Tuesday, February 28, 2006

365 day rule

Ok you wonder what it is, what can it possibly mean? The last 12 months I have been decluttering my home and disposing of the contents in an energy efficient way. Anything that has not been used in the last year, apart from obvious stuff like family heirlooms has been dealt with or is in the process of being dealt with. Any money made is being put towards debt reduction and I monitor each month how we are doing on reducing the budget. It is suprising what you pay every month that you have done on automatic.

I am now limited to 1 credit card ( for emergency purposes only) and apart from stopping me from using a variety of them and spending, it actually focusses me on one account only to deal with. If you have several, ask yourself why? I usually find one sufficient unless I travel a lot and then I have 2 just in case the machine swallows it. However as travelling is not on the agenda one card is plenty.

I am amazed at the junk and stuff we have accumulated and am continuing my efforts to sort it. We have a variety of batteries ( yuk) in a variety of toys that do no longer work and the kids have grown out of. As I work my way around the house in my 6 week cleaning and decluttering rota, I may have found that reducing the stuff creates breathing space. Batteries can be recycled and stuff can be sold on ebay or given to charity shops or freecycle. Keeping this up will create more space and gradually reduce any debt you may have. No need to do this quickly as that would make you feel deprived but 1/365 effort is worth it.

I was going through papers today, you know the bankstatements that are more than 7 years old and had a good shredding session. All recyclable on compost heap and paper collection. Be careful that you shred things, as your identity may be stolen otherwise. Does anyone really piece together bits of paper to get your credit details? Good point, if I simplify my accounts, then there will be less information to get. The paper cabinet looks lighter and saves me energy lugging it about.

dream your life and live your dream.


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You are looking at the bumper crop in the making. I have sewn 2 varieties so far, Alicante which was a bumper crop last year and then Tamina which was given to me as a Christmas present. I will have too many plants but am thinking I could give some away. Last year we had 12 tomatoe plants and 6 beef tomatoes. The latter did not do so well. You never know when you sew seeds what will come up and when they all come up, you sure will lose some to nature along the way. However, this is the first stage. I have this little wee propagator which gets things going and then when the weather warms up a little they will move to the polytunnel.

With lots of tender loving care you are looking at the tomatoe soup, pizza base sauce and passata of next year.


easy recipe

per person
1 egg
2 oz of flour

enough milk to give it the consistency of double cream.

Put flour in bowl and add egg. Mix well and add milk until you reach the right consistency.

Heat your pancake pan, add a little butter/oil, a small ladle of the mixture and away you go.

Serve with lemon juice and sugar, maple syrup, jam, chocolate spread, honey or bananas cut in chunks, soaked in orange juice.


Monday, February 27, 2006


Saving water being one of my points to consider and I have a leaky tap in the kitchen. I could do this myself but I do not have the skills and the tap is of the ancient variety as well as being very hot. So what to do when you have little things that need doing and you cannot do them. Ofcourse I could get a plumber out but that will cost me a lot of money or learn the skills of how to do this ( no time at present as it is urgent!) Being a member of a LETS scheme however means that I can ring the organiser, tell her about my leaking tap and she puts me in touch with the man who can. This was done within 24 hours. The tap is mended, I met a nice man who is saving 500 gallons of water a year and apart from having my tap mended, I have learnt a lot of information to keep me going for a while, from where to get cheap compost material to where to get free manure. ( Not everyone's cup of tea, but if you meet a man who is in the know?)
I have paid him in virtual money and having listed a variety of my skills on the register, hopefully someone in need of my skills will give me a call. Interesting economy and puts me in touch with a local likeminded community.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Today, there was a very cold wind out there and yet when I am in the polytunnel, there is no sign of it and I too can benefit from a little warmth generated by the sun.
Was given a blackcurrant bush at Christmas which was planted in a pot and have managed to sew some peas and saladings in black guttering. The idea being that when they grow up a bit, I will be able to simply slide the soil into a trench and they will grow in a row without too much disturbance. It sounds crazy, thats probably why I give it a go, but in general I am trying to simplify gardening. I have raised beds and the guttering is 2 m long and in principle that should match up. The tomato seeds have germinated and are showing signs of growing towards the light. As last year I will probably have a surplus but I am quite happy with that, I can share it with my neighbours who cannot start plants that early.


