Happy Friday Links

Some interesting treasures for you this weekend. Linger, listen and do let me know which ones you enjoy. 

  • Table for 1: Eenmaal via Bloesem. There's a simplicity and beauty to these solo diners, don't you think?
  • Whose life is this, anyway? by Unstuck. Some practical ideas for freeing more time to follow your passions. 
  • Simply Black & White, Stripes & Check by Coffee Blooms. I've been admiring Roberta's style for a while and I love the interior shots on this post too. 
  • 4 Relaxation Tips We Can Learn From Our Pets by Quiet Habits. I like the sound of a sunset drive.
  • Cabins by Exile Lifestyle. If you crave simplicity don't be seduced into buying it. Hear, hear Colin. 
  • I have a few treasures in my box via Turvey Abbey's blog, Preferring Nothing to Christ. Saving my favourite link for the end (you see, I told you there were treasures in store). The Turvey nuns examine 'wants' versus 'needs' in relation to St. Bede's dying words. How much are we willing to share? 

Have a lovely weekend xo



Beginning Running

Here's an update of a post that I wrote back in 2012 that might be of use to anyone aiming to start running or wanting to increase their running. 

Running needs commitment. 

My current running goal is to run 3 times a week, complete a half marathon later this year and a marathon next year. 

But I know how hard it is to get started, stay motivated and progress healthily. 

If you're new to running or thinking of increasing your mileage the key is to take your time as your body adjusts to the increased exertion. 

Some simple tips to get you started:

Run/walk to start with. When you start out add short bursts of running to your usual walking. Gradually increase the ratio of running to walking. If you're increasing your mileage walking some of the way can help your body to adjust.

Increase your distance/time by no more than 10 per cent each week.

Stretch before and after running. Focus on stretching your hamstrings, gluteal, calf and quadriceps muscles to help prevent common injuries. Ease down your pace as you finish running and walk for a few minutes before you put the key in the door. Then repeat some of your stretches.

Run at a time to suit your own body clock. Choose a time that suits you. 

Buy the best running shoes you can afford. Ideally buy your shoes or at least seek advice from a shop where the staff have expertise in the products they sell and can match the shoe to your running style/gait. Be honest about your budget at the onset as they might be able to discount a shoe that's about to be discontinued (this happened to me and I made a big saving). 

All women need to wear a good sports bra for running. This is true regardless of your cup size.

Eat more complex carbohydrates on running days. Ideally fuel your body 2-3 hours before a run and try to eat a snack 30 minutes afterwards. 

Take on more water than usual before and after a run.

Listen to your body. Allow plenty of rest days and if you notice sharp pains in your legs or ankles rest for at least 3 days. If your pains persist consult a doctor.

Have the occasional easy week. If you've been increasing your mileage for several weeks allow a lighter week to help ease fatigue and maintain motivation.

Build a running routine. Eliminate excuses by laying out your kit the day before your run. Plan what time you'll leave the house and stick to it. Reward yourself afterwards.

Variety is the spice of running. Plan a few safe routes that you know well and can vary. Enjoy long slow runs but also the occasional short fast one too (with plenty of warm up/cool down time). Run at different times of the day, in different weather conditions, on your own, with a friend or join a running club. No run need ever be the same.

Set a goal. This could be to complete an event or improve your health. With time you'll notice a difference in your strength and muscle tone.

Some runs are harder than others. Some days you'll not be in the mood but the more you encourage yourself to run regularly the more you'll realise the added benefits of running. Talking of which...

10 Reasons Why Running is the Ultimate Minimalist Exercise:

1. It's flexible. Running is easy to fit into your schedule because you can go for a run at any time of day to suit you. You're not subject to complicated timetables and cancelled classes. You can run anywhere even if you're away from home.

2. It's eco friendly. Unlike the use of high tech gyms running outside does not require any heating costs or use any electricity.

3. Running makes you feel happy and improves mental tenacity. Running releases endorphins which gives you that feeling known as runner's high, a feeling of exhilaration. Also, running can be challenging at times (running through wind, rain and up hills) so it can help build up determination and resilience which you can use in other areas of your life.

4. It requires little equipment. A decent pair of running shoes, some high visibility clothing for running in the dark and a sports bra for women will be all the specialist items that you need to buy. You can run in cheap old sports clothes, hardly anyone will see you. Running requires very little set up costs with no joining or membership fee.

