Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Return to Work Eve

It's the night before I return to work and I guess I'm feeling a little apprehensive, but not without reason.  Not because of the virus, as it has receded a lot in London and I'm intending to ride my bike to work tomorrow, so I won't be travelling on public transport, unless I feel too tired to ride it home and get the bus instead!
I guess I'm feeling apprehensive because my fellow Deputy Manager, with whom I job share, has resigned and won't be returning to help open the shop with me. The Shop Manager is still in Europe where he has spent Lockdown and isn't returning to the UK until Friday and then will need to quarantine for two weeks, so I seem to be the last (wo)man standing at the moment.
Thankfully, my Area Manager has arranged for another Shop Manager to help me re-open the shop and make it safe for customers to return, but he also has to open his own shop next week. I am meeting him at the shop tomorrow and we are going to work our way through the list of things we need to do in order to re-open the shop. I spoke to him on the phone tonight and he's a really nice guy, so I'm hoping we'll get quite a bit done and work well together.
It will all depend on what we find when we enter the shop.  Three months of being locked up and who knows what's been going on in there.  Leaky roof? Unwanted visitors wreaking havoc (i.e. rodents)? Layers of dust? Hopefully, none of the above, but we'll have to wait and see.
I've packed the pannier bag on my bike with the things that I think I'll need. I just need to add in the clothes I'm going to wear, as I'll be wearing my new padded cycle pants on the way to work and will need to change when I get there, plus my lunch, of course. I've completely got out of the routine of going to work and it's going to be a big change getting back into it.
I had to telephone my ex-colleague today, to remind me of the shop email password, as it's been so long since I've been able to log in, that I'd forgotten it. In addition, the charity has changed over to a new system, so it might not be so straight forward when I do try to log in tomorrow. I'll just have to take it one step at a time and do what I can.
Fortunately, a very good volunteer is coming in to help us tomorrow, which is a God send, as I'm sure he'll succeed in raising my spirits. If it wasn't for him and another long standing volunteer who is coming in on Thursday, I might feel like resigning myself.
I am looking forward to getting on and getting the shop safe to re-open, but I would have preferred it if I wasn't the only paid member of our shop staff doing it. There's nothing I can do to change anything though, so I will just have to suck it up, do my best and hope for the best.
Today, I've spent carrying out last minute tasks such as doing a big food shop to make sure that there is plenty of food in the house to last us during the next couple of weeks. I'm probably going to be pretty tired when I get home and on my days off, so it's one less thing to think about.
I managed to clean the whole house in the last few days, bar the upstairs bathroom, which I left until last and just didn't have the energy to do.  I might give it a quick once over tomorrow. I feel like I've done what I could during lockdown and tried to make good use of my time, but all good things must come to an end.
I'm now thinking of trying to pay back the hours that the charity have paid me for during lockdown.  I've calculated how many and I am thinking of working them back voluntarily over the next few months.  After all, it wasn't their fault that Covid hit and they are a charity. I feel guilty for taking money from them to stay at home, to be honest. Either that, or I may forfeit some leave and give the time back that way, as I will have 3 months less time in which to take all my annual leave and I'll probably never get around to taking it all.
I've now done all I can for tonight, so I'm going to get a reasonably early night and try to get a good night's sleep. I need to do a couple of things in the morning before I set off for work, i.e. buy a few cleaning products and toilet rolls (in case there are none in the shop) and try to get into the shop email to send an email to all of our volunteers and then I'm ready to go.  If I don't manage to do the latter, it can be done when I get to the shop later. I'm hoping that the Shop Manager might be able to contact some volunteers and do some social media whilst quarantining, but I'm not sure whether he will be back off Furlough or not. It would take the pressure off those of us working in the shop if he could.
Thank you to those of you who have wished me well on returning to work.  I really appreciate it. I'll let you know how I get on, but it may be a couple of days before I have the time and energy to write a post about it. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 28 June 2020

