22.4.14

Stephen's Story

Hello, lovely readers. A slightly rushed but urgent post tonight. Last Wednesday evening I was privileged to witness a life changing inspirational speech by a lovely local lad, Stephen Sutton (young man in hoodie with crutches behind) who has incurable cancer. I chatted to him at the end of the evening and asked his permission to blog about his positivity and fund raising. He was keen for me to do this and to use social media to publicise my post. Little did we know... I should have written this post a week ago because Stephen is now living his last few days after unfortunately suffering lung complications over the weekend. 

Stephen is a normal 19 year old teenager with incurable cancer just trying to life as much as 
possible, whilst trying to raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust. Last year he posted his bucket list online and started blogging his journey on https://www.facebook.com/StephensStory.

His initial target was to raise £10,000 for fellow sufferers but so far (tonight) he has raised £641,108. 01 and 64% of his £1,000, 000 target.

If you feel able please visit his fundraising page https://www.justgiving.com/Stephen-Sutton-TCT to donate whatever you can afford and help smash his target. If you have a twitter account please retweet #stephenstory as much as you can. Jason Manford and Clare Balding have already tweeted his cause so please join in the party. 

I leave you with this, his motivational speech delivered to the O2 Arena in front of 4,000 people in January earlier this year. Such wise words....  introduced by Clare Balding, no less. What a lovely, mature and giving guy. 




Thank you Stephen for your inspiration. 



21.4.14

Ten Little Ducks at Easter...

Today we made the most of a warm, dry and sunny Bank Holiday and headed off to a local nature reserve, The Wolsey Centre, near Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire. The weather and sights were a delight. The only cost was a voluntary parking contribution. This is a wonderful place for any age, and those with disabilities, to enjoy as you can observe nature so closely from the hideouts and a pond platform. My highlights included seeing these ducklings, a swan's nest, a cute pair of Canadian geese, gigantic gunnera, musical sculptures and many, many pretty spring blooms.




Yesterday was a very different day and it rained for most of the afternoon just as we headed out to Packwood House, a National Trust property in Warwickshire. However, despite getting soaked and my camera lens getting steamy we were enchanted by the gardens and house. Packwood is famous for its tapestries, sculptured yews and kitchen garden. We explored the nearby woodland to see bluebells before heading off to the gardens and house. The newly opened café was roomy and contemporary with winged armchairs and succulents in abundance. It is well worth a visit in its own right. Sadly by this time my camera lens was a little misty otherwise I would have certainly tried to get a photo to show you. I had a most welcome and warming cappuccino.





In between these outings we have been seeing family and enjoying our usual Easter ritual of church, hot cross buns, chocolate and a last minute Easter tree and cake.

I like the joy and relative simplicity of this festival.








I hope you had a good time this Easter too, however you chose to spend it. 

18.4.14

Digging...



Hello there! Today the lawn has finally gone. Our plans for a minimalist garden are under way! It has taken five days and has been a massive learning curve. I tackled it one square at a time, separating the lawn from the soil (we were told we couldn't put the lawn into the skip as it is living matter). Gradually I developed a system and found my flow. I enjoyed it then. Thankfully, as hubs was working, my boys helped me take the heavy bags of lawn to the local council tip. Next we have to remove more soil and deposit it in our hired skip. Then we can start choosing our materials and plants to transform this small garden. I can't wait! I can't wait for Easter either, can you? Down time, family time and... chocolate. Oh yes, chocolate I await you. Pretty pictures of Easter to follow xo



16.4.14

Creating a Cosy Corner

Our living room is a place to entertain, laze, gather as a family, sometimes eat, work (hubs works from home at a desk in this room) and where I'm happiest blogging from my laptop on the sofa. It's my room first thing in the morning when the rest of the household slumbers but during office hours I retreat to other parts of the house. Come the evening and weekends it's such a treat to kick back and relax again in this room. 

Hubs has a desk in the corner where there are two windows but the opposite corner (with a third window) has been a little bare since we moved in nearly two years ago. This is where we put the tree at Christmas but we have often talked of making more of this space. Inspired by Atlantic Shopping's Best of British campaign I decided to join in and create my own British themed corner for this room. A tub chair seemed the perfect solution for this small area and I chose a red chair from Atlantic Shopping for its neat shape and cheery colour.

