The power of scent to recall happy memories

The Power of Scent to Recall Happy Memories

Have you ever wondered why is it that getting a whiff of a certain scent can instantly transport you back to a time or place in your past that you associate with that scent?

Just a brief whiff of particular brands of suncream has the ability to transport me back to holidays of many years past. Instantly, more specific memories and moments of those holidays come rushing back to my mind and put a smile on my face.

Similarly, the scent of cinnamon calls for memories of baking as a child with my long departed dear grandmother to come flooding back.

There is actually a scientific explanation for why certain scents induce such a feeling of nostalgia. In a nutshell, it has been discovered that the brain records scents in an area of the brain that carries out the function of producing long-term memories.

pexels-photo-533247.jpeg

Scents From my own Childhood

Even simple everyday scents such as Pears soap and Bird’s custard (the latter I very rarely eat as an adult but was served it as a dessert with sliced banana once a week throughout my childhood) can stop me in my tracks as memories come flooding back. It caused me to ponder which scents from within our home my own children might store away in their long-term memories and be responsible for waves of nostalgia in their distant adulthoods. Here are a few possibilities based on prominent scents we have around the house…

Cleaning Product Scents

I always try to select cleaning products that have a pleasant scent. I love Zoflora concentrated disinfectants that come in a varied range of scents, my favourites have been lavender and green valley but there are many others. I have sometimes made my own kitchen surface cleaning spray with half white vinegar, half water and a few drops of an essential oil such as geranium, peppermint or lemon. If cleaning has to be carried out, you may as well add a pleasant aroma while you go about it!

Air Fresheners

When I’ve been cooking fish or anything else that causes strong odours to linger in the kitchen I spray Laura Ashley’s Olive and Italian Lemon Scented room spray. Just four or five pumps is sufficient to eliminate any odours and replace them with the most uplifting scent. Sadly, it appears that Laura Ashley have discontinued the spray but make a diffuser with the same scent which I imagine would continuously release a subtle, fresh scent into the kitchen.

I find plug-in air fresheners to be a little overpowering and when I spilled a tiny amount of the fragranced refill oil into a drawer once it took months of airing and scrubbing to try to remove it. Now and again I spray the corners of rooms with a little aerosol spray, especially in the winter months when the house gets less ventilation and may become a little stuffy. At present we have a cherry blossom and peony scented one which smells divine.

the power of scent to recall happy memories and nostalgia

Perfumes

Despite many women claiming to have a signature fragrance, I have never been able to stick to just one and flit between a few different scents. Generally though, I prefer light, citrus notes and am less keen on heavy florals. A couple of my current favourites include Beauty by Elizabeth Arden and French Connection’s Her.

Of course, exposure to scents that we love significantly boosts our happiness in the here and now too. In a previous post about savouring simple pleasures I mentioned that using a gorgeous smelling shower gel each morning has an uplifting effect.

How about you?

Which scents do you love to use in your home, even in simple things such as cleaning products? I would love to hear which scents make you feel nostalgic for your childhood, too.

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Read about our family seaside break away in a static caravan

A Seaside Break Away

Our family has begun a tradition of taking a short spring break to a seaside resort in the school Easter holiday each year. We usually wait until after the Easter weekend itself as we love staying at home to celebrate Easter. Having this short break to look forward to helps get us through the dark and dismal days of January and February. Most years we only venture as far as the neighbouring county of Norfolk, which is far enough when we have three young kids who don’t particularly enjoy long car journeys (and suffer from travel sickness…)

Staying on a Holiday park

Staying in holiday parks and sleeping in a static caravan were not things that especially appealed to us before having children. It can’t be denied though, that with all the facilities they have from swimming pools to evening entertainment, they do have plenty to keep families occupied and happy.

I usually book direct with an owner (via direct letting websites) to stay on a Haven holiday park, as we like to be able to select a spot close to the facilities yet still in a quiet spot. Most evenings I stay in when the baby goes to bed early while my husband takes the older ones out to the disco at the clubhouse. As we spend more time than most people in the accommodation, we prefer to stay in a higher grade rather than the more basic ones.

haven in caravan

This year’s caravan

This year, we booked a gorgeous caravan with a view over the sand dunes and to the sea. It had decking outside that we were able to sit and enjoy the view from which was lovely when the weather was sunny.

