Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Lifestyle Changes 3 and Garden Update No 3

Aarghh! I've just reached the stage where I feel ready to leave the safety of my home for walks and the local news has highlighted errors in reporting new Covid 19 cases in this area. Apparently, and they haven't specified how this has happened, the number of cases in Wiltshire has been under-reported and the actual figures of current confirmed cases rises by almost 1,000, doubling the previous number. I won't change my plans but will be even more cautious about the places I choose to visit.

Anyway, carrying on with the lifestyle changes ... the decluttering is nearly finished but the final push to completion has stalled for now. The majority of things left to sell either requires the buyers collecting from my home or me taking things to the Post Office to send, and at the moment I don't feel at ease about doing either. I have considered using the space in the garage to meet the buyers of the items to be collected as there is plenty of space to socially distance and keeps my home free from visitors but, I'm not sure. With the other items, assuming they sell when advertised, I'd be more at ease if I could find a sub Post Office which has room to allow the social distancing, but all the ones here are in small shops and garages and are usually crowded. I still have the things to go to the skip and to a charity shop, which I hope to deal with in the next few weeks. It'll be good to get it all over and done with so I'm hoping to come up with a way to overcome my unease.

I have enjoyed the slower pace of life that lockdown has imposed and I will take that forward with me. The groups I belonged to are unlikely to meet for some time so I have the opportunity to decide what I think is best for me. I'll definitely stick with the choir which is still meeting every week, via Zoom, and which I thoroughly enjoy. The Mahjong group has actually started meeting again, restricted to a group of four only, but I have no plans to join in yet - it's impossible to socially distance and everyone in the game is continuously touching the tiles - but I think I will return to it at some unknown date in the distant future. The U3A photography group I'm not sure about, so for now I'm postponing my decision and will see how I feel when they start to meet regularly.

I've decided I do need something to replace the band. The choir fulfills the actual playing of music part but I have so much more free time without all the other band committments and I'd like to find something to fill that gap. Family and friends have often said that they see me as one of those people who, in retirement, complete numerous A level and GCSE courses, and I know what they mean. Up to now I haven't had enough time to do this and do it well but that has obviously changed so the only thing holding me back is the cost ... it'll be an expensive undertaking and I'm questioning whether, at the moment, it is the best use of my money. That's a maybe!

Although the choir fills a musical 'need', I'd like to eventually find an adult band or orchestra to play with but that's something for the distant future. In the meantime I'm looking for a piano teacher, not as an alternative to joining a band or orchestra, but because I want to improve my piano playing. I've been teaching myself but progress has slowed down and I need to have some proper lessons. None of the local teachers have vacancies, not that I'd necessarily want to be going to someone else's home, so I looked for a teacher who provides online lessons - there's a lot, but I need to investigate more before I decide. There seem to be a lot of people offering piano lessons who don't appear to have any qualifications but who are charging a lot of money. I'll keep looking and I'm sure I will be able to sort something out.


Danielle was on board with all of my ideas for the garden so I am busy looking for the varieties I'd like for all the specimen shrubs and minarette trees. For the smaller bush roses she suggested considering standard roses instead as she thinks it will fit in well with the style of garden I'm looking for so I'll have a look and see what I think. I've decided that I will buy the varieties I want for this part of the planting rather than choosing from whatever is available at the nursery sale. Once I've decided, I will email the details and she'll check suitability for my soil, etc. The aim is to get those planted this year. In September we'll look at the bulbs and get those in as well.  Everything else will wait until next year.

She was only here for an hour yesterday and a good deal of that time was spent discussing my ideas but she also continued with the clearing in the back garden and knocked a few more weeds into submission. Here's the before and after photos of the bed outside the dining room doors ...

We also chatted about whether to keep the gravel but I am undecided, so we'll wait and see what I think as the garden evolves.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Lifestyle Changes 2

I think that, compared to many, my lockdown experience has been a positive one.  I've had no worries over work or finance, no children to home educate and keep amused, and have only had to worry about providing for myself. Even though I was isolating, it was relatively easy to get deliveries and I had plenty of offers of support. I've lived alone for a few years now so am used to enjoying my own company and keeping myself entertained, something that was made so much easier by all the online quizzes, free musicals, plays and ballets.

The lockdown in the UK is easing, too quickly in my opinion, but there is no denying that the changes are already having an impact on my life. The choir quiz and street quiz have ended as the organisers decided that there are now plenty of others options for people to resume their social lives. The Friday night musical is also due to end after the final screening this week. 