An Enjoyable and Productive Sunday

Having spent all day Saturday cleaning the downstairs of our house before I go back to work, I decided that on Sunday, I wasn't going to do any more cleaning, despite the fact that the upstairs still needs doing.  Instead, I thought I'd do a few little last minute jobs that I've been putting off or haven't been able to do before now.
To start with, I completed a couple of DIY home projects that I'll be posting about separately.  This took about an hour, then after taking the dog for a walk, I sat down and took a look at the jobs left to do on my list.
The first job was to call our local Charity Shop and see if I could drop off some donations.  I'd seen a sign on the door the previous week, stating that they would be taking donations this Sunday, so I rang ahead to make sure. I'd missed the morning drop off time, but they did tell me that they would be taking donations between 4pm and 6pm in the afternoon. As a consequence, I reorganised the two boxes of books and vinyl that had been taking up space in the hall for the past two months, into reusable bags that I no longer needed and along with a couple more boxes and bags from the sewing room, I put them all in the car ready to take.
The next thing on my list, was to spend the garden centre voucher we'd been awarded for our allotment. It was only for £10, but £10 on plants is £10 well spent in my eyes and I was happy to spend a bit more anyway, as I needed some shade loving plants for the garden and had some money left at the end of the month to treat myself.
I waited until OH got back from his cycle ride and had sufficiently recovered and then we headed out together to the Garden Centre. As we approached, I could see a queue of 5 or 6 people.  I wouldn't normally bother to get into it, especially as it had just started raining, but on this occasion I was so keen to spend my voucher and buy some plants that I did. I was fortunate that just as I entered the queue, 2 or 3 people were let in and then the guy managing the queue offered me an umbrella, just as the heavens opened. It couldn't have been better timing, and what great customer service.
Anyway, I wasn't in the queue long and passed the time looking through the fence at the plants.  When I got in I spotted what I was looking for straight away.  Along one wall were a whole row of shade loving plants which made my visit very quick and easy.  I picked up a couple of ferns and a couple of alchemilla mollis that were in coir pots and I was straight to the till and out of there. I'm really pleased with the plants.  I just need to plant them at the bottom of the garden around the paving that OH laid out earlier in lockdown.  They'll make the area look a lot better.
Here are the plants I bought:
On our way home from the Garden Center, we dropped off the donations at the Charity Shop. I was expecting a queue, but we were the only ones dropping off, which was great.  I had a short chat to the Manager of the shop, about their set up on re-opening. It was really interesting to see what they were doing. It should help me when I go back to work on Wednesday.
When we got home, buoyed by ticking off a couple of tasks on the list, I continued to work my way throught a few more. First, I trimmed the ivy that grows over our front garden wall and cleared the front path of leaves. I then moved to the back garden and trimmed the honeysuckle before sweeping the decking down the side return.
Luckily, due to the fact that it had rained, there were no bees on the honeysuckle. I've been scared to tackle it because of the bees, after getting stung the other week due to getting in a panic when a bee landed on me.  It was painful and the poor bee was done for.  I felt really sad about it.  Anyway, here's the result:
It looks a lot tidier now, despite the fact that more leaves have dropped, as it was quite windy. I went on to chop back a few other plants in the garden and harvested the rest of the blackcurrants on the bush. All jobs that won't get done once I get back to work.
In all, it was a very productive day.  There aren't many things left on the list, which is just as well. I'm going to do the ironing tonight, now the weather is cooler, which will tick off another one. The rest I'll have to do tomorrow.
I hope you had a lovely Sunday.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Underbed Re-organisation

