23 August 2015

Happy Friday Links

Hello and thank you for all the lovely comments on my holiday post. It was a much needed break for Mum and it really boosted me too, which I wasn't expecting. In other news my new laptop and I are beginning to bond thanks to a little help (and a lot of patience) from my sixteen year old son. We're having a tempestuous honeymoon my new gadget and I. It's lovely but too precocious by far and easily makes me petulant - not good for someone seeking simplicity. Some weekend, soon, Friday links will be on time. 

We've been trying to get out as much as possible for walks and picnics. The photo above was taken last weekend at Brocton, on the edge of Cannock Chase. The heather was beautiful and we picked enough blackberries to add to our porridge for a week. Today we've been to Leamington Spa not for the shops (although there's a great selection including independent shops and charity shops) but for a riverside walk and to spend time in Jephson Gardens. I studied a painted lady butterfly there for over ten minutes. My patience was rewarded. Moments like this are worth more than things.

Onto this week's links. I hope they're of use.

  • Why We Procrastinate And How Mindfulness can Help by London Mindful blog/The Mindfulness Project. I was interested to read that procrastination is a learned behaviour and mindfulness can help us to accept our fear of failure. I think this one will be useful.
  • A blog I may not have celebrated here before is Zero Waste Home. Bea Johnson and her family are an inspiration. Find out more by reading From a blog to a movement! 
  • Cait Flanders on simple money and mindful budgeting. I don't usually recommend long podcasts but I think this one from Brooke McAlary of Slow Your Home is worth it (approx 45 minutes). I've been reading Blonde on a Budget for the last few months and to hear insights into Cait's shopping ban (now in its second year) was really interesting. Some bloggers can make minimalism sound easy and often miss out the details of how hard it is to break shopping habits and say no to pricey social occasions. Cait talks openly about how she changed her attitude to spending in this podcast. She doesn't possess financial superpowers just tons of experience. 
  • You Don't Need To Instagram Your Washing Up by Me & Orla. Over the summer I've been considering my online habits. I'm glad I never got into Facebook - read Michelle from London Minimalists thoughts on this here - but I do indulge in Instagram faffing. I like the creativity it inspires, the community feel, the way it's improved my skills with a phone camera but not the false reality such high standards of styling and photography inevitably lead to. Sara has opened an interesting discussion about this. She is the bees knees of Instagram and I've learnt a lot from her. 
  • Finally I recommend the last three posts on Zen Habits. Leo Babauta's recent posts have been great, varied and practical. Topics include simple health, his mom and time management. 

I feel like I might have overloaded you at this late stage in the weekend. I hope there's something here for everyone. Let me know your thoughts on any of these links or my musings. Enjoy xo

20 August 2015

A Holiday at Saltburn by the Sea

Last week, Mum and I enjoyed four nights away from home - just the two of us. Mum wanted to see the sea after years of not being able to get away because of Dad's very restrictive illness. She wanted to return to Whitby, North Yorkshire, where she'd enjoyed a holiday with Dad when he was still well. I couldn't find anything suitable in Whitby but instead we booked a hotel in Saltburn by the Sea, about twenty miles north. Here are some of my favourite shots of a very restorative break.

Saltburn is a handsome Victorian town. Overlooking the cliffs is a wonderful terrace of Victorian houses. Most are probably flats now. In the evening we would wander past these vast windows as people lingered over meals waiting for a fantastic view of the sun setting. 

It was a quiet resort with plenty of holiday makers but it was never bustling. We spent our mornings and evenings here and it made the perfect base to explore the busier resorts of the North Yorkshire coast. Every morning I enjoyed a run along the long stretch of beach and in the evening we ate out and took a leisurely walk sometimes along the pier.

Opposite the pier was my favourite Saltburn attraction, the funicular cliff tramway. It's one of the world's oldest water balanced lifts and still operational. Beautifully restored in 1998 and climbing the 71% gradient in less than one minute it was an experience well worth paying for.

The stained glass windows were stunning.

