food glorious food

Family Smellie is very keen on its food and Thailand has not let us down once.  So we thought it was time that we did a little hands on cooking.   Rather than just stuffing our faces with the delicious food cooked by others, we would do some of the preliminary work ourselves.

Enter Toi, chef extraordinaire at Sea Dance.  She was chosen to bravely steer Family Smellie through the cooking process.  This is what awaited us when we arrived for our lesson.

 

Even if we didn’t cook it but just feasted with our eyes and noses that would have been a sensual journey in itself.  But Family Smellie needed to fill its bellies so onwards and upwards.

First up, as in any good project of any kind, is the preparation.  I was put on chopping duty and managed to impress Toi not only with my knowledge of nam pla but also my prowess with a mini machete!

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We began with seafood salad and followed with chicken green curry and chicken and ginger stir fry.  The Travellerwas not impressed by having to skin and scour the squid, but she did an excellent job.

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The seafood was left to marinade in soy sauce, nampla, chopped chilli, chopped garlic and palm sugar.  The Boss was in charge of chicken prep.

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First up was the green curry.  The curry paste was added to hot oil and the coconut cream added spoon by spoon.  I am used to chucking the tin in all at once, but this way the sauce remained thick and cooked more slowly, it was thinned with water or chicken stock later.

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Chicken first and finally vegetables.

 

The volunteer took notes.

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Stir fry was down to the Traveller and she was not convinced she could do the flip so expertly demonstrated by Toi, convinced that instead she would cover the Boss with a selection of chicken and vegetables.

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But she got the wrist action and managed a perfect stir fry flip with no stray veg at all.

 

And the finished products.

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And time to eat.

 

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A few days later I bumped into Toi in the gardens and she showed me around her kitchen garden.  Many of the vegetables used in the kitchen are grown on site and Toi is an excellent gardener as well as chef.  I also managed to impress her again with my knowledge of Holy Basil, there are hidden depths to me yet!  She not only grows a huge range of vegetables, salad leaves and herbs for the kitchen but also a comprehensive range of herbs for the spa as well.  And I can testify that the spa is as good as the kitchen!

Love Gillie x

 

 

slippery slopes and mugs

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Not so much “how the mighty are fallen” (not least because I have never been mighty), but more “how easy it is to slip into bad habits”.

As we moved further on into our declutter process I managed to stick strictly to one in one out (remember this post ), but gradually I let a few more items in and didn’t get around to shifting out an equivalent number.  Then as that happened more than once or twice I stopped being so strict in the shop.  If you have a one in one out policy you have to (a) really want the new item and (b) know of an item you are prepared to donate in return .  There is no “whoops what fell into my basket” with one in one out shopping.

We were in Morpeth this weekend and as usual we had a wander around the charity shops (excellent by the way).  I bought two pairs of linen trousers.  I came home and as I hung them up I noticed that my small wardrobe was a little bit tight.

Today I went to make a cup of tea and had to tidy the mug shelf before something fell out.

Something had gone wrong.

The clothes issue had not got out of hand and I have caught it in time.  I like to declutter in summer because it’s easier to try on clothes and see if they still fit/I like them etc when I am not wearing enough clothes to keep Nanook of the North warm.  So I have programmed a clear out tomorrow.

The cups are a funny one, because I can’t remember the last time I bought a cup.  However, we are forever being given them.  They don’t match, I don’t particularly like them and they certainly don’t make my heart sing.  So today this lot went to the charity shop and were replaced with 6 of the beauties at the top.  I love them, they are beautiful and they serve their purpose.

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Decluttering is a forever process, because not only do you slide backwards sometimes (clothes) but you are not the only person who brings stuff into your house (mugs).  If you have a hiccough, don’t beat yourself up, just pick yourself up and start again.

Love Gillie

P.S.  Since I posted this the Father Christmas mug has been given a reprieve on the grounds that it was abducted by The Boss and Singer 1.

 

101 things you could let go of right now

I love lists.  Don’t you?  That immensely satisfying feeling as you cross off the things you have done.  Decluttering is perfect for list makers.  You can break up the clutter by room, by cupboard, by person, by subject area.  Oddly enough, I have done none of these things.  I have just started in one part of the house and worked my way round, over and over again.  Then I came across this blog by Joshua Becker 101 Physical That Can Be Reduced In Your Home .  Oh the joys, I am so doing this today.  I have already crossed off those things I have already reduced to the bare minimum or we don’t have.  But so much more to go.  I’m all fired up and ready to give the remaining clutter the heave ho.

