A tiny, tidy kitchen for five: how we maximise space in a 70 square foot kitchen

A tiny, tidy kitchen for five: how we maximise space in a 70 square foot kitchen

Our kitchen is a little rabbit hole, or perhaps more appropriately, the entrance to a rabbit hole, tucked away below ground in the basement. It is hidden at the bottom of a flight of pokey stairs, indirectly lit by a skylight; at 70 square feet, there is neither room for a table nor for chairs. When there's more than two grown-ups down there at a time, we dance inelegantly around cupboard doors. It's cosy.  Add three little ones into the mix, and our dance is more of a bump as small people weave between our legs. Our slim fridge with its barely-there freezer compartment squeezes into an alcove - perfect for the food shop of a young couple, perhaps. Not quite what you'd expect for a growing family of five with very hungry children.

I have dreams of a large, light filled kitchen full of windows, perhaps overlooking a garden or a sun room. There'd be a big table and a bench where the kids could do homework or paint or drink milk after school. In these dreams though, it's not more storage space I'm hankering after (the idea of more space, more storage and more things makes me itch); it's mostly just the light I dream of, and the room for us all to move and flow comfortably enough in the same space at the same time. Oh, but I've seen these kitchens! I tell myself we'll have one, one day.

Meanwhile, I don't hate my kitchen either (for what would be the point in that?). She is petite, but she is neat and she is all we have. On the best of days, we high-five and we tell each other we don't need a bigger place at all. This is how we make it work and how perhaps you can too, if you face the same challenges of small dimensions too.

Embracing Autumn, a new term and new beginnings

Embracing Autumn, a new term and new beginnings

I thought my eyes would be misty from sadness, writing this post. I wanted to write something about September, about the fading of one beautiful summer, about the chill in the air, about two of my three little boys growing up too fast, starting their own journeys into school that I might not always be a part of.

But I am not sad. The air is not chilly, not yet, but just simply softer. There are snatches of sunlight slanting first thing in the morning, then again in the afternoon. I notice it filtering through the as yet ungilded leaves on to the flat pavements and it reminds me that we are lingering, still, between seasons but also ready for time to move along. Cardigans and jumpers have been carefully washed, buttons sewn back onto heavy coats, wellies cleaned of caked-on mud, probably leftover from last year. We don't need them yet though. We are waiting.

Thoughtful Little Things

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A notebook while you read

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Sometimes you come across a sentence that leaves you breathless with its beauty, which haunts you, mesmerises you and you simply can't stop thinking about it. It might even bring you to tears, without you even realising why. I'm sure it's not just me. How to capture the words that have been so crafted by those with such mastery? How to keep that moment? Why, in a note pad of course. I keep a tiny one with me always when I read, small enough to tuck inside whatever book I happen to be reading, small enough to seem insignificant and yet it is full of such beauty by writers so much greater than me. I happen to use this tiny little notebook, but anything that suits you goes. 

It used to be that I'd underline these sentences but a long time ago, that stopped being enough. You underline, you turn a corner, you forget it all when the book goes back in its place on the shelf. But the act of copying words out, transcribing from one page to another, in your own hand, helps it settle a little, forever in your head and your heart.

Did this Thoughtful Little Things capture a piece of you? If so, I will be covering how to read with a writer's eye and writer's mind in my writing course, The Quiet Words, which is now open for enrolment. Visit my courses page to find out more. 

Why I Write: My Writer's Manifesto

Why I Write: My Writer's Manifesto

Last week, I had the wonderful pleasure of being interviewed by Kayte at Simple and Season for her podcast, Grow with Soul. Kayte wanted to talk to me all about my writing - my love for it, and my story into it -  and my particular episode comes out on Friday (you can listen here or subscribe here). It's not often that you get to talk at length about something you love to someone that's genuinely interested, so I'm so grateful and excited to appear on it (and please accept my excuses for any extra waffling in advance).

Since Kayte and I spoke, the excitement of launching The Quiet Words this week has started to feel real. I believe in this course so much. I have created something that has a big part of me inside it because I feel that sharing stories is what makes us human. It carries the words that I wished someone might have gently whispered to me, every time I struggled with feeling like I wasn't good enough to write, when objectively I was. The Quiet Words comes from a place of heartfelt trust.

My story of how I became a writer - how it's all I'd ever wanted to do, how I tried to find my writing path, lost it for a while and came back to it - is all here. But when Kayte asked me why writing means so much to me, I couldn't simply put it into just a few short words. I don't remember exactly what I might have said, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a short, succinct answer (and you know me by now - brevity isn't my strong point). So why does writing matter to me? Well, because, because, because...


