7 Reasons to Enjoy September

As a recent convert to the joys of Autumn, having previously been a lifelong spring and summer fan, I find myself increasingly aware of the abundant joys to be savoured at this time of year. They say that what we focus on increases, whether positive or negative, so let’s dwell on the finer details of the pleasures to savour of September.

The Bounty of Harvest

In early September, my family enjoys foraging for blackberries growing wild on bramble bushes. Simply delicious baked in a crumble. Apples, pears and plums drop from the trees, signalling their readiness to be consumed at their best. There is nothing like taking that first bite of ripe, juicy fruit bursting with flavour at the start of Harvest season. My grandmother used to have a huge walnut tree in her garden and I have fond memories of I excitedly gathering handfuls of them up with my cousins before cracking the shells.

red green fruit in close up photography
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Crisp Mornings

As autumn begins, I love the pearlescent quality the sunlight takes on at sunrise, a muted version of the harsher summer rays. They reflect to highlight the shimmer on the droplets of dew that suddenly appear on the grass most mornings.

The Autumn Wardrobe

As the temperatures dip, I am sure I am not alone in eagerly pulling out my autumn and winter clothing from storage. Cord dresses, tights, boots, cardigans… I love colder weather clothing and always feel more chic wearing it.

The sense of a Fresh Start

Having spent ten years as a school teacher (as well as many years of being a student), for me the start of the academic is strongly associated with the opportunity to carve out a new start, often having taken on brand new classes, areas of curriculum responsibility etc. Even now that I am no longer in teaching, that sense of starting afresh remains. Making resolutions or goals to make improvements in my life holds greater appeal in this month than in depressingly grey January. Perhaps now is a good time for you to consider setting one or two of your own, or at least taking stock on the progress you’ve been making towards goals you set yourself in January?

The Anticipation of Autumn and Winter Festivities

We have a couple of family birthdays in September and October which are great excuses to gather the extended family around and catch up on recent news in their lives. Plus Halloween is just around the corner. Before having children, Halloween came and went almost without my noticing, but now I’ve fully yielded to participating in the fun it brings. My kids adore choosing and dressing in suitably spooky costumes, knocking on a few neighbours doors to ‘trick or treat’ and taking a trip to the pumpkin patch to play with the mass of pumpkins and pick out one to take home. This year, I quite fancy cooking something from the pumpkin flesh for the first time. Do any readers have any suggestions I could try?

Bonfire Night with its firework display spectaculars closely tail Halloween, and before we know it the anticipation of Christmas dangles within tempting reach…

Snuggling on the Sofa with Blankets

During September I avoid switching on the heating if possible, but on those slightly chilly evenings a supersoft, fleecy blanket is the perfect solution to keep me warm as I watch TV or read on the sofa.

cat lying on cloth
Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com

The Return of Routine

Of course, the summer holidays are a time to luxuriate in lazy mornings and take life at a leisurely pace. But there is a lot of comfort to be found in the routine that school days provide. My kids also thrive on the extracurricular activities that only take place during school term time. On a slightly selfish note I get more of an opportunity to sit down and focus on writing. I’ve really missed being able to write regularly during the summer, both blog posts and my book, and can’t wait to dive back into it.

What do you enjoy the most about this time of year? I’d love to hear about it, so please drop me a comment below 🙂

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Updating and Improving Our Living Space to Make us Love it Again

Our house was starting to bug us! Or at least, certain parts of it were. We really want our present home to be our ‘forever home’ so this was not a good feeling. So… my husband and I decided to reassess the way the living space in our home is utilised, to spot opportunities to help it meet our needs better and feel more positively about it.

Since moving to our current home five years ago with one toddler, we have given little thought as to whether the various living spaces still work for our family as it has grown to include three kids. I wonder: how many of us simply move into a home, fill the space haphazardly with our existing furniture with little forethought as to how well it does (or doesn’t) suit or fit that space? Probably even fewer of us periodically review how well the current setup meets our needs as our families grow and shrink.

