Festive Links

Christmas 2011

So... it's  D E C E M B E R  tomorrow.
Here are some Christmas links for you:

Happy Friday xo



My Little Desk

I have been finding it hard to focus on one thing at a time recently. Although I work part time my job requires quite a few hours work at home and since moving to our new house my working routine has been a little disrupted. Most of the time I work in the kitchen but I'm not very productive there. Domestic tasks sit in wait and there is constant through traffic for meals, tea breaks and get-togethers.

Hubby works from home now so he has a designated desk in our living room. It's a lovely sunny spot with three windows looking out on to the fields and a variety of dogs and their owners passing by. I steal opportunities to work there when I can - early in the mornings or at the weekend - but I don't feel like it's my territory.

Luckily we have a small alcove in our bedroom which would be a perfect spot for a desk. I'm sure this will help me focus and be a workspace just for me - the working me - not the domestic me, the Mum me or the wife me. So I'm currently searching for a desk and chair, reasonably priced or second hand; a clear, calm space with just a little detail like a beautiful lamp or an interesting picture hung above.

These photos are my current inspiration. I can't wait to show my new working space once it's finished.

Funny that I can blog anywhere - but for other work I get very distracted.

Sources 1/2/3/4/5



To Buy Or Not To Buy

I know some of you have got your Christmas shopping sorted by now but there must be many like me who've hardly started. Whilst I realise getting the shopping over and done with before December can reduce stress I don't like Christmas preparations being too prolonged.

With my my minimalist mindset I'm considering buying less this year and for less people. It's not really about saving money (although I do need to) it's about not wanting to create waste. I want to buy my nearest and dearest quality rather than quantity and gifts that are consumables, needs (such as clothes) or experiences. I would count books in as an experience. I have in the past bought presents for a wide circle of people but not this year. 

I have read some wise words on this topic this week by Martin Lewis (a leading financial expert here in the UK). His site Money Saving Expert is the place to go to if you're considering buying almost anything from car insurance to cheap perfume. He's saved me a bob or two.

Lewis writes about the "ever-growing creep of gifts to extended family, colleagues, children's teachers and more". He also writes: 

Is it time to ban Christmas presents? Across the country people are growling at the enforced obligation to waste money on tat they can't afford, for people who won't use it. Festive gift-giving has lost its point, risks doing more harm than good, mis-teaches our children about values and kills the joy of anticipation of what should be a joyous time.
Food for thought... The joy of Christmas is not about gifts. Let's not let Christmas lose its meaning to commercialism.

What are your views?

For the full article here's the link.

Happy middle of the week xo




52 Weeks of Happy (9/52)

Hello. Another week of happy - I'm losing track of which number we're on, they're rolling by so fast!

A week of treats here...

♥ A Christmas random act of kindness - two glittery cupcakes offered to me FOR FREE today in a small independent shopping outlet village (just went for coffee). I took them home for the boys after school.

♥ Night out with hubby and eldest son - a present for hubby's special birthday (in March). Comedy is so popular at the moment you have to book months/years in advance.
♥ Weekend cups of tea. We ran out of milk Saturday morning. DISASTER. We drank peppermint tea but it wasn't quite the same...
♥ Sharing carrot cake with hubby - romantic and calorie saving (kind of).

I do feel blessed - especially with all the flooding this week.

Hope you all have a happy week xo



Minimalist Monday: Busy Bee or Lazy Lion?

Are you a busy bee? Can you spare just a few minutes to read this... 

Most of us are busy a lot of the time. We run multifaceted lives and have many compartments in our lives that we have to keep going: partner, children, parents, friends, pets, job, voluntary work, church, exercise and hobbies.

Now, I love being busy - I like the satisfaction of a hard days work, I like the adrenalin rush of a deadline, I like spending time with my family and friends and it's fun to have interests and hobbies that you can lose yourself in. 

But I don't like feeling like I'm a hamster on a wheel or some washing stuck in a never ending cycle. I don't like... feeling that if I STOP everything will come tumbling down... ON ME. 

Being busy can be fun and useful if it leads to greater productivity. But is it always a good thing? 

Do we have to be so busy?

Some of us use busyness as a way of impressing others. Others are busy because it has become a habit - no sooner has one task been completed that they're rushing to the next. We may use busyness as a way of avoiding time alone. It's possible that many people choose to be busy because they like to feel in control; some people are frightened of delegating to others because they like everything done their way and to their high standards. Some of us believe that being busy is good because it's a way of showing how much we love and care for others and the more we do the more we'll be loved and appreciated.