Taking all this into account I've decided that the time is right to make some changes in my own life ... but with extreme caution! The majority of my friends and family are taking the same approach as me which is to wait and see how things go. I will continue to self isolate but will walk locally or drive out as I mentioned yesterday. I have no intention of visiting any shops and will continue with online deliveries, but in some way, still undecided for the most part, I want to resume in-person meetings with the important people in my life rather than the Zoom calls we have been doing.

This was going to be the year I started ticking off holidays abroad - my time for travelling - but I have accepted that it's just not going to happen. I know that air travel is possible to certain countries but the bottom line is that I don't want to take the risk. So I have been trying to decide on an alternative that I genuinely want to do and won't feel is a poor compromise. Overnight stays are currently out of the question so I am looking at the local area to fill the void created in my plans when I abandoned the possibility of overseas travel.

It didn't really take me long to decide and sort of ties in with my focus on being more active in my days. I've always loved local history, especially the quirky and the unusual, but like a lot of people I have ignored what's on my doorstep. There is so much of interest locally that I keep saying I will 'do' one day ... well, that day has arrived and I will be pottering about the area finding all those places and things I've only seen in books and other people's photographs. 

This isn't as risky as it may seem, or at least I'm hoping it isn't! The South West, where I live, has consistently had the lowest rate of infection in the country and initially I only plan to visit outdoor locations - if it turns out to be busy, or I feel uncomfortable in any way, I can always turn around and come home. I'll take my own refreshments and will have a mask with me as well. My first adventure will be on Friday - I've bought a ticket to visit the garden at The Hall in Bradford on Avon, where there will be restricted access and a one way route around the grounds. L is joining me and we will maintain the two metres distance - she's been isolating as well so is as anxious as me, but I'm looking forward to an afternoon out in her company.

This is turning out to be a much longer post than I thought it would be so I'll end now and finish off tomorrow. It's gardening day today so I'll be discussing my ideas with Danielle. Excited or what!

Monday, 6 July 2020

Lifestyle Changes 1

I've been reviewing my lifestyle goals at the end of each month and this has been an invaluable tool in making the necessary changes to achieve the lifestyle I desire. However, in one aspect of my life, probably the most important, I am not seeing the improvement I want so am changing things round to make health and fitness my main focus.

I'm already eating healthily in terms of the types of foods I eat so now need to tweak things to kick-start the weight  loss. I know I can do it as I have previously lost three stone through calorie counting. Of course I'm now back to where I was before that (at the time) successful attempt. I've been comfort eating during the lockdown so, on weighing and measuring myself to record my starting point, I was delighted to find that there is no change at all - same weight, same measurements - since November 2019. I haven't maintained a constant weight since then and know there have been gains and losses but it helps to know that overall, I have stayed the same.

I eat a fairly restricted diet anyway because of food allergies but I have noticed that I am further restricting the foods I eat through my meal choices. With this in mind I've been looking at the changes I can make to increase the variety in my diet. I'll be basing my eating on the Slimming World (SW) plan but I won't be rejoining, at least not for now. I'm aware that whatever I do needs to be a re-education and lifestyle change rather than a temporary diet.

At the moment I'm calorie counting (which I know isn't SW but better to make a start while the time feels right) and am looking for recipe ideas to add more variety to my meal choices. When I'm ready I'll sort out some online supermarket deliveries, aiming for fortnightly deliveries, which should make it possible to have plenty of fresh fruit and veg at home, and will then follow the SW plan as much as I am able - healthy extra As won't feature too often in my diet because of allergies.

The fitness side of things is slightly more difficult because of joint pain. I'd like to say I'll do 'X' number of minutes every day but realistically, that's not going to happen. I'm making an appointment to see my doctor about the joint issues (and also take the opportunity to review blood pressure and complete blood tests) as, although he's advised that exercise will not cause damage, my left knee is now continually swollen and something isn't right. 

I'm currently aiming to do fifteen minutes at least every other day which is not enough but better than nothing. I am also making a conscious effort to be more active during the day. I keep busy but for the majority of my interests am seated so, unless I make the effort, it is really easy on days without housework to reach the end of the day and have walked fewer than 1,000 steps. I don't have a target in mind, just the wish to generally be more active and spend more time on my feet.

I'm in no rush to join the madness following the easing of lockdown and still intend to isolate at home as I have been doing, but I am ready to see more than the inside of my home! I've already worked out that walking alone, either locally or by driving to somewhere isolated, is a very  low risk activity so I plan to make myself do this regularly from now on.

I went out for a walk yesterday morning, following the pathways which criss-cross this part of the village. Here's one of them which gives plenty of room for social distancing - the path itself is over six feet wide. 

To show just how close this is to me I looked back and photographed my home - the one with the yellow dot above it - this is just around the corner within a few steps of my front door, so I really have no excuses!