5. Running doesn't have to be competitive. You don't have to enter races, you can run with others or alone to suit you. If you run alone, just make sure you take your phone or let someone know your route.

6. Running takes up less time than other types of exercise. You don't need to drive anywhere to take part, simply leave your front door. A short 20 minute run, followed by a quick shower can give you essential exercise without taking up too much of your day.

7. Running is tranquil. In our busy lives running provides an opportunity to get outside, away from the house, the car and the office. Even if you don't have countryside close by you should be able to find a park to run around somewhere nearby. Connecting with nature can be a great stress relief.

8. Running outside can help look after your eyes. Looking into the distance whist running can help relax your eyes - great if you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen. 

9. Running is meditative. A rhythmic pace can enable your body to experience what psychologists call flow, a state where mind and body work in unison to create a sense of calm and well-being. This is great for relieving anxiety and is why you often feel more energised and positive after a run.

10. Running is a great for all round health. You can get so many health benefits from running such as weight loss, stronger muscles and bones, lowered cholesterol, reduced risk of heart disease, strengthened immune system and improved co-ordination. All in one simple exercise.

Running has been my main form of exercise since I was a teenager. I have tried swimming, yoga and exercise classes but running is the exercise that I always return to. This is because, for me, running is the ultimate minimalist exercise. Minimalism is, in my opinion, about less: owning less and having less commitments and distractions in order to live a more meaningful life. Running fits in with this lifestyle.




The Welcome to Now Project: Week 2

My second week of The Welcome to Now project has got off to a good start as I finished decluttering the kitchen today and made more progress in the loft. My mind seems more focused this week and I'm determined to make some progress in all 4 areas. I've also got some posts lined up for you to help keep the motivation going. 

The-once-and-for-all-declutter. Slowly, slowly I'm working my way through the trouble zones of the house. More bags and boxes are lined up ready for recycling and the charity shop. The kitchen now feels lighter and more spacious. I have to keep going although it's hard work at times.

Be Fabulous. I may not enjoy the thought of every run but I like the results – a calmer mind and improving fitness. This week I'm planning 3 x 30 minute runs. My daily walk feels like an essential part of my day and is the easiest part of the project as I enjoy this time so much. My hair's not feeling so fabulous this week especially since my hair dryer broke. A new compact model is on order and I can't wait to tame my locks once more.

Finding Focus. Keeping the momentum of week 1 going is my focus this week as well as writing new material to fit in with the project. With my meditation I'm following the advice of Jon Kabat-Zinn. I'm going to try experimenting with the lengths and style of my meditations. 

Try Something New.  Date night with my husband? A few hours away from it all just for myself? These are my ideas.

I'll keep you posted. Well done on your progress last week and here's to more success in week 2 xo



The Welcome to Now Project: Update Week 1

So an update after almost a week on The Welcome to Now Project (my 4 week project to declutter, find focus, be healthy and have fun). My aim in this project was to be accountable to you in order to maintain my focus, be honest and to learn from the experience. I've had some success but it's not been the easiest week for finding spare time for major decluttering. I will definitely have more time for decluttering in week 2 as I'm on holiday. And boy do I need it as I've discovered more clutter than I'd anticipated! Emptying cupboards and opening boxes has revealed items that I thought were lost, had already been donated (I think I must declutter in my dreams) and are broken beyond repair. Plus I found 2 pairs of first toddler shoes in the loft which sent me into meltdown. However, I'm pleased with how I've stuck to my plans in general and the healthy habits are making me feel good.

Here's a little more on my progress in each area.

The-once-and-for-all-declutter. Teaching for 3½ days didn't leave me much energy for decluttering in the evenings but on my full day off I did make good progress in the loft. Several boxes were emptied, 'maybe' clothes boxed up many months ago have been donated to charity and moving house boxes have been reduced. I've assessed that the loft contains unidentified wires, surplus decorating materials and too many photos that need editing. On Saturday I had a useful session with my husband streamlining our kitchen crockery, pans and glassware. We had lots of 'Have we used this in the last year/don't keep it just in case/does it bring us joy' conversations. Hubs is well versed in minimalism mantras. Together was definitely better. I could see what had attracted me to buying things originally but found it easy to cut my attachment because reduction was more important than any lingering sentiment. 