The Kitchen Dining Area

First we cast a critical eye over the kitchen. The dining area was the part that bugged me most about this room. The large rectangular table fitted well in our former home where it resided in a large separate dining room, but in our current kitchen diner it has never fitted or looked quite right. If someone was taking something out of the fridge or freezer it left little space for people to pass by, yet there wasn’t quite enough space for the table to be turned the other way either. See the pic below:

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After visiting someone’s home that had a round kitchen table my brain started whirring. For some reason, a small round table seems more functional and cosy as well as lending itself better to a small space. I picked up a bargain second hand one locally which has the advantage of being extendable as and when we need it to. The tall black faux leather chairs never meshed well in our informal kitchen and were heavy and bulky for our young kids to push in and out. I’m delighted with the grey plastic wipe-clean chairs we replaced them with which suit a kitchen diner far better.

We finished off the look with a grey polka dot oilskin tablecloth which is easy to wipe clean.

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What do you think? Each time I enter the kitchen now it strikes me how the space feels more airy and spacious and the table more inviting to sit down at.

Family Room: increased Seating and Storage

The other main project was the family room. This comprised the extension we had built a few years ago to replace a flimsy conservatory that the previous owners had constructed.

The family room is multi-purpose, with built-in cupboards along the full length of one wall, including a concealed desk with desktop computer where all my writing gets done. At the time of completing this family room we just had two very young children aged three and one, so we only bought one three-seater sofa and a Scandi-Style red egg chair to furnish the seating area. At the time, we didn’t anticipate that the family room would be used as much as it is now- our original living room is rarely used nowadays by comparison. Alongside the egg chair, lined up against the bifold door were several plastic tubs stuffed full of toys for the kids (that looked pretty unsightly to be honest!).

We decided to sell the egg chair as, although the modern design of it looked impressive, it wasn’t particularly comfortable to sit on and it demanded a lot of space for a one-seater chair. In its place we bought a two-seater sofa and next to that a wooden sideboard to discreetly hide many of the kids toys out of sight. The sideboard is also practical for storing shoes that all family members pop on to exit into the garden through the adjacent bifold door. Previously we tossed the shoes into a plastic tub by the door but it looked so ugly and I was desperate to change it. Sadly I didn’t remember to take a ‘before’ pic but here is the new setup:

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What do you think?

Have you made similar changes in your own home? Or perhaps you would like to as there are niggles about hotspots in your house that do not function as well as they should?

I’d really love to hear about them so please drop me a comment below. 😊

5 Ways to Cherish Memories of Good Times

Every day presents a fresh opportunity to explore, discover, and most importantly, to experience. Shared experiences, whether they be school days spent with what end up being lifelong friends, holidays with family members or evenings spent at hobby-related clubs or classes with like-minded people, forge a sense of connection with those people we spend time with. They improve our sense of well being, too.

Experiences of the cultural variety also broaden the mind. Seeking out the arts in the form of a theatre, operatic or ballet performance will feed and excite the brain cells and keep you buzzing for far longer than spending the equivalent amount of money on a new item for clothing, for instance. Spending your money on experiences rather than things is more likely to induce a lasting sense of contentment.

So it makes sense that we cling on to precious memories and keep them fresh in our minds for as long as is humanly possible. Thanks to modern technology, there are more options for doing so than ever before. Here are a few of them:

1. Photobooks

Hands up who takes plenty of photos but hardly prints off any of them? This used to frustrate me, because even if we diligently stored all our photos digitally it still created a barrier to physically sitting down and looking at them.

These days, we make a concerted effort to produce at least one photobook per year, to include a selection of pertinent occasions and moments from January through to December. Being able to add captions and wording is a bonus to act as extra prompts of the details of the days.

There are several companies that offer printed photo books, such as Photobox and promotional offers are frequently available.

close up of flowers
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2. Keeping a Journal or Diary

Yes, for many of us the maintaining of a daily diary invokes recollections of pouring our teenage angst out onto paper.

That doesn’t have to be the theme, though. I try to carve out a few minutes each day to write a diary entry and usually the focus is on gratitude. We’ve all heard before that taking the time to reflect on a few brief positives of our day promotes a sense of contentment, and I can attest that to be true.

