Celebrating spring and a bracing walk on Frugal Hill

Hello Friends,

I have spent most of this weekend clearing space for when Bee gets back from university tomorrow.  We took a load of cardboard and other junk to the recycling centre yesterday morning, a bag of shoes, odd socks and clothes to the charity shop and I managed to de-clutter the landing as well.

This afternoon we decided to have a break and risk getting wet, and went on one of our favourity walks around Frugal Hill.  It was very muddy and we did get caught in a shower.  It was also very windy on top of the hill – I certainly felt I had done some exercise after that.

2015-03-29 14.47.44You can see the clouds scudding across the sky as we made our way across this field.  The other thing we noticed is how  the trees do not seem to have started going into bud even though it is nearly April.

Edie wrote about spring in Uzbekistan on her blog today.  It seems that the first day of spring is a cause for celebration over there – it certainly seems to be warmer than it is here!  You can read all about it here:

http://plovatfirstsight.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/assalom-navruz-springtime-celebrations.html

Until next time, Tawney x

Making cooking easier

Hello Friends,

After a very long time, I am finally getting the message about meal planning and making life a bit easier for myself.

A couple of months ago I read an article in the paper about ‘cooking once, eating twice’.  For some reason, this struck a chord.  Since then I have been consciously focussing on cooking meals which can be frozen and then re-cyled at a later date.  This has definitely been making life easer.

Last weekend I cooked a stew.  I froze it in three portions.  Two of these will be for pasties, and the third is for a pie I have made for tea today.

Earlier today I made a very simple rough puff pastry.  I divided the pastry into three and the other two portions will go into the freezer for the pasties at a later date.

And here is my tea this evening – all put together with vegetables in next to no time.

2015-03-21 18.58.18What are your favourite easy meals?  Do you cook once and eat twice when you can?

Until next time, Tawney x

How does clutter grow?

Hello Friends,

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front for the last couple of weeks – busy with work and other things.  Looking round me today I realised the house is even more out of control than usual.

I started thinking about how the clutter and disorganisation builds up when I’m busy.  I’ve noticed a couple of key areas:

  • Mornings seem to contribute vastly to the chaos.  I’m always rushing.  I often race up and down two flights of stairs between three floors time after time looking for the things I need to go to work.
  • At the the other end of the day I flop at 9 pm.  I know people who do clean their homes until late in the evening.  I just can’t do that – I get tired very suddenly and physically have to stop.  This tends to mean that if I haven’t sorted out what I need to sort by then, it won’t happen.

Things get dropped and then I’m unable to find them.  What I’m planning to do over the next few months is to get on top of the habits that are causing the problem, so my first step is really about trying to identify the hot spots and avoid doing the same thngs over and over.

However, I have also experienced the problem of losing things because I have ‘put them somewhere safe’ and then forgotten where they are.  I’ve spent hours looking for things, and now I’ve had enough of it.

What are your clutter hotspots?

Until next time,

Tawney x

Giving up roles to simplify life

Hello Friends,

I have a hard time saying no to people and things which has led to my life becoming over cluttered in all sorts of ways.

A couple of years ago I was bounced into taking on the role of treasurer to a local organisation I am a member of.  Then then treasurer clearly had a friend and myself in his sights as then relatively new members who would eagerly take on the job. I had that feeling in my stomach that this was something I did not want to take on but eventually agreed.

I met up with the treasurer and he talked me through how everything was done.  Now I have been self employed, had to pass an accounting exam to qualify for my job, and learned how to do financial analysis when I did my MBA.  I’m not an accountant, but understand figures.  The treasurer’s daughter, an, accountant, had set the accounts up in such a way it was impossible to understand them.  I did panic at first, but then decided I was going to simplify the accounts in a way a normal human being could understand them.

I battled on with the job for two years, but with everything else going on found it was an unnecessary stress I did not need.  It was the little things like having to remember to take all the cheques to pay into the bank at lunch time while I was at work, people coming up to me and asking if they had paid their subs this term (duh?).  The bigger things were others approaching me and telling me that the treasurer should be involved in fundraising.  (This from somebody who is retired).

