Sunday, April 30, 2017

A TIny Bit of Order Restored


The coffee table chest is no longer the TARDIS construction site. The stenciling and painting had been completed. It now in the dining room, drying for 72 hours before it can be used.

The coffee table has been returned to its function as a coffee table. There's four coasters, one in each corner, and the bowl made from recycled keys.

The top of the sideboard has also been cleared. There's a vase of flowers sitting on a tatted mat, and a box of tissues, and that's all.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Windows for the TARDIS


The TARDIS now has windows!  The text 'Police Box' will be added, I've run out of white fabric paint. The Beloved is in town this afternoon, and he will get some for me.

More Sitting Around



I've extracted all the DVDs I want to keep from the coffee table chest.  Now to ask the other two to do the same. 

The next item to be declutted is the side board.  Back in March a third of it was decluttered, the cupboard where the games are stores.  That section is looking good. There's two other sections, a set of drawers, and another cupboard full of DVDs. The drawers have been decluttered. However, there are a few items I don't know if I actually want to keep.  There's about 30 chunky, glass tea light holders.  There's also some fairly random stuff, and I haven't got the foggiest where they are going to go. Currently they are sitting in almost empty drawers. I'll revisit the contents at a later date.

I am looking forward to the time when we can simply stream any television programme or movie, and we no longer need to have a physical item.

Friday, April 28, 2017

It's done! The letter has been sent.


I've been thinking about this since Christmas. I've talked with my family and a few friends. And now it's done. My letter of resignation has been posted.

I've been in this job for almost 9 years, and it's time for a change. It's time for something different. There's a clear goal in mind, but I don't know if I will be able to get straight to it. It might take a bit of effort, but the effort will make it all the more worthy of pursuing.

Scrap the Guest Room, Welcome the Sitting Room

Facebook friends were asked to give opinions on which room should be tackled next, the sitting room or the guest room. The guest room is a storage place just now, but the sitting room is used each and every day, by each and every member of the family. The sitting room is okay, and I would not be ashamed if someone were to drop by unannounced. However, it could be better. It could be a lot better. The sitting room is the public face of the house.

Decluttering the sitting room is an easy win. There are very few sentimental items, but there's lots of media, mostly DVDs and CDs. After dinner tonight I invited the Younger Offspring and The Beloved, each in turn, to remove from the DVD storage chest DVDs they wanted to keep.  We took a few minutes and were able to declutter the first two drawers of the chest.  The unwanted DVDs have been added to the charity shop pile. We have completed this exercise a number of times over the years.  I dread to think how many DVDs we would have if we didn't purge from time to time.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Guest Room - OH MY!


The Beloved has very kindly been carrying The Elder Offspring's sorted and packed belongings up to the guest room. My crafting materials have also been going up there too. Now that my bedroom is looking great, it's time to start eyeing up the next challenge, and the guest room is looking rather packed with challenges!

I was in there there first thing this morning, beginning the declutter in a very gentle way. Part of me is wondering whether it would be better to tackle the sitting room, a far easier prospect. The sitting room will not take long to do as it's already in a half way decent state. Might it be better to keep the guest room on hold for a few weeks? I have the last couple of weeks of May booked as a holiday. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Clutter Corner is no more!

Last night, we decided not to try to move the not-quite-dry TARDIS from out bed. A guest room is very handy for times like that! This morning, I woke up early and decided to tackle a box or bag from the Clutter Corner. Something was up, as I hit a groove and stormed through all of the boxes and bags. The rubbish has been bagged, the charity shop donations have joined the rest of the pile, the Elder Offspring's belongings have been boxed up, and my craft stuff is in bags. It's all ready leave the Clutter Corner. By the end of today, the only thing in the Clutter Corner will be the cheval mirror!

The only things left to do will be to tidy up a small bookcase, and move a few random objects into their proper homes, oh and finish the TARDIS. I can see a fully decluttered bedroom being on the cards by the end of the week. It took for ever to get here, and then all of a sudden it's almost done!

