savouring the simple things

Recent entries from Saraband
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Saraband6. My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding

This was our book club choice last month: our first autobiography. I was able to get it from the library for the cost of the reservation fee – very satisfying!

I like autobiographies although I’ve never read a “celebrity autobiography” before. And I like Clare Balding. I think she did a fantastic job at the summer Olympics; I think she’s an excellent presenter and thus communicator: clear, warm, tolerant and friendly. And this ability to communicate came across in her book. It was well-written and amusing and it wasn’t ghost-written.

She had a charmed early life in many ways, yet a harsh life in others. She was clearly fearless and self-reliant, a real pragmatist. She seems the very antithesis of me! Perhaps because she seems so different to me I struggled to get under her skin. At the end of the book I felt I knew more about her early life but I didn’t feel I knew anything about what makes her tick – and that’s what grabs my attention in a book, especially an autobiography.

Clare’s early life is about horses and dogs. Horses and dogs are not really my thing: I’m frightened of horses. I would have liked to have come away from the book with more understanding of the bond between horses and horse lovers. I didn’t. I found the many and various horses difficult to distinguish and wasn’t especially interested in them really. The dogs were easier. They were more memorable and I could understand their roles in Clare’s life.

It was easy enough to read a chapter and put the book down. There was no compunction to carry on – no cliffhangers, no desperate need to know what happens next. It wasn’t hard to read but it didn’t grip me either. That said – once I’d finished it, I found to my surprise that I rather missed Clare!

The book also generated a stimulating and enjoyable discussion at book club. Most others present saw Clare as unloved in her early life. Some, like me, saw a family that was outwardly undemonstrative but actually so closely bonded that Clare was absolutely secure in her parents’ love for her despite the lack of praise and cuddles. It always makes for a good evening when we help each other to see alternative perspectives and aspects we had missed :)

Note: Inspired by this book’s title I downloaded a sample of Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. I adored it! Well-written though Clare’s book was, it doesn’t hold a candle to this one!

gut 6

ps 3.5

gm 2 it was ok 1 month ago

Saraband2. Hannah Brencher - Love Letters to Strangers

Encouraged by Bob1623 ’s recommendation, I watched this short talk as part of my thinking about sending handwritten letters, a goal on my list at that time. Hannah’s passion and energy was inspiring and one day I hope to actively support her movement. Her website is beautiful :)

A feelgood talk that I enjoyed :) 1 month ago

SarabandSend handwritten letters?

I’m thinking: this has to be a fail. I’d like to say that I’ll come back to it but I’m not sure that I will. This goal has bugged me all of last month because I did nothing towards it. I wanted to; I just kept running out of time. Plus my handwriting is hopeless.

There again…

I did do something: I watched the TED talk on writing love letters to strangers (note to self: must add that to my TED goal). And I love the idea. But when it comes to writing the letters that I owe to friends and family, the ‘handwritten’ element has actually hindered rather than helped.

At the top of this post I was all ready to give up and mark this goal as ‘not worth it’. Now I’ve arrived here at the bottom of this post I’m rethinking. And reframing :)

The goal stays but with an edit: no longer ‘send handwritten letters’, instead – ‘send letters, cards and tokens’. I love getting things through the post (well – except bills of course). They might be handwritten, they might not. It doesn’t matter for me – what matters is the thought behind them.

I’m already getting ideas for this new goal now. It was originally going to be a one-month goal. Now it’s expanded into something ongoing and altogether more encompassing. I like this new goal. I’m looking forward to seeing progress :) 1 month ago

SarabandSaturday 1st March

Saturday. Awake and up unnecessarily early thanks to Harri, but there was a silver lining :)

Today I am thankful:

  • that the bird caught in our chimney this morning managed to escape unaided and hopefully unharmed
  • for the beautiful spring-like day, even though I was stuck underground and could only see a small patch of sky. It’s still a lovely way to have March begin :)
  • that I held my tongue over arriving at the cinema to find just one seat left
    Dashing home from work, leaving colleagues to finish up didn’t help in arriving on time when a certain person wasn’t ready, wouldn’t rush and needed 15 minutes to get prepared…
  • that I didn’t get lost driving to and from MK. I hate driving there; it all looks the same to me!
  • for being up at just the right moment to catch the most perfect “Hobbit” morning – my first of the year. Birds singing, trees silhouetted against the lightening sky – ribboned with palest blue and gold, and a deep band of spiralling mist masking the far hedge along the field and slowly rolling towards me as I watched. Perfect :) 1 month ago

SarabandFebruary 2014

Monthly review:

Weekly Budgets
Food budget: surprisingly ended slightly in the red. But I’m not concerned. I know the reasons for this; I made informed choices and it will even itself out this month.

