The Routines and Rituals Review

I am, as you know, a great advocate for setting in stone, the routines and rituals that  help you give your days both shape and sanity in a world that all too often lacks both.

routines and rituals

I tell you to write these routines down in your planner: to become bonkers-crazy evangelical about sticking to them. About using them as a framework, for satisfying, creative and productive days. When you drop the ball, I tell you not to berate yourself, but to gently gather up the reigns and start again. You know the drill don’t you? Heaven knows I have been writing about it for the best part of ten years…

What I have never told you is why it is essential to re-visit your routines and rituals regularly and to try to establish which are still a good fit and which are exhausting you simply by you all too often imagining that they SHOULD be done when they no longer NEED to be done.

You see it happens to us all: life changes. Work rota’s are turned upside down or kids grow up and regard games night as something that requires regular rolling of their eyes in order to be survived without admitting that they once enjoyed it. The hour you used to enjoy taking a bath is suddenly consumed by the need to help unwilling children tackle their homework, or the time you once spent scrubbing the bathroom tiles is cut in half by the purchase of a really rather fabulous hand-held steamer.

Yesarooney: life changes. And often we don’t even notice until we are living in chaos, trying to enforce routines that no longer serve a purpose, and feeling disappointed with ourselves (and seething with others!) on a regular basis.

The answer my lovelies? A Routine and Ritual Review. Tomorrow I will post my own review on-line and thereafter a list of my own re-invented routines and rituals you can use as inspiration should you wish, in the FREE download I will issue on Wednesday….

Happy Monday Housekeepers. Let’s get this show on the road again…

I Bought A Bucket

Tell me this, and tell me no more: what is it with men and buckets?

bucket

It is you see a truth universally acknowledged, that if you buy a bucket, a passing human of the masculine kind will do one of two things:

Either

a) Fill it with something obnoxious

Or

b) Make it disappear never to be seen again. 

Hell yes. I do believe that somewhere out yonder there is a place men go to show off all the buckets they have snaffled off women who want to do no more than fill their lovingly chosen pail with hot soapy water and a squirt of something pine-scented. Men love buckets: a fact not often discussed in polite society.

And so my lovelies in an unprecedented act of independence I have bought another bucket (and a very tasteful bucket it is too) and I intend to guard it with all the screechy lunacy I usually reserve for those who help themselves to MY violet cremes.

Be warned men in the vicinity: I take no prisoners.

Domestic Intimacy

I have said before, that to me,  my relationship with this one hundred and sixty year old cottage is akin to a marriage. A marriage of two highly compatible souls that just like any other relationship, ebbs and flows but is retained by an intimate bond forged throughout the years.

garden flowers

In this house there are memories on every surface. In the skirting boards chipped by Finley’s scooter. In all the furniture Mark built from nothing, the kitchen Richard brought to life. There is where I brought my new born baby home and the place where I sobbed when life fell apart. There’s the bathroom floor I slipped and fell on, bashing my face and knocking myself unconscious (ouch!), the garden in which I have grown tomatoes, strawberries and a soul. Look there, behind the bannister and you will see a tiny slither of the frightening green and gold flocked landing wallpaper I chose when I was pregnant. In the bathroom a collection of floral paintings I have hunted in car boot sales across the land and on close inspection, the track of little feline paws that trotted across the painted floor too soon.

I know this house. I know who lived in it before I did, and the purpose it served before it was purely the dwelling place of those lucky enough to occupy it. I sometimes dream of those who must have queued up at the door to buy bread or other daily necessities.  Each and every day I walk across the original wide planks on the dining room floor, tracing the route all those who live as ghosts here, used to tread. I know how it creaks at night. The gap between the roof tiles no-one seems able to fix. The trace of green paint the last occupant covered the house in. I know this house and it knows me.

And yet and yet and yet. There are periods of time in which we lose each other, this house and I. When the intimate secrets we share seem lost under clutter and the debris of a busy life. This always happens in Summer.

It happens when I am trying too hard to balance work with the demands and needs of a ten year old boy.

It happens when the air is stifling and the house is oppressed by windows that cannot be opened too wide in case our silly cat jumps out and decided to play chicken in the lane.

It happens and each and every time I resent it. I blame the house. I call it names. I declare living in such a tiny space is unmanageable. That a new house wouldn’t be so darn dusty. That I want to leave it, to call the divorce lawyers, throw in the key and run away to a space so pure and white and fresh and new that I would not have to deal with the horrors of watching something we love try to wear the indignities of  the ageing process. Would not have to deal with memories stuffed in every corner.

What we need is some alone time when there is none to be had for at least a few weeks. Time to wander around these rooms reminding myself how good it feels when this house and I are in harmony. When  it is mine again. No longer the preserve of children on sleepovers, or busy, buzzy bees whizzing around my head as I try to sleep, but mine again. So I can feel it almost smiling. So that I have the time to hug the house so it will hug us back.