Life without clutter de-stresses me. It feels as if I can breathe deeply again. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A little floral construction


I was going to use the word 'arrangement', but that implies order and consideration. This isn't quite what happened. Flowers were cut to size, and stuck in a rose bowl.

At some point, at some time, I would like to have weekly sessions with a floral arranger and learn how to do this.  At this point, at this time, I'll just stick them in a bowl.  

Flowers are pretty. Look at the pretty flowers.

Constructing a TARDIS


The next desk chairs from Ikea were constructed on Sunday, and The Beloved was going to take their cardboard boxes to the amenity site for disposal.  I asked for a one week stay.  This was to give me a fair chance to use the cardboard in the making of the TARDIS duvet cover.

The Younger Offspring and I flatted the boxes and slipped them inside the duvet cover. The rest of the cardboard was used to created a very blocky outline of the TARDIS. Then the fun started with fabric paints (white and gold) and pencils.  We flicked away until there were little galaxies and a few constellations visible.  

The first layer of paint is now drying. Later this week, we will add 'Police Public Call Box' and some windows.

Where are my black trousers?

Where are my black trousers?!

Last night there was hail, and this morning it is distinctly nippy out. I needed to open up the woolly drawer and drag out a merino sweater to wear today.  I had laid out a pair of light weight black trousers, and had second thoughts. But do you think I could find my thick, winter trousers? Not on your nelly!

I've been through the wardrobe; nothing.  I've been through the out of season clothes drawer; nothing. The contents of the drawer have been emptied, decluttered and tidied. I wonder if my trousers have snuck off on a little holiday to the Noodle Bowl? I shall have a word with the Younger Offspring to see if they have spotted a pair of migratory breeks.

In other household news, the post recycled/filed as soon as it arrived, and five items have left the bedroom clutter corner for the 'take to a charity shop' pile.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Two more crates done

Two more crates of the Elder Offspring's belongings have been sorted and decluttered. With filtering and careful packaging, the remaining items don't quite fill one crate. Success! The crate and a folder of art work is now ready to be moved into the guest room for storage.

Mail Decluttter


The box by the front door that usually contains un-dealt-with mail, newspapers and flyers has been emptied. The vast majority of it was filed straight into the recycling bin.  The items kept were old bank statements belonging to the Elder Offspring. Those have been gathered into one envelope and the envelope put into the writing desk in the dining room. When she next comes to visit there will be a ceremonial handing over of bank statements.

Week 17: Organising Mail


Monday: Read Organized Home Challenge #17: Mail
Done.

Tuesday: Clear spot to hold incoming and outgoing mail and unpaid bills
There's a spot by the door for incoming mail.  It needs to be cleared on a regular basis.  As there's a post box just across the road from the house we put outgoing post directly in the post box.  Unpaid bills are handed directly to The Beloved.  He then pays them and returns to bill to me for filing.

Wednesday: Create a daily routine for organizing paperwork
Done.

Thursday: Create tickler file  for upcoming events/paperwork
Not needed.  Information is stored electronically, written on the calendar, and tickets kept in one location.  I can see how it would have been a great system to use in a busy house with little children, but is not required in our home just now..  

Friday: Create home paper shredder area for discarded paperwork
Not needed.

Saturday: Declutter junk mail
Not needed.

Sunday: Opt out of junk mail
Not needed.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Slightly Smaller Clutter Corner


Three bags of stuff have been decluttered/sorted. One was a bag of fabric; this is being sent to the prison for prisoners to use in the craft room. The next two were artsy stuff  belonging to the Elder Offspring. The sketchbooks and painting have been added to a large A0 folder, and a bag established for canvases, new sketchbooks etc.

In addition to this, the bed has been made, the 'done' bit of the room has been given a very quick straightening, two loads of laundry have been washed and hung out, a third load is being washed, clean clothing has been folded and put away, the breakfast dishes have been washed, and preparations for dinner (chicken in red wine) have been started.

Bedroom Joy!

