Clock Deadline

Life Hack #3

Beat the Clock!

We’ve all done it I’m sure – had some looming deadline creep closer and closer but somehow you just can’t muster the motivation to get the job boxed off.

Well head over to Life Hack #2:

https://myholisticliving.co.uk/2019/08/25/life-hack-2/

and get your motivational playlist built whilst you’re busy procrastinating. Then once you’ve done that, head back here to combine Life Hacks #2 and #3 and finally get that one job you’ve been putting off for ages off your to-do list for good!

Life Hack #3

Bring up the timer on your phone and set it for 10 minutes. Press start – see how much you can get through of your task in 10 minutes. Repeat until task complete – easy!

With your motivational playlist urging you on, you’ll get that task you love to hate finished in no time.

And more often than not, I frequently find, the task is never as bad as I imagined it to be 🙂

Life Hack #4 – coming soon…

Advertisements
Vegetables

In the Garden: September 2019

September Gardening Tips

As very much a novice gardener, I often find myself trawling the web trying to find out what I should be doing in the garden each month in a language I understand! There’s a lot of terminology to learn with gardening I’m discovering, to be able to make the most of the vast amount of information out there.

One of my favourites is the RHS website (link below) which has a ton of articles for all abilities, including monthly tips for how to keep the garden looking grand all year round if you’re based here in the UK. If you’re a beginner too, this might be an excellent place to start:

https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/in-month/september

It’s definitely given me plenty of ideas to be getting on with – September seems an especially busy month! Here’s what I plan to get on with starting tomorrow and throughout the rest of the month:

Harvesting

Time to reap the rewards of the last few months by harvesting any ripened fruit or veg from the garden. In my case, having only moved into our home last year, I haven’t done that much with the garden this year other than to maintain it. We are still lucky enough to have already had strawberries yield fruit earlier in the year and now raspberries and blackberries to pick too so this is where I plan to start!

Give the Garden One Last Good Once Over

We had a crazy amount of wet weather throughout most of August here in Manchester so the lawn is well overdue a good trim. There’s also plenty of plants to be pruned/deadheaded or divided. If you have a pond then this would be a good time to have it netted to avoid it becoming clogged with leaves and other debris. Get the kids involved on an “autumnal treasure-hunt” to gather materials to use in an art and crafts session. My youngest did a great job of starting us off today:

Autumn leaves, plants, berries, feather
Our hoard from our Autumnal Treasure Hunt today

Rainy Day Jobs

Rainy days are the perfect days to get into greenhouses, sheds, garages and summerhouses to get them winter-ready too. Get all your gardening gear, cleaned, tidied and put away, including any used pots, to avoid unwanted pests and to keep equipment at its best. We don’t yet have a greenhouse (though it’s on the wish list!) but do have a garage and summerhouse that could do with a bit of TLC before winter arrives, so next rainy day they’ll be all tidy and sparkling clean.

Up Your Eco-Warrior Game

As I’ve become more interested in gardening, one of the many positive effects of this has been a greater desire to be more eco-friendly. We already have a fair amount of animal garden visitors including birds and squirrels so my husband does a fantastic job of keeping our bird-feeder well stocked but this might be something you decide to invest in if you don’t have one already. Starting a compost now is also perfect with all the autumn leaves about to start falling. At the very least, if your local authority provides a “composting bin” for food and gardening waste, make sure you’re using it. Water butts are also an excellent investment now and something I’m adding to the wish-list!

Start Planning Next Year’s Garden

Start taking accurate measurements and notes now on how your garden currently is and think about how you would like to improve it. Maybe you’d like a herb garden next year or a vegetable patch. This is the time to start thinking about what it is you would like to see growing in your garden next year and planning for how you can achieve this. This is one of the rookie mistakes I made when I first got interested in gardening. At the start of Spring, I’d get terribly excited about the garden and then realise I probably should have started in the previous autumn. There are loads of great gardening apps and tools out there to help with this so if you’re interested, try a Google search on “garden plan” and you’ll be spoilt for choice!

What about you – what will you be doing in these last few warm days of September in the garden?

model with autumn leaves as a dress

How Do You Get Autumn Ready?