Today, I got the idea in my head to tackle the under bed storage in our bedroom.  We have one of those beds where you can lift up the mattress and store items below it. It has been more or less full of things since we bought the bed two or three years ago and it does help to keep the house looking a bit more clutter free.
I went through all of the contents of the storage, making sure that I still wanted to keep it all in there.  I pulled out a few pictures that I might make a picture wall with, as they're all pictures or prints of our home city/county and might look nice hung together in the dining room. I found that the glass in one of the pictures, a map of our county of birth, had broken in storage, so that was another piece of glass to add to the list of pieces that I need to order from the glass shop.  Just as well that I haven't done that yet.
I also found a large oak frame, that I am going to use to hang a piece of LB's artwork, as it is much nicer than the frame I was originally going to use, and it has some glass in it, so I just need to order a mount for it. I've found several on eBay that I can choose from and just need to decide on a colour. It will need to be cut down to size a little with regard to the aperture, but that should be doable.
Anyway, I vacuumed out the storage spaces under the bed and rearranged some of their contents, so that like items were with like items, making it much more organised and easy to find anything I might need to get access to. I pulled out a box of paperwork that I'd stuck in there and proceeded to sort through it.  A lot of it was work related, much of which could be shredded and some was financial stuff that actually needed tackling, so this afternoon I've spent some time dealing with some of it and getting some long forgotten tasks underway.  That was very satisfying.
I also found a garden centre voucher in there, that we won for being awarded Best Plot at the allotment last year, so I can now finally go and spend it at a local garden centre before I go back to work. I might try to do that over the weekend, as I'll be able to park the car nearby. I'll probably end up spending more than the voucher itself again though!
I managed to squeeze a couple of  baskets of photographs into the under bed storage too, which meant that I could rearrange a couple of corners of the bedroom and the sewing room to create a slightly more spacious feel to the rooms.
Other jobs that I've tackled include attaching a new trim to the newly painted blanket boxes in my bedroom. I ordered the trim on eBay and it arrived today. Previously each box had a different coloured trim, one yellow, one green, as that was all I had at the time of re-upholstering them, so it's good to finally pull their look together with the same trim.
I also ordered new light switch cords and pulls for both bathrooms, as the white cords currently hanging in them have been there for over 10 years and were very dirty.  I have bleached them in the past to clean them, but this time around I have bought dark grey cord and pulls so they will show the dirt a lot less.
I also took delivery of some gold paint from eBay today, which I am going to use to touch up a mirror from the living room. It has a gilt plaster frame, which has been chipped over the years, so at least the paint should cover the white chips and freshen it up. I'll do a separate post about how it turns out.
Furlough has been all about doing those tiny little jobs that get neglected in day to day life, but which feel very satisfying to do. It means that I'll be able to go back to work with a clear head, and be able to concentrate on what needs doing at the shop, which will be a help.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

A Final Fling on Some Small Projects

Immediately after receiving the news on Friday afternoon, I decided to get on and oil the chair that I had sanded and re-upholstered.  I wasn't 100% happy with the finish from the oil, as it came up darker/orangier than I'd like, but to be honest, it will just have to do.  OH gave it one last rub over after the oil was applied, using wire wool and this improved the finish to the point that we're happy enough with it.  He has today put the chair back together and I have now completed the final task of attaching fabric to the bottom of the re-upholstered seat. Here are a couple of pictures of the finished results:
I have one final small job to do, which is to securely staple the corners of the base fabric at the front of the chair.  The staples I have are not deep enough to go through the various layers of fabric, so I've had to order some more on eBay, but for all intents and purposes this project is now complete and OH is back sitting in it.
It completely covers the lid of the box, which is good, as it will prevent it getting dusty. (One less surface to dust is ideal as far as I'm concerned).
The next small project I decided to tackle was to make an anti-slip pad for my sewing machine foot pedal. I've been doing a lot of sewing during Lockdown and on many occasions the foot pedal has moved and then got jammed underneath a low level shelf on my sewing table, which means the machine continues to sew of it's own accord and sometimes causes problems with projects that I work on, as well as causing me a lot of frustration.
I saw the idea on a Pinterest post and thought that's exactly what I need. Whilst doing the food shopping at Tesco on Monday, I noticed some anti-slip matting on sale for £1. It was designed to go in drawers or under chopping boards, but fit the bill perfectly for this project, so I bought a roll.
As per the pin, I sewed some fabric from my scraps around the edges of the anti-slip matting, in a similar way to applying bias binding, after cutting it to an appropriate size for the pedal. Once again, it didn't take long to  make and I now have a great solution to stop the foot pedal slipping. I tested it and the matting definitely stops the foot pedal from going anywhere. It will make sewing so much easier.  Here's a picture of the finished mat:
These small projects are often the most satisfying to complete.  They cost next to nothing, use up fabric in your stash, refresh your home or provide the solution to a problem and take next to no time to complete.  I haven't actually got any more projects planned for now, but I did order some iron on interfacing for dressmaking the other day, for when I finally get the opportunity to move on to making some clothes again.  I'll keep you posted should I eventually make anything.
At least now when I do go back to work, I'll be heading back safe in the knowledge that all these small jobs have been taken care of and are no longer waiting for me when I get home.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Lockdown - Week 13

