Saturday, 21 February 2015

40 bags in 40 days

Yesterday marked the start of Lent in the Christian calendar. 40 days of trying your hardest to abstain from something. Usually I have to confess that I don't give up anything and continue to gorge on life's delightful treats. This year WAS going to be the same as ever until yesterday when a good friend posted a link on Facebook to decluttering, to be precise chucking out a bag of rubbish everyday for 40 days.
Yep, that's it! What a good excuse to declutter my life. Thinking of it as 'Spring cleaning' :-)

Now for some of you that might be a difficult task. Not for me! Although I wouldn't say I am a hoarder, I do have a very large stash of everything, far too much. So this year I am going to attempt to ditch a great deal of it.
You would think that with two family house moves in the past three years, the amount of unwanted clutter might be at a minimum. No! Unfortunately that is not the case. As a home educating mother and father figure and self confessed craft addict, anything and everything has a potential use. So it's stashed away for the moment in life when the light bulb is on and it materialises into something beautiful......well that's sort of how it is intended.

So, a quick read through the idea of the challenge and I'm off...inspired to throw away.

Day 1: The shed.

Just one hour in my lovely little shed and 5 (yes 5) boxes of rubbish are recycled and given away to friends who can make good use of the items no longer needed here. Oh this feels good!

Day 2: A rainy day so indoor decluttering.

Embarrassed and shamed myself by exposing the interior of kitchen cupboards and drawers. could you live like that??
2 drawers and 2 cupboards cleared out :-)

This is obviously a before photo. It actually wouldn't close properly due to all that clutter. It does now though :-) :-) :-)

Turned on computer to discover that I have almost 8000 emails in my inbox. RIGHT, time to clean up (this challenge is about cleaning up all areas of my life). Manually deleted just over 4000 emails then discovered 'Roll up' through a friend which helps to eliminate subscriptions. Subscribed and am not free of 65 subscriptions. Wooo hoooo! Doing well!

I'm wondering if I shall be able to sustain this level of clean up for 40 days? Will I have anything left at the end of it?

Day 3:

I've woken up and the first thing on my mind is 'What am I going to clear out today?'.....
Fearing my clear out is becoming an obsession!
There are so many areas that need sorting and the temptation is to dive in and do it all at once. That may well be a quick fix to the 40 bags but will not be sustainable over 40 days and both go together as part of the challenge. So, I'm having to restrain myself and tackle small areas of the house at a time.

Tackled the dreaded larder cupboard today. One whole bag of rubbish easily disposed of due to resident weevil infestation in my flour. I blame the kids for that for spilling the contents all over the cupboard! Apparently you can help prevent weevils by freezing your flour for a few days as soon as you can after purchase. Hmmm the thought of frozen weevils is not in the slightest bit more appealing!
I'm finally throwing out all the out of date jars that have festered at the back of the cupboard waiting to be eaten. They were there last time I tidied and are still there so obviously no great urge to eat the contents. Good bye rubbish!!


Ta dah!
I've had a little move around too :-) 
Yes I know, that top shelf is never going to look tidy but it's all okay and as neat as it can be!

I got quite carried away today and tackled one under bed drawer too throwing out old creams and lotions that didn't smell too pleasant.

2 bags!

There was also a strange moment today. The Little Lady discovered that a bunch of tunes that I had purchased from Amazon years ago, were present on our Kindle. I got listening to them and found a lovely track that I downloaded to play to the children way back in the days when we sat by the hearth singing and engaging in moments of loveliness. Now nothing too weird about that hey. But when I was clearing under the bed I found the written lyrics to the song! Just that one song - VERY weird! I haven't looked at that for years. Hmmm??
Mind now puzzles at the likelihood of a coincidence or some hidden message?

Here's the song......

'Land of the silver birch
home of the beaver
Where still the mighty moose
wanders at will

Blue lake and rocky shore
I will return once more
Boom diddy aahh da boom diddy aahh da boom diddy aarr da boom arr ar'

There's more.....but you'll have to look it up yourself.