Ideas for Making the Most of the Autumn

Autumn” – it’s just such a cosy sounding word isn’t it conjuring up images of warm drinks, the last of the warmer days and the crunch of fallen leaves.

It’s also the time for a lot of fun celebrations, depending on your beliefs and location on the planet. Here in the UK, we have the Harvest Festival at the end of September, Halloween at the end of October, which is followed shortly after by Bonfire Night on 5 November. In the USA, there is of course Thanksgiving celebrated rather than Bonfire Night. After this, thoughts soon turn to the winter and Christmas Holidays in our house.

Before then, why not make the most of this Autumn to try a couple of the following autumn-inspired ideas:

  • Cook a warming soup, a stew or casserole
  • Visit a pumpkin patch/apple orchard
  • Try a pumpkin latte
  • Bread baking/cake making
  • Go to a professional bonfire and/or firework display
  • Watch scary movies
  • Organise your autumn/winter wardrobe
  • Go on a nature walk to take in the changes
  • Decorate the house seasonally/have a Halloween party
  • Trick or treat
  • Carve pumpkins
  • Knitting
  • Rake leaves
  • Stargaze
  • Toffee Apples
  • Warm apple cider
  • Bat-watching
  • Gratitude journal
  • Getting the garden ready for winter

So there’s a few things to do to welcome in the change of a new season should you wish to. Re-organising and updating the wardrobes has already started in our house with the kids heading back to school this week. Looking forward to a pumpkin latte too – that always feels soothingly autumnal.

Which one do you feel inspired to try?

Barbie & the Seagulls Woskerski street art London

Exploring London

London Calling?

This August Bank Holiday weekend was recorded as being the hottest ever here in the UK and, after several weeks of near constant rain, was just what we all needed to liven us up a bit. Very fortunately, this was the weekend we’d booked to visit London, to take in the sights and soak up the atmosphere in this historic yet fast-paced city.

Having visited London a couple of times before, once as a child and once only a few years ago on a flying visit, I had a good idea of what I definitely wanted to see and do whilst I was there. This time, however, I was taking the family, so as much as I might have wanted to immerse myself completely in all the fabulous history London has to offer, I did have to temper my enthusiasm and engage in at least a few more modern moments for the sake of their enjoyment of our city break too.

Accommodation

We stayed 3 days/2 nights in a basic guesthouse for less than £200 for 3 adults and a child in the middle of Whitechapel, self-catering using the travel site, Booking.com. Whilst we could have been more central, this location offered us interesting sights that otherwise we wouldn’t have seen and which made up one of the most enjoyable parts of our trip.

Street Art

For instance, the street art in this area is everywhere – for free! We roamed around the Bethnal Green and Shoreditch areas which reminded us of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, just on a far grander scale, and absolutely loved it, managing to discover an artist I’d not come across before, Woskerski (https://www.facebook.com/woskerski/). There’s a bit of a cryptic clue in the photo below (bottom left-hand corner), where it says “@blankwallcollective 31.08.19” and I’m really looking forward to finding out more about this in 4 days time!

Barbie & the Seagulls Woskerski street art London
Barbie & the Seagulls – Woskerski

Traditional Sights

My main reason for wanting to return to London was to re-visit the Tower of London, to see the Crown Jewels again and to take part in another entertaining Beefeater tour. Costing £85.00 online booking for 3 adults and a child, it took us around 3-4 hours to go round which could easily have taken longer but the family were clamouring for a break by this point!

With it being 1000-years old or so, I find the Tower completely captivating and always have. As a child, I first discovered the Princes in the Tower through visiting the fortress and on this visit discovered that 3 queens, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey were all buried at the chapel, St Peters Ad Vincula, until Queen Victoria insisted that, as former Queens of England, they be respectfully moved to somewhere more fitting their station in life. Fortresses like the Tower also played a significant role during the Second World War with Hitler’s second-in-command, Rudolf Hess, even being held here briefly.

Sightseeing on a Budget

For those on a budget, as we were, there are also plenty of sights and buildings completely free to access such as the ones we visited including:

  • The British Museum
  • Trafalgar Square
  • National Gallery
  • Tower Bridge

I’ve just included the ones here that we made it to – there are of course numerous others such as Hyde Park, Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and quite a variety of guided walks and tours, including Jack the Ripper tours for any budding Ripperologists.

