the halls...

I have been enjoying blog posts  of Christmas decorations. I think the way we decorate and what we like reflects our personality. Some chic and stylish, homemade and rustic, bold and bright I love how they can lift and light up a home for the dark winter days. Mine are a collection of very old, very cheap or free. This Santa has been hanging on the branch of our Christmas tree for 30 years.
This Santa is the same age. I have a collection of Santa’s but decided to leave them be this year as I haven’t the space to display them really. The sparkly reindeer was from Poundland.

These creatures hiding behind the tree are gifts and the squirrel is falling to bits every time I move it ! The ceramic tree was made at a pottery class by a friend.

 This sparkly white dove was saved from a bouquet. 
The most precious of all. A picture of Steve and his nephews in 2015. Steve loved Christmas. We miss him every day, not just at Christmas. I have a few Christmas lights outside in honour of him. He loved Christmas lights as a child. 


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Soup weather

I went to Aldi yesterday afternoon for milk. I had run out as I had lots of tea drinking visitors on the snow day arriving on foot. It is usually walkable in about 20 minutes but with frozen pavements I unfroze the car windscreen and went in the car. The main road was clear and I negotiated the ice to get down the hill to the junction. It was very hard to leave the warm house as there was a real nip in the air. I dived in for milk and planned to not spend on anything else but as human nature kicked in I had a nosey around for bargains. I would never buy this normally as I think it cost about  a pound but for a 27 p yellow sticker
I caved in and bought it. There obviously must be a lot of people that are too busy to chop vegetables as there are several soup flavours available. There was just one of these. All you do is add 500 ml of stock. I used a knor chicken cube. I also added some black pepper to warm it up a bit.I usually soften my onions first but I followed the instructions to boil for 20 minutes and it was surprisingly tasty.

With a chunk of bread and a slice of cheese it was a hearty meal. I forgot to take a photo of finished soup as we had scoffed the lot before I remembered. I would never had spent a pound for this but for 27 p it was a quick and easy mealtime fix.
This morning as I write this it is -9C. I have rekindled the log burner from last night. The gas boiler is chugging away keeping the house cosy. The sun is out and it is a bright and cheerful morning. The pavements are frozen solid. The OH has managed to go to work today. Thankfully his job is on a main road so no minor roads to negotiate. We saw this on a local Facebook page for Bourton on the Water.

This is why it was better to stay in yesterday if you didn’t need to be anywhere. There was also this lovely picture of the Bourton on the Water Christmas tree.
I would love to go and have a look for myself but not until the roads improve. I know we are not the coldest place in the country today so keep warm and safe wherever you are.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Snow chance

We were going out for our annual OH’s family Christmas dinner today, in a lovely Cotswold pub in Great Barrington. It is  nestled in the Windrush valley. No chance of that. Now,we can deal with a bit of snow here. Farmers and 4x4 vehicles generally get around ok and help to clear the roads as they go. Not today. While we slept there was at least 10 cm of snowfall and it is still going at midday. Oxford Stagecoach buses have come to a halt. The road at Burford is closed due to accident and snow. Little chance of getting out of our road without a shovel. My wellies are in the shed and I don’t fancy going to get them at the moment so it is a day of staying in.

The boys were out early getting busy with Daddy.

There is only one thing to do then. Chores are done as I thought I was going out. It has to be stay in by the fire and watch something nice. The electric is off in the neighbouring village soI hope ours stays on. If not we will go in the camper van and fire up the gas heating and watch a dvd. The leisure battery is full. I hope everyone stays warm. My thoughts are with people in fuel poverty and the homeless. I am warm and cosy here and I feel grateful for that.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Nativity time