Last night, I went to sleep with a smile on my face, and I woke up this morning smiling!  My bedroom is huge! It's tidy, it's decluttered (apart from clutter corner), and I'm loving it. My bedroom is a place of peace, calm, rest and contentment. This is blissful.

I'll work on a couple of bags and boxes today, to make it even better. 

Even thinking about my bedroom just now is making me smile!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bedroom Decluttering!


At last, at long last, I've made significant progress in the grand bedroom declutter!

The clutter is now all contained in one small corner of the room. It's a heady mix of Elder Offspring's old school books, crafting materials and unidentified crap. There's about 10 bags/boxes.The futon is currently being dis-assmbled, ready to be taken upstairs for the guest bedroom. About 8 bags of books and assorted items have been removed, as well as rubbish.

And it's gone. The futon has gone! The exercise bike has been set in place, and the laundry basket. Stuff has gone, and there's a huge, stupid grin on my face! I am so utterly delighted! I look around my bedroom and I feel calm and blissful!

Just noticed, one more thing. The Elder Offspring created a pencil drawing of a vase of roses. It's currently hanging above the bed. It would look even better over the fireplace.

So much clear, clean space. Uncluttered horizontal surfaces on which the eye can rest. Yes! This is my bedroom. This is the room I have wanted for ages. It's not yet quite finished, but it's taken a huge leap forward today.

Butternut Squash Pasta, part 2

Today's version is a cold salad.


It starts out with gluten-free pasta, and a handful of green beans cut into thirds. The green beans were tossed into the pasta pot two minutes before the end of pasta cooking. This cooks them, but keeps them crisp.

The pasta and green beans were placed under cold, running water to cool them. Then they were mixed with blue cheese dressing, a shake of garlic granules, a mix of butternut squash and sweet potato, chunks of Stilton, a few chopped cherry tomatoes, and the remains of the cashew and pecans.

The verdict is today's concoction is better than the previous one. The blue cheese dressing coats the pasts much better. The quantity of butternut squash/sweet potato is better, but the previous butternut squash that was heavily roasted tasted better. (I saw cubes of seasoned squash and potato bought that to use.) I would like more green beans. The nuts are good. I prefer the cashews and pecans to the walnuts, but we think it would be better still with toasted pine nuts.

Over all, this is a good, easy meal to make, and it provides happy face and happy tummies. It's quick, provided the butternut squash has been pre-cooked. In the time the pasta takes to cook, the veggies, cheese and nuts can be prepared. There's even time to do a little kitchen tidy too!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Inspired by: Butternut squash pasta


The original recipe called for pasta, goat's cheese, butternut squash, roquette and pine nuts. I had pasta, goat's cheese, and butternut squash, but not the leaves or nuts.

Today's version is gluten-free pasta, and fresh green beans cooked to al dente. Some left over cooked butternut squash (not enough), halved cherry tomatoes and toasted walnuts.

It is tasty, but needs less pasta and more veggies. The walnuts didn't do it for me, and I would have preferred the pine nuts. (Must put them on the shopping list!) But the green beans do!

Next time, I'll use a whole butternut squash, cooking it the day before and leaving to chill overnight. The pasta will be cold. There will be pine nuts too. Instead of using a soft spreadable goat's cheese I'll use crumbled Feta (must add to shopping list too). Oh! Stilton would be good too. Then the whole lot will the tossed with a light vinaigrette dressing.

How long to keep paperwork?

The time has come to start decluttering paperwork in our house. Currently it just gets dumped in the dining room, or in The Beloved's study. There is no organisation. Now I have a clear game-plan, and I shall be setting up folders for storage of the things that need to be stored.  The new system will start at properly at the end of the month, but I'll backdate my records to the start of April 2017 (the start of the tax year). 

A while back I decluttered a load of papers, and I need to do more. Once the new system is up and running, I'll return to the existing piles and declutter them according to the rules of the new system. 

