21.7.14

Minimalist Monday: Easy Squeezy Tray-Bake Roast Dinner

It's been a while since I wrote either a Minimalist Monday post or a recipe post so I thought I'd combine the two today. As an update, I'm doing well with continuing my effort to keep our grocery budget well below £100 a week for 2 adults and 1-2 teenage boys. Cooking most meals from scratch can get tedious though, so it's quite exciting when we come up with something that suits days when we're feeling lazy but in need of something tasty. This recipe is basically a tray-bake; even the green cabbage gets thrown in the oven. And if everyone gets involved in chopping up the ingredients then the preparation time really is minimal. The salad potatoes I used are from this week's Aldi's Super 6. I keep limes slices/chunks in the freezer but you could use a lemon instead. A perfect recipe for a summer evening giving you plenty of time to enjoy a glass of something chilled in the meantime. 

You will need (serves 4-6)

4 medium chicken breasts (or equivalent weight in thighs) cut into chunks
200g chorizo sausage, cut into chunks (you could use more but this amount is adequate)
1 kg diced salad potatoes (no need to peel)
1kg carrots cut into batons (no need to peel)
2 red onions cut into chunks
1/2 green cabbage shredded
1 chopped chilli (optional)
a good glug of olive oil
seasoning
a sprinkle of fresh or dried mixed herbs
1 lime cut into chunks - reserve 4 wedges for garnish

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6/ 400F. Use two large roasting tins and put an equal amount of the chopped ingredients in each with the exception of the green cabbage which will go in later and set aside a wedge of lime per person (the rest of the lime goes in the oven). Season the mixture, add the herbs and drizzle over enough olive oil to coat everything lightly (I like to use my hands to get an even distribution). 

Cook for 45 minutes then scatter over the shredded green cabbage on top. It basically steams on top of the other ingredients and soon wilts down. Cook for a further 15 minutes. Heap plates generously and garnish with one wedge of lime. Easy, squeezy.





11.7.14

And Breathe it's the Weekend

If last weekend was busy then this weekend is going to be busier. Do you get spells like that, when it's all go and life has to be scheduled almost an hour at a time? Last weekend we celebrated a family 70th birthday and my dad's 78th. We saw all the family - on both sides - in less than twenty four hours. We had a lovely lovely time. Champagne, Pimm's and the most delicious food. I'm not complaining, especially as we were able to take home this spectacular pavlova from the party and serve it the next day for my dad's birthday lunch. 
This weekend it's our local free community arts festival, Fuse. As well as the whole family volunteering, hubs' group, The Sleaze Brothers, are also playing there on Saturday night. The original line-up from 1986 is back together after a break of, ahem, a few years. There have been many rehearsals. I've been a guitar widow these last few months, but I don't mind one little bit; it takes guts and hard work to get back under the spotlight after a break of several years. Facebook has been awash with retro Sleaze Bros photos. The photo below is from 1989 at our brilliant local arts centre (sadly now a restaurant) and the ticket price was just £3. I love the atmosphere in this photo - I was there in the audience, somewhere, dancing my socks off.


The Sleaze Brothers play blues, soul and rock and roll numbers inspired by The Blues Brothers, although they are not a tribute band.

I think they've had a lot of fun getting back together. I hope they enjoy tomorrow night, I certainly will.


Wishing you a good weekend, whatever you're up to xo



4.7.14

The Good Life Experience Launch at Pedlars General Store and Cafe

On Tuesday lunchtime I was invited to celebrate the opening of the new look Pedlars General Store and Cafe in Notting Hill, London. Feet weary (I'd forgotten how much walking is involved in getting about the capital) I was soon revived with an excellent espresso and a pick of the most irresistible sandwiches and pastries. I was warmly welcomed by the Pedlars team and had a fantastic time discovering the delights of the refurbished store and cafe and learning more about Pedlars new baby of a festival, The Good Life Experience. Smokin' music from Paprika brought a flavour of the festival fabulousness to come and bright sunshine and glamourous smiles filtered the store (Cerys Matthews and Bill Granger were there - if I dare to name-drop).