I walked in the other direction yesterday. Imagine the path in the photo above continues to the left and the following photo would be what you see. This leads up past the football field and tennis court, towards the primary school.

There weren't many people about. I paused my walk at the tennis court for a few minutes and, through the fence, watched four adults playing a mixed doubles match - they apologised for all the swearing when they realised I was watching! The only other people I saw when I was out was a lady walking her dog and a family playing football. Usually on a Sunday morning there is a football match in progress, either one of the adult local league games, or one of the younger children's league games. 

I turned back towards home to follow the path at the end of School Lane and was delighted to see that the local council has made a start on their promise to create wildlife areas. This patch was designated as a butterfly area so has been planted up with all sorts of wildflowers. It looks beautiful, so much better than the neglected place it used to be.

I was out for about thirty minutes and for the second half of the walk had definitely developed a limp, but it did me good. I mustn't forget the benefits to my emotional well-being! 

Other changes have been planned but health and fitness is my main focus. I'll update you on the rest in another post.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Weekly Reflections

Reasons to be cheerful ...
  • enjoying myself planning the planting scheme for the back garden
  • gaining peace of mind by making a decision on how to approach the next stage of my life (more about that next week) and reaching an acceptance of the factors outside of my control
  • phone calls with friends
  • Zoom meet ups and quiz nights
  • the wonderful news that a lifelong friend has been given the all clear after a long fight with cancer
  • looking back on the week and realising that I'd laughed out loud about something every day!
  • winning the final choir quiz 😁
  • watching Celtic Tiger (Irish dancing show starring Michael Flatley)

I am grateful ...
  • for the continued support from neighbours, checking whether I need anything and taking the time to chat
  • for the ease of online shopping and online banking

Saturday, 4 July 2020


These are a selection of images for my June mini photo challenge - 'repitition' ...

I started the mini photo challenge just to make me spend some time taking photographs. The challenge is to take photos on a set theme; the photos must be taken during the month (no archive photos), a minimum of five photos but no upper limit, and there will be a new theme every month. The theme for July is 'line(s)'. You are quite welcome to join me in this challenge if you want to but I won't be doing an end of the month link up like I do with the WPSH. 

Friday, 3 July 2020

The Simple Woman's Daybook | Friday 3rd July 2020


Outside my window ... I'm guessing here because this is a scheduled post - the forecast is for a dry but overcast day.

I am thinking ... about the best way to complete a few errands that are long overdue. I'm sure it'll all be fine, and friends and family will help if absolutely necessary, but I want to tackle them myself if I can. 

I am thankful ... that all my family and friends remain safe and well during these strange times.

In the kitchen ... I'm in the middle of wiping down the cupboard doors. I started it yesterday lunchtime after splashing Bolognese sauce everywhere. When I was locking up at bedtime I noticed that I can't get away with only wiping the cupboards affected by the spillage - the ones I haven't done now look grubby so I need to wipe down the rest today ... the joys of having glossy white kitchen units!

I am wearing ... (or will be wearing when I drag myself out of bed) blue t-shirt and white skirt.

I am creating ... plans and lists and more lists and plans, all to do with the planting ideas for the garden.

I am going ... to sign up for Disney+, just for a couple of months. The main reason is the chance to see Hamilton (the musical) but there are quite a few other films I will enjoy watching.

I am wondering ... whether I will be lucky enough to book an entry to one of the local National Trust properties. Every time I've checked the site the properties I'm interested in have been fully booked. 

I am reading ... the genre for the Diversify Your Reading Challenge for July is suspense/thriller so I will choose something from my bookcase today - Impression by Ray Clark is a possibility.  

I am watching ... lots of YouTube videos, mostly to do with gardening. 

I am hoping ... that the conditions in my garden are compatible with the type of planting I'd like. I'll be disappointed if too many changes have to be made.

I am looking forward to ... next week and a socially distanced meet up with L.

I am learning ... about local history, enjoying all those quirky facts about past times.

Around the house ...  it's surprisingly tidy. I seem to have cured myself of a tendency to be messy, although it is much easier to be tidy now the junk has gone and there is room for everything I've kept to have its own place.

I am pondering ... my lifestyle goals and whether it is time to change my focus. 

One of my favourite things ... hearing a baby laugh.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... Zoom meeting, a socially distanced jolly, choir practice, and an afternoon out in the car 
  • Saturday will be watching Hamilton, assuming I can set up Disney+
  • Sunday will be Zoom call with P and L
  • Monday will be the online choir practice,
  • Tuesday will be a drive out in the car
  • Wednesday will be a walk around the marina (5 minutes away), 
  • Thursday will be the socially distanced meet with L
  • Friday will be watching whichever musical is released, 
A peek into my day ... a morning in the kitchen and an afternoon reading. This evening it's the final choir quiz followed by Michael Flatley's Celtic Tiger, the Shows Must Go On release for this weekend. 

