Dogs can’t climb trees


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There has been a definate cooling in daytime temperatures over the last few weeks, and the car has been covered in the condensation that comes with Autumn mornings. The sun lies low and the trees are burnished with coppers and bronzes. Piles of leaves, crinkled at the edges, lie on the pavements just asking to be waded through, and there are berries aplenty.

It is a beautiful time of year, suffused with golden light. The air feels somehow thinner as we head towards the waning of the year.

My climbing rose is putting on a final show before sleeping for the winter, its pale pinky peach blooms waving confidently in the wind. Before long these softly scented flowers will shed their petals and like the rest of the garden, will fall into hibernation until the warmth of spring awakens it.

There is a squirrel in the local park, who barks at the dog as we walk by. He will be busy gathering his winter larder ready to help sustain him through the cold months. I swear he deliberately taunts Bracken, making sure he is out of reach, but visible. It is a good job dogs can’t climb trees.



The first chill

Well, that is it, the annual closing of the windows ceremony has taken place (ok, so it wasn’t a real ceremony). This evening, for the first time, there is chill enough to make me uncomfortable with the bedroom window open. The house still retains some warmth though, so I have not yet had to scrabble about in the wardrobe looking for winter clothes.

The drop in temperatures always makes me feel a touch groggy, like I am coming down with a cold. It takes me a couple of days to acclimatise and then I feel fine again.

I need to catch up on soapmaking at the weekend. A local shop has just rebranded and switched to a zero waste enterprise. Customers take their own containers and fill them with all manner of goodies – pasta, rice, lentils, spices and liquid soap which I provide. They currently have two fragrances to choose from, Lavender & Patchouli and May Chang, and the May Chang is flying out. I need to make a huge batch, not only to keep some in stock for McCormack’s, but I need to bottle some to sell at Christmas fairs.

There, I said it, Christmas. As much as I hate to think about it, silly season is pretty much here. I have so much to do, but am struggling to force my brain to think about any of it. I am not very good about planning for seasonal stuff, especially Christmas because it drains me of any enthusiasm. On the plus side, I have been looking through catalogues for extra things to sell at Christmas. Shopping is something I can do!

So, it will be an early start in the morning to go and feed and walk client’s dogs and cats, then home to get a large batch of liquid soap started, plus a few batches of bar soap, wax melts, candles and anything else I can do to get ahead. My promise to myself this year, is not to be up at midnight the night before a fair making, packing and labelling!




Approaching of Autumn


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We are in the middle of September and Autumn is approaching. Shadows are lengthening and the sun hangs lower over the horizon. People are beginning to talk about Christmas and there are rumours of an Indian summer and then the return of the Beast from the East. The temperatures are still high enough to be able to leave the house without donning a coat.

I don’t enjoy the cold. My body stiffens and everything is more effort, including getting out of bed in the morning. Winter days are too short and I want to hibernate. I know people who wait all summer for the cooler weather so that they can light a fire and envelop  themselves in a thick woollen sweater. I love the light that summer days bring and having windows open allowing the air to flow around the house.

I am hoping to get a couple of days out before the temperatures drop too far. A couple of weeks ago, I took the dog to Wales for the day. It was the first time I had been out of the local area for longer than I can remember. It felt like I was on house arrest, but work committments, have meant that I just haven’t been able go anywhere.

When I was a child, we used to spend a lot of time in North Wales. Sometimes, Dad would just decide on a road trip and we would pile into the car with no idea of where we were going. Sometimes, we stayed with my great grandmother for the weekend and went wandering on the Saturday. There are so many places I have been and the only memory is the fading photograph in a now little thumbed album.

I decided to go to the Fairy Glen at Bettwys Coed. 

I have no memory of this place, although Mum tells me that we did go.

The day was overcast with the occasional drizzle , so it was perfect for walking with the dog. Bracken was born in Wales, and it was only the second time she had been back.

After a conversation with some sheep on the way past their field, we meandered through the trees to the top of the gorge. We carefully picked our way down the stone steps to the base of the gorge and, while I looked around for flat rocks to step on (there is no path) the dog hopped from rock to rock like she was born to it.

The sun came out as we sat on a boulder at the side of the river, watching the crystal clear water of the Conwy swirl around the rocks in its path and run away down the narrow wooded gorge, with its moss covered walls and overhanging trees. Sitting there, you could just imagine the Tylwyth Teg playing in the moonlight and then disappearing as the sun began to wake up the world.

