In the Kitchen: December

Hello. Are you tinsel free yet? Or poised with a party popper about to welcome in the new year? Our kitchen has been oh so busy this month. Somehow we managed to entertain three times before Christmas. This wasn't good planning really but it did give us the chance to try out lots of ideas before the big day. We've catered for vegetarian friends, a gluten free family member and managed to stick to a fairly tight budget.

I thought I'd show you some of the highlights from our kitchen this month.

We made Delia's roasted red onion, rocket and Parmesan salad as a starter. Twice. This worked really well as it was easy, gluten free and inexpensive. This is a 1993 recipe from Sainsbury's magazine. The only thing I changed was a liberal sprinkling of pomegranate seeds to bring it up to date (this is what happens when you watch Simply Nigella back to back). It almost looks like a Christmas wreath sparkling on its plate.

Another starter we enjoyed was a simple platter. The beetroot dip (shop bought) was a great new find and my sourdough bread made it more robust.
On Christmas Day we had a simple starter of salmon fishcakes. I had only one fishcake to suit my small appetite but the boys had three. These were cooked ahead and frozen to keep things simple on the day. The artistic smears are lemon mayonnaise and Marie Rose sauce
Two new stuffings were tried this year. Gingerbread stuffing and chestnut and cranberry stuffing. Both were good but we found the gingerbread stuffing a little sweet so we didn't bother with this on Christmas Day. 

Parsnips and carrots were coated in honey and wholegrain mustard. 
For our vegetarian friends we made mushroom and chestnut Wellington. This was gorgeous although it took a lot of prepping. I would happily have eaten this on Christmas Day. 

There was braised red cabbage aplenty. We use a recipe from an old Good Housekeeping cookbook. We made this ahead and there's still some in the freezer.

Pears in red wine were an alternative festive dessert and again gluten free. Jack Monroe's recipe is so easy and of course budget friendly. The syrupy sauce is quite addictive.
Suitably wintry and decadent was Donna Hay's whisky, marmalade and mustard glazed ham. This was great for feeding a table of seven. We served it with roast potatoes. Who doesn't like roast potatoes. 

Jamie saved the day again with his stress-free gravy recipe. I have to watch this video at Christmas (to ooh and ahh over the gravy and baby Petal). Using homemade chicken stock from the freezer (not in the original recipe) adds another dimension. 
Here's the mince pies I made early Christmas Eve morning and Tim made Mary Berry's Yule log. He lovingly makes this every year as the boys prefer this to Christmas pudding. 

So that was a little round-up of life in our kitchen this month. We didn't make everything from scratch (I've yet to make a Christmas pudding or cake myself). I've put in lots of links to help me next year and I thought you might be interested too. Cooking in our kitchen is very much a team effort, I must stress. I couldn't do this on my own! This beautiful free little cookbook was a great inspiration this year but all the recipes are on the Waitrose site too (this is not a sponsored post just in case you were wondering). 





Wishing you a very

A huge thank you for reading, following and commenting on my little blog as I sign off for a while to enjoy the festivities.

I must admit I was very tempted to compile some links for you but after reading this (good advice for anyone, not just teachers in my opinion) I decided that might not be the best way to approach the start of Christmas. You see there had to be at least one link...

Excitement is bubbling and I'm looking forward to some gatherings we have planned with family and friends. Some merriment will be good for all of us (and I will do my best to steer conversation away from work). Merriment will build good memories and I've learnt the importance of those this year. I shall be taking plenty of photos too especially of people. It'll make a change from chasing perfect images. People are far more fascinating and precious.

Right now I crave calm and peace for myself. Yesterday, I had one of those days where everything felt overwhelming and although today I'm feeling gung-ho about the lead up to Christmas I know I need to take time to renew.

So, I've signed up for some meditation, dropped my caffeine intake and decided a mini-digital-break is going to be my Christmas present to myself. 'Tis the season to go analogue. Sometimes minimalists are the worst offenders for creating information overload.

So my lack of links is my Christmas gift to you too. There's a wealth of information out there but it can wait. We'll read those brilliant posts in 2016 and we'll be amazing. But I think we'll be even more brilliant if we just follow our hearts, our curiosity and our values this holiday. 'Go with the flow' as a wise friend of ours says when life gets a bit stressy.

This Christmas I'm going to read those books, go for those walks and be grateful for the great things in my life and the basic things that I too often take for granted.

Enjoy Christmas my friends, have fun and make time to renew and be.

Claire xo



38. Happy Friday Links

Every week I like to share wonderful reads and resources to inspire simplicity, mindfulness and living well on less

With these enjoy your weekend.

Claire xo




37. Happy Friday Links

Every week I like to share wonderful reads and resources to inspire simplicity, mindfulness and living well on less.

