15 things I am grateful for

I thought I would write about 15 things I am grateful for right now in my life – of course this list does not cover everything I am grateful for, just some of the things which sprung to mind.

  1. Clean water. Earlier today I saw a photo of a little girl drinking water out of a puddle in order to stay hydrated so I am most definitely grateful to be able to turn on the tap and have not only clean drinking water but also hot water when I want to get washed.
  2. Food – Although our financial situation isn’t good we can still afford healthy food so I am grateful for that.
  3. Partner – With billions of people on the planet I consider myself incredibly lucky to have met my partner and be in a loving long-term relationship.
  4. Pets – I have two gorgeous pets whom I love and adore, is there anything better than getting licked by a happy pet who wants to show their affection?
  5. Technology – I recently had my laptop revamped and I am enjoying it so much more now! I’m so grateful it’s so easy for me to write and edit stories and blog posts.
  6. Sight – Although I need an eye test right now I’m super grateful to be able to see all the different colours in the world – seeing wonderful colour scheme combinations on Pinterest makes me so happy!
  7. Hot drinks – There’s something so wonderful about hot drinks whether it’s British tea, coffee or hot chocolate, I really enjoy a hot drink and usually have at least one a day.
  8. My phone – My partner picked out my phone for me as he thought the dual lens camera would really suit me. It turns out he was right, I love this camera and I really enjoy recording snippets of our lives.
  9. NHS – Although the NHS is not perfect and is currently underfunded I’ve had some great experiences on the NHS and I never want to see it replaced with a private health care system.
  10. Literacy – Around 1 in 10 people worldwide are illiterate so I am super grateful to be able to read and enjoy books via my local library or second hand.
  11. Food diversity – When I was growing up food was a lot less diverse than it was now but over the past few years I’ve been blessed to try Spanish tapas, Japanese sushi, Mexican and eastern European cuisines. I really enjoy having such a wide variety available – it makes life really interesting!
  12. Internet – I’m still that annoying kid at heart who wants to ask 100 questions a day about the world, luckily for my family I now have Google!
  13. Legs  – Everyday I like to take a short walk at least, though I often I go for longer walks where I find new places or just get some fresh air and thinking time so I’m going to add my legs to this list!
  14. Central heating – As someone who seems to be permanently cold, I am super grateful for central heating and can almost always be found next to a radiator.
  15. Video – I really love watching a wide variety of things, usually documentary-style programs – lately I am engrossed in restoration and renovation projects – the transformation of spaces from uninhabitable to a home one again. And all of this is only possible through the invention of video.

So there you have it, 15 things I am grateful for – what are you grateful for today? Share with me in the comments below!

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How your lottery win dreams can help you understand what you want from life

I’ve always shied away from spending too much time daydreaming, as I felt that it could quite easily become an unhealthy behaviour, and I also tend to agree with Dumbledore that:

‘It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Remember that.’

However the last few months have really gotten me down and I’ve found myself wondering constantly about winning a large sum of money. I read story after story about lottery winners, what to do if you win a large sum of money and even began watching YouTube real estate tours of multi-million dollar mansions.

I knew that this was not a healthy behaviour to be indulging in, but I could not see a way forward in my life, so I continued. As each day passed my plans become more and more specific and detailed – it was a way to escape my real life problems.

However, something surprising happened. By giving myself free reign to image my life without constraints and boundaries or the usual run of the mill problems, it gave me a lot of insight into what I desire, where my life is lacking and what kind of person I am.

Overall I realised that I don’t need or want nearly as much money as I initially thought – I began at 9 figures and by the end I realised that around £250,000 would get me the vast majority of what I desire. It also forced me to think about what aspects of my life wouldn’t change if I won the lottery (or essentially any other kind of scenario where life’s usual problems and hurdles are absent). All in all, I’ve found my month down the rabbit hole to be quite enlightening as what kind of direction I need to be heading in. So, what did I learn about myself and my life while I was in Wonderland?

