This is an idea which has been going round in my head for quite some time and I’m excited to sit down and finally get the ball rolling.  

If you know me, whether in person or through social media and/or this blog then I’m pretty sure you’ll know that I am an avid reader. I am constantly book in hand and I love sharing my reading experiences with others. It is primarily because of this that the concept of a reading retreat has always appealed. The chance to be amongst like-minded bookworms and bookish folk, in a tranquil setting with no guilt and no distractions, just a whole lot of reading is my idea of absolute bliss.

However I struggled to find something which was relatively affordable and chilled at the same time (as a busy mum of two I don’t have £5-600 to spare on a single weekend!) I spent a long time looking for something and in the end have decided to just sort out my own!

In the long term, I would love to organise a number of these throughout the year and run the retreats as a business project and an extension of my blogging / vlogging. However, right now an opportunity has come up to explore this idea in a beautiful venue, and if this is sounding like your type of thing…then I would love to invite YOU to come along.

The proposed dates for the trip are Friday 8th – Sunday 10th February 2019.

If you are free on those dates and it sounds like something you would be interested in attending, then below I have outlined some further information.

Accommodation

You may or may not know the lovely Sian from Helpful Mum, or know that she runs a B&B; but she has offered exclusive use of her venue for the dates above. It is a gorgeous little B&B set in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside and will be the perfect place to let the stress of the new year slip away, warm and cosy on those cold winter days.

The B&B is Kirkfield Guest House and is located in Skipton.

There are a limited number of rooms which will be allocated on a first come first served basis.  The rooms are family and twin rooms and are large enough to easily accommodate two or three people.  Two of the rooms have an en-suite and two share a large shower room (with two separate toilets) – I realise it might be intimidating to share a room with people you don’t know, so I will try and make introductions beforehand where I can!  (NB and for clarification- this is a women-only retreat!)

Prices

There are a number of different price structures, please read these carefully!

En-suite Room Sharing – £130

Non En-Suite Room Sharing – £120

Single Occupancy prices are available.  Please email for further details.

Included in the price:-

– Two nights accommodation and cooked breakfast

– A light lunch on Saturday

– Snacks / refreshments along with tea and coffee throughout the weekend.

There are no kitchen facilities available for guests at the B&B; we will be going to a local pub for dinner on the Saturday evening, this will be the only additional cost.

This weekend is the perfect option for anyone looking for a weekend of guilt-free reading with a bit of walking in the local countryside and a small amount of no-pressure socialising.

If you would like to book your place please email catchasinglethought@gmail.com with your full name, your room preferences and any dietary requirements.  A £20 deposit is payable to secure your booking; this will be invoiced to you separately.  I can also email a full itinerary to anyone who would like to see one beforehand.

I am very excited about where this little venture could lead and I hope to see some of you there!

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I have to admit that I am not usually a ‘buzzword’ kind of gal. But there is something about the thought of living simply, and with intention, that has really caught me as we head into 2019.

Many, many moons ago, I subscribed to a magazine which focused on the art of slow living; something I would flick through the pages of enviously. Slow living sounds like my kind of jam…except, it never seemed to be the case that we were actually able to slow down. Over the last couple of months I have had to come to a place of acceptance, in myself, that we don’t live the kind of lives which are slow-paced. We live 100 mile an hour lives; lives which are busy with work and children and after-school clubs and hobbies and church commitments and family commitments and have I exhausted you reading my list yet type of commitments?

Perhaps you are even nodding your head because you are facing those problems too?

How do you slow down when everything around you just won’t give?

This is where I have had to make my peace. Life comes in seasons and waves, and right now, with where we are, our lives are fast moving. No amount of pulling on my part is going to change that. What is more likely to happen is that I am going to be left feeling like I’ve dropped the ball, or missed something crucial. So how can I combat where my life was at, with where I wanted to be? This has been my thought process over the last few months. I have gone backwards and forwards on this, but ultimately I think I’ve found something worth trying out.

Enter 2019…the year of simple and intentional living.

Just because my life is fast doesn’t mean that I have to allow myself to be swept along. I can still make decisions every single day which fall in line with my ideals and dreams. I don’t need to feel as though I am ricocheting from one moment to the next.

I might not be able to slow everyone and everything down but that doesn’t mean my life needs to be chaos.

