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Christmas Reminiscing

This is my last blog post before Christmas day.

I will be taking a couple of weeks off blogging during the festive period, but I will be back on the 8th January….. I hope you don’t mind.

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In the week before Christmas last year my blog post included my ‘Twelve Tips Of Christmas’ which you can find here.

This year I was wondering what I could write about and I decided to write something a little bit different from my normal blog posts…..

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Yesterday I started to think about my past Christmas’s and I can hand on heart say I have been very lucky as I have had some lovely times…..

……When I was small there was always such excitement in the house when my mother produced the advent calender each year….there were no chocolates in it, just doors to open with pictures underneath (except for number one and two as these had been ripped off previously, as we had the same calender every year).  Number fifteen was a large door with santa underneath saying “only ten days until Christmas’ and my sisters and I would argue over who would open it.

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I also remember taking part in a nativity play at infant school….There were no variations on the Christmas story in those days, it was exactly as the bible wrote and we sang beautiful carols throughout…. don’t get me wrong, I loved to see my daughters in their Christmas productions at Primary school, but it was rare to hear a carol proformed and I would have really liked to have seen them take part in a good ‘old fashioned’ nativity play.

Another memory at Infant school was making Christmas cards and posting them in our ‘schools own post box’ and it was such an honour to be picked to ‘deliver’ the cards to each teacher to give out to their class.

I also took a turn in the classroom to take a Christmas lolly from santa’s sack….such a small thing, but such a happy memory of mine.

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At home we had the same artificial tree every year and it always looked like it had seen better days, but I remember clearly the excitment I felt when decorating it.  It was wonderful to come downstairs on Christmas morning to find a room full of presents with the tree standing proud.  In reality there probably wasn’t many presents, but with four children in the house it always looked like there was.

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On Christmas day we had a turkey dinner with Christmas pudding to follow and it was always my favourite meal of the year…..and still is!

However when I left home, circumstances meant I didn’t really have anywhere to go on Christmas day and this is when I spent Christmas day with the friends who I met at work.  I remember my old friend Helen would invite a few of us to her house and she would cook an amazing Christmas dinner and we all had so much fun.  Sadly my friend passed away a couple of years ago and I still miss her so much, but since her funeral my old work friends have kept in touch and once again see each other regularly, which I really enjoy.

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And then 20 years ago I met my wonderful husband and very quickly we had two children and began to start our own traditions over the Christmas period, which I write about each year on my blog.

Family and friends are so important to have around and I think Christmas is a good excuse to get together and have fun….after all, the last couple of years have taught me that life is short and we need to appreciate what we have.

So this year I will be quietly raising a glass to the family and friends that won’t be with us this Christmas, and I will be remembering the laughter and love we shared.

I wonder if you will be doing the same?

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Thank you for reading my blog this year.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

Too Late To Change….

I thought I would write something different today:

In July the BBC reported that managers work an extra day per week in unpaid overtime.  You can read the report here.  In actual fact I think an awful lot of people do this, not just managers.

A long time ago when I worked full time, I also used to work extra ‘unpaid’ hours and frequently brought work home to do….how different my life is now.

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My life is now simple, as my job is a homemaker that also grows organic vegetables. I’m sure I work a lot more hours than the standard thirty seven hour week, but it is work that I enjoy and it brings a lot of satisfaction to my life.

I like my house to be a home. .. a place that my family love to come home to. I like to make sure my house is clean and comfortable and my family have clothes that are washed and ironed ready for them to wear and healthy meals cooked from scratch, with my home grown organic vegetables.

This may seem very old fashioned, but I love it and feel very privileged to live this way and this is how myself and Mr Thrift planned it.

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The Only Drawback….

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There is one drawback of living this way… I now appear very boring to the average person and I don’t really have anything in common with people around me anymore, as we are a family that lives on just one wage and money is always tight.

I don’t know what the latest ‘must have’ gadget is and we don’t own the latest fashionable flash car and I certainly don’t know the name of any clothes designers. We don’t travel on expensive holidays abroad, or go on luxury cruises either…..we just live simply.

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This is another reason why I write my blog, so I can connect with like-minded people who also enjoy growing vegetables, cooking from scratch and using old fashioned cleaning methods.

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Many times I have been told that I am very lucky as I don’t have any stress in my life….but this is simply not true. We do have our own ‘stresses’ but we try not to add to them by ‘keeping up with the Jones’.  I work very hard during the day and the advantages of living this way far outweighs the disadvantages.

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Over the last few years, I have listened to many people telling me how busy their lives are and how stressed they are at work.  I sometimes think people actually feel somehow more important when they tell you how late they stay at work or how they are running around at the weekends trying to catch up with everything.

I actually don’t think this shows that these people are important, I think this shows that they are either unorganised or just not in control of their lives and I always think to myself it is such a shame, as we only have one life and we need to live it in the best way possible.