In the living room, it hardly felt like a caravan with modern, comfortable interiors including a proper sofa rather than the fixed to the wall, bench type sofas of more basic models.

haven beach view

By the beach

We made the most of being right beside the beach by going for plenty of walks along beside it and in the sand dunes. Even though it was only early spring, the kids loved collecting shells and pebbles and other bits and pieces that they found, as well as hurling pebbles into the sea. They carved their names into the sand with sticks and all those timeless beach activities that children have always enjoyed.

After my husband and older children had left for the clubhouse each evening, I took our toddler for a little walk along the beach. It was so peaceful and calm at that time as the sun was about to set. We often didn’t see another person during the whole length of our walks and my toddler’s chubby hand excitedly pointed out seagulls, boats and other things that caught her attention. The sea air before bedtime did the trick to help her drift off to sleep quickly, too.

All in all, we had another lovely spring break away and enjoyed some quality family time together.

Do you go away for a short break or holiday in the Spring? I would love to hear about it, wherever you are in the world.

P.S. Check out my interview with Jane from My Home My Sanctuary here!

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An interview with home writer Jane Beckenham

An interview with Jane From ‘My Home, My Sanctuary’.

Jane

This week I am excited to share with you an interview with Jane Beckenham. Jane lives in New Zealand and writes a lovely blog called My Home, My Sanctuary. As well as home-based topics Jane also writes about other thought-provoking themes relating to living a contented and fulfilled life.

Jane kindly responded to my questions to provide a snapshot of what she and her work is all about. I’m sure you’ll want to check out her blog after reading her answers!

I love the name of your blog, My home My Sanctuary. Why do you think it is important that our homes act as sanctuaries and what specifically have you done to help create your own sanctuary?

Thank you, Sarah. It took a while to come up with the name and it went through a few manifestations. Our homes are our refuge against the world, against the busyness of it, and the constant call for our attention to outside influences. I feel (and hope for others) that when they walk in their front doors they will feel that ‘refuge’, that sense of a place of belonging, of a home that wraps them in its embrace.

Specifically, I try to keep our home declcuttered – stuff doesn’t offer sanctuary or a sense of calm. Now am I always successful at this, no, not always. But it’s the effort that is important. On a ‘superficial’ level I have tried to decorate our home so that it is pleasing to those that live here, both in style, color and design. The old adage a place for everything and everything in its place is something I work towards.

Would you mind sharing a favourite piece of furniture or or decorative item in your home that you particularly love?

I have several pieces.

Firstly is this writing desk. This belonged to my grandmother (who if she had been alive would have been about 117 by now). My sister actually inherited but she has no room in her house for it, so I get to have the joy of having it here, and remembering my grandmother sitting at it.

Jane desk pic 

On it, are vintage tea cups, but the pink one in the middle which has little gold legs was a present my grandmother received when she got engaged and that was in 1908. The well-loved teddy bear was my husband’s when he was a child. The Russian icon ornaments are a reminder of my children’s birthplace.

What advice would you offer to an individual who has never spent much time or thought on creating a comfortable home that acts as a sanctuary, but would like to? Where would you suggest they start?

I think it’s a two pronged effort. The room I would start on first is their bedroom. Because this is the one room, hopefully, in the house that they can take respite in and the bedroom should offer respite.

However, if clutter, dirty clothes, clothes not put away, exercise equipment, tv, computer etc etc, are all taking up space in the room, they should be moved out, and at least for the clothes etc, put away.

You can’t make a calm refuge when there is STUFF everywhere. A bedroom should be a claming place and seeing the treadmill in the corner reminding you that you haven’t used it for months and its become a clothes stand, hmmm. Not good. Then there’s the interruption of laptops, computers etc, Get rid of them. Instead read a book, relax, have a glass of wine. Talk even. People are forgetting how to communicate, we’re so locked into the digital world.

