Mindful Monday: Getting up close and personal with nature

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the first Mindful Monday post, which you can check out here.  The idea is discuss different ways of relaxing, how to take time out of our busy lives and to explore different forms of meditation.  Seeing as spring is in the air, today’s post is all about getting outside…

Normally, I would advise against having any gadgets around you when being mindful or meditating however, you may find a camera useful – I used the camera on my phone.  The idea this week is take a walk and look for signs of how nature is changing to reflect the season.  I set myself the theme of ‘texture’ and decided I would take 5 pictures that were indicative of this.  As I was looking for interesting textures, I also found myself noticing the beautiful juxtaposition between the fresh new shoots of growth and the old, seemingly dead growth from last year.


Glossy leaves

I don't know what this plant is called but I love the texture

I don’t know what this plant is called but I love the fluffy texture

Ivy is a good example of a plant we see all year round - do we necessarily notice how it changes throughout the year though?

Ivy is a good example of a plant we see all year round – do we necessarily notice how it changes throughout the year though?

Do you remember doing tree bark rubbings with sugar paper and brightly coloured crayons?

Do you remember doing tree bark rubbings with sugar paper and brightly coloured crayons?

The juxtaposition between the old and the new

The juxtaposition between the old and the new

All these photos were taken within a 5 minute walk from my house – you neither have to walk far nor anywhere particularly interesting to get great shots.  In fact, you may find some inspiration in your own garden!

If anyone else would like to take part in Mindful Mondays with me, I’ll be popping my photos onto my social media accounts.  If you fancy joining in on Twitter or Instagram, just upload your photos, tag me @vintageguinea and #MindfulMonday.  Oh and don’t worry if you can’t upload on a Monday, I’ll just be posting different topic ideas on a Monday but the theme will run all week!

Mindful Monday: Knitting for Wellbeing

I’ve been practising meditation and mindfulness for a number of years now and know just how important it is take a few minutes out every busy day just to stop and breathe!  One of my favourite ways to unwind is to engage in an active meditation – this can encompass a range of different activities including running on the treadmill, doing some yoga or Pilates and drawing mandala designs.  Combining mindfulness with something creative is incredibly fulfilling and you get the double whammy of chilling out and producing something decorative for your home or yourself.

So, when my lovely friend at Apple Nutrition asked me if I’d like to attend a knitting for wellbeing session, I jumped at the chance.  I am no knitter; I can do the basic knit one, purl one but that literally is the full scope of my skills.  However, as I started casting on I realised that the repetitive nature of knitting is incredibly relaxing.  Not to mention the emotional wellbeing derived from spending time in the company of friends and having a good chat and catch up.

Knitting groups or sewing circles are becoming increasing popular and you can usually get the details of local groups from your library.

I’m considering making Mindful Monday into a regular blog post and would very much value feedback, so please pop a comment below if you would like to know more about meditation and mindfulness.

My friend's amazing scarf

My friend’s amazing scarf

Obviously, tea had to be involved somewhere...!

Obviously, tea had to be involved somewhere…!

My attempt

My attempt

How to make the perfect cup of tea (in my opinion)

Before I start this post, I just want to point out a couple of things:

1.  I have never written a ‘how to…’ post before so this could all go horribly wrong – especially as I’m trying to take pictures and make tea singlehandedly

2.  This is how I make my tea – I am aware that there are other ways to make it but this is how I like to do it…please don’t get cross if it’s not your preferred method of tea making 🙂

Right, that’s out the way so I’ll begin…

My first rule of successful tea-making is to always use fresh water in the kettle.  If you are worried about wasting the water already in the kettle you can use it to water plants (if it is cold) or to fill the washing up bowl (if it is hot).  Freshly drawn water makes a better brew.  I’m sure it’s got something to do with molecules, but I’m an Arts student so please don’t ask me for the scientific explanation because I’ll just look blankly at you!

Use fresh water in your kettle

Use fresh water in your kettle

Whilst the water is boiling, warm the teapot.  You can do this with a bit of the water from the kettle.  Swill it round the pot so that it is nice and warm.  This is also the time to select your tea.  I have a teapot with a built-in strainer, bought from a charity shop a while ago, which has a plunger like a cafetière and is great for leaf tea.  Otherwise, the traditional tea strainer can be used.  Today, I’m being lazy and using a tea bag.  The tea I am drinking today is one of Waitrose’s own brand Ceylon teas – a nice refreshing brew in the afternoon.

Nicely warmed teapot

Nicely warmed teapot

Pour the boiling water on your tea bag and leave to brew for around 3-4 minutes depending on taste.  I don’t drink milk in my tea, so I tend to leave my tea bag in for around 2 mins, stir and remove.  If you like your tea really strong, you can of course leave the teabag in the pot.  Choose a pretty cup and saucer – the one I am using today is made by Booths, England and is the ‘Dragon’ pattern.

Pour tea in pretty cup

Pour tea in pretty cup

Obviously, you can add sugar, milk or a lemon slice at this point.  Some people swear by milk in first and others say tea in first, but again that’s personal taste.

In my book, an afternoon tea needs a little yummy treat to accompany it.  As I don’t have any cake, I’m raiding the biscuit barrel.

Nice variety of biscuits to choose from

Nice variety of biscuits to choose from

If you want to do a traditional tea and cake, you can buy trio sets, which are comprised of a cup and saucer and a side plate for your cake.  As I’m just going for a biscuit, I’ve just wedged it on the side of the saucer (let’s face it, it’s not going to sit there for long).

Tea and biscuit

Tea and gluten-free lemon shortcake (Waitrose own brand)

The next part is quite controversial…I am a dunker and proud of it!  Obviously, don’t dunk for too long otherwise you get crumbly bits in your tea, which is not fun.  Also, some biscuits do not dunk well so this can be trial and error (Garibaldi biscuits tend to disintegrate in nano seconds, whereas a digestive has a good dunking consistency).

To dunk or not to dunk?

To dunk or not to dunk?

Sit down and enjoy.  Et voila – the perfect afternoon cuppa!

Water, water everywhere and what a lot to drink!

I’ve been consciously trying to improve my eating habits over the past few weeks.  I am not on a strict diet, I am simply being more mindful of the what I choose to fuel my body with.  I think for a lot of people the word ‘diet’ has quite negative connotations as it implies denial.  I am not denying myself the foods I enjoy because I know if I take that stance, I’ll just crave them even more.  If I want some chocolate or a piece of cake, I have it – I just don’t eat the entire bar or the entire cake!


I’m aiming to drink 2 x this bottle full every day…

I have really upped my water intake recently and have noticed a lot of differences.  My skin is a lot clearer, my hair is shinier and I’m not as peckish for snacks in the afternoon as I used to be.  I drink tea in the morning but after lunch, I try to stick to plain water.  I aim to drink two 750ml bottles a day.  If I feel a bit hungry in the afternoon, I’ll drink a glass of water and then reassess.  If I’m still hungry, I’ll have an apple or some oatcakes.  Often though, I discover I wasn’t actually hungry, I was just thirsty!