Could you take this list round your home?  How much could you cross off today?

  1. Glassware
  2. Cookbooks
  3. Kitchen gadgets
  4. Kitchen appliances
  5. Pots / pans
  6. Mixing bowls
  7. Tupperware
  8. Water pitchers
  9. Magazines
  10. Newspapers
  11. Books
  12. Over-the-counter medicine
  13. Make-up
  14. Barretts / hair clips / ponytail holders
  15. Cleaning supplies
  16. Personal beauty appliances (hair dryer/curlers, electric razors)
  17. Bottles of shampoo/conditioner
  18. Photos
  19. Photography supplies
  20. Sewing supplies
  21. Craft supplies
  22. Scrap-booking supplies
  23. CD’s
  24. DVD’s
  25. Decorative items
  26. Candles
  27. Figurines
  28. Crystal
  29. Vases
  30. Audio/visual components
  31. Audio/visual cables
  32. Computer equipment
  33. MP3 players
  34. Furniture
  35. Video game systems
  36. Vdeo games
  37. Video game accessories
  38. Shirts / shorts
  39. Pants
  40. Coats
  41. Dresses
  42. Hats
  43. Clothes hangers
  44. Shoes
  45. Winter gear
  46. Jewelry
  47. Purses
  48. Coins
  49. Pillows
  50. Towels
  51. Linen sets
  52. Candle Holders
  53. Televisions
  54. Items on your bulletin board
  55. Magnets
  56. Artwork
  57. Mirrors
  58. Home office supplies
  59. Pens/pencils
  60. Old batteries
  61. Tools
  62. Hardware
  63. Rolls of duct tape
  64. Coolers
  65. Manuals
  66. Phone books
  67. Coupons
  68. Sporting good supplies
  69. Sports memorabilia
  70. Aluminum cans
  71. Glass bottles
  72. Automobile fluids
  73. Automobiles
  74. Scrap pieces of lumber
  75. Brooms
  76. Rakes
  77. Shovels
  78. Garden tools
  79. Plant containers
  80. Empty cardboard boxes
  81. Board games
  82. Puzzles
  83. Decks of cards
  84. Unused wedding gifts
  85. Baby clothes
  86. Baby supplies
  87. Old schoolbooks/papers
  88. Army men
  89. Bath toys
  90. Toy balls
  91. Toy cars/trucks
  92. Toy musical instruments
  93. Stuffed animals
  94. Plastic toys
  95. Childrens’ old school papers
  96. Suitcases
  97. Soda
  98. Alcohol
  99. Processed foods
  100. Christmas / seasonal decorations
  101. Cable channels

clutter causes frustration, please pull over and allow me to chuck you out

frustration

Those of you who have spent any time on the A9 will be familiar with these signs.  In my experience they have little effect and I have spent hours in a high state of frustration behind a slow moving vehicle.  However that is a whole different story.

Were you to walk into my house tomorrow you would, in the light of this blog, to discover a minimalist, clear lined, almost empty house.  Sadly you would be disappointed.  Despite the enormous amount of stuff we have rehomed there is still far more than we need.  Over the past few days I have seen things out of the corner of my eye that I wanted out.  So today I did Operation Quick and Dirty.

In the space of a ten  minute dash around the house I accumulated all of this.

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Sobering isn’t it?

life is easier without clutter

I was talking with my mother earlier today and the conversation inevitably came around to decluttering.  The area in question being her wardrobe.  She maintains that there is nothing in her wardrobe that the doesn’t like nor anything that doesn’t fit.  On the other hand there is enough in there for her to  have just taken out several boxes of clothes because the wardrobe was full.  It is not a small wardrobe.

That freaked me out.  The idea of having that many clothes was scary. I love the fact that it doesn’t take me ages to get dressed in the morning.  I love the fact that I have discovered tops and bottoms that I would never have thought of putting together look fabulous.  I love the fact that I am much better at layering and thus don’t need so many jumpers (even in the north of England).

So I began to think of other areas where decluttering has actually made my life easier.