Often I do record key events of the day as well- such as details of day trips or particularly humorous moments.

Personally, I like using the ‘Day One’ digital diary app as typing seems easier than scribing. Plus, your online entries are organised and easy to find when you want to read back on them. It is easy to add photos taken on the day, too, for added interest and taking photos of event tickets and other memorabilia turns it into something resembling a scrapbook if so desired.

3. Create an Activity Jar

Children are famed for uttering that dreaded phrase: “I’m bored”, particularly during the school holidays. Most adults would admit to moments of boredom, too. To counteract it, why not set up an activity jar? You simply need an empty jar and some small slips of paper. Ask each member of the household to jot down ideas of a few activities they could do when boredom strikes at weekends or in the school holidays. These could include riding your bikes to the park, make microwave popcorn and watch a movie in the living room with the curtains drawn or play one of the board games in the cupboard. These types of experience, while cheap and simple, foster a sense of togetherness and long-lasting memories. I know I have fond memories of playing board games and other basic family pursuits from my own childhood.

4. Tell Stories

Verbally sharing stories about the ordinary and extraordinary days in our lives, and encouraging those stories to be repeated from time to time helps ensure that they don’t get forgotten. This plays a large part in keeping your family history intact. My late father related some amusing tales of the mischief he got up to as a child and teenager and it helped me to see him in a different light. Recalling those tales still makes me smile when I think of them today and in time I will relate them to my own kids.

activity adult barbecue bbq
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

5. Make Videos

I bet I am not alone in disliking seeing myself on video, but in many years to come we tend to be relieved that they were made. They capture a glimpse of how we and those around us used to be. My parents purchased an early-model camcorder when they were fairly new to the market back in the mid 1980s when I was about six years old. That camcorder trailed us on virtually every family day out, as well as plenty of ordinary days based at home, too. These home movies were originally saved to VHS tape (for those of you old enough to remember them!) and I found someone who successfully converted them to DVD a few years ago. From time to time we gather to watch them and it is my own children who find them the most amusing. They find it fascinating to observe their mummy as a little girl!

My husband and I asked a friend to record our wedding ceremony and snippets of the rest of our wedding day and ten years later we enjoy watching it occasionally, as do- you guessed it- the kids.

How do you tend to preserve your own memories?

Perhaps you use some of my methods, or have a new one to suggest? Please let me know in the comments, I would love to hear it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Eat to Manage Stress and Maintain A Sense of Calm

Did you know that eating certain foods could reduce your stress levels? I didn’t!

Everyone experiences stress in their lives, to varying degrees. We can help ourselves by developing coping strategies and I read an interesting article in the new In The Moment magazine (which is all about finding ‘mindful ways to live your life well’) recently.

The article gave a comprehensive guide to the types of food you should include in your diet in order to optimise your chances of reducing stress and create calm in your life. I will summarise the suggestions here:

Bring on The B Vitamins

The B vitamins, and B5 in particular, play a vital role in keeping the body energised and are involved in the production or stress hormones. Go for B5 rich foods such as sunflower seeds, avocado, salmon and mushrooms.

Pack in the Protein

Protein is important for helping to stabilise blood sugar levels and release long-lasting energy.

Vital Vitamin C

As your adrenal glands store most of the vitamin C in your body, being depleted of this important vitamin will result in a struggle to keep stress under control. keep your levels topped up by ‘eating a rainbow’ of fruits and vegetables in a range of different colours. Particularly good are citrus fruits, red pepper, kiwi fruits and berries.

More of the Minerals

Certain minerals play a key role in helping the adrenals work efficiently. Magnesium (which helps relax the body and nervous system), can be found in leafy green vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, beans, peanuts and almonds. Furthermore, if you also eat seeds, fish and shellfish you will be benefitted from other important minerals such as calcium, zinc, sodium, potassium and selenium.

Green Tea

The presence of L-theanine, an amino acid, makes green tea a great choice of beverage. This amino acid promotes relaxation and improves concentration and reduce anxiety. Try serving green tea with fresh lemon or look out for flavoured versions such as cherry.