I remember fondly the knitted Nativity scene at my infant school in the 1960’s. I am pleased to confirm that in this uncertain world, that the Nativity play is still an important part of infant school life. The costumes are out and on hangers, the piano is being dusted off . At the pre school I work, there is much preparation for the annual event. Proud parents will get time off work to come and get emotional about their offspring dressing up. No pressure for us then!
I always try to get the Christmas story across as best I can to the 3-4 year olds. There is a limited understanding and one of the best child quotes that sticks in my memory was:
Me. “Who knows what a shepherd is?”  Pause...  Child. “I think it is a pie.” Most of the children have no idea about the story but enjoy dressing up and singing. Tradition is important and I hope they will remember these times for the rest of their lives. I played the Virgin Mary when I was five. I picked the baby Jesus out of the manger by his neck. There were howls of laughter from the audience. I remember being confused at the reaction but proud of the attention I got. The Nativity is timeless. Nothing much has changed in the last 50 years. There is now music technology and sound systems, costumes available in supermarkets, but shepherds still need a striped tea towel round their head for the best look. Long live the Nativity!
Our little king. Costume by Asda but a homemade crown. His lines were “I bring frankincense to worship the baby king.” Happy memories to last him a lifetime. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Love it or hate it. It’s on its way.

Bah Humbug!
Last Christmas was all a bit of a shambles so this year I am getting the chores done early so I can actually enjoy time with family and friends. Expectations are not high in my family. We do not spend lots on gifts. This year each grown up couple will put a set sum of money to a fund where we have a UK family break later on in the year. This is money we would have spent on pointless gifts and expensive packaging for everyone in our large family. The children who are still quite small will get 
modest gifts from us.I set a budget and as I see things suitable, I will get them. Christmas dinner will 

be at mine this year. I will provide the mains and cook, but others will do the rest like a bring and  share feast. I’m thinking turkey, and the accompaniments will be homegrown where possible. Not Brussels sprouts though. I wasn’t successful with growing them this year. 
A modest tree is up. Some of the decorations are up to 30 years old. The tree isn’t. I had to downsize my tree to a 6ft one when we moved. I donated a 20 year old large one to the local primary school and it is still going strong. 
A bittersweet time for us but Christmas is a time when people come together. Life goes on and the family is growing in size. I sometimes feel very stressed with the expectations of Christmas but deep down I know I am very blessed.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Good value and longevity.

18 years ago I took a Saturday job for extra money in an outdoor clothing shop. With discount I bought a lilac coloured front zip fleece jacket. I still have this jacket. I have never felt the urge to get rid of it. It doesn’t seem to age when I wash it. I think with my discount even back then it was 10pounds and I remember at the time justifying my spend to myself. I thought that was old until I realised I have a black skirt that comes out for occasions that I bought in a sale just after the birth of  my twin sons. I use to be a size 10-12 after the first 3 pregnancies. Having twins must have been a step too far for my body, so I needed a size 14. My sons are now 28. Now that’s what you call getting your moneys worth. I also have 3 pairs of Marks and Spencer black trousers that I wore to work. I bought 3 pairs at the time as they were a good comfy fit. I still wear them 12 years later. One pair is a bit frayed at the bottom so they are gardening trousers. If I walk down a town high street I am amazed at all the shops that sell clothes. How many clothes does a human need? 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Frugal firework party.

Is there any such thing? Well no not really if you are buying fireworks but I am not. The local display from RAF Brize Norton will be spectacular enough, even from a distance. The cheapest and most fun is to go to the local high up viewing spot. Get there at 6.30 and wait. There will be others with same idea so make sure you have a good parking spot if you need a car. My favourite viewing spot is quite a car ride away but when you are up there you have a panoramic view. Oxfordshire looking North. Swindon looking west and the South Oxon towns and villages. On a clear night you will see lovely displays popping  up all over in the dark sky. The children love it. Then back home for sparklers in the garden and a slow cooker full of homemade soup and warmed fresh bread waiting. Guy Fawkes night is an odd tradition really but I love it.  It is British and quirky. It seems to welcome in the cold  and dark weather giving us the excuse to light candles and log fires to get cosy. The pumpkin lantern gets another lighting before going in the cospost bin. Although Guy Fawkes is tomorrow, some af the larger displays will be tonight. The menu? Homemade leek and potato soup. There will be a family sized blackberry and apple crumble with custard for dessert. No need to spend lots to have a great family get together. As I write this, the rain is bashing against the window. BBC weather said this will pass through so fingers crossed for a clear night. We don’t have any pets but hoping everything is over quickly this weekend so nervous pets don’t have to suffer. :)

