Showing posts with label simple pleasures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label simple pleasures. Show all posts

Monday, 9 September 2013

Simple pleasures #12 Something Out of Nothing Pudding

My husband loves to forage. There, I've said it. 

Autumn is his favourite time of year, and hunting round blackberry bushes, listening to Radio 4 podcasts on his mp3 player is his idea of a good time. The big bonus for our family is that he comes home laden with free food.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Simple Pleasures #11: Tin Can Candle Holders

Little House Living"Today we are going to head through the house on an adventure," says Melissa of Little House Living on Day Two of 31 Days to Simpler Living. I look around my house. There is plasterboard in the hallway, skirting board on the landing and assorted pieces of rubble all over the carpet. There are three men working hard at it upstairs, one of whom is the King, trying to find the cause of an electrical fault. It is an adventure to walk through our home.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Simple Pleasures #10: How to Actually Enjoy Family Walks


1. Realise that, unlike adults, children do not necessarily like going on walks for the sake of it. There needs to be a PURPOSE to going out in the wilds of the countryside, or indeed, ANYWHERE AT ALL on foot. Sometimes I save up letters just so that we have a reason to put our shoes on and go up the road to the postbox. Then I stealthily mention the "secret paths" (alleyways) nearby which we could explore. Don't forget to avoid stepping on the cracks in the pavement, counting the paving slabs etc. Within reason, I even let them choose whether to go left or right (we arrive at our front door in the end).


2. Introduce new skills to your children, such as skimming stones, aiming pebbles at a tower made of flat stones, or bashing rocks together in the hope of finding fossils. Geocaching is a great way to make a walk exciting and purposeful.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Simple Pleasures #9: A Woodlouse House


Courtesy of Secundus, our resident inventor, here are some (paraphrased) tips for making your own beetle shelter out of junk while your sister is doing handstands and your mum is in the kitchen.

1. Make sure you choose a site for your insect home which will not be disturbed by roofers requiring access to the timber your parents have just bought.

2. Collect all the junk you can find in your garden and ask for a bag or box to put it in so you can transport it through the house to the (relatively) tranquil front garden. I chose: earth, old nails, blocks of wood, plastic flower pots, broken slates and slivers of wood. Most of these made it through the house without spilling.

Monday, 8 July 2013

You know you're at home in a building site when...

1. ...you run out of at least one of the following every day: biscuits, toilet paper, teabags, coffee, sugar or milk.

2. ...you spent an hour unloading slates for the roof, and someone in Spain (where they are imported from) has written "HOLA" on one. Seeing "HOLA" scratched on a slate makes your day. 



Thursday, 27 June 2013

Welcoming Enforced Simplicity

Something GREAT happens when this is what you wake up to every morning: 


The simple lifestyle that I have read about for so many years - ever since picking up Home Ecology in a charity shop on holiday in 1991- the downshifting mindset that I have tried so hard to attain, it simply falls into your lap. When you sleep next to a saw like this one and your wardrobe (a quarter full) is covered by blue tarp, plus there is a six foot high gap in your bedroom wall, dust-sheets at the windows, and the garden is half-covered with rubble sacks, you have no option but to simplify.

We have spent the past two or three months packing our belongings into boxes and storing them in the King's workshop, just so that we have space in which to work and to help prevent everything getting ruined by the inevitable soot and plaster dust that accompanies a loft conversion. Clothes, shoes, books, ornaments, pictures, toiletries, camping equipment, that kind of thing. In addition, we donated over half a dozen sacks of unwanted items to Shelter and Save the Children. We are now at the point where, not only do we not miss or hanker after the items we have boxed up, we don't even KNOW what is IN the boxes. I know my wedding dress is in one of them, okay, but essentially we are managing perfectly well without about two-thirds of what we own. 

No-one is going without. The children are going to school in (fairly) clean uniform every day, and I have worn about three different outfits over the past month, not including overalls. Meals are still eaten at our big dining table and showers have become something to really look forward to. All of a sudden, the King and I have a particular affinity with miners.