It was a LOT of walking so bear this in mind for little-legs, breaking it up with lunch stop-offs and a bit of shopping in the afternoon when everyone’s starting to flag a bit!

Shopping

I’m not the biggest fan of shopping for something specific but I do like a good stroll around some interesting and/or unique areas. Particular favourites for us were Leicester Square and the M and M shop, as well as along Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street where we found a shop my 18 year old is a huge fan of, Lush, which introduced the rest of the family to this fun, animal-friendly shop too. We also managed to sneak a visit in on the way back to Covent Garden to see the street performers and visit the stalls choc-full of interesting mementos.

My husband got to visit one of his favourite shops, Forbidden Planet, and almost directly opposite was The Astrology Shop where I probably spent far more than I should have done but probably not as much as I wanted to!

Soaking up the atmosphere in Leicester Square
Shopping in Covent Garden

Eating & Getting About

As you’d expect, there is a lot of travelling about and needing to re-fuel so it’s worth looking into travel options before you go. We tended to travel by taxi which can get expensive but made life easier and more manageable when mixed in with using the Tube (which I was massively impressed with!), other forms of public transport and walking. There are various passes you can opt for to help cover transportation costs but after a full-day of walking around London, we were glad to just get in a taxi when it all got too much.

Food-wise again we tended to mix it up so stopped off at restaurants and cafes but also kept the cost down sometimes by heading to fast-food outlets too such as McDonalds or heading to the local Sainsbury’s to buy some essentials like bread, coffee, cereal and milk for breakfast.

The Takeaway

For anyone with a love of history, art and culture, I’d strongly recommend London as a place well worth visiting at least once. We’re already planning what we’d like to do next time we visit, Windsor, London Zoo, Legoland…

Always open to ideas though, so where’s your favourite place to visit in London and why?

Thoughtful woman

What’s Your Greatest Asset?

How to Make the Most of Your Best Feature

Growing up as a teenager in the 90s, articles like this could regularly be found in every young girl’s magazine – how to maximise your bewitching eyes or contagious smile, master a timely hair flick or use make up or clothes to highlight your fantastic face or body shape.

With the arrival of the internet, nowadays, these articles can just as easily be found online but most articles continue to push this idea that your greatest asset or best feature has to be something physical. It’s a rare occurrence, relatively speaking, for it to be suggested that your greatest asset could in fact be unrelated to your physical appearance.

I personally love the following quote:

“Whatever makes you weird is probably your greatest asset”

Joss Whedon

I love this quote because it doesn’t really say whether that asset is a physical attribute or a personality trait, a talent or a skill. It could well be your dazzling smiling that people find captivating or maybe your persuasive personality can charm the birds from the trees. But I bet there’s also something else about you that you’ve been told is “weird”, in a good way, at least once or twice.

For me, I think probably being described as “down-to-earth” a few times suggests to me that this could well be mine. Not that being “down-to-earth” is necessarily something weird but maybe there’s something about me that makes this side of my personality stand out. For instance, maybe it’s because I come across so down-to-earth that I find it incredibly easy to small talk with virtually anyone. The good thing about this skill for me is that, most of the time, I can put people at their ease and build a rapport which certainly makes my job as a further education tutor that much easier when I’m meeting new students all the time.

“You have to be odd to be number one”

Dr Seuss

“Weirdness” for me is just what makes you stand out from everyone else or something unexpected, what marketers would call in business your “unique selling point” so I have to say I completely agree with Joss Whedon and Dr Seuss on this. I suppose it really depends on whatever makes you weird or odd!

Once you’ve figured out what it is about you that is complimented the most, the next thing to do is to learn how to make the most of this feature. So, if you’ve been told you’re funny, whilst you wouldn’t want to overdo it, knowing when and where to make use of this skill might be a way to be more successful – whatever success means to you.

Or, maybe simply being more aware of your strengths so that you can combine and play to all of them is your greatest asset?

Taking even 10 minutes just to sit and think about what makes you tick can help you with this exercise. Take away the job you do, how old you are, whether you’re a parent or not, what’s “expected” of you – if you had the choice, what is it you enjoy doing? That may well be your “weird” thing. How can you now make the most of it?