September Thoughts

September Thoughts

Summer is over. I swear they don't even look like this anymore.

His first set of school shirts are hanging up in his wardrobe already, white like first snow (for now at least). He has grown this summer, a seedling watered and fed under the sun for what feels like forever. Now he's all elbows and knees, buttons and collars, trousers and ties - and cheekbones too. It's bittersweet for all of us. An unknown, yet exciting; this is what I'm telling him while a part of me aches, wishes I was better at patience, wishes I could keep him with me for longer.

Finding my still

Finding my still

Sometimes, I don't always take my own advice. Sometimes, I am not grounded or rested or calm. Sometimes, I snap at the kids. Sometimes, we all get upset. Sometimes, I get swept up in late nights stuck in front of my computer screen, trying to finish a blog post or put the finishing touches to my course and when this happens, I wear myself out. My eyes throb from the tiredness of it all, from all the conflicting emotions going around as I try to figure out a million things, from how to be a better mother to how to figure out what I'm doing with my career to what to make for dinner tomorrow. Sometimes, when I'm pushed right to the edge of my energy levels, I crave more space than I can find in our little home, space I feel I need to breathe, and then, when it all gets to this point, when I feel like the walls are closing in, that's when I can't sleep. 

And that's where, I'm sorry to have to admit it, I've been lately: staring into the blankness in the middle of the night, the street lights seeping in through the shutters. I generally try to be intentional in the way in which I balance the stuff that makes up my daily life, especially when it comes to my kids, but when I get to this point and I can't sleep - which is hardly ever, incidentally, but when it does happen, it is still quite distressing - then it's the big, loud, screeching wake up call I need to slow it right the way back down. It's when I need to remember to breathe. It's when I need to find what I call my still.

Finding my still is sort of like my mind taking a nap, my soul curling up under the covers. It's the way I retreat into myself. It's the way I find calm and balance. It helps me in everything I do, all the roles I hold from wife, mother and creative, writer, too.

Thoughtful Little Things

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A scented mist to fill your room

Bergamot, geranium and sweet orange. It's what summer smells like in our house. I am not an expert on essential oils (I leave that to my girls Gemma and Laura) but my nose likes what it likes. And so these three oils fill our days, gently fizzing out of our diffuser in a steady stream. Sometimes I switch it up and swap geranium out for lavender, especially as night falls. I like the lightness that floats through the air. I like the way it wraps around us, shafts of scents we cannot see but somehow make us feel lighter, brighter. I like that this is what home smells like.

My diffuser is not the prettiest but neither is it the ugliest. It is, however, practical in a way that an open flame is not (although if ever a flame was to be described as practical, then I wouldn't hesitate for this). It was one of the first purchases we made for our first home together, we carried it home awkwardly on the crowded tube, and it has stood the test of time for years and so, with that, it holds some meaning too. That we shopped not for towels and crockery but for something that would fill our home with the fragrance of flowers and woods and fruit. 

The act of pouring fresh water in, dropping the oils in one by one - well, it's as pleasing as making that perfect cup of tea, and without it, there's always something missing.

 

Thanks for reading Thoughtful Little Things, a series of mini blog posts to help simplify your everyday and add a little scattering of thoughtfulness, a little simple joy, prettiness and calm to the daily stuff that makes up life. 

 

 

How I maintain a calm and tidy home with children

How I maintain a calm and tidy home with children

There's a magical moment that comes every day, around 7pm, when all my children are in bed and I step down the hallway, alone for the first time since morning, and tread lightly down the stairs so as not to stir any little boys that are not yet in a deep sleep. I pass into our lounge and there I sit in silence, waiting to make sure they are asleep, listening for shuffles and mumbles and those little sighs. While I wait, evening shadows pass like clouds over the wall and the sky shifts across the skylight, the light softer and gentler now. 

The last thing I want to do in this magical moment is be on my hands and knees, picking up building blocks and tidying toys away. And so in a roundabout way, I don't, because I've taken steps to keep that at bay.

After years of neglecting my own well-being for the sake of bylines and deadlines, I have come to value clarity and calmness and being kinder to myself. This is what I want our home to feel like - calm, uncluttered, loving and warm - and I try to infuse these feelings into our home because as a family, an immediate sense of calm grounds us and helps us be kinder to each other too.