This then is what is wrong.  Like the man who wears the same face but seems to have replaced everything else that he was, the house feels lost to me, and I need to devote myself to it again, so we can both feel at home again.

This too shall pass. It is in fact a feeling, as fleeting as a hot Summer day.

Housekeeper’s Summer Holiday Planner

I am feeling a little frantic. Finn’s summer holidays have already begun and we have got seven and a half whole weeks to fill.

summerholidays

Seven and a half weeks! That’s nearly two months in which to fill my son’s days with activities that won’t melt his brain. Activities that do not include talking nonsense to friends on the X-Box of filming himself rolling over the sofa three hundred times to enchant his friends with on Snapchat.

Oh yes: while I am not adverse to a pyjama day or two each week, I draw the line at spending each and every day of the holidays with no plan at all in place and so today I have spent the afternoon creating and filling in a Summer Holiday plan in my Housekeepers Planner so the answer to that all too common question “what are we doing today” (usually shortly followed by, I don’t want to!!) can be pre-empted and both Finn and I are fully in the picture and able to take up kindly offers of playdates with friends and family when they arise.

And so my lovelies, please find my Summer Holiday planner attached and enjoy yourself planning your Summer Holidays too. Getting organised is what Sunday afternoons for don’t you know?

(P.S: I have attached the weekly activity planner pages to a clipboard and hung it in the kitchen so both Finn and I can look at the days and weeks ahead)

Download my Housekeepers Summer Holiday Planner here.  

Buttercup Balm

Today Housekeepers I have a scrumptious little puttery treat for you, just right for long, languid sunny days spent lying in the grass, or indeed keeping children busy during the holidays…

buttercup balm

Once upon a time, we were little girls and little girls like nothing better than a sunny day spent holding a buttercup under the chin of willing family to determine whether they like butter. Now why this should be such a matter of curiousity is anyone’s guess but I bet you too remember seeing that yellow glow and feeling a teeny bit joyful don’t you? We all do… I think it is one of the tiniest pleasures of childhood we all too quickly forget in the humdrum of daily life…

So this little puttery treat is to remind you what it was to be a little girl. The simple pleasure of picking as many buttercups as you can, determining who likes butter and then using their essence to create a balm ideal for troubled skin.

Note: this recipe contains Vaseline. Which while not totally organic, it is considered to be non-carcinogenic and is therefore safe to use. If you prefer not to use petroleum jelly on your skin, you can substitute coconut oil and beeswax for it.

Buttercup balm

Ingredients.

1 Small tub of vaseline

As many buttercup flower heads as you can find.

Method

1. Scoop out the contents of your vaseline tub into a bain-marie

2. Add your buttercups and press into the vaseline as thoroughly as possible.

3. Simmer gently for one hour.

4. Then strain your balm through muslin and decant into a small screw-top jar.

 

P.S: You can also use rose petals in the same way to create a rose-scented lip-balm. Add colour by  using a short length of lipstick and stirring before straining.

The Quantified Self

There are things in this life that completely pass me by. Things people forget to tell me in the course of creating the grown-up me.

thequantifiedself

Take for example my new boiler. It comes with a wireless thermostat that lives downstairs and switches the heating on and off as and when it decides the house has got too cold. Readers this is a revelation to me. And though those I have told have looked at me perplexed and advised me not to share my astonishment in case people come to believe I am truly simple, I am sharing my astonishment regardless, because I can’t hold my own water let alone resist sharing the not so secret little wonder that is a thermostat!

You see in all the years that I have been a home-owner I have never had a boiler with a thermostat. When I needed to heat the house I trotted upstairs and switched the heating on and when it got too stifly I went back up and switched it off and sometimes I forgot and went merrily off to bed and used up gas in a willy-nilly fashion, simply not realising that the rest of the world never, ever had to think about heating the house because their lovely little thermostats were doing it for them in the most efficient of manners.

Readers this has been costing me money! In fact a little further investigation has revealed that LIFE has been costing me money and I have barely noticed because I have been so busy believing that this is how life is. And that a person didn’t need to drive herself demented watching the pennies because the pounds were looking after themselves, but they aren’t are they?? A person needs to quantify every penny in and out of her Cath Kidston purse or else the little copper harlots start throwing themselves at the unnecessary and the necessary becomes a headache a person has to turn life upside down to deal with!

My carelessness extends to receipts I never check, bills I carry on paying long after I have given up using the service, chasing payments owed to Brocantehome, pantry staples I buy over and over again out of force of habit (Need vinegar? I’m your gal: I have bought three bottles this month!) and oh so many other little something’s I really should have been keeping an eye on.