Who is benefiting from our busyness?

If you are busy for the sake of it then you're not really being productive. Busyness can become addictive and dangerous if you don't ever give yourself time off. You need time to recharge in order to feel refreshed and able to tackle new challenges. Being over committed can lead to stress induced illnesses.

What's so wrong with being lazy?

To be honest I don't feel comfortable with the idea of being lazy. I don't like the connotations of the word. Who wants to be thought of as idle, slothful or lacking in motivation? 

But being lazy may be actually good for you in moderation, just as being busy some of the time can be useful. Can we do anything well if we're always trying to do too much? Can we really be productive for hours on end? Do we spread ourselves too thin? We might achieve more if we focused on doing less but doing it better in set time limits.

If you choose laziness over busyness you may feel calmer, more content, relaxed and happy.

Suffering from busyness burnout? Want to relax more and get more done? Want to find ways to save time, energy and stress? Here's how...

Baby steps 

  • Stop thinking of laziness as a vice. Equally busyness isn't always a virtue.
  • Plan downtime - it's OK to have a lie-in or a pyjama day, read a book or magazine or even chat away for hours without watching the clock.
  • Work to achieve balance in your life. What would you like more time for? What would you like to spend less time on? 
  • Make time to do less. Doing nothing and letting your mind wander can refresh and relax your body and mind.
  • Delegate more - at work and at home.
  • Lower your standards - you don't have to be perfect all of the time, neither do your loved ones. Your home doesn't have to perfect either.
  • Prioritise - no matter what anyone says you can't do it all. Take time to consider how you use your time. Which tasks can wait? Keep your to do list short and regularly review it.
  • Stay at home more. Are you always on the run? In and out of the house like a fiddler's elbow? Make your home a haven. If it doesn't feel like a relaxing place, take steps to gradually declutter. Owning less will be easier to manage and maintain. A calm environment will help you relax.
  • Listen to your body. Stop running on auto-pilot. If you're feeling physically tired or emotionally fraught have an early night, a bath or a massage if it's what you need.
  • Be organised. Plan ahead for known events like birthdays and Christmas. Last minute panics are no fun for anyone.
  • Create routines. Establish ways of dealing with weekly and daily tasks. You don't have to be regimented but doing certain tasks like shopping or cleaning at a regular time will help you to feel more in control. 
  • Be spontaneous. There's nothing wrong with being self-indulgent. Do what you feel like doing: visit a friend; go to the cinema in the afternoon; treat yourself to a takeaway once in a while. Don't over schedule - if you don't leave space in your diary you won't be able to accept an impromptu invitation when one arises.
  • Spend time with others. Relationships can create so much happiness but you do have to work at them. Don't neglect your friends or family too much. Your job can overtake your life if you let it - you need time to unwind and a good way to do this is by being with friends. 
  • Get outside more. Being out in the open or in a different place can shift your perspective on problems.
  • Go with the flow. Things don't always go to plan do they? Accept setbacks, learn from them, move on. Moaning wastes time and can be draining.
And finally ...

Smile more. No matter how stressful your day or busy your schedule don't forget to smile and laugh, it may help you and others to get through the day.

Remember take your work seriously but not yourself!

Thank you for taking time to read this. How do you find balance in your life? 

I 'd love to hear from you whether you're a busy bee or a lazy lion.

Have a great week xo

Poster from here via Pinterest



Keeping Sunday Simple: Home Cooking

Hello. I hope you've had a good weekend. What have you been up to?

We have completed a couple of jobs on our to-do list, eaten well and had a night out. We have also managed to hang a couple of pictures on the walls – yay! It's starting to feel more like home after being here nearly six months.

On Friday night my youngest made pizza from scratch – he won't eat shop bought pizza but will eat his own! Funny - eh? We used half the dough on Friday night and the rest will be used tonight. An unopened packet of serrano ham was left over from last week's tapas meal so that has been added as a topping...yum. We used Rachel Allen's recipe from Home Cooking – how I love her happy, practical and family-orientated approach to cooking :) 

This morning my pizza-making-son asked, "Can I do more cooking?" I think I'm getting somewhere...