On another note, I am not sure what is happening to our leisure facilities nearby, our nearest pool has been closed and there is talk of the next town's one to be closed because it is not profitable and it is going to be replaced with a supermarket. Apparently the policy has changed no longer requiring local authorities to provide leisure facilities. There are already 5 supermarkets in that town and I wonder why they think they need another one. Taking the splash pool away will make swimming no longer viable for families with small children. The pool currently has a beach and waves and enables toddlers and babies to experience the water and learn to swim in a safe and warm environment. I will do my utmost to write in and put in my pennies worth...one person can make a difference. Maybe it needs another child to drown in a pond to make them realise that swimming in fact is a good skill to learn.


As you know I have been pursuing the idea of using different type bags instead of plastic bags, as in my previous post. Someone very kindly has directed me to onja bags which are so small you can take them with you anywhere. Why don't supermarkets use these instead, we could all have them and stop the pollution and filling up of our landfill sites. I will have to put this on my wishlist but they would make nice presents for next Christmas to start some of my friends and family on the same route.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I have to applaud him, first day at his new job and he gets the best project ever, to start living ethically. It starts the debate nationally and it should help more people get ideas about what is possible and what is not. Cannot wait to see how he gets on. You can watch the 18 mins report over the net if you are interested and hopefully we will all learn more together. The video charts his family members and how they already live ethically and the changes he could consider making.
There is some question as to whether individual action can make a difference and again.....I do not need proof of that ......9/11 was enough proof that one person can make a difference.

We are the consumers that demand things in the shops, so if and when we stop demanding,or demand thinsg differently, trends will change.
This could become a fashion.....hopefully you are all following it....it is worthwhile.
keep thinking ethically....


Where does all the stuff come from that we accumulate I wonder? I have been decluttering my home for the last 12 months and there is always more that I find that I have no idea why I am keeping it. We do get given lots of stuff from others which is very generous of them and I always accept reserving the right to use it, recyle it or give it away to charity in the best way I see fit. This week I have been tidying the boys bedrooms, with some interesting conversations afterwards I have to say. I came across 10 pairs of jeans I had received in various sizes which I had been saving for my boys but it appears that they do not like the feel of jeans and prefer some loose trousers. So why keep it? Having created a space there, I managed to put the variety of stuffed toys there that usually hang about all over the place. The 2 younger boys did not object but my 12 year old went into adolescent mode, it appears I invaded his space and his way of arranging things. I did apologise but from that has come the pointer from him that I am no longer required to clean his room, he will do it himself. Sounds fine to me, it seems a way to downshift my housework.

One of the loves I have , is a love of books. What can you do with the books you have read. It is an ongoing dilemma for me. So here are some options:
  1. Give them to someone else to read if you have enjoyed it very much.
  2. list them with Amazon or greenmetropolis
  3. sell them on ebay
  4. give them to a charity shop

Then again, you could buy less books and go to the library which solves that problem in its entirety. There are books I cannot part with because I look at them on a regular basis and I love vintage cookery books just to indulge myself in how real food was cooked a long time ago.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


We had a planned powercut today which was kind of interesting. Knowing that the power was going to go off allowed us to do jobs in advance and I realised today that without power I would not be able to use the breadmaker, vacuum the floors, have a shower, use dishwasher, do laundry, work on the computer, listen to radio.....the list is endless. What happened though was that I came to appreciate the reason why my windows have windowseats, and some sort of connection to how dismally dark it must have been in the last century when there was no light at all during the day. I had to cook my dinner by 3 pm otherwise I would have had trouble seeing what I was doing in the kitchen. I take lights and electricity for granted and would be lost without it in a sense. I spent time reading sitting near the window and going outside when the rain abated to do some gardening. What I liked though was the silence in the house, no radio, no computer whirring, just a simple silence where I could hear the birds singing in the garden and reflect upon a simpler lifestyle. When the children got back, lights went on and silence disappeared.

My onions planted in the fall are coming up nicely, and I prepared the bed for the potatoes to go in in the polytunnel as that could be done even in the rain. Another 5 weeks for winter to go.......cannot wait for spring.