A quote for today ... "Happiness is not by chance, but by choice", Jim Rohn.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Garden Ideas 3

C, at present, will remain largely unplanted. There is already a cream clematis (approx. where the letter C is on the plan), and the burgundy clematis will be moved to join it. I'm also hoping to have another minarette fruit tree, probably a plum, in the corner where C & D meet. C is quite narrow and mostly obscured from the house by the planting in B, so is the area reserved for planting some of the taller annuals but I'll let you in on my choices later in the post.

I mentioned yesterday that in A, B, and D there will be a selection of bulbs and perennials, all mixed higgledy-piggledy. These will be of contrasting heights, leaf shape and colour, and a mixture of clump forming and airy floaty flowers. The predominant group of clump forming plants will be a variety of daisies - I already have this one in the garden and want this and another type of daisy (or two) to feature in every bed.

Mexican Fleabane
© Copyright Forest Wanderer 
and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

I have ideas for the airy floaty flowers, again of varying heights and leaf shape but the open structure of the flowers will give the affect I'm hoping for. I've linked to Google searches if you want to look at images. The majority are just a list of ideas as there won't be room for everything but the definites are ...

heuchera, not necessarily this variety but chosen as much for the interesting foliage as for the flower

spider lilies
(many thanks to Lady Ella for allowing me to use one of her photos)

summer snowflakes
Other plants on the list are:
I have loads more ideas but I think this list give you a sense of what I'm aiming for, and what it could look like. 

This planting will be in A, B, and D, but can also continued in some of the pots. In addition I'd like to have one, maybe two, peonies - I don't have a big enough garden to spare bedding space for a plant that has such a short flowering period but I do want to try peonies with the compromise that they will have to be grown in pots. 

The annuals are easy to describe ... these will be in C and in numerous pots around the garden and will consist of cosmos and sweet peas. I love both plants and will fit in as many as I can!

The only thing I haven't covered is the hanging baskets (eight of them) and the vegetables. The hanging baskets will be seasonal planting, some floral and some for fruits. Part of the scheme for winter is to plant up a couple of hanging baskets nearest the house to provide some interest - this was Danielle's idea but I can't remember the names of the plants she mentioned. For the summer months some of the hanging baskets will have fuchsia, some dwarf sweet peas, and the remainder will have trailing tomatoes, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

There will be space to grow a few vegetables if I want, but it will all be in containers or grow bags. Outside the kitchen/dining room French doors there will be room for container grown tomatoes and courgettes, and the grow bags will fit at the end of the garage, giving room for runner beans, carrots, and more tomatoes.  On the back wall of the house I'd eventually like some wall mounted vertical planters to grow cut and come again salad leaves, radishes and spring onions.  

So now I just need to run it past Danielle. Fingers are crossed that the conditions in my garden are suitable for the plants I've set my heart on!

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Garden Ideas 2

A and B have both been cleared and are the areas to be planted this year, hopefully. I have no reason to think it won't happen but I don't know yet if the realisation of my ideas means that some of the planting will be better off waiting until next spring.

My vision is that these two beds will have the specimen shrubs, softened with an informal mix of bulbs and perennials, supported by the boost of annuals (dotted around the garden) during the summer. I don't want any part of the garden to have formal grouping or planting in straight lines. A has space for bigger/taller shrubs than B. The backbone of the planting scheme will be a combination of roses and fuchsias, plus a couple of extras. 

Looking at A first, I was originally planning to relocate the buddleia, Wisteria Lane, from the front garden to this area but have now decided to leave it where it is. I'd like this area to have a fuchsia, a couple of roses and a columnar apple tree. The following photos show the sort of thing I'm considering but the actual variety may depend on what is available when we see the list for the charity plant sale at the wholesale garden in September. I don't have any specific must have varieties in mind so am quite happy to choose from what is available, but will buy online if I don't fall in love with any of the available choices. The columnar apple tree will have be purchased online but I haven't decided on the variety yet. This is the sort of thing I'm thinking of ...

the chosen tree will go in the corner where A & C meet

Tottering-by-gently, a shrub rose
4 feet height x 4 feet spread

Super Fairy rambling rose, to be grown on an obelisk

fuchsia - I haven't decided on a variety yet but it'll be one which grows to about 5 feet in height and ideally will be this colour combination

In B there will be a couple of smaller shrub roses, ones that repeat flower during the summer months, but I haven't settled on any varieties and will see if Danielle has any suggestions. This area will also have a smaller fuchsia, the variety as yet undecided. The colours will likely be either purple, pink, white, or lemon but I don't have a strong preference - all I know is that I want to restrict blue to a few of the perennials and absolutely no orange. The apricot colour of the existing rambler is enough for me!

