Thursday 1 October 2015

The Wonderful Weekend Book - Reclaiming Life's Simple Pleasures by Elspeth Thompson

Back in July 2013 I wrote THIS POST about my discovery of Elspeth Thompson's 'The Wonderful Weekend Book' - thanks to my best mate Liz giving me a copy as a random act of kindness. I devoured the whole book in almost one sitting (ahh, those child-free days when I could read a book for longer than 5 minutes, hehe!) Every word in it resonated with me, and since then it has made me much more mindful of my weekends - ever since finishing the book I have tried to achieve a sense of balance across my weekends, a happy medium between relaxing and productive.

I love books like this that really make me think and reflect on my own life, my own choices - and how making different choices can hugely affect one's happiness and contentment. I'm a do-er, and anyone who reads my writing often will know I'm an advocate of taking responsibility for your own happiness. It is all about positivity, mindset and seeking pleasure in the small stuff. If something is making you unhappy, change it. And if your weekends aren't full of joy and pleasure, then changes need to be made...

How To Achieve A Wonderful Weekend

I ask myself two simple questions during the week leading up to the weekend...

What do I want to do this weekend? 

What do I need to do this weekend? 

After I have answered those questions honestly, and usually written a list or three (I love a list, me!) I set to work planning out the weekend ahead.

Since having Bert our weekends have become even more precious to us - it is our special family time when the three of us get two days uninterrupted by Daddy's work to spend quality time together. Since starting work as a freelancer though, I have had to get used to also building some work time for me into the weekends, as Liam can keep Bert occupied for a long period so I can get my head down and get on. However, I try to get as much done in the week during Bert's nap times to ensure I don't have to give up too much of my precious weekend to work. Balance is the key. 

Of course, our weekend's aren't all action-packed with family day's out, we, like everyone, have to do the mundane jobs around the house too - washing, cleaning, tidying, organising, food shopping, DIY...where possible though I try to get most of the mundane things done during the week like the washing a cleaning, so that the weekend can be more free for the fun stuff. 

Elspeth says we need to rescue "our precious free time from the strange-hold of supermarkets, fast food and flat-pack furniture and get back to whatever it is we deem most important in our lives, be it family, friends, creativity, contact with nature or finding more out about the world in which we live." 

I have her words etched into my brain now: weekends are for living, being creative, having fun, connecting with the people I love - not getting people-rage in Aldi, or battling the queues of IKEA. Unless those jobs are something I WANT to do at a weekend, and sometimes they are. 

I guess first and foremost in order to achieve a wonderful weekend you need to understand what makes you personally happy. It will be different things for different people, but once you've actually sat down and thought about it, made a list even, you will find yourself much more focussed and clear. You will often be surprised that the things you thought made you happy (money, nice things, expensive days out, spa days, shopping) might not actually be the true key to your own happiness...

Elspeth writes, "Our jobs and the increased affluence they bring have not, on the whole, made us happy" (If you haven't read Oliver James's Affluenza then I urge you to do so, a real eye opener!) "On the contrary, recent research on the nature of happiness suggests that what most people need in order to feel content is not big cars or fancy clothes but the straightforward stuff: a good walk, watching the sunset, time with family and friends and some wholesome homemade food." It is through reading this back in 2013 that I re-evaluated the things that cause me true, unadulterated happiness...

I put together a list of all the things that make my weekends I have enjoyed reading back through the list and thinking about what's changed (if anything) and if there are new things I'd add to my list.

Lucy's Wonderful Weekends 2013

-crafts and hobbies -reading -lie in's -spending time with family -meals out -blog writing              -de-cluttering & organising -picnics -TV/film nights -trips to the theatre -baking & cooking   
-cleaning -washing -shopping -long walks -visit the beach -swimming
-having weekend guests -socialising with friends -BBQ's -home improvement & DIY   
-weekends away -time in the garden -pampering -breakfasts & brunches -afternoon tea 
-girlie nights -attending parties -planning events -family days out 

Actually, not a lot has changed in terms of my tastes for weekend activities. Obviously with the addition of Bert to our family I now feel that the 'family days out/spending time with family' parts are much higher up on the weekend priority list now. I would also add 'a weekend run//parkrun' to my list of weekend activities - I'm about to embark on my second Bedford Parkrun this weekend and I can't wait - I'm excited about pushing myself/my body, and hopefully achieving a new better time...competing only with myself with a determination to improve my fitness and become the healthiest Mumma for Bert. 

Some of the weekend activities listed above I no longer get to do as often as I did pre-kids, but I do think I work hard to include all of them in my busy life at some point. I guess it is all about priorities - I am a huge advocate for self-care, being kind to yourself, and giving yourself a break: I see so many busy parents (both female and male) who are exhausted, run ragged, worn down, and feel like they have little of their 'old selves' remaining since kids came along. I am determined not to be that sort of parent - I do not wish to lose my 'me-ness' to parenting... yes, I am a parent and it is my most important job but I am also a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a crafter, a baker, a mover & shaker..(ha ha you catch my drift!) And so I don't ever feel guilty for taking time for me, to do the things I love, and nurture myself as well as my family. 

For me, mindfulness is the key to having wonderful balanced weekends - being mindful of what you want to achieve from your weekend and not just ambling through with no aims, no plans. Some of us might be guilty of making unrealistic plans, perhaps setting ourselves a huge list of unachievable jobs which will not only wear you out in your attempt to achieve them but will also leave you feeling frustrated when you haven't completed them all by Sunday evening! Equally, some of us don't plan anything at all, despite the same need to 'get stuff done', and it's those people who find they get to Sunday night thinking "what did I actually DO this weekend?" if that sounds like you then perhaps you need to start planning a little more - striking a balance between what NEEDS to be done, and what you'd LIKE to do. 

I use inspiration from Elspeth's fabulous book, along with my own reflective and mindful mindset to scribble notes, ideas, aims, jobs, and wishes in my beautiful Rob Ryan notebook (which was a gorgeous gift from my lovely friend Clare a few years ago) to ensure I get the most from my weekends, to ensure I get the jobs done but have a whole load of fun in between - I try to strike a balance between action-packed fun-filled weekends, and then some quieter weekends based mainly at home, slowing down the pace and catching up with jobs.

Recently, my weekends have been action-packed and full of wonderfully fun activities both with family and friends, on my own and with Liam/Bert - the jobs might not have been done, the house may be a little messy and dusty - but boy am I HAPPY! 

I've been wined and dined at the MAD Blog Awards in London with my blogging bestie Emma (From Mrs Shilts), I've messed around in a Photo Booth with Dr Ranj off the TV, I've spent an amazing day with my friend Sarah at The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court indulging in all things crafty, I have baked cakes and been creative, we took Bert to the local film festival to see a children's film called 'Bears', we have had a caked-treat at our local patisserie, we have celebrated friends' birthdays with tea parties and last weekend we celebrated Liam's Nan's 94th birthday!!

Here is a little snippet in photo form of some of my recent #WonderfulWeekends... 

The MAD Blog Awards, Kensington (18.0915)

The Handmade Fair, Hampton Court (19.0915)

Cake making, family day out, patisserie treat, competition prizes arriving and DIY'ing. Saturday 26th Sept 2015. 

Two birthday parties on one Sunday: my friend Alison's 62nd Birthday tea party followed by afternoon cake celebrating Nanny Flossie's 94th Birthday! 

What #WonderfulWeekends...

What makes your weekends wonderful?

Mrs B