Posts tagged ‘balance’

March 3, 2014

A week away from blogging.

I’ve just accidentally had a week away from blogging and for the first time in ages, felt completely fine about it. No anxiety. No little voice inside my head telling me I must write a blog post. Perhaps it was because I was so busy learning new things and enjoying myself, or perhaps I needed a break.

What I have come to realise is that the busier and more excited I am about my ‘real’ life, the less anxious I am about blogging. And the less time I spend on social media, with the notable exception of Instagram. When I’m busily doing stuff (instead of just talking about doing stuff, a bad habit of mine), I have things to photograph even if I don’t have the time or inclination to write.

During the week off, I’ve concluded that my daily blogging is too much for me, at least until the day that blogging becomes my full-time job! I knew that I was probably setting myself up for problems when I started it but, to quote Edison, I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work…

The other thing I’ve started doing this week is analysing my survey results. These have been really helpful; thank you so much to everyone who has completed it. There’s still time if you’d like to get involved. I’d love to have more feedback and I promise it only takes two minutes. The link is at the bottom of the page.

Based on the survey results I shall be blogging on the subjects you’ve said you like the most, and reverting back to blogging several times a week. The other, bigger changes to the site are still under construction and I hope to unveil them in the next few months! I’m glad that I’ve got to a point where I’m more comfortable with combining my blog with the rest of my life and I’m really excited about what my future plans might bring, it feels like a good place to be.

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Margot and Barbara is changing! I’d really appreciate your feedback. Click HERE to take part. Thank you 🙂

February 18, 2014

The Leeds Minimalist Group.

On October 21st, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus aka The Minimalists, will be arriving in Leeds as part of their international ‘Everything That Remains’  book tour, and in anticipation of that, a local group has been established to welcome them to our fair city but also for us to chat about minimalism and provide some support to each other. Our esteemed leader, Wendy, describes the meetings as ‘probably the most fun, enlightening and interesting experience of your life…’ And so I went along to the first gathering with high expectations!

Thankfully, Wendy is completely brilliant, and so that first meeting was held in a pub and not only was there beer, but there was also free food. There is basically nothing better at bringing people together than food and beer so the chat flowed freely as we all introduced ourselves and talked about our backgrounds and why we were interested in minimalism. Everyone had their story to tell and it was a fascinating and truly fun evening.

Now, long term readers of this blog will know these things about me:

1 — Habitually, I’m a collector. From Blythe dolls to vintage Penguin paperbacks, I have always loved a good collection. I blame my antique dealing parents for that!

2 – Despite this, I’m on an unexpected journey—because of big changes in my life— towards a minimalist lifestyle.

For me, having a collection that you love and have meaning for you isn’t the same as Keeping Up with the Jones’ — a competitive fast-track to debt and anxiety. Mindless spending on stuff is where my problem lies and, as I’ve been more mindful about where I spend my money, that has, in turn, reduced my level of possessions. From shopping locally, to operating my ‘one in, one out’ paperback book collection, I am making lots of changes which are having a beneficial effect on my stress levels and my bank balance. I may even be sending those Penguin books off to the charity shop…

I may never reach the levels of minimalism as my boyfriend, who has 100 items that will all fit into one bag (if you exclude his bike), but I do have very few possessions now and a genuine interest in continuing the journey towards reducing them even more. Fewer things means more head-space, I’ve found.  Plus, by getting rid of all the clutter, the possessions I want to keep have the space to shine. For me, simplicity and minimalism is fast becoming a route to happiness.

If you have any interest in minimalism at all, or even a curiosity to see what a group of people who get together to talk about this looks like, please do come along to the next gathering. I promise you that it’ll be fun, you’ll be made really welcome and you may come away with a desire to join in with us!

The next gathering will take place in The Tetley Bar and Kitchen. The gallery is open until 8pm if you wish to visit before the meetup starts. Entrance is free.