Day 4: The study/larder/laundry room

My 40 day challenge was not the first thing on my mind this morning you'll be glad to hear.
I had planned on taking the kids out for a hike on this (unbeknown to me)  beautiful morning. I saw a little note on the local information site advertising the walk which crossed the local Roman road twice. Wow! Amazingly enough the threat of leaving the children with family for the morning whilst I enjoyed the blissful scenery by myself was enough to insure promises of good behaviour and no complaining.
Everyone seemed to want to talk to me this morning (as seems to be the case most mornings when I'm in a rush to get out) so my plans to arrive on time were scuppered and I found myself in a half dressed state running to catch up with the last walker just as they disappeared along the footpath and out of site. I must have looked a bit of a plonker with one gaiter on and the other in hand!
Walking through the peaceful countryside is just what was needed. It's amazing how nature works to clear your mind of clutter. It's so good on so many levels. Exercise, fresh air, socialising and in this case learning quite a bit about the history of the local area. What's more, if you take a buddy for the youngest child it seems that they complain far less and explore more. So returning home, I had four tired, happily aired children :-)

This was an old healing well. Inside you could see the spring bubbling away. Folk used to walk to this well via an ancient avenue of Ash trees and bring their sick to this well for healing. Apparently there used to be signs of use right up until fifteen or so years ago. Folk used to leave remnants of the suck child's clothing attached to a nearby Hawthorn tree.

This afternoon on day 4 of my 40 day challenge, I embarked on The Study. Well we call it that. It's a little room at the back of the house that triples up as a utility room/larder/study (and at the moment - common dumping ground). Oh those drawers and that filing cabinet have been crying out for a bit of tlc for months (okay, years). Everything had got into such a muddle with paper and things literally spewing out of the drawers and piles of unfiled paperwork. Jee whizz! This clear up business is not for the feint hearted. But I'm determined, so I sauntered on.
There's always that moment where the whole place looks a whole lot worse when you're trying to tidy up. That moment when you remove everything ready to sort it before putting it all away again.

This is that moment!

Looks like a bomb has gone off!

I've taken great pleasure in throwing a whole bin bag of paperwork away and sorting all those drawers :-) It still looks a mess though as I am yet to clear the main of the room. Today's clear out was a good one. I found several early examples of the children's artwork which made me smile and some lovely photos too. Plus I found an old birthday card from Tim. He wrote inside that he loved me very much. I always knew that he did :-)

Tomorrow is a 'no tidy' day. The challenge allows you a day off! How will I resist the temptation?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Ruby's adventures in Wonderland

I cannot believe it! My darling daughter (aka, The Little Lady) celebrated her 10th birthday today. Where does the time go? One whole decade of fun and laughter....oh and of course those rather famous tantrums!
In our house it seems that birthdays are definitely occasions to look forwards to. Planning of parties begins often immediately after the previous birthday has passed. It's a little dull for me as I cringe at the passing of the years in my own life, but as a child, I can see the sheer pleasure and joy of being the centre of attention, planning and attending parties and of course receiving birthday gifts.
So about six months ago or so, The Little Lady began to plan her birthday party. This years theme:- Alice in Wonderland. Wowzers!

Many years ago in a previous life, I used to have time to think about and carefully plan birthday parties, I actually built up quite a reputation for the level of excitement raised as a result of my efforts. It's not like that now. I have VERY good intentions but some how time just seems to whizz on by and I pass from having huge amounts of time to being caught up amidst a mad rush!