Our first day out was to Whitby, We got there early (we're both larks) and used the park and ride facility. We climbed the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey. The ruined Benedictine abbey overlooking the North Sea was impressive in stature but powerfully intimate in its spirituality. When we left the abbey and descended the steps back into Whitby it was much busier and it was a relief to get down them.

Back to everyday seaside scenes.

On our way back to Saltburn we stopped off at Staithes, a pretty seaside village. The colours of the harbour buildings were dreamy and reminded us of Cornwall.

Our last full day at the seaside was a perfect summer's day. We spent most of it at Robin Hood's Bay, another pretty seaside village further down the coast. A steep incline to the beach and stunning views along the way.

That evening we sipped white wine spritzers on the terrace and had liqueur coffees after our meal. There was no stopping us. It didn't stop me getting up early the next day though, for a walk and run along the Cleveland Way, to catch the sunrise. I was not disappointed. It was magical and peaceful as I chased the sun, sea mist and solitude.

That morning we headed off inland to visit RHS Harlow Carr, just outside Harrogate, for some horticultural inspiration. My first visit to a RHS garden and I was impressed.

Can I fill my tiny garden with this much love and colour? I hope so, one day.

Our final stop was the city of York which I haven't visited for many years. We stayed just inside the city walls at a small hotel which was once a former rectory. Another great find and very central for exploring the city. York is dominated by its magnificent Minster which helps if you get lost (we declined to pay to visit inside).

I also managed to snatch a couple of photos of Mum during our little holiday. She is amazing and I know my dad would be so pleased that she had such a lovely time.

16 August 2015

Happy Friday Links

It's only been a week since I posted yet it feels like longer. A break away to the seaside has been wonderfully restorative - I can't wait to share the details and photos with you soon. For now here's a taster. A view of Thursday's sunrise taken on Hunt Cliff at Saltburn by the sea, half way along the Cleveland Way coast path. After taking a few photos I sat on the headland and stopped. I sipped crisp chilled air as gentle gilt sunlight broke a carpet of billowing sea mist. The majestic call of kittiwake gulls echoed my excitement. Together we heralded in the morning. It was awesome, magical and timeless. I hope these happy links will restore and inspire you a little this weekend.
  • I've enjoyed reading physical books this summer but now I have my dad's old Kindle maybe I should use it more. The Whimsy Bookworm has some good pro Kindle arguments. Monday Moods: 10 Reasons Why You Need A Kindle.
  • Holidays can be a trigger for me to spend more money. Here's some sound advice to shop less from Intentionally Simple 10 Ways to Change Consumption Habits.
  • I'm currently trying to use my cookbooks more often rather than use the internet for recipes and I don't need any more cookbooks but Anna Jones' books interest me a lot. Anna is author of The Modern Way To Eat and The Modern Way To Cook, worked for Jamie Oliver and is a huge fan of Nigel Slater and Sarah Britten (My New Roots). I like her attitude to eating well and cooking good food for real life. I enjoyed this video interview with her over on The Pool.
  • You know I'm a fan of Michelle and Frank from London Minimalists but if you haven't checked them out already read this, Minimalist travelling - it worked! I'm looking forward to reading about Michelle's minimalist wardrobe as it progresses.
  • Finally if you have three minutes to spare I enjoyed listening to Chris' Pause For Thought on Radio 2 on Friday. "We are more than economics", says Richard Coles and I agree.
With these enjoy the rest of the weekend xo