♥ Thank you for reading, commenting on and following Just a little less this week. And special thanks to 365 Less Things and Move to Portugal for linking two of my posts this week. I am chuffed. They are both fantastic blogs that have inspired me 

Have a good week xo



Water-coloured Leaves

Sunlight shimmers through water-coloured leaves
Magical carpets sink into mud
Blackened branches silhouette still skies
Autumn's jewels fade as winter waits by


The landscape is changing from autumn to winter as we enter the last week of November. I have loved autumn's splendour this year and feel sad to see it fade. However, winter can be beautiful too. 

Heres hoping this week's rain passes and the still, cold beauty of winter begins to work its magic.

I took these photos yesterday - a beautiful sunny day here. However, after yesterday's clear skies I have opened my blinds today to find swathes of mist. Rain is forecast later. The weather is ALL OVER THE PLACE!

Have a good weekend xo



Party Wear

 Hello fashionlings – another wardrobe post as promised.

With a works Christmas do to attend, I  have begun to panic about what to wear. Early this week I found myself in my favourite charity shop pondering the great Christmas party outfit dilemma. There were a surprising number of tempting party dresses: in my size, in good condition (they may have only been worn once), from good labels and reasonably priced. Factor in the ethics of supporting charities and recycling and I was almost kitted out. And yet, as I lingered over the clothes rail I started to question whether I wanted to wear a dress at all. Are they too girly for me? Am I likely to be wear a party dress more than once? Could I be bothered to try them on? Do I feel awkward in a frock?

I headed home proud of my new found self-control and figured I needed to give this some serious thought (I do have more pressing things to do, but this is a nice distraction). In the last two years I have edited out several party dresses from my wardrobe for similar reasons as mentioned above. Whilst a new staple day dress would serve me well, a new party dress would not give me the mileage that I now demand from my smaller wardrobe. 

If I think back to favourite festive evenings gone by I recall enjoying wearing trousers, tops and a fun accessory (sparkly sequined skinny scarf, glitzy earrings). I have at least three tops in my wardrobe that could work this look if worn with skinny black/blue jeans, heels and accessorised with subtle shimmer:

1. A black three-quarter length top with jewelled neckline (about four years old bought in a sale in a local boutique).

2. A silver lurex vest top worn many times both in summer and winter.
3. A teal cap sleeved top – long and fitted with elasticated bottom, perfect over skinny trews.

So... no to a new dress and regarding any other purchases I have decided to practise the waiting trick. I will wait a couple of weeks and then make a decision. If I do buy anything new it will either be a new accessory (scarf or earrings) or a pair of skinny black jeans. Alternatively, I will wear my one existing dress (silk, floral, sleeveless) or one of the three tops listed earlier with my existing skinny blue jeans; I really don't feel that comfortable with spending too much money on myself at this time of year.

If you are considering buying new evening wear, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Versatility - Can this item be worn more than once in different combinations? Can it be worn in summer and winter?

Quality – Is it well made and likely to last a few years? Don't buy something too on trend. A more expensive item could be good value if worn many times (price per wear). Equally a cheaper or second hand garment can also have good mileage.
Love it – Does it make me feel great? Does it reflect my personality and not a false persona?
Glamour – Has it got sparkle/luxurious fabric/fine detail?
Comfort – Can I relax in this outfit? Will I feel comfortable after eating? Is it a good fit? Could I dance the night away in it?
Styling - Can I dress this down? A dress can be dressed down if you prefer a more edgy look. Consider wearing thicker tights, chunkier footwear or wearing a dress over leggings or skinny trousers. Likewise a day dress can be glammed up. Simply transform a day dress into into evening wear with a few gold or silver accessories.
Short Cuts - Can I afford a haircut? I often book my hair appointments on the same day as a night out. A professional blow dry can work wonders for your confidence and helps you relax as it's one less thing to worry about. 
Positive Attitude - Does it matter what people think? People really don't take that much notice of what others are wearing. A smile and a friendly, happy attitude can make you glow regardless of what you are wearing.

If you are going to any parties have fun. Oh and happy weekend!



Book Club Update

Reader, I have joined a new book club. 

I have written before about my book club experiences and had some very interesting comments. 

This wasn't my plan as I was enjoying my reading freedom but somewhere deep inside my psyche I wasn't finished with book club. Chatting at a birthday party I got into conversation with a book and writing enthusiast. I found I was talking to a book club leader who so happened to have a vacancy. Sometimes opportunities present themselves and you have to be open to them. So I expressed my interest and have since been accepted into the group. And I am quite excited.