Thank you for visiting. Have a lovely read.

Claire xo



36. Happy Friday Links

Every week I like to share wonderful reads and resources to inspire simplicity, mindfulness and living well on less. 

I hope these reads add some simplicity and joy to your weekend.

Claire xo



This Christmas

In 2015 I have a yen to enjoy December. To approach the month as a leisurely stroll rather than as record breaking laps for the Grand Prix. 

I'm going to pace myself by spreading the frenzy evenly across the weeks and cut myself some slack by having a few 'no Christmas days' each week. On these days I'll pretend it's May and make daisy chains (or the winter equivalent). I'll watch Mamma Mia! instead of White Christmas and sip rosé wine instead of mulled wine. 

Bravely, I'll knock my procrastinating perfectionist nature on the head by being adequately organised and get the essentials done early. Unfortunately, Instagram will have to wait another year for my styling sensations. 

There's still lots of Christmassy things I'm looking forward to but I'm not going to worry if I miss a few. A few less decorations, sausage rolls and renditions of Fairy Tale of New York (which used to be my favourite Christmas track before it was overplayed) won't dampen my spirits. 

A little Christmas restraint will, I hope, mean that I have the time and energy to savour the joy and quiet of the season.

Christmas Day might possibly be more meaningful for it.

December. What better month to simplify.



35. Happy Friday Links

Every week I like to share wonderful reads and resources to inspire simplicity, mindfulness and living well on less.

A bumper crop of links to wish you a peaceful weekend.

Claire xo



Less Spending, More Home Cooking

Hello. I feel I need to say hello as I've posted lots of weekend links recently and not updated you on A Year of Less Spending for at least a month. I feel the need for a bloggy chat too. From me to you. Not an essay. Just a chat. A thank you for your comments and reading behind the scenes. An autumn catch up before Christmas blog posts arrive here at Just a little less but rest assured they'll be no panicking about that around here. 

Three months into A Year of Less Spending and I'm still recording my spending every day (or every few days if I'm honest). I've relaxed a little with my weekly grocery budget of £92 but I rarely go over £100 a week and if I do it's just a smidgen over. Careful menu planning, eating from the freezer and cupboards and frugal meal choices are keeping me on the straight and narrow.

Since September our food cupboard, fridge and freezer are emptier than ever but our diet is healthier and our tummies never happier. 'No more chocolate biscuits' is my current mantra as I try to keep my weight steady and avoid the temptations of home cooked food and leftovers. No Nigella snacking from the fridge for me, for now.

I've been spending more time cooking (and less time cleaning) as providing good food on a budget is a domestic priority right now. I've tried cooking pasties for the first time and have made a sourdough loaf every week since being given a sourdough starter and recipe in Cornwall last month. It's great for keeping a hungry teenager happy at meals (and between meals) and went down a storm at book club on Monday night this week. I love it toasted for breakfast and daubed with butter and marmalade. Majestic peasant food. 

Red cabbage is cheap and colourful and we've braised it with apples and stashed it away in the freezer for Christmas feasts. There was enough to make a pretty and hearty coleslaw too. We've had roasts, gravy and soup, of course, to use up every last bit of veg. 

My teaching schedule has been typically two or three days a week so when I have the time and energy I've been batch cooking simple meals like chilli for the freezer. Some eating from the freezer days will be a treat over the Christmas holidays. We're pencilling in some easy days.

My motivation for A Year of Less Spending remains high. I haven't bought a single piece of clothing since starting this challenge. This wasn't a rule of my challenge but it'll be interesting to see if I buy any new clothes over the year.

Instead of shopping trips with mum we've been going to the cinema and treating ourselves to a chippy tea afterwards. We loved Suffragette and The Lady in the Van is booked too. Daily walks are a simple pleasure. Followed by the odd hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows feeds any extravagant urges.

My appetite for books is renewed and I'm enjoying reading in the evenings and early morning. The library service is wonderful and a weekly trip to the library to pick up reserved books is now part of my routine. I'm thinking of keeping some kind of reading log here on the blog next year as it's so easy to forget what you've read and enjoyed. I'm currently reading A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale. It's gentle and interesting.

So there you have it. Spending under reasonable control, minimalist wardrobe intact, trying new recipes and reading and walking in between. Less spending is a good place to be. It hasn't been an easy journey getting here but it's amazing how quickly you adapt to spending less. Like downsizing, living on a tighter budget is possible and can have advantages. 

So, how's your spending going? Please tell.



Happy Friday Links

Every week I like to share wonderful reads and resources to inspire simplicity, mindfulness and living well on less.