8 August 2015

Happy Friday Links

I'm keeping it simple this week as I have a new sophisticated laptop that seems to have a mind of its own and a very twitchy cursor. Basically it does not want to give me many clues as to how to work it. I feel like I'm blogging from scratch and that the internet has advanced five years during my seven days absence.
This week I've continued to work my way through my 'bottom-of-the-list' list. After finishing H is for Hawk I've launched straight into an 80s classic, The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe, which is our next book club read. At over seven hundred pages (not unusually long for my book club) it should keep me entertained for a few more days.
I've been enjoying using my phone camera and posting on Instagram but only as and when I feel like it (I decided against joining in with The August Break in the end). I feel a little reluctant to use my DSLR too much because of getting to grips with photo editing on this new whizz of a laptop. My phone has been a perfect companion as we've had lots of lovely days out as Tim has been off work this week. Shrewsbury was a highlight where we drank delicious coffee and walked by the river.
Next week I'm off to the seaside with Mum for a few days so there'll be plenty more photo opportunities (and ice-cream sampling) but not much time for blogging. Expect a reliably late Happy Friday Links.
Onto this week's links then before I get over confident with my new technology.
Thank you to these wonderful writers and to you dear readers for putting up with my rather mindless approach to blogging of late. Have a great week xo

1 August 2015

Happy Friday Links

In between reading (H is for Hawk - wonderful), painting the kitchen (it looks so much better) and listening to a lot of Radio 4 (you can learn so much) I've plucked these lovely reads from my limited online time. I hope you enjoy them. Sorry they're a day late, everything's a little skewed here what with decorating debris, my son's expedition gear (thankfully he's back from Southern Tanzania) and a poorly laptop which I'm looking into fixing. 

  • A simple approach to improving habits: 7 Reliable Steps to change Your Life at Any Age from Marc & Angel Hack Life.
  • From The Simple Things a simple and delicious recipe for guacamole. I can't wait to make it again. 
  • I met my friend for lunch and we swapped life notes (and paint colour recommendations) as only friends of the same age can. She also sent me this link, How to be a grown up: books to help you with mid-life. Thank you Julie and The Women's Room. 
  • A Calm Green, Grey and White Swedish Space by My Scandinavian Home. I've added a green grey feature wall to our kitchen. The first picture shows a similar shade to the one I've chosen. Is our kitchen calmer? I'll let you know...
  • Keeping up with the new Joneses. I'm thrilled to share this last link as it's a great new find. London Minimalists, launched this month by Michelle and Frank, is a fresh sounding blog where they share some serious but real posts about their mission to lead a more minimalist lifestyle. I've enjoyed every post and had trouble choosing which one to share with you.

Have a relaxing weekend xo

24 July 2015

Happy Friday Links

This happy Friday some varied reads to unfurl your inner simple living soul. They might just work. 

Interesting, eh? Thank you for taking time this week to read, comment and follow my path to just a little less. Have a good weekend xo

22 July 2015

A 'bottom-of-the-list' summer list

Apologies first to southern hemisphere readers and those who don't get much time off work in the school holidays. I know I'm blessed, spoilt and sound smugly annoying to have just started six weeks holiday. 

My boys are both having their own holidays without us this year and Tim and I have just had three days away in Swaledale, North Yorkshire. We also have two weeks at home together. But what do I do with the time in between when the family are either working or doing their own thing?

Most of my summers start off with good intentions along the lines of: get more organised, complete major decorating projects and, in a bottom-of-the-list type of way, make more time for myself. Ha! Like that's ever going to happen! 

It's no surprise then to hear that by the end of the school holidays I'm usually exhausted from trying to fit too much in and generally feel angsty that I can't keep on top of it all. 

This year I'm determined to look after myself. You know that nugget of advice that if you look after yourself then you're better placed to take care of others - well it's time to give it a try! I decided to make a list of things that I really want to do with my time. Not things that I think I should do. No. Things that'll make me feel happy as I anticipate them. Things that'll make me healthier because I'll feel more balanced not slimmer or clearer skinned. A few indulgences that wouldn't be in my usual budget but are a one-off reward to myself. 

Here's my 'bottom-of-the-list' summer list. It's in no particular order. I've tried to make my list fun, as specific as I can and impossible to finish. I'll still have domestic tasks to attend to, a kitchen that needs painting and I'd like to declutter more of our paperwork but these will not be my priority. 

This summer taking a few hours each day for myself will always be towards the top of my to-do list.

Minimalism is all about having the freedom to choose how you spend your time after all. 

