Simple Wishes for 2014

Oh my, New Year 2013. It's that time of year when we look to resolve those areas of our lives that we're dissatisfied with and reconnect with our dreams to build a happier and more fulfilled future. 

On New Year's Eve as well as gathering with friends and loved ones for partying, feasting and drinking I think it's important to take stock and steal a few quiet moments to contemplate the year gone by and the promise of the year to come.

I like to pare things down on New Year's Eve: to forget the excesses of Christmas and the hyperbole of New Year and instead focus on the promise of a fresh start and the freedom this suggests. Candlelight, flickering flames, a warming drink and my someone to dream with, will make my New Year complete.

If I were to have one wish for 2014 it would be for a simpler and happier year. 

I have learnt this year that we can't predict what's going to happen next but that we do have choices. Sometimes more choices than we realise. I have learnt that choices take time but that some opportunities have to be seized or else they can be missed.

In 2014 I will continue to choose less stuff, to be grateful, to be mindful, to act upon my dreams and to nurture my relationships and my health.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and simpler 2014, my friends. Enjoy xo




All I Wanted for Christmas

Hello! I've so enjoyed reading about and sharing everyone's Christmas celebrations and family traditions on all my favourite blogs.
 We too enjoyed a warm and cosy holiday with plenty of time at home. We had friends over after mass on Christmas Eve, saw both sets of parents on Christmas Day and then had our siblings and families over on Saturday. The kitchen has never been so busy!
Two hams were cooked by Hubs and one magnificent yule log.

Honey and mustard sausages were a hit.
Christmas Day was special with my Mum and Dad joining us for the day.

 Boxing Day was a compulsory PJ day here before we geared ourselves up for more family, feasting and fun time.

A tidy up before the guests arrive... ready for a bit of competitive family fun - you can't beat it.
 We're lucky to have a few more days of holiday left before the New Year. Time to unwind at home, enjoy the lovely pressies we've received, go for a walk or two and make plans for the New Year.
I feel blessed to have had such a lovely family Christmas. All I wanted for Christmas and so much more.
Thank you for all your encouraging comments this week. I hope to post before New Year to welcome in 2014. Until then...
be happy xo


Finding Focus in 2013

A year ago I chose a word/theme for the new year. My word for 2013 was focus.

I defined focus as:

1. An act of concentrating interest or activity on something.
2. To see things more clearly.

Choosing focus as my theme for the year helped me to concentrate on small personal goals such as developing my writing, building a capsule wardrobe and finding new ways to relax. It also led me to question a bigger, unresolved problem in my life.

A year ago I wrote, “ However, I still have a busy life and often feel overwhelmed by it... I feel I need to work smarter in my job and develop more routine and structure in my domestic life."

Looking back, I can see that twelve months ago I was dissatisfied with my work-life balance. My job although part-time (three days) was all consuming and demanded many more hours than I was paid for. Focusing on trying to work smarter at work and be more organised domestically worked to address this to some extent. But I began to find that the escalating pressures of my job meant that I was finding it harder and harder to switch off from work pressures and my hours working at home were beginning to creep up. 

During 2013 I came to realise that I would never gain the work-life balance I craved whilst I remained in this job. So, a few months ago I made the decision to leave my permanent job. A risk and a jump into the unknown – I know – but also a fantastic opportunity to change direction after twenty-two years in the same profession. The decision was not taken lightly and not without careful financial planning. 

Realising my permanent job was making me unhappy and deciding to leave it to pursue new direction is one more step in my journey to building a simpler and more meaningful life - a life that I want to live now, a life built upon my dreams and values, a life that has balance. It has been a frightening realisation but also an exciting one. 

Choosing focus as my word for the year has helped me to see a long-term problem crystal clear. I wouldn't have dreamt a year ago that I had this courage, risk-taking mindset and openness to change or the ability to let go of the past. A year ago I had these dreams but they were lost in the whirlpool of busyness, the tide of expectations and the ripples of my self-doubt.

2013, the year I found focus.

Did you have a word/theme for 2013? How did you do?

What are your dreams for next year?



Fourth Sunday of Advent

The fourth candle of Advent symbolises peace. I'm not sure how peaceful my day has been but I have enjoyed:

Seeing the fourth candle lit on the Advent wreath at church and singing lots of carols - definitely peaceful.
Roast dinner. Hubs made his extra special gravy which has been saved for Christmas dinner. One spoonful conjures up so much foodie anticipation.
Favourite decorations. This year Bagpuss is hanging from the tree.
New arrangements - my letterpress tray now holds my miniature Nativity set.
Red. Poinsettias are so cheery.

♥ A quick walk to forage for holly to add to my pine cone collection on the mantelpiece.
Noel. I love this word and have wanted to make a display like this one for several years. I painted cheap card letters from Hobbycraft and added my beloved small wreath to complete it.
So, how's Christmas shaping up at yours? 

Wishing you peace these last few days before the big day. Thank you for reading, commenting and following this week - I love to hear from you xo




The sun has risen on the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. A day to be celebrated, as following this night the sun grows stronger in the sky and the days will become gradually longer once more.

Sunset has already been getting later in the evenings since the 15th although sunrise will continue to darken until January 5th.

Yule...  a time to be with loved ones, to eat and sleep well, light candles and embrace the bleak beauty of winter. A celebration that focuses on love, rebirth and looking forward to a new year.
Tonight I'm happy to be home with my family - to embrace the dark nights, frosty mornings and magnificent sunsets of the season.

There is so much to look forward to. The Christmas tree has been decorated, candles are lit and there is plenty of food in the house. Tomorrow there will be two more seconds daylight than today and on Christmas Day there will be forty four more seconds. On January 1st there will be six minutes and fourteen more seconds daylight than today. And by February 1st there will be one hour, twenty one minutes and four seconds more daylight than this day. 