Be Fabulous.  I found starting my mornings with a drink of hot water and lemon an easy habit to maintain this week. I meditated sometimes in the morning or sometimes straight after work but I kept this habit up daily which is an achievement for me. I didn't use any music or apps just followed a similar routine to the one on Headspace. My daily walks were my favourite part of the week and a part of my day that I looked forward to. The only day I didn't walk was on Saturday but this was a running day so I was OK with that. I ran 3 times but my longest run was only 30 minutes as I didn't want to overtire myself as it was a busy week with work and other commitments. 

Finding Focus. I was definitely more focused this week and more aware of time wasting. The 4 areas of the project took priority over other activities so I spent less time on ironing and cleaning than usual. Yay! I began to focus on building a relaxing bedtime routine and usually was offline by 9pm. 

Try Something New. Some of you have read Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn the book about mindfulness meditation and you're right it's good. I found it pulled together many of the ideas I've been discovering over recent years from Walden to Zen Habits. It's helped me to be mindful of my reactions to decluttering (which can be difficult at times) to be realistic and to just let myself be when I've felt tired or under pressure. On Saturday we had planned to go to Birmingham Botanical Gardens as a treat but as the sun wasn't shining we went to a garden centre instead to buy plants for a vertical planter made from an old palette that we're creating. Our tiny garden is shaping up nicely and we've made a few changes. I'll post on this soon. We also had cake at a canalside cafe, visited a farm shop and cooked a Sunday roast for Mum and the boys today. Pulled pork followed by rhubarb crumble. Life doesn't get much better. 

How's your week been? Success? And treats? I loved hearing your plans. Please share.




Happy Friday Links

I've got some inspiring links to share with you today that have caught my eye, touched my heart and kept me going with my simplifying practice. 

These bluebells are from our local woods. 

We only started walking through these woods when we moved to our current home 3 years ago yet it's just minutes from the house my dad grew up in (he was brought up by his paternal grandparents). It's so lovely to have this connection with him.

So, this week's links:

  • The clean, vintage and minimal home of Audrey Bodisco via Wild Poppy. I love the simple kitchen.
  • Magic of Tidying Up? From An Exacting Life. Dar's thoughts on Marie Kondo are a great read and just hearing Kondo's name makes me want to jump up and go tidy my sock drawer. Yes the KonMari way... I'm learning the method slowly. 
  • How to Let Go of Attachments and Find More Ease by Always Well Within. Good advice on how to form non-attachment to material possessions, emotions and even our bodies. 
  • Leo's post Feeling Determined to Change was timely as I began The Welcome to Now Project this week. 6 ideas to create an environment for change.
  • The Time In Between Silver Gilt medal winning garden for this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show has stolen my heart. Australian designer Charlie Albone lost his father as a child and has designed this garden as a place to meet his father now he is a man, husband and father of two. The symbolism of the different elements of the garden are powerful with a water feature evoking the suddenness of death, a wide path for father, son and grandchildren to walk along and a fire pit representing his wife as the centre of his life. These global plants and colours would work well in my garden. 

I hope you enjoy these links as much as I have.

I'll be back over the weekend with more from The Welcome to Now Project. Thank you for all your support this week and good luck with the project. Go gently xo



The Welcome to Now Project: Week 1

Thanks so much for your encouragement with The Welcome to Now Project and welcome to all those who have decided to join in - I'm sure it'll be worth it. Yesterday was a positive start for me and I feel full of motivation to get moving with the 4 areas. So here are my plans for week 1. It's all about dipping my toes in and then taking the plunge.

1. The-once-and-for-all-declutter. This week I'm teaching 3½ days so I won't have much time to declutter. However, on my full day off I'm going to go into the loft and remove the large, easy to clear bits of clutter (unused furniture, cardboard boxes etc.). The reason I'm going to attack the loft first is because it's probably the most cluttered area of the house and according to feng shui (which I'm beginning to read about) it's best to tackle those areas that are most disorganised first. I also have half empty boxes from our 2012 house move so I'm going to consolidate those boxes. My visit to the loft will also be about assessing what's there so that I can plan what to declutter next. Afterwards I'll visit the tip/recycling centre with the debris and also my favourite charity shop as my son has returned from uni and has willingly edited his clothes (he has more clothes than anyone else in our family). On work days I'll aim to do a 30 minute declutter each evening in the kitchen attacking drawers, cupboards and any paperwork that's lingering. At the weekend I'll spend a few more hours with my husband streamlining our kitchen crockery, pans and glassware. 