Fantastic Fish

Oily fish – including salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies) are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that can minimise the effects of stress and anxiety. Eating fish can also reduce harmful cortisol levels.

Do you lack any of these suggestions in your diet?

I have never been much of a tea drinker, but discovered flavoured green teas earlier this year. I found the ones flavoured with coconut and cherry surprisingly palatable.

Fish seems to be one of those foods that you either love or loathe- where do you fall?Fortunately I’m in the former camp. Even my kids will happily eat salmon.

So, if you are prone to stress, perhaps it is worth including more of these food types in your diet. What do you have to lose?

P.S.- Add your email to follow my blog by clicking on the lilac banner to the right and receive a free printable Self-Care bundle including self-care tips and positive affirmation cards.

 

 

Take Heart: Those Repetitive Daily Tasks DO Matter…

Doesn’t daily life seem to involve a great number of repetitive and mindless tasks? I feel that now more than ever before, as a stay-at-home parent. There are all the usual basic housework tasks that everyone has to fit in, but of course these need to be carried out far more frequently with preschoolers around the house. Sometimes I could swear my little ones are programmed to incessantly destroy the clean and tidy environment I strive to maintain!

What if We Just Stopped Bothering?

It’s easy to feel there is no value in performing these basic, repetitive tasks over and over again and they can certainly feel tedious at times. But what would happen if we just stopped doing them? If we simply didn’t bother to wash the dishes or do the laundry, cook the dinner, change nappies or do any of the myriad other small but not so insignificant little jobs. Everyone would be sure to notice that things weren’t done and nobody would be happy living in the resulting disarray.

Lessen the Burden

With regard to the housework, I try to get my children involved in helping with it where possible. They have helped unload the dishwasher and pair up laundered socks since they were two years old, for example. For jobs that can only fall on me, I often play a podcast or some music in the to make it more pleasurable. Sometimes I dawdle  which makes things worse, so using a timer to force me to tidy faster works well.

Those Small Actions Add Up to Something Significant 

On reflection, life itself can be seen as a long series of small actions that need doing, a large percentage of them repetitive ones. Getting on and doing them as and when needed oils the machine that is life and keeps things running smoothly. In some cases, the many repeated small actions contribute cumulatively to the creation of something wonderful: changing all those nappies, reluctantly reading the same story by request, preparing nutritious meals and countless other routine actions result in a healthy, happy child and eventually adult.

Make Time for Little Luxuries and Simple Pleasures Every Day

This is crucial. There should always be time for petits plaisirs as the French would call them, no matter how busy we are. Sometimes when we are frantically racing around to get everything done, we fail to notice the beautiful things that are right in front of our eyes. Challenge yourself to spot the little things that lift your spirits and that you feel grateful for. You will notice a shift in perspective that helps you enjoy life more no matter how much drudgery some days may seem to involve. I wrote about enjoying simple pleasures and would encourage anyone to make a mental or physical list of their own.

Get Organised!

I find that when I plan my days carefully I achieve more and feel more positive as a result. If you prioritise the tasks that are most important to you and get them out of the way, you will gain a sense of achievement and remove that sense of unease that follows you around until you can tick it off your list.

Ultimately, I tend to agree that “a tidy house equals a tidy mind” as per the old adage and know that I feel more peaceful and calm if my surroundings are tidy and serene. This positive impact on my mental health is a powerful motivator and it is just a case of planning my time carefully and remembering to slow down and smell the roses no matter how busy I am.

Do you have any other tips on how to ensure you enjoy life even at the times when much of your daily tasks are mindless and/or repetitive? I would love to hear them 🙂

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Simple luxuries of summer

Indulge in Simple Luxuries In The Summer

What are your simple summer luxuries? You know, those little pick-me-ups that perk up your day in the summertime. I know I have written about simple pleasures to be enjoyed during the winter before, so decided a summer equivalent was called for.