How do we actually know what is in our food? A disturbing article in the Daily Mail states that the nutritional content of the food we eat now is much lower than 50 years ago. Most foods do not taste of anything, bananas could be like eating cardboard. It does not have to be this way. If you have ever grown a carrot or peas and eaten them straight from the ground ( after scraping it and washing it of course), your taste buds might like to explode. Carrots are sweet and tender and peas crunchy and sweet. The quality of what you grow depends on the quality of your soil. The soil can be improved by addition of organic material. The pumpkins I grew last year were huge, and people asked me what I had done to them. No more than recycling the composted vegetables and chicken manure and then put it back on and in the land. The saying, you reap what you sow, comes to mind and I have to say that the reason why I want to be my own greengrocer this year is simply that I like my food to taste as fresh as a daisy and I like my children to experience some of the pleasures that simple home grown fruit and vegetables can give. I went out today to see what is growing in my garden, and apart from a few leftover leeks, I spotted some wild garlic and some very fresh tasting parsley. It maketh not a complete meal, but it sure brings taste in the house and beats bland convenience foods.

There is talk of Avian flu coming to the Uk brought here by wild swans and wild birds. I have been cleaning the old hen house today as I am looking forward to setting up home to 9 hens and 1 cockerill soon. I like chickens simply because they are the only birds I find attractive, ( being a mother hen myself so to speak), they lay eggs, they eat some of the grain leftovers my boys leave, they chatter and cluck and make a nice sound around the place and they produce manure which heats the compost heap up and helps it get to a crumbly moist dark soil which enriches the soil we grow things in. Are they hard work, not really, they earn their keep very well and when you go slug hunting at night, they are always pleased to devour the creatures. Nature can be cruel but wonderful at the same time. Last year I spotted a toad in my polytunnel, it did not stay long because wen the temperature rose, it went away but in the meantime, if did its bit to clear up slugs and snails lurking in the polytunnel. Just shows we can all work together no matter what we do , what we eat and what we look like.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


We are big dairy fans in this household ( not that it is good for us if we have too much of it), but then again, we have had no broken bones (plenty of other things wrong but no broken bones). The reason why we are fond of dairy stuff is simply that my DH was born on a dairy farm and a lot of his friends are thus ' dairy farmers'. Surprisingly they get very little for the milk they sell per litre, to the extent that they barely make a living. We cannot buy the stuff direct from the farm either ( not allowed) and this resulted in us ultimately buying it in the supermarket. That sounds great, convenient and all that ....but it resulted in us accumulating a lot of plastic bottles in our box. ( I have 4 boxes in my cupboard, one for glass, tins, paper and plastic). The plastic bottles do not get collected so on top of rinsing them out, separating the tops from the bottle and then driving 5 miles to recycling depot and putting all the bottle manually in the area nominated, I have been thinking for a while that there has to be a better way.
Here in the UK, milk can be delivered daily to your doorstep if you live in a city or built up area. It arrives as by magic as the delivery is made by electric vehicles at about 3 am so households can wake up to cornflakes and fresh milk. In my area, the delivery is every 3 days but I can live with that. The price is higher than in the supermarket but in the end, it will save me plastic bottles, a trip to the recycling plant, transporting the white stuff will be shared and I will have a better conscious. It will also give me some walking to do first thing in the morning, to walk in my slippers down the lane, and see whether the milkman has left me my daily pint. I know soya milk would be better but we have not got completely that far and I am loathe to make changes that the menfolk in this house will react to vividly. I chuckled at the GM Mooseletter from the WI read out to Sainsbury's staff. Maybe we should all question where our milk comes from and what is in it. My boys often ask me why we have butter and not any of the spreads available. My comment is ' I trust cows more than scientists'.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Comments on time out

It has been a frustrating time without computer technology. The modem did not work properly and we were not connected. Apart from obvious frustration it did provide me with an opportunity to check out how much we rely on the internet as a resource. I do value it immensely but maybe expecting it to be available at the touch of a button is an attitude thing. Maybe that is actually what we expect to happen with everything. Is it necessary for everything to go so fast?At what cost? Ared we prepared to pay that price for convenience?
Not having an internet connection has enabled me to reflect on the amount of computer use we have as a family and how we can make better use of it. How much time do you spend on the internet?

