Simple Autumn Enjoyments

IMG_20171015_164953

We have re-affirmed our frugal aims this Autumn, after a rather spendy Summer. It is a good time of year to be doing this, as there’s so much free stuff to enjoy anyway, especially the ever-changing colours of the leaves. 

The shorter daylight hours mean we are more likely to see sunrises and sunsets.

20171026_174316

A good stock of library books is a wonderful thing for chilly days and dark evenings.

IMG_20171016_181744

Most of our summer spending increase was on food. To brings things back to a more comfortable level for us, we’re reducing ready-made foods and enjoying more simple dinners such as a delicious wintery vegetable stew.

IMG_20171016_183937

This week the milder weather ended and we have had our first fires. The work involved in preparing and storing the wood, and making up the fire each night, is worth the enjoyment we get from the fire.

IMG_20171102_191856

Last year on 1 November Lucy started keeping a record of how many days she cycled all the way (15 miles round trip) to work. Tuesday marked the end of a year of journeys, and the total was 110 days of cycling. A photo of the trusty bicycle against the cycle path’s autumn colours marks the final journey….and now the second year of counting has begun!

IMG_20171031_135309

Current reading:

Graham Swift – Waterland
Anne Tyler – Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
Naomi Alderman – The Lessons
Rose Tremain – Sacred Country
Philip Pullman – Le Belle Sauvage
AL Kennedy – Serious Sweet

Current listening:

Grizzly Bear – Losing All Sense
Jessie Ware  – Midnight
Coldplay – White Shadows
Beyoncé – Formation
Radiohead – The Numbers
SZA – Drew Barrymore
Owen Pallett – Tryst With Mephistopheles
Richard Hawley – Serious

 

Advertisements

Creatures and comforts

Today there is a chill in the air and we are feeling autumnal. Lucy has polished her cold weather shoes, the heater is on and we just made and enjoyed our first apple spice cake with apples off the garden tree…

IMG_20170910_140538

We haven’t blogged for a while as we were enjoying our summer holidays. This was a good chance to question whether we even need to be regularly blogging, and of course we don’t. There is no reason why it should be done monthly or on any particular day, and it feels good to be more relaxed about things. Now we’ll just be posting whenever we feel like it!

During the last few weeks there were many nature treats for us. We went to the coast and managed to catch a low tide which revealed rock pools and some big crabs. Standing barefoot beside the rock pools, Lucy was surprised when one emerged from the sand beneath her feet! We caught one, though it wasn’t happy about it and gave a good finger-pince! It was nice to see it close up but nicer to put it back in it’s pool again.

20170811_154232

Here is our garden hedgehog, which we saw several times at the end of August. It seemed to have a route it strolled in the early evening, past the woodshed and then across the bridge over the ditch, before returning home under a pile of sticks and leaves.

IMG_20170816_171307

We also uncovered this fantastic big warty toad, under a wheelie bin.

IMG_20170824_164221

On a visit to a nearby wood, Brian saw two young roe deer in the adjoining field, incredibly close and, when they started barking, quite loud too!

IMG-20170906-WA0000

Lucy and her mum had a day out in Bury St Edmunds this weekend, somewhere new to explore. There are two rivers with lovely names, the Linnet and the Lark. Here is the River Lark, which is easy to walk to in the Abbey Gardens. If we have a good year for colour of autumnal leaves, it will soon look spectacular reflecting in the water.

IMG_20170909_135848

We are excited about all the things that make autumn special – the colours, the sunrises and sunsets, Strictly Come Dancing (of course), lighting fires, warming foods and cosy clothes. The whole hygge concept comes quite naturally to us, so bring on the season!

