52 Weeks of Happy (46/52)

Hello... I must admit I'm a little sad to be sharing my last week of August with you. After a winter which almost outran spring, every dry, warm and sunny day has been a gift. Here's hoping we can ignore the misty signs of autumn for a little longer... 

Joining in with Jen from Little Birdie here are my late August happy moments.

♥ Blackberries. We enjoyed a Bank Holiday walk finding blackberries within minutes of our house - there were far more than we expected. I made a simple blackberry and apple crumble this week which we ate with clotted cream. Late summer happiness in a bowl.
♥ Veg curry tonight. Our usual quorn curry, a new dhal recipe and oven baked bhajis. Who needs a take-away?
♥ New square plates. I found it very difficult to resist these plated for 79p each in a local charity shop. They fit neatly into the corner of a cupboard and make ordinary meals look special.
♥ Sandals, loose-light clothes, time off work, eating outside with friends at lunchtime, sunshine, gardens... just some of the things I've been lucky enough to enjoy this week and would list as my summer pleasures. 

Thank you all for reading, following and leaving such wonderful comments this week. Have a great weekend wherever you are in the world. Enjoy the moment.

Be happy xo



Scarecrows and a Walled Garden

We had made no plans for the Bank Holiday weekend other than to make the most of any fine weather and to keep our spending to a limit. So on a dry but cloudy Sunday we headed off to the nearby village of Elford to visit their annual Scarecrow Festival and also to wander around the walled garden there. 

Here are my highlights and a few of the seventy odd scarecrows dotted around the village.

Childhood favourites, Mr. Men, Where's Wally (and his brother), Worzel Gummidge and Aunt Sally. Some royal guests, a new arrival and Mary and (scary) Paul from The Great British Bake Off.

People had fun playing with names - here's Mo Crow and a miserable Les.

Meanwhile over at Webbs Farm...

For the last three years Elford Walled Garden has been undergoing renovation by volunteers. After much hard work it looks fantastic and is bursting with crops and flowers.

Of course there was a scarecrow or two along the way...

In another part of the garden, the Giant's Garden, there was lots of inspirational planting and landscaping to admire

and the biggest bug hotel I've ever seen.

We headed out of the walled garden to the see a church complete with a scarecrow congregation and Jesus (scarecrow version) walking on the water. Then it was back through the village for some more scarecrow spotting.

An amazing effort from one village and many volunteers. We made a donation to the event but felt under no pressure to do so. Both the festival and the walled garden deserve continued success. 



Minimalist Monday: Setting Limits

I am by no means a radical minimalist as I am far from being debt free and have no idea of how many possessions I own but I have a more minimalist mindset and am becoming mindful of possessions, money, time and relationships.

I wrote this back in September 2012 last year, when I launched my blog, a minimalist blog for the UK. 

It's really interesting to reflect back on this, my first minimalist post, almost a year old, and consider where I now stand on this subject. 

Luckily, the frenzy of decluttering is over for us now as we live in our small but big enough house for four (soon to be three as we have a son off to uni next month). Since September last year I have carried on decluterring as and when necessary and have found that our simpler more modern house needs less embellishment than our tired 70s house did. Consequently, several favourite items that used to sit nicely in our old home just don't suit our new abode and have had to be sold or given away. Less is more is definitely true for our new smaller home. Shopping is now a purposeful pursuit not a leisure pursuit: to buy food, gifts or household/wardrobe essentials. Items are bought because they are a need not a want. We want our new home to be comfortable and stylish but now when we choose something new for our home we look to buy ethically, second hand or make it ourselves.

I still have urges to buy new things but have a lot more discipline and awareness which results in less rash purchases.

I have done too many car boot sales and charity shop drop offs over the last few months to know that past purchases can weigh heavily and getting rid of items is a lot harder physically and emotionally than buying them. Shopping recklessly catches up with you and I don't want to spend too many more hours of my life at a car boot sale. In fact, donating unwanted items to charity is a much more liberating and uplifting experience than running a car boot sale or eBay auction. 

I am very proud of the fact that my clothes shopping/obsession is now under control. Less wardrobe space and a desire for a capsule wardrobe has resulted in very controlled clothes shopping over the last eleven months. Now, when I buy a new item, such as my maxi dress or black jacket, it's a result of careful consideration, extensive research and consideration of value for money. If I'm going to buy something new I make sure that I love it so much that I'm going to wear it over and over again. This is a big breakthrough for me, a one time fashionista for whom repeating an outfit was a sign of weakness. Having a smaller but more purposeful wardrobe means that I enjoy and appreciate my clothes more than I ever used too. 

I love my streamlined home and wardrobe. Clear surfaces and cupboards give me joy.

Minimalism has taught me to respect money more. Our smaller mortgage debt means that I can work less which reduces my stress levels generally. Every week I have less money to spend but considerably more free time which I have choice over how to spend. I try not to dwell on money wasted in the past but I am quite determined not to fritter money away now or in the future. Money now buys me time, experiences and security. We still have mortgage debt but it is now half the size of what it was fourteen months ago. Two years into working part time means that money is tight but my frugal skills are developing and there are some great sources of living well but frugally online which I find very inspiring. 

Time and relationships: 
Whilst minimalism has taught me to set limits on my possessions, spending and time it has also taught me that nothing is more important than relationships. I value unhurried time to spend with my family, friends, myself and in the community above all else. 

If there is one thing I want more of in my life, this is it.

What have I learnt?
Minimalism, is a tool. 
Downsizing has given us a more enjoyable, easier to maintain and streamlined home to live in.
Smaller outgoings mean that I can work less and have more time to spend on relationships and experiences. 
Overspending can be cured.
Less is more.
Learning to live more simply, ethically and frugally is possible.
We learn from our mistakes.
We can learn from others.



52 Weeks of Happy (45/52)

Hello. It's been a busy week - happy/creative busy and not routinely busy, thankfully. 

This week I've really appreciated the gift of time - time to spend with loved ones and time to be creative. 

Here's my selection of four happy moments. 

♥ I took my Mum and Dad to visit to my brother in St. Albans. The weather was beautiful and the food was heavenly... cheesecake, fresh baked scones, rocky road... what to choose? As my Dad is disabled, getting my parents over to visit my brother and family is a rare treat for us all. Lovely chilled, catch-up family time. 
♥ At my brother's I discovered a new cookery book, Mary McCartney's Food, and was smitten by the photography and veggie recipes. So much so that I went home with several ideas to try out. 
♥ My oldest school friend and her partner came over for a meal this week. So nice to chat and linger over good food. We had these bruchettas followed by Mary McCartney's aubergine wraps and brownies with raspberries. Yummy.
♥ My bookcase is finished at last. It took several coats of eggshell paint to complete but I love the way everything looks fresh against the white background. 

Joining in with Jen's series over at Little Birdie

Hoping you're all enjoying the weekend wherever you are.

Be happy xo



New Materialism

Hello. I came across this gem of a site recently, the new materialism, and I had to share it with you as it really struck a chord with me. I came across it by chance, like all of the best internet discoveries, and what initially struck me was that it celebrates our materialistic needs, as long as we respect things and make careful purchases. The site includes this simple manifesto:

1. Liking ‘stuff’ is okay, healthy even – we can learn to love and find pleasure in the  material world.
2. Wherever practical and possible develop lasting relationships with things by having and making nothing that is designed to last less than 10 years.
3. Get to know things - before you acquire something, find out at least 3 things about it.
4. Love stuff - mend, maintain and re-use things until it is no longer possible, then recycle them

5. Get active - only acquire something new if you are also learning a new, useful skill.
      6. Share - look at all your things, think about what your friends might need or could benefit from, and share at least one thing a week.

It also gives an interesting list of items that are still going strong such as the world's oldest working watch (made in 1505). Check out the list of items loved and lasted here

If you want to read more this essay is interesting and you can also download the full pamphlet from here, but it is a serious read. It is written by Andrew Simms and Ruth Potts and co-published by bread, print &roses, Schumacher College and The Real Press.

I think adopting this simple manifesto could help us all to feel comfortable with our possessions and build a new greener relationship with future possessions. 

It got me thinking of old possessions that I own, treasure and are still in good working order (our dining table, vintage glass bottles and my letterpress tray).

So, what do you think of this manifesto and care to share what your most treasured oldest possessions are?



Minimalist Monday: This Simple House

This is the one bedroom gîte that we rented for our holiday in France. I thought I'd show it to you as it ticks many minimalist boxes.

The steep, exposed beams gave the bedroom lots of character even though it was very simply furnished. There was an open plan kitchen/dining/living space (and downstairs loo) with stairs to the airy bedroom and generous bathroom (with washing machine). The kitchen was well equipped and there was a small balcony with table and chairs if we wanted outside space. White walls made the house feel light and airy and unified the decor. 

This home had just a few books and no TV. It was a wonderful base to switch off from the hubbub of everyday life and adopt a slow pace for a week or so. We enjoyed the deepest sleep we've had in ages, great views over the village and sun streaming in through the skylights.

Admittedly this was a child/teen-free home and so we didn't live with any of the background noise or debris that teenagers can create. This certainly helped us to relax and recharge, however, I think that the simplicity of the space also aided this.

Staying here made me think that living in a pared down home is good for the soul and it makes me more resolute to not overfill my house and to keep things simple. Simplicity can feel like a luxury.

You can see and read more about the gîte here.



At the Weekend

I ...

tried a new cocktail - woo woos

made £50 at a car boot sale (magazines, jewellery and excess CDs - gone)
donated the unsold items to charity
read the papers
made chocolate brownies
started painting a bookcase
browsed in a bookshop and bought Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach 
won a free coffee and cookie on twitter at a favourite café
ran for just over 40 minutes and felt energised
made plans for the next week
reviewed our budget 
enjoyed a meal out to celebrate our eldest's exam results (using vouchers) 

... a purposeful weekend with some special treats...

How was your weekend?  xo



This Charming Charlie

As a Smiths fan and a Charlie Brown fan this is genius. See more here. Just had to share...

Have a great weekend xo