A Weekend in Pictures

Weekends are for sitting by the fire, reading books, drinking coffee and indulgence. At least that’s the plan. It rarely happens in this house! I’ve been indulging in a lazy weekend, relishing time alone with just box sets and chick lit for company.

boots-and-books

I cleaned my boots – oh that colour! These boots make me smile every time I wear them. . It’s just a bonus that my scarf is all matchy matchy! Note to self, if you decide to walk over the fields to buy the weekend papers, don’t wear suede boots!

coffee-fireside

I made a pot of coffee and sat by the fire. I read trashy chick lit on my  Kindle and I watched  Greys Anatomy (again).

fire-and-wine

I did some weeding, and when it got dark I came inside. I opened a bottle of wine and sat by the fire. I read the  papers and I watched Greys Anatomy (again).

rice-pud

I ate left overs for breakfast. I did as I pleased. I gave myself permission to step off the work / design / housework treadmill. I had the best weekend. If this is slow living I am definitely happy in the slow lane. I hope your weekend was happy too.

Here’s to Monday x

The Art of Slow Living

gathering-woodMove over Hygge, it appears 2017 is the “year of slow living”.  No-one really seems sure where this movement started. Perhaps it was inspired by the Slow Food Movement, or maybe it’s just a response to the fact that “life moves pretty fast” these days, and to paraphrase Ferris Bueller, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you might miss it. I’ve been following (and occasionally using)  the #slowliving hashtag on Instagram for a couple of years. Here you’ll find hundreds of misty, slight griege* pictures of tea in hand thrown mugs, resting on scrubbed pine tables, crumpled bed linen and carefully composed flat lays (items laid on tables, photographed from above). But, there’s more to slow living than composing a beautiful photo and scripting the perfect caption.  The trouble is, my life is messy, colourful and random, so my photos stand out like a sore thumb in the hashtag feed. My real life is not Instagram friendly!

eden-cottage-hatI like to think of my  life as a journey, not a destination. I derive pleasure form the “doing” and the “making” of life, not just life itself.  I relish the process of cooking meals from scratch, hand stitching my clothes and growing food for the table. Making time for coffee with friends, watching the goldfinches squabble over the bird feeder or just  enjoying a hug from Mr T (always time for that) when I take him a mug of tea is important to me. I try to find joy in the mundane; whether it’s filling the log basket, sorting the recycling or wrangling the laundry.  I think (and you might disagree, that’s ok), that if we’re constantly wishing we were doing something else, we’re in danger of missing out on the simple pleasure of life itself. If I didn’t wander around my garden every day to forage twigs for kindling I would miss the first snowdrops appearing at the bottom of the garden. I wouldn’t notice the bird nest in the clematis, which is only visible now the leaves have all dropped off.  If I didn’t change the bed sheets every week I wouldn’t get to relish snuggling into freshly laundered cotton (I have thing for crisp, white linen and feather pillows).  I’m interested to know how others live life in the slow lane, which is why I follow the hashtag. I tried to think about what makes my life a slow life and over the next few weeks I’ll share my own art of slow living. To kick off –  here’s the one I struggle with most – balancing my online life with “real” life.

Mastering  the art of tech life balance

I’m not talking about a digital detox (ugh what a horrible expression  that is), instead learning to balance my  life online with real world experiences. We don’t need to be constantly checking email, counting “retweets” on Twitter or scrolling through carefully curated and scripted photos on Instagram. My online life is a huge part of my interaction with others, working from home I’ve often called Twitter “my water cooler moment”, so I struggle with the concept of a “detox”. Instead I try to build time online into my day, I try to avoid constantly picking up my phone to read emails or look at Instagram. In fact, I quite often turn off the wifi on my phone and switch off my tablet for a few hours each day so I can work on designs or write undisturbed.