RECENT READING
Maggie O’Farrell – This Must Be The Place
John Boyne – This House is Haunted
Kit de Waal – My Name is Leon

RECENT LISTENING
Grizzly Bear – Three Rings
Bjork – Thunderbolt
Janelle Monae – Cold War
Goldfrapp – Systemagic
Mama Cass – Make Your Own Kind of Music
Beirut – Port of Call

The mini-meadow and more

Out in the garden there is an abundance of colour…

20170715_083017

20170717_174751

Plenty of lifeforms are enjoying it as well as us! The mini-meadow is full of bees, hoverflies and butterflies (especially gatekeepers).  Brian saw a vole running into cover, so it’s exciting to know there are mammals in there. This year we have also got grasshoppers again after they were absent for a while. They are much harder to find and photograph than crickets!

20170711_115118

A very obliging cricket

One new visitor is this meadow long horn moth:

20170726_104250

As the sunsets get slightly earlier, it’s easy to catch a stunning sky on an evening walk. It was also a great month for cycling to work, often after a rain shower when everything is fresh and bright.

IMG_20170703_205359

Lucy has had a week’s holiday from work, so it is staycation time again. We finished July with a visit to a water garden, where we sat on a little bridge over a trout pond, took off shoes and socks and splashed our feet in the lovely (cold) water! That is our kind of ‘seize the day’ activity…

The rest of our staycation has included catch-ups with friends, including a trip to a family festival (just a shame we are all too big for bouncy castles), leisurely mornings, a lot of cake (cheaper than each choosing our own desserts though…), and relaxed evenings at home. 

JULY BOOKSHELF:
Patrick Ness – A Monster Calls
Anne Patchett – Commonwealth
John Boyne – Beneath the Earth
Philip Pullman – The Amber Spyglass
Rachel Joyce – The Music Shop

JULY PLAYLIST:
XTC – Summer’s Cauldron
Laura Marling – Soothing
Owen Pallett – The Riverbed
Perfume Genius – Just Like Love
Rufus Wainwright – Across the Universe
Eurythmics – There Must Be an Angel
Paloma Faith – Upside Down

June: A sunset, some sparkle, and living alongside wildlife

20170601_111034

June – midsummer – a beautiful time of year, and this year we took more time to enjoy it by having some long weekends, or sitting in the garden after work (sometimes with a gin and tonic each.)

10 June - sparkly sandals

Sparkly sandals are a simple pleasure of summer. £15 well spent last year! This month was the first month since 2013 when we didn’t record all our expenditure. It felt like a big change for us to stop doing it but now we are settled and coming up for 2 years on our one-income budget, there really isn’t any need to do it.

20170604_151219

This day-flying moth was a new sighting for us. It’s called a Mother Shipton, named after the prophetess whose face the wings resemble.

IMG_20170626_185022

We also have a new house-mate! This is our porch, where a leafcutter bee has made a nest. We’ve seen it carrying in the pieces of leaf, and packing them in tightly.

17 June - Sheringham sunset

Another first for us was the experience of seeing the sun set into the ocean. On a very hot afternoon we headed to the coast expecting a cool evening sea breeze. It wasn’t much cooler there, but we enjoyed ice creams, fish and chips, and a walk along the shore before the sun turned deeper orange, then red, and then appeared to be swallowed by the sea!

20170607_214459

We collected some jam jars and added to our wall of candles. The Mexican fleabane was only sowed into the wall 1 year ago, and now looks like it was always there.

 

 

JUNE BOOKSHELF:
Kevin Maher – The Fields
David Whitehouse – Mobile Library

JUNE PLAYLIST:
Goldfrapp – Annabel
case/lang/veirs – Greens of June
Perfume Genius – Otherside
Ludovico Eindaudi – I Giorni
James – Nothing But Love
Radiohead at Glastonbury
Grizzly Bear – Mourning Sound
Years & Years – Shine – This month Lucy finished listening to all the music we own, A-Z, and de-cluttering unwanted tracks. This was the final artist of the alphabet. The whole process took 3 years!

Rays of Light

20170514_195911

Evening walks are a treat at this time of year, with the extra daylight hours. As the sun starts to move lower in the sky, you can catch rays of light as they hit the ground.