It all seems a far cry from my first experience:they are not afraid to find fault in a book and the members have a democratic voting system where each member proposes several suggestions and the group votes to select one book. Meetings are every 4-6 weeks and books are rated/scored according to a set criteria. The book club was originally village based but now some members live outside of the village. Most people know at least one member outside of the group.

There is a New Year meal in January with the first meeting later in the month; the first book is Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. I am hosting in October.

It's funny how things turn out isn't it?



Sweetly Smitten

want a visual treat and crafting inspiration for innumerable Christmases to come? Then go and check out the latest edition of this gorgeous on line publication: Sweet Paul Magazine

I'm seriously smitten.

My favourites: glitter acorns; origami girl; wall art; paper clip necklace; forest paper trees and all of the warming recipes. 

I love, love, love it.




52 Weeks of Happy (8/52)

Ah, that time of the week again: 52 Weeks of Happy.

Happy for me this week...

Graphic seed heads almost stripped bare by autumn.

Party time fun at a friend's birthday do.
Favourite crochet scarf (no, I didn't make it).
A lovely day out with a special friend from my school days: coffee, lunch 
   and I bought these mini Christmas decs for my letterpress tray.

I do feel blessed.

Have a happy week xo



Minimalist Monday: Xmas X-cess

Now, don't get me wrong I like Christmas. I love the shared feeling of excitement and expectation, especially amongst children. I love the simplicity of the story of the first Christmas and its deeper religious meaning. I enjoy seeing twinkling lights as I walk darkened streets. Being with family and friends, eating traditional food, having time to chill and just be... is what makes Christmas special.

BUT, there is for me, a huge downside: the excess; the consumerism; the tat; the pressure people feel under; the time spent searching for the perfect gift when we really have no idea what someone wants; the second rate service at Christmas functions.

It all starts in mid October with adverts on TV for new sofas and builds relentlessly until late on Christmas Eve when, after a brief respite, it re-appears for Boxing Day sales, Easter egg adverts and slimming tips. And so it goes on. We feel under pressure socially; the expectation that every social group you are in should celebrate by eating a microwaved poor quality meal with free crackers and hats for stupid amounts of money. We feel under financial pressure to conform.

So you want to simplify Christmas? I've got a few suggestions.

Baby steps:

Set limits - plan your spending budget and the amount of time you want to allocate on Christmas preparations.

Ask people what they want, don't guess.
Buy consumables. If you want to buy someone a small token get them something consumable: food, drink or everyday toiletries like soap or hand cream.
Buy experiences. Buy cinema vouchers or theatre tickets instead of stuff.
Buy ethically. Check out the ethical values of where you plan to spend your money.
Shop on line. Avoid impulse buys and temptation by keeping away from the shops.
Support charities. Many charities sell gifts as well as cards. Check them out on line. If you get unwanted gifts donate them to local charities. At Christmas some high street stores donate money from their festive sandwich sales to charity.
Plan for relaxation. Don't over-schedule your time off. Plan time for yourself, family time and time just to savour the season.
Don't strive for perfection - so what if you forget the sprouts? 
Focus on people: listen, be kind, be tolerant, help those less fortunate. Consider donating food to a church, school or business that collects food for food banks. See here for details.
Buy local - support local businesses at craft fairs and markets. Shop at smaller local retail outlets.
Learn to recognise the difference between a need and a want. Try and teach your children this skill too. Will they really want that latest fad in six months time?
Have a pre Christmas clear out. Spending more time at home with more people and with more stuff can make you feel overwhelmed. Decluttering can make your home feel more calm and spacious. If you have young children get them involved in donating to local charities and teach them the joy of giving. Consider charities that support children such as children of prisoners or children living in war torn countries.
Spend less and avoid debt. Christmas gifts can become competitive in certain circles. Opt out of this mindset by buying simpler, low cost presents.
Give home made gifts. We aren't all able to sew, knit or crochet but could you make something simple like chocolate truffles or marzipan fruits?
Don't over commit socially. Consider saying no to an invitation if you've got too many outings close together. Arrange to go out in the new year.
Keep your TV viewing under control. This way you can avoid the relentless advertising.
Shop at quiet times. If you have to hit the shops, go early or book a day off work to go on a quieter weekday.
Resist the pressure of competitive Christmas decorating. Decorate your home with a few simple touches like candles or a door wreath. Use natural materials or make simple decorations out of paper or salt dough. Whatever you put up before Christmas will need to come down again in a matter of weeks.
Take some time for personal reflection. You don't have to be religious to light a few candles, sit quietly and reflect on what Christmas means to you. Having some quiet contemplative time can recharge you.
Have fun. Time spent with your family and friends is more memorable than most presents. Watch your favourite Christmas film, go to a carol concert or play old fashioned party games.

