Saturday 4 February 2023

Welcome February

Hello Lovelies, thank you so much for the welcome back 💓

Here's my third blog post of 2023! long may the inspiration continue. Compared to all the scrolling of Instagram it does feel like a return to gentler times. I have a huge nostalgia for my early blogging days, when the boys were all at primary school....and I wasn't so grey! 

At the beginning of the week my Amaryllis (a Christmas gift from my sister in law) really put on a spurt of growth. The lengthening days and milder temperatures must be working their magic. I was thrilled to see what looked like a second stem appearing too.

 I'm not sure why ( in a house with very few windowsills) I never thought to put plants in this landing window before. I love having my rescued orchids here and they seem very happy. This scene makes me smile. Even when the main lights are off, and the little battery sensor light illuminates the scene.

 On Wednesday we welcomed February (two words which are not spelled how you would presume!). The weather continued to be mild. As you can see on our weather monitor below, there's not much difference between the outside and inside temperatures here. That's because the sensor is in our conservatory. Gosh it's been a no go zone this winter! Every year it's pretty useless in very cold weather, but this year it's been worse as I turned down the underfloor heating due to the rising electricity costs. It faces north and at one point was so cold and damp mould was appearing everywhere. So depressing.  

It's still structurally sound and the rules around this sort of addition to houses has changed in the years since it was constructed.  We are now allowed to fit it with a well insulated solid roof ( previously it had to be glazed) that's what we are organising for spring. In an ideal world I would prefer a completely new extension but funds are limited and this will hopefully be a good compromise.  It's also less wasteful and uses less resources,  so fits in with my simpler, sustainable goals. Well that's what I'm focusing on 😊.

I'm still enjoying noticing the beauty of bare branched trees like this magnificent oak.

But I'm also thankful for some green in the garden from these pots which have looked cheery all winter 👏

This is the first year I've removed the old leaves from my Hellebores and they do look better for it.

Even if you do still have to lift up the flowers to see their beauty fully.

In the little woodland there are Cyclamen and snowdrops appearing.

That wonky dolls house is a bug hotel 🥰

Tomorrow it's exactly a year since we welcomed this boy into our home. He's turned out to be a typical comfort seeking whippet and we indulge him....well he doesn't have much built in padding 

He's so funny, pulling all the sofa blankets and cushions into a big heap then flopping down in his homemade "nest". We then usually cover him up as well if it's chilly. I think he approves 💙

This week it's actually been mild enough for him to go out without a coat and today we noticed daffodil leaves beginning to appear.

While we were out walking (despite the grey) a load of washing pretty much dried on the line. Woohoo, I do love some clean bedding that smells of fresh air. A simple pleasure for sure.

Whilst I was out in the garden I noticed so many buds on my Daphne. 

And the first brave primulas beginning to flower.

I also noted the sad scene of my broken bird bath, a victim of those hard frosts. 

Never mind, I'll keep a look out for a second-hand one, or something else to be a feature here. Thinking about it, now my apple tree has grown I'm not sure anything is needed 🤔. We have a pond the birds use. I must remember my simplicity goal.

Ending on a happier note, today I noticed my Amaryllis has THREE stems. WOW! That's certainly a first for me 😍🌺  

I do hope your February has got off to a good start and you enjoyed my everyday seasonal moments. 

Jacquie x

Saturday 21 January 2023

Cold and Frosty

Hello Lovelies,
This week we have enjoyed a break form the grey, wet and windy weather we had last week. The high pressure has led to freezing nights and sunny days. It feels so perfectly seasonal and is certainly conducive to a nice afternoon drive with mum to take in the wintry beauty....

On Wednesday we ended up in a coffee shop with a view. This place was packed when we arrived but as lunch time was coming to an end it looked like this by the time we were leaving. 

 I love a room with a distant view.

Now we are 4 weeks since the shortest day there's that bit more light to enjoy those views. Driving home from work just after 4pm still looks rather evening like, pretty though.....

                              Bare tree silhouettes are another highlight of winter to me. 

As the month goes on I'm continuing my decluttering mission. I think I'm up to 5 bags of donations to charity so far. I'm trying to have a low spend January as I feel it fits in with my Simplicity goal this year. Less stuff means more space and less chaos. 

As you can see I have made a few considered Charity shop purchases though. I've started to write a list of things I'm wanting to find that I keep in my handbag. Otherwise it's easy to be overwhelmed or distracted by things you don't really need and just pick up because they are cheap.  

