Summer Moments and Simple Pleasures Update

Looking back at some summer moments captured on my DSLR. Simple stop and stare moments from our summer that I haven't shared with you here. Although we didn't have a holiday we spent plenty of time out and about and visited Antony Gormley's Another Place sculpture at Crosby beach and also Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Looking back, I feel gratitude for plenty of sunny days and the time I've had to enjoy them. 

We went for a dusk time walk this evening determined to make the most of the remaining light and warmth of the day. It was interesting to see how fast autumn is approaching. The blackberries are already over here and the leaves are quickly changing colour and beginning to fall. On our return, home was dark but with a few lights on it soon felt warm and cosy. I think I'm ready for cosy.

I've also updated my simple pleasures list on my sidebar as we edge into autumn. It's time to stop chasing butterflies and start collecting autumn leaves. At the bottom of my list you will notice that we also have a new baby in the family, a great nephew. I can't wait to see him!


At the weekend


♥ celebrated a family birthday at a restaurant on Friday evening
♥ cleared out the small shed in our tiny garden
♥ weeded the garden - it took less than 10 minutes
♥ made treacle tart on Saturday to make Sunday lunch easier
♥ ran our local 10K race in less than one hour apiece - I took a lot longer to recover than my boys 
♥ enjoyed a family Sunday lunch with my parents - pulled shoulder of pork with crunchy crackling and baked apples. 

Hubs didn't run but was chief photographer and chef. Definitely a team effort.

Hope you all had good weekends too. See you next week xo


Watching the River Flow

On Sunday we took a walk along the River Trent. Just a short drive away from the hubbub of our city we found a beautiful unspoilt spot. 

Cool clear waters to dip our toes into and the melodious sound of the river trickling by. 

Seven cygnets swimming against the tide. 

It was quite magical. 

I think the sunshine helped. 

There is something so calming about water, don't you think? 

Far away from it all yet at the centre of it too.


New Beginnings

This September feels full of hope and potential. After a period of supply teaching I now have a few permanent hours at a lovely school I've been working at since February. It's a very different role to my previous teaching post and fits in perfectly with my desire for less responsibility and a happy work life balance. 

Over the summer holidays I've been contemplating how different I feel compared to a year ago when I was in my last job. I think that the challenges and changes that I've taken on have given me a new confidence borne from following my heart. I'm happier, healthier, and oh, I'm laughing a lot more these days. 

After completing my tiny garden makeover and finishing my 40 piece minimalist wardrobe this summer, I now need to turn my attention back to keeping my day to day spending under control. More planning, budgeting and resolve are needed as I've lapsed a little with recording and restraining my spending recently. I'm also looking into minimizing my hair and beauty routine and seeking homemade and natural alternatives to what's on the shelves in the shops. I'm on my second week of using alternatives to shampoo – I'll keep you posted on my no-poo venture. You can't beat a new challenge!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy September xo



August Break 2014, Week 3

Here's my third collage of weekly photos taken as part of The August Break 2014 challenge. I've taken all of these pictures on my phone and I'm really pleased that I've kept going with this project as I think it makes a great visual record of the summer and what we've done. We haven't had a break away this summer, although hubs has had 2 separate weeks off work, so these photos are kind of like my alternative holiday snaps.

Exploring our local area, using our National Trust membership and small treats like lunch out have meant that we've had a good break from routine and chores. Now that we're living a less hectic life 'Getting Away From It All' is not as important to us. We will have holidays in the future but for this year we've been content with having a few days out and the knowledge that our finances are under reasonable control. Being content with the here and now and gradually working towards simplifying our lives makes me happy most days. I do have my off days but I know that the simpler my life becomes and the less I succumb to envy the happier my general state of mind is. 

Here are the prompts for this week's photos (in correct order this time) with a sneaky extra one or three!

Jump. Great exercise this one! My version of a star jump.
Black and white. Local shops which I don't always appreciate the beauty of.
Peaceful. These 2 birds were very much at peace with each other and very tame too.
♥ (Garden) treasure. I picked this posy from our garden for our kitchen table. It's still looking good - I just keep adding a new poppy as each one finishes. 
Shadow. This photo of a tropical plant was taken inside The Glasshouse, Jephson Gardens, in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. The gardens here are well worth a visit and the town has lots of great independent shops and eating places.
♥ Handsome Regency houses seen from the park.
♥ The outside of The Glasshouse. Californian almost.
Adornment. Cute owls adorning the tropical plants inside the temperate Glasshouse.
Memory. This statue is part of The Armed Forces Memorial at The National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire. It depicts a serviceman, his comrades and his family looking on. So, so poignant.

Thank you so much for reading, commenting and following here this week. Your comments on my 40 piece minimalist wardrobe made me very happy. I do understand the difficulty in letting go of clothes (it's taken me almost 3 years to get to this point) but I would urge anyone considering a smaller wardrobe to give it a try. You really do get used to less clothes very quickly and value and enjoy the ones you have kept as well as the time saved in getting dressed with less items. Go on give it a go!