IMG_20170521_183811

We’ve also had our first evening meal in the garden, and gin & tonics, listening to people cheer and/or groan at a TV football match a few houses away, and watching the Mexican Fleabane slowly start to close up for the evening.

IMG_20170527_192620

Mexican Fleabane in our concrete block wall

The incredible diversity of flower shapes and colours in the garden, for attracting pollinators, is fun to observe. Watch and see where the bees like to go best – foxgloves are a favourite…the detail is stunning when you look closely.

05 23 Foxgloves B sent me

We like to do some Spring cleaning and de-cluttering. A few weeks ago this table had a big potted ivy on it and twice as many objects as there are now. The ivy had to go as it was covered in insects secreting sticky liquid all over the mirror and everything else! It feels so much fresher and cleaner after being pared back.

05 17 Ivy gone and jug added

Posting pictures like these, of our everyday life, feels like an incredible thing to be able to do, given how this week has unfolded for so many other people.  To have something you can even call ‘everyday life’ is an immense good fortune. We hope that in some small way this blog contributes to a message that every day of every life is special and we should act accordingly.

Current library bookshelf:
Philip Pullman – The Amber Spyglass

Lucy’s current playlist:
James – Nothing But Love

 

Outdoors every day

March as usual is a mad mixture of weather and temperatures, unpredictable and good at reminding us we are alive and that every moment of every day is unique. Recently our focus has been very much outdoors, being productive and for leisure.

We started the month with a countryside walk and sheltered inside a church during a big rain shower. When we came outside again, these were the colours:

20170305_164425

It would have been easy to dismiss the afternoon as ‘probably wet’ and stayed indoors, but then we would never have enjoyed those lurid green fields and moody skies!

The birds and other wildlife are busy in the garden, as is Brian with numerous jobs. The highlights of recent weeks included a blue tit piercing winter-flowering cherry blossoms for nectar, blackbirds eating ivy berries, the first comma and brimstone butterflies, and this striking frog:

20170306_124244

On a morning walk Brian filmed a toad marching through the grass. He also spotted this uncommon white sweet violet:

20170313_121942

We always enjoy seeing this primrose every year. It was here before us and has reliably appeared every March for at least the last fourteen years, steadily growing and popping out more flowers. It might not be something we chose to put there, but we do love it.

IMG_20170311_134259

Lucy has been on a mission to get outside every lunchtime and find different places to read a few pages of a book. It makes such a difference to the working part of the day if you take a break and do your favourite things. Its surprising how many natural spaces there can be in a city. These crocuses are in a cemetery packed with flowers, birds and squirrels, the perfect place to recharge and get ready for the afternoon.

IMG_20170313_132727

Now we both have camera-phones (without paying much more than we already were for old ones) we are even more motivated to get outside and look around us for things to notice, appreciate and enjoy.

20170305_164321

Current library bookshelf:
Matt Haig – The Dead Fathers Club
Philip Pullman – Northern Lights
Chad Harbach – The Art of Fielding
Ali Smith – The Whole Story and Other Stories
Sara Baume – Spill Simmer Falter Wither

Lucy’s current playlist:
Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit
Crowded House – Love This Life
Squeeze – Tongue Like a Knife
The Bees – I Love You
Owen Pallett – The Riverbed

Seasonal life and light

Since we last wrote it has become Spring! As the season changes, we can really appreciate the fact that we are on a turning Earth and every day feels different, with more of nature awakening.

Mornings now mean sunrises, each one different, and sometimes it’s possible to look at it directly when it’s low and orange. How exciting to glimpse it through the trees…

sunrise

…and once you are past the trees, you get to see it owning the sky.

dscf5832

In the last two weeks the ground has transformed into colour with snowdrops, winter aconites and crocuses, making our walks bright and cheerful.

20170217_110350

There’s also an abundance of hazel catkins this year, eye-catching where they hang on otherwise bare trees. As the sun sets at the other end of the day, it lights up their intricate details.

dscf5850

We hope your days are warming with the spring and bringing hope and change.