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Glass gain

I had a glass gain today. There was a house clearance in the extended family. My cousins partners’ Mum sadly died. They did not want to be bothered with the ornaments and trinkets. I had a look through the box and found 6 crystal champagne glasses. (I don’t drink champagne but they look pretty) Some wine glasses, a pretty set of 3 owls, 2 birds and a hedgehog. I am thrilled with these. They are things I could never justify buying for myself. The ornaments are Swarovski Crystal. I didn’t really know this lady but photographs tell me she was a lady who took good care of herself and her home. I will take good care of these things. I know that as humans we don’t need lots of clutter but these are pleasing on the eye so that has to be a positive thing. A bit more to dust.
No more progress on the van today. I need to get in there tomorrow and try to perk up the shower room. I have been in the shed to see what paint is available and I think it will be rose white. Probably a bit feminine for the OH but he will learn to live with it. I am sad we haven’t done an overnighter yet but the seasons roll around quickly and we can look forward to our adventures. 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Out of hiding

I am finally out of hiding after a difficult time. I tend to retreat and just potter around as best I can while taking time out from the wider world. It is how I cope and it works for me. One negative thing about hibernating at home is that comfort eating is easy to do. I have to confess that I have not been eating healthily over the last week or so. I was given a Terrys Chocolate Orange as a gift from a small child as a thank you. That has gone. I bought a multipack of crisps as a treat for visiting children and some of them are gone. I usually shun baked goods when I visit Morrisons but some have crept into my basket. I am feeling sluggish so it is back to business of not wallowing and keeping healthy.
I really miss our local greengrocer store. Sadly they ceased trading in the summer. They could no longer compete with Aldi Asda and Morrisons in the vicinity. The garden has given up the last of the summer bounty so it is time to go and shop for some vegetables. The farm shops around our area are a bit pretentious and pricey so I think it will be Aldi super six and whatever is cheap and in season. I once went on holiday on the Lincolnshire coast. On the way home we stocked up with veg to take home. Many farms sell sacks of potatoes and there are farm shops everywhere. It was wonderful. The sack I bought were the best potatoes I have ever tasted. In the Cotswolds the farm shops operate around tourism so it is a shame that the lovely food that is farmed here has to be so expensive.
I have had the multi fuel burner chimney swept today. The log store is full and coal store too. I am
ready for winter but the weather seems so warm. I feel better when the sun is out so tomorrow I will venture out and about.
We had planned to take the van away for a break but storm Brian arrived last weekend. The campsite we had booked rang up and advised us that as they were expecting winds between 60 and 70 mph we might want to reconsider. Our van is 3 meters high so it wouldnt have been sensible. They refunded our money and were very professional. We will definitely use their site in the future. The seaside visits will continue when we can. In the meantime it is out with the junk food and in with the fresh stuff. The walking boots are ready. Tomorrow is a new start.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Living outside

It seems Warmer outside than in today. The garden has had a tidy and I am still finding little treats.

I found loads of chillis which I have frozen. Some odd cherry tomatoes still hanging on. There was also a bowl of raspberries but I confess I have eaten the evidence. This nasturtium that has seeded itself is climbing up the apple tree. The flowers are hanging on. I am wondering if this is the calm before the storm today. 
We attended a first birthday party which was held in a village hall. It looked out over a cricket field and the village church. Very English. Beautiful trees probably some of the Blenheim estate could be seen over the fields. Autumn at its finest.

The bigger children had a lovely run around. It felt a bit like summer. The birthday girl had a telly tubby cake and wore a tutu. As you do of course if you are only one. 

This little poppet was born last year just before our world fell apart. I remember her at the funeral just a little dot in her pram. She made the day more bearable as babies do. The promise of a bright future watching her grow. She can almost walk and is beginning to talk. Life really does go on whether we are ready to accept it or not. Her smile melts my heart. 
Not much happening in the van today. OH has been fiddling with wires and electrics and I understand none of it so tend to keep out of his way. A lovely Autumn day all in all. 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Go West... where the sky is blue. Well it was on Sunday.

