.: Carrot Cake :.

I’ve been doing lots of cooking recently. From home-made pizza, Brownies (with 90% dark chocolate, so yum!) and today decided to try a carrot cake. I’ve followed the Hummingbird’s recipe for this one. As usual I didn’t follow the sugar quantities. For instance in the brownies I’ve used half of the sugar, this time rather than the 300g I’ve used only 200g

Ingredients

For the cake

300g soft light brown sugar (In my version I’ve used 200g)
3 eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon (plus extra to decorate) (I’ve added a bit more)
1/2tsp ground ginger (forgot to buy ginger, so used nutmeg instead)
1/2tsp salt
1/4tsp vanilla extract
300g carrots, grated
100g shelled walnuts, chopped (plus extra chopped and whole to decorate)

For the frosting (this is the official version)
600g icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter (at room temp)
250g cream cheese, cold

What I’ve used instead (pretty much replacing the butter or the cream with greek yogurt)

1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp cream cheese (I’ve rounded to 80g)
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt – (I’ve rounded to 80g too)
4-5 tbsp powdered sugar
scant 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

As you can see, it’s a much smaller quantity of frosting which only allows to cover the top of the cake. If you want to have a bigger quantity, just follow the official recipe and replace the butter with greek yogurt + vanilla extract

And here’s the result

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Since it was my first time doing this cake, I’m really happy with the result. It’s really moist, it tastes really nice and it doesn’t feel too sugary. I’ll have to do it again!

Do you like Carrot Cake? What’s your favourite version?

.: Sunlight and brownies :.

Today was planning to go out for a walk but after baking brownies in the kitchen, I’m feeling a bit tired. Probably the heat doesn’t help either (30 degrees in the living room!)
So instead of going out now, just decided to detox in the room.
I’m actually struggling to find a position where I can actually held my notebook and write while the music is playing in the room and you are moving inside me. It smells brownies all over the house, such a delicious dark chocolate smell.
It would be quite tempting to go back to my computer and get distracted with social media… but sometimes we need to disconnect. No e-mails, no flashing notifications, no distractions, just the here and now. Appreciating the warm light that tries to enter the room, the music playing and the dark chocolate smell.
Considering you are just days before coming out, I should be feeling more stressed and anxious, but actually I’m feeling calm and peaceful. Not because I’m not scared (because I am) but because I’m determined to rest and take it easy. You’ll be born when you decide you are ready, so I’m trying to be ready for you as well.
All I did pretty much this year was to let stress take the best out of me. I felt miserable for a long time (something tells me the hormones had a say on it as well), but it felt I wasn’t being me.
I was moaning and complaining every single day and I even ended up crying on my way back home after a shitty day at the office.
Well you know what? That’s not what I want for me and surely not for you either.
Truth to be told I still don’t know what I want to be and what I should be doing career wise, but I do know who I don’t want to become.
I don’t want to let the child in me die, and I hope the creative me will start to wake up again bit by bit. With so many options out there do I how do I know which road to take? All I know for sure is that I want to spend good quality time with you and dad and give you the same childhood memories as the ones I grew up with.
We never had a luxurious life, on the contrary quite a modest one, but looking back we had the luxury of time well spent together. Running in the beach, gathering sea-shells, building castles in the sand. Running in the fields on the back of our house, grabbing lemons below the tree or grabbing fresh oranges on a sunny day. Or maybe a drive to the mountains where we would jump on the rocks and try not to fall into the river (most likely I would end up doing that and getting my feet wet, whereas my sis would jump faster and more skillfully than clumsy me). We didn’t need any more than that.
Not many of my friends who had better houses, better toys and branded clothing can say the same and I don’t remember being that bothered either even as a kid. Because time is priceless so I want to give the same to you.
There is no point in getting fooled by “lady boss” and “women on leadership” and let’s continue to try to grow as high as I can if that means I won’t have enough time for you. I know for a few years now that I don’t want that life, just haven’t figured out what is my middle ground yet. There’s a part of me that hopes you’ll bring clarity into my head and I’ll end up figuring out what’s best for all of us.
Because in the end all I want is afternoons like this, where I’m here with you, relaxing, stretching my feet, feeling free and enjoying the sun through the windows. Because moments like this have no price, they are memories that will stay with me forever.

.: The cheesecake and the blank page :.

Is there something more liberating than having time for myself and a blank page staring at you? No pressure, no compromises either. It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday or what happens next, just being here now and go with the flow.
If you spend all your life following schedules that you can barely control yourself and rushing against time, isn’t it great when nothing else matters, just enjoying the freedom of every single second? You can stop and just stare outside, you can grab the pen and just follow your own words. So many possibilities left to unfold waiting for you.
This feels something we used to have as kids, this type of freedom of being but as we grow older the world seems to build it’s own special rules on us. Be on time for work, prepare an important meeting, leave on time to reach the doctor appointment or pick the kids from school.
And now, while I’