2. Be Fabulous. My mornings will start with a drink of hot water and lemon and a short meditation (2-5 minutes). These are habits I've been forming over recent months that I want to establish as daily practice. Hopefully, healthy morning habits will lead to good choices throughout the rest of the day such as drinking plenty of water. This week my aim is to walk for 25 minutes a day either with my husband during his lunch break (he works from home) or after work before we eat. Walking is gentle exercise but also a really good way to unwind. We walk most days but not everyday so this week I'm going to be more disciplined. I'm going to increase my running sessions from 2 to 3 times a week but I'm going to make this 3rd run a short one (15 minutes) to avoid injury. I'll also try and plan some healthy meals for later on in the project. I'm working on ways of reducing sugar and have already ditched artificial sweeteners, diet drinks and tomato ketchup. 

3. Finding Focus.  I'm not the most organised of people and often keep my to-do list in my head. For week 1 of The Welcome to Now Project I'm going to try to write manageable to-do lists and power through these items before I allow myself any time online. I'm going to put my laptop to bed earlier and and give myself at least an hour to unwind before bed.  

4. Try Something New.  I'm going to read a book about mindfulness meditation Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, find out more about feng shui and plan something fun for the weekend. I'm not quite sure what but I I know there's enough mint in the garden for our first mojito of the year.

Have you any plans to get started with decluterring or build new habits this week? Is there anything you can't wait to cross off your to-do list? Please share and don't forget to reward yourself and allow time for rest too. 

Welcome to week 1 of The Welcome to Now Project. I'll be back with an update later in the week and will be using instagram to track my progress too. 



The Welcome to Now Project

We all have dreams of getting fit, having more time and trying new ideas but do we ever get anywhere near to achieving our goals?

I regularly write about my goals but I feel that I want to give my goal setting more structure. The Welcome to Now Project is a self-improvement project I've set myself (you can follow my progress or join me at any stage). It's all about taking action today by making small changes to make future dreams a reality.

I'm creating a straightforward and user-friendly approach to finding new motivation and achieving quick results by working on 4 areas for 4 weeks. 

The Welcome to Now Project is a personal experiment and challenge but by writing about it I will be accountable to you and hopefully find new motivation to keep going. I might also inspire you to join in. Initially, I'm going to try this project for just 4 weeks (starting today and ending on June 15th). I'll be updating you regularly and evaluating the project at the end. Who knows where it'll lead?

My goal is to live a simpler life unclouded by distractions, confusion and clutter (both mental and physical), to be healthier and to spend time doing the things I really want to do. I guess that pretty much sums up my approach to minimalism. 

Through the experience of downsizing my home, changing job and re-evaluating my values I have improved my life considerably over the past 5 years. I've developed confidence to take risks and make changes that I would never have thought possible a few years ago. But I still have residual clutter that I feel is holding me back and unfulfilled dreams that never seem to get off the ground. 

Why 'Welcome to Now'? Because I believe we have to accept and love ourselves as we are today. There's no point in looking back at past failures or wishing for a mythical future when we'll be stronger, have more time and more motivation to change our lives. That's never going to happen. The best time to start is now. Every week we have just 168 hours at our disposal including sleep! We need to choose how to spend that time wisely.

The Welcome to Now Project is a mindset, an affirmation and a way of giving some oomph to those brilliant ideas that you already have deep in your heart but you're just too frightened to try. 

Here are the areas I'm going to work on for the next 4 weeks:

1. The-once-and-for-all-declutter. Clearing clutter creates a calmer home and mind. By removing the excess from our lives we can be more open to new direction and ready to explore new horizons. We can be bolder and braver in life, think more clearly and really move onwards with our plans. I regularly declutter but I still have a long decluttering to-do list which I'm never going to break the back of unless I take serious action and make time for a huge purge. Now is the time to declutter. 

2. Be Fabulous. Enjoy exercise, sit still for less, make healthier food choices and try meditation. Maybe have a style refresh. Find pleasure in everyday things and be a glass half-full type of person. It's all about attitude.