Our usual routine continues amidst the planks and plaster board; we just have very dirty feet at the end of each day. We still have our beds, which bring us great comfort and excellent sleep, mainly because we are physically worn out but not stressed. My little garden is serving us well; being able to pick fresh lettuce and - today, strawberries! - has been a lovely, if small, link with nature. Even though it is Wimbledon fortnight, rain has held off most days, which has meant I can get washing done, we are only traipsing dust (not mud) through the house, and we are able to take breaks from the sawing and drilling in the fresh air.

Having a carried half a trailer-load of breaks down to ground floor this week, and a similar amount of lath and plaster, I have some sense of what the housing crisis must've been like in The Blitz. Just a wall's worth of bricks or a ceiling's worth of plaster is a mess to be reckoned with. To have your whole home reduced to that kind of rubble by enemy bombers, and worse, to lose loved ones amongst the debris, is barely imaginable.

It has done us good already to have fewer choices, less space and minimal possessions. Already this month, we have celebrated in our ability to work as a team and to meet the physical challenges with muscles we didn't know we had. We have thanked our children for their patience and ability to amuse themselves (sometimes) and cope with continual change. What becomes important is rest/ sleep, food, and a shower. These basics, and each other, are all we need.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

6 Things to Take on a Simple Summer Break

1. Tools. Although seaside spades are fine for children, to make real sandcastle progress, take along a full-size spade. We found one in the garage of our holiday cottage and took it down to the beach each day. It was metal and lethal in the wrong hands, but it sure made quick work of castle moats. We actually took an AXE on holiday this time, for cutting up driftwood to take back and burn on the cottage's stove.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Simple Pleasures #8: Homesteady Herbal Experiments for Bored Kids

One of the bonuses of the homesteady lifestyle is that there is always something to have a go at. This is great if you have children who lament that they have "nothing to play with", and "don't know what to do". Offering them the choice between being roped in to a plethora of homesteady chores or going and finding something to amuse themselves usually has a positive result. 


It was a "What shall I do, mum?" situation that began the herb experiments earlier this week. Fresh and dried herbs are more hands-on than essential oils, and more child-friendly in terms of measuring, spillage etc. As you can see, Secundus even decorated his hat with lavender and Prima was happy to get stuck in. The natural resources I had to-hand are as follows, and these are what we played around with in the back garden.
  • A large bunch of  lavender from our garden, which had been hanging to dry in our front room for some considerable time
  • Rosemary, growing in the garden. I also have an out-of-date jar of dried rosemary. We never use it in cooking and it's annoying me!
  • Jar of thyme, dried
  • Orange peel
What we made: 
1. Vinegar of the Four Thieves. According to the authors of Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, Coyne and Knutzen, there is "an old wives' tale that a group of thieves survived the Black Death by cleaning themselves (or in some versions, drinking) herbal vinegar." If it's good enough for the Black Death, it's good enough for us. To make our version, we combined equal parts of dried rosemary, thyme and lavender, put them in a jar and covered them with distilled white vinegar. The herbs will steep for a month or so, then we'll strain them off and store in a spray bottle for cleaning (non-porous, non-white) surfaces.


2. Leave-in Herbal Hair Rinse. We collected enough fresh rosemary and dried lavender to fill a quart jar - I'd read in Making It that fresh rosemary works best and "may darken hair slightly over time", whilst lavender is "very cleansing and stimulates hair growth". After pouring enough boiling water over the herbs to fill the jar completely, I put the lid on and left the herbs to infuse overnight, then strained out the mixture. I have been using this hair rinse for the past three evenings and not shampooed my hair since then (normally I shampoo my hair every day). The results have been surprisingly pleasing, plus this is an all-natural product at minimal cost.



3. Orange Cleaning spray. Simply cover orange peels with white vinegar, screw the lid of the jar on and leave for 2-3 weeks before straining and putting the mixture in a spray bottle for use as an all-purpose cleaner.