I'm pretty happy with the end result.  I now just need to paint both of the rattan storage boxes in our bedroom to match, but there's no hurry, as we're nowhere near ready to decorate this room yet. I may do it during Lockdown if I have enough time to do so.
I also attempted to do a mosaic project that I'd been wanting to try for ages on Wednesday.  I had to wait until some new safety goggles arrived, as I'd donated mine to the hospital earlier in Lockdown when they were short on PPE. They arrived on Wednesday, so I was all set to go.  It was much trickier than I remembered and it took me ages to assemble just part of the design I was going for. I'll post more when I finally finish the project.
Later, I caught up with the ironing whilst watching the Sewing Bee. I'm really getting back into it now that I've got my sewing mojo back. I stopped watching it for a few years, as I'd completely lost interest in sewing when I started my current job, mainly due to not having the time or the energy.
Thursday and Friday really weren't good days for me this week. I didn't sleep well on Wednesday or Thursday night which didn't help. As a consequence, my exercises didn't get done, and I just didn't feel motivated to do anything much. I was starting to get quite concerned about myself and then I heard that I'm going back to work on July 1st. I think that this really helped me. I need to get back to some sort of normality, Lockdown is starting to wear me down.
Since finding out about returning to work, my mood has picked up and I feel much more motivated to get on and finish the few jobs I want to complete before I go back. I can finally see an end to being at home day after day. I might not feel quite so happy once I get back there, but at least I won't be climbing the walls as I am at present some days.
On Saturday morning, LB and I went out on a little vintage thrifting adventure.  I was very excited, as I'd seen on Facebook that my favourite vintage shop was re-opening and I just couldn't resist a visit. LB was keen to go too, so we drove over and each filled a bag with items for just £10 in total. It felt so good to do something that I used to do and enjoy before Lockdown. Social distancing wasn't the best, but I wore a mask and gloves and there weren't really many people in the store, so it was ok. We weren't able to try any of the clothes on, so it was a bit hit and miss whether they fitted.  Put it this way, I could get them all on, but some looked better than others.
I spent the remainder of Saturday afternoon doing a few adjustments to one of the items to make it more wearable. I'll do a separate post about the things I bought once I've washed and ironed them all.
So a mixed week, a bit of a roller coaster one to be honest, but I'm feeling a lot better knowing that I'm returning to work, whatever I face in doing so.
I hope your week 13 of Lockdown has been a good one.
Here's hoping you've had a better week than I.

Monday, 15 June 2020

What am I grateful for?