Current reading:
Ali Smith -Autumn
Sara Taylor – The Lauras
Ann Patchett – State of Wonder
Neil Pasricha – The Happiness Equation

Lucy’s current playlist:
Milagres – Glowing Mouth
Christine & The Queens – Wandering Lovers
Lamb – Gorecki
Foo Fighters – Walking After You

Living Simply: October 2016

dscf5461

Red and gold leaves, sunrises and sunsets and Strictly Come Dancing – there are many reasons to love the autumn and especially October! We’ve enjoyed it so much this year, and had a relatively simple month although there were some big purchases.

Our washing machine broke after 13 years of service, which is hugely impressive, so we didn’t mind at all spending a day in the city looking for a new one to arrive later this week. Lucy is on a week’s holiday from work and we made a special day out of it with a café breakfast and lunch, and another unexpected purchase shown below.

Here’s our October spending summary:
– An expensive food/drink month, average £16.13 per day but the treats were worth it
– Set of USB charging bicycle lights: no more batteries!
– Bus fares, one fill of petrol
– Green paint for our windows
– A washing machine
– A Christmas decoration
– Shoelaces
– Haircare, soaps
– A pair of Doc Martens!

dscf5465

These were an unplanned buy, made after walking into the city to choose the washing machine and noticing that one of Lucy’s winter boots was slouching uncomfortably to one side. After a discussion about the fact most women’s shoes are badly designed for cold seasons (hard to wear with socks), we ended up in the Doc Martens shop investing in these. They weren’t cheap, but should last for years.

10-19-sunrise

The sky puts on a display on the way to work

October is a spectacular month full of free natural wonders. After the summer’s long days, to see sunrises and sunsets again as part of the office-hours day is a privilege. This month has been particularly stunning, with lots of rainbows and even seeing the full moon set one early morning. There is so much going on out there: every day something special.

dscf5436

Early morning moonset

 

Lucy’s Book & Music Club

OCTOBER SOUNDTRACK:
Anohni – Drone Bomb Me
INXS – Never Tear Us Apart
Christine & The Queens – Safe & Holy
Tame Impala – The Less I Know The Better
Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Crystallise

BOOKS READ:
Anne Tyler – If Morning Ever Comes
Anne Tyler – Back When We Were Grownups

 

September spending review, cheese & a cold

It was a spendy September! We didn’t save any money, but it’s fine because most of it was costs that aggregate out over the coming 12 months. The good news is our food and drink spend has reduced compared to the last few months:

Food and drink: £14.08 per day
Transport: Annual MOT & service, car tax, two tyres, a windscreen wiper, two fills of petrol and a bus season ticket. We also found out our annual mileage has gone down from 8,000 to 6,000
Home: LED lightbulb, a tarpaulin, a storage box, tea light candles and a little vintage £1 milk jug!
Domestic: Toothbrushes, toothpaste, throat sweets, hair conditioner, soap
Clothes: A rare shopping month. We both bought trousers, Lucy bought two tops, a sports bra and a replacement pair of trainers
Misc: Birthday gifts, music downloads (3 songs)

We may have spent a bit less on food but we certainly didn’t enjoy it any less. For one thing, we rediscovered halloumi, and the tomatoes we grew this year make a perfect tomato and herb sauce mix to go with it, plus mushrooms and broccoli. For Lucy this goes with vegetarian sausages, while Brian also has some bacon.

halloumi

Halloumi Sunday

This Autumn we’re likely to buy a storage heater for our living room, for background heat and also with a convector for a boost when needed. For the time being, it’s not very cold and using our open fire on chillier evenings will be enough. We had our first fire on Tuesday night and Brian has prepared and stacked plenty of wood for the coming winter.