I then set to styling the corner around this little tub chair and Atlantic Shopping's Best of British theme. Oh what fun! Out came a sweet Union Jack cushion cover made by our youngest at school last year (not perfectly made but that's why I love it), a favourite throw and a neat side table from Habitat (no longer available but can be found on Ebay).




To make the space more personal we created two prints based on our favourite holiday destinations in the Far West of Cornwall, Penzance and St. Ives. They hang on the side facing wall by the chair and make the corner more intimate. I quite like the fact that they can't be seen from all angles of the room. Apart from the Ikea frames and chair this little corner has cost very little to put together. 


The front of our house is south facing and when the sun shines the living room gets really warm. Even without the sun this corner is the perfect spot to gaze out of the window and now on this new comfy chair I can read, enjoy a nice cup of tea and dream of sunnier days!



I'm really pleased with our new cosy corner complete with comfy chair. Below is a guide to where the items came from in case you're interested. I hope you like it as much as I do.





14.4.14

Minimalist Monday: Brand Happiness


I first became interested in minimalism at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed in many areas of my life. I was working full-time in a demanding job, living in a house that needed a lot of time and money spending on it and my personal life although happy was sometimes too hectic and over-scheduled to enjoy. Somehow I kept going but I began to realise that this life was not making me content. My happiness came from quick fixes such as an expensive holiday, impulse clothes shopping and fancy ready meals bought to save us time.

Minimalism attracted me because it seemed to offer the chance of starting over and the possibility of a more enduring happiness. A less showy, gentler brand of happiness. A happiness that would come from being content from within not from the outward status of owning the right house, car or clothes. A time-rich life where cooking from scratch and a long walk would be everyday pleasures not everyday pressures. 

And so began my experiment of trying to live with with less. Gradually I decluttered many areas of my life. First to go was my full-time job. I was lucky enough to be able to work part-time and this dramatically improved my work-life balance. For the first time in many years I gained time that I could choose how to spend including sometimes allowing myself me-time.

This new life has taken hard work, planning and financial sacrifice. A smaller income meant that we had to downsize. Fortunately, we found a smaller house which was cheaper and easier to manage. In the process we decluttered huge amounts of possessions which was a lot of work. We are fortunate to still be able to afford some treats and holidays but they have to be carefully budgeted for.

There have been many positive benefits as a result of simplifying my life. We actually prefer our smaller house because we have more time to relax in it. Decluttering taught me that I have always owned too much and now my buying decisions are planned more consciously than before. Now I enjoy the purchases that I make because I don't feel guilty afterwards in the same way that I did in the past when I bought more impulsively. Having more free time has enabled me to have more time to support my Mum and Dad, relax with my family, meet up with friends, run more regularly, volunteer, blog, be more involved in my church and join a book club. 

A major breakthrough that I have made is being able to embrace change and risk-taking. At the end of last year I made a huge move and left my permanent job of many years. Since January I have been doing temporary work and have so far enjoyed this new chapter of my life. I am enjoying new experiences in my work and opportunities are beginning to evolve. I have learnt a lot about myself and feel confident about the future.

Despite the benefits of living with less I occasionally have doubts about the life changes I have made. Sometimes I find it hard to relate to others when they are relaying their latest purchases or expensive travel experiences and plans. But then I remember that my happiness has its own brand that doesn't need approval or recognition and I know that I am on the right path. 

Just a little update on my simplifying journey. Have you any similar experiences? I'd love to hear.

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13.4.14

Different Views









A quick post today written in between resting after a walk through our local woods and preparing for a belated birthday meal as our eldest son is now home from uni.

I've been admiring these stunning yellow fields as I've been driving around this week and how beautiful the dark trees look against the vivid colour of the rapeseed oil. They are in full bloom around here but I noticed on Friday afternoon as we drove to Sheffield that they were only just beginning to come out further north. This afternoon it was lovely to stretch our legs and take in the views of these yellow fields from inside as well as outside the woods. 

Dappled sunlight shone through the trees and sparkled on the water and the sky was a magnificent blue with just a few fluffy clouds for interest. We saw our first bluebells of this spring and a gorgeous mass of delicate white flowers. I don't know their name but they were a delight especially as there was just the one clump of them. We found a bench to stop, stare and listen to the sounds of nature.

I love our  walks and hope we can fit more in soon. Today really was a treat and I can't wait to return to these woods soon when hopefully they will be ablaze with bluebells. Over the next few days I hope to get started with removing the lawn from our small garden so I'm hoping this pleasant weather continues. Wish me luck...