Following on from Kezzie's post about 10 things that she is grateful for, I thought I'd write a post about what I am currently grateful for, so here goes.
1- Having time at home with OH and LB. It's not often that you get the chance to spend so much time together and apart from the odd little disagreement, we've all rubbed along very nicely during Lockdown. We're starting to see less of LB now, as she is getting out and meeting friends more, but she needs that, especially being an only child and being stuck at home with the olds.
2- That none of our families have been badly affected by Covid-19. We are very lucky indeed. We're still not sure if we've had a mild version of the virus, and we will probably never know.
3 - Our dog - So grateful to be able to take her out every morning and spend hours outside in the open air, exploring the local open spaces. It would be much harder to motivate myself to go out if she wasn't with us. She's stubborn as a mule, but has been great company during Lockdown. We love her to bits.
4 - To still have a job to go back to once this is all over. Although I'm not sure when I'll be going back, or what sort of state the shop will be in when I get back, I'm happy to have a return to work to look forward to and grateful to have been paid during Lockdown.
5 - The YouTube and other social media content that some of the people I follow have been putting out during lockdown. Their hard work and creativity have helped to keep me sane and entertained with dancing, music, vlogs and blog posts and also helped me to feel connected to others whilst being stuck at home for the last three months.
6 -  Our garden and allotment - (Although I haven't really visited the allotment that often during lockdown). We are so very lucky to have such a special place to be able to escape to and I know that OH would have been lost without it. I might not have spent hours and hours in the garden, but I do enjoy looking out into it every day and love watching it change with the seasons. I also love observing the birds frolicking in the bird bath and I am going to try to spend more time out there in the next few weeks, if the weather stays good.
7 - The opportunity to experience a more simple existence, where we live less frenetic lives and have the time to appreciate those around us, what we have and to realise how lucky we really are.
8 - Having the time to spend on starting and finishing various projects around our home over the last 3 months. When else would we ever have got around to doing them.  More specifically, I am very grateful that we have now re-decorated two rooms in our house.  OH is now moving on to sand and re-varnish the floorboards in both of these rooms, so I don't know if the decorating will proceed into the hallway any time soon, but at least we've got some momentum going, which should help us to continue with it.
9 - Books - What would we do without being able to escape into a good book, be it for a few minutes or even a few hours?  Being able to read most mornings has made for a very agreeable start to my days and I am happy to have created some space on the bookshelf, where previously a whole lot of unread books sat.
10 - TV and Netflix - Although we might only watch a couple of hours a day, we've found plenty of things to keep us informed and entertained on Lockdown evenings. It is becoming apparent though that the TV stations are struggling for new content, judging by the many repeats that have appeared in the programming in recent weeks. 
A few examples of things we've been watching: The Last Dance on Netflix, Succession - series 1 & 2, The Great British Sewing Bee, Gardener's World and Jools Holland and guests on Friday nights and I can't forget my daily indulgence of watching Escape to the Chateau DIY.
Finally, it goes without saying, that I am very grateful to everyone who has helped us to get through this Lockdown period, namely the supermarkets and shops that have fed us, the hospitals and their staff who have risked their health to care for the sick amongst us, the transport workers for helping the key workers get to work, the refuse collectors for clearing up after us and all the public servants who have worked tirelessly throughout this time. We may not all be 100% happy with how things have panned out, but I am thankful for their efforts to navigate us through this pandemic.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Garden and Allotment Update

It's been a few weeks since I posted a garden/allotment update, so here goes.
Anyway, the lovely corner of foxgloves that I transplanted are now virtually over and about to set seed.  I decided to put paper bags over the tops of some of the white ones in order to catch some of the seed to potentially sew in other parts of the garden.  I have cut the seed heads off most of the purple ones, as I only want white ones to self seed. It will be interesting to see what happens.
This weekend, I spent most of Saturday in the garden cutting stuff back that was getting a bit overwhelming, planting my acer into the border. Here it is tucked underneath this corkscrew hazel.  it adds a bit of colour to this border. I may need to move it when it outgrows this space, but for now it's perfect.
The rose bush that I bought the other week is now in full bloom and very pretty it is too.
Whilst out in the garden, I swept the decking, pulling out all the pots and sweeping behind them. It was long overdue and it all now looks a lot tidier. I also created space outside the back door for OH to grow on some of his tomato plants, as it gets full sun for most of the day there. Here's a picture of the decking as it is now:
We keep our brown garden waste bin at the back now, as people would walk past and deposit their rubbish in it when it was in the front garden. It's a bit of an eyesore, but at least it's easier to fill it when it's in the back garden and we don't have to traipse the garden waste through the house. We just wheel it up the stairs and out to the front on the day that it is collected now.
I also harvested all of the gooseberries and blackcurrants from the garden on Saturday morning.  There weren't masses, but what there is, combined with what I harvested from the allotment later, will all get made into jam next week.
Another small thing I made for the garden this week was a new peg bag. I made it out of a small piece of shower curtain fabric that I had in my stash. I couldn't see me using this for anything else and at least the pegs will not get wet, as they do in the fabric bag I made last time. The old one was looking decidedly shabby and needed retiring. Here's a picture of the new one:
The raised beds in our garden are OH's domain these days. They are fully planted up with all kinds of lettuce, spinach, bush beans, kale, kohl rabi and sunflowers. We have been harvesting some lettuce leaves, but I prefer a nice head of lettuce, so I'm hoping these plants will develop into heads eventually. There is some kale ready to harvest, which I keep meaning to do, but I never seem to get around to it, probably because I'm the only person in the house who will eat it. Here's a picture of the beds:
There are still lots more things to do in the garden, but they are mainly big jobs that will take a bit of thought, planning and organisation. In the meantime, I can always buy a few more plants when I see them and fill in some gaps and then just sit in it and enjoy it. I definitely need to do more of that.
How is your garden?