Over the two years I gradually ran the role in the way I wanted.  I set out a list of things I would not do.  These included chasing people for subs, taking a register at every meeting and fundraising.

I had intended to carry on for another year, but when the chair announced she was standing down next year, I decided it would  be better to finish now and not have two roles vacant at once.  I found a volunteer to nominate for the post (this is somebody who is semi retired and has plenty of spare time) and handed it over last week.

I had a few misgivings beforehand – was I letting people down, should I have carried on for another couple of years etc etc.  However, having done the deed, I now realise how much extra background stress I was carrying.  My whole mind feels lighter.

What I have learned from this is that I should never ignore the warning feeling in my gut about when it is not right to do something.  Secondly, I have to manage my time – it simply isn’t possible to take on something like this with my life at the moment how it is.  I work full time and have outside work interests such as playing the violin.  This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Finally, I have learned not to feel guilty about wanting to make my life simpler.

Have you ever taken on one job too many?  How did it affect you and what did you learn?

Until next time, Tawney x

Clearing the garden

Hello Friends,

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks (hence lack of posts), so I’m just doing a bit of catching up from last weekend.

A few weeks ago I posted about how the snow fall on Boxing Day had brought down two of our plum trees.  The weight of a huge amount of snow in a short time caused them to snap in half.  The weather has been grim since and last weekend was the first time we were able to get out in the garden and do some clearing.

I decided to use this as an excuse to spend some garden centre vouchers I had been given for my birthday towards a new wheelbarrow.  The old one I inherited from some former neighbours finally rusted through the bottom last year.  OH and I then spent the whole afternoon sawing and chopping to clear the trees and see if there was anything  we could save.  The good news is that there is probably enough left for the trees to regenerate.  I’m not sure how much of a crop we will have this year – we’ve had some bumper crops of plums before. IMGP4106I am now thinking about what we need to do to keep the fruit in the garden going.  The fruit trees are quite old now, and it’s time to think about what comes next.  Whatever we choose will have to be quite hardy – our garden has frost pockets, is in the north of England and is 180m above sea level.

Have you ever planted up fruit trees in your garden?  Which varieties did you choose and why?

Until next time,

Tawney x

Using up fridge and freezer leftovers

Hello Friends,

I am still working on clearing all areas of our home.  This includes the freezer.  I had a bit of a rummage around this week and found various boxes and bags full of not easily identifiable food.

A few months ago I had some friends around for a meal and made a pork, apple and cider pie.  I made my own pastry, and there was quite a bit left over.

IMGP4101This could have sat in the freezer for quite a few more months or I could have thrown it away, but I decided to use it up and make a chicken pie with it.  I made enough for two meals, so one has gone into the freezer and we will eat this next weekend.

IMGP4104I also used up some chard and potatoes which were a bit past their best in a vegetable curry last night.  There was some of this left over, so today I boiled it up again, added a couple of handfuls of lentils and the same of spinach and will whiz it up to make some soup which I can take to work with me.

IMGP4105How do you use up your random leftovers?

Until next time,

Tawney x

A very useful birthday present

Hello Friends,

It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and I had a lovely present from Edie and Bee.  Here it is:

2015-01-08 18.53.40And I’ve been doing lots of cooking already.  Here are some traybakes I made for work (we always bring cake in on our birthday to share)

IMGP4087And here are some cakes I made for our book club, a Victoria sponge and a coffee and walnut cake:

2015-01-27 19.51.44I have had a lot of fun from this birthday present.  These are the best sort – yes it’s another item of ‘stuff’ but it’s being used.  I have been through my cook books again, and two which I have not used in years have gone to the charity shop.  This is going to be the test for things from now on – do I use it? Do I love it?  If not, off it goes.

What has been your most useful birthday or Christmas present?

Until next time, Tawney x

Sale bargains

Hello Friends,

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I am not a great fan of shopping as a leisure activity.  I prefer to plan to shop when I need something, rather than drift aimlessly round because I have nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon.