I've been writing this blog now for eighteen months and still thoroughly enjoy sharing my simplifying journey with you. Just to let you know, I have decided to do the occasional sponsored post but only when I believe that the brand fits in with this blog and its readers. I like finding inspiration for my home on the web especially when its stylish and well priced so I hope you might find them useful too but I respect the fact that there may be different views on this. My ideals on minimalism and consumerism haven't changed but I still need to buy the occasional item and I guess you do too. My sponsored posts will be clearly labelled.

Thank you for reading, following and commenting here and have a great week xo



8.4.14

Lemon and Raspberry (Less) Mess
























Following on from last week's simple starter of stuffed peppers, I present its bookend contender for the easiest and dreamiest of desserts. Lemon and Raspberry (Less) Mess can be prepared in advance, then popped in the fridge to delight hours later. It's light, cheap, gluten free and basically more of an assembly job than a recipe. It's a solution we came up with when we were serving a Mother's Day/ birthday meal/ Sunday roast recently. It would work well if you have guests over Easter. 

You will need (serves 4-5)

500g Greek yoghurt
3-4 tablespoons of lemon curd
icing sugar to taste
grated zest of one lemon for decoration
1 mini meringue per serving
raspberries for decoration
pretty glasses to serve

Method

The first (optional) task is to sweeten the Greek yoghurt to taste with a few teaspoons of icing sugar. Then swirl several tablespoons of lemon curd through the Greek yoghurt. Begin the assembly of the pud by placing a teaspoon of lemon curd into the bottom of each glass. Add layers of the lemon yoghurt mixture to the glass with the occasional swirl of pure lemon curd. Scatter with grated lemon zest, a few raspberries (these can also be sweetened with a little icing sugar beforehand in a bowl) and pop a mini meringue or two on top. Or if you prefer a messier mess use broken meringues mixed into the lemon/yoghurt mixture. You really can't go wrong with these ingredients.



6.4.14

Looking Out, Looking In

Hello. I'm thankful this weekend for

♥ a meal out with friends and ex work colleagues
♥ an evening of good food and company at my oldest friend and her partner's lovely brick and timber cottage 
♥ a teenage son happily celebrating his19th birthday away from home
♥ pink roses (£2 from Lidl)
♥ this little blog and all who read it 
♥ rainy afternoons allowing much needed time for relaxation and reflection on the sofa
♥ accepting it's OK to not go for that run if I'd rather not
♥ looking out from this little house that we once walked past and dreamed of owning if only we could manage to downsize

Life has been a little busy recently with family commitments, work and catching up with friends. I'm thankful for this full life but today I needed to catch up with myself too. Finding the balance between keeping things running, moving plans forward and taking time out to refresh is never easy. Sometimes you just have to write stop in the diary and book some time out.

Have a great week and welcome to any new readers xo



2.4.14

Stuffed Peppers ~ A Simple Starter


This is a starter that ticks lots of boxes as it's light, can be prepared in advance and is easy to serve. What's more it's vegetarian, cheap, gluten free and oh so pretty. It's a solution we came up with last weekend when we were serving a Mother's Day/ birthday meal/ Sunday roast. Starters are as important as meeting someone for the first time; a starter with the perfect seductive initiation of colours, flavours and style can beguile your guests and build your confidence enough to help you sail you through the often more trickier courses to follow. So grab some peppers, a sharp knife and get ready to paint a colourful picture on a plate. 

You will need

half a red pepper per person
2-3 cherry tomatoes per half pepper
1-2 finely chopped red onions
mozzarella cheese sliced (parmesan would work just as well)
a few spoonfuls of ready made pesto
olive oil to drizzle
chives 
fresh basil 
salt and pepper

Method

Half the red peppers including the stalks (this helps keep the peppers intact and also looks prettier). Clean out the inners of the peppers and then fill with halved cherry tomatoes. Scatter some finely chopped red onion on top and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Season and bake on a baking sheet in the the oven at 200C for 20-30 minutes until beginning to colour. Remove from the oven and add slices of mozzarella and then roast for another 10 minutes to allow the cheese to melt. Serve each pepper half on a large plate with torn basil leaves and a few long chive stalks for added interest. A smear of pesto to the side and you're done. Luckily the peppers stay hot for quite a long time to allow for such adornment.