Enjoy your week xo


Introducing my 40 Piece Minimalist Wardrobe

This is my complete wardrobe: 40 pieces including tops, bottoms, coats/jackets and shoes. Now, I'm not claiming to have the smallest wardrobe but I am very pleased to show you that it is possible to reduce your wardrobe to a manageable size. This wardrobe is at least 20% the size of what I owned three years ago. My rationale in creating a smaller wardrobe was to create a flexible, minimalist wardrobe with well-made and well-fitted clothes that I love to wear for work, home and social occasions. After several rounds of Project 333 I know that I can live with a limited amount of clothes and that I've become more skilled in the complex art of compiling a capsule wardrobe. I've reached a point where I want a limited amount of clothes for all seasons in one place. But, could I achieve it? Would I ever stand in front of my dream closet?

I've read a lot about capsule wardrobes and studied lots of beautiful images of pared down closets. To be honest this research has largely held me back and led to a lot of confusion as to what constitutes a minimalist wardrobe.

I considered a monochrome wardrobe, wearing solely black, ditching all skirts and dresses and moving to Sweden or Paris in the hope of a style osmosis. The reality of creating a smaller wardrobe is that you have to work it out for yourself and be realistic about your lifestyle, budget and personal style. I almost persuaded myself at one point to go out and buy a black skirt and white shirt but in the end I realised my navy shirt and patterned tulip skirt were my versions of these said classics. In the end I got brave: it's my wardrobe, my rules.  

To pare down my wardrobe I attacked it in short bursts, really studied the condition and fit of each item, had lots of trying on sessions and wrote list after list. 50 items was easy to achieve but I wanted to challenge myself to get nearer to 30. In the end I've settled for 40 items. I feel my wardrobe is balanced, coordinated and reflects me. There are more basics and more monochrome pieces than ever before but also room for some of my favourite soft blues, purples and greens. I've ditched white trousers, camel, teal, lots of patterned pieces and pricey items that just don't feel right. I have 9 bottoms and exactly twice that amount of tops which gives me a Gok gold star and more outfit combinations than I've yet had time to try. 

Yes, girlfriend this really does feel like a new wardrobe. 

A complete clear out and clean of the space, new wooden hangers and hanging rails for accessories really helped to turn my wardrobe into my dream armoire. 

My 40 items:
1. Blue skinny jeans (M&S)
2. Blue bootcut jeans (Next)
3. Black work trousers(Next)
4. Black smart trousers (Principles by John Rocha)
5. Black linen trousers (F&F)
6. Black jeggings (M&S)
7. Black/grey linen skirt (M&S)
8. Tulip skirt (Laura Ashley)
9. Pink velour skirt (Seasalt)
10. Green cotton summer dress (Laura Ashley)
11. White v-neck t-shirt (Boden)
12. Grey v-neck t-shirt (Boden)
13. Black v-neck t-shirt (Boden)
14. Blue modal light blue round neck t-shirt (Gok for TU)
15. Purple draped t-shirt (Laura Ashley)
16. White/black stripe 3/4 length sleeved top (Gap)
17. Black /white stripe 3/4 length sleeved top (Gap)
18. Coral sequin 3/4 length top (M&S)
19. Navy smart blouse (M&S)
20. Purple linen grandad shirt (Wallis)
21. Check blue/green check casual shirt (F&F)
22. Black round neck long sleeved t-shirt (Next)
23. Blue round neck long sleeved top with cuff detail (M&S)
24. Light blue round neck long sleeved top (M&S)
25. Green striped woollen tunic (Seasalt)
26. Grey cashmere cardigan (F&F)
27. Blue cardigan (New Look)
28. Black boyfriend cardigan (M&S)
29. Black blazer (F&F)
30. Black biker jacket (M&S)
31. Purple gilet (Gap)
32. Blue storm coat (Berghaus)
33. Purple parka (M&S)
34. Olive green cord coat (M&S)
35. Black and cream ballet flats (Debenhams)
36. Flat sandals (local boutique)
37. Black small heeled brogues (Rieker)
38. Brown Chelsea boot (Next)
39. Purple patent Birkinstocks
40. Black tapered heel ankle boot (M&S)

Most of my unwanted clothes have been sold or donated but It does take time so some items are still waiting to be cleared. My enthusiasm for car boot sales, charity shop drop offs and Ebay is waning as once my shopping sprees did. 

Have you made any recent reductions to your wardrobe? What's the biggest hurdle in downsizing your clothes collection? I'd love to hear. More minimalist wardrobe outfit updates to follow.


August Break 2014, Week 2

Just popping by to bring you this week's photos from The August Break 2014 that I'm participating in this summer. I like them displayed as a collage as I can see rhythm and links between the photos and between these mid August days: mellow moments, an appreciation of time gone by, the beauty of the summer and, of course, lots of foodie treats. 