My current list includes a zipped top (as a certain puppy tends to destroy zips given half a chance) and a scarf with autumnal colours. 

I have to admit red shoes were not on my list, but last summer I did think I would like another option to open toe sandals sometimes. It seemed sensible to pick these up as they should hopefully fill that gap in my summer wardrobe.

I've had a go at modelling my purchases for you...Hi :0)

Not bad for a total of £6.50 I thought. And more importantly by not buying new I've reduced my environmental impact and donated to good causes. As Katy says "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without"

This morning was another frosty start. The primulas by my front door don't seem to mind. Aren't these simple flowers gorgeous. A real spring  favourite of mine. 

I'm not wishing winter away yet though, well not days like these. The frost and sunshine were beautiful today. 

Stunning ice crystals.

Crunchy grass underfoot...and no mud! 

This is a treasured spot of mine. It looked quite magical today.

Here is the same spot in May. Oh my, all that colour! 

For now I'm happy taking in winter's subtle palette, hard edges  and deep shadows.

The first bunch of daffodils opening on my kitchen windowsill is bringing a burst of cheery colour and a hint of the wonders of spring to come. 

What a precious Saturday. It feels so good to be back blogging again, celebrating the good things and reminding myself how much I have to be thankful for.

I hope you are getting the chance to slow down and appreciate the simple things in life lovelies. Thank you so much for reading my ramblings and for your kind comments.
Jacquie x

Tuesday 10 January 2023

My word for 2023

 Hello Lovelies,

Happy New Year! Maybe I'm a little late to say that but I hope not. I've been slowly easing myself into 2023 and not rushing into any resolutions or commitments. The Christmas decorations are all back in the loft now but I enjoyed them while they were here. We had a relatively quiet festive season , though we did host a Christmas eve family get together. Now my mum in law is not with us the wider family seem to be  drifting apart somewhat. It's a shame but I know things cannot remain the same indefinitely.

Between Christmas and new year I enjoyed some crafting with the cards we received. I found a tutorial HERE on how to turn them into little gift boxes and got quite addicted to this simple, meditative process.

In the end I made enough to construct a reusable advent calendar. I LOVE the fact that this is all recycled stuff (except the numbers which were from my old card making stash) . The backing is a cardboard box painted red and I made it with a flap to aid safe storage. It should last several years and is easy to refill with whatever chocolate or small gift you fancy.

So what IS your word of 2023 Jacquie? It's SIMPLICITY.

To me that means many things. Keeping life simple, noticing small things that can bring gratitude. Also  avoiding waste and therefore reducing our costs, not to mention helping with sustainability.

I'm really proud that we have managed to almost halve our Electricity consumption in comparison to this time last year. With energy costs soaring I made many small changes that obviously have added up. The ones I can think of at the moment are....

Getting a few of these motion sensor nightlights. They give enough light to illuminate a room you are briefly using (say to let the dog out or go to the bathroom in the night) without turning on the mains lights. 

Ditching the dishwasher. I know many sources say that dishwashers are the most economical way of washing up but I'm personally not convinced. We have an efficient combi boiler and are not on a water meter so I feel one or two bowls of hot water must cost me less than hours of running a dishwasher, which has to heat up the dishes to dry them and well as the water to wash them.

I'm also TRYING to avoid using my main oven too often. The slow cooker is great for jacket potatoes...

And I bought a mini oven which I love. It heats up almost instantly and is great when one pizza or some garlic bread is needed. It also bakes cakes and copes with a lasagne. Mine is THIS one.

Other things I've done is to replace a very old freezer. Be more intentional about TV viewing and put the satellite box to sleep when it's not being used. Nag to family to turn off computers when they are not in use and I iron less. We are doing less well with reducing gas consumption as I hate being cold and I'm drying clothes on airers indoors rather than using my tumble drier so that needs the radiators to be on for a few hours. Despite this I have managed to bring it down a bit and installing  a log burner is my main goal for this summer.

I realise a lot of these actions have involved a cost and consuming resources. I'm fortunate to be in a position to afford  some new things to try and keep my bills down. Obviously it hasn't made the bills lower but has kept them from doubling! 
Simplicity to me also means owning less. We are a family of five adults and a medium sized dog in a three bed semi. It's cosy! It's less than ideal when middle son's girlfriend comes to stay. She is lovely and very welcome but it does mean juggling.