Date: Thursday 6th March

Time: From 8pm

Location: The Tetley Bar and Kitchen, The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds LS10 1JQ

Hope to see you there…

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Margot and Barbara is changing! I’d really appreciate your feedback. Click HERE to take part. Thank you 🙂

February 17, 2014

How to make friends.

On my recent blogging course, during a discussion about networking, the discussion turned to making friends. In that context, we were talking about making friends with other bloggers —I’m going to write about that next week, but I’m also interested in making friends more generally.

But it’s hard to make friends as an adult, isn’t it?

As the school gate, I have two friends. Many of the other parents will nod a ‘hello’ but that’s as far as the relationships go. We attend the same meetings, parties and sports days but are merely acquaintances because of biology. Giving birth to a child at the same time does not automatically create friendships, I never found. I suspect much of this is because instead of going to antenatal class, I gave birth ten weeks’ early and so never had the chance to meet other prospective parents and make those early connections. Still, the two friends I do have, I made because we discovered that we have other things in common alongside children. A love of wine, for a start. And the same sense of humour. So although I’ve never made lots of friends through school, the ones I have are fab. Even though they keep bugging me to take up ceroc dancing…

My long term friends, from college and work, are scattered around the country— actually, the globe. We make plans to meet, but they’re often scuppered by poorly children, other responsibilities, work commitments. These are the friends I’ve had forever. You probably have some too. They’re the ones who know all about your first kiss, or who held your hair back when you were sick after one too many drinks at college. The ones you were with when you tried to tape the songs from the Top 40 without getting any of the DJ speaking on (showing my age, there) and pored over the latest issue of Smash Hits with.  The friends who you don’t need to see for months, but as soon as you catch up, it’s like you were never apart. Although those bonds are strong, the length of time between meetings leaves for huge gaps of time to be lonely in.

So, the answer has to be finding new friends. Not to replace those long term friendships but to add to them. More friends! These ones are the folk you can get the chance to grab a coffee with, or go to evening classes together, because they’re local. These friends are the ones who will stop you feeling lonely on a day-to-day basis. And possibly, one day, you’ll have known them forever too…

Here’s how I am finding friends:

1: Twitter. Leeds is a wonderful city in which to find people through Twitter. If you’re in Leeds, you should be following @peopleofLeeds, a rotation curation account. I’ve met some of my closest ‘tribe’ through Twitter; people who I consider to be some of the closest friends I’ll ever have the good fortune to have, plus a good number of other people who are less close, but lots of fun. I know that in many cases, we’ll never meet in real life, but they’re still true friendships. However, plucking up the courage to ask someone if they fancy meeting up for coffee has led to some genuine ‘real life’ friendships, so I’d tell you to go for it. Just make sure you arrange to meet somewhere public for the first time. 

2: Blogging. Through blogging, I’ve met some wonderful people, both locally and further afield. Getting invitations to events means I have to be brave and often turn up alone. A glass of wine or two later, I’m hopefully chatting to someone who may continue to be a friendly face. This year, I’m hoping to get to a blogging conference or two and meet some people that I’ve chatted to online for a while. I’m going to write more about blogging friendships next Monday.

3: Trying something new. By trying new things, even if they’re a challenge, I start to feel better about myself. Which, in turn, makes me happy. Happy people attract other people, I’m sure. And if all else fails, at least I’ve tried something different and so I’m living a fuller life.

4: Following my own interests, goals, desires and dreams. Sometimes, people come to you when you’re not actively looking for them. By following my own interests, I go to events, take courses, and join online and offline gatherings. Being in a place surrounded by people with the same passion as you, you’re very likely to be able to strike up a conversation, which sometimes leads to longer term friendships. Do what you love and the friends will come.

How do you make new friends? I’d love to chat about this with you all…

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Margot and Barbara is changing! I’d really appreciate your feedback. Click HERE to take part. Thank you 🙂

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February 11, 2014

Living Naturally Soapnut shampoo bar.