My bottom-of-the-list summer list:

  • Try a flat white.
  • Finish reading books that got abandoned because of book club deadlines. How could I not finish The Goldfinch when I had less than 100 pages to go?
  • Read unread books on my bookshelf. I had quite a lot of books for my birthday (see photo). Which to read first? Any recommendations?
  • Read independent magazines. I bought The Simple Things for the first time for our trip away at the weekend and I would like to try others. Any suggestions?
  • Cook from recipe books not the internet. 
  • Have a summer pj day and catch up with films.
  • Eat fresh avocados because I love them and they're healthy.
  • Make homemade guacamole (avocados again I know).
  • Visit a cafe alone to write. 
  • Learn the basics of hand embroidery. 
  • Eat ice cream once a week.
  • Put edited photos in new photo albums.
  • Create a photo wall.  
  • Have an eyebrow and eyelash tint. 
  • Actually buy something from a farmer's market.
  • Give myself a weekly manicure.
  • Learn the words to a favourite song so I can sing along.
  • Take part in Susannah Conway's The August Break on Instagram. 
  • Go on a train journey to somewhere new.
  • Visit Turvey Abbey.
  • Eat a simple meal of bread, cheese and wine in the garden.

I could go on but I'll stop here. 

Do try writing a 'bottom-of-the-list' list. It's really fun. And of course you can do this in the southern hemisphere and in your time off work too. I'll update you on my progress along the way.

Go on indulge your imagination and your soul. 

What's on your 'bottom-of-the-list' list? Do your projects and interests always come bottom of the list? Please share.

17 July 2015

Happy Friday Links

Welcome to my 17th week of Happy Friday Links. Where does the time go? School's out for summer and I'm away in Swaledale, North Yorkshire for a few days with my camera and walking boots at the ready. I do hope these links interest you.

With these have a great weekend xo

16 July 2015

How to Make a Vertical Pallet Planter

Here's the vertical planter we've been working on to brighten up our small garden. Whilst last year's gardening was all about changing the design and planting from scratch this year we've tried to be more creative. Our garden style is part Zen part reclaimed chic. This pallet planter definitely fits into the second category. Inspired by what we've seen online and out and about we set about creating our own easy version.

You will need
A pallet (ours was 120cm /47 inches wide by 80cm /31 inches high)
Geotextile membrane 
2 x compost bags (we used size 40 litres)
Wood offcuts
2 x screw in metal eye hooks
Electrical ties
Tools: Staple gun, small saw, scissors or knife. 

1. Improve the appearance of your pallet if needed. Ours came from my in-laws and didn't need sanding but needed darkening with one coat of fence paint.
2. Lay the pallet on its front. Slide the unopened compost bags into each half of the pallet. 
3. Secure in place using geotextile membrane and a staple gun. 
4. Turn the pallet over.

5. With the pallet horizontal make rectangular cuts in the gaps between the planks with a knife or scissors.
6. Add plants to the gaps but allow room for growth. Work from the top down and leave the bottom row empty to allow for trailing space (we left too much space at the top in hindsight so ignore the photo). We chose nasturtiums, lobelia, trailing tomatoes, French beans and thyme.  

7. Leave the planter horizontal for 1-2 weeks and water daily.
8. Gradually make the planter vertical over a week to 10 days. We used our garden table to prop it up at different angles. Move it carefully to ensure the compost bags don't slip out.

9. Secure the pallet to the fence with screw in metal eye hooks and electrical ties (you could also use chain wire or rope).
10. Stand the pallet on small blocks made from wood offcuts so that the surface underneath has chance to dry out after watering. 
11. Once the pallet is vertical cut open the top of the compost bags and add more plants.
12. Water daily if possible even if it rains!

13. Finally enjoy your colourful and bee friendly planter.

We love our vertical planter. Budget and bee friendly it gives a Mondrian splash of colour to our tiny garden and is inspiring us to experiment further with vertical planting. Using compost bags certainly saves time and mess. I hope you like our vertical planter as much as we do!