Taking Time Out and Wightwick Manor Gardens

This week I've been taking time off from work, routine and...  oh, blogging. On Monday (Bank Holiday Monday in the UK) we made the most of a sunny day and headed off to Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton. As the weather was so good we ate lunch outside and ambled around the gardens forgoing the William Morris furnishings and Pre-Raphaelite paintings of the house 'til another visit (oh the joy of the NationaI Trust membership's unlimited visits). I loved the mix of the gentility of the main gardens and the irregularity of the kitchen gardens behind the scenes. Plus the architectural details of the house, especially the barley-twist chimneys, made me swoon. 

For the rest of the week any hopes of getting on with my fledgling garden have been thwarted by extended rain. Instead I've been looking around our home at the remaining clutter and feeling inspired to move it on. Yes, you really have to be in the mood to declutter and this week the minimalist switch has been flicked on again inside me big time. Too many months pondering the next attack - it's finally time for further action. I haven't felt this motivated to pare down since we moved house two years ago. I have decluttered more in the last five days than the entire last five months. More on this... soon. Be prepared.

I really hope you enjoy these photos of Wightwick Manor Gardens. For me they capture the pleasure of an unexpectedly gentle sunny day and that wonderful opportunity to slow down and enjoy the moment. Bliss. 

Wishing you all a good weekend xo



Pedlars Manifesto Giveaway Winner

Hello. Popping in briefly to announce that the winner of the Pedlars Manifesto print is... Swissrose. Congratulations and please email me (my address is at the top of my sidebar) to arrange postage. Thanks to those who entered and thank you for reading, commenting and following recently. Your comments have made me smile this week.

Happy weekend all xo



Ten Random Thoughts

1. I'm often too busy to blog when work, home and family get in the way and it can be frustrating. But, honestly, blogging mostly gives me a buzz.
2. I remember my first crushes and wonder why - Daniel from Streetly 
3. ... and Trevor Eve from Shoestring? 
4. I wish I could see more of my friends who've moved away. I'm so looking forward to meeting up in the summer hols for coffee, lunch and chat. 
5. I look forward to those rare moments when I have the house to myself (not easy with a husband who works from home).
6. I'm shocked by the signs of ageing post 45 – hello back fat, I didn't expect you.
7. I often feel happy for no apparent reason. Simplifying my life has brought me so much happiness.
8. I love a 'creative' haircut. 
9. I dream of living on a barge.
10. Sometimes it's all about an early night - warm drink, pjs, socks, book. 

There...  so nice to let these ten random thoughts escape. Linking in with Annie.




All on a Sunny Weekend

Hello. Some highlights from a glorious sunny weekend in the UK. 

♥ Blue skies and beautiful trees to gaze at.
♥ Cake on the lawn at the Cathedral café - there were no picnic tables left. Who cares? We enjoyed sitting sandal free on the daisy strewn grass. 
♥ Mega bargains at a local plant sale. 20p plants!
♥ Salads for lunch.
♥ Roasted red pepper, balsamic vinegar and toasted flaked almond salad - my favourite.
♥ Newly painted deck in grey and a few more plants in. The fence is horribly orange and needs calming down. Next job!
♥ Kir (white wine and cassis) after the hard work and before watching Chelsea. I can't wait for Chelsea Flower Show coverage next week. Anyone else enthralled? 
♥ Our fifteen year doing his homework in the garden. It was definitely an outdoors weekend.

So, more progress on the garden and sun aplenty! Have a great week all and don't forget my Pedlars giveaway. Thanks for reading, commenting and following xo



How do you measure your life?

A spontaneous tribute in Birmingham's Victoria Square today. God bless Stephen, his family and friends. Such an inspiration




Pedlar's Manifesto for a Better Life Giveaway

I don't enter many competitions but when I noticed Pedlars competition on Instagram recently, to submit slogans to create their second Manifesto, I knew instantly that I had to enter. This was not just entering a competition, it was also about having some creative fun and contributing some ideas to a fantastic collaborative project. I had nothing to lose not even time (time spent on Instagram is purposeful, right). 'Grow a beard' and 'Find Your Passion' were my entries (who can resist a full grown beard or even a fuzzy chin right now?)

The response to the competition was so huge that Pedlars decided to expand their one manifesto to three; one for a Better Life, one for The Great Outdoors and one for The Kitchen. The slogans were selected from over 600 suggestions and also from about 50 ideas proposed by Team Pedlars. The gloriously bright finished manifestos are printed on card in the US, by hand, using ancient presses, by a tiny company that specialise in circus and political posters.

Anyhoo, imagine my delight when 'Grow a beard' was selected for the 'Manifesto For a better Life'. Not only was I lucky enough to win a copy of the manifesto showing my slogan but I also won £50 to spend at Pedlars. How exciting to be a winner and to be able to choose something from their amazing homeware, prints, stationary and vintage selections.

It was fun, but not easy, choosing how to spend my money. After, much consideration I chose items that we needed but were equally beautiful to add a little pizzazz and character to our home. I must say I'm very happy with my new goodies. Let me show you....

First I jumped at the chance to replace our broken chopping board with this funky green neon edged one which is great for plain chopping or as a decorative serving board.

I also chose two sets of Duralex Marine Glasses (some are bound to get broken). I love the classic French design and the jolt of colour they add to our meal times.

They also look pretty with a twinkling tea light inside.

Lastly, I chose two vintage Hickman and Pullen Bottles – my favourite way to display flowers. They are the dark green ones and are perfect for single stems such as these tulips. We already have a small collection of vintage bottles from hubs' childhood that are dearly loved so I thought it might be nice too add some different vintage bottles. Also, these ones were made in Wednesbury which is local to us.

As for the manifesto, I love the funky colours of the print and it looks great unframed - although I will probably frame it when I've eventually stopped having fun arranging it in different places around the house.

What's more exciting is that I can help spread Pedlar's Campaign for the Good Life to one lucky home! Pedlars has kindly offered one Just a little less reader a copy of The Manifesto for a Better Life (unframed). To enter just leave a comment below and be a follower of Just a little less. The closing date for the giveaway is May 22nd. The winner will be picked at random and will be announced here on May 23rd. I'm happy to post worldwide.

Good luck and please tell me what you think of The Manifesto for a Better Life in the comments below. I'd love to hear xo



Reducing my Grocery Spending Update

For the last five months I've been trying in earnest to keep our grocery shopping (which includes all household, personal hygiene products and the occasional bottle of wine) at well under £100 a week for our family of 2 adults and 1 or sometimes 2 teenage boys. I posted in detail about the new habits I've adopted to keep my grocery spending in check here. I know this figure is higher than other frugal bloggers and readers out there but I am pleased with my reduced spending. If it ever hits below £50 a week I will let you know! Anyhow, it's definitely heading in the right direction. 

A quick stock-take of my cupboards, fridge and freezer and I have a menu plan for the next seven days. This is a fairly typical week. It's also a week of using up left-overs, eating mainly veggie meals and also cooking from scratch - our youngest son has volunteered to cook on Friday night!

Monday - spicy beanburgers, chips and sweetcorn (hamburger for our son)

Tuesday - fishcakes (shop bought), left-over mash (from weekend), veg (pre-prepared at weekend)
Wednesday - pasta, homemade sauce (from freezer) and ciabatta bread (yellow stickered)
Thursday - homemade pizza and salad 
Friday - tbc
Saturday - veg curry, easy tarka dhal and shop bought naan breads
Sunday - quorn sausages (+ meat version for our son), potato gratin and veg

I'm hoping that posting the occasional menu plan will help keep my grocery spending on track! I enjoy reading other people's menu plans online just like I can't help surveying other shopper's trolleys and baskets in the supermarket. Are you the same?



Sunshine and Showers

I'm so glad we ventured out this afternoon and I'm thankful that we went for a walk before hitting the café for tea and cake (lemon and ginger, for the record) because before long there were torrential showers. Spring continues to be glorious this year in the UK and my current plant crush is rhododendrons - pale or rubescent, j'adore. The magnificent rhododendron bushes at the Tara Kadampa Buddhist Meditation Centre, Etwall, Derby provided us with perfect shelter. Yesterday we bought our first plants for our new garden from a plant sale at a local church. Hellebores - tick, hosta - tick, ferns - tick and a flower labelled 'purple, tall' - tick. Most of the plants were a pound each and after this weekend's sunshine and showers they are happily settling into their new garden. I've had a lovely time this weekend in my garden and admiring the plants at the Tara Centre. I hope you've had good weekends too xo



Minimalist Monday: Does Simplifying Get Easier?

Hi there. I hope all had a good weekend and an extended Bank Holiday weekend if you live in the UK. As you can probably see from the above photo we've been busy continuing our work on landscaping our small garden and becoming lawn free. It isn't finished by any means but the structural work is almost done and we're beginning to turn our thoughts to our planting scheme. Yay! I'm so excited about the thought of planting a garden from scratch having only inherited very mature gardens before. Prairie grasses, bamboo, euphorbia, salvia, hellebores, hostas and ferns are all on our current planting list to suit our partially shaded garden. The colour scheme will be limited to green, white and purple but this still leaves us with endless choices of plants. After much deliberation we chose blue slate for our landscaping material which is dark grey when wet but appears almost white when dry.

Has simplifying our garden been easy? No! 

But since when did simplifying any area of our lives come easily? Simplifying our garden to create a low maintenance but attractive space has been hard work both in the planning stages and in the practical work involved. Simplifying isn't easy no matter what task, space or area of your life you are addressing or how many years of experience you have. Successful simplifying requires careful planning, preparation, creative thinking and patience. In the early stages of planning our garden I was convinced we would require professional help to complete the manual work involved in removing our lawn, yet we have accomplished it easily (but more slowly) ourselves. Likewise, instead of buying large plants in bulk we intend to buy small plants in small numbers and gradually transform our outdoor space. We want to watch it settle down, evolve and be able to nurture it if it needs intervention. There is no rush. 

Patience, dedication and optimism are all key ingredients when trying to simplify any area of your life. Whether you're trying to reduce your debt, downsize your home or reduce your possessions stick with the dream. The journey to simplifying is hard work but achievable!