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In an attempt to reduce the amount of plastic we use, I’ve been reviewing all my toiletries. I know already that I’ll decide not to replace some things; I’m very attached to my favourite beauty products!  Because of this, I’ve been going for quick wins where I have no emotional resistance. Shampoo was first on my list.

I have no particular brand preference but my dry, curly hair has to be washed, or at least dampened every day. Goodness knows what I do in my sleep but I always wake up with it sticking up like a scarecrow. The daily washing doesn’t help with the dryness though—although I rarely use a hairdryer so at least it’s not getting heat damaged too.

My friend Jo suggested soapnuts as a solution to my packaging dilemma, and gave me this Soapnut shampoo bar from Living Nature to try. Soapnuts are basically dried husks of the berries from the soapnut tree. You can find out more by clicking here. They’re really good for people with excema or skin conditions that react badly to the chemicals in a lot of toiletries or laundry products, so if you or a member of your family suffer in this way they’re definitely worth investigating.

The soapnut bar I tried is apparently suitable for the whole body as well as the hair, but I decided to approach it the old-fashioned way for this trial, and just washed my hair in the sink. The bar lathered up quite nicely and it definitely felt like it was doing a good job of cleaning my hair. What I hadn’t initially realised is that, as well as the soapnuts and Dead Sea salt, the soap bar also contains several oils (olive, coconut, palm and castor) which left my hair feeling really moisturised. I think if you have oily hair already, this might not feel so great, but it helped combat the frizz I get with my dry hair so was a real benefit to me.

Other ingredients in the bar are essential oils of lavender, rosemary, cedarwood and cypress, so it smells gorgeous, slightly medicinal and woody. I think it probably goes without saying, but it’s also handmade, vegan and free of any chemicals.

I really enjoyed this product and, given that the oils help with the dryness of my hair, it might have actually helped me to find a replacement for styling products too! Definitely a keeper…and it’s made me wonder what other soapnut products we could try.

Have you tried any soapnut products? Or other packaging-free shampoo? I’d love to hear from you!

 

February 3, 2014

Holstee Lifecycle: a manifesto for life

Monday mornings can be the most challenging time of the week. I invite you to be cheered, find a bit of time to reflect and just enjoy this; the Holstee Lifecycle, based on their well-loved Manifesto but with bikes…

 

 

February 2, 2014

Photo of my week #3

This week has been all about planning. I’ve made blogging plans, travel plans, business plans, life plans.

Here’s to a week of putting those plans into action…

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February 1, 2014

The Weekend Pages #3

Hello and welcome to The Weekend Pages; a post about great things I’ve found on the web this week.

We learnt this week that a mere 1,004 people in the UK completed the Rapha Festive 500 cycle challenge. Across the globe, the completion rate was only 23% of all the people who signed up to compete.  One of those was my boyfriend Stephen; I’m SO proud of him for that. We’re awaiting his woven roundel badge through the post to commemorate the achievement.

The three overall winners have just been announced and in third place was my favourite: eight year old Mini-pips and his Dad. What a brilliant father-son combination. The photos of them through their challenge are truly heartwarming, and it’s inspiring to see how such a young lad can ride so far, and with a big smile on his face too!

For me the best statistic from the Festive500 is the 118% increase in women riders from 2012. Hurrah for women’s cycling. Massive congratulations to everyone who completed and commiserations to anyone who had to drop out; I only realised through supporting Stephen how tough it would be!

The overall winners: Riding the Festive 500 in one big fat ride from Paris (FR) to Haarlem (NL) – #inonego from Rotgans & Rotgans on Vimeo.

In a complete change of topic, the other great thing I’ve discovered this week is Flow magazine from The Netherlands; about paper, mindfulness, simplicity and connection. How brilliant does that sound? They produce the English language version ‘Flow International’ biannually, so I’m eagerly trying to get my hands on a copy. In  the meantime, I’m downloading their free colouring-in pages for my daughter (and me!) to colour in.