Are you nodding along with me here? Living with intention means deciding on what is important to me and ensuring that each day I make decisions which fall in line with that. It might mean making some hard choices. It might mean saying no to things I would previously have gone along with, but this is all about taking back control. Determining for myself what happens in our lives and not just going along with the flow.

Does it feel like your days roll into weeks roll into years…without you even seeming to realise?

Do you make decisions based on what is happening around you, letting other situations and people create the momentum which pulls you along?

Yep. Me too.

But this year is the time that it stops. I want to employ some really simple steps to help give me and my family a renewed sense of direction. I want our actions and our decisions to be intentional. I want to streamline our lives so that we are inclusive of things which are important to us, and we get rid of dead-weight we don’t need.

I am going to share these steps with you, and hopefully share our journey as we become a family living simply, and intentionally in 2019. I hope you find them useful.

1. What are my core values?

I have started by asking myself what is important to me. Everyone will have different core values; mine are my faith, my family, my mental well-being, my desire to travel and show my children the world and to succeed in my job.

It might be that you don’t know right off the bat what your own core values are in which case I would encourage you to spend some time contemplating what is most important in your life. Without knowing this, you can’t know what you are building towards.

2. What do I want?

Next, I spent some time thinking about what I ultimately want from life. What catches my heart? When I sit and look back at my life in 20, 30, maybe even 40 years, what do I want to have achieved?

There is no right or wrong answer here but the answers will determine changes which need to be made. For example, if I were to answer that I wanted to write a second book by 2020, then I would need to implement steps to make this happen.

3. What do I need to do?

Now I have a confession to make. I have started this process once or twice before. Never on this scale, and I have never shared it with anyone but as a goal-orientated, driven individual, this is not the first time I have listed out my core values and my ultimate dreams in life. For some reason, this third step; actually beginning to implement change, is my biggest stumbling block. This is the step which I seem to get stuck on. When it comes down to making changes, I grind to a halt. This winter I have come to a realisation that the reason behind this is trying to start too big and have it all immediately fall into place.

Intentional living is as much about the small, repeated, every day decisions which gradually turn the tide and begin to push you towards your ultimate goal.

To use the book example again, how much easier to set myself a goal of ‘I’m going to try and write 200 words each week’ rather than ‘I’m going to write 1,000 words a day.’ Maybe I will do more than 200 words but starting small, and with an achievable goal, will make sticking to it much easier. And once I have found my rhythm maybe I can push a little more, and a little more.

This is not about sweeping, expansive goals. It’s about small, achievable ones.

Intentional living is not about having everything figured out, but it does mean having a purpose behind each action you make.

4. It’s a continual process

The final part of my post today, is the understanding that this is a continual process. As I’ve mentioned above, this is about the small, every day decisions not the big life goals. Yes, it helps to know what you ultimately want from life but it’s very unlikely that you will be able to just switch everything around. I am tied to my job, my responsibilities, my children…these are not things which can simply be put to one side.

I really hope that this year I can make this stick. And I hope if this post has resonated with you in some way, that you can also try to put these steps into motion. I’d love to know how you get on if you do!

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And so we come to the closing of another year. I find it hard to believe that a whole 365 days have passed by, and yet it is so.

Usually at the start of a year I like to sit down and write out some resolutions for myself; things I want to achieve in the coming months, both significant and small. They generally follow the line of travelling more, learning an instrument, finishing jobs in the house, breaking the internet with my success…yada, yada, yada.

The downside to this is that I very rarely achieve all, if any, of these lofty resolutions and so I leave the year feeling like I haven’t been enough. My mind will whir with ‘if only’s’ – if only I had worked harder, been better, done more. If only I had the secret formula to understanding the Instagram/Youtube/insert any old social media platform algorithm. If only I had more time…and yet the simple truth is that we live our lives at 100 miles an hour and achieving a whole string of resolutions is just never going to be feasible. At least not in this stage of our lives.

It gains me nothing to end each year feeling like I have failed, because in reality the truth if very different. I tend to make a highlights video each year and as I sat down to upload our 2018 video, I realised that we have crammed a whole lot into the last 12 months. Sure, playing the flute may still be outside of my abilities but that doesn’t mean that this year hasn’t been a good one. Far from it.

pen y pass wales snowdonia

So after a few tears and some deep contemplation; after going back and forth with James and myself about what it was that I really wanted to gain from 2019, I have decided to set myself a word. This word encapsulates all I hope to gain from the year, it is a declaration over the coming months that will hopefully hold me accountable, as well as help to shape my actions and my goals without cornering me too much.

