A Flower-Filled Weekend

♥ On Friday my weekend got off to a flower-filled start with some early Mother's Day flowers, a mixed spring bunch of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. An unexpected and sweet gift from my husband. 

 On Saturday I spotted some reduced primroses in a local florists. At 50p a pot they had a few dead flowers which needed removing but they won my heart and made a pretty trio on a ledge in our kitchen alongside Friday's flowers. Oh and I bought some flowers for my mum too.

 On Sunday I arranged grape hyacinths, daffodils and japonica (foraged from my mum's garden) in my old glass bottles. Two sat on windowsills and one set the scene for Sunday lunch on the kitchen table. I also received more tulips from my parents-in-law who came over for lunch.

How lovely to have a flower-filled weekend. I must add that I was able to arrange and photograph these flowers as I had time on my hands this morning as my husband and youngest son were busy in the kitchen. No cooking and flowers made my day, thank you. It has been a beautiful spring this year in the UK and it's lovely to bring spring into the home too. 

Thanks for reading, following and commenting here. I hope you have a good week.



Snippets of Spring, Shakespeare and Song

At the weekend we celebrated the beginning of spring and hubs' birthday with a visit to Moseley Old Hall in Staffordshire, an Elizabethan farmhouse where Charles II hid after the battle of Worcester. As regular readers will know we now spend a lot of our Sundays walking in the countryside so when we were left a small gift of money from a deceased elderly relative we decided to spend some of it on National Trust membership. This is something we have talked of doing for a long time. Our first visit didn't disappoint. Despite a cold wind we were lucky to have bright skies and spent most of our time outside. I couldn't resist delving in the borders with my camera snapping primroses, cowslip, hellebores and other spring flowers I can't name.  

We had a wander through King's Walk Wood and in keeping with the age of the property we listened to a snippet of As You Like It in the knot garden. 

There was cake and tea and a final wander through the grounds. The magnificent clumps of hellebores were my favourite.

I think hubs enjoyed his birthday weekend. There was cake, a drink with family and friends, a takeaway and he got to play his guitar at a local venue. 

Thanks for reading, following and commenting here this week. I love hearing from old and new readers. Don't be shy.

Birthday boy, third from left.


Minimalist Monday: Nothing to wear

It's over a year since I first took part in Project 333 (a wardrobe simplifying project) and it has taught me so much. Here's why I'll be joining in with the next round of the project, starting on April 1st, wearing 33 items for the next 3 months.

♥ It will make me clear out, clean and organise my wardrobe and the results will give me pleasure.
♥ Less choice means less time making decisions over what to wear.
♥ I will discover new clothing combinations.
♥ It will push me to release those clothes I've been hanging onto for too long and donate last year's stored maybe clothes to charity (I haven't missed many since they've been stored in the loft).
♥ I will choose 33 items but I may make up a few rules of my own (this is OK).
♥ My favourite clothes will get worn more and I will feel more confident.  
♥ I will pack away my winter clothes and boots and celebrate the joy of lighter clothes.
♥ It will help me to value quality over quantity.
♥ I will know the gaps in my wardrobe and will waste less money on unnecessary wardrobe purchases in the future. 
♥ It will challenge me to develop a more colour coordinated wardrobe.
♥ It will remind me that clothing is a necessity and that fashion can be frivolous. 
♥ My clothes are not what I am.




My Minimalist Garden Plan 2014

At the beginning of 2014 I published my list of minimalist goals for the year. One of these was to redesign our small lawned back garden into a low maintenance courtyard garden. We moved to this house in June 2012 and have done nothing to the garden. Last year we hoped to remove our small lawn but were unsure exactly how to do it. Needless to say, the project never got off the ground (please pardon the pun). This year I was determined to have a clear plan and get the project started (and finished) by late spring. The recent warm spell has spurred us on.

So after some research and discussion we have been playing with some new designs. Here's our current design (hubs' fantastic handiwork - thank you).

You'll see from the photo below of our garden last summer that we're not planning to change the basic structure of the garden so the tree, fence, deck, paving and very small shed.will remain in place.

Our budget is small so as well as designing it ourselves we will also be doing all the labour ourselves. Our money will go on membrane, gravel, edging (recycled wood possibly), pebbles, deck stain, paint (for the fence and shed), improving the soil and buying new plants. If we can we will recycle materials and barter for plants from family and friends. 