Summer Fruits

Even though all types of fruits, even exotic fruits, are available in shops year-round these days, nothing beats eating locally grown, fresh fruit that tends to be abundant during the summer months. I am hoping to take my kids strawberry or raspberry picking this year so they get to experience the joys of carefully selecting the ripest, juiciest fruits in the field and cheekily popping one or to in their mouths to enjoy the burst of flavour. We take to the hedgerows in late August to track down blackberries growing wild which is usually a rewarding pursuit.

Enjoying an Evening Drink in the Garden

There is something verging on the magical about sitting in the garden soon before dusk falls. A sense of peace fills the air and the only sound to be heard is melodic birdsong. We are fortunate in that although we live on the outskirts of a town, there are no main roads or railway lines close by so you could easily believe you were in the countryside. I usually pour a glass of sparking elderflower and read a book while soaking up the serene atmosphere.

Flowers From The Garden

As you know, I adore fresh flowers all year round but at this time of year I can acquire a plentiful supply from my own back garden. Amongst my favourites are lilac and hydrangeas. Some years we grow sweet peas which I adore for their heavenly scent and vivid shades.

feet summer dress sandals
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Strappy Sandals

Warmer weather calls for lighter footwear and I am always happy to don my sandals. Personally, I find a mid-height heel or an inch or so to be more comfortable than flat shoes a lot of the time and I often opt for sandals that have a bit of pretty detailing with beads. Then I get to enjoy glancing down at them as I walk, naturally with painted toenails to finish the look.

Eating Al Fresco

Somehow, just carrying our dinner plates outside to enjoy eating al fresco elevates the experience. It feels akin to eating a meal on holiday in a warmer country and anything that induces that holiday feeling is to be encouraged in my book!

Ice Cream Treats

Admit it, when you hear the word ‘summer’ ice cream is one of the things that first comes to mind. Or perhaps it’s just me! There aren’t many better ways to cool down that enjoying a cool ice cream or lolly. Alas, authentic handmade Italian gelato may not be an option for me right now, but I have recently discovered the joys of Magnum’s Praline Minis, with chopped hazelnut pieces on the shell and Belgian chocolate ice cream in the centre. At a mere 152 calories each they are not overly sinful, either.

Please do share: what are your favourite simple summer pleasures? Whether they are the same as mine or different ones I would love to hear.

P.S.- Add your email to follow my blog by clicking on the lilac banner to the right and receive a free printable Self-Care bundle including self-care tips and positive affirmation cards.

 

The Secret Beauty Value of Olive Oil (as Known by Italian Women)

Pssst! Did you know that a potent beauty product may well be lurking in the back of one of your kitchen cupboards? The title of this blog post admittedly contained a spoiler but read on to discover the multitude of beauty benefits that olive oil has to offer…

Olive oil is renowned for its health benefits and forms a central part to the much proclaimed Mediterranean diet- I saw that for myself when I spent time living in Italy.  However, less well known is that olive oil is regarded as a key component of the beauty regimes of many Italian women.

Modern science has revealed the plethora of antioxidants within olive oil that nourish the skin and help retain its natural softness. The most potent ingredient in olive oil is Hydroxytyrsol. This super antioxidant and anti-inflammatory is rare and has been found to be effective even in small concentrations in benefitting general health and appearance.

If it’s Good Enough For Sophia Loren…

Legendary actress Sophia Loren has long vocalised her penchant for olive oil, apparently including two tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) in her daily diet but in addition to this she rubs a small amount into her skin as a moisturiser.

There is no need to shell out for overpriced beauty brands of olive oil- ordinary supermarket bottles do just fine. It is best to select one labelled as ‘extra virgin’ as the quality will be it’s highest.

EVOO Baths

Apparently Sophia Loren adds a couple of capfuls into a hot bath to nourish her skin. If it is good enough for her, it is good enough for me and after trying it I am a convert. I often run a bath with a sock full of oats hanging underneath the tap to make the water luxuriously milky, then add a dessertspoonful (which is more than sufficient) of olive oil. Contrary to what you might expect, the oil does not rise to the surface and float on the water, but is easily absorbed due to the pores opening up as a reaction to the hot bathwater.