I’ve never been to the sales to join in with the crush of people on Boxing Day.  What I have found is that if you hang on until the end of the sales, you can walk around without being trampled on and find bargains sometimes at 70% off.  I still have a list of what I need at the time, but if I can’t find it, I walk away.  This time we couldn’t find a coat for Edie – she is quite slenderly built and a size 8, so it can be a challenge finding something which doesn’t look like a sack.

On my list I had a new pair of shoes for work, a new work blouse and I am gradually replacing my old summer T shirts which have shrunk.  While I’m not doing too badly for my age, the cropped T shirt look doesn’t work quite so well now.

I found a pink and white  stripey T shirt reduced from £15 to £3, a shirt at half price at £10, and a pair of the shoes which cost £44, reduced from £150.  I am particularly pleased with the shoes – they are just plain black shoes with leather uppers and soles which means they can be repaired over and over and will hopefully last for years.  OH buys one pair of good quality leather shoes about every 10 years and has them repaired until they fall apart.

How do you tackle the sales?  Have you picked up any bargains this time?

Until next time, Tawney x

Deep de-cluttering

Hello Friends,

I’ve had some time off work over the last few weeks and I’m taking the opportunity to have a bit more of a clear out.  My aim is to create a calmer home where I don’t spend my life looking for things all the time.

I am aware that I have been guilty of shuffling things around the house, when in fact, much of it needs to go.  I’m now looking at the ‘stuff’ in a different way and asking myself if I really need it.  Here are some of the things I have finally let go:

  • bags of small scraps of material
  • broken shoes and torn jeans belonging to all of us
  • several packs of plain postcards and lined revision cards.  I vaguely remember buying these when I did my Masters degree seven years ago – I am not going to need them again.

This has meant challenging my beliefs about why I’m holding on to stuff and giving myself permission to let it go.  Hanging on to the cards is pointless.  They are just taking up space in a folder.  Each time I’ve gone the folder to look for something else they all fall out.  If I need any more I will buy some.

This kind of de-cluttering is going to take quite a while.  We’ve got loads of stuff which we just walk past every day and it’s got to go.  The key is going to be just picking one small thing, like a folder or a shelf, examining every item and making sure I finish it.

What are the things that you find hardest to let go of when you are de-cluttering?

Until next time, Tawney x

Resolutions for next Christmas – maybe do a bit less

Hello Friends,

Over the last couple of years I’ve challenged myself to try new things with cooking and decorating for Christmas.  Last year I made a Christmas cake for the first time ever and cooked a ham.  I also made a garland for the mantelpiece in the playroom and a wreath for the front door.

This year I decided to add making home made ice cream and cinnamon buns to the list.  The results have been variable.

I realised last weekend that although I’ve enjoyed the creative side of trying new recipes, I’ve ended up making life more complicated – not what my life on Frugal Hill is meant to be.  Each new thing has been added to the list of things I MUST DO every Christmas.

I’ve also done far more running around after other people than was perhaps good for me (a 6 hour drive from Derbyshire to London and back finished me off for Christmas day).

One of my friends has the right idea – she cooks lasagne on Christmas day :-)

My resolutions for next Christmas are as follows:

  • Children returning from university catch the train home
  • Children returning from abroad fly to Manchester if they want a lift, or travel home by train if they fly to London
  • One meat option and one vegetarian option only will be provided for Christmas lunch and Boxing Day.
  • One pudding option only for Christmas lunch + bought ice cream
  •  No cinnamon buns or home made ice cream – that was a big mistake
  • Christmas cards will be posted / delivered by the end of the first week in December or not at all.
  • I will no longer read round robin letters of more than 1 page – 8 pages in tiny type about people I’ve never heard of is of absolutely no interest to me and will go straight in the recycling.
  • Everything must be bought online – no more grim Saturday afternoons in shopping malls.

Have you managed to simplify Christmas?  How have you managed it?

Until next time, Tawney x