The kitchen.  I never have to clean a finickety garlic press, it’s long gone, I grate garlic now.  I am seriously wondering about keeping my Kenward Chef.  I rarely use it.  Today I made Bakewell tart and homemade custard for supper.  I did the whole thing by hand and with a hand held beater.  I would never have bothered to make pudding if I had to get out the Kenward and then wash all the bits up.  I make bread by hand because I enjoy the process.  The yoghurt maker died and I discovered I could make yoghurt just as easily without it.  The kettle died so we started using our stove top one on the aga and/or the hob.  Just as quick.  Leave it on the side of the aga and the water is always warm and there is a nice space on the kitchen surface where the kettle used to be.

The knicker drawer!  I cleared out every single item  of underwear other than recently purchased bras that fit and knickers that I wouldn’t mind being caught wearing if I was run over by a bus.  To the latter I added 4 pairs of bamboo knickers that I adore and with which I  will be replacing all current incumbants as they wear out.  Early mornings are so much easier when there are only five pairs of knickers and a couple of bras in your drawer.

The compost bin.  The kitchen compost bin has been replaced by a smaller one and the garden compost bin moved closer to the house.  Net result nobody minds emptying the compost.  That is a BIG result in our house.

Books.  Having got rid of books I had held onto for all sorts of reasons, but books I was never going to read again I have discovered some gems that was hidden behind all the rest.  Books I had forgotten I had bought but have loved reading …. and passing on.

Oddly enough the area I was most scared about decluttering.  The area where I thought I needed all those bits and pieces was the kitchen.  That has proved to be the area where decluttering has been the most productive.

 

 

 

ten top tips for letting go and decluttering

Reading Camilla Long in The Sunday Times I came across this gem  “…I may never be as tidy as my mother, whose Christmas afternoon treat is a full assault on the downstairs loo.”  I wondered briefly if Ms Long’s mother and I share similar genetic make up.  It is a standing joke that my idea of the perfect Mothering Sunday is to be allowed to gut my entire wardrobe from pyjamas to coats and everything in between without anybody mentioning the word “obsessive” once.

The reason for the outing of Mrs Long was the discussion of Marie Kondo a Japanese organisation and decluttering expert.  Always keen to see how other people approach the process I duly googled said expert.  I am now convinced that I share genetic backgrounds with both Mrs Long and Ms Kondo.

Her top ten tips are:

1. DO IT ALL AT ONCE, AND DO IT NOW
I have never subscribed to the slowly but surely approach to decluttering.  It has never worked for me for the simple reason that it is too slow.  I want to see results and I want to see them now.  Clearly if you live in a  house the size of ours you can’t do the whole thing in 24 hours but you can do a whole wardrobe or even a whole room.

2 DISCARD FIRST, SORT AND TIDY LATER
Empty out the whole cupboard sort it out and only put back what you are going to keep.  Put the rest in the bin/recycling/bag for the charity shop IMMEDIATELY and put them in the car the same day.  So long as it stays in the house you will be tempted to retrieve something you don’t need.  I find the pulling it all out and strewing it across the floor very satisfying, it is also an excellent shock reminder of how much rubbish you have.

3 START WITH THE EASY STUFF
Don’t start with the box of unsorted photos.  Start with something you know is due a serious clear out.  For most of us that’s the wardrobe.  Once you get into the swing of things letting go becomes easier.  I speak from experience, we are almost one year into our declutter and now hardly a day goes by when I don’t fill at least one small bag, if not a bin bag every day.  This is the result of a quick sweep this afternoon.

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4 PUT EVERYTHING IN EACH CATEGORY IN ONE PLACE FIRST
You cannot sort your wardrobe if half of it is in the dirty washing basket/ironing pile/dry cleaners/back of the sofa.  Get everything together at once.  This is the only way you can spot duplicates or a disturbing fondness for electric orange tee-shirts.

5 THROW AWAY EVERYTHING YOU DON’T LOVE
You’ve heard it before a million times.  If you don’t use it (don’t throw out your toothbrush) or love it then why is it taking up space in your house?  It is hard at first, I know.  But it really does work.  I finally got rid of three sarongs today.    There is nothing wrong with them but I don’t wear sarongs anymore, I prefer to throw  kaftan over my swimming costume (I think this is something to do with age and size 🙂 )  I kept them because they were perfectly good and quite pretty.  But I don’t need them and they certainly don’t make me smile when I see them.  Well they didn’t until I saw them in the charity pile.