One Year

  • Bills, such as utility, cable, phone, and credit card statements
  • Pay slips
  • Bank statements
  • Receipts (for many 90 days or less is sufficient). Exceptions - receipts for bigger ticket items should
  • be stored with warranties or home inventory, and save those receipts needed for tax documentation


Seven Years

  • Personal tax returns and supporting documentation


Indefinitely

  • Loan documents, for the life of the loan, plus payoff statements forever
  • Retirement statements (until all money has been distributed)
  • Vehicle titles, and maintenance records (until no longer own vehicle)
  • Warranties (until no longer own item, or warranty expires)
  • Personal identification and records, such as birth and death certificates, marriage certificate, wills, passports, degree certificates

Love in Bloom

Earlier today I had a blissful moment under the cherry trees. The skies are grey, and rather moist, but the beauty of the cherry blossom is so great!

Cherry blossom always takes me back to our wedding day. The cherry tree in the corner of my parents' garden was in full bloom, and the gentle breeze created glorious confetti.

It's working!


The simple measure of picking up and putting away five things is in the morning is working!  It's true I'm not really counting, and it could well be multiples of fives, but it's happening.  It's getting tidier!

Progress is also being made on the address book, the emergency contacts list and list of companies we have a working relationship with. 

Things are also progressing in the Noodle Bowl.  The Younger Offspring has agreed to do one or two little tasks each day to transform their Noodle Bowl into an oasis of serenity and calm. I know how clutter can weigh me down, and how liberating an uncluttered environment can be for me. I hope the same will prove to be true for YO.

In other news, the sitting room continues to be tidy, as does the kitchen. We have well stocked freezer, fridge and pantry. Meals are planned, and we are eating a huge deal healthier and many more fresh veggies. My clothes are laid out each evening too.

The one area of routine maintenance I need to pay attention to tomorrow is re-starting the laundry. It isn't an every day job, and when I miss a day (because there's nothing to wash), it interrupts my routine. This can set things astray for a few days. But tomorrow, it will re-start, and it won't be long before things are happy again.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Five in the Morning


My bedroom was slowly getting better, and then there was the influx of Elder Offspring's belongings. It feels as if I'm regressing, which is odd, as I'm most definitely not. I'm getting on, decluttering and working my way through our clutter.  I think it's just I've wanted to have a tidy bedroom for quite a while. A sliver of hope appears, and is dashed, again and again.

Anyway, I'm trying a new thing, Five in the Morning. Each morning I'll remove five items.  These might be rubbish, recycling or donate. 

Today's five items were: a small loom loaned by Sonja (this will be returned), two small stuff animals, an old unmatched sock and brand new ball of yarn.  The yarn has been given a little plastic sleeping bag and has been tucked away into storage.  The yarn will pupate and turn into a pair of beautiful socks. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Week 16: Contact Information

This week's challenges are something I need to get to grips with. Papers abound, and we keep things long past the stage where we need them. Also finding addresses can be tricky.

Monday: Read Organized Home Challenge #16: Contact Information
Done.

Tuesday: Update and organize address book information (either on paper or electronic)
Started work on this.

Wednesday: Create most important contacts list for purse and household notebook

Thursday: Create emergency contact list

Friday: Create wallet inventory in case wallet lost or stolen
Done. I have added my bank cards and credit card. I'm not fussed about recording my store loyalty cards, mostly because I don't use them. The same is true for the library card.

Saturday: Declutter and organize business cards for home reference
Done. I don't have any.

Sunday: Declutter old phone books and directories
This has already been done.

School Books and Pottery

Huzzah!  The sicky Beloved and the sicky Bear have managed to accomplish some decluttering! Today has been a successful day already.

The Elder Offspring was asked if we needed to store all of her old school and college books. Thankfully, the answer was only art, ceramic, product design and psychology. This means about half of her books can be decluttered.  

This morning, we took two boxes of books and ceramics and reduced them to one box. The box has now been stored safely in the guest room until such times as we can take them over to England.

Even better, another load has been sorted. A large bin bag full of rubbish has been created.  Items have been removed for donating, and a much smaller pile of items to be retained is now on my bed.  This will have to be dealt with, but it will mean putting it in a box and taking it to the guest room - a much smaller job!