Youngest son and myself are missing from this image.

This week I've been having a sort out in our bedroom. I've already taken one huge bag of things to the charity shop and it's interesting to note many of the things were charity shop purchases in the first place, some with the tags still on.

There's still more work to do in here but the top of our wardrobes and these shelves are looking better. 

I like following Courtney on Instagram for minimalist inspiration. While I'm not trying to achieve a truly minimalist lifestyle I don't like  feeling overwhelmed by stuff. Also, I attended a former work colleague's funeral a few months ago and her two rooms filled with unused craft  materials were mentioned more than once. While I'm not ill I am beginning to feel the future is not promised (I'm 57 this year)  and I don't want my family to have tons of stuff to sort through should anything happen to me.

Another  thing I'm currently very grateful for is a simple job. As you may or may not know I gave up my nursing career in 2020. It wasn't the end to over 30 years in the NHS that I had hoped for but it was necessary for my mental health to leave.

 Once I began to feel better I got myself the least stressful job I could think of...housekeeping. I thought it would probably be a stepping stone to other employment but at the moment I'm  more than happy to keep doing this role indefinitely (health allowing). Frankly it's a revelation to me that a job can take only your time and not your peace of mind. What it lacks in excitement it makes up for in peace and convenience. I certainly don't miss rush hour traffic, parking battles and long shifts. 

Obviously it pays less than my previous job but I'd rather try and cut back on expenses than increase my stress. Fortunately I'm not the major breadwinner in the household so it is possible.
So, my aim for 2023 is to TRY and keep my life simple. As much as a second dog appeals some days I know it's not the right time at the moment. I'm also resisting the urge to book any holidays as I want to keep as many options open as possible. I want to try and get back into more crafts now Lando is less demanding, and to use things from my stash rather than buying anything new.

I'm unsubscribing from all those marketing e.mails you end up with after Christmas and only making considered charity shop purchases from my list of things I'm on the look out for. 

So, if you want to find me in 2023 I'll hopefully be home, walking my dog locally, having a small trip out with mum or a couple of miles down the road doing my "retirement job."  

Gosh, that would have sounded very dull to my younger self but at this stage in my life it sounds great. 

I do hope you are managing to find the right fit for your circumstances lovelies.

Jacquie x  

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Puppy Days

Hello Lovelies,
Oh it's so it's nice to be writing a blog post again! I can't promise it will be a regular occurrence but I wanted to mark the journey so far with our newest member of the family, who will soon be turning one. 
Day 1 

  Obviously this cute fur baby has dominated my Instagram  grid since we picked him up in February, but here I can record our journey in more detail. And remind myself in years to come :0)

I was under no illusion how much work a puppy is, in fact once I decided the time was right for us to go for a much longed for dog, a rescue was always my intention. Mainly because there are just so many dogs needing homes.... and they aren't puppies!

In the end though, after approaching various dog rescues, we felt our inexperience and a neighbouring vocal dog would be in issue. 

My next tack was to go for a reputable breeder, who loved their dogs.

 In late January I contacted a lady (through the Kennel Club Website) who obviously doted on her dogs and was ethical about her breeding programme.

It's hard to know what the correct standards are when you are totally unexperienced in a particular area but you can get a feel for the right person...and she was.

We didn't get to bring this cutie home until she had interviewed us and we had been given loads of helpful, necessary information. I also signed a long contract. I can't remember all it contained but the nicest thing was that the breeder wanted the first opportunity to take him back if things didn't work out.

Here he is on the drive home. Despite how this looks he was NOT a happy bunny. He cried constantly and was sick from the journey. I felt terrible for him.

Thankfully, after a long sleep he was much happier...massive relief!

Here he is, wrapping us all around his little finger from the start.

You probably can't tell his breed from these photos, but he's a whippet. I had initially set my heart on a Border Terrier but was having no luck finding a litter that hadn't already been snapped up by the time I saw the advert.

When I was a child I had a Jack Russell called Tilly. Mum had previously chosen a Whippet (she called Gypsy). I was totally bemused by her choice at the time. To my, probably about 10 year old, self they were a truly unappealing shape. Not cuddly at all and looked undernourished.

