Simple Pleasures: July

Oh July, so much to celebrate, not least the, almost, unending sunshine. We could get used to this, given the chance. 

Here are some happy memories from the past 4 weeks - all taken on my phone. This is my second month of creating a gratitude collage and I'm enjoying the process of wrapping up each month by reflecting on it. 

Some highlights...

♥ I spent a wonderfully exciting but tiring day in London with my 15 year old son. We visited The British Museum, popped into the new Peddlars General Store and Cafe and had tea with my brother in St. Albans.
♥ So we did have some rain as I captured this rainbow on my phone.
♥ Pimm's to celebrate my dad's 78th birthday.
♥ Pavlova to celebrate my father-in-law's 70th.
♥ I bought some eighties shorts from a vintage shop to replace the denim ones I sold at last month's car boot. These are so cool and comfy.
♥ Hubs and band nailing it at our local festival Fuse. Very proud of him.
Beetroot and feta salad a new recipe which I'll make over and over again, I'm sure (I left out the spring onions though).
♥ 22 hearts for our 22nd wedding anniversary.
♥ Verbena bonariensis at Baddesley Clinton, a National Trust property in Warwickshire. This is a new plant to us and is looking stunning right now in our tiny garden too. 

Thank you for reading, following and commenting here at Just a little less. You're very welcome xo



Minimalist Monday: Is a Simpler Life Attainable?

Question: do you want a simpler, more contented way of life that isn't consumer driven? OK, right now it may seem unattainable, but it really is within your grasp if you're ready to start making just the smallest adjustments to your life. Believe me, a few years ago I didn't know that a more minimalistic life was within my reach - I thought it required more discipline and radical action than I was capable of.

Almost 4 years ago, when I started to make my life simpler, I had no grand plan, just a desire to start reducing my possessions, my consumerist ambitions and to calm down the frantic pace of my life. Back then although I sought change, I couldn't envisage a newer, simpler life ever being a reality for me. Paying a large mortgage meant working full-time with little energy left to implement change. When I first discovered minimalism downsizing wasn't yet on my horizon but the more I learned about it and practised it the more my perspective changed. I began to see that my life wasn't fixed and that I could choose a simpler, different life. New possibilities started to shimmer on a newly expanding beautiful horizon.

Little bits of decluttering here and there led to the realisation that we could fit our family into a smaller house; cutting back on spending and living well on less gave me the courage to eventually leave a permanent job that was overwhelming me; slowing down and resisting the urge of busy-ness brought balance, self-acceptance and contentment to my life. 

Nowadays, almost 4 years into my my minimalist journey, I may not be keeping up with the Joneses externally, but internally I have gained so much self-knowledge and peace. In letting go of valuing status I'm beginning to let new values into my life: quietness, nature, improved health, closer relationships and a new found spirituality. In focussing less on the external I'm beginning to discover new ways to happiness.

Living in a smaller house with less stuff and less commitments doesn't happen over night. It takes time, discipline and a lot of fear has to be overcome along the way. Like working on a fiddly jigsaw, what seems impossible at first is achievable if you work on one area at a time. Piece by piece your new life will begin to fit together. There may be pieces missing but that's OK. The first step is to listen to what you really want from life and the rest will follow in time. 

A consumer driven life or a simpler life? It's your choice. 

Have you made that choice? Are you ready for change? I'd love to hear from you. 



Minimalist Monday: Easy Squeezy Tray-Bake Roast Dinner

It's been a while since I wrote either a Minimalist Monday post or a recipe post so I thought I'd combine the two today. As an update, I'm doing well with continuing my effort to keep our grocery budget well below £100 a week for 2 adults and 1-2 teenage boys. Cooking most meals from scratch can get tedious though, so it's quite exciting when we come up with something that suits days when we're feeling lazy but in need of something tasty. This recipe is basically a tray-bake; even the green cabbage gets thrown in the oven. And if everyone gets involved in chopping up the ingredients then the preparation time really is minimal. The salad potatoes I used are from this week's Aldi's Super 6. I keep limes slices/chunks in the freezer but you could use a lemon instead. A perfect recipe for a summer evening giving you plenty of time to enjoy a glass of something chilled in the meantime. 

You will need (serves 4-6)

4 medium chicken breasts (or equivalent weight in thighs) cut into chunks
200g chorizo sausage, cut into chunks (you could use more but this amount is adequate)
1 kg diced salad potatoes (no need to peel)
1kg carrots cut into batons (no need to peel)
2 red onions cut into chunks
1/2 green cabbage shredded
1 chopped chilli (optional)
a good glug of olive oil
a sprinkle of fresh or dried mixed herbs
1 lime cut into chunks - reserve 4 wedges for garnish


Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6/ 400F. Use two large roasting tins and put an equal amount of the chopped ingredients in each with the exception of the green cabbage which will go in later and set aside a wedge of lime per person (the rest of the lime goes in the oven). Season the mixture, add the herbs and drizzle over enough olive oil to coat everything lightly (I like to use my hands to get an even distribution). 

Cook for 45 minutes then scatter over the shredded green cabbage on top. It basically steams on top of the other ingredients and soon wilts down. Cook for a further 15 minutes. Heap plates generously and garnish with one wedge of lime. Easy, squeezy.



And Breathe it's the Weekend

If last weekend was busy then this weekend is going to be busier. Do you get spells like that, when it's all go and life has to be scheduled almost an hour at a time? Last weekend we celebrated a family 70th birthday and my dad's 78th. We saw all the family - on both sides - in less than twenty four hours. We had a lovely lovely time. Champagne, Pimm's and the most delicious food. I'm not complaining, especially as we were able to take home this spectacular pavlova from the party and serve it the next day for my dad's birthday lunch. 
This weekend it's our local free community arts festival, Fuse. As well as the whole family volunteering, hubs' group, The Sleaze Brothers, are also playing there on Saturday night. The original line-up from 1986 is back together after a break of, ahem, a few years. There have been many rehearsals. I've been a guitar widow these last few months, but I don't mind one little bit; it takes guts and hard work to get back under the spotlight after a break of several years. Facebook has been awash with retro Sleaze Bros photos. The photo below is from 1989 at our brilliant local arts centre (sadly now a restaurant) and the ticket price was just £3. I love the atmosphere in this photo - I was there in the audience, somewhere, dancing my socks off.

The Sleaze Brothers play blues, soul and rock and roll numbers inspired by The Blues Brothers, although they are not a tribute band.

I think they've had a lot of fun getting back together. I hope they enjoy tomorrow night, I certainly will.

Wishing you a good weekend, whatever you're up to xo



The Good Life Experience Launch at Pedlars General Store and Cafe

On Tuesday lunchtime I was invited to celebrate the opening of the new look Pedlars General Store and Cafe in Notting Hill, London. Feet weary (I'd forgotten how much walking is involved in getting about the capital) I was soon revived with an excellent espresso and a pick of the most irresistible sandwiches and pastries. I was warmly welcomed by the Pedlars team and had a fantastic time discovering the delights of the refurbished store and cafe and learning more about Pedlars new baby of a festival, The Good Life Experience. Smokin' music from Paprika brought a flavour of the festival fabulousness to come and bright sunshine and glamourous smiles filtered the store (Cerys Matthews and Bill Granger were there - if I dare to name-drop).

Pedlars General Store and Cafe is a treasure trove of vintage goods, fine stationary, cool creative magazines, fun prints, bags, homewares and more (you can also buy sweets and fresh bread here) all oozing Pedlars signature style of colourful, cheerful and character full products made to last a lifetime. Set against a luminous background of the prettiest pale blue walls offset with splashes of neon pink and orange at every turn, I must confess, this is interior heaven. A huge window and oversized statement lamps flood the space with light.

The new cafe area, towards the back of the store, has an ambient mood with its dreamy aqua colourway, squashy cushions, patinated table tops and wooden stools. 

This is the perfect place to hunker down for good coffee, eats and chat.

The Good Life Experience is a new venture for Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, co-founders of Pedlars, but one that they are more than qualified to deliver. Their three prime passions are culture, food and the great outdoors (in fact they've written a family focused book of the same name) and this one day festival in Flintshire, Wales will encompass all three. Charlie and Caroline are keen to bring an outdoor adventuring vibe to their festival with activities such as bushcraft skills on offer. Cerys Matthews (recently recognised for her services to music with a MBE) is curating the music whilst the Howarden Estate Farm Shop and Glynne Arms are curating the food. The Good Life Experience is set to be an all round feast for the senses.

My time at Pedlars gave me a taste for the feel good outlook on life: forget mass production insist on buy to last, slow down, have fun, get outside and make time for simple pleasures such as music and cooking from scratch. 

Thank you Pedlars for such a lovely time. The Good Life Experience here we come!

Readers, I'd love to know what you think of Pedlars new look store and ventures.