What did I learn

1. I don’t want a mansion

  • Maintenance – I grew up spending my Saturday mornings like many other teenagers – watching Cribs. Back then I saw nothing bad about the huge houses that the featured celebrities lived in. Now I’m older (and a little wiser) I was surprised to realise I didn’t lust after the mansions I was looking at. Not only did most of them look cold, empty and like it would take forever to get anywhere but I also found out that some of the mansions I was looking at cost around £20,000-£108,000 per month just to maintain. Imagine having to find that kind of money every month indefinitely just to live in your house, before you’ve bought food, gone anywhere or done anything…! One thing I found particularly interesting is that shows like Cribs sold you the dream of wanting a mansion without mentioning just how much these places cost to upkeep – it’s little wonder then that through my research I found swathes of people who had either earnt or won big money and gone on to buy multi-million dollar mansions, only to lose them or go bankrupt due to the crazy cost of upkeep!
  • Security – One thing that struck me was that living in such a large house would make it difficult to be aware of your surroundings and that many large homes have been broken into without their owners even noticing, which I would think is in part due to the sheer size of the house.
  • Cool…or not? – As I continued to watch real estate videos I couldn’t help but wonder what the point was of many features. What use was owing 21 bathrooms when even with an average sized family of four you’d struggle to need more than 2 at any one time even if everyone was home all day every day. Or let’s assume that you like to throw a party a few times a year – why not just hire a venue for one night rather than spend 365 days a year paying to maintain, heat and clean rooms that are not in use the majority of the time?
    I also found out that some uber rich people have things like a whole room dedicated just to wrapping gifts, or just to store suitcases in. It also seemed like every mansion came with its own bowling alley, tennis court, pool, theatre and so on. Another mansion had about 10 televisions in it at least which made me wonder what the point of having all that wealth was if you were just going to spend it in front of a TV – you could live that lifestyle for far less than the £5 million advertised without all the maintenance!
    Many of these homes seemed like an island unto themselves – but where’s the fun in staying in your home constantly? Whatever happened to going out and seeing the world with friends? Most of these mansions seemed geared towards a reclusive lifestyle – there’s nothing wrong with that by the way, I’m quite the recluse myself – but when it’s every single house and you have the money and potential to go anywhere in the world and do anything, I had to wonder – why?

Overall my experience of looking at mansions and mega mansions was to realise how much I crave a family home full of life, fun, love, joy and vitality rather than owning masses of empty, unused rooms for the pure sake of it.

2. I don’t want an expensive car

It seems almost a given that everyone who wins a large sum of money must want several expensive cars. I have never been particularly good at driving but luckily I do enjoy going for long walks – except when I have a lot to carry or the weather is really bad and I have to do it out of necessity – still, a car would be a great asset even if we only used it part time for bringing heavy shopping home. Yet even with my imaginary 9-figure-unlimited-spending-power I quickly realised I had zero real desire to buy an expensive fleet of cars. In fact all I dreamt of was a nice four-door car in grey, white or black. Even with driving lessons all this could probably all be achieved for less than 10% of the £250,000 many lottery winners have spent on a single car.

3. I don’t want designer clothes

Along with the huge house, fleet of cars comes the expected expensive wardrobe, but when I started looking at what kind of clothes are sold for thousands of pounds a piece I was unimpressed to say the least. The vast majority of these ‘designer’ outfits I would pay thousands not to wear! I honestly felt as though if the tag was for a low-cost brand no one would even dream of buying these hideous outfits, but because it had a designer label on it suddenly it was desirable and worth paying thousands for! I also felt that once you got past a certain price point it became less about quality and more about paying for a specific label.
Over the years I’ve typically bought from supermarket clothing ranges and Primark, having looked at designer wardrobes and labels I now think that I’d like to splash out a couple of hundred for a nice pair of boots but otherwise I’d quite content to shop at NEXT.

4. I don’t want to go to 5 star hotels

I thought back to when we once went to a 5 star hotel how out of place we both felt. Although I wanted to relax I felt like I had to dress up and wear makeup and even then I still felt awkward. When you feel out of place you aren’t comfortable and feel like you cannot be yourself – that’s not exactly how I’d want financial freedom to feel.

So, what do I want?