Gypsy had a reputation (somewhat unfairly) of being hard work. She would certainly steal food from the worktop if you weren't careful (but I'm sure Tilly would have done the same,  if she had been tall enough). She was a poor car traveller and woofed the whole journey....but thinking back we  only ever took her in the car  when we were going away. An occasional long journey into the unknown is bound to be tricky. 

She was a super loving dog though. She particularly thought the world of my dad. When she heard his car come up the drive she would go mad, barking and running around the front room. Then she would try and jump in his arms when he walked in. He would invariably say something like "Hang on Gyp, let me get through the door first." He would sit down and she would jump up on his lap and smother him in kisses. Whippets have very small feet so they can hurt you unintentionally as there is a lot of pressure though a small area. They also have long, unpadded and bony tails which whip about ( hence their name?) another hazard! 

Dad would let her stomp all over him and give her a fuss. On one occasion he did say " Oh Gyp, it's like cuddling a wheelbarrow." That made us laugh because it was a pretty good analogy! 

Gypsy obviously didn't put me off the breed though. Surely her more challenging traits could be due to her being bred for racing? I can still remember that we collected her from a terraced street, where she was in an outdoor kennel with her mother and the rest of the litter. The chap in a flat cap who was selling her, via a small ad in the Bradford evening newspaper, was most unhappy mum wanted her to be a pet....what a waste of her potential.

As the years have passed I have grown to appreciate the elegant sighthound shape. Not to mention their power and speed. They are toned athletes not skinny waifs. There are several different breeds in the sight hound family. From the large Greyhound, Saluki and Borzoi to the small Italian greyhound. Lurchers are generally a mix of sighthound breeds and vary in size. Whippets are classed as a medium sized dog.

Anyway, I digress. Something else that has changed since the last time I lived with dogs is crate training. It might look cruel to the uninitiated but can be a positive thing for a dog to have a safe space. I read lots about the right way to introduce this and we tried repeatedly to make it work.

A "play pen" is another tool for keeping puppies safe and eldest built this bespoke version for our new arrival.

Well, those early night times  were interesting, to say the least!. The crate and pen were hated in equal measure and I quickly got used to sleeping on the sofa with our puppy. It seemed I couldn't bring myself to persist with any "tough love".

Still, he was more adorable than he was hard work. 

Who could resist these cute "toe beans"

obviously there were teething troubles...literally and figuratively. 

It did remind me of having human toddlers, to a degree. Totally exhausting at infuriating at times. Plenty of cute photo opportunities that belie the reality of house training and constant nipping with needle sharp teeth.

Then there's the anxiety and constant supervision required as well. 

Hang on a minute, I don't even think I've mentioned this young man's name. There were a lot of opinions to take into account. We went around in circles a few times before everyone agreed on Lando. The name was inspired by the racing driver Lando Norris (after all whippets are a speedy breed) . The boys informed me there is a "Stars Wars" character who shares the name as well.
 Mind you, if I had realised how many times I would need to explain our choice to fellow dog walkers I would have gone with something more mainstream 😂

The other thing I was unprepared for was the length of time it would be before we could take him for a walk. Vaccinations were two doses 4 weeks apart...then wait three weeks. Oh my, that was a long time to be stuck at home. Just to get a short walk and introduce him to the big wide world I resorted to carrying him in a ruck sack at one stage!

Still, look at the cuteness 💓

And we do have a garden.

Tortoise introductions went well....phew.

Short trips in the car and short carrying "walks" added to the variety.

Until....Freedom Day! hurray.

Spring brought garden sunbathing....

And off lead walks. Lando's breeder was insistent it was important to trust your dog and work on recall from a young age. This nervous puppy was a dream really. Never straying far. Obviously this was only practiced away from hazards and livestock.

This was our first "dog walking bag". It's already given up the ghost but was pretty worn out to start with. I've since picked up a replacement in the charity shop. It contains poo bags ( most important) training treats, a small bottle of water and a plastic container to use as a bowl. And not forgetting a ball. 

As Lando grew we upgraded his harness to this one. It's so much more secure than his first one (which he could back out of if he panicked.....not ideal!) It has an extra strap that goes around his waist and  the handle has been invaluable to scoop him up, move him to safety or help him over an obstacle 

We attended Puppy training classes, which were great for the basics and beginning socialising him with other dogs safely.