Pedlars General Store and Cafe is a treasure trove of vintage goods, fine stationary, cool creative magazines, fun prints, bags, homewares and more (you can also buy sweets and fresh bread here) all oozing Pedlars signature style of colourful, cheerful and character full products made to last a lifetime. Set against a luminous background of the prettiest pale blue walls offset with splashes of neon pink and orange at every turn, I must confess, this is interior heaven. A huge window and oversized statement lamps flood the space with light.

The new cafe area, towards the back of the store, has an ambient mood with its dreamy aqua colourway, squashy cushions, patinated table tops and wooden stools. 

This is the perfect place to hunker down for good coffee, eats and chat.

The Good Life Experience is a new venture for Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, co-founders of Pedlars, but one that they are more than qualified to deliver. Their three prime passions are culture, food and the great outdoors (in fact they've written a family focused book of the same name) and this one day festival in Flintshire, Wales will encompass all three. Charlie and Caroline are keen to bring an outdoor adventuring vibe to their festival with activities such as bushcraft skills on offer. Cerys Matthews (recently recognised for her services to music with a MBE) is curating the music whilst the Howarden Estate Farm Shop and Glynne Arms are curating the food. The Good Life Experience is set to be an all round feast for the senses.

My time at Pedlars gave me a taste for the feel good outlook on life: forget mass production insist on buy to last, slow down, have fun, get outside and make time for simple pleasures such as music and cooking from scratch. 


Thank you Pedlars for such a lovely time. The Good Life Experience here we come!

Readers, I'd love to know what you think of Pedlars new look store and ventures. 







30.6.14

Simple Pleasures: June

June may be one of our shorter months but it hasn't felt like it. It's been a glorious month weather-wise here and it has actually felt like summer. I've written less blog posts this month than ever but I feel I've lived the life I write about more than ever, too. Having a smart phone and instagramming (is that a verb) has certainly helped me capture these happy moments without it being time consuming. And not having a permanent job right now has made my summer a lot less stressy too. 

Whilst I haven't updated my simple pleasures list on my sidebar recently it's something I like to reflect on from time to time. Taking photos on my phone and using Instagram is a great way to create a visual gratitude diary. 

All of these photos are from my phone and hold sweet memories.

♥ Opening windows first thing. I enjoy snatching a little bit of extra time on bright mornings and find it hard to stay in bed.
♥ Lunar festival. We had a fun, chilled time.
♥ Shakespeare in the Park (the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet). We were lucky to get free tickets through our local arts organisation. A perfect way to spend a summer afternoon. 
♥ British strawberries. The smell... the taste... the colour...
♥ Decluttering at a car boot sale and bagging these bargain chairs from Ikea at the same time (£5 for three).
Augergine dhal, a new recipe. I've made it twice this month.
♥ Having our student son home and his rather cool vinyl collection.
♥ Nurturing white lupins in my new garden. 
♥ National Trust visits. We returned to Packwood House in Warwickshire. I loved the sorbet colour of these roses.

What are your current daily pleasures? I'd love to hear. 

July beckons and we've got a busy month with a 70th birthday party, our local festival (with hubs and band performing after a long break), an anniversary date night, a garden to finish for my dad's birthday celebration and tomorrow I'm off for a day adventuring in London. Excited, happy and busy.