Saturday, February 18, 2006


I am having a few technology problems with my server but will be back soon.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


It has been good testing the response on shopkeepers when you say ' NO BAG PLEASE!'. They look incredulously as if you are about to shoplift and wonder why the small little protest.
I keep confirming to myself that this will simplify my life because :
it reduces the need to deal with plastic bags and packaging.
there will be no need to stash up the plastic bags in the kitchen.
It will be good for the planet.

If I manage to keep this up for 21 days it will just become a new habit and it is easy to do. Walking through town I observed so many people with bags and wrapping.

I did go and have a walk about also at the recycling depot to see what actually happens with the waste collection and think it should be possible to do more.

The waste diary has been interesting to do and has enabled me to find the following alternatives:
  • change to milk delivery in glass bottles.
  • reduce the amount of cans we have for petfood
  • look at a wormery for dealing with cooked food scraps and small kitchen scraps.

All these actions require some planning and are based on research at home which I would encourage you all to do, it is an interesting exercise.

There is a lot of info on the net regarding plastic bottles and this chart should give a better indication as to what can be recycled and what cannot. Recycling bottles does mean washing them out and taking the tops off but looking at the list of what can be recycled should enable me to check the bottoms of bottles for those that are recyclable and those that are not. Add to that the interesting looks you get from people when they see you in the shops turning each container over to check the packaging. We can wise up on packaging and reduce the need for it.
Sure it takes time and effort but I urge you to put it in....it will reap rewards for the future.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


The plastic bag thing has been on my mind. I have now had a reply from my local council who say that unfortunately there are no recycling facilities for the bags as yet apart from the supermarket. I remain unclear as to what they actually do with them? Anybody know?
I purchased a tote bag in the charity shop which is covered in plastic, and will be my rainy day bag. I have found that I possess a variety of cloth bags from a variety of sources.
My DS , smallest one, did an exercise on weights at school comparing the strength of plastic bags, paper bags and cloth bags , putting about 10kg of weight in each. The cloth bag won the day and that does it for me. I can decorate my bag as I wish, now there's a creative idea.
Get yourself a cloth bag or make one out of worn jeans and then decorate with fabric paint. Or you could recycle your bags using Jodi's idea.

I'll put that on the creative list to do.


They arrived in the post today. The 18 KW bulbs for the light in the lounge are 'huge' and I cannot test the light quality until later, but I am pleased to say that I have persevered in putting them in ( shh, incognito, wonder whether anyone will notice the difference). I also got some R65 spotlight bulbs and they looked like they had a microchip in them, really techy stuff but they are in and they do the job , cannot 'spot' the difference as yet. ( pun intended, I know I have a weird sense of humour!)
That is about the limit financially that I can go to this month.

Off to the kitchen to prepare some convenience food. Not really, I am cooking a vegetable lasagne ahead of time, which will go in the freezer until that day when I have no time to cook from scratch but want a take away. I will then take it away from my freezer. Am branching out, not only do I want to be the greengrocer, baker but maybe I will do the deli department too. Stretched I hear you say, you bet ,but ...... I feel good doing this.


Getting back to the garden. My sweetpea plants are showing signs of coming up. There is still plenty of preparation that needs to be done for the coming season. My polytunnel has some algae lurking on the inside which need cleaning off and then I will be spreading compost in all the beds.

Plans for this month are :
  • planting salad leaves and annual herbs
  • 1st sowing of tomatoes, cucumbers, chillies and aubergines under cover
  • sowing in plugs or roottrainers of broad beans, peas and spinach
  • put the potatoes in the polytunnel by the end of February.

The main tasks are tidying up and cleaning the pots out. Looking at getting enough potting compost in and preparing for the warmer season. I have ordered some strawberry plants for the polytunnel which should be arriving beginning of March.

PS - I realise that not all of you can garden in this way but maybe you can look at sharing a garden, getting an allotment, growing vegetables in pots and on the windowsill.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I have to admit that now my mindset has been changed, now that I want to do things differently, the sheer amount of changes could be overwhelming. I think this is my personality though, can be a tad over enthousiastic and then the energy just is not there to carry it out.