Petrol: nice little surplus built up which is good news as I know I’ll be traveling more than usual this month

Other: as predicted last month’s deficit has turned around and I have a small surplus. Nothing to get excited about but it means I’m on target. I’m finding this more detailed budgeting system so helpful in deciding when to spend and when to step away. And I continue to find ways in which to be frugal. It all adds up!

Monthly budget
I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul at the moment. So far this year unanticipated (and unavoidable) expenditure has totalled more than I earn in a month. This is not ideal but I’m keeping careful notes of everything. If the property purchase comes off as I hope, the situation here will change significantly – much of the anticipated expenditure later in the year will no longer be required. So for now I shall continue on the same course with my monthly budget, record carefully, take the occasional extra shift, juggle the money in the pot and wait to see what happens with the sale. 1 month ago

SarabandFinishing up February

My plan to walk another 2 miles on the final day of Feb didn’t come off: weather not good, feeling a touch tired. But that’s ok, and it means my February total for the month is 28 – I like that!

This month I walked a great 28!

And next comes March. A longer month + better weather + lighter evenings = more miles? I hope so!

Miles walked in January: 23

Miles walked in February: 28

Total for the year so far: 511 month ago

SarabandSo hard...

.. when a strong couple are separated in this way. Sounds too, like she has a strong network around her. With you as her friend she will be in good hands as she finds her way through this difficult time :)

x 1 month ago

Sarabandlike this you mean?

:D 1 month ago

SarabandMeditate in March

This one chose itself: I plan to focus on meditation this month anyway.

I’ve been trying to meditate on and off for years but so far I’ve not established a habit. Recently I’ve tried to meditate for just 5 mins a day as often as I can. Also I’m 3 weeks into a weekly written meditative practice.

It’s tempting to create a goal to meditate every day this month but in line with the blueprint I seek to establish I’m going to avoid being so prescriptive. (And besides, I missed yesterday so the goal falls down already! :D)

Instead, I intend to continue with my 5-minute practice as often as I can – daily being the ideal, with my weekly written practise every Sunday as I’ve been doing lately. Also I’d like to mix things up with a few longer guided meditations sprinkled in here and there. Variety is always good! 1 month ago

SarabandWorthwhile :)

This month’s mindfulness focus was easier than the one before (let go of control). There is a difference between control and expectations: I find it more difficult to notice when I’m clinging to control and easier to notice when I’m looking at expectations. I also find it much easier to let go of expectations once I’ve noticed them. Control gets a far tighter hold and is more difficult to prise off.

Because I recognised that letting go of control was harder than I thought, I gave it a goal of its own. I’m going to tweak the name of that goal now to include letting go of expectations as well. It makes sense since they are closely related :)

It’s been a good month for this focus though and I’m finding the practice of having a mindfulness focus for the month is helpful. On to the next one!

:) 1 month ago

SarabandPride be dammed!

Yes!!!! You are so right :) There can be no place for pride when you are dealing with demons like depression and anxiety: it’s more about be open, sharing and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. That is so very hard to do when you’re already down on yourself for being where you are in the first place. Well done to you and your friends for being honest and receptive.

So pleased to hear you’re feeling a bit better today :) 1 month ago


If that’s what an unmotivated month looks like for you, letterboxer, I can’t begin to imagine what a motivated month might look like!

Great list of achievements :) 1 month ago


Dear me – what an adventure for your cake! I’m so glad no one was hurt.

I hope Lillian got to see the amazing photos you’ve shared with us. At least then she will see clearly what it looked like when it set out for her party :) 1 month ago

SarabandNot just gorgeous..

... but stylish too!