-----

Part of this procedure is to remove the Elder Offspring's belongings from the Noodle Bowl. Yesterday, I was reading anxiety levels can be increased by living in a cluttered mess. That would be a fair description of Younger Offspring's bedroom.  They have so much stuff of their own, and also EO's in the room. We will tackle it bit by bit, creating together, a calm, ordered sanctuary.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Remember to breathe!


I'm still learning to cut myself some slack, and it's hard sometimes to remember just to sit still and remember to breathe.

A week ago my GP prescribed a hefty dose of steroids to get my breathing back on the right track.  Whilst I was at that higher level I was able to do so much more. But now I've dropped down to 3/4 of that dose I'm constantly finding myself just that little bit short of breath.  It's a very tiring way to live.  It feels are if I've always just had to sprint for the bus, and then collapsed onto the seat, catching my breathe. The Ventolin inhaler is not making a significant difference to my breathing.

I'm going to go against doctor's orders and increase the oral steroids back to the higher level for a few days. I'm too tired, and breathing is too hard.

I had all sorts of plans made for this week, and this weekend, and they are all on hold.  The only things I've managed to do are go to the Yarnies meeting, and some sock knitting.  I'm a person who likes to be doing, completing, getting stuff done, and it's so very hard just now. When your airways are constricted getting oxygen into your lungs takes work, often double the amount of work as it would normally do.  If anyone doubles their physical work load for 3 weeks, they are going to get tired. I'm tired.

I want to breathe.    

Socks!


I had forgotten how much I like knitting socks!

When we were visiting with the Elder Offsping I inspected the socks I knitted for her about 4 years ago.  She wears them with her Doc Marten's. They have held up incredibly well, and so far need no daring! However, a woolly sock wearer needs more than 4 pairs of socks. And so, a new pair of socks was started, in dark grey.  

EO is happy to wear any hand knitted socks, as long as they are a single colour, in stocking stitch, and aren't red, orange, yellow or brown.  I have free reign in all other matters.  Although, there was one time I managed to sneak in a pair that were stripes of teal and blue!  I felt so subversive. 

A few stats for this new pair of socks. 56 stitches, 20 rounds of rib, 50 rounds of stocking stitch, heel flap worked over 28 rows and stitches.  I think I will need a foot to complete them though, so they will be knitted to fit a larger footed sibling, and then the toes re-worked to give the right size.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Thinking about Bathrooms

I've been thinking about bathrooms, and how my bathroom might look in the house I'm designing. My conclusion is I don't want a bathroom. I don't like baths. Showers are so much more pleasing to me. One of the things I love about our current shower room is the shower is not above a bath. When my joints are painful, negotiating a bath can be tricky. Love showers, hate baths.

One of the current trends is to have a large shower stall; they fit in the same sort of area as a bath. Rather like this one:


It is enclosed and has an extremely low step into the cubicle.This would be utterly brilliant for bad joint days. However, I've just noticed the tiles in the photograph, I'm not so keen. A non-porous, grout-free surface would be my choice. However, I do love the clean lines, the natural colours, the white, and the chrome. Those things really bring peace to me.

The other things I would want in my shower room will be a loo and sink, both in clean, simple white, a squatty potty, a mirror at my eye level and a loo brush. There will be minimal things on counters/surfaces. These will include tooth brushes, tooth paste, soap, loo roll and towels. There will storage for extra loo rolls. This will be able to be accessed whilst sitting on the loo! Storage will be available for spare towels, spare shampoo, conditioner and shower gel.

It is only now I'm considering under sink storage. It's always been free-standing pedestal sinks I've had, but now I'm looking at their effectiveness with regards to storage. This is one image I rather like, it's too big, but I like the general feel of it:


It would look great with a mahogany coloured loo seat, and a lush green plant on one side. 

There will be a window - so very much needed for ventilation - with a catch that means the window can be left open, but secured when people are not home. Also a heated towel rail/radiator to allow the towels to dry and be ready for their next use.

