Rays of Light

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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…

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

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

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Colours in the sky, our home & nature

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We love a week of rain showers, and not just for the good it does the garden and wildlife but also because there’s always a chance of catching some rainbows. The last week has been spectacular although we didn’t both see the same ones at the same time, this picture is from Lucy’s cycle ride home on the 11th when just as the rain started to fall lightly this magnificent full archway appeared! Brian saw one like it at home the day before, and it’s been a week of colour in other ways too.

Oudscf5403r wooden windows needed maintenance, and dodging the showers Brian painted almost all of them. We like this green as it makes us think of an artists’ cottage. There’s still the insides to do.

 

 

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While the window paint was drying, Brian was painting the kitchen floor! This was completed on Friday.

(And, because the kitchen floor had a coat of paint on Friday, that meant it was still a bit wet at teatime, which meant we couldn’t cook, which of course meant we had to have a Chinese takeaway from across the road! It was the first one we’ve had for many months so felt like a real treat.)

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Colours in nature are changing for Autumn. This maple tree was well on the way to a red and gold transformation.

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The Spindle has stunning pink berries and a blush on its leaves at the moment.

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This time of year can be so beautiful and varied, from day to day and hour to hour things are changing and there is always something to notice and appreciate.

 

 

 

 

Simple Living Review: March 2016

 

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Taking time to appreciate the simple things

March: always the month for us which rushes past the fastest, and this can sometimes mean spending very little (too busy to go shopping) or sometimes spending a lot (too busy to be frugal!). It has been an expensive month this time, but we saved about £25 so we’re still in credit.

We spent an average of £15 per day on food and drink, even higher than last month, however that has to be balanced against the volume of practical jobs that got done as a priority over cooking from scratch. If we had paid someone else to do things for us instead, it would come to a lot more than what we overspent on food and drink!

Our other main purchases were:
– Minor bicycle repair
– Two fills of petrol (unusual!)
– Library borrowing of DVD (Wild)
– Ikea reading lamp
– LED lightbulbs and outdoor light
– Two Lilac bushes
– Sunblock
– Jeans and t-shirts (Brian’s first clothes shopping for almost a year)
– Silver necklace chain to replace one which broke in 2014
– Gifts

March projects and progress

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Warning! Varnished stool slots

From cutting slots into our kitchen stools (above) on 1st March to reducing the height of the Christmas tree on 31st March (below), Brian has had quite a relentless month of practical work of all kinds. The serious tree work was the biggest challenge, and he had help from his friend Andy on a couple of days which made a big difference. Dealing with the trees (and some hedges) has created numerous piles of plant material in all sizes from thick trunks to tiny sticks, which will now keep him busy sorting and storing them for use on our fires next winter.

Here is a before and after of the Christmas tree:

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It may look horrendous now, but this will grow again and is already being visited by the same birds as before, including blue tits in a nest box. The important thing is that it is now manageable for the future.

This month’s books and music

Music
Song of the month:
Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From a Young Man
Owen Pallett – The Secret Seven
Martha Wainwright – These Flowers
Meilyr Jones – Love
The Smiths – The Boy With the Thorn in His Side
Gossip – Heavy Cross
Years & Years – King

Books (I only finish books I enjoy, so all my listings are recommendations):
Book of the month:
Elizabeth Gilbert – Big Magic
Matthew Quick – Silver Linings Playbook
David Nicholls – Us
Carson McCullers – The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (re-read)
John Boyne – The Absolutist
Natalie Goldberg – The True Secret of Writing

On Holiday…

by Lucy

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Hanging out in the woodshed on a sunny/rainy day

We’re on holiday! Its my first week of annual leave since Christmas and I have been very excited about it, as February/March is by far my busiest time at work and the speed at which the days can flash past is quite frightening. I love the Spring and want to savour it properly.

Having a holiday means something slightly different since Brian shifted from paid work to house-husband, and so now I try to do more cooking, fire-lighting, cleaning and gardening than I normally would, so that overall we are both doing less than usual and both feel like we are on holiday.

But of course the main thing about being on holiday is leisure and time together….lovely hours of pottering, reading, listening to music, watching films, chatting, stretching, walking and of course eating! Brian’s son gets to chill out and do his favourite things and we can relax into each day at our own pace.

For this holiday I decided to buy a bottle of wine. We saw a feature on TV recently which said the flavour of red wine is improved if you get air into it e.g. whizzing it in a blender. So, we tried this:

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Wine blending experiment

And it did make a difference. After a taste test we agreed that the aerated wine was more smooth and blackcurranty. Sometimes we share a glass between us as Brian only has a few sips and on Saturday we made one glass last the entire length of The Voice (even saving a tiny bit for the results show). The picture on the bottle has also inspired Brian to think about doing a mural on our living room wall. So, good value!

Practical activities don’t stop when we are on holiday. Having two of us at home is a good chance to tackle bigger jobs safely. This weekend we felled the remaining long limb of the willow tree, to turn it into a pollard, which we can cut back on a rotation every few years and use the regrowth for kindling. A renewable resource in our own back garden, and totally free.

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The final willow limb is pollarded

Now there is only really one big tree job to deal with (reducing our Christmas tree’s height), and then we will have entered a new era of having a low maintenance garden. Brian has been doing a staggering amount of work in recent weeks dealing with trees, compost, concrete, drainage and ground levelling.

Something else new in our lives soon might be me joining a choir. I recently went on a free singing workshop as a first step toward my goal of getting over shyness about singing by the time I’m 35. It helped me understand my voice better, and now I am trying to sing along with people who have the same range as me which includes Fiona Apple, Tracey Thorn, Alison Moyet, KT Tunstall, Beach House, Tears for Fears, James and, as I’ve discovered this week, Morrissey! Knowing I can hit all the notes properly helps me sing louder and be more relaxed. No one has said yet that they have had enough of hearing my singalong  of ‘The Boy With The Thorn In His Side’ coming from the bathroom, so I will continue…and soon I hope I can sing around the rest of the house too.

I have about a month to go to meet my goal, and the next term of the local choir starts in 2 weeks time, so…I think I will have to give it a go. If I like it, the cost of going can be offset by buying much cheaper toiletries. I recently discovered a new budget range based on natural ingredients which will save us loads.

How to get to the choir is an issue that’s been on my mind. As always, I want to give up driving because of my previous panic attacks but I also don’t want to ‘give up’ on anything, so I may try driving there if there is somewhere easy to park. Perhaps combining driving with singing, which releases relaxing and happy hormones, is the perfect combination of activities!

A week off in the Spring is always a special time and with plants, insects and bird activity increasing every day there are surprises and wonderful sights. I’ve now seen my first butterfly of the year, there are birds carrying lots of nesting material, and we have had an unexpected new colour of wallflower open up.

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A new colour of wallflower for our garden

This has got to be the best time of year – whatever time you can take to enjoy it, happy Spring!