6 DITCH YOUR PAPERWORK
There are some things that you have to keep.  Legal documents (birth, marriage, divorce certificates)  Insurance polices, tax returns and supporting papers for 7 years etc.  You do not need to keep your credit card statements and bank statements for the past 10 years or more.  You really don’t need to keep all the paperwork that comes with electrical goods.  If  you don’t know how to use something there is more information on the internet than there is in the multilingual pocket sized guide that comes with your phone.  Where and how you keep them is up to you.  Marie Kondo says keep them in upright containers to avoid the collection getting too big.  Having seen the size of some magazine files I think it is possible to let a collection get to gargantuan proportions.  My preferred method is to put the paperwork loose in a dropfile in a filing cabinet.  You can’t fill a dropfile to bursting point.  It just falls apart.  Find what works for you but do not EVER use box files or magazine files.  You can get far, far too much in them.

7 LET GO WITH LOVE (GIFTS AND KEEPSAKES)
Why?  Why are you filling your house with guilt?  Do you like feeling guilty?  Yet every time you see that vase, or that book or that scarf you never wear you are filled with a huge sense of guilt that you hate  something that a loved one chose for you.  Hey, we have different tastes, that’s what makes it interesting to meet new people.  Just because your mother loved the purple Angora stole doesn’t mean you have to.  But somebody else will.  On that basis surely it is more wrong to keep something that is never going to be loved or used than to give it away and let somebody who really does love it use it on a daily basis.  I let go of a shoulder bag that my father brought back from Australia  THIRTY YEARS AGO!  Today I finally looked at it and knew that my father would be laughing his socks of if he knew how long I had been carting that bag around the country.

8 DON’T BUY EXPENSIVE OR COMPLICATED STORAGE EQUIPMENT
Because you will just fill it up.  You already  have cupboards, drawers, coat hooks.  Use them.

9 LEARN HOW TO FOLD CLOTHES – THEN STORE THEM ‘STANDING UP’
This is the first time where Kondo and I part company but that may be because in our house I have far more hanging space than drawer or cupboard space.    I’ll leave this one up to you.

10 TREAT YOUR POSSESSIONS LIKE PEOPLE
If you have followed the rules and only kept things you love then treat them well.  If you only have three handbags it’s easy to keep them clean, polish them and put them back in their dustbags.  If you have 23 handbags you’ll never manage that.

reverse decluttering part one

So the reverse declutter begins.  No that does not mean I am bringing stuff in – heaven forbid.  No, this alphabetical mularky, the one that is supposed to encourage me to look beyond the easy declutter and get rid of things that I didn’t really know I had or go into boxes I would prefer were left untouched.

Z is for zips.  As it happens my haberdashery (the posh name for the boxes containing sewing sort of stuff) boxes contained no zips but they did contain a lot of dross.  All of which is now gone.

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Nice and tidy.

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Rubbish and ebay (there wasn’t much in between).

Y is for yellow.  This isn’t actually mine, it belongs to the Boss.  It’s a truly vile yellow sweatshirt.  Goodness knows what he was thinking when he bought it.   He has never worn it and if he did I would disown him.  The yellow chicken has been sitting in my study for years and gathering dust.  Out it goes

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X is for x-tra (well sort of).  Time to get rid of duplicates and things of which I have more than one.  Despite all they have done to provoke me over the years I am keeping all three daughters, dogs, cats and chickens.  Instead I hoofed out two orange squeezers (each one bought whilst on holiday to take advantage of the wonderful fruit.  We now have one small juicer living permanently in our suitcase along with a tin opener, sharp knife, corkscrew and bottle opener – the essentials of any holiday picnic 🙂 ).

W is for wellies.  How many “spare” pairs of wellies do we need?  I used to keep them because we live in the middle of nowhere, it can get very muddy and when the girls were small and had friends over they were useful to have to hand.  I think we are past that stage now.

V is for vittels (it was all I could think of).  Combined three jars of honey into one and ditto various pasta shapes.

U is for undies.  Now there is not a lot I like more than a good clear out of my knicker drawer.  Sad I know.  This time I did underwear drawer and sock drawer and I feel very virtuous.

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Undies

 

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Socks etc.

I know.  Not quite an item a day.  But If you add up all the items going out the door they certainly exceed 365 so not bad for a fortnight I think.  Oh and the first half of the last wardrobe sale on ebay netted over £150.  Wonder what I’d get for a pair of twins and an elder sister with a clean driving licence?

 

V is for