Well sometimes it is. Sunday was so we went off to Clevedon via a visit to Bristol Ikea. Ikea is a fascinating place. Full of all walks of life trying to improve their home environment. For us today it was
a drop leaf table which takes up little space when not in use. Our dining room is the sun room and it has underfloor heating for occasions, and an electric convector for those chilly times. We decided that it would be cheaper not to heat it for just us two. I don’t like to eat from a tray in the lounge so we are using Steves old room for a multi purpose space. We have a sofa bed in there already and having a cosy dining area for chilly mornings and evenings will save us on heating. We found just the right thing and when folded allows plenty of space if we need the sofa bed up. The motorways around Bristol are best avoided at any time of day so we tend to go the back roads through South Gloucestershire. To get from Ikea to Clevedon we have to negotiate part of the city centre and over the lovely suspension bridge. I think this is worth paying the toll as the view is so lovely.  We like to pretend that Clevedon is proper seaside and if the tide is in it does feel very  Seasidey. The chips smelt so good as we walked along the promenade so we treated ourselves and sat outside looking towards Wales as we ate them. It was lovely to see lots of young families walking along with children in prams and older kids with scooters. Also some older more frail people enjoying the sunshine and getting some sea air. It is a lovely level walk from the pier along the seafront. At the end there is a wooded area up some steps and paths among the trees. This is called poets walk. Good views from the look out point at the top. I came back home feeling refreshed.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Slow cooker loveliness

I bought a gammon joint in Aldi for 4.25. I suppose I’m not shocked at the recent revelations in the chicken processing factory where they change the dates and relabel. It has put me off buying a chicken joint though, so gammon it is for a change. I plan to make this last For 3 days for dinner and perhaps enough for a tasty lunchtime sandwich. Not the cheapest of meat cuts but it is lean and tasty. This is how I cook mine. I poor half a litre of cheap apple juice in slow cooker with bay leaves, garlic clove and a small whole onion. I bring the gammon joint to the boil in a large pan of water

. Lots of salt and scum will come away so I discard the water and pop it in to the slow cooker on high and go out for the afternoon. There is loads on my list to do this afternoon. We shall have this with microwaved baked potatoes that I will crisp up under the grill. Veg will be frozen peas. This will be an easy quick meal for today. When I worked at Waitrose in my youth, the bacon joints were cut and prepared in the store. I was always told the darker the pink’  the saltier it is. I always go for a paler unsmoked joint. I put it on at 2pm and it should be ready by 7pm. Tomorrow will be a carbonara and the next day will be cold gammon salad and chips. For the carbonara bake I will cheat and use a packet mix of white sauce mix and perk it up with chives and any fresh herbs I fancy. That will be topped with some of the last tomatoes. The salad will be the same. Some fresh spinach and late lettuce but the cucumbers are being bought now as I’ve run out. Nothing will be wasted.
The van has had a wax spray underneath to stop rust.This cost us £50 but we feel it is worth it to preserve the underneath as long as we can. It feels odd without the van on the drive today. The bed bar has been covered with fabric. The filth and soot underneath the other fabric took me ages to sort out. I really think the van was poisoning the last owners but it obviously didn’t bother them. I feel like reporting the garage where they had the mot done. There was an advisory that said small hole in exhaust. There were numerous large holes and they didn’t pick up the windscreen wiper problem. But having said that we are pleased with what we have. It is always a gamble to buy an older vehicle.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Homey weekend