And once you’ve decluttered and cleared out the excess. Clean it, top to bottom, move the furniture clean behind it, clean the windows, wash the curtains.

I know this sounds a lot, but it’s a now and again chore, but by refreshing the room thoroughly, it gives the occupants a fresh start.

Do you follow a routine for keeping on top of household chores and if so, do you think it is important to?

I try! I really do try! Am I successful? Mostly-ish. I have a set list of chores I do Mon-Saturday, plus have recently added exercise – oh joy! Friday’s chores are really my catch up days and I do things I haven’t managed to get done Monday-Thursday. Big chores like cleaning windows, I do when I can. I have a disability and unfortunately trying to do these big tasks is not an easy feat.

But at a minimum every day, the bed is made, dishes done, kitchen counters clean, bathrooms swished and swiped, and a load of laundry done. I’m trying to be more organized and pick out the clothes I will wear the next day, right down to jewelry just before I goto bed. It’s a great boost to the morning if I’m organized from the night before – and that I come out to a clean kitchen.

Decluttered, minimalist living in vogue right now. What are your thoughts on clutter?

People say they want to be more organized, but reality is you can’t organize clutter. The trouble is sometimes it feels overhwhel,omg to actually start. I mean where? Every room has STUFF. My suggestion is that the person just picks up a trash bag and goes round each room, picking up rubbish that can be tossed into the recycle.

They may however, just want to focus on one room. Like I said above, start on the bedroom, because you deserve a place of refuge and solitutde at the end of each day.

But… if that feels like too big of a job to start off with, then go small. One drawer, one cupboard, or go to the smallest room in the house, and start there.

The most important thing is – IS THAT YOU START

You have been a successful fiction writer over the last twenty years and are now turning your hand to non-fiction. Which particular aspect or type of non-fiction writing most appeals to you?

I’m really passionate about home and hearth writing, about women finding their way in life. I’ve recently hit my 60s and the last four years was really tough, as I struggled with depression and also the loss of my mother at the age of 90. I kept wondering why should I push myself, I mean why bother. But I am so happy to say, that just recently, that fog of why bother has lifted, and I’m battling my way back top. I really want to focus on home, family, midlife, reinvention and just searching for that joy and passion and purpose in life that we women seem to crave – well I do, anyway!

What do you enjoy to do in your spare time?

Funny you should ask that – today – I decided to be lazy, I watched a movie (The Secret- which I loved), I had a snooze. I love spending time with my family, I am a mother to two daughters and I also now a grandma! I have a wonderful bunch of writer girlfriends; we meet once a week to talk writing and they are a fabulous group of women ranging from 19 years old to 82. We all get on amazingly even with such a varied ages.

You can find Jane at:

www.myhomemysanctuary.com

@myhomemysanctuary

https://www.facebook.com/MyHomeMySanctuary/

Jane has also hosted an interview with yours truly, so if you would like to read a little more about me here is the link to it.

home office makeover

Home Office Makeover

Our home office area has been ripe for a makeover for some time now. I spend a lot more time here than used to as I’m in the process of writing a book, so I really desired a work space that felt clear and welcoming to spend time in.

A compact space

Alas, I don’t have the luxury of a separate room that could be called a study or home office. Most of our rooms are allocated as bedrooms as we have three children. When we had a small extension added on a few years ago we planned for a built-in cupboard to house a desk, filing cabinets and shelving to be a designated home office area. There are folding doors that can easily be closed to these cupboards when no one needs to be working there, to keep the room looking neater. On the whole I am pleased with how much we have managed to fit into such a small space. Planning good storage and organisational systems is the key to a tidy home.

Over time though, the desk area had become increasingly cluttered and messy. It didn’t feel a positive space to work in and was embarrassing when friends and family came round who might see the mess if I couldn’t close the doors to it fast enough!