Thanks for reading, following and commenting here xo



28.6.14

On Writing

I was delighted to be asked by Lucent to join in with this blog hop about writing. As I respect, admire and like Lucent enormously, I was keen to join in. Writing about writing; what could be more fun? Here are my answers to the 4 questions we were set.
What am I working on?
Not much if I am honest! My blog writing has been a little sporadic of late but that is a positive thing because I've been practising what I preach: spending less time online, reading, exercising, gardening and, of course, decluttering. But I am writing a whole lot more than I was two years ago and this is a great achievement and a continual source of joy for me. Writing is my perfect waste of time. Writing is my indulgence and an accessible outlet for my creative urges. Writing enables me to escape and connect at the same time. Writing is a room of my own.
This blog was born through a new found passion in simplifying my life but as a result my love of writing was reborn. Writing was something that I enjoyed as a child and young adult. I wrote stories, poetry, entered essay competitions and I chose English as my degree. Somehow I dropped writing in my twenties and thirties – those busy years of creating a family and career. The last time I wrote for pleasure was during my first pregnancy when I was very disciplined and kept a detailed diary that is hilarious yet beautiful in its naivety.
These days spending hours on text for a blog post is pure indulgence. I constantly strive to be a better writer, to be both spontaneous and polished (well, with as few mistakes as possible). I am beginning to seek new avenues for my writing. Blogging has given me the confidence to tackle new writing projects like producing text for a website and copy for programmes for our local arts organisation. I enjoy writing reviews of festivals. Poetry is another favourite outlet for the words that roam my mind and the emotions that I hold close to my heart. Sometimes I post my poems and they help me to deal with difficult times.
For now the writing opportunities that blogging brings is more than enough for me. I don't schedule my posts much in advance but I do try to keep my writing varied. I was very driven when I first started blogging and posted daily for 6 months but although I post less often now I still have lots of enthusiasm and ideas for moving Just a little less forward.
How does my writing differ from others in my genre?

Just a little less is both a minimalist blog and a lifestyle blog. I know I have a blogging voice (just like I have many other voices) but I hope my writing sounds natural and reflects my values and personality. I think when I write about minimalism I adopt a more ardent style and my writing carries more gravitas. There are many minimalist blogs, especially in the USA, but few are written by married women in their late forties - so I guess that makes me a little different. When I write online I always try to be honest and upbeat and I like to invite readers to comment on their experiences. I often describe Just a little less as a beautiful look at minimalism; my version of minimalism is not too bare and likewise my writing is quite elaborate at times.

Why do I write what I do?

I was inspired to start blogging after 18 months of devouring blogs on minimalism and simple living. I felt it would be worthwhile to record my ideas and progress and that it might give hope to others feeling overwhelmed by cluttered homes, over scheduled lives and that trapped feeling of being a wage slave. My writing has a purpose to inform and inspire others but it also helps to keep me on the simplicity path. Writing my blog is rewarding. I enjoy the creative process, connecting with like minded people, receiving emails and comments from readers and just having a record of this stage of my life.

How does my writing process work?

I usually write whilst sat on the sofa, tip-tapping away on my laptop. I quite like background noise and people around me (except when they peer over the screen). I mostly write in the evenings as I would lose entire days to blogging otherwise. If I have an important or difficult post to write I might start writing it on paper first. Writing comes easily when I write about experiences and projects that I'm working on. I quite like researching new things though, and I'm an avid word collector, grammar nerd and thesaurus user. Often ideas for writing come to me when I'm in flow and involved in a repetitive task such as digging or ironing. Sometimes too many ideas come at once and I have to write them down or I forget them. I edit my writing a lot and try to keep my posts fairly short. I sometimes ask my husband to read my draft copies before publishing. I re-read posts too much before I publish and I always feel a little nervous after they've gone live. Some posts are done in one sitting but I prefer to come back to my writing several times with fresh eyes. I still find mistakes after publishing which I have to correct. I'm writing this post as a Word document first and it seems to be taking ages and it's too long, but sometimes you just have to set limits on a piece of writing and let it be,

Thank you to Lucent, my minimalist loving friend, for the invite. Here's a little more about her.