After tea I try to put my “devices” away, switch off the laptop and have real conversations. We’ll settle down to read books, watch a box set or spend time with friends and at these times “device checking” is frowned upon. Of course we break the rules, I might spend half an hour having a Facebook chat with a far away friend or Mr T might check out what his friends are up to on Strava. But we follow a few unspoken “rules”, no device checking at mealtimes, no jumping up to answer the phone in the middle of a conversation and the only electronic device in the bedroom is my kindle. And here’s the thing, iplayer has given us so much freedom to choose what we watch and when that I forget what life was like when you had to timetable TV watching into your day so you didn’t miss call the Midwife!  Our smart TV has given us freedom and flexibility. It is “good” technology and I won’t hear a bad word said against it!

Today I went for a walk, my phone was in my pocket but it was switched off and I relished being “uncontactable”. We’re not a technology driven family; if we want to turn down the thermostat we get up and turn a knob, we don’t reach for an app on a phone. We don’t have sat nav – we are “old school” and carry maps. Technology allows Mr T to work from home, he spends his day on Skype calls, sharing screens and logging into client databases. No wonder he’s happy to leave technology behind after a day in the office (aka the smallest bedroom). The internet allows me to sell my patterns, research ideas and keep in touch with fellow designers, editors and friends who live to far away to drop in for a cuppa.  Technology is an aid to efficiency, but it can also make us slaves.

Of course technology is not just about being “connected”. Try making a loaf of bread by hand instead of throwing everything in a bread maker, whip egg whites for a meringue by hand or make pastry. Take a map when you go for a walk instead of plugging routes into a GPS. Look up from your screen, look out of the window and talk to a real person not a Gravatar once in a while. Read your toddler a story from a book instead of passing them your ipad. Build a den under the dining table, make time to talk and to listen no matter how bored you are with reading the Very Hungry Caterpillar or singing the same song over and over again. The greatest gift you can give to your loved ones is time and technology can suck that away from us if we’re not careful.  I know this because my own daughter spent far too many hours watching Barney and playing Sims while I attempted to “work from home” in her early years (and yes, I still  carry the guilt of the working Mother). I thought technology would make me more efficient, more productive. It just made me a slave to my inbox.

How do you balance life and technology? Do you use an app to switch on your kettle / turn on the lights? Do you find yourself checking Facebook during ad breaks? I’m fascinated by how we all adapt and respond to the growing technologies that promise to make our lives easier and more  efficient. Do they? I’d love to know how you find a tech life balance –  maybe you already have the answer?

*griege – those slightly grey / sepia / muted images that are so common on Instagram. Read “everything you need to know about griege”  here.

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So, British Hygge Is a Thing Now?

hygge-handsLast year’s obsession with all things Hygge in the UK fascinated me. Everyone it seemed was trying to find a way “do hygge”.  Knitters and crocheters were posting almost daily photos on Instagram of themselves with candles, blankets and knitting. If they could factor in a woodburning stove as well, and a glass of wine it seemed they must be in Hygge heaven. Almost  every yarn enthusiast I follow on social media got a book about “It” for Christmas, and my Danish friends (there is a quite a big middle aged Danish contingent in Cheshire – not sure why), were equally amused and aghast at the phenomenon. One friend showed me a clip of a knitting podcaster struggling to pronounce the word, trying “higgy”  and “higg yee” before settling on “higg”. “Well, she clearly hasn’t read the book she’s reviewing – there is a guide to pronunciation on page 7″ said my grumpy friend Trine.

So, why are the English (and it does seem to be a thing I’ve noticed among English friends rather than Scottish or Welsh), so obsessed with this idea? Have we fought against cold, wet winters for so long that the sudden idea of getting cosy and embracing winter is appealing? I am usually immune to trends and fashion (I still wear boot leg jeans and my phone is 8 years old) and so I have observed the growing interest in all things Scandi from a distance. I watched Borgen, but I’ve never seen the Killing or the Bridge. I’ve been to Copenhagen and loved it, but the idea of deliberately trying to”make” or “do” Hygge had never occurred to me. Then,  I posted a photo on twitter and someone commented “That is so British Hygge”. I think it was meant to be a compliment.  Here’s the offending photo.

woodburner

It seems I am the epitome of British  Hygge without even realising it.  I’m still not sure if it’s a compliment or an observation. But my immediate reaction is one of  denial. This is just what I do, I work from home, I have Reynauds, I need to be warm. The woodburner is our main source of heating, this is just our “normal”.   In an effort to discover more about this new phenomenon, I googled “British Hygge”.  Try it for yourself, you’ll be swept down a rabbit hole of blogs, articles and page upon page of advice for how to bring the H word into your life.