As ever of course!1 month ago


Exactly what letterboxer has said: great post :)

and a successful, musical, springlike month to you too O-M! 1 month ago

SarabandTwo Few New Things in February!

There were several things this month that I had hoped would make it onto this list but for various reasons haven’t happened. So a meagre list for February:

This month I:

  • joined my local library
  • made a successful flourless, sugar-free sponge


  • enjoy some very posh chocolates
  • make candles
  • begin learning Italian

Ah well – along comes March!

:) 1 month ago

SarabandI know ...

... exactly what you mean :)

And what a Marvellous “M” list – thank you Crunchy! I had Meditate and Mindful already but so many new ideas there; I’m excited at the prospect of including as many as possible! I can’t add much to your suggestions yet – beyond merry, marvellous, magnificent and munificent. (I’m quite liking the notion of munificence :D)

I’m going to keep things simple at this early end of the month and add the relevant “M” adjectives as they manifest :)

Let’s see what March brings us! 1 month ago

SarabandGetting started :)

I’ve been mulling over how I want to approach this month’s bootcamp. Seems sensible to start with what I’ve gained/learned from the camps so far.

I’ve learned that focus and success mean different things to each of us. Obvious of course, but it’s important to me to stay true to my definitions of those concepts: to how they work best for me :)

I have to be careful that focus doesn’t impede flow and presence. If I push too hard to make something happen – to cross it off my list – I lose both of those things. I give space to that part of me which judges my progress and my ability to succeed; which nags and criticises and is generally stressed and negative.

So my Blueprint for Success this month is simple in principle if less so in practice. I shall be focussing on the present moment: allowing each day, each week – this month – to unfold as it will; enjoying what unfolds and being as alert as I can be to the experience of the moment.

This doesn’t mean I don’t plan to have goals; it’s more about how tightly I cling to those goals.

(And it doesn’t mean I won’t play around with alliterative adjectives: it was fun and worthwhile last month!) 1 month ago

Saraband 2 months ago

SarabandWrapping up the Fabulous February chapter

How Fickle February can be – it was miserable outside today after yesterday’s gloriousness. Weather-wise, February ended as it began – wet! For me also, February ended as it began – on a warm and glowing high note. But was it great? Re-reading entries for this month the word that jumps out seems to be Frustrating. Now I can look back at the entire month was that really the case? Time for a recap to close off this chapter :)

I aimed for a February that was as Fulfilling, as Fun and even more Frugal than January.

There were to be five “F”s in my February:
• Focus
• Frugality
• Fun
• Fulfillment
• Fabulousness

February was definitely more Frugal – big tick there.

And equally as Fulfilling though not in the way I’d imagined.
Fulfillment was found in personal growth and understanding – not something I’d expected but always welcome of course :)

February wasn’t as much fun: there were less opportunities for new and/or fun things, and B’s ankle injury scuppered some plans.

Focus is the most interesting of my “F”s: in many ways February was more problematic than inspiring; more pressured than pleasing and that was because of Focus. Trying to Force things, to make them happen as I want and when I want is not the way Forward for me. So much better to let things Flow; to let things unfold. I need to reflect on how I apply Focus.

And Fabulousness: I’m so glad I included Fabulousness in February! For myself Feb was a quiet unremarkable month though it has seen me spend more time on pampering myself in small but lovely ways. The real Fabulousness of February though, has been for the Family. This month has seen:
  • 3 Fabulous new jobs within the Family. E got exactly the job she wanted as she prepares to return from maternity leave and her husband, S, received and accepted a potentially amazing job offer. Life could be dramatically different for them by the end of this year. R’s girlfriend, Esz has also got a new job – her first hopefully permanent position after a long period of temporary contracts and in a field she enjoys.
  • R & Esz announced their plans to live together – Fabulous news when I think of all R has been through. (Esz has her own troubled history also – I’m so happy for them both.) And their decision has led to my decision to sell my current Flat and downsize into one that R & Esz can rent from me – a Fabulous win-win situation if it comes off.
  • The final piece of Family news can’t yet be described as Fabulous but it’s certainly hopeful and encouraging. Mum’s appointment with the consultant was positive and constructive and may mean something can be done to help her, which would indeed be Fab!