My word for 2019 is…BE

I want to…

Be present.

Be content.

Be still.

Be me.

Be…

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Hygge is a concept which appears here to stay.  It first arrived in the UK a couple of years ago and since then seems to be going from strength to strength.  Pronounced “hoo-ga” this Danish concept is all about bringing a sense of contentment into your life and enjoying the small and simple things and is particularly apt for the winter season when it can be much more difficult to do this.  For me, anything which encourages curling up with a good book under a blanket is a winner…but if you’ve not come across the concept before or you just need some easy tips on how to have more hygge this winter, then read on:-

1. Light some candles

Candles are a really simple way to introduce ambience into your home and are a main part of the hygge culture in Denmark.  So turn off the lights, grab that blanket and light a few candles.  It will lend a cosy feeling to each room, and you can get candles with many different scents.  If candles aren’t your thing, then perhaps a false candle with a faux-flickering light may help create the same sense of atmosphere.

walk in nature

2. Take a walk

Getting outdoors in all weather is a really important part of hygge culture.  Although it can be so tempting to hibernate when the weather is cold, there is something so delicious about coming in from a brisk walk to a warm home, especially when you can then throw on your comfiest clothing and curl up.  It will also help keep you active, which in itself should bring a sense of wellbeing.  I know I always benefit more when I have been outside, even for a short period of time.  If getting outside is simply not your cup of tea then consider bringing the outdoors in to you by adding plants to your home.  Introducing nature can add a dash of colour to a room and the natural green colours will offer a connection to nature.

3. Cosy up with a book (or a movie!)

Now here is where we really begin to tap into the things I love…I will take any excuse to curl up with a book and get lost in a fantastical world for a few hours.  There is nothing like being transported to somewhere else when the rain is lashing down outside.  Hygge is all about switching off so if books aren’t your jam then watch a film, play a board game, invite your friends round for a good chinwag; just put down the phone and engage in something else for an afternoon.  For the perfect environment, add some soft cushions and throws to your living space, such as one from this great collection at Lionshome.

hygge with book

4. Get social

I already briefly mentioned above the idea of inviting your friends over but I feel this is worth a point on its own.  Hygge is the celebration of the simple joys in life and what better way is there than spending time with family and friends?  It doesn’t need to be anything complicated; simply opening your home to your loved ones and friends and spending some time enjoying each other’s company is enough.  A few hot drinks, some sweet treats and an hour of so of talking and setting the world to rights…what could be better?

5. Slow down

These days we live life at 100 miles an hour but hygge is all about slowing down and savoring.  Meals are lingered over, conversations go on just that little bit longer, we spend time relaxing and soaking up the surroundings.  There is something so important about just taking time out of our busy schedules to simply be.  Believe me, I know it isn’t easy so if you need a tool to help you then use it.  I find switching my phone off and doing a 20 minute session of yoga is often just the thing I need (Lionshome have some great yoga accessories) but really it can be doing anything which forces you to stop for a minute or two, and just let the moment last.

Winter can be a really difficult time for many people, and you may find that you need a little extra help.  Whether you struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety, SADS and depression or whether you just find it trickier at this time of year, adding a little hygge into your lives may not solve it completely but it could help.  You may also find therapy beneficial at this time of year and here is just one way to connect with a therapist or counselor.

Let’s all be a little more hygge and learn to love the simple things.  And of course wait for that glorious summer sunshine to roll around again.

*This is a collaborative post.
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Just over six years ago I found myself sitting in the living room, the only one in the house awake.  Eli has always been an early riser and at this time he had been awake and gone back down for a nap.  Of course I was unable to simply fall back to sleep and so I found myself sitting, wondering how I could spend my time productively whilst the rest of my family snoozed on.

I needed a creative outlet..

Motherhood is tough; you find so much of your time given over to the care of your children and when they are small it can be especially tricky to find time for yourself.  I am actually planning a video on this very topic to go live in the next few weeks (keep your eyes peeled for that one!) but in the meantime…how was I going to carve out something for myself?