Concealing the ugly pinboard

Firstly, I decided to get a small piece of fabric to cover the pinboard on the wall. A lot of the items pinned to the board are important bits and pieces that I want to keep easily accessible but they don’t have to be on view the whole time. I found this piece of pale blue ‘Paris’ printed fabric on Ebay for about £7 including postage. It’s pretty cute with Eiffel towers, Sacre Coeur and Arc de triomphes dotted over it. I thought it teamed up well with the mosaic photo frame next to it which holds a selection of photos from my last trip to Paris with my husband. I can scarcely believe that was a whole seven years ago, but it must be because I found out I was pregnant with my eldest daughter the day before we went (so sadly missed out on the wine and unpasteurised cheeses…).

Ditching the garish pencil pots

Next I decided to do something about the ugly old green striped pencil pots we had. Don’t you think they look awful in the pic?! I’m not too sure what possessed us to buy them in the first place. They had become faded from sunlight and were over ten years old. I ran a couple of empty baked bean cans through the dishwasher and covered them with small strips of giftwrap that I already had. They have a little street scene printed across them which bears a resemblance to the one on my blog homepage image, don’t you think?

home office makeover

Then I just had a good declutter (something I aim to do regularly throughout the house) and filed papers away etc. The difference to sit down and work here is incredible. It feels a more relaxing and positive place to be.

Lighting

The one thing I’m still not content with is the lighting. You will see the string of heart-shaped LED lights hanging above the desk, but to be honest they emit minimal light. Yet I dislike having the ceiling lights on because they are ridiculously bright and almost induce headaches. I really need to get a small desk lamp or perhaps a spotlight integrated under the top shelf.

How about you?

What is your home office like? Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a whole room to dedicate to it. Or maybe you have had to carve out a small corner of another room, like me? I would love to hear what yours is like, even with a pic if you’re able to add one. I’d also be interested to hear which type of lighting you have in your home office area to help me decide on my soft lighting solution!

How to manage time effectively

How to Manage Time Effectively (while at home with a toddler…)

Time management used to be oh-so easy…

Without wishing to sound boastful, I always used to consider myself a fairly skilled time manager.

I remember as far back as at high school when it came to revising for exams, I made myself a revision timetable and stuck to it religiously. It worked- I packed enough study time in to pass the exams and had enough free time to enjoy.

Then at university I obviously had to attend lectures and seminars, spend time in the library writing assignments, plus worked part-time as a shop assistant throughout the three years (anywhere between 18-36 hours a week) to help fund myself through it. Oh, and volunteered for a charity a couple of hours each week. Not to mention setting aside ample time for socialising in the Student Union bar.  Again- it was all doable as long as I planned my time carefully and kept track of everything in my trusty pocket diary.

I was a primary school teacher for many years and combined part-time teaching with having two children. Most of the time I juggled the balls fairly successfully and kept (just about) on top of my teaching workload and enjoyed my days off with my young children, scheduling lots of fun playgroups and activities for them.

Then something changed!

You may have mentioned I referred to the past tense form of  ‘used to’ in the opening paragraph of this post. That’s right. Since I became a full-time stay at home parent I had been finding that as each day passed I was feeling a growing sense of dissatisfaction that things I really wanted to incorporate in my day were repeatedly not occurring. Important things, such as working on the book I’ve started, and exercising, and reading ing a book with my little boy and toddler.

I know I’m privileged to be able to spend so much time based at home with my young children and I wouldn’t change it. But being in this position can make it more difficult to manage my time well and carve out time for things that matter most to me, such as writing. There are so many distractions (including things that really do need doing at some point). Obviously my young kids expect my full attention for much of the time that they are awake.

Something had to improve…

These days my daily routine is mostly dictated by my youngest daughter’s nap times, as well as the morning and afternoon school run plus my son’s preschool pickup at 11.40am. My children have all been good nappers, something that I’m mostly grateful for, although I do sometimes wish the baby would drop her morning nap so that I could get us both out of the house more.

Still, things are what they are and I resolved to be more intentional about planning my time to get more out of my days, especially to make time for the things that matter the most.

Here’s an example of a typical weekday timetable:

8.35- Leave the house to drop the two eldest children at school and preschool.

