Decorating the House for Autumn

I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere are enjoying autumn so far? Or the arrival of spring, for any southern hemisphere readers! Even though recent years have seen me gain an increasing appreciation for the beauty of autumn in all her colourful splendour, this year I have striven to bring some of the colour into my home. I have taken a lot of enjoyment from both researching decorative ideas and then setting them up in our home.

What sparked the idea in my mind…

Although I have gradually come around to the notion of decorating the house for Halloween in recent years (heavily influenced by the presence of excitable young children), I must admit that the prospect of decorating the house in a general autumn theme had never really occurred to me. In truth, it was seeing Ann’s beautiful decorations in her home on her blog www.ournewvista.com that sparked the interest in my mind. Since then, I’ve enjoyed taking part in Dee’s ‘Welcoming Fall 5-Day Challenge’ which sparked plenty of ideas.  A number of shops here are also brimming with beautiful rustic items in appealing, rich shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. They reflect the stunning hues that nature begins to bestow upon us at this time of year.

Borrowing a few items from the outdoors

Tempting though the countless shop displays were, with their wares of cushions in autumn-themed prints, animal lamps and ornaments, I decided to attempt a simple homespun decoration in the first instance. Thankfully, the branches of several shrubs in our garden were foisting inspiration upon me, in the form of bright, ripe berries dangling heavily from branches in vivid hues of red and yellow. After snipping off a few small branches I arranged them in a white vase and was pretty pleased with the result. Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram will have seen the images the day that I filled my vase.

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Autumn Bedlinen

I have two main sets of bed linen- a spring/ summer set and an autumn/winter set. With the temperature steadily dropping, the time felt right to switch to the autumn/winter set. Even though we have owned it for at least five years (and it was only a budget buy at a supermarket even then), it raises my spirits each year when I make up the bed with it for the first time. As you can see from the pic here, it depicts deer, rabbits and other winter animals in red on a paler background.

Vignette Displays

Then I wandered onto Pinterest to fuel further decor ideas. There, I fell in love with the idea of using pumpkins and gourds as table centrepieces and sideboard displays.  Alas, I am months too late to have planted my own, but sourced some artificial ones from an eBay supplier. I also bought a pack of artificial leaves in a variety of autumnal shades, which I’ll be able to reuse year after year. What do you think?

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Here is a little mock berry and pinecone candle holder that I couldn’t resist buying:

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How about you?

Have you grown your own pumpkins or gourds before? I’d be interested to know how easy or difficult it is. Perhaps I can add it to my list of things to try next year…

I would love to hear or see pics of any autumn decorations in your home that the moment. Feel free to add a comment. Hearing from readers makes my day 🙂

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Living The Simply Luxurious Life – Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self

As a long-time subscriber of Shannon Ables’s The Simply Luxurious Life blog, I love the way her regular blog posts provide a steady stream of inspiration on everything from book and film recommendations to recipes and thoughtfully expressed advice for elevating various aspects of our lives.

Having enjoyed Shannon’s first book, Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life a few years ago, I was pleased to hear that a second book was in the pipeline. Naturally, I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of the book to review here on Live Chic and Well.

The blurb of Shannon’s new book, Living The Simply Luxurious Life – Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self  (see image above) states it will help you learn how to:

  • Recognize your innate strengths
  • Acquire the skills needed to nurture your best self
  • Identify and navigate past societal limitations often placed upon women
  • Strengthen your brand both personally and professionally
  • Build a supportive and healthy community
  • Cultivate effortless style
  • Enhance your everyday meals with seasonal fare
  • Live with less, so that you can live more fully
  • Understand how to make a successful fresh start
  • Establish and mastermind your financial security
  • Experience great pleasure and joy in relationships
  • Always strive for quality over quantity in every arena of your life.

There is a huge amount of content to digest, given that it spans everything from small details to uplevel our everyday lives, to making potentially life-altering decisions such as career changes or relocating. And so, I have spent a number of enjoyable autumn evenings curled up on the sofa poring the almost 400 pages to reap the full benefit of the advice.

I appreciated the ever-practical and easy-to-implement suggestions on ways to improve my own everydays.  The reader is gently probed to examine aspects of their lives that they may be dissatisfied with and to consider how to take steps to make improvements and inch closer to the lives we dream of. When we adopt a different perspective and take positive action, anything seems possible, don’t you think?

I would heartily recommend this book to any woman who is keen to welcome positive changes in her life. Does that sound like you? With Shannon’s seasoned wisdom and gentle guidance, you are likely to unearth a fresh sense of enthusiasm and appreciation for savouring the joys of everyday life. Oh, and a long list of scribbled-down ideas you intend to put into practice from the pages of this book. I know I certainly have!