The weather forecast is not great for this weekend so we have put off our first night in the van. Windscreen wipers were fixed. O H fitted the new motor in minutes. That saved us a bit. I had my first drive. It felt a bit scary at first. I just did a local road away from too much traffic. I mastered the gears after a few minutes. The height threw me a bit. It caught on some overhanging tree foliage a couple of times. I have researched some sites that stay open all year round. To start with we will have a hard standing and electric to see how that all works. We have some busy times in the next fortnight so we will have to wait a bit. I hope to do some reviews and reflections on the sites we visit.
A visit to the opticians left me with a lighter purse. I paid £40 extra for an eye scan for macular degeneration. As I took the drug tamoxifen for 5 years after breast cancer treatment there were significant changes in my vision so I have to have regular checks. New glasses will be varifocal and transition lenses. All in all £355 pounds! I was expecting this amount so paid everything and tried not to dwell on it. My glasses have some lens damage and scratches so I am looking forward to seeing through crystal clear ones in a few days.
Nanny duty tonight. This little monkey is now 5 months old and hasn't slept through one night yet.
I think poor mummy and daddy need a break. They have tried everything and had expert advice but no success yet. Mummy is feeling poorly and daddy is looking shattered and has a long work shift today. Oh the joys! My 5 were all good sleepers but every baby is different. We are just weeks away from the next one arriving so he is to have another little cousin friend. I have the older ones next weekend. They don't even want to get out of bed for school sometimes!
Busy is good. They keep us young or exhausted I'm not sure which.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Tidy Tuesday

The sun was shining showing up dust and dirty windows so it has been cleaning after work today. Tidying found some lost treasures. My favourite scissors, 3 rolls of sellotape, £3.50 in change and a lost cardigan. It makes my day to find stuff I had forgotten about. The van cushions are done. I need to borrow the staple gun from work to cover the boarding underneath the bunk bed.
I won't miss that orange fabric. I found the little over door baskets in poundstretchers. It fits into the corner nicely. It was just 1.79 so I will get one for the other side of the van when I go again. I am also pleased with the plastic bathroom container just a pound. I has suction pads but seems very strong and I am using it in the kitchen area to hold dishwashing things.
The OH has been working on the windscreen problem. We have bought a new motor that he will try and fit tomorrow. There are not enough hours in the day for me at the moment. 

Monday, 25 September 2017

Maiden voyage

Sunday we went over to the Malvern hills to give the van a run and have a picnic.

I like the way I sit up higher than the car. We went past Broadway Tower.

It was lovely  to park in the middle of nowhere and have a picnic. All went well until we came home and it started to rain and the windscreen wipers didn't work. Oh the joy of an old van! OH has had them to pieces today but nothing working as yet. I still could smell diesel fumes a little but I am not used to diesel cars so maybe it is me. It has new exhaust and was running well. No annoying rattling. I am hoping the windscreen problem is just a blip. I still have painting to do but haven't had time to do it. Looking forward to our first trip out to sleep in it.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Vera the Van

It is called Vera after my maternal grandmother who moved many times in her adult life. She loved making a home in new places. The grandparents would buy the most dilapidated, forgotten houses and work and love them into a home. Looking back I realise what a skill that was. She could find and bring out the beauty in almost anything that was salvageable. Well Vera the van is also looking brighter and fresher from some loving care. I bought some fabric from Dunelm and the seating area is almost finished. I have chosen soft pastel colours to replace the 1980s terracotta heavy patterned look.

Toilet update. The toilet and black water tank have been cleaned. It has made me feel much better about using it on "my terms." No 1. 's only unless a complete emergency situation. We won't be wild camping so this should work out. I used biological washing liquid and much scrubbing and rinse and repeating and I must say everything looks in brand new condition. It took a lot of effort though. We found out how everything works and empties. The grey water tank and fresh water tank have been cleaned and sterilised. The freshwater tank doesn't completely empty so I still think we will take our own fresh water in a container. Almost good to go. The gas hob rings wouldn't stay lit but this just required a look on the motor home forum online. OH cleaned off the tiny thermocouples with a scouring pad and they worked straight away. In the manual it said call your gas engineer! I have some painting to finish and then will pack with some essentials before our first trip. 
Steves memorial stone has arrived in the churchyard. As it was a churchyard we had to stay quite conservative about style  but we think this is very fitting for him. The image has been taken from one of his sunset photographic jumps.
That wasn't the actual one as there are many but his sister drew around the image and the stonemason was able to copy it. 
The flowers are a bit bedraggled as they are the leftovers from the wedding bouquet 2 weeks ago..It is good to have something permanent and I think he would like his spot ans he is pointing west where there are some stunning Cotswold sunsets.