9.10- Back home. Check what’s planned for dinner- remove meat or fish from freezer as needed. Make my breakfast – I’ve recently started eating a proper breakfast again after months of not bothering but succumbing to chocolate biscuits mid morning. Eating a healthy, nutritious breakfast has made an amazing difference to how well I’m able to concentrate. See pic below of a typical one- seeded toast with poached eggs, spinach and mushrooms.

Then finish cleaning the kitchen from breakfast, load dishwasher and any other household chores.

healthy breakfast poached eggs for productivity

9.45- Put baby down for nap. Then write- either a blog post or on my book. Aim for 500 words minimum.

11.15- Wake baby from nap. Go to collect son from preschool.

11.50- Back home. Change son’s clothes and sort his bag etc. Sit on sofa and share a book with son (toddler wants to join in too). Then start preparing lunch.

12.30- Eat lunch with kids. Tidy up kitchen afterwards.

1.10- Read another book with my son or play with his cars or a simple card or board game for a few minutes. If he and the baby are playing happily together, jump on my indoor mini trampoline (rebounder) while one energetic song plays on youtube.

1.45- synch nap time for baby and son. Unload dishwasher, carry out any household admin (make phone calls, send emails in relation to our kids, home or anything related to our rental home).

3.05- Wake kids from nap. Son in particular needs time to rouse himself! Get coats and shoes on for school run.

3.45- Back home. Play with the kids, make their dinner, take oldest child to clubs/activities. Bath baby (and others) as required. Spend a few more minutes on the indoor trampoline.

6.45- Start tidying with the kids before they get ready for bed. Read stories.

7.30- Lights out for kids to go to sleep. Start making dinner for husband and myself. If husband will be very late, eat mine first.

8.30- Clean up kitchen, prepare anything needed for the kids for school for tomorrow. Then relax, read, watch a film or recording from TV or take a bath.

Making household chores more bearable

As often as possible, I involve my kids in chores. They will happily load clothes into and out of the washing machine and the three year old finds unloading the dishwasher a real treat. Even if it doesn’t exactly save time, it is good for them to get used to helping out at home from a young age. Plus, it makes me feel better that I’m not the only person doing all the housework during the daytime!

Often I play a podcast whilst I clean the kitchen or do other chores- my current favourite is A Slob Comes Clean. This is so motivating and suggests lots of great ways to organise and clean the home. Listening to a podcast or some music makes chores feel less mundane. Sometimes I opt for classical music which calms me and has been shown to have other benefits.

Having a plan- and sticking to it

Once I made a timetable for the whole day and started allotting specific tasks to certain time slots, they were far more likely to actually happen. It feels great that I’ve gone back to writing again and have carved out time to read books during the day with my son, something that wasn’t always happening before.

It does mean being more intentional and refusing to get sidetracked by other things- eg if post arrives through the front door while I’m writing, I just ignore it now until I’m finished. I keep my iPad out of sight so that I don’t get distracted by checking Facebook or anything. This rigid type of schedule may look oppressive to some people, but I know I feel much better if I stick to it. Some things are so important, they need to be ring fenced!

Honestly, I think I’m always going to have to keep pulling myself up on this on a regular basis. I guess I am very easily distracted!

How about you?

Are you organised about managing your time, or do you manage to get the important things done without having it set out in black and white?

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joys of spring

The Joys of Spring

Spring is finally here! It seems to have taken a super long time coming this year. We got a bit more snow than usual and prolonged sub-zero temperatures in late February, then another spell of snow in mid-March. So when the air finally warmed up a little and spring bulbs began bursting into vibrant colour they were most welcome.

I do the walk to our local primary school three times a day (school for my daughter and nursery school for my son, which is only a half day). I certainly enjoy it far more when there are pretty flowers in gardens along the route to admire. My children often point them out too, wanting to know the names of them. My seventeen-month-old tries hard to repeat back everything she hears at the moment and her attempts are often adorably inaccurate!

For some reason, the start of spring signals a fresh start, a blank slate, a time of optimism- far more than the official new year in January does for me. Perhaps you find the same? Even though I try, I often struggle to get motivated in the cold and dark winter time and find that motivation (or perhaps inspiration?) flows more naturally and effortlessly in the lighter, warmer months.