When you take out all of these big ticket items what is there left to do with a significant win? Well I didn’t just learn about what I didn’t want – and therefore stop thinking about wanting it – I also learnt a lot about what I really do want. My overall conclusion is that I actually want a rather ordinary life, and that although right now things feel totally hopeless and out of reach, nothing I want is anywhere close to being 9-figures out of reach. Perhaps surprisingly the vast majority of the things I wanted came down to a few basic things repeated over until a pattern emerged (and therefore later, a plan):

  • A home – I crave a secure and stable base – having been homeless once as a child, again as an adult and then almost again a third time as a student before ending up in low-end unsafe rentals and always being left to wonder if we would become homeless, a home was top of my list. A modest house I could decorate, furnish and make into a warm, loving space for gathering family and friends, work from home and relax in is number one on my list. I also aspire a lot to remove the technology from the bedroom – having lived in a spare bedroom or in tiny flats for a long time, I’m really sick of not having a designated space just for sleep and relaxing that isn’t full of papers, books, laptops, computers and so on.
  • Health – The second thing that came up over and over was spending on health related matters – whether that was muscle massage, sauna, private therapy, dental treatment or an updated eye test – over and over again I saw that many things came back to wanting to better my physical and emotional well-being.
  • Writing room – Another thing that kept coming up again and again was a strong desire for a designated space for writing – a room I could decorate to inspire my writing and shut the rest of the world out while I got to work.
  • Freedom from the pressure to work – Having been in poor health for a while I would love to know that I could provide for myself and my family long-term without the pressures of working while ill or fear I will become too ill to even push through the day. Another alternative that came up was the desire to work from home, preferably at writing.
  • Outdoors – I’ve always dreamt of having my own garden with a vegetable patch, greenhouse and orchard and this dream really came to the forefront when I was imagining what I would do with £119 million!
  • Charity – Helping others was also high on my list with dreams of doing a huge food bank shop at a supermarket, or going to Toys R Us to shop for charities like Toys for Tots. Other ideas were to help friends get on the property ladder or donating to Shelter Scotland – the thought of being able to help others even more got me genuinely excited! We already help as much as we can but with our own precarious situation there comes limits as to how much we can help – a large win would remove that restraint. I truly believe that there is greater joy in gifting presents to others than to receive!

So there you have it – I learnt a lot by ‘wasting’ my time dreaming and it’s definitely given me food for thought about how I might go about actually achieving this kind of life. I really believe that by imagining my dream life without constraints, boundaries or problems has given me great insight into the steps that I need to take next to begin that journey in 2018. In fact I’ve already scoped out many solutions to taking those first steps. I also felt reassured that everything I want is not nearly as far out of reach as I had previously been feeling.

Have you ever dreamed of winning the lottery? What would you do? Do you think that imagining a life without constraints might help you envisage the path you need to take to be happier and more fulfilled in life? Share with me in the comments below! And Happy New Year!

Spicy Parsnip Soup Recipe

I don’t know about you but I love a good spicy parsnip soup! Unfortunately for me it’s not a common type of soup to find canned in the supermarket. The only brand I can find in the UK, whilst tasty, is also expensive. Since I’m on a budget I decided to make my own from scratch. I read a few recipes but none sounded right so I got to work and made my own perfect spicy parsnip soup. Not only is it full of vegetables which are great for your health but it’s super delicious too! Here it is:

Ingredients

  • 3 parsnips
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • Butter (I never measure butter while cooking I just add as needed)
  • Gelatin
  • Double cream

Spices

  • Salt (I used iodised salt here)
  • Black pepper
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Fenugreek
  • Ginger
  • All spice
  • Tumeric
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Rosemary

Method

1. Heat up a tray in the oven with plenty of butter.

2. Cut the parsnips and carrot into quarters and put them in the oven for 25 minutes until they start to soften. Turn over and add more butter on top when/if needed.

3. While the root vegetables roast, chop the onion and garlic clove and cook in butter on medium heat in a large soup saucepan.

4. Boil the kettle and mix up the stock cube before adding it to your pot, then add the celery.

5. Once your parsnips have softened a little, take them out of the oven and finish them by boiling in the pot. Add more water if necessary. I left my lid on at a slight angle to speed this up.

6. Add all the spices and a little gelatin. I didn’t measure anything out, I just added a sprinkle of everything – about the same as the amount of salt and pepper you would add to a dish, then taste.

7. Remove the soup from the hob and blend with an immersion blender. Add a little cream to taste and stir well. If necessary put back on the hob to warm before serving.