 Then, in June, when he was six months old we took him on holiday for the first time. I got travel medication from the vet as he was still very car sick and it worked beautifully. It didn't make him sleepy but he was able to rest because he wasn't vomiting.

It was just the husband, puppy and myself. We visited Hunstanton in Norfolk and stayed in a posh caravan with a deck, which was great and very dog friendly.

The weather was kind and it was a joy to introduce our "fur baby" to the beach. Maybe that seems a bit cringe worthy...fur baby, but he has become a bit of a child substitute since our offspring are all adults these days 

Whippets are not generally fond of water so we were proud of his paddling.

He climbed all over my husband in a way that reminded me of Gypsy and my dad 💙

Another bonus to holidaying with a dog is that people speak to you much more. Whippet owners especially, obviously want to gush about the breed. But other dog owners and dog lovers are so chatty too. It really made the holiday for us both I think.

Only a month later Lando was back by the coast. I had planned to leave him at home when Mum and I went on a Yorkshire break but it ended up that the boys were all away the same week, so I had to take him. 

He's no angel so balancing the needs of my mum ( who's in her 90's now) and an unruly puppy was tricky but we made it work. 

Just look what a handsome young man he'd already become 😍

Through the heat of the summer he decided walking with just one of us was not something he felt safe doing?? I wish dogs could talk sometimes. It meant I was always asking another member of the family if they would come on a dog walk with me. It was a little frustrating at the time.

At home his general modus operandi is to jump straight in any seat that has recently been vacated to enjoy the warmth. Then he naps until his radar picks up the sound of any possible kitchen!!
You better not walk away from any half finished cup of tea either. That long snout will be straight into it, lapping up as much as possible before you realise. 

He has reminded me so many times of Gypsy, with his naughty chewing and food stealing, jumping up and reaching things you thought were safe. He has long legs and waist height is not high enough to be out of reach.  I have thought I was mad to get a whippet on more than one occasion! He's strong and pulls on the lead. He gets excited and unintentionally tramples you with his panful feet or jumps up in your face. I've had way too many bruises and scratches to count. But equally he's a total snuggle bunny. Curling up next to you as soon as you sit down...which is great during cold weather especially! Whippets don't shed much or have a strong dog odour. They are considered a clean breed and need practically zero grooming. 
They are also regarded to be generally very healthy. And contrary to what you may presume they do not require loads of exercise. They love the chance to run around at high speed for 5 or 10 minutes and will happily walk for an hour or so but after that they will be happy to sleep. 

In September, when he turned 9 months, we went away again. As his tolerance of short journeys had improved I risked not getting him any medication and though he did look a bit fed up at times he wasn't sick. Hurray.

This time the there were 5 of us plus Lando.  

We went to Bude in north Cornwall, which was lovely despite the cool weather. We took a stand up paddle board and I optimistically bought him a life jacket but there was no way he wanted to try it ....very sensible 😊

He was a star at chilling in the pub by the end of the week though, so that was a win...😁👍

And many hours were spent enjoying running around after eldest especially. That was great to see.

I guess we have all been on a steep learning curve over the past 10 months. There have been vet visits for upset tummies. He now has this fresh frozen food which suits his digestion but not my bank account so much 😂. 

Obviously I knew a dog was a big financial commitment and I don't begrudge him a healthy diet. I'm just trying to be candid about the stuff you might not think about. Such as the fact an emergency vet visit costs £260 before any treatment!! ( think about can shop around for that). Lando has a basic policy which costs me £12 a month. I also pay £50 a month into a separate savings account in his name.  I'm hoping this combination will mean there's a pot of money for any age related illnesses should I ever feel unable to keep up with the policy. I know they get more expensive as your dog ages and many conditions are excluded anyway. 

As you can probably tell he is rather spoilt. I'm sure there are as many ways of owning a dog as there are owners. But also all dogs are different. We have a WhatsApp group for his litter mates and the breeder. It's an invaluable source of advice and reassurance. Some of his brothers and sisters have gone to experienced whippet owners who have found this puppy challenging, whilst others have gone to first time dog owners who haven't had any problems. I'd say Lando is in the middle somewhere. Not a a dream like Wesley or Poppy, but not as much of a handful as Dillon or Coco. 

Obviously he's an important part of our family now and though I do hope he's a bit more chilled once he reaches adulthood , I wouldn't change him for the world. 

Well done if you have made it this far. Thanks for reading and much love to all of you.
Jacquie x