I remember planting out the mixed daffodil bulbs last autumn and having to keep chasing away a pesky squirrel that seemed intent on digging up as many as possible soon after I planted them. He (for some reason I assume it was a ‘he’!) was such a cheeky rascal and each time that I stomped outside to clap my hands to chase him away, he returned only seconds later for another attempt to thieve them! So I’m pleased that plenty remained untouched in the ground. I like to pick a few stems of daffodils to display in a vase on my kitchen table as they brighten it up no end. Daffodils are symbolic of spring in my mind.

vase of daffodils spring decoration

 

Every spring, we find a local wood to visit as most of them can be sure to have a carpet of bluebells covering the ground at this time of year. The vibrant colour lifts my spirits and makes a beautiful backdrop to take photos of the kids having fun running between the trees without a care in the world.

Visit a bluebell wood in spring

Even though I’m not a huge fan of the cold weather, I still count myself lucky to live somewhere with clearly defined seasons. Variety is the spice of life, so they say. Perhaps I wouldn’t appreciate the warmer months as much if there wasn’t a contrasting season to compare them to.

I know that some of my readers live in different countries and continents…what is the weather like for you right now? Has spring arrived where you are, or perhaps you are in the southern hemisphere and summer is drawing to a close? Or perhaps there aren’t very clearly defined seasons where you live? If so, perhaps the prospect of cooler weather is rather welcome?

I’d love to hear about it, reader comments always put a smile on my face 🙂

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Decorate the home for Easter

Decorating The Home For Easter

Isn’t the springtime just wonderful?! I adore so many things about this season such as the vibrant colours of spring flowers popping up all around, newborn lambs frolicking in the fields and going for walks in woods carpeted with vivid bluebells, amongst many more. Plus, for a self-confessed chocoholic, Easter itself is a pretty fantastic time in itself! The two bank holidays create a lovely four day break for my husband and plenty of precious family time.

A couple of weeks before Easter, we like to decorate our home with Easter-themed decorations. The focal point is always our Easter tree, a white, wooden tree a couple of feet tall (which happens to be resurrected several times a year and renamed the Halloween tree, the Valentine’s tree…you get the idea). This tree was purchased from John Lewis five or six years ago now, but I am sure they are easily available from online sellers too. It comes in useful as a centrepiece for special meals held over the Easter weekend, too.

Decorate the home for Easter with an Easter tree

The kids show great enthusiasm each time I bring the tree out from storage ready to decorate and insist on “helping” to arrange the ornaments on it. I happily let them, though can’t deny that a fair bit of rearranging takes place after they have all gone to bed.

We have built up an assortment of different types of ornaments over the last few years. We began with the just hollow pastel-coloured eggs, and they are now joined by various types of bunnies (some with little bells that chime in the breeze of a nearby open window), chickens and nests with eggs.  There are two large-sized ornaments that get hung near the bottom of the tree: a fluffy yellow hen made from wood and wool and a brightly painted blue ceramic hen, both bought from (different) local gift shops.

Easter tree ornament chicken

Easter tree ornament decoration chicken

This year, we were given a length of bunting with these cute orange and white bunnies on. Apparently they were a bargain from Poundland. Even though they are only made from card, they should last for at least a few years if I pack them away carefully. It was difficult to get a decent photo due to lack of light but the ribbon hangs almost all the way across the top of our bifold doors.

Easter spring decoration bunny bunting

As a nod to my own childhood, I’ve carried on the tradition of making chocolate Easter nest cakes with my children. Rather than using shredded wheat as I used to, though, we tend to just use cornflakes, then mix with melted chocolate before placing in paper cases and adding two to three chocolate Mini Eggs to set in the fridge. No-cook baking at its finest!

How about you? I know some of my southern hemisphere readers are now on the cusp of autumn, which brings its own joys. you decorate your home for Easter (or just the springtime)? Do you have any Easter or spring traditions that you follow, with or without kids? I would really love to hear about them and reading comments from any of my readers makes me smile.

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