I have always loved writing and throughout my childhood and teenage years filled many a notebook and diary with my thoughts and words both real and imagined.  It was something which had fallen by the wayside as I began my adult life, but definitely something I had missed.  So finding a creative outlet which incorporated writing seemed like the perfect solution.  At the time, I only knew of one person who ‘blogged’; I really had no idea it was this vast network of people all slicing out their own little corners of the internet.

I soon realised there were lots of opportunities for bloggers out there…

The world of the ‘influencer’ was only just beginning to emerge and I remember being amazed that there were so many people also ‘out there’ blogging away.  I began to attend blogging conferences, to join groups on Facebook, surrounding myself with people talking about how to find success in the online world. I can still clearly remember getting offered my first product to review and thinking I had hit the big time.  I think I was sent a teething ring!

One thing which constantly jumped out was about finding your niche.  If you wanted to be ‘successful’ then you needed a niche.  I almost immediately felt at a disadvantage; for me, my very blog name was created because I am a woman of many facets, with many thoughts bouncing around and I didn’t want to choose just one.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about all the many things I was being told.  If I wanted to start making money from this little project of mine, if I wanted to achieve the heady heights I was seeing other bloggers attain, then I needed to find that niche and channel my content in a certain way.

I began to lose sight of my original goal

Join any blogging forum or group on social media and you will no doubt come across people talking of numbers and stats, sponsored posts and influencer opportunities. It is a brilliant thing that so many people are able to support themselves and their families through doing something that they love.  That by creating advertorial content on their blogs they are able to take home a higher salary than they might have done in more traditional employment.  I make a small income from this blog, through sponsored and affiliate links.  Would I like to be able to earn more than I do in my 9-5 job? Of course!

But that isn’t the reason I started, and it isn’t the reason I write.  Being able to make a small income from blogging is a handy bonus; but it is so easy to fall into the trap of becoming all about the commercial content and the opportunities.  To count stats and worry that you aren’t getting your content seen enough. I will admit that I got well and truly sucked into this way of thinking and it meant that for me personally, the shine of blogging began to dull.

I have seen so many bloggers fall by the wayside, or fall out of love with blogging because they feel that they are not a big enough name, because they aren’t being offered the same opportunities as others, because they simply feel that they are not good enough.

It is so easy to worry over how many people are reading your words, how many people are liking and engaging with your posts.  And honestly, it’s a good feeling when you realise that something you have written has resonated with another person and they have taken the time to reach out to you by leaving a comment or engaging with you on social media.  It’s a good feeling when a PR agency contact you and ask you to work with them.

at the locks

Is it why you blog…

For some people, the answer will be a resounding yes.  And fair play to them for that. For me…I would say that discovering I could make some income was a bonus I hadn’t considered.  And I perhaps lost my way a little bit and began hunting out ways to raise my visibility in order to increase that possibility.  Constantly sharing my posts and then worrying I was sharing too much, or not sharing enough.  Joining in pods to try and force my content to be out there.  It is exhausting.

I work four days a week.

I have a young and active family.

We are renovating our first home.

I also make Youtube videos which has become a real passion of mine.

I have my own interests outside of blogging and the online world.

Yes, I love to write but I found it had become mechanical; something I felt I must do, rather than something I wanted to do.  So I began to pull back.  You, my dear readers, may not have noticed but I have stopped posting as often.  I wanted to sit down and write because it was calling to me, not because I felt obligated to.  I felt as though I had fallen into simply churning out posts because I needed something fresh, but the words were stilted.  I wasn’t always writing about the important things.

I want to write because I love to write…

Would it be simply astounding if I were able to reach a level where I was being offered thousands of pounds to create content a month?  YES!  But is that the be all and end all, the reason I sit and write? NO!  And I need to hold onto that.  I hope that you begin to see that reflected a little more here.  I want to leave some of the commercial content behind and start to write about the things I love and enjoy again.  Because that is why I started blogging in the first place and it’s the reason I want to continue.  I believe blogging may be having something of an old-school resurgence and I’m so glad because it is something I am passionate about.  If my posts resonate with even just one person, then I will consider that a total win.

You will still see the odd commercial post from me, and I will still talk about the things we do as a family.  I’m hoping not too much will change.  But I hope to put less pressure on myself to churn out content for the sake of it, and to have the freedom to write and blog because I choose to.  Not because I have to.

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