I thought about this some more and actually that is probably what is happening all around. Imagine us to be a living thing just like the earth. The energy levels are getting a bit low, we are overheating a little, we need to let our hair down and relax, things are going badly wrong with temperature control and we have these organisms that seem to be just soo demanding.

Norene's post about plastic bags set me off again. What is the alternative I ask? It seems that plastic bags are just handed over whenever you shop and so the following seemed to be possibilities:

  • Check out what your local supermarket does about plastic bags. Tesco for instance has a collection point in its store to collect and recycle the bags.
  • Use canvas bags wherever possible and refuse plastic bags in town when they are offered to you. ( This may sound like hard work, but eventually it will become a habit).
  • Buy locally produced food where possible. That means investigating what is available locally and see how you can change you shopping habits.
  • Try a local vegetable box delivery scheme to avoid plastic wrapped vegetables and fruit.
  • Avoid disposable goods such as nappies, plates,forks,yoghurt pots,cosmetic wipes, tissues, razors,kitchen towels, computer cartridges. Look at alternatives available.
  • Drink tap water ( instead of buying bottled water) and use drink bottles to take drinks to work and out of the house.
  • Give gifts and treats that do not clutter, such as trip to theatre, cinema, aromatherapy etc.

That seems to be plenty to think about. That is the theory and what can I do to make that practical? Try doing the waste diary which should give you some indication as to what goes in your bin.

I also wrote to my local waste management company to ask how plastics can be recycled. There is a facility to recycle plastic bottles, but nothing else and I am waiting to hear what they say. A carrier bag tax would be great I think, would get people to think about it more.

Ok, off to make some bread now and ponder some more on alternatives. It is beginning to feel like a waste diet.

The videos posted on the freecycle site have been collected and as a result I received a very nice mirror shelf made out of driftwood. Thanks

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


From time to time I reflect on how things are going and what areas I want to be concentrating on in the future. I want to say thank you for all your comments so far, it is encouraging to see that the debate on how to practically upshift or downshift and creating a balance in our lives and for the planet is alive and well. I have to tell you here that I am just an individual, I have no agenda other than my values and beliefs that as a person I can make a difference to what is happening to the planet. It has to start with me and my blog is here to show you what I am considering and how I get on. I am not perfect, I make mistakes.

The areas I am working on at the moment.

  • Bread
    • I am making bread using the no fail recipe every other day. I still use the breadmaker and will continue to alternate until I can manage to confidently produce enough loaves as demanded by a 5 people household.
  • Slow Food
    • I am working on eating seasonally, cooking our food from scratch and preserving what I can. I am concerned about what is available, how far I need to travel for my food, and how far it travels to get to me, its quality, its price etc etc.
  • The garden
    • part of the above is to create my own greengrocer in the garden. This means that I need to identify the vegetables I can grow in my climate and plan a succession of vegetables we can eat. Its a work in progress again, and each month I will let you know what I am doing and how I am getting on.
  • Recycling
    • Anything that can be composted is being composted in this household, but again, it probably can be improved. We used to have 5 rubbish bags to go out every week, we are down to 2 now and I am still working on reducing that. We have 3 compost bins on the go.
  • Clothes
    • I am evaluating the amount of money we spend on clothes and whether this is realistic.
  • Transport
    • One of our main categories in the budget. After housing costs, transport costs are the highest and I am considering why we travel, how we travel and whether there are alternatives.
  • Energy debate
    • Still working on reducing our energy requirements. Monitoring how much we used has provided some ideas for reducing that. I am looking at the costs of solar power but again, its a work in progress.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Dr Matt Prescott sets out his aim to get the lightbulb banned to save emissions. This follows my post. What is helpful about his online information is that it lists suppliers both in the UK and US for places where CFL's can be found. Although it seems an expensive option to change your lightbulbs, it is cheap in the longer term and nicer for the planet. Leave me a comment if you are committing to change at least 3 lightbulbs by the end of February.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Ok, so how exactly can you measure your ecological footprint. You can do this quiz which will tell you how well you are doing compared with the average household in your area. I was shocked to see that in the USA the national average footprint is 25 and in the UK 5.3. We are doing well at 4.3 but it could be better and I was shocked to find out that we use up twice the resources available on our planet. Hopefully that will give us something to think about. I care about that a lot, and about the fact that if I do not make changes, it will become a necessirty for my children.
It is very cold here today, we have no heating, I am wearing wool socks, thick sweater and drinking a hot drink. It is something to get used to...or not...it very much depends on your comfort zone. Mine is being challenged currently.