 

Have you found some great stuff online this week? Do share…

January 28, 2014

Living without supermarkets: blog inspiration

Our’Living without Supermarkets‘ challenge continues. We do have our failures, but overall, things are going well. I refuse to beat myself up if we have to venture into the Co-op for the occasional item, life isn’t perfect. The main thing is to keep trying.

Our reasons for reducing our reliance on supermarkets continue to be:

1: Spreading the wealth. I heard a statistic a while ago that said of every four pounds spent in the UK, one of those is spent in Tesco. This may not be true, but it still made me shudder a bit. I’d like to put money in the hands of more than just a handful of multinationals.

2: Keeping our local stores and markets alive. With the British high streets and giant shopping malls up and down the country turning into a homogenised experience, you could probably be parachuted into many of them and simply not know where you were because of the identikit brands. Supporting those independent retailers who are fighting against this tide is important to me.

3: Eating seasonally.  Buying from local growers, producers and suppliers as well as eating what I’ve grown myself, helps to ensure that for some of the time at least, we’re eating with the seasons.

4: Less packaging waste. Our vegetables are delivered in a cardboard box that is returned for re-use time and again. Buying from a local market stall means paper bags instead of plastic – these can be composted. In many cases, I take a cotton bag and dispense with packaging altogether. There are many ways to reduce packaging by shopping locally.

Since starting on this journey, I’ve discovered and been inspired by many, many other folk. A handful of those are here:

The inimitable Mammasaurus has written a lovely, uplifting series of posts on supporting local suppliers.

You’ll find great supermarket-free and plastic-free posts over on Westywrites.

On My Make Do and Mend Year, the incredibly inspiring Jen writes about a variety of subjects, initially based around her year of not buying anything new. She writes passionately about upcycling, transition, community and positivity. I love this site and learn a lot.

Over on A Year without Supermarkets, Team Pugh are basically doing just that – living without supermakets. I’ve only just discovered this great site and I know I’ll return.

Are there any other great blog about going supermarket-free or plastic-free? Or do you write about eating seasonally, sustainable living or minimalism? I’d love to hear from you! 

January 20, 2014

Editorial Calendars: do they work?

Trying to wrestle my blogging timetable into some kind of manageable shape has long been a battle of mine. I’m continually torn between wanting to create good quality content, which takes time, and trying to ensure that I write enough posts to maintain a regular readership.

Slow Blogging; the creation of content that is considered, as well written as I can make it and not created purely for page rank is important, but I’m currently enjoying the discipline of writing a post to a given theme each day. Having it all laid out in a spreadsheet helps me to see at a glance what subjects I’m covering each week and reduces the panic about want/must/should/need to write something. All of those feelings are obviously self-imposed, but they are real, and this is helping me to banish them.

By forward planning, even though I have to find the time to write a post to publish each day, knowing in advance what that post will be about means that I need less time to create each one. I’m also finding that it helps me to ensure that I’m not covering similar topics too closely  together. Spending some time thinking about the seasons, special days and events and determining what I can write about that will tie in with those subjects, whilst remaining true to the Margot and Barbara themes, has also resulted in lots of ideas!

My method of creating an editorial calendar is simply a spreadsheet, with the dates down the side and the days of the week across the top. I’ve added in special days (such as Mothering Sunday) so that I know what’s coming up, and then started to populate it.

One thing that I’ve realised is important (and was raised by Kay in the comments of my blogging schedule post) is retaining enough flexibility to move posts around if I get invited to an event, or a product to review. Having a combination of posts that are time-limited and those that are not, means I can move things around if necessary.

Elizabeth at Rosalilium gives great advice here about different tools you can use to create your own editorial calendar. But for the moment, my simple spreadsheet is working really well for me, helping me feel as though I can fit my blog around my work and life. I highly recommend you try using one for your blog too!