 

first-fire

First fire, with black poplar on the top

 

Last week we celebrated the fact Lucy hadn’t had a cold for almost a year. We’re not superstitious, so the fact she had a big stinky cold this week means simply that one was obviously due! It was treated with a sensible sick day off work, lots of sleep, a session of watching classic cartoons online and the invention of a new drink: a red berry fruit tea plus half a squeezed lemon. Works extra well when drunk in the bath.

09-28-perfect-cold-remedy-fruit-tea-and-lemon

Home-made cold remedy as served in our funky pink 1960s bath

 

Lucy’s Book & Music Club

SEPTEMBER SOUNDTRACK:
The 1975 – Love Me
Gallant – Weight in Gold
Christine & The Queens – The Loving Cup
Perfume Genius – Fool
Paloma Faith – Ready For The Good Life

BOOKS READ:
Ann Patchett – The Magician’s Assistant
Hanya Yanagihara – A Little Life
Gretchen Rubin – Better Than Before
I also abandoned two short story collections, just couldn’t get into them so I gave up, because life’s too short!

Simple Living Review: May 2016

Today we enter the final quarter of our first single income year and we’re starting to think about how we might budget differently in the future given how this first year has gone. May has been a really good month and we have saved 10% of our income.

What did we spend and do this month?
An average £13.44 on food an drink per day. We think next year’s target will be £12 per day instead of the very difficult £10 we set ourselves this year!
– Bicycle oil, biodegradable cleaner and an inner tube
– One fill of petrol
– Driving licence renewal
– A few bus journeys
– One choir attendance, one Open Garden day out
– Library loan of Game of Thrones box set
– Garden axe
– 20 bags of gravel for our new seating area (not all used)
– Dental floss, toothpaste, sunblock, soap, deodorant
– Birthday gifts

Brian completed the transformation of part of our garden. It started as a shady and neglected flowerbed and concrete path, and is now a gravel seating area with a flinty feature around the remaining area of soil which has our gooseberry bush in it. The wall at the end is made of the concrete blocks that were under the flowerbed which he dug out.

DSCF4356

DSCF4618

We recently enjoyed our first proper sit out there together with cheese sandwiches and crisps, very sophisticated!

05 28 Cheese and crisps in our seating area

We also enjoyed lots of fun and leisure time this month, such as the Eurovision Song Contest which was the perfect opportunity for Lucy to start work on her decorate-it-yourself garden gnome which she got for her birthday. Here is his journey so far:

05 15 Gnome stage one

Stage one: hat and beard

05 29 Gnome stage 2

Stage two: Well on the way to gnome perfection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did we learn?
This month has involved slowing right down and letting go of many of our self-imposed schedules and deadlines, to prioritise wellbeing. Our seating area is brilliant but was very physically draining to get done. We’ve realised that nothing in the house or garden is that urgent if we are safe, warm and dry – it can all slow down now.

It has been good for us to rethink a lot of things and talk to each other about it. For Lucy, doing a bit of the cooking and cleaning again has been pretty fun, as its an excuse to listen to music, sing and dance around a bit while achieving something productive!  So, we think we are getting better all the time at being able to adjust and compromise, which feels like a really powerful strength to have.

Goals for next month:
Next month we would like to stay slow and simple in our goals, and just take each day as it comes rather than set ourselves up with a list of things we must achieve. So, if we can relax and enjoy watching Wimbledon at the end of June untroubled by thoughts of what we should have got done, then it will have been a successful month!

05 05 Our oak

Lucy’s Books & Music Corner:

Music
Song of the month:
 Beach House – Lazuli
Penny & The Quarters – You and Me
Christine & The Queens – Half Ladies
Nao – Girlfriend
And Bonnie Raitt on Jools Holland’s show doing a cover of ‘Need You Tonight’ by INXS!

Books 
Book of the month: Anna Gavalda – Consolation
(There was a lot about this book I liked, and a lot I didn’t like, but it was the one which resonated most with me when I was enjoying it, so that’s why it had to be number one.)
Stephen Chbosky – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Tove Jansson – Travelling Light
Graeme Simsion – The Rosie Project