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One thing I know for sure, these people won’t be standing at the ‘pearly gates’ wishing they had ‘worked more hours’ …but by that time it will be too late to change.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time

Sad Sad News

Earlier this morning we had the sad news that my Father-in-law had passed away peacefully.  He had been poorly in hospital for quite some time  and this was expected, but it doesn’t lessen the pain felt by all of us at the moment.

He was a lovely, lovely man who was very proud of his family and loved his church and he was respected by his community.

Words can’t express how we all feel at the moment, so I hope you understand why I can’t write my normal weekly post today.

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The Sad Loss Of A Great Leicester Author & Friend

Dan Tunstall

'Forget-me-nots' from my allotment

‘Forget-me-nots’

Unfortunately, we had some very sad news on the 7th April, as we found out that one of our friends had passed away.  Today was his funeral, so as a mark of respect I thought it would be nice to dedicate this blog post to him.

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Dan was the most intelligent man I have ever, ever met.  He knew everything about everything and could reel off names, dates, times etc. in almost every topic you could think of.  He was wonderful to have on our team when we entered the quiz nights at the Primary School that our daughters all went to.

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Dan was a talented writer and in 2009 Dan had his first book published ‘Big And Clever’ which was actually shortlisted for the Bradford Boase Award for first young adult novels.  It only seems like yesterday that we were invited to his first book launch.

His second book was published in 2011,  called ‘Out Of Towners’.  I remember him and his wife Carey, spending such a long time making sure the cover photo for his book was just right.  They eventually picked the ‘Eastbourne Pier’, as Eastbourne was one of the places he loved the most.  In fact I remember we all spent a lovely day at Eastbourne with Dan and his family a couple of years ago.

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Dan used to go into schools to talk about his books and was popular with teenage boys, who identified with the characters that he wrote about.

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He also wrote a book called ‘Seconds Out’ and then unsurprisingly contributed to a four-author anthology with Alan Gibbons.

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Dan had the world at his fingers tips, but he just couldn’t see it and unfortunately his friends and family know the outcome of this.

One of the last things he wrote was:

“I was fleetingly brilliant at lots of things, but couldn’t sustain any of them”

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You will sadly be missed Dan.

A Holiday In Scarborough And ‘Slowing Down’

Last week I spent four nights away with my family and it was a really welcome break, as I had been feeling really tired lately.

We went to Scarborough in Yorkshire and stayed in a Travelodge.  We booked the holiday last July and managed to pay just £153.20 for bed and breakfast for all four of us in a family room.  We like the Travelodge as we know exactly what we are staying in, as they are all vitually the same…the rooms are basic, but they are clean, warm and have an ensuite bathroom.  The breakfast is nice and filling too.

Our family room was a bit on the small side, but the view from the window definately made up for it.  It was lovely sitting watching the sea from the window:

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We expected the weather to be wet and windy at best (especially after all the storms we have had recently), or extremely cold, but it was really amazing.  When we arrived on Sunday it was sunny and it stayed dry the whole time.  In fact, most days we walked along the seafront eating ice creams!  Even my youngest daughter could join in this luxury as we actually found a shop that sold ‘lactose free’ ice cream which made my daughters holiday, as this is so unusual.

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We also expected most places to be shut in February, but everything was open and it was busy too.

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I really enjoyed this holiday with my family, even though we didn’t do an awful lot, it was wonderful to just spend time together.

We walked, talked, played bingo on the seafront and lost a few 2p’s in the arcades togther.  We visited the shops and my eldest daughter spent some of her birthday money and in the eveings we played board games.  To me it was sheer bliss.

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We took pasta salads to eat the day we arrived and then we used our Tesco vouchers to have a couple of free meals at ‘Ask’ and we also had fish and chips whilst sitting on the seafront.  We took crisps and drinks to have whilst we were in our room and out and about, so it really was a cheap holiday.

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When the sea went out it revealed some fantastic rock pools, so we spent quite a bit of time walking around these.

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All in all it was a fantastic holiday.  I know it wouldn’t be everyones ‘cup of tea’, but we had a lovely, relaxing time.

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The last of my stored apples

The last of my stored apples

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While I was there, it gave me lots of time to think about ‘this’ and ‘that’.  Recently, I have felt like I haven’t been able to see the wood for the trees and I have once again found myself rushing everything and generally feeling run down and tired.  I have also felt like I’ve not been achieving as much as I usually do.  So I decided to go back to basics and think about the things that are important to me.  Obviously my family are important as they mean the world to me, but other things that are important to me are:

My allotment and living simply.

Reducing mine and my families carbon footprint.

My blog and sharing recipes and gardening tips, in the hope it will help one or two people out there.

My music – I play the violin and last month I started piano lessons.

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Just by writing this down, it made me feel a bit better and more focused about what I want to acheive.

  I then went on to work out what ‘living simply’ means to me and what I needed to do to acheive it and I actually realised I was doing quite well, except for ‘slowing down and enjoying the moment’…and that’s when the penny finally dropped…I have once again gone back to multi-tasking and rushing.  I have been trying to do too many things in a day and I have stopped enjoying what I have been doing, as it now feels like a ‘chore’ instead of a pleasure.

So I realised things have got to change.