Here are the prompts - in reverse order, oops:

Drink. My favourite (non-alcoholic) drink of the summer is ginger beer.
Handwriting. Beautiful writing in a beautiful book of Dylan Thomas' poetry.
On my table. Tea in a pot, biscuits and pretty crumbs. One cup is not always enough.
Guilty pleasure. A splash of wine in the pot and a glass for me. Has to be red.
Hands. My parents own this magnificent clock that previously belonged to my grandparents and was made by a local clock maker.
Blue (picture 1). Luscious blue agapanthus at Packwood House, Warwickshire. I love the planting at this National Trust property - my third visit this year.
Blue (picture 2). A perfect summer sky on Friday.
Look down. My happy feet at Packwood House.
Book shelf. I don't own many books anymore but I adore seeing interesting collections of books. Yesterday, after a walk, we visited a favourite vintage cafe; luxury mocha and lemon drizzle cake made the visit complete.

Thank you for reading, commenting and following here this week. 

I'm hoping to update you on my minimalist wardrobe this week. Today I think I've done my last car boot sale and my last major clothes drop off at our local charity shop. It wasn't much fun holding onto a swaying clothes rail in the wind for several hours - I would have happily let them all fly away - but we made some money to help my son out with a trip next summer and it's good to see unwanted clothes finding new owners.

Have a great week xo


August Break 2014, Week 1

Hello. Firstly, thank you so much for your kind words about our revamped tiny garden. I'm so pleased you like it too. 

So, I'm participating in The August Break 2014 this year via Instagram and so far...  I'm loving it! I've managed 10 whole days of following the photo prompts and have discovered a new enthusiasm for photography and a huge admiration for the creativity, positivity and community of all those participating in the project. Also, I managed a half decent selfie and that wouldn't have happened without this project - I'm far too self-conscious to post this sort of photo, normally. It's been quite a discipline recording a photo each day and it has made me reflect not only on my daily life but also on the bigger picture of this huge, diverse and wonderful world we live in. 

Here are the the first 9 prompts:

Lunch. A rare treat - Friday lunch out with hubs at a bistro in Moseley, Birmingham. A lovely break. I had goats cheese salad. Nom, nom. 
Pattern. Raspberries and mint, which were later eaten with lemon tart. Again, nom, nom.
Window. I spotted this striking purple barge on one of of our canal side walks. I love canal boats, as you may know. I think I'd like a purple one. 
Orange...  for the life ring, but this barge also bears our youngest's name, Marcus, so that made me coo.
Three. On Monday I went to a short service to commemorate the anniversary of the start of World War 1. We listened to prayers, poems and Bible readings under the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral. It was very poignant and I then stayed up to watch more on TV and lit candles. Did you?
Reflection. Sunglasses, worn on my regular lunchtime walks. Time to step out and enjoy the day. 
Today is...  Yes, on Thursday,  "tall, purple" decided to bloom in our garden. I still don't know the name of this plant but I like its magenta flowers very much. 
Selfie. Seriously, do I have to? Eventually, I submitted. This is me unleashed August 8th 2014. 
In my bag. Some tools of my teaching trade.

I'm looking forward to the next week of The August Break. Anyone can join in anytime at any level if you're interested. 

Have a great week xo


Small Garden Makeover on a Budget

One of my minimalist goals this year was to create a low maintenance courtyard garden. We started this project in April and have almost finished it. Anyhow, it is finished enough to be a very relaxing space now (especially with no lawn to maintain and our recent glorious weather) and I think I owe you more than a peep of the revamp. 
These photos have been taken over the last few weeks.

As you can see we pretty much stuck to our design. To keep costs down we didn't make any structural changes but a lot of labour was involved: digging up and disposing of the lawn; measuring and cutting wood; laying membrane, slate and bark; painting the deck, fence and shed; adding compost and grit to the soil and finally cleaning the slabs without a pressure washer - no gym membership required round here!
The table and chairs were passed onto us by my mum and dad and some things like the box in large tubs, the lanterns, cushions and rope lights we already had. Our planting was also done as cheaply as possible. Many of the plants were from local plant sales in May or donated by friends and family. It's been very exciting watching some very tiny plants grow so quickly such as the verbena bonariensis which has grown and flowered like crazy in the last few weeks. Our friend Elizabeth sent tiny seedlings of this plant from her gorgeous garden in Cornwall. It's hard to believe they were lost in the post for several days, looking at them now. 

We are really pleased with the grasses we have planted (Karl Forester and Mexican grass) as they add height and movement. Our colour scheme is purple, white and green which I hope to follow through in the autumn by planting bulbs such as white narcissi, alliums and purple tulips. Lots of herbs have also been planted to provide interest and free food: chives, tree spinach, rosemary and parsley. 
There is also lavender although it has stopped flowering now.

You might have noticed a blue sail above the table; this is temporary and we're hoping to replace it with a white version soon. Also on our to-do list is creating a screen for our two wheelie bins which are near the back gate. Plus I have a wish list of more plants but I am holding back until next year. I hope you've enjoyed this garden tour as much I've enjoyed creating it. I can't tell you how much pleasure I'm getting from pottering about in my tiny garden.
And how much more relaxing this space is now whether we're alone or entertaining. 

Not bad for a small garden on a budget (we spent less than £300). 

And it's bee friendly too.