Why I’m taking the doyogawithme 30 day challenge

img_0539I’ve written before here that I came back to yoga in 2016. My desk-bound job means that I remain seated daily for much longer than is healthy. So, it’s very good to stretch out those muscles and remind my joints that I’m still there.

Do Yoga With Me

I discovered DoYogaWithMe.com via Twitter and have been dipping into its classes almost every day since. Even with only 20 minutes to spare, this focussed practice led by my own virtual instructor has proved to be a tremendous blessing over the holidays. So, I am curious to see how the 30-day challenge will pan out. Will it improve my flexibility, help with the transition back to work after the Christmas break or simply enable me to just be?

Since Ollie the Cockapoo (pictured) has a much better downward facing dog than I do, any progress will be a bonus!

Have you set yourself a new challenge or goal for 2017?

If yours includes a life with less clutter and more simplicity, look out for my January #Unclutter2017 posts, which contain some handy tips and ideas to help you make lasting changes to your life.

#Unclutter2017 – Start here

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Unclutter your life in 2017

In January, we anticipate a whole new year ahead and the chance to achieve some exciting new goals.

Strive towards permanent changes

This isn’t about New Year’s resolutions. Instead, seize the opportunity to make some longer-lasting changes whose impact you’ll appreciate through the year and beyond.
During January, I’m going to post a number of ways to help you towards uncluttering your life in 2017. Through a series of short blog posts, I’ll highlight a number of different approaches to help you shed the excess that no longer adds value to your life.

Start here

Whether you have a huge decluttering project ahead of you or just want to scale back your possessions, throughout the month, I’ll be getting back to basics with a series of tried and tested ideas designed to help you on your journey towards minimalism.
Join in the conversation on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #Unclutter2017 – And look out for my upcoming posts to help you #Unclutter2017
Happy New Year!!!

#Unclutter2017: The Power of 5

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A conversation on Instagram last week prompted me to share my growing realisation that 5 is a powerful and useful number for those looking to ‘right size’ their possessions.

Here are a few examples:

Shoes

I have 5 pairs of shoes in my winter wardrobe:

  • Black work court shoes with a heel
  • Grey casual lace-ups
  • Reebok trainers
  • Knee-high boots
  • Walking shoes

In summer, I trade court shoes for ballet pumps and flip-flops and sandals for lace-ups.

Living in a climate where it’s perfectly possible to enjoy temperatures in the teens one day and below zero the next, it’s useful to have a variety of shoes for all weathers and situations. These shoes cater for all types of events and I simply don’t need any more.

Cookery books

Having cut down the number of cookery books I own, I also realise that I’m nearing my perfect five, as there are six books remaining in the kitchen. There’s just one book on the shelf about which I’m still unsure. I use a small number of its recipes very occasionally but these might be better scanned and saved, so that I can pass the book onto someone who’ll appreciate it more. The remaining few have now been resigned to the “box that will go to the second-hand bookstore”. If I don’t open the box for 30 days, out it will go!

Bags – from small to large

I have one tiny cross-body bag for when I only need to carry my keys, my small purse and my phone. Next size up is a neat, black messenger bag that I use daily. The largest handbag I own is a Dune tote that has seen better days (but I won’t buy a replacement until I have the perfect one!). Next comes a Cath Kidston floral shopper in a wipeable vinyl fabric, followed by a soft brown bowling bag that’s neat enough to carry as hand luggage and perfect for a few days away. And that’s it. And there you have another 5…

The list goes on, but it may be that this handful of examples provides a guide for when you’re asking the question, “What’s the right number?” Answer? Gimme 5!!

Do you have a perfect number of a particular item? Can you count the number of possessions in a particular category on one hand?

 

Is there a place for routine, even in the holidays?

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Recharge, relax and unwind

It’s at this time of the year that your normal routine goes out of the window. Kids break up from school, so there’s no school run to do. Teenagers sleep in late. Once you have finished work, you begin to forget what day it is. We need this time to recharge our batteries and unwind.

It’s Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Holidays are here!!

Is there a place for routine, even in the holidays?

When our daughter was a baby, we followed a structured routine. Called the EASY routine, its essence lay in establishing a structured pattern of activity: Eat, Activity, Sleep, then time for You. This worked incredibly well, set an expectation about what would come next, and was the cornerstone of our activities in those early years.

As our little girl grew, the period of activity lengthened and the sleeps became fewer in number, but the routine stood the test of time until well into toddlerdom. We liked it. She liked it. It provided a structured but flexible approach to family life.

So, could establishing an agreed pattern work at other times, such as the holidays?

In her recent ‘Happier’ podcast, Gretchen Rubin provided a great ‘holiday hack’ that prompted me to think about the notion of ‘routine’ even though there will be no little ones in our family grouping this Christmas.

Rubin’s idea was simple, but it may just help you. It was this:

Everyone has quiet time on his/her own after lunch.

I can really see the value of this. Sometimes, you need to have some space, especially if you’ve been in ‘entertaining-mode’ and feel as though you’ve been feeding the 5,000.

You may get a post-lunch slump. That’s your body’s cue: take a nap.