Silhouette of setting sun through trees against sky background

Garden Art

Garden Photoshoot

With today being a grey and overcast day here in Manchester, I thought it would be the perfect time to brighten up the website with a selection of photographs taken by my husband, Lee, last week whilst wandering about the garden.

It’s surprising what you can do with a decent camera phone, a good filter/effect or two and a bit of spare time!

Of course, the garden does not look so bright and sunny today but if you’re someone who feels a bit hesitant about using your own photos on your blog posts why not try taking a few photos to filter and edit to accompany your next post – you might unearth a hidden talent too!

Single Use Plastics

Should We Be Charged for Single-Use Cups?

Sign the Petition Now

Yesterday, I received an email from Green Peace asking me to sign their petition to the Chancellor to start charging a minimum 25p levy on all single-use cups. The suggestion is that the money raised by such a campaign could then be used to support environmentally-friendly projects and planet-saving initiatives.

Pilot Results

The scheme has in fact already been introduced, in the Houses of Parliament of all places, and in less than a year is said to have led to almost a 75% drop in the amount of single-use cups being used there, according to Green Peace’s website.

And I can believe it too having already seen with my own eyes the incredible success of the plastic bag charge brought in only a few years ago.

I understand that there will be naysayers out there saying that it won’t make any difference and that it’s too late, the planet is already doomed, but would it really hurt to try?

Previous Successful Schemes

We all got round the plastic bag charge by simply getting into the habit of buying longer lasting bags that could be re-used far more often and then remembering to take them with us, or pay the price and feel guilty, every time we forgot them. Many a time my husband and I have remembered to bring the bags with us as far as the boot of the car and then, suddenly, halfway round the supermarket, one of us has had to run back to the car where we’ve left them! I’m sure we’re not alone in this. But really, in the grand scheme of things, I can’t say it’s ever really registered as even a mild inconvenience. It’s now just a way of life and something we do now purely as a matter of course.

And so it could be with single-use cups. Sometimes, we just need a bit of persuasion to remember that there is another way.

So of course I signed the petition and you can too, just click the link: https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/page/s/throwaway-cup-levy and have yourself a super feel-good Friday that you’re at least trying to make the world a better place 🙂

standing woman smiling while opening front load clothes washer

How Clean is Your Home?

What Should Be on Your Chores List?

Scrolling through Pinterest this evening, I happened to come across a pin with suggestions on how to keep a clean home (see below). Being a married mother of two, who also happens to work full time, I’m always on the lookout for tips and tricks to achieve that effortlessly clean and tidy look (obviously something I’ve yet to perfect!), but I have to confess, there were one or two surprises on the list:

How to Keep a Clean Home
How do you measure up?

For instance, I can’t say, hand on heart, that I manage to clean inside all appliances, all cabinetry and clean all doors and windows on a monthly basis!

Having said that, I do think it’s a handy rough and ready reminder to make better use of my morning and evenings through the week so that I don’t spend my entire 2-day weekend trying to get through all the washing, ironing and putting away of clothes. It hasn’t escaped my notice however that the owner of this list must have an ironing fairy in her home as that is by far my most time-consuming weekly task but it doesn’t make her list at all! I’ve assumed “put up clothes” means simply put away.

I’m also rather fond of the “cleaning as you go” idea – and one I’m currently working on with our youngest child, with mixed results depending on mood!

Honestly though, as long as the house on a whole is clean and reasonably tidy through the work week and gets a good all over blasting each weekend, then life’s too short really isn’t it? When my 18-year old was born, her paternal grandmother bought me a book “Motherhood” that was a collection of poems, thoughts and sayings pertaining to what it meant to be a mum. It remains one of my favourite ever gifts and a book I still pull out from time to time. Within it is my all time favourite poem, penned by an unknown author, about being a mum as it really hits home for me what it means to be a mum and just how quickly the time passes:

"Cooking and cleaning can wait 'til tomorrow,
for babies grow up we learn to our sorrow,
so blow away cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep".

What do you make of the list – any surprises or anything missing? Let me know.

grayscale photo of woman posing in front of table fan

Secrets to Sleeping Well in a Heatwave

Too Hot to Handle?