Finally, remember most of us have a CHOICE over how much we spend at Christmas. Some people don't have any spare cash and don't even have basic human requirements like food, love and shelter. I loved what Vappu wrote on this subject so eloquently this weekend. 

Hope you all have a great week.




"Mum when are you going to start your blog?" This was a question I was asked over and over again after I first muted this idea at the start of the year. Well after two years of reading other wonderful blogs I finally started Just a little less at the end of September.

So after fifty consecutive days of posting what have I learnt?

 That I love writing.
◊ That there are some fabulous blogs out there that I didn't know about       
   and wouldn't have discovered if I hadn't started this blog. 
That the blog community is supportive and friendly.
◊ That writing about minimalism/simple living in the UK is something that 
   people want to read about, both in this country and around the world.
◊ That I'm slowly getting better at photography.
◊ That I like a routine of regular posts for some days of the week.
◊ I like writing random posts too.
◊ That writing has to be personal and from the heart.
◊ That my family hate their food going cold if I'm photographing it.
◊ Posts about clothes and interiors are popular.
◊ There is never a right time to start a blog.
◊ Blogging about your interests or values can help keep you focused.

Where do I go from here?

I started this blog because of my enjoyment of reading other peoples' blogs. I wanted to create a blog which would inspire simple living and minimalism in the UK. I also wanted to create a personal blog that readers would feel at home with. 

Regular posting is something that's important to me when I read other blogs, so I'll stick with my daily posts, but I will let you know if I have to miss a day or two.

As a newbie blogger, I am interested in knowing what you like reading about at Just a little less so please feel free to comment. 

Thank you all for reading, commenting and following.



Tapas Night: Take a Look

And so after much preparation and love ...

roasted peppers with honey & almonds

fiery tomato salsa to accompany chicken skewers

 basque scrambled eggs prepared and cooked by our eldest

chorizo empanadillas, my favourite

marinated aubergines - forgot to put these on the list 

A busy night for hubby, gorgeous food for us all and mountains of washing up.
Ah, well maƱana.

Next time we will cook more in advance, get some sherry in and extend an invitation. 




Simply Tapas

TAPAS - TRADITIONAL SPANISH NIBBLES that are colourful, varied and full of Mediterranean flavour. What better way to inject a bit of sunshine into life as we approach the darkest and coldest time of the year?

Tapas can be served as pre-dinner bites or in bigger quantities can make up an informal main meal. You can eat it with your fingers, cocktail sticks or a knife and fork, if you wish.

Tapas doesn't have to be expensive as many of the dishes are vegetable based. It is more time consuming than a one pot meal but you can make the preparation easier and more sociable by getting different members of the family involved in selecting and cooking a dish. Hubby takes charge when we have a tapas night and our boys get involved too - so I have no complaints.

Friday nights are a time to stop the clock: a time to discuss or forget about the week gone by; a time to slow down and savour the pleasures of good food and conversation with your favourite people. It's my favourite night of the week.

It should be a fun start to the weekend. 

What do you like to eat at the weekends? Do you have any Friday night rituals? Please share.

Happy Friday xo


Hello Yellow

Yellow. Synonymous with optimism, laughter, happiness, good times and creativity. Used sparingly it's the perfect way to bring joy into a minimalist home. Yellow can also speed up your metabolism, now isn't that worth a try?

For that ultimate feel good factor just add this soundtrack:

Bombalurina - 'Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini'
Dawn featuring Tony Orlando - 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree'
Donavon - 'Mellow Yellow' 
Joni Mitchell - 'Big Yellow Taxi'
Coldplay - 'Yellow'
Black and Yellow - 'Black and Yellow'
The Beatles - 'Yellow Submarine' Elton John - 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' 

Sources 1/2/3/4/5