I'll talk about the bulbs and perennial planting in the next post.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

SPSH First link up

It's time for the first link up for the Summer Photo Scavenger Hunt and the opportunity to see how all the other participants are getting on. I think that seeing how everyone has interpreted the prompts is the best part of the hunt, so here are my efforts so far. They have all appeared on my blog at various times in the month but I've grouped them together in this post to make it easier to see. 

2. Something with or in a knot

3. Something with the colours of your country’s flag

4. a toy you play with 

6.Something in the shape of a triangle

7. Something that displays a rule(s)

9. Something that starts with the initial of your name (first or last)

17. something naturally round

20. something with the number 7 in it

Alt C. something with four sides

Many thanks to Mary-Lou for organising the hunt. There is still time to join in if you'd like - the list of prompts and the rules of the hunt can be found here.

Lifestyle Goals: Monthly Review for June 2020

Here is my update for June, stating my goals and the bullet-pointed task list that I'll tackle during the month to help achieve the goal. Last month's ratings are shown in black and the start of the current month is shown in yellow.

My goal is to achieve a lifestyle where I can honestly say that I LIVE A FULFILLED LIFE [8][8.5]To achieve this I want to focus on the sub-goals shown in bold text. 

These are the sub-goals where I have achieved the maximum rating. Each sub-goal still requires a degree of effort to maintain that rating but I feel I have developed the habits to support this.
  • I am financially secure and am completely debt free [10][10]
  • I take an active role in my local community, and have strong bonds with family and friends [10][10]
  • My home is always clean and tidy [10][10]
  • I have a positive outlook on life and am benefiting by avoiding bouts of depression and keeping my emotional well being at a healthy level [10][10]

I have revised my ratings on the following sub-goal:
  • I make best use of my time to lead a full and productive life [8.5][9] I've changed the rating as I'm somehow getting things done. My Big List of tasks that seemed impossibly long is now nearing completion so although I haven't quite worked out how, I am being productive as and when it matters. I think the 'as and when' part of that sentence is the most important - I am retired, life has slowed down due to the pandemic, and I am learning that I don't need to be productive 100% of the time ... sometimes it is fine to just 'be'!
  • My garden is always tidy and presentable [6][7.5] I have Danielle and I have a plan. What more can I say! 
  • I live life now, in the moment [8.5][9]  The slower pace of life has made this so much easier to achieve. I am learning to fully enjoy however I have chosen to occupy my time.

The ratings haven't changed for the following sub goals and are the ones that still require improvement. 

  • I eat sensibly and healthily and am benefiting by losing weight and experiencing increased energy levels [9][9] On the whole I eat sensible and healthily so I now need to focus on losing weight. 
  • I lead an active life, benefiting from increased fitness and improvements in my general health [7][7] This continues to be the aspect of life that I am most concerned about. I can exercise (with caution) so have to get back to the discipline of daily exercise.
  • I strive to remove my attachment to material things [9][9] I think I am nearly at an end with the decluttering - it's sorted and separated, ready to sell/donate/dispose but the final stage will have to wait until my own lockdown arrangements are relaxed.

My focus word for 2020 is simplify and I am starting by working my way through the house to remove excess, unused, and unwanted items. My SMART tasks (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely) are all to do with simplifying life: 

My SMART tasks for June were:
  1. Monitor the food situation at home and meal plan to make best use of supplies  - ONGOING
  2. Complete the photo file organisation - ACHIEVED
  3. Remove at least 20 items (sell, dispose or recycle) - ACHIEVED (although the majority of the items are still in the garage awaiting disposal when I feel it is safe to go the the recycling yard and the charity shops)
  4. Order additional pots for the garden - POSTPONED until the main planting is completed
  5. minimum of 15 minutes of exercise daily - 40% SUCCESSFUL. I'm still struggling with joint pain so exercising every day is not happening. I need a different approach but don't know what yet.

My SMART tasks for July are:
  1. Monitor the food situation at home and meal plan to make best use of supplies  - ongoing
  2. Complete the initial garden plan to discuss with Danielle - by 6th July 2020
  3. Contact the reclamation yard to see if they are interested in buying the studio lights, etc. - by 31st July 2020
  4. Assess finances and revise budget - by 31st July 2020
  5. minimum of 15 minutes of exercise  three times a week - ongoing