It wasn't quite as daunting as it seems, I did get some early ideas together (well in my head anyway).
The costume has been bubbling away in my thoughts for quite some weeks and warranted a trip to my favourite fabric store Mason's! Arrr that store.....I lose myself in there amongst the rolls of fabric and bits and bobs, it really is any creative persons dream place.
So I found the fabrics and trimmings I thought I needed and popped them in a safe little place back home ready for when the moment arose. Of course the time passed and I didn't actually get around to starting it until Thursday last week (with only three days to go) and of course The Little Lady didn't choose a simple design. Oh no! She chose a rather lovely little lacy ballet number. It was rather beautiful. We took inspiration from a picture on Pinterest. However, what I hadn't anticipated was the lack of stretch in my bargain lace fabric. So of course whilst fiddling away (as I do) last week and attempting to craft my masterpiece, we encountered a few minor problems actually squeezing my costume on. With life's busy schedule and a severe lack of time I made a last minute decision to go for plan B. (Well actually there wasn't a plan B but I quickly thought one up!)
A few years back, the girls took part in a rather lovely dance show and one of the costumes I made for the pair of them were beautiful romantic style leotards and skirts. I was really proud back then. So   yesterday I made the decision to use them again. Of course The Little Lady had to wear Miss P's stuff as she's grown quite considerably over the past few years (must be over feeding her!). The only technical hitch was the fact that her knickers were to be visible (now that won't do), the only thing for it was to whip up an over skirt to cover the tutu and create a rather mmmmm pouffy skirt. I'm so glad I saved my last old worn out duvet cover, it worked just perfectly.
Oooops! Almost forgot to say that the costume was indeed for the White Queen. I cannot ever recall there being a White Queen, but I am assured that there is one!

Look! There she is smiling at the camera :-)

A rather empty cake stand...although look at that tea plate!

The other element that we've been planning for a while was a the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. It simply has to be done. I thought it would be rather fitting to use vintage china tea cups for the occasion. I'm in ownership of a couple of sets myself but I rather like them and didn't want to risk breaking them so we set about trawling the local charity stores in search. It's really rather fun shopping for a themed party and looking for vintage china is right up my street I've decided. Having looked on Ebay, sets are really rather expensive (£12 or so for a cup saucer and tea plate), some of the charity shops try charging the same but mostly you can pick up a pretty cup and saucer for under two pounds. Much as would have loved to have kept them all, I figured they could be used for the party and then given as gifts to the children to take home at the end. It worked a treat.

Theming games around Alice in Wonderland was no problem at all. If you have a little imagination you really could go to town and create the most amazing environment and fun menu of past times. When I set about looking for inspiration my mind itself was set into a flurry at the sheer extent of the endless possibilities. In someways for me as a creative person I found that bit the hardest as I am so limited by time and energy these days. I'm not really one to settle for second best but sometimes I realise that I don't have a choice and have to go with it.
So we played croquet in the kitchen......'Play your cards right'- in the sitting room, Alice's game (my take on Kim's game - the memory game where you look at the items on the tray, cover them up and then try and remember them) and pass the parcel with forfeits. My little little house seemed fit to burst with 13 children and four adults occupying the downstairs (note to self - 'This house is not suitable for parties'). The situation reminded me of the book titled 'The Little Little house' did you ever read it? Mama May thinks her house is too small so her wonderful wise aunt suggests that one by one she bring in all her animals and then reverse the process. After much chaos, Mama May realises that her house is just fine :-)

The party went down a storm (in a tea cup - sorry late in the day!), the children rather enjoyed supping lemonade from teacups and nibbling on homemade biscuits :-)
A very generous friend of mine jumped on the waggon and volunteered to make the birthday cake. Now I do actually relish the opportunity to do this myself I have to say, even though I have made some rather disastrous birthday cakes over the years, but the thought of one less job to do was incredibly appealing so I willingly accepted her offer and what a delightful and delicious cake it turned out to be. It seems that it was quite a family affair, with all members contributing their efforts to the decoration. I even managed to get it home in one piece (just) and didn't drop it despite its heaviness.