One last thing I really want, but for guests, is a mitzvah box of sanitary products. I have a little wicker basket on top of my loo, and in that basket are individually wrapped tampons and pads. It looks like little gifts, all wrapped up, but they really are a blessing (a mitzvah) if someone should find themselves in need. They are sitting out, ready to be used. This can be be wonderful for young females, and also those approaching the menopause, both times when periods often don't come along on a predictable schedule.



Friday, April 14, 2017

Well, that didn't work!


Well, that didn't happen! No decluttering took place today, or yesterday. The medication I'm on for the severe asthma thingy has caused me to have less than 9 hours sleep in the last 48 hours. Last night I was tired, but not exhausted. Today, I'm exhausted, but not tired! What a crazy, weird body I live in.

I used up so much energy doing a massive shop. It means we have food for the next 10 days or so, but it has left me rather um... well energy-less.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Motivation is Key - act on it straight away!


The task I had assigned myself today was to move the crafting materials from my bedroom into the guest room/craft room, and also the Elder Offspring's stuff too. After lunch I was all ready to do this, but The Beloved, who is currently ill, said he was going to have a nap. I could hardly go in and out of the bedroom, tidying and decluttering whilst he was trying to sleep.

It's now 9.30pm, and I've just realised I haven't decluttered or tidied today. I had the urge to declutter just before he had his nap, but it has well and truly left me. The moral is declutter/tidy when the mood strikes, use the energy to push on and get things done.

Instead of the larger task, I'm going for a smaller one of removing the items from the top of the large chest of drawers. This will take a few minutes, but it will mean decluttering happens.

Ideas for the rest of the week:
Thursday: move the boxes of crafting materials into the guest room.Dust the room, then sweep.

Friday: assemble new desk chairs and remove old ones for disposal on Saturday.

Saturday: declutter the tiny shelves outside the bedroom door. Make various donations at charity shops and visit the amenities site to dispose of recycling/rubbish

Sunday: take futon/sofa from bedroom and move to guest room.

Sharp Knives!

We are coming up to 25 years of marriage, and a number of wedding gifts have become old and worn out through constant use. Last year, we replaced the great majority of our towels. As I was doing this I remembered the comments from my Mam's friends who were exclaiming over the piles of towels we received when we were getting married. They were delighted at the stacks of brand new, fluffy towels. Many had married between 25-30 years ago, and their wedding towels were now very worn. 

This year, it's the turn of knives. The wedding knives have given good service, but are now blunt and worn out. The way they were made means they can't easily be sharpened. Whilst in Gloucester, I bought two knives. So sharp! So very sharp! Cutting food is now so very easy. It's a revelation.

When I buy items I try to keep a number of things in mind. For me, one of the most important is the the words of William Morris, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."  This is then tied into the idea of 'cost per use'. If an item costs a lot of money, but will be used again and again, and again, then the cost per use is low, and it's a good investment.  If an item is low cost, but will only be used a few times, then it's not worth it. The last principle is 'buy once, buy well'. Buy things that will last and last.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Chicken Gravy


The Elder Offspring asked me how to make gravy. My reaction was "Umm... you just make gravy." This is now a much more considered response. I'm writing out my method and my recipe for chicken gravy as I cook.

Ingredients
1 onion, finely chopped
cooking juices from a roast chicken
2 gloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp mixed herbs
1 Stock Pot
560ml boiling water
3 level Tsp of gluten-free flour
cool water
seasoning

Method
Cook the onion in the chicken juice for about 7 minutes. Try to caramelise the onion, but don't burn it. You want to add a depth of flavour from the caramelisation, Then add the mixed herbs and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Again, do not burn the garlic - this will add bitterness.

Deglaze the pan with some boiling water.  When the pan has been deglazed, add all of the boiling water, and the Stock Pot. If you prefer, you can use home made stock. I like the convenience of a Stock Pot.

Mix the gluten-free flour with cool water to form a slurry. Use the slurry to thicken the gravy to your desired thickness.

Check the seasoning. Add salt, pepper, herbs etc, and even a squirt of brown ketchup!