Specific goals in Feb:

  • Mindfulness Focus: let go of expectations
    I learned a lot here.
  • Financial Focus: continue to budget with awareness and make careful, informed choices
    This continues to go well.
  • Financial Focus: explore the possibility of selling my flat
    I was exploring and then events pulled everything together. Could be perfect!
  • Self-care Focus: continue brushing up on oral hygiene
    Yes, I’m done here :)
  • Self-care Focus: create a blood sugar readings graph
    Not exactly but I’m happy with the way I’m recording the data.
  • Self-care Focus: create a list of low-carb, slow-cooker recipes
  • Self-care Focus: create a list of low-carb, high protein soups I can make for work lunches in the colder months
  • Self-care Focus: introduce some ten-ups, reintroduce regular stretching and planks
  • Creativity Focus: designate February as a month for Fabulous hand-written letters
    Fail! This Focus just caused unnecessary stress :)
  • Creativity Focus: knit a snood
    Finished and using it all the time :) (Must take photo)
  • Creativity Focus: make candles
    Second Fail – though the opportunity was missed because of B’s injured ankle.

Compiling this list helps me to see that February certainly wasn’t wasted and had some Great happenings within it for the wider family circle. For me personally it seems that chapter two of this year has been a continuation of the first: more Foundation-building with the promise of much more to come :)

Thank you for a great 28! 1 month ago

SarabandFriday 28th February

Friday. Dark. Wet. And cold. Brrrrr

Today I am thankful for:

  • looooong hours of good quality, restorative sleep.
  • insights into what’s best for my health
  • supportive advice from property agents
  • floating through tasks with love in my heart
  • the feeling when everything comes together 1 month ago

SarabandDoes food affect mood?

Definitely for me. Early last year when I got the prediabetes diagnosis I went off piste from the dietary guidelines given by uk doctors and switched to low-carb high-fat eating. It helped the blood sugar levels but I got more and more tired and low…. UNTIL I tweaked the protein. The difference was very fast and astonishing.

When I manage to eat properly (what I believe to be right and proper for me that is) I sleep better, I have far more energy, my blood sugar levels are stable, I don’t crave snacks: all good. The best and most unexpected bonuses have been in my head though. My mind is clearer: no more brain fog. I no longer get overwhelmed so easily; I can take much more stress and pressure than this time last year when my reserves were so depleted I felt like I couldn’t cope with anything; and my mood is so much more upbeat – and much more stable.

I’m only sharing my experiences – not suggesting that eating this way is right for anyone else. But in terms of the protein/fat/carb ratio affecting mood – I’m absolutely convinced of it for me at least :)

Until your post I hadn’t considered that protein might play a part in stabilising mood. Now I’m thinking that yes, it probably does for me. Food for thought at least ;)1 month ago

SarabandSending some belated support

So sorry you’re having to go through this, Rosa; it must be awful for you. I have nothing to offer you beyond sympathy, warm thoughts and support but I know you have inner strength, intelligence, insight and compassion to call upon as you navigate these challenges and that you will come out the other side.

Stay strong :)

(((((Starstuff))))) 1 month ago


The notion of bees being on order makes me smile – yet how else can a prospective beekeeper obtain them! How will they get to you, Josh?

I’ve always liked the idea of keeping bees; I’m just not brave enough to consider doing it myself!1 month ago

SarabandSo sorry...

... to read of the loss of your friend, FGR. Glad your daughter enjoyed her birthday – and that cake sounds divine!

((((hugs)))) 1 month ago


We queue badly in Europe?

I thought us Brits were serious about our queuing techniques ;)

Though maybe that isn’t quite the case for the rest of Europe ;)1 month ago

SarabandSupportive cheer

I hope the hospital can offer some support for you.

Take good care

x 1 month ago

SarabandThursday 27th February

Thursday. Rainy-morning darkness gives way gracefully to warm bright sunshine

Today I am thankful for:

  • vitality, presence, calm and flow
  • a morning call from B
  • stretching
  • walking and gardening in the sunshine
  • the spaciousness of time :) 1 month ago

SarabandMaybe you'll have it finished by...

... next Christmas??

;) 1 month ago

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