So all in all a good day - no wait, a good weekend. It seems that virtually the entire weekend has been consumed with one child's birthday and the preparations. Giddy aunt! How glad am I that these marathon events only come around once a year. (Times by three of course in my case!).
With regards to my house......when everyone left (some an hour and a half after everyone else) and the temptation to crash had passed and all  the cleaning up complete, I am proud to announce my house is really rather lovely and just perfect for us :-)

Lily Loula - our very own Cheshire Cat :-)

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Sunshine loveliness

Ooooh wasn't today a beautiful day!
I went to bed last night wondering what I could do with my small folk today? I trawled through the local paper and checked out the local 'Things to do pages' on line, but nothing really jumped out and inspired me. By my, when I opened the curtains this morning after a peaceful slumber, the sunshine beaming in through the window calling me outside to play. It truly felt undeniably Spring-like. Yay! At last :-)

I've been suffering this weekend with my second bout of a cold. Strange that! I endured the symptoms of a head cold only two weeks back and am feeling a little disgruntled at having been caught once again after a week of feeling well again. This latest episode wasn't one that liked my being outdoors initially. We popped into town on Friday and Whoa! That was not a good move. I felt dreadful upon my return and had to wrap up once inside to regain some core heat!
Today the air was warmer and the wind was at a minimum and that sunshine, didn't it beam :-).....
My instant thought was to take a little stroll along the river in Lechlade and visit the little old church there, followed by hot chocolate in one of the local tea rooms. (Hot chocs have become the new eating out treat in this ere household in recent years).
We didn't actually make it out until 1pm following every ones fiddling about with this and that, you have to run with it as it shines at this time of year as the sun still goes down around four. So with not many potential hours of loveliness remaining we packed up and drove.
Burford was closer than Lechlade and called to be explored, so to save time that's where today's adventure began.
Now, we've explored Burford many many times before, but only the shoppy bit on the hill, ooh and a little bit once when we took my grandparents for a picnic along one of the little side streets. Today we planned to walk the river.

Equipped with ourselves and the dog, a little money and a phone, off we toddled. I had anticipated a two mile trundle today with many moments of pause to paddle, climb trees, admire the view......hmmmm, the best intentions hey!

The mystery child in the red coat.....

Enthusiasm was up on the first couple of miles as we reacquainted ourselves in each others company....all good.

We saw the river in the distance and seemed to be walking in parallel to it. I was certain that at some point there had to be a foot path that would lead us across the fields to admire it's beauty at close quarters.

That alluring river and pretty Church in the distance 

Two miles further and we could see Taynton church in the distance, still beyond the river....surely there had to be  footpath to Taynton? NO!

We kept trundling (younger members of the party not to happy by this point), there had to be a foot path to the left at some point?

Complaints step up, bribes in the form of a possible trip to the traditional sweet shop, start to flow!

Still we keep walking but still no footpath to take us to the river which is now just a tease in the distance. Finally I resort to Mrs Sat Nav in the hope of some light on the subject. Of course there is a way through but we're not there yet!

The moss on this wall practically glowed with the sun shining on it (picture doesn't do it justice)

I've pictured Jenny dog with her 'wolf' shadow before. It was with us again today :-)

The Barrington's. There was actually a heron on the green which provided a moment of distraction.

*Note to self, Sat Nav's work well when used when travelling by motor car as distance passes rapidly. On foot, this is NOT the case (well not with winging children in tow!).

**Second note to self, map out route prior to commencing!

Pressing's amazing the number of possible distractions that can be conjured up when desperation sets in. I should have just turned round and gone back but the potential excitement I was searching for was ever there out of reach. Animal tracks in the moss on the road, old tin cans discarded on the verges, Spring flowers emerging, the list is endless....almost.

Well, we walked to Little Barrington, then Great Barrington, Taynton and finally back to Burford.
Little Jenny dog didn't complain one bit :-)

A whole bundle of cock pheasant tail feathers to add to the collection.

Our two mile adventure turned into EIGHT miles of drudgery and complaints from the children. Why don't they share my enthusiasm for the good out doors? (Contemplates leaving children at home next time!).

We made it....I survived!


All was made well as we did make the sweet shop and the tea room (just).

Heres's hoping that you made the most of the sunshine and had a perfectly delicious Sunday XXX