There is even a helpful blog, full of tips and advice on creating a cosy existence the British way.  Eager Brits have stolen the frankly, untranslatable concept of Hygge and created a version for themselves in which the deliberate act of making yourself cosy is celebrated. It seems the antithesis of what my Danish friends have tried to convey. One said “Hygge is a feeling of bliss and contentment you get when everything is just right, it is a state of mind”. The lovely Trine, a 63 year old Dane who has lived here for almost 40 years told me that “Hygge happens”, you can’t buy it or make it. “It’s a state of being” she told me, not a product you can buy or make at will.

So has Hygge been hijacked by the British media to sell us an idea. Is it the “new mindfulness”? Or just a publishing ploy  to make us buy self help books disguised as  how to be Hygge? Or is the fascination with all things Nordic part of a wider desire to find happiness and contentment in the every day? I’m still unsure.  My first encounter with the term came in 2015 when I read Helen Russell’s book “The Year of Living Danishly”. I am drawn to books about ex pats (maybe it’s my innate curiosity about other people’s lives, or maybe I’m just plain nosy), and Helen Russell’s account of trying to fit in to life in Denmark, while her husband worked for Lego is engaging and amusing.  If you really want an insight into Danish life and values, forget the “how to” books and read this instead.

gathering-wood

As for me, I shall live the life I’ve always lived. I shall remain satisfied with what I have and   enjoy the simple things.  I shall spend time with people who make me happy, who value me as I am, not for what I can do for them. Above all, you will still find me hunkering down under a blanket, warmed by the fire in a room lit by candles and soft lighting until Spring. Then I shall leap forth, weed the garden, marvel at the spring bulbs and embrace  the daylight. If that makes me the epitome of British Hygge, then so be it.

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  • I’m Tracey Todhunter. I’m a freelance writer. specialising in green / ethical living – with a “sideline” in craft!

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  • When you look up from the tv and realise outside is far more interesting! Happy Bank Holiday weekend everyone. I shall mostly be harvesting onions, drinking g&t and reminding myself how lucky we are to have this view.
#slowliving #thankful #girlgardener #mygardenrightnow #cheshirelife #thewayweliveinthecountry #permaculture Finished a new shawl. Far too hot to wear it, but luckily my shed is a great backdrop! Yarn is King Cole Riot. 
#crochet #crochetgirlgang #neverenoughshawls #sheshed #madenotmanufactured #crochetlove Free food! Next best thing to growing your own food is eating other people's homegrown. I'm looking after my neighhour's garden & boy does he have a lot of radishes just now! I have written a blog post about more of my favourite (almost) free foods. Link in profile, now I'm off to pickle these radishes.
#frugalfood #foraging #ediblegarden #growyourownfood #girlgardener #allotmenteering #eattheseasons #permaculture  #zerowaste #slowliving #gardentotable #organicgardening #forktofork I'll admit it, I grow this mostly for it's amazing colour - but the stems are delicious sauted with chorizo or streaky bacon!
#mygardenrightnow #girlgardener #girlsthatgarden #permaculture #growyourown #ediblegarden #bakingandmaking #slowliving #organicgardening I do love a formal garden. I walk through this one every Friday on my way to knit group.  Castle Park is a hidden gem.
#gardens #castlepark #parksandgardens Thanks @simplycrochetmag for featuring my crochet picnic basket :) The pattern is available  now in Simply Crochet celebrations edition. You'll need a cardboard box to upcycle & some chunky cotton yarn, I used DMC Natura XL & finished it off with leather buckles from Bag Clasps. 
#crochet #crochetgirlgang #upcycling #reloved #crochet #makersgonnamake #lovecrochet
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