We also have basil, parsley and coriander growing on our homestead.  I use these in cooking but if anyone knows any natural beauty/ household products I can make with them, please leave a comment :)

Monday, 6 May 2013

Simple Pleasures #7: My Desert Island Books

Just as music can lift your spirits (All Over the World by ELO) or plunge you into darkness (A Letter to Elise by The Cure), so can books change your mood. And while I have a playlist for various occasions, such as the gym, housework, and dancing in the kitchen, I also have a tried-and-tested shelf of books which bring me comfort and joy. 

These books are like old friends: familiar, but always with something new to tell you, something to spark off an idea or give a different perspective on things. I guess they would be my desert island books - I wonder if any of them are part of your reading collection too?


Pretty Nostalgic Home: Happy Days from Vintage Ways by S Legg and N Burnett. 
States that "Homekeeping is a worthy job". 
Asks us to consider "What is real need?" 
Focuses on life's simple pleasures. 

The Lord of the RingsTrilogy by J R R Tolkein. 

Epic quest in which you can completely lose yourself. Escapist fantasy, yes, but there is so much attention to detail it seems quite plausible. I love the different languages Tolkein creates.

Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World by K Coyne and E Knutzen. 
Very practical book about making oil lamps, soap, solar cookers etc, which gives me hope that humanity could survive, come the revolution. Makes me want to learn a whole new raft of skills. 
Especially like the fact that it is equally applicable to rural and urban living and doesn't send you on a guilt trip.




Churchill: The Struggle for Survival 1945-60 by Lord Moran. 

The diary of Churchill's personal doctor, friend and confidant, Lord Moran, gives us an unprecedented insight into Churchill himself, an individual of contrast and contradictions, and shows us what went on behind the scenes of his political life. I find it fascinating as a record of the war years, but also as an inspiring tribute to a fellow sufferer of depression. 



The Prophet by K Gibran. 

This was all the rage in the 60s, which is perhaps why my dad read passages to the King and me before we got married:

"And stand together yet not too near together:
 For the pillars of the temple stand apart
 And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow".
These and many other of Gibran's haunting words of wisdom have stuck with me over the last 13 years and brought me comfort.

Making Your Home Sing Monday!What would you add to this list?


Booknificent Thursdays


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Unplugging: People First, Things Second

An Excerpt from Nurturing the Soul of Your Family by Renée Peterson Trudeau

Parenting consciously and making decisions that mirror your heart and innermost values take guts, no matter what the issue is. They require an unwavering commitment to your family’s well-being, in both the short and long term, as well as weathering the disapproval of your children. As we know, it’s harder to say no than to say yes — particularly when that no goes against the norm of our culture. Your kids are not likely to celebrate the establishment of media guidelines, and you may find any rules difficult to follow as well. When we’re overworked and exhausted, the electronic babysitter is easy to turn to and always available. Yet as we’ve seen, this seemingly harmless choice can develop into a negative habit that can create an ocean of disconnection, frazzled nerves and minds, and an ongoing barrier to true intimacy.

So begin with baby steps. Invite in self-compassion. Cultivate a sense of curiosity: What would happen if I became less plugged in? How can I model this for my kids? What are some half measures and partial steps I could try? What fun things could I replace screen time with? When are the most important times when I want my family unplugged (for example, during dinner or on Sundays)?

Thursday, 21 March 2013

A New Simplicity

Guest post by Renée Peterson Trudeau


Many of us feel called to simplify our lives and do less. Not a fluffy, it-would-be-nice-to-have-clean-closets simplicity, but a new way of being. This new simplicity is about purging and streamlining our thinking, our doing, our giving and receiving, and, of course, our stuff.

We crave more time to just be — so we can actually integrate into our hearts and souls what we’re experiencing moment to moment. For some, simplifying might be changing a girls’ night out to a girls’ night in; voicing clear boundaries to friends, co-workers, or clients about your phone availability; consciously building unscheduled weekends and evenings into your family calendar; moving into a smaller or less expensive home; standing up for what your child or family needs in order to not feel rushed; or maybe serving oatmeal and fruit for dinner.