The Live Parrot Sketch….


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The Live Parrot Sketch or The Mystery of the Bird in the Locked Room.

Most of the time, my pet sitting jobs go off without a hitch. Occasionally, I can’t find a cat, or have to take a pet for a vet visit, or I am locked out, and then there is this week.

I have clients who have gone away for a week. They have no pets left at home, so I am going in twice a day to open or close curtains, collect the post, put the bins out/bring the bins in.

A couple of evenings ago, I unlocked the door to the lounge to find a parakeet (see photo above for the offending beast) fluttering happily around the room. I gave a little shriek, backed out, closed the door and wondered if I had been hallucinating. I hadn’t and my clients don’t have a parakeet.

There was quite a bit of debris on the fireplace, so it would appear that the silly thing fell down the chimney. My problem was how to get it out of the house. I opened all the windows and stood at the opposite side of the room, flapping my arms, hoping that it would have the wherewithal to fly out. I was still standing there 15 minutes later.

I had telephoned my clients, and they called on some of their friends for reinforcements (I would have settled for a strong coffee at this point) and the three of us stood in the room looking at the bird flying around, completely unconcerned at the problem it was causing.

The problem we had was that when it flew to the window it sat on the curtain rail rather than on the window itself, so one of my client’s friends went to look for a sheet to see if we could persuade the bird to fly out.

It took some time.

I stood in the middle of the room flapping a feather duster (possibly not the best choice and the irony is not lost on me) while the two friends stood near the window ready to stop the bird flying back into the room. Finally, as the sun began to set, the bird was trapped in the sheet and eased out of the window. Off it flew without a backwards glance.

Phew, thought I, that is over with. Erm, no. When I went back the following day, there was a bird sitting on the fireplace. This time, I opened the windows, and as I stood behind it and flapped my arms, it flew to the window, stopped for a second, and then flew off. There were two more parakeets sitting in the tree closest to the house and they followed. I am hoping that that is the last I see of them.


A salad for spring


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We have had some gloriously sunny days over the past week, and with signs of spring bursting out everywhere, it felt like the day for a healthy lunch.

This is my favourite salad at the moment. Little gem lettuce, with red seedless grapes, conference pear, some red pepper and a handful of walnuts all coated with a yoghurt, garlic dressing. It is tasty, simple and filling and very virtuous, and if lettuce is counted (and I am never sure) then it is a good step towards my 5 a day.


Signs of Spring



Spring heralds new beginnings and there are early signs everywhere you look. Snowdrops and daffodils are blooming, and yesterday I spotted pale pink blossom on a tree. We have had a couple of beautiful sunny days too and the nights are getting shorter.

The house is not escaping either. I finished painting the walls in the hall yesterday. I still have the woodwork to attack, but I am really pleased with the way it is looking.

Having had a couple of periods of redundancy, the first for quite some time, the finances have taken a hit and the house has been rather neglected. It feels more like a house than a home and I have fallen out of love with it.

Over the last year, I have managed to build up a little nest egg so finances sorted, I am trying to spend a little on the house each month whether it is something like a tin of paint, a new blind or new bedding.

Now that the hall walls are painted it is starting to look like a nice space rather than somewhere to be ignored. Halls are funny places and are often neglected, being seen as merely a space to walk through to get from one place to the next. Mine is narrow and far too small for any furniture, but once the woodwork has been painted and I have sourced a radiator shelf it will be a room which should be a pleasure to walk into, although it would be helpful if the dog didn’t keep tying the rug in knots!

Next on the agenda is the bedroom. It is not currently a sanctuary, which is what a bedroom should be. I have some lovely new William Morris print bedding and a beautiful new lamp and I *think* I have chosen the paint colour for the walls.

Then again, sitting here looking around the lounge, this may be the next room I tackle. Oh decisions!

It’s the little things


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It’s the little things that make me happy.

I am not what you could call green fingered which, coming as I do from a gardening family, is sad to admit. There are a few plants that I manage to keep alive with ease (assuming that the cats don’t snack on them) and more which I keep alive but fail miserably to get them to re-flower.

I love orchids. They are gorgeous, exotic looking blooms which you can find in your supermarket, DIY shop or garden centre at really reasonable prices. I always like to have at least one in the lounge, their lovely colours brighten up any room, but despite doing what all the orchid growing guides tell me to do, I have never managed to get them to give me new flowers.