Welcome to Hell! Or that’s pretty much how I’ve felt upon heading up to my bedroom for the last week or so thanks to the current heatwave. We’re just not used to it here in the UK so don’t have the benefit of air conditioning as other countries do. When, on the odd occasion it does get hot here, it tends to get humid and sticky too – not great combinations for getting a good night’s sleep.

Ways to Cool Things Down

  1. Shut the blinds/curtains and windows during the day in rooms when the sun is shining directly into those rooms.
  2. Leave upstairs bedroom windows open provided safe to do so whilst sleeping(investing in a mosquito net to avoid creepy-crawlies).
  3. Invest in good quality electric fans and keep the door open in the room used in (why not try putting a tray of ice cubes in front of the air flow to help cool the air).
  4. Use thin cotton sheets wherever possible for bedding and avoid synthetic nightwear.
  5. Keep a stash of ice cubes or a cold flannel close by to place on pulse points or try freezing a hot water bottle instead to keep next to the feet/hands. Another alternative is a plant mister kept next to the bed to spray yourself periodically as needed.
  6. Stay hydrated throughout the day drinking more water than usual as you’ll be losing so much more through sweating.
  7. Flip your pillow frequently – you may also want to try cooling the pillow case in the fridge before bedtime.

What Not to Do

  • Avoid taking a cold shower – if a shower is necessary make it a tepid one.
  • Don’t indulge in alcohol – whilst you’ll likely fall asleep quickly, it’s unlikely you’ll stay asleep, especially if you don’t usually drink.
  • Don’t toss and turn. If you can’t sleep, get up and find something relaxing to do (not involving phones or computers!)
  • Don’t nap during the day.
  • Don’t cover your feet if you do cover yourself when sleeping.
  • Don’t exercise close to bedtime or engage in any other activity that raises body temperature(!)
  • Don’t fret – if you live in the UK, chances are we’ll soon be back to wet and rainy summer days very soon – comfort yourself with knowing you’ll soon be able to catch up on all the sleep you want safe in that knowledge!

Have you any tips you’d like to share with others? Personally, I tend to start off in bed but halfway through the night I end up coming downstairs to sleep on the couch as it’s so much cooler downstairs by then.

Feel free to share this article with others who may be struggling to sleep in this hotter than hell weather and remember…Stay Cool 😎

close up photo of blue bird perched on branch

What’s in Your Garden?

Who’s Your Garden Visitor?

We’re very lucky that where we live in our East Manchester town, our garden is frequently visited by numerous different creatures. Whether it’s birds, bees, bats or butterflies, there always seems to be something wandering around out there!

Baby Foxes

Earlier this year, we noticed a beautiful family of foxes visiting the garden. They still visit from time to time but tend to be alone now that they have grown bigger and are far more wary. Below is a video that I’ve posted before but it’s a lovely throwback to their very young days:

Baby foxes playing together earlier this year in our back garden

Collage Mix

Mouse Visitor

We even had a few visits off a local mouse:

Little mouse running about the patio

And these are just the ones, I’m quick enough to get a photo or video of – we also have a nightly visit off a small bat, a heron flying overhead as well as frogs jumping out at me whilst doing the gardening!

Keeping an Eye Out For

Personally, I’d love to have a visit off a hedgehog as I haven’t seen a wild one in years, or even a wild rabbit so hopefully one day (or night!) soon, I may get an extra special visitor.

Some animals do make me a bit nervous such as your general creepy-crawlies but I’m trying hard to warm to them these days – now that I’m getting into gardening more and more, it’s something I’m learning to live with if not quite love yet. Also, I have to admit I did jump a fair bit myself when that frog popped out at me whilst weeding. Then, later that day when I looked up and saw that heron flying over head and managed to get an appreciation of the sheer size of the thing, I may have let out quite a yelp too!

And just this weekend whilst round at my uncle’s home, my dad spotted what we think was a hawk feasting on something in the garden – take a look – what do you think it is? **Update: Have been informed its a sparrowhawk**

Are you lucky enough to have a particular wild animal come to visit your garden? Or have you any tips on how to attract and care for our wildlife visitors?