July 2016 // Spurred on by elegance and scruffy hospitality

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Photo credit: T Kendal

I began and ended July distracted by life’s unexpected twists and turns (more details in a future post). This seems to have left little mental space to explore a coherent theme; instead I’ve been a magpie, collecting varied ideas this month.

I was challenged and encouraged by this praise of ‘scruffy hospitality’; when the invitation for dinner is extended whatever the state of the house, and the food on offer. The author goes on a wonderful journey to realisation that her friendships aren’t contingent on whether she dusts before people arrive. I think that tidying and preparing a meal can be an expression of love, a demonstration of care and dedication for the recipients. Something has gone wrong though when we feel required to present a pristine home and a four course meal, when we feel our threshold can’t be crossed until we’ve cleaned it first. This is a good reminder to jump into community, whatever the state of things.

In the past I’ve primarily listened to podcasts by individuals but at the moment I’m really enjoying the collaborative nature of dialogues. Two people in conversation, exploring ideas, together. I found my way to Tim Ferris’s treasure trove of podcasts via this discussion with Maria Popova aka Brain Picker. I have always found her stuff to be worth reading or hearing.

I delved into and emerged out the other end of the French novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog  in June but my thoughts have turned to it again and again this month so it seems worthy of a mention. The characters are onderfully conceived and revealed throughout. There were routes I hoped, but was never certain, the plot would take. The end had me weeping like I haven’t in years. Read it.

This article on how what you read matters is a helpful…well…read. My caveat is that context is key. If you want to improve your writing, then it is advice worth taking. If you want to switch off for a while, it’s probably ok to read what you fancy. As with most diets – edible or literary – diversity and moderating binges seem preferable.

I appreciate the author’s honesty in this article about their efforts to live without throwaway plastic as part of Plastic Free July – a month-long campaign encouraging people to think about the amount of disposable plastic in their lives and, more importantly, what they can do about it. This article reminds me that we all have a role to play: consumers to buy less and plan more to minimise sudden purchases, but also designers and innovators to make better products and design out disposable plastic more. We all need to recognise where adjustments can and should be made.

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We’ve taken one more step in this area ourselves, baking homemade cereal bars instead of buying the individually wrapped supermarket variety. It’s certainly reduced the amount of packaging involved but I need to explore bulk buying more because thus far some of the ingredients have come in… plastic.

In spite of the distractions we’ve enjoyed a touch more of summer in England throughout July. The garden has thrived. Homegrown salad has graced our table each week. Bike rides have been sun-kissed and spent seeking dappled shade as I realise I don’t have any suncream on. Again. Maybe I’ll learn, just in time for Autumn.

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This is part of a monthly series on the things that spur me on to keep going with intentional living. What has spurred you on recently?

Today’s soundtrack:

Making from scraps // sunglasses case

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I realised that I needed new sunglasses when wearing my existing pair didn’t actually enable me able to see the world any better. True, they blocked out the glare, but they were so scratched that in dappled light they rendered me virtually blind. This seemed not ideal.

Mindful about where to source a new (to me) purchase from, I took a £2.99 risk and ordered a pair from Oxfam’s online shop. I’ve had previous successes from there and I’m pleased to report the sunglasses have not ruined my track record. They fit perfectly, are in great condition, and fulfil that all important role of protecting my eyes and sight on sunny days. Continue reading

June 2016: Spurred on by audible mosaics and the dark side

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June has been a strange month. Starting with hints of gloriously warm summer days to come, it ended with thunder storms and a return to the wooly jumper. We’ve been exploring landscapes. Walking Devon cliff tops on foot; cycling up the Isle of Wight’s hills to attain a viewpoint of ‘the Needles’ stunning rocky outcrops. Once there, I mostly took photos of nearby rusting metal. Perhaps there’s no accounting for taste.  Continue reading

Bringing Clarity

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As a teenager I was never much of a magazine reader. I wasn’t sufficiently interested in the topics dominating the magazines marketed at me to consider them worth spending actual pounds on. I invested my money on books instead, erroneously writing off the sector from my interests and my purse. I’ve since discovered there are magazines out there looking at the topics, lifestyle and issues that interest and inspire me (one got a mention in this blog post). Even better, over the last few months I’ve had the privilege of being part of bringing one into being.  Continue reading

The Bees

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When I saw on Twitter that Kew Gardens (a Royal Botanical Gardens and botanical research institute, for non-UK readers) were giving away free packets of wild flower seeds, my first thought (after ‘FREE STUFF!’ – love a bargain) was, ‘I know people who will get on board with this’. The couple of months between ordering the seeds and receiving them had, to be honest, rather put the initiative out of my mind. I’d also failed to tell my husband, so he was welcomed home one day with: “I forgot to to tell you I ordered 100 packets of seeds! Where shall we plant them?” Plant some we did, the rest we distributed to eager hands – friends and colleagues glad to be easily enabled to be part of the ‘Grow Wild’ initiative. Continue reading