Imagine my delight then, to spot a new flower spike growing on one of the larger orchids, and then a few weeks later one of the tiny orchid plants I have has started to push out a flower spike too.

So, what have I done differently?

Well, the first thing I did was to move the plants to the kitchen windowsill after the flowers had died. I live in a terraced house, and the back gets little direct sunlight, but the windowsill does get plenty of light. The second thing I have started to do is to spray them rather than stand the pots in water when they need a drink.

I have always managed to get African Violets living on that windowsill to flower repeatedly and I have always assumed that they enjoy the steam from the kettle which is close by. Perhaps it is a combination of the kettle (which I have to admit is switched on quite often) ensuring that the air is not too dry, and lots of light which is creating the ideal atmosphere.

Whatever the reason, I go and look a couple of times a day eager to see the first flower buds appear. I can’t remember what colour the flowers are, so it is going to be a nice surprise when they do appear.

New Old Friendships

Friendships forged in the crucible of adolescence are not easily put aside.

I spent a day last week with a group of women who were classmates, some of whom I have not seen since the day we left school many lifetimes and a world of experiences ago.

Modern technology reduces distance and enables people to stay in touch, or get back in touch, and it was partly because of social media that we were all able to reconnect.

Our old school was closing after 100 years, so the day was a poignant one. We ate lunch while reminiscing. We talked of other classmates and teachers and of the silly things that had happened, and it felt like yesterday since we had walked out of the school gates for the last time.

We were a group of diverse women who had all chosen very different paths in life, but who had that one shared experience. The years dropped away as we talked and laughed and ate. It was a lovely day, and I hope it does not take us quite so long for us all to meet again.


The Sugar Free Mission Continues


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So far (almost) so good. It is nearly a week since I decided that I would try to cut down on sugar and I have been reasonably good.

With the exception of a meringue nest with tonnes of strawberries and some cream midweek (well, it had fruit in it so it is good for you, right?) I have managed not only not to eat anything sweet, but not to miss it.

Even in work, which is when I am at my worst, I didn’t feel the need to snack. Just as well because I didn’t take anything with me which meant I couldn’t be tempted.

This is definitely a case of mind over matter and although I am sure not every week will be as easy, it is a start. I do intend to have a sloppy cream cake as a treat from time to time, but I am going to try not to reach for biscuits as an easy fix.

Another reason for all of this, is that it is very hard to find something without palm oil in. This frustrates me enormously. Palm oil is extremely bad for the Orang-u-tan, indigenous people who are evicted from their land to make way for palm plantations and for the environment.

The more I think about what I eat, the more I want to move away from refined foods. If I want cake or biscuits, there is no reason why I can’t make it myself and use good quality ingredients like organic eggs and Fairtrade unrefined sugar (which I have been buying for years). Refined foods are said to make us age faster, and by the time you get to my advanced years that is not a good thing at all!





It would appear that someone has broken summer. Gone is the warm sunny weather,  to be replaced by overcast, cool, soggy, windy days. Hopefully, normal service will soon resumed and we can get back to enjoying outdoor living.

I have been doing a lot of mulling recently and want to make some changes, starting with what I eat.

I can be incredibly lazy when it comes to feeding myself, and part of that is that I just don’t like thinking about food. Eating, I certainly do enjoy as my racing snake physique can attest to, but planning what I am going to buy and cook I could do without. As a result, I rely too heavily on pasta and eat an appallingly low number of vegetables for a vegetarian.

I am also keen on cutting down on the amount of sugar that I consume. Although I do go through phases, I have a tendency to eat too much sweet stuff which is not good for me.

Sugar is in such a lot of things, for instance bread. Luckily, although I don’t eat a huge amount of bread, I usually make my own, so I know exactly how much sugar is in the recipe. Even making a tomato sauce for pasta, there is sometimes a need to add a touch of sugar if the tomatoes are too tart, so living completely without the sweet stuff will be impossible, and in any case I am not going to deny myself a treat from time to time.

My main downfall is that I tend to take something to snack on to work, and the easiest thing to reach for are biscuits, so this is where I will start. Summer is the best time for fruit, so I am going to try to remember to take some into work with me.

Naturally, because I am thinking about cutting down on sugar, I am sitting here craving it. It is far easier to develop a bad habit than it is to break it. We are all different, and have different ways of doing things and I just need to work out the best way of breaking the cycle of reaching for the junk food. I don’t think it is going to be easy.