8. Serve with buttered rolls and enjoy!

If you make this soup please let me know if you enjoyed it, I would love to hear from you.

I’m now on Pinterest!

I recently made a new Pinterest account for my blog and I wanted to share it with you all – click here to follow me.

I use the account to pin ideas for my future home, well-being and health tips, organisation tips, cleaning tips, food and drink ideas and so on.

I’m a big lover of Pinterest and I hope you’ll join me over there!

Happy pinning!

Using it up: Going zero waste beyond packaging

I wanted to talk about something today regarding going zero waste. The focus of the zero waste movement so far has been about making no rubbish which has to go to landfill as well as producing fewer items for recycling. But recently I have been thinking about expanding the meaning of zero waste in my life.

The Chain of Waste

If I purchase a book, that book will have arrived at the bookstore in a large cardboard box along with either paper filler, bubble wrap, or plastic fillers to prevent damage; sometimes plastic wrap is also used. If I purchase an item of clothing in a store it will have arrived in store shrink wrapped in plastic which is removed before the item goes out on sale. If I purchase loose fruit and vegetables the trays used to transport that to a supermarket are still covered with large plastic liners. Whenever we purchase anything there is a whole trail of waste created right from the raw materials being mined, logged or manufactured all the way through to how that item reaches the store in order for us to purchase that item.

Therefore in order to further the zero waste lifestyle I feel that we must look at not only how much packaging we take home with us, but also consider how much waste was likely created for its production – after all, if we follow zero (home) waste, then we could purchase 100 items of clothing and recycle all 100 cardboard price tickets, and call this an ecological act.

I think when we consider the amount of waste created in order for a product to reach us, then we owe it to our wallets and to the environment to make sure that we use the items we purchase. After all if we buy 100 items but only use 2 then the resources and money required for those other items are being wasted.

A Culture of Hauls and Stashes

Being in many groups on Facebook for various hobbies over the years I have seen the rise in doing hauls, stashes and excessive buying grow in increasing popularity. There’s nothing wrong with a haul now and then but often I saw people buying far more of one particular type of item than what I could see them feasibly using in a lifetime – and that’s if they even decide to keep doing that same hobby for the next fifty or more years!
I used to be jealous, but now I reflected and I wonder how can you be jealous of people who buy things they will never use? If we don’t use something, what is the point in owning it? I don’t believe there is any joy to be gained in items that just sit and gather dust year after year, if anything the need to clean those items, maintain them, arrange them and so on just makes me long for the simple life! I’ve also seen a really ungrateful attitude with some people doing hauls – in one I watched as the poster opened box after box throwing the contents carelessly to one side!

My challenge to you

If you’re reading this blog I’m guessing it’s because you have either an interest in zero waste or minimalism, so here is my challenge to you for the following year – please let me know how you get on, I would love to hear your stories!

How many of us have books, DVD’s, clothes, various hobby paraphernalia lying around at home which never sees the light of day? I think everyone does to some degree so I’m challenging you to look around your home and ask yourself what you can prevent be wasted in your home. What books haven’t you read? What movies have you bought and never watched? Could you finish an old project you began? If you no longer have the same enthusiasm for a hobby anymore, could you pass on the related items on while they are still in good condition to prevent them being wasted? If you still enjoy your hobby what would it be like to have only one project at a time and stick with it until completion? Here’s a couple of key questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have items in your home being wasted through lack of use?
  • Could you make a commitment to using those items up before purchasing new ones?
  • If you no longer wish to use the item, can you donate it to a charity or friend who will use it?

My commitment

Of course I am not going to challenge you to something I am not prepared to do myself so here’s a couple of plans I have for 2018 with regards to not wasting items.

  • For a while now I have seen my interest in sewing decline with no renewal so I am planning to keep only the threads I need to finish my 2 current projects and selling the rest to someone who will use them.
  • I also have a pile of maybe 15 books which are currently unread so in 2018 I will be working my way through the pile and donating the books afterwards.
  • For several months I have been working my way through my stack of notebooks and paper and am pleased to say I’ve finish several since I stopped buying. I’m hoping to get down to owning only 1 notebook in 2018 instead of 20 half-finished ones! (As a small side note I recycle all the paper I use.)

Let me know how you get on in the comments below!