The main aims of this garden redesign are to make the garden lower maintenance and more attractive. Although I love plants and gardening I am now happy not to own every plant ever created. I do miss my large garden from our previous house but not the hours of work that it needed to stay looking presentable.

The planting look we're going for in our back garden is a strong design with structural plants that will have impact all year round. Think grasses, box, phormiums, lavender and bamboo. Think more time relaxing in, and less time working in, the garden.

The front of our house has a much sunnier aspect so here I will indulge my inner rustic with a few seasonal pots, possibly some home grown veg and a little bench. I think that will give me the perfect balance of being able to relax in but also being able to potter in the garden.

So, what do you think? Do you have any suggestions? Plants? Colours for the shed and fence? I'd love to hear.



Minimalist Monday: Quick Start Decluttering

Whether you're new to decluttering, feeling overwhelmed by a vast amount of possessions or lacking enthusiasm for clearing a neglected space, sometimes it's hard to know where to start with clutter. I've decluttered a lot in the last few years after downsizing our family home and also helping my parents clear two homes of our deceased relatives (both bachelors). I've learnt that decluttering requires a lot of motivation, stamina and vision. The process is never easy but you do learn new tricks with every session. 

Now after a decluttering hiatus I'm ready to tackle two clutter hotspots in our home, our loft/attic area and our bedroom. This quick start guide is a much needed motivational guide for me. I hope you find it useful too.

1. Hire a skip if necessary. It may seem extravagant but having a skip to hand can save you invaluable time and effort. If you have less stuff to declutter keep a bag or box handy and fill it gradually as you come across unwanted items. Take it to the charity shop when full or leave outside your house if there is a door to door collection. 

2. Support one particular charity. You will feel attached to the cause instead of attached to your old possessions. Picking a charity shop that is near to you with good access and convenient opening hours will  make dropping off your donations easier. Sign up to Gift Aid to increase the benefit of your donation and so that the charity can inform you of how much money has been raised from your items. Receiving emails indicating the value of my latest donation always thrills me and makes my decluttering feel even more worthwhile.

3. Start with the easy stuff first. Let go of things that are broken or damaged, don't fit or no longer suit your taste. Gather like items together to make sorting easier.

4. Set a time limit to suit you. Short bursts of decluttering can be more effective than decluttering for a whole day. If you choose to work for a few hours at decluttering, schedule in a break or two. Remember to allow time to clear away afterwards and possibly vacuum the area you've been working on at the end of your session.

5. Don't aim to completely declutter an area in one go. Instead aim to reduce the clutter by a certain amount, say half.

6. Have a goal in mind. Imagine eventually being able to turn the room into a pleasant and functional space. Imagine never having to declutter this space again (difficult if there are children involved).

7. Don't feel guilty about donating unwanted gifts – charity shops are full of them! It's your decision what you do with your gifts. Surely it's better that they go to someone who appreciates them rather than they slowly gather dust in your home.

8. Accept that decluttering is emotionally draining and some possessions are harder to let go of. It's natural to find it difficult to make decisions over some possessions. Have a maybe box for items you are unsure of. Leave these items for a period of time and come back to them when you've had more time to consider their worth.

9. Be systematic and keep focused. Work on a single area in one session and deal with each item separately. Sort items into keep, bin, donate/sell, relocate or put in a maybe box
10. Reward yourself afterwards with a relaxing activity or outing. Show off your hard work to someone appreciative and lap up the praise. Decluttering is hard work but you are on your way to becoming a master.

Now, let the decluttering begin!




Sunny Spring Sundays

Well it's almost been a week since I posted here and I feel I need to drop in and say hello. Life has been ticking along in the background with work, birthdays, our eldest popping home and hubs busy with his band rehearsing for an upcoming gig. Blogging has taken a back seat to the carnival of family life as it has to do sometimes. I'm OK with that but I hope to be around here more regularly soon. In the meantime thank you for reading, following and commenting here at Just a little less this week.  