3. Find Focus. Learn to set limits on online time, prioritise tasks and take baby steps towards new projects. 

4. Try Something New. It's time to try new things, read something inspiring, learn a new skill and and have some fun.

Each week I'll reveal my plans for each area. Alongside this I'll be writing about time management, mindfulness, nutrition and anything else that is a useful tool in moving forward.

Please feel free to join me with The Welcome to Now Project. 

Together might be easier. 

You could choose to join me on all 4 areas or just pick 1 or 2. I believe any changes I make will have a positive impact on my life and will take me forward. I'll share my successes as well as my failures. You might have your own ideas to work on in each of these areas – I'd love to hear about them. If you have any ideas or questions about this project please let me know so I can be of more help to you. 

Let's do this!  

Fast forward 4 weeks. How do you want to feel? How do you want to look? What do you want to be proud of? Do you want to be the best you you've ever been? Is it finally time to let go and start living your dream?

The Welcome to Now Project has begun!



A Weekend in the Peak District

The Swallows Nest in Monyash, Derbyshire was our home last weekend. A chance to get away and explore the Peak District, a beautiful area of the UK, which is just an hours' drive from our home in Staffordshire. Weary from the rain we arrived to find our tiny luxury B & B the perfect bolthole.  

Vintage G-plan furniture (this painted drinks station plus a sideboard and mirror), a muted palette of coastal colours and the luxury of underfloor heating; at every turn this tiny space thrilled me.

A beautifully made bed is one of my favourite pleasures and I can tell you this one was just as comfortable as it looks. After a good night's rest and a magnificent cooked breakfast we set off in search of Bakewell pudding. It had to be done. The road to Bakewell took us on a twisty-turny drive with beautiful white limestone dry stone walls framing the dramatic landscape (this area is also called the White Peak District because of the colour of its stone). Bakewell is a small market town and very pretty. 

This pudding from this deli had the shortest pastry we've ever tasted.

We also bought a Derbyshire pasty to fuel our afternoon's walk through Lathkill Dale. We certainly needed the energy as it was much hillier than we'd anticipated. Lathkill Dale is just minutes away from where we stayed and one of the country's finest limestone valleys. Its sharp sides encase clear streams, mossy rocks, woodlands, grasslands and evidence of lead mining. It's part of the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve and every climb gave us breathtaking views and every descent unveiled a new wonder. The sky, landscape and wild flowers were stunning.

We had directions for a route with instructions such as 'continue over the next 5 stiles'. Along the way we saw fields dotted with wild orchids and dandelions.

Down in the valley we saw banks of cowslips, bluebells, campion and wood anemones.

We finished our walk on the opposite side of the dale where sheep and a lone horse silhouetted the skyline. This reminded us of a scene from Poldark.

The village was very peaceful and luckily had a thriving pub just opposite the village green which we ate at both evenings. 

Our host Suzanne at the B & B was very relaxed and friendly delivering our breakfasts through the hatch from her adjoining barn (Swallow Barn) in pjs. How clever is that. A self-contained B & B with a serving hatch. There was plenty of chat about families, interior design and future plans. Oh, and here's Suzanne's chocolate cake that greeted us on arrival. My wasitline is just recovering a week later. 

I loved our bedroom window. 

We had plans to visit Chatsworth House on Sunday but were drawn back to Lathkill Dale instead. This time we drove to Over Haddon to start our walk and saw more of the river Lathkill. It's full of character with weirs and gorgeous crystal clear water. 

This dreamy house was nestled deep in the valley. Imagine living here. Further on we were mesmerised by large ripples in the water which led us to spot a trout which you may just be able to make out. 

These are my last views of Lathkill Dale. Add warm sunlight, birdsong and gentle gurgling water. Is it any wonder we were reluctant to leave. I'm so glad we chose a nature break instead of a city break.

Just to let you know this is not a sponsored post - we treated ourselves to these two wonderful days away. I hope you don't mind the photo overload. I couldn't whittle it down any further.



Happy Friday Links

Hiya! Here's my pick from this week's online adventuring. Today's selection includes a new UK blogger writing about decluttering, some beautiful images and some style inspiration from ordinary (but uber cool) women. 

I hope these links inspire you. I'll be back over the weekend with news of our Peak District mini break and then next week it's time to start afresh with my new project. Thanks for all your feedback. It's good to hear what you're interested in reading.

Right, I'm off to trim my mum's hair (second time, I can't be too bad).

Have a lovely weekend xo