Around here she’s known as Lucent.. Lucent is a legally blind woman who shares her photographs with a few words of gratitude or a long rambling piece that is definitely not minimalist. She is always honoured when people spend time in her online space and has made special friends through it. She values genuine relationships, travel, good food, photos and experiences the most. She’s completely and utterly in love with her handsome husband, adorable dog and thinks her mum is always the prettiest woman in the room. If you’re her friend you’ll know without a doubt that she treasures you. Lucent appreciates the simple joys and is a resilient optimist taking on life’s challenges with a smile and the occasional tear. At 33 years old she is finally totally smitten with her hair in its natural state and colour – her mum can’t understand what took her so long! Cloudy days make her bounce out of bed even more cheerful than usual, as her eyes relish the gentle light. Autumn is her favourite season. Finding greenery in urban environments makes her quietly congratulate it for its optimism and beam of life through the concrete. She’s an (attempting) sophisticated jeans-woollen jumper-and-loafers city dweller crossed with outdoor boots-waterproof jacket-country woman. Sometimes she struggles with her desire for privacy and the modern expectation of oversharing. She feels she’s lived a couple of lives in her pursuits, but now calls herself a housewife first. But labels don’t define her anyway, pfffft. You will find her seeking out the quiet corners of the cafĂ© with comfortable chairs. Her husband is the one who drinks coffee, she just photographs it. She totally digs hugs, laughs and smiles, and would like to pat your dog please.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed conducting this little interview with myself. I have asked others to join in but I am still awaiting replies. In the meantime if you would like to join in with this please feel welcome. This blog hop has opened new simplifying blog writers to me. If you read Lucent's post you will find links to other like minded people such as Rebecca and Kali. 

Happy writing xo

20.6.14

Summer Evenings in the Garden


Young plants need a lot of nurturing yet it is so rewarding. For the last two months we've been watering, weeding, watching, waiting and wondering at how rapidly our new garden is taking shape. I love the stature of our tall grasses (Karl Foerster), the featheriness of the pony tail grasses and the bronze tufts on the setaria lowlander grass. White geraniums add light whilst the lavender adds depth and invites insect visitors. The verbena bonariensis that arrived from Far West Cornwall, after an unexpected long postal journey, have fully recovered and are determined to produce flowers this year. Thank you Elizabeth.

These delightful plants are just a small part of our small garden. I promise I will show you more of the makeover soon. Despite the good weather I still haven't finished painting the fence or shed. We have a table and chairs to collect from my parents as well. Sometimes you just have to down tools and and take it all in. Stop for a moment or more to stroke the plants, sit still and catch the movement of the leaves in the breeze or sop wine and snippets of the day with your loved one.

We have no regrets about removing the lawn and our simple makeover is reaping its rewards already. This is where you'll find me on evenings like tonight. 

Have a wonderful weekend xo



14.6.14

Lunar Festival



Last Sunday we spent a wondrous day at Lunar Festival in Warwickshire. Lunar is a three day, family friendly festival which, although still in its infancy, is rapidly blossoming into a unique and well respected festival. A long tree-canopied drive leads to the beautiful grounds of the Umberslade estate in Tanworth in Arden and provides a perfect rural setting for happy festival goers of all ages. We were greeted by friendly volunteers and the site was very well run, clean and the mud (yes, no festival is complete without occasional heavy downpours) was kept under control with regular maintenance. 

There was nothing corporate or commercial about this festival. Instead imagine a calm and creative vibe but mixed with a little craziness. At the centre of the site a welcoming bonfire was kept alight for all to share and mill around. Nearby in the camping area children were able to have fun and learn new skills with circus artists, sports coaches and a climbing wall. With an amazing array of workshops, talks, films and fitness activities on offer there was plenty to take in and try alongside the music. That's how I found myself joining in with ska-aerobics on a Sunday morning – any fears of being cool or fit disappeared as I got down to some fun in my wellies! This is what I loved about Lunar... how everyone felt part of the festival. It was small enough for performers to be wandering about and mingling in the bar.

Music wise the line up was impressive with acts such as British Sea Power, Donovan and The Polyphonic Spree representing a variety of tastes. On the Saturday evening there was an intimate opportunity for a select number of people, who had pre-booked tickets, to listen to Nick Drake's own copy of Pink Moon on the gramophone player used by his family (Lunar is described as Nick Drake's spiritual home as his family home was in Tanworth in Arden).

Oh, how I would have liked to be there. Still, not to worry, I got my folky fix on Sunday afternoon listening to Lanterns on the Lake and Scott Matthews. Scott's performance was as blissful as the afternoon blue sky and I really, really did not want it to end.

Our visit to Lunar Festival was short but very sweet. Sadly we missed The Polyphonic Spree due to home commitments but I've heard that their performance was pure joy. And that for me sums up Lunar festival. We'll be back.