Oil Massages

Oil massages have been practised by ancient civilisations such as the Romans and remain popular today. Olive oil is absorbed relatively quickly and it is thought that the oil may be absorbed into the bones thus helping to strengthen them. Much is known about the hazards of brittle bones in old age leading to osteoporosis, and this possible preventative measure is one worth taking. Applying EVOO to your skin, whether through massage or rubbing it in yourself in place of a body lotion, means that your skin enjoys the same anti-inflammatory effects as ibuprofen. You may notice a reduction in the redness and prominence of rosacea and acne, stretch marks and other skin conditions. It is also thought that the presence of the powerful antioxidants helps reduce the risks of melanoma (skin cancer).

For all but the driest skin types, it is usually best to emulsify the oil with water- adding the two ingredients to a spray bottle and shaking well before spraying to apply directly to the skin works perfectly. The oilier the skin, the greater the concentration of water should be. Adding a squirt of your favourite perfume or essential oil is highly recommended.

Olive Oil Exfoliating Scrub

Mix a couple of capfuls of olive oil with a fistful of sugar to exfoliate your body and slough away dead skin cells to reveal a smoother skin surface below. Wash away thoroughly with your usual shower gel.

Face Mask

Suitable for almost all skin types, use olive oil to make a nourishing face mask.

For oily skin, create an emulsion from equal parts of olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

For dry skin, combine olive oil, runny honey and possibly egg yolk as an optional extra.

Leave the mask to work its magic for ten minutes, then rinse well with cleanser and a flannel.

Strong Nail Treatment:

To strengthen your nails, add a drop or two of your favourite essential oil to a capful of EVOO. Massage well into clean nails and the cuticles.

Hair Conditioning Treatments

It was my Italian female friends who introduced me to olive oil hair treatments when they raved about how well they worked on their own tresses. They all had enviably radiant heads of hair so I duly purchased my first ever bottle of EVOO and, following their advice, combed it through the ends of my hair and left to work its magic for a few hours under a towel. I was certainly pleased with the results and would recommend the same procedure to anyone with medium to long hair. Adding a couple of drops of an essential oil of your choice makes the experience more fragrantly pleasurable- I love peppermint or rose.

Afterwards, shampoo and condition your hair as normal and you will notice how well nourished your hair will both look and feel. You can even contain your oiled hair within a shower cap and sleep on it to enable the oil to penetrate deeply while you sleep for the maximum benefit. A word of advice- unless your hair is very dry at the roots, it is best to avoid applying the oil to the first few inches of your hair as the roots naturally contain their own oils and the excess olive oil may prove difficult to remove and the oil slick look is not a very becoming one!

If you prefer a variation on the olive oil treatment with the addition of extra ingredients, try adding one or several of the following to two tablespoons of olive oil: 2 egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of honey.

Have you tried using olive oil in any beauty treatments before? Are there any here that you plan to give a try? I would love to hear about it so please do leave an answer as a  comment.

P.S.- I have recently read a fantastic Kindle book by Jane Beckenham called ‘The Art Of Making A Home You Love’. I actually know Jane through a writer’s course we both took part in and for a while now I have enjoyed reading her regular blog posts. No surprise then that her book is similarly engaging.

I would heartily recommend it to any of you who have an interest in making your home the best it can be. Thanks to Jane’s inspiring and positive approach, I’m already feeling spurred into action into making low-cost, practical changes.

COVER Jane's book FACEBOOK SIZE

Here is the blurb for Jane’s book:

Are you living in CHAOS?

Are you frustrated your home isn’t your sanctuary?

Do you want a calm environment, one that you love, but unsure how to create it?

The Art of Making a Home You Love is a workbook that will guide you (gently) to creating your vision, planning it, and putting it into action.  It’s not about tossing everything out or buying you, but it is about decision making and analysing what you really want so that you can create a Home You Love, one that is your sanctuary and nurtures all who live there.

Here is the Amazon link to check it out – you can use the look inside feature and read the first few pages.