Friday, February 03, 2006


I am making progress, how can I measure that you say? The bread I made yesterday simply has disappeared, in sandwiches for lunchboxes, eaten with soup and discussed with our neighbour when she came for a cup of coffee and a chat. My DH told her about the bread and described the texture as 'soapy'. A discussion followed whereby the ' bread appreciation society' passed a critical verdict on the item in front of them. The texture was ' cake like' more than ' bread like', there was less salt in it than shop bread and ......this went on for a few minutes while my DH excelled about my flapjacks ( and offered one to the neighour), talked about my knitted socks ( and the sweater I just finished) saying ' go on, put it on and show it off!) I did feel a lot of satisfaction in that moment. Later I found him snacking on the last of the shop bought marmalade with the last piece of bread, toasted on the Aga. He had a lovely smile on his face saying' when this is finished I am going to start on your marmalade'
I guess a lot happened after making that no fail bread, and indeed, it made me feel like a succesful and contented homekeeper. Simple things really, must make that bread again.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


There is an old belief in America that all hibernating animals wake up on Candlemas day and come out to see if it is still winter. If it is a sunny day, the animals will see their shadow and go back to earth for 40 days. If it is cloudy ( it is today), they will not be frigthened by their shadows and will stay above ground. Thus, if it is cloudy, people believe we shall have an early spring.

Candlemas on this side of the pond, takes its name rom the blessing of the candles on this day for use in church throughout the coming year. Christians used to light candles for Baby Jesus and Mother Mary and perhaps it is for this reason that in some areas today the snowdrops which are around are also known as Candlemas Bells or Mary's tapers.

"If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
winter will take another flight.
If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain,
Winter us gone and will not come again"

( Taken from Festivals, Family and Food by Diana Carey and July Large).

As its cloudy I look forward to winter going away and on my walk this afternoon will look out for the snowdrops. We will light a candle with our meal and generally talk about what a groundhog looks like. Any ideas?

The No Fail bread Loaf

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Just wanted to ' prove' ( pun intended) that the bread making did succeed. The no fail recipe is indeed no fail and the end result was well ,just lovely. The whole thing took more than 6 hours waiting time, and the smell when it came out was just heavenly. I wonder whether breadchick has some more recipes with different flour so I can create variety. I did check my breadmaker machine and it uses up 0.5 unit when making a loaf which is not that much but if I made bread every day as above, that would save on average 160 units per year. It all mounts up, So did the washing up though....

What was the pay off then.....less electricity, wonderful kneading action, heavenly smell and happy family. I also managed to explain the physics breadmaking in the process of the day to a poorly boy who is suffering and sniffing away. Lots of TLC needed, which he got as well as a nice hot chocolate and some bread and jam.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Its the first of the month, yippie, I say that with enthousiasm as I think spring must be getting nearer. The WOW factor stands for Well Organised Woman.

So here are some of the things I remind myself to do today:

  • Balancing the accounts
    • This means, checking the bank statements and comparing what money has come in, and what has been paid out, checking the list of standing orders ( payments that go out regularly each month). This little monthly task gives me a more realistic idea of what money is likely to be in my account and then when I need something, I can make sure there us enough in there to cover it. I have been doing this now for a long time and to give you a flavour, last months costs although reduced, are still quite high for food and transport. These are areas I am looking into improving.
  • Birthday checklist
    • I have a birthday book which lists the dates and names of birthdays in the month and at the beginning of the month, I check these out, write the cards, put stamps on them and have them ready to send off when I need to. Relationships are important to me.
  • Christmas planning
    • I know, that sounds just too far away, but only 11 months to go. I will be making a list of the people I wish to give gifts to this year and then start making plans to make them.
  • Garden
    • The garden is still pretty dormant but if my garden is to be my greengrocer this year, I will need to make some plans. More on that later in the week.
  • Family Festivals
    • 2nd February - Candlemas or Groundhog Day
    • 14th February - St Valentines
    • 28th February- Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day