The book is available now from Amazon UK. However, wouldn’t you prefer a signed copy, a simply luxury gift and a 40% discount off the first book? I thought you’d like the sound of that! Head directly to The Simply Luxurious Life website to take advantage of this great offer.

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A 95 Year Old Stranger – How He Inspired Me

You know how every so often you happen to encounter a special individual who fills you with awe and a fresh perspective on life? Well, that happened to me recently.

A couple of weeks ago we returned from a (very relaxing and enjoyable) cruise holiday to Spain and Portugal. Part of the cruising experience is making conversation with your fellow passengers and we did indeed chat and get to know some pleasant and interesting people. However, one particular person held greater fascination to me than any other…

One afternoon, my parents-in-law kindly offered to look after our kids so that my husband and I could experience the Afternoon Tea in the formal dining room. On arrival, we were allocated a table adjacent to an elderly gentleman seated alone. Shortly after we were served delectable little crabmeat sandwiches and the most amazing, homemade sausage rolls in the world. Then the man looked up from his own plate of delectable goodies, smiled at us and enquired whether this was our first trip on that particular cruise ship. We replied that it was, to which he informed us (with a hint of pride) that it was his fourth voyage on the ship…this year!

He added that he was hoping to book an additional cruise holiday for the Christmas and New Year period. He affirmed that he always travels alone and enjoys the feeling of being well provided for and having minimal worries on a cruise holiday. As did I, I hasten to add: it was sheer heaven not having to think about cooking any meals or wash clothes for twelve blissful nights.

Appreciate What You Have

With a shadow of sadness on his well-lined face, the man confided that he had been travelling a lot since his wife passed away three years ago. He told us wistfully that he counted himself very fortunate to have been married to a wonderful woman for over seventy years, most of them enjoyed in good health and the last few he nursed her at home after she developed terminal cancer. He recounted proudly how their friends and acquaintances had all scoffed that their relationship would not last when they initially united. They had the last laugh though when they received messages from the Queen after 50, 60 and finally 70 years of marriage.

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

Looking directly at my husband Paul, the gentleman proclaimed that his secret to a happy marriage was to keep his wife happy and give her whatever she asked for, wherever possible, and always making her wellbeing and happiness his top priority. After his late wife reportedly experienced “a bad time” giving birth to their only child, he was adamant that she would not suffer in the same way again or put her life at risk attempting a second birth.

Be Spontaneous and Take Chances

He recounted how he and his wife once went for a week-long holiday to Torquay in Devon. On passing a small hotel with a ‘for sale’ sign displayed outside, his wife quickly became excited and animated about the prospect of buying and running this hotel. Her enthusiasm proved to be infectious, because they went ahead and bought it and instantly handed in their resignation letters to their respective workplaces. This was despite a complete lack of any experience in running a hotel, I was told! That story did resonate with me and made me decide to be open to more opportunities to be spontaneous and follow my gut instinct. Granted, this is not as easy as it used to be now that I have three small children, but you never know what is around the corner and if something piques my interest I aim to at least consider trying it rather than immediately ruling it out.

Travel and See The World

This particular gent said himself that he had left it late in life to travel the world and see the sights on cruise ships spanning the continents. Ruefully, he expressed regret that he and his wife had not travelled more extensively when they were younger and both in good health. His bank balance was apparently “very healthy” but our physical health cannot ever be assumed in the future. I must admit that since losing my own dear father prematurely five years ago and gaining more of a sense of my own mortality, I have felt greater resolve to travel and enjoy nice holidays even with young kids in tow. I know I would regret leaving it too late and missing out on the chance if my (or my husband’s) health later failed.

Maintain a Positive Outlook

Despite the sad circumstances of having to travel alone after losing his wife three years previously, the man presented as fairly upbeat. He clearly enjoyed chatting to my husband and I and described his humble one-bedroom apartment that he called home (at least, when he wasn’t on one his many cruises!) with affection and explained that it met his needs perfectly. He mentioned simple pleasures that enhance his life such as playing bridge and doing the daily newspaper crossword.

Set a Goal

On revealing his impressive age of 95, the man curved his mouth into a smile and his eyes twinkled as he said that he really wanted to reach the age of 100 to receive an additional message from the queen. Perhaps that determination helps prolong his health for longer? It certainly got me thinking that if a 95-year old sets goals in his life, then it is worth those of us far younger being intentional about the things we desire to achieve the most and figure out the most effective way of attaining them.

We never even got around to exchanging names with that inspirational gentleman, yet somehow he made a lasting impression and has encouraged me to find a fresh appreciation for all that I have in my life. In particular, I include my marriage to my husband. We have recently marked our 10-year anniversary but I hope there will be many more decades of happiness for us.

How about you, reader? Have you met any inspirational older people and if so, which life lessons have you learned from them? Please do let me know in the comments below.

 

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?

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