During quiet time, kids may get to use their mobile devices unimpeded and may even (who knows?!) read a book, do a jigsaw or get creative with new colouring pencils.

Grandparents might be glad of a little respite, too. Creatures of habit, they may be used to a slower pace of life or just their own company. Suggesting ‘time out’ for everyone might be welcomed.

Come back refreshed

When you all come back together, you’ll feel refreshed and ready, once again, to be on your best ‘Christmassy’ behaviour.

What routines or structure will you adopt this holiday time?

The simple Christmas kitchen 

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I’ll be serving ice-cream at Christmas

My parents are coming to stay this Christmas, and I’ve been planning our festive menu.  I’ve been thinking about what they’d enjoy while they are with us.

I realise how much my ‘simple living’ approach has spilled over into what I cook and serve in the festive season.

As I wrote here before, my culinary tastes have turned towards plant-based whole foods.

Eat more vegetables

I eat a much wider variety of vegetables whilst consuming flavours and textures inspired by the cuisine of myriad cultures. This food is easy to prepare, visually appealing and delicious. In addition, it’s usually cost-effective, as I have more than enough to keep me going at lunch time, too.

Today’s lunch, for example, was Nigella’s sweet potato, black bean and avocado burrito. I had made enough for dinner last night, plus leftovers, resulting in a cost-effective and healthy way to refuel during the day.

Simple kitchen, simple cleaning

The other thing I notice about my simple kitchen is that it’s easier to keep clean.

Last weekend, my husband made – for himself and our daughter – a traditional English cooked breakfast. They enjoyed it, but he vowed afterwards that they’d go out to eat this in the future; the preparation and clearing away took up half the morning.

My ‘Happy Pear‘ inspired porridge has no such downside. Quick to cook, with a variety of toppings to add texture, taste and extra nutrients, the pan goes straight in the dishwasher and away we go!

Healthy mind in a healthy body

The other benefit is that of health and wellbeing. I have noticed that I am able to avoid the common cold when it does the rounds at work. I feel better than ever, maintain a steady weight, and don’t crave the type of foods that wouldn’t constitute a healthy diet. I have even become that woman who enjoys a couple of squares of very dark chocolate in the evening!

So, back to Mater and Pater. Dad is a meat and two veg’ Yorkshireman. My vegetarian burrito is not for him!

Having said that, he is partial to real Italian pizza. He claims that it is, after all, just fancy cheese on toast. But what to feed the family when I have vegetarian leanings, my husband eats Paleo and our guests have more traditional food preferences?

Keep Christmas cooking simple

I’m going to prepare (in advance) some plant-based sweet treats for me, but will also make some simple meals to keep everyone happy without stressing the Head of Catering (me).

  1. A baked ham for Boxing Day, with fresh salads and baby new potatoes, will appeal to everyone after the previous day’s traditional Christmas lunch
  2. Fresh clementines and medjool dates
  3. Luxury home-made ice-cream (yes!), will make light work of holiday desserts and keep my father happy
  4. Chocolate Florentines and Lily O’Briens chocolates will satisfy the sweet-toothed

So, because baking mince-pies or fretting over fancy menus isn’t for me, I choose the simpler route. After all, it’s about spending time with loved ones and enjoying the holidays that matters most.

How do you decide on your holiday catering?

Do you take a simple living approach or go the whole hog? I’d love to know! What’s your must-have holiday foodie treat?

Do what you enjoyed when you were 10 years old

img_0730Are you looking to make some changes in your life in 2017?

Want to reinvigorate your social life or find a new pastime? Maybe you’re even looking for a different career path? Well, the suggestion I recently read in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project really made me sit up and think:

Do what you enjoyed when you when you were 10 years old.

This is such a great piece of advice and I can tell you that reconnecting with your 10-year-old self is a lot of fun!

This summer, my daughter’s dance teacher announced that she was going to be teaching an adult tap class. Since I had recently given up a longstanding and very time-consuming hobby, I had now the space and time to give this a go. So, I said yes.

Rediscover your childhood hobby

I borrowed my daughter’s tap shoes and went along to my first class in September. Could I remember my shuffle-hop-steps or my step-ball-changes? Well, some 30+ years since first putting tap shoe to floor, I have to report that I could! Some of my fellow tappers were complete novices. Others had some experience.

All of us wanted to try something new and were amazed when we got straight into our first routine, a jazzy number to a fabulous tune: Pencil Full of Lead.

Share your passion with others

Some weeks in, we began to put the whole piece together and our teacher suggested we might like to perform in the school’s annual charity dance event. At that stage, we were hardly ‘show standard’, but we agreed because the event always raises money for cancer charities. This year, the proceeds went to Pancreatic Cancer Action.

This Sunday, the mums finally got to perform in front of children, husbands, friends and colleagues. What a blast! We had such a lot of support from the audience, who clapped and cheered as we danced along to the music.

Now, believe me when I say that I’m no Darcey Bussell, but I do acknowledge what a lot of enjoyment this experience has been.

Don’t wait to be 10 again

So, don’t wait until the New Year to get in touch with your inner child. What can you embrace, once again, that you enjoyed when you were 10? Who knows how re-discovering a former passion might shape your future?