Snicker Crunch

Ingredients
75g butter
150g Snickers
3 Tsp golden syrup
3 cups of crispy rice cereal
200g chocolate

Method
Melt the butter, and use some to grease a 20x10cm tray. Add the golden syrup and chopped Snickers bars.Stir until melted.

Stir in 3 cups of crispy rice until well mixed. Turn out into the tray, and smooth over with a metal spoon.

Melt the chocolate and spread over the top.  Leave to set, and then cut into squares.

Notes
This is based on my Mam (Auntie June)'s recipe for Mars Bar Crunch. As that isn't gluten-free, I substituted Snickers for Mars Bars, and used a gluten-free crispy rice cereal (Nature's Path). 

What's under the bed?


Today's decluttering task was to sort out the suit cases from our trip away. They have been emptied, the first load of washing is now drying and the second load is being washed. The travel pillows have been put in one of the suitcase, and 'heritage' clothing in another. This is things like my wedding dress, a few baby clothes and shoes, special clothes.I have swept under the bed, and suit cases have been sorted there.

It feels like a huge deal more work that I have described, but it is done now. Everything is back to normal, well, no, better than normal.

Linda's Chocolate Chip Brownies


These lovely brownies were first experienced at Linda's. The recipe is from "I Want Chocolate Cake and I Want it Now!"

Ingredients
225g unsalted butter
200f chocolate
4 large eggs
200g granulated sugar
115g brown sugar
1 Tsp vanilla essence
140g plain flour (use Dove gluten-free for a gluten-free brownie)
pinch of salt
255g chocolate chips
115g chopped walnuts or pecans

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 32x23cm baking tin with foil. The foil should be long enough to extend beyond the tin when it is in place. Light grease the foil.

Melt the butter and chocolate and mix well. Let it come down to room temperature.

Beat the eggs and sugar for 2 to 3 minutes, until light in colour. Beat in the chocolate/butter mixture and vanilla until blended. Mix in the flour and salt until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts (if desired).

Transfer mixture to baking tin and bake for 30-40 minutes. Cool the brownies in the tin.

Makes 20 brownies. They freeze well.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Grandma's Flower Garden


This quilt was made two years ago. We were collecting the Elder Offspring and bring her back to the Island for the summer, via a holiday in Wales.  It was an incredibly relaxed holiday. We went swimming, read, played board games, visited a castle and a historic town, and really just enjoyed each others company.

At the very start of the holiday I picked up a rainbow jelly roll and decided to have a go at hand piecing and hand quilting. This is the result. It's all hand sewn, apart from the first line of stitching on the binding, that was done by machines.

And so to bed


As we don't have an attic, this week I going to stay in bed, well, the bedroom at any rate.

Declutter the bedside chest of drawers. I did this back in January, but it needs doing again today. The Beloved's is very easy to do, and it's really just a quick tidy rather than a declutter, which is just as well, as I refuse to declutter other people's things. My side has a stack of books and bits that the Elder Offspring didn't want, and now has to be placed in the 'charity shop' pile.

Whilst away we visited Ikea and bought a pair of new bedside lamps. These will be put in place today.


Week 15: Attic


Monday: Read Organized Home Challenge #15: Attic

Tuesday: Declutter boxes, other stuff in attic

Wednesday: Continue to declutter attic

Thursday: Declutter storage room or closet in your home

Friday: Declutter storage area in your home

Saturday: Declutter storage containers and boxes

Sunday: Fill out attic storage inventory

Another thing we don't have. We have no attic. Instead, this week I will be focusing on my bedroom and getting things put back into place after our trip to Gloucester.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Open Plan Living and Minimalism


Open plan living in a minimal way requires constant tidying. When an item has been used, put it away. If you don't do this, it gets cluttered and messy so very quickly. It takes a bit of practise to get into this way of living, and it's easy to think 'I'll do it later', but when later comes there's a huge pile of stuff needing to be dealt with.