Ultimately, simplicity is one path to enhancing peace, both personally and in the world. What simplicity looks like for each of us will be different, whether that’s living a pared-down lifestyle, getting rid of stuff, taking on fewer obligations, or being mindful about who you let into your life and how and where you spend time. It’s about doing and having less, so we open ourselves up to experiencing — and feeling — more.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Simple pleasures #6 : Rollers

At the risk of coming over all "Call Me Old-fashioned, But...", I am not that keen on Prima having painted nails. I hear a lot of mums lamenting how quickly their daughters grow up, and what a shame it is they can't be children for longer, and not only do I agree, I do something about it. This means disappointing my seven year-old on a regular basis by not giving in to pester power about make-up and nail varnish. I am not going to buy her "Princess in Training" crop tops or get her ears pierced. Don't get me started on mobile phones, televisions in bedrooms and i-pads for primary school children.

An unforeseen occurrence a couple of years ago meant I had to alter the boundaries somewhat. It was Secundus' last day at play school and they were holding a summer party. In true non-discriminatory style, the staff asked both girls AND boys if they would like their nails painted. So, of course, four year-old Secundus gleefully came home with his fingernails and toenails painted red and blue. You know, just your average day at play school in Northern England.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Simple Pleasures #5: Camp Fire Day

During half term we began what I hope will be an at least annual tradition: Campfire Day. We are blessed with grandparents on both sides of the family who have large gardens and generous natures. The "Yorkies" live much closer than the "Midlanders", and were kind enough to welcome us, plus two other families, our friends the "Forwards" and the "Pasties", to their home for a day, with carte blanche to have a bonfire, build a shelter and generally do all the Cub Scout things the King and the other dads especially like. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Simple Pleasures #4 : The Bucket Bath

Since I wrote about creating meaningful family rituals some months ago, I've had a number of emails asking for more detail about The Bucket Bath - mainly from fellow Home Front-ers or Eco-worriers like myself. As the clocks have gone back and the darker evenings are approaching, I thought I would enlighten you on the simple pleasures of The Bucket Bath. We tend to do this in the Autumn-Winter half of the year as it somehow needs dark nights and a chill in the air to be effective.
You will need:

Monday, 20 August 2012

Simple pleasures #3: Patchwork birthday cards

Making birthday cards is a crafty activity I enjoy, as well as saving me money which I would rather spend on a birthday present. As you can see in the picture below, I have a wonderful, bespoke arts studio specially built for this purpose. ;) 


Photo : A Bayne
I keep my cards as simple as possible because I never have much uninterrupted time – there is always someone asking me to come and watch their latest gymnastic feat or lego construction – and also, the design is easy enough for a child to try if Prima or Secundus want to join in. 

This patchwork squares style card is my latest design. It is extremely adaptable - you can use it for all sorts of occasions and people - and cheap to make, as well as being pretty quick. A lot of my ideas come from Fast Cards by Sarah Beaman.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Simple Pleasures #2: Dens

Photo : A Bayne
This works best for me if I provide a variety of den-building items, such as chairs, blankets, cushions and then start off the construction but - in true Idle Parent style - hand over responsibility to the children as soon as possible, as it makes them come up with solutions to blankets slipping etc.

I just have to set a couple of ground-rules otherwise they drag all the bedding downstairs and dismantle the sofa. The fun is in the actual building, it seems to me, but they are also more likely to play in something they have made themselves. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

Simple Pleasures # 1 : The Button Box


Secundus spent a very happy three-quarters-of-an-hour playing with buttons from my button box, sorting them into different containers: “These are daddy’s in the green lidded one; he would like the sailor button and the one like a shark’s tooth”. I suggested he might like to play with the buttons instead of watching a programme while I was doing the dishes, but had no idea he would get so much joy out of it. I love seeing him so focussed, especially when he has made the game up himself.

Prima also enjoys playing with buttons but what she likes to do is to pick buttons which match her chosen colour scheme and thread them onto lengths of cotton thread. The result is a sort of hanging button mobile which we have decided looks nice dangling from tree branches, trellises and so on.


To read about the Rubbish Robot Secundus and I made, click here.

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