January 6, 2014

2014 Resolutions

Happy new year everyone! As we’re a week into 2014, I’m firmly closing the door on the Christmas and New Year festivities (which I’ve totally loved this year) and getting back into the swing of everyday life. The start of a new school term always brings about a return to routines and the end of Quality Street being an acceptable breakfast food, just as I’ve got used to the idea…

Traditionally the start of January is resolution time. Usually I like to write a giant list of resolutions for the year, some of which I manage to complete and some I don’t. I wrote recently about needing to be honest with myself about the things that I really wanted to do and forget the things that I think I should want to do. So, no marathon running goals for me, this year or ever. Although I think that if you want to make changes to your life, you should start them today, whenever today is, rather than waiting for January 1st, there is something tidy about making new starts in a new year, so I do find New Year’s Resolutions somewhat seductive.

2014 is going to be a year that contains many changes. My career, my home life, and the way I spend my time are all going to change, and not all of those changes are my decision. So, rather than trying to control everything, I’m going to try and go with the flow a little more. Which is terrifying to me! But, I think that trying to force things to happen is bound to end in failure. It is important for me to recognise what I can control and what I cannot.

Therefore my list is short, and perhaps a little vague. But here goes:

1 – Study for my RHS Level 2 exams.  I’ve written about this before, and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a while (and really wanted to do) but life has got in the way of my plans. I’m determined to make it happen this time though. And I’m hopeful it may lead to more opportunity and who knows, perhaps a career shift.

2 – Make time. For my family, my friends, my boyfriend. Much of 2013 was challenging, sometimes it was painful and introspective, and it was a year in which my friends all supported me, but I feel as though I gave back little in return. I want to redress the balance and make time to visit my beloved friends and family and support them in whatever they are doing. My boyfriend has a year of change ahead of him too, and I want to be a supportive partner to him as we embrace our future together. (As an aside, I feel far too old to be saying boyfriend, but what’s the alternative? Partner makes it sound like we’re in business together…hmm)

3 – Say ‘yes’ more. And say ‘no’ more. Contradictory as ever…but by which I mean that I want to be brave enough to say ‘yes’ to the right opportunities that come my way, and say ‘no’ to things that I don’t want, need or feel like the right ‘fit’. And I’m not talking specifically about possessions when I say ‘things’, it’s really just a goal about being authentic and true to myself.

4 – Keep cycling. This is a bit of a vague goal, I appreciate, but I have really been enjoying cycling and I want to carry on improving, at my own pace, and just enjoying the ride. I have no challenges, competitions, sportives in mind at all. It will just be me, my bike and my boyfriend by my side.  Though, if you’re in Leeds and fancy a snail’s pace bike ride with a cafe stop in the middle, I’m your ideal companion!

5 – Visit somewhere new. Doesn’t matter where, I just want to keep exploring and having micro-adventures. And I really, really, want to go to somewhere I’ve never been in Europe in 2014. Fitting adventure into everyday life instead of waiting for a big chunk of time is something I’ve enjoyed in 2013, and I want to do more of it.

6 – Move towards being a ‘zero waste’ home. This is a huge goal and one in which I am going to be moving at an evolutionary pace, not aiming for an overnight revolution! On the back of reducing our reliance on the supermarket, the next step is reducing the amount of waste we create – less packaging, which in turn means less recycling. More composting and home-grown food! Which takes me nicely onto number 7…

7 –  Try my hardest to grow as much of our food as possible. 2013 was a dire year on the allotment for many reasons. I paid it a visit over the Christmas period and made a promise to it that I’d try my hardest to make 2014 a great year. Yup, I talk to my allotment. I appreciate that’s odd.

8 – Try yoga. We have a wonderful looking yoga centre near us and I’d really like to have a go at yoga, to benefit my (still too high) blood pressure and improve my flexibility. This is the year in which I’m finally going to do it, instead of just talking about it!

So, there we have it. Only eight things on my list this year. In addition to this are my usual ‘eat well, read more, learn new things’ goals, but they’re so heavily ingrained into my personality that I don’t need to specifically list them. As long as I’m breathing, I’ll be reading…

What are your goals for 2014? And do you have any advice for me in achieving mine? I’d love to hear from you.