With these, have a peaceful weekend xo



Happy Friday Links

Every week I like to share wonderful reads and resources to inspire simplicity, mindfulness and living well on less. 

  • The Anti-McMansion via The New York Times. One family in a communal clutter free space, "We love the things that we have and try not to be wasteful. The rest, we edit."
  • A simple approach to walking for mind and body, Why no-frills walking is the best kind of walking by Marissa Bate via The Pool.
  • Was Thoreau fleeing reality? He's certainly inspired many of us to simplify our lives and notice the everyday beauty in nature. Oliver Burkeman disagrees: Why cabin fantasies shut out reality via The Guardian. For more escapism find copious calming cabins on the blog Cabin Porn. Love it. 
  • I enjoyed this short story on Granta, an online magazine of new writing.
  • Continuing my floating tiny home fantasy... take a tour (via Homes & Property) of up-cycling genius Max McMurdo's floating home as seen on George Clarke's Amazing Spaces this week.
  • After my holiday treats it's time to get my grocery shopping back under control as I continue A Year of Less Spending. Jack Monroe provides a useful updated list of her shopping on a budget tips here. The readers' comments are worth studying too - I like the idea of a printed list and using it many times (diagonal line for bought item, crossed line for used up item and repeat). 

With these, enjoy your weekend xo



A Simple Cornish Break

And then there were two. Two happily married souls a little shocked to find themselves child free for a whole weeks holiday. After a two and a half year break (yes I've been counting down to this holiday) we returned to Far West Cornwall this half term. Here's my photo story of reconnecting with this beautiful part of the UK. And reconnecting with each other. I do love a good holiday blog post (with lots of photos). I hope you do too!

We arrived to blue skies after a wet and dull journey. The view of St. Michael's Mount and the colours of Sennen Cove after hours of traffic were intoxicating. Excitement led us away as we couldn't wait to get settled into our beautiful holiday cottage, Peace and Plenty. We have stayed here before at Boscrowan Farm and knew that we'd be met by a homemade cream tea and beautiful flower displays at every turn. The autumn blooms were stunning... The scones tasted as good as they looked...

It was a mixed week of weather. Luckily our first day was sunny and we walked from Porthgwarra to Porthcurno beach. I didn't catch sight of Ross at Porthgwarra Cove (this is Poldark filming territory) but I was delighted to see a seal bobbing in the surf further along on Porthchapel beach. A simple moment I've been waiting for. This part of the South West Coast Path is stunning.

Our next day was wet and wild and although we enjoyed a quiet morning of reading we began to miss the sea. Off we headed to explore Godrevy beach and lighthouse and then the front at Penzance. Cornwall is always interesting whatever the weather. And any excuse to use a wood burning stove...

Boscrowan is hidden away in a secluded spot in Heamoor, Penzance. It's well situated for exploring Cornwall but has lots to offer on its doorstep. Trengwainton Gardens and tearoom is a favourite haunt of ours as are the nearby galleries, The Exchange at Penzance and Newlyn Art Gallery. We bought a weeks ticket which included entry to the Terry Frost exhibition and the Barbara Hepworth Museum. I found the colour in Terry Frost's work when seen as a collection very moving.

Ancient monuments also caught our eye. Lanyon Quoit is a Neolithic funeral site that we stopped to admire as we drove from St. Just to Madron. 

On my list of new places to visit was Kynance Cove on the Lizard peninsula. I've admired its turquoise waters on many blogs and just had to see it for myself. I don't think we saw it at its best and it was very busy even in October. I preferred being away from it all as we left Kynance and walked along the coast path. Sometimes you have to venture off list...

We gave the shops a wide berth at St. Ives preferring to pootle the tiny streets and explore the coast path towards Zennor. I wished I'd taken my boys to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and studio when they were little. I think it's the most vibrant museum I've been to and the garden is fun to explore. 

Stopping off at Rosewall Hill just outside St. Ives gave us a chance to catch the last of the day's light and the landscape that inspired Hepworth. Muddy but magical...

All of this and Peace and Plenty to come home to. My most memorable holiday as a child was a farm holiday and this break brought back those memories. Simple pleasure such as wandering the gardens, feeding chickens, picking apples from the orchard, choosing tea from the vegetable garden and fussing the dogs were in abundance. We ate simply but well and Elizabeth our host provided me with a sourdough starter, recipe and equipment to make my first sourdough loaf. Another new simple activity to take away (the starter travelled home with me). 

Our youngest enjoyed and survived a week at home without us (with some adult supervision). We thoroughly enjoyed our time alone and could get used to it in a few years. I would thoroughly recommend all aspects of this holiday. We paid for this holiday ourselves - this is not a sponsored post. Cornwall in autumn is beautiful!

I'll leave you at Boscrowan...