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

The first daffodil to show at my allotment

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Since coming home on Thursday I have made a real effort to slow down and enjoy each and every job I do.  I have spent time checking my stock of food and making sure I know exactly what is in my cupboards and freezers.  I have meal planned and batch baked, made our meals from scratch and washed and ironed our holiday clothes.  I have also spent time at my allotment.

Homemade Rolls

Homemade Rolls

Each job has been completed slowly and on it’s own, without multi-tasking.  Strangely, I actually feel like I have achieved quite a lot, even though I have slowed down, but more importantly, I have enjoyed each and every task.  I’m not sure if it’s because I have slowed down or if it’s because I have finally had the time to focus on my goals and what is important to me…but it doesn’t really matter why.

I once again feel like I have a spring in my step, looking forward to each new day.

Viburnum tinus, spotted laurel and vinca flowers from my garden

Viburnum tinus, spotted laurel and vinca flowers from my garden

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Friday.

Radio Leicester And A Happy New Year

Just a quick post to say I was on Radio Leicester yesterday if anyone fancies having a listen.

I also got to meet Rebecca Bryers who works behind the scenes, which was lovely as I have spoken to her many times but never met her.

I took in my Microwave Chocolate Sponge, which is so so quick and easy to make and it’s actually the most looked at recipe on my blog (you can find the recipe here).  It also costs only £1.05 to make, which is an added bonus.

Ed Stagg (another radio Leicester presenter) also joined them for a fun taste test.

You can hear the interview here  (it starts at approximately 2 hours and 7 minutes into the program).

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#### Don’t forget I will be back on Friday 10th January 2013 ####

At New Year I think about what I would like to do or change over the coming year.  I realise that Rome wasn’t built in a day and habits take at least 28 days to break (or so they say).

I often read comments on blogs where people say they would like to live a more simple life by cooking from scratch, gardening etc. etc. but just don’t know where to start.  If you are one of these people reading this today, then my suggestion to you is to start with a cup of coffee and read about some of the things that you think would add to a more simple life (everyone of us is different and there are no rights or wrongs).  Pick one or two things that appeal to you and have a go.  At first it will seem like a lot of effort, but soon it becomes second nature and you will enjoy it.

I now live a simple life, without the need to compare myself with the ‘Jones’ anymore and I can honestly say I love my life today and I feel so blessed to live the way I do.

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Thank you for your continued support over the last year.  I especially love to hear your views and comments, so please keep them coming.

I hope you all have a Happy and Content New Year!

The Things That Make Me Happy

Hi all, it’s nice to be back.

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The last eight weeks have been quite strange as we have had the builders here, converting our back room and kitchen into a kitchen diner.  It is nearly finished now, apart from a few little bits and I am hoping to show you some photographs on Monday.  I have just started the process of bringing all my pots, pans and baking equipment downstairs and putting them away in their new places, but I’ll tell you all about it on Monday.  Before then, I thought I would share something with you that happened to me at the end of last month:

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Just after I wrote my blog on the 18th October, I went to see my doctor as I had been suffering with stomach pains for a week, which in the end turned out to be IBS.  However, while I was there the doctor examined me and found a lump around my ovaries and she sent me for blood tests and a scan to establish what it was, especially as my grandmother (on my mother’s side) had ovarian cancer when she was younger than me.

Thankfully it turned out to be nothing serious and was thought to be due to damage caused by child birth, as I had a rough time when I gave birth to my eldest daughter.  My blood tests also came back fine and my stomach pains disappeared soon afterwards.  I have got to say though, while I was waiting for the scan date to come through, I felt like my world had been turned upside down and I went through a vast array of emotions.  They told me at my scan that it definitely wasn’t ovarian cancer and I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear this.

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While I was waiting for my scan and feeling quite low and poorly with my stomach, I sat and wrote a list of the things I love to cheer myself up.  It wasn’t until after my scan that I went back to my list and read it again and found that none of the items on my list were material things.  I wondered if any of you out there reading my blog, could identify with some of the things I wrote on my list, so I thought I would share it with you:

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Things I love:

Holidays with my family – Cheap but wonderful

The dawn chorus

My girls laughing

The leaves falling off the trees in autumn

The smell of newly cut grass

A lawn when the edges have been cut

The seaside

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The wind blowing in my face

The excitement leading up to Christmas and Christmas day

The thrill of seeing a seed I’ve sown germinate

Flowers that look beautiful and attract insects too

Hanging washing on my washing line and watching it blow in the wind.

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A clean house

Getting into bed after a bath, with a clean nighty and clean sheets.

The feeling of satisfaction I get when I cook a meal from scratch using vegetables that I have grown.

The feeling of satisfaction I get when I pass on the skills that I have learnt by writing a blog post.

The nice warm feeling I get when my daughters friends come for tea.

The smell of a Christmas cake cooking.

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Things I am so grateful for in my lifetime:

To have been able to stay at home with my daughters and see them grow

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Meeting my husband.

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I would really like to hear about some of the things you love, that cost little or no money, but make you happy.  Please leave your comments below.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.