And so my Darlings, now I am the kind of person who owns a thermostat, I have decided it is time to quantify my entire financial life and stop letting money go ballet dancing down the drain. I am trying to teach myself how to use spreadsheets to chase subscriptions, and watch what money comes in and out of my life, in one way or another, and I simply didn’t realise that this would be such a steep learning curve when other people seem to be able to whip up a spreadsheet faster than I can whip up a Victoria Sponge.

I have also been having great fun with YNAB: a budgeting app that has recently changed my life. It is thanks to YNAB that I have managed to both pay for the blasted beautiful boiler and get the money together for the car I oh so desperately need. Though I am no longer buying the car off the parents of the children I take to school, because they sold it some one else, (and this is probably a good thing, because the kids told me Mummy needed to get rid of the car because it looked like a shed, and a person probably doesn’t want to be ferrying said children to and fro in cast off shed!), I know that having taken the time to shuffle pennies into my “car” budget, I can buy another as soon as I happen across one unlikely to cause me outrageous headaches in the depths of Winter.

See? I’m not a complete dope. I just didn’t realise that money needs counting and organising and budgeting and that there were things other people have been doing all along to save it, that they simply forget to tell me. So um yeah: all this is other people’s fault. And now that I am turning over a new financial leaf, I will soon be able to regale you with all manner of money saving devices you already know about won’t I?

Long live the thermostat.

P.S: Should you too decide You Need A Budget, you can use this link to YNAB to get an immediate $6.00 off the full price of this rather magical (and truly different) budgeting app…

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Puttery Treats For June

Tis Puttery Treat time ladies! Try to squeeze in as many of the little lovelies as you can before the kids break up and invade your peace…

puttery treats for june

* Put your abundance of garden mint to good use by chopping it finely into a sea salt and olive oil scrub and using it in your morning shower for quite the tingliest, most fragrant start to the day…

* Raid your ribbon box and thread length after length through the holes in your children’s baby-hood cellular blankets for a cosy , up-cycled cover up on cool Summer nights.

* Re-purpose old, but lovely spirit bottles by re-filling them with bath oil in the bathroom, or ironing water in the laundry room. The exotic liqueur bottles you tend to acquire on holiday are just perfect…

* Set up a permanent tent in the garden for shady reading. Make it as pretty as you can and fill it with an abundance of cushions and quilts so it is as comfortable as possible.

* Eat mint Raita and crudites for a cooling Summer lunch on hot days.

* Plant pots full of colourful Sweet Williams either side of your doorstep for a fragrant waft of cloves whenever you sweep by them…

* Give little girls empty mason jars and help them create tiny little bottled fairy worlds. Or do it yourself because that little girl still lives inside you.

* Fill the garden with paper pom-poms and invite the girls round for a Summer evening soiree…

* Grab your babba’s next time it rains and take them dancing around the garden in a warm Summer afternoon shower. Joy like nothing else!

* Make home-made fly paper by dipping lengths of strong brown parcel paper into a mixture of equal parts sugar, golden syrup and water, boiled until it thickens. Allow to dry in the fresh air for half an hour, then bring back inside to use wherever flies are clustering.

* Re-read Larkrise to Candleford while devouring glorious big fat slices of Victoria Sponge stuffed with cream and strawberries at their plumpest best.

* Write your Mum a thank-you letter, including a photograph of the two of you on one of your childhood summer holidays. She misses those days…

* Add a drop of essence of violets to a pot of raspberry jam for a burst of summer fragrance on your morning croissant.

* Make gin & tonic ice lollies for an all grown up treat on a hot night.

* Turn an apron into a domestic work-of-art by layering it with stitched on doilies, teeny little flowers, rows of ribbon and embroidered floral sentiment. Really go to town on creating something beautiful and mark your sense of domestic bliss for always.

* Plant kitchen herbs in cheap and cheerful glass sundae dishes for a happy, burst of summer on your kitchen table.

* It’s that time again! Remove two things from every surface in your home.

* Bottle jar after jar of pickled shallots for the perfect addition to Saturday afternoon Ploughman’s lunches.

* Fill a bowl with pebbles and soak your feet in a bowl full of cold water, lemon juice and a splash of vodka for a zesty, antiseptic way to attend to swollen Summer feet.

* Stitch square head scarves on to the front of over-sized cushions for an instant Summer transformation: particularly lovely with vintage, illustrated souvenir scarves.

* Turn an over-ripe avocado into a face mask. Simply mash and stir in a spoonful of runny honey and four teaspoons of cider vinegar, et voila: happy, energised, smooth skin…

* Surprise the kids with ice-cream for breakfast. Add “sprinkles” with  cereal, muesli and fruit.

* Stitch the edge of a pretty lace table runner to a too-short t-shirt…

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