Today has been gloriously sunny and warm just like last Sunday. Sunny spring Sundays remind me to

♥ Stop and stare at the beauty of nature. Spring skies are so vividly blue and the awakening blossom and flowers look stunning set against them. Recording this with my camera helps to store these magical spring days.
♥ Smile. 
♥ Look forward. 
♥ Just be and relax. Asking' What doesn't need doing today?' rather than 'What do I have to do today?'
♥ Get outdoors.
♥ Get a little fitter. Isn't it easier to go for a run on a bright spring morning? Well, a little.
♥ Keep simplifying. Having a low maintenance garden and a smaller house to clean are giving me more free hours each week. Further decluttering and simplifying my possessions and routines will help me achieve more moments of calm.
♥ Be thankful.

Have a great week xo



Minimalist Monday: Your Life is Your Life

image via pinterest
The Laughing Heart  
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvellous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Charles Bukowski
A year ago I mourned the loss of my beautiful friend. I wrote about the strength she gave me in her life and in her death here. A few days ago, almost a year later, I came across this poem and it immediately reminded me of my friend's love for life.

We would talk for hours of our dreams and crazy ideas and egg each other on. I think we both gave each other the courage to take risks and strive to be the best versions of ourselves. Buddhist meditation, yoga, crochet, ukulele workshops, Glastonbury festival, painting classes and holidays, a trip to South America, reiki training and growing veg on her allotment were just some of the things she packed into her last years. You can imagine what an interesting person and amazing friend she was. A year on, I know ours was a precious friendship that I was very privileged to share. 

I don't know if she ever read this poem but I know she would have loved it as she seized every chance she had to let light into her life and beat the darkness.

This poem is for my friend, for the ideals we shared, and for anyone else reading who maybe needs reminding that there is light even in darkness.

Your life, your greatest possession.



Pasta Bread Bake

Hello! Here's a recipe idea I've been meaning to share for a while. It's a tummy filling, comfort blanket of a dish that I've been making since I was a student years ago. It's similar to other pasta bakes but the bread is torn into chunky pieces, not made into fine crumbs, and is layered through the dish instead of being reserved for the topping. This creates super gooey tomato soaked bread pieces as well as some crunchy toasty morsels around the sides and top of the dish. The bread bulks out the pasta making this a very economical meal. I always make too much and we always manage to eat the lot. In fact the last mouthfuls at the bottom of the dish are the tastiest. 

You will need

enough dried penne to half fill your oven dish
approx two slices of bread, ideally stale, and loosely torn into pieces
1 tbsp oil
1 chopped onion
celery, mushrooms or other veg (optional)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
a generous squeeze of tomato purée (or ketchup)
fresh or dried Italian herbs to taste
seasoning plus a splash of Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar to add depth to the sauce
enough grated mature cheddar to cover the dish (but other cheeses would work well)


Boil the pasta until slightly softened and then drain. Meanwhile make a simple tomato sauce using chopped onions and a tin of chopped tomatoes and any other veg you have available. Season to taste and add herbs, tomato purée, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar to taste. Layer the broken bread pieces into the cooking dish alongside the part cooked penne. Cover the bread and penne with the tomato sauce, top generously with grated cheese and bake uncovered at no higher than 200 degrees C for about 30 minutes. By then the cheese should be golden brown. Pile high and serve simply with a salad or a portion of sweetcorn or peas.



Weekend Visits

This weekend in need of stretching our legs and eyes we headed off to an amazing local historical site Castle Ring, the highest point on Cannock Chase. This Iron Age hill fort is about 240 metres above sea level and has spectacular views, especially on a clear bright day like this Saturday. After walking the circuit of the monument we stumbled down steep tracks into the heart of the woods and eventually panted our way back up. So glad we cancelled that gym membership! The peace of the countryside made for a couple of hours of pure escapism. 

The stillness of the air and the bright skies added to the aura of mystery. We spotted this crow several times and he seemed to be keeping guard of the monument right here at the top of these steps.

The top of Castle Ring is open grassland which although very boggy looked stunning as it was bathed in golden light. Note the mud seeping up the legs of my jeans. 

Today we ventured south to St. Albans for a quiet family celebration, my brother's 50th.

Family gatherings are the best. A great spread, Grandpa playing Buzz on Playstation with his grandchildren and homemade cake. 

A great weekend even if we did have to drive back home through pouring rain.

Have a happy week xo