Little routines can mean a person can retrain themselves to act on auto-pilot, and after time, you don't notice you are doing it. Things just happen, good things, things that bring benefit. I must take this moment of enlightenment back home with me, and use it in my un-minimal house.

My brain is currently trying to work out how my life could be squeezed into a space like this. One of the things lacking here is wardrobe space/drawer space for clothing. That would need to be remedied. We would also need a Ben-cave, a place for him to play games and have the option of working from home.

For me, the biggest things could be getting rid of stashes: books, DVDs, yarn and fabric. With books, I have already turned my back on dead tree based reading, and only now buy books for my Kindle. This makes me wonder, do I need my paper books anymore? I am slowly buying electronic copies of the books I already have, want to read again, but are in paper. I wonder how long it will be until we cross over into streaming services for films? And my crafting supplies have reduced considerably.  This year, they will be reduced even further. (That being said, I'm off to buy another pack of fat quarters for a baby quilt I want to make.)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Re-think on the House Design


Staying at The Docks has opened my eyes to a number of aspects of house design. This apartment ticks many boxes regarding design. It's clean, crisp and neutral. It feels spacious enough for three people to holiday in it (one bedroom, and a sofa bed in the sitting area), and it would be great for two minimalists to live in all year.

It has made me re-consider the footprint of the house I'm designing. It's far too big! I had already suspected as much, but this visit has underlined this fact. Too big, too big, TOO BIG! The combined living space is about half the size of the great room I had planned. The open plan area 6x5m and the bedroom is 3x4m.


I love the cool. crisp, neutrals in the bedroom, white on white, with grey and cream, old beams stripped of paint, and exposed brickwork. It looks great. Whilst I like it here, I wouldn't want to have a new build with exposed brickwork. It would be substituted with a natural material. Anything added to the space needs to be considered as it makes a big difference to the look of the place. The limited palette gives a serenity to the place.

Another aspect of the serenity if the simplicity of the space. There's a bed, two 'bed side' drawers, a hanging rail and mirror. It feels cozy. It's interesting the difference not having clothes storage or bookcases has on the area. I like it. I am moving over to a system where the clothes are not in the bedroom, but there is a hanging rail to put the next day's clothing, and a couple of hooks for dressing gowns.

The Docks, Gloucester

We are down in Gloucester.  We are staying in The Docks, Gloucester. It was only expensive for the three of us to stay here than to stay at a Travelodge! 

The apartment is a short walk from the centre of town, and it's in a major shopping and restaurant area.  There's a fridge, freezer, dish washer, washing machine, television and wifi. It is an incredibly comfortable place to stay. I'm loving the light, and being beside the water. 

Here's what it looks like. 


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Monday, April 3, 2017

Chicken and Lemon Tagine


Ingredients
1 tablespoon oil
3 large chicken breasts cut into large pieces
1 onion, slices
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
2 rounded teaspoons ginger (julienne)
300ml hot water
1 stock pot (concentrated stock)
dried mixed herbs
3 large carrots, cut into chunks
3 large potatoes, cut into chunks
1 large lemon, cut into wedges (1/8ths)
broccoli or olives

Method
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sear the chicken in the oil for about 5 minutes, flip and sear the other side. Saute the onion. Put the chicken and onion in the tagine.

Sear the carrot and potatoes for a few minutes. Whilst they are cooking, distribute the garlic, ginger and dried herbs evenly over the chicken. Add the carrots and potatoes to the tagine. Arrange the lemon around the dish.

Use the hot water to deglaze the skillet, and then mix through the concentrated stock. Pour this into the tagine.

Put the lid on the tagine and cook at 200C for an hour.

In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add florets of broccoli to the top of the dish. It will cook in the steam. Or, if preferred, add a handful of olives and mix through.

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This meal is very popular amongst my family. It also freezes beautifully.

The stock transforms into a very thin gravy. This is perfect with the potatoes. Press on the potatoes to mash them slightly. The potatoes then soak up the gravy.

The flesh of the lemon disappears into the gravy, leaving the rind. It is beautifully mild and fragrant; eat a little of it with each mouthful.