Reflections, Le Havre

Our whistle-stop break in Le Havre, north-west France was, as you can see, blessed with fine weather. My father-in-law was determined that we should get the most from our short visit and, with his help, we were able to see plenty of his local neighbourhood, the city and seafront. I'm so glad we made this visit. Such calm weather is rare in Le Havre and locals and visitors alike delighted in the stillness and warmth of the late autumn sunshine. Families, couples, old and young, taking time to be in the moment and spend time with each other - it was wonderful to observe - a gift. I love France: its food, architecture and style. Autumn seemed to be less advanced here and as we held onto British Summer Time, we took pleasure in the light and sights. Here's my view, my postcard....



Le Weekend

This weekend...

we're heading off for a three day break. We'll be in France for two nights visiting my father-in-law and then on our return we have one night booked into a UK hotel (with a cocktail lounge). A child free break, the longest break we've had together as a couple in the past nineteen years. Nineteen years. And we're leaving the country. 

Of course, I shall be travelling light. 

My mini-break wardrobe: favourite skinny jeans, checked shirt, vest, white/black striped three quarter length sleeved top, blue modal round neck t-shirt, black blazer, parka, flat boots and heeled boots. 

Travelling light is easy now I have a minimalist wardrobe. I shall be wearing half my clothes and carrying the rest. Clothing dilemmas are easily sorted these days. 

I'm looking forward to three days of new experiences, having time to talk and just be. Enjoy your weekend xo




Stoptober Spicy Aubergine and Butterbean Soup

In the spirit of Stoptober I'm endeavouring to keep my food waste to a minimum and use up items that have lain dormant in the cupboard for months. Soup cravings have started to stir of late and have and spurred me back into the kitchen at lunchtimes. It took one leftover aubergine, one neglected tin of butterbeans and exactly 35 minutes to spare, for this new soup to be added to my repertoire. You don't have to add mushrooms (I only had 1 aubergine) but they do work well together. Both aubergines and butterbeans are low in calories for their size, so this chunky soup offers maximum comfort for minimum calories. I really enjoyed its flavour and bite.

You will need (serves 4 large portions)

1 medium onion, chopped.
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1-2 tablespoons of harissa paste according to taste (it's hot)
1 large aubergine, diced
250g mushrooms, halved
400g can chopped tomatoes
500ml of vegetable stock (not exact depends how thick/thin you like your soup)
400g can butterbeans, drained
natural yoghurt and/or grated cheese to serve


Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onions until soft and golden. Stir in the harissa and cook for a minute or two. Add the aubergines and mushrooms and stir to coat them loosely with the harissa. Next add the tomatoes, butterbeans and the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for up to 30 minutes. Serve with a swirl of natural yoghurt and/or a scattering of grated cheese for extra decadence. 

We enjoyed this for a weekend lunch and there was enough leftover for 2 more generous bowlfuls on Monday. Low carb comfort.



Meeting The Minimalists

So on Friday evening I caught up with The Minimalists.  

City 87 out of their 100 city worldwide tour and Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have arrived but not to a minimal audience. I'm not the lonesome mimimalist in the Midlands then... thank goodness for that. The long narrow bookshop in Birmingham quickly fills up. Quiet anticipation captivates the room as we browse the bookshelves but not for long. “You're all here for the same reason aren't you? Then talk to each other!”, we're instructed by the effervescent host representing Oxfam's bijou bookshop in King's Heath, Birmingham. In true Brit fashion we do as we're told, drop our guard and suddenly the atmosphere becomes snug as conversations circulate candidly. 

Ryan Nicodemus opened The Minimalists talk inviting us to imagine a more meaningful life in the future. He spoke of his discontent as a twenty something corporate professional trapped by apparent success and how he and his friend Joshua unwittingly discovered minimalism. Joshua Fields Millburn then took to the floor, reading an extract from their book Everything That Remains. Intimate details of personal narrative followed describing the mindless shopping spree of a new homeowner in the world's largest furniture store. Something many of us can identify with. 

The best part of their presentation was, for me, the question and answer session. With wisdom, humour and without judgement they answered a range of questions from, “How many bicycles should a minimalist own?” to, “How do I get rid of things I might regret giving up?” There were too many questions and not enough time; the interest and consciousness of minimalism was tangible. 

The evening ended with warm hugs from Joshua and Ryan, books were bought and signed and the crowd waited happily for their turn. 

I had a wonderful evening. Seeing and hearing The Minimalists in person, meeting like minded people and chatting to a few Just a little less readers left me feeling very inspired. Thank you to anyone I spoke to or who emailed me about the event. The buzz from the bookshop was palpable and as we wandered back down the street to our car we were asked by a passer by, “So, what was going on in the bookshop?” “Oh, two American guys called The Minimalists giving a talk” we answered and he nodded disappointingly.  