Happy winter solstice everybody!



Party Wear from a Minimalist Wardrobe

Choosing my Christmas party outfit was easier than ever this year. Last year's sequin top (Limited, M&S) was brought out again but this year I wore it with my black jeans (Boden, bought in January with a Christmas present voucher). I substituted last year's suede boots with my patent courts (Lotus, in a sale several years ago) and borrowed my Mum's necklace (also M&S) to ring the changes. And my trusty silver clutch (New Look, £1 sale bargain from several years ago) was a no brainer accessory.

I can't lie that I wasn't tempted by the latest party wear in the shops - I had my moments coveting pretty lace dresses, strappy tops, charity shop dresses and even a fab Bowie t-shirt - but I stuck to my minimalist ideals in the end.

What made getting dressed for my party night so easy this year was that there was no panic buying and doubts about whether the outfit would work. I'm a skinny jean Queen and replacing my usual flats with a modest heel is enough to make me feel glammed up. These new black jeans were one of the few new clothes purchases that I made this year after I identified them as a wardrobe gap last year. I wear them a lot less than my skinny blue jeans but they are perfect for smartening up an outfit. Both my sequin top and jeans cost more per item than many cheap dresses I've bought in the past but I know they are better value as they will work hard in my wardrobe for quite a few years to come.

So, what are this year's Christmas party wardrobe lessons?

  • Plan your outfit as much in advance as you can.
  • Don't worry about wearing a garment that you wore a year ago.
  • Last year's outfit can be refreshed with different accessories (which can be borrowed).
  • If wearing a trusted outfit makes you feel good don't hesitate to wear it again.
  • Wear what suits you and what makes you feel 'you'.
  • A new mascara, lip gloss and haircut can help update your look.
  • By all means look at new party wear in the shops - it's good to keep up to date with fashion - but always question how many wears you'll get from a new purchase and if you really want to look the same as other party goers.
  • Buying a new outfit earlier in the year will ease the stress of deciding what to wear. Christmas is stressful enough as it is.

I'm happy with this year's party outfit and the fact that it came from my existing wardrobe. My wardrobe discipline is beginning to pay off and I think I enjoy my clothes more now I that I have a smaller collection. Anyway, who wants a wardrobe full of party dresses which may never be worn again?

I may never wear a party dress again, especially if I have to get down on the dance floor for Oops Upside Your Head as I did this year.



Third Sunday of Advent

So, it's the third Sunday of Advent... already? Time to hunker down and finish the Christmas preparations, I guess. 

We're keeping our shopping, decorating and socialising to a minimum this year but even so that Christmas feeling often feels more like pressure than pleasure. What tempts me more than anything bright and glitzy in the shops is finding time for simple festive pleasures. These are the ones that have really kept me going this weekend.

♥ Choosing the Christmas tree and driving home accompanied by the scent of pine. I love how nature has the best fragrances and can stimulate so many emotions. Excitement and nostalgia from one scent is awesome.
♥ A long soak in the bath before getting glammed up to go out to a Christmas party. I think I enjoyed this part of the evening as much as the dinner and dancing.
♥ Seeing the third (pink) candle lit on the Advent wreath at church. This week's candle symbolises joy - a great reminder to keep joyful this week.
♥ White chocolate and cranberry blondies. Well, I tried to make these but they didn't quite work - a delicious flavour combination though.
♥ A visit to our cathedral for a harmonica performance by local schools. This community project was organised by our local Arts organisation and we were involved as stewards. Hearing carols played tunefully en masse was a first, made even more special when performed in this amazing Gothic building. Earlier in the week we were also lucky enough to watch our youngest sing at a school carol concert here.
♥ Looking forward to picking our eldest up from uni at the end of the week. He can't wait to come home and we're so excited to have him with us for a few weeks.

Despite continuing challenges from my laptop I hope to be posting more this week as I have wardrobe news and other news to share. Some changes in the air and it's not even the New Year.

Thank you for reading, commenting and following this week. I know time is precious at this time of year so thank you for visiting.

Are you enjoying the run up to Christmas? What's keeping you going? I'd love to hear.




Minimalist Monday: Microhome in the UK

Hello there. I've been having a few technical problems with my laptop tonight (memory loss and many things don't seem to be working) but I just wanted to pop in and show you this example of a UK tiny home.

UK readers may well have seen this building, QB2, showcased last week on George Clarke's Amazing Spaces. This tiny home gets my vote for its storage options and ingenious system of levels (living space downstairs; bathroom, shower cubicle and kitchen upstairs and a further raised level for the bedroom space). It packs a punch with its simple, clean design and has many eco saving features too. What's more it can be transported and relocated from site to site.

I find it inspiring that small energy homes are being designed in the UK as an option for affordable and flexible living. It's also inspiring to see how the smallest spaces can be simultaneously practical yet cosy.

For more information please see here.

Not sure if my technical difficulties will be sorted but I hope to be back soon, whatever!



Second Sunday of Advent

Some simple moments from the second Sunday of Advent. 

♥ A blissful afternoon spent at our local RSPB reserve - we glimpsed many types of birds but only this robin allowed me a photo. 
♥ Seeing the second candle lit on the Advent wreath at church.
♥ Hubs' cooking stuffing to freeze for Christmas - apricot and chestnut. They smelt divine.
♥ A sherry before lunch.
♥ Lighting candles. The circlet of ivy is my little nod to Christmas - we're not getting a tree until next weekend. 

Hope you are well and rested after the weekend - carving out some chill time is definitely a challenge at this time of year. Thanks for reading, commenting and following here this week xo