Weekend Walking

Last weekend we took part in a charity walk organised by friends who are raising money for their son-in-law who has motor neurone disease. We did a similar walk last year for the same cause. The walk started and ended, conveniently, at The Moat House a large pub/hotel in Acton Trussell, a village just outside Stafford. We joined the walk at lunchtime for the last 6.7 miles. After a misty morning the sun came out and we started our walk at a pub at Milford Common. When the walking resumed highlights included seeing deer roaming freely in Cannock Chase, the last of the flowering purple heather, peaceful countryside and rural views. The joy of a soft sofa and warming coffee at the pub afterwards was pretty memorable too. As usual there was plenty of chat along the way but I did manage to get a few photos to remember a beautiful autumn afternoon well spent. 



The Minimalists on Tour

Look who's in town. The UK leg of The Minimalists Tour opened on Friday 8th October in London and finishes on October 31st in Dublin. 

This Friday evening I shall be hotfooting it over to Birmingham to see Ryan and Joshua from The Minimalists, give a talk about their minimalist journey and read excerpts from their new book, Everything That Remains

What I love about these two is their capacity to demonstrate how minimalism can impact positively on any aspect of your life whether it's decluttering your home, streamlining your schedule or cutting junk out of your diet. Discovering minimalism as a philosophy has been life changing for me and little by little it's beginning to change different areas of my life. Quite simply, life has been more meaningful for me since my first encounter with minimalism four years ago. This month, thanks to Ryan and Joshua, minimalism is about to get momentous in the UK and I think it's going to be exciting.

If anyone has already seen The Minimalists on tour, or has plans to, I'd love to hear from you.



Spiced Roasted Cauliflower with Toasted Almonds

This is a great autumnal comfort dish (turmeric is a proven mood enhancer if eaten once a week). It will also help to balance your budget as cauli is currently one of Aldi's Super 6, at 59p each, until October 22nd. Grab yourself the largest one you can find as it will have more flavour. And don't forget you can use the discarded outer leaves along with other leftover veg to make excellent homemade veg stock. Frozen cauliflower works just as well if you already have some stashed away. This dish can be eaten as a side or main and could easily be bulked out by adding potatoes to the roasting tray. 

You will need (serves 4 as a main meal or 6 as a side dish)

1 head of a large cauliflower broken into florets  
Juice and zest of one large lemon 
1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger or Very Lazy Ginger
2 teaspoons of chilli flakes
½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons of fresh coriander leaves
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
1 handful of blanched almonds (25g or less)
Lemon wedges to garnish (optional)
Coriander leaves for garnish (optional)


First put the cauliflower florets into a large bowl. Mix together the lemon juice, zest and all of the spices including the coriander leaves but not the cumin seeds. Pour this mixture over the cauliflower and stir well until the florets are evenly coated. Leave the cauliflower to absorb the spices for about 2 hours turning occasionally. After 2 hours preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. When the oven is ready, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and allow to sizzle until they become aromatic. At this point pour the cumin mixture over the cauliflower. Spoon the cauliflower and spice mixture into a large baking tray. Place in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes until the florets are crisp and browned. Halfway through the 30 minutes turn the cauliflower. Finally, place the almonds in a frying pan and toast for a few seconds until golden. Scatter the toasted almonds over the roasted cauliflower and serve with fresh coriander leaves and lemon wedges (if using). Colourful, crisp and spicy.

We enjoyed this as a side with aubergine daal, basmati rice, chapatis, raita and chutney. A feast. Having a growing repertoire of easy vegetarian curry dishes means we can enjoy our favourite Indian food whenever we fancy, without getting bored, and at little cost.



What I Wear: The Checked Shirt

Yes it's those jeans again, this time tucked into my brown Chelsea boots (Next). Both the jeans (M&S) and boots are really hard wearing and long serving items in my wardrobe that suit both my budget and lifestyle. They can take a knock or two. My jeans are developing signs of age where the denim is beginning to thin. I like this character. I remember throwing out some beautifully fitting jeans once that ripped - I think it was a mistake. As for this checked shirt (F&F) it's loose fitting, check lined and has optional roll-up sleeves. It's a new purchase to replace my old one that was feeling tight around the arms. This new one is a size bigger and perfect for swinging my arms on a sunny autumn stroll. It might be supermarket fashion but I feel confident it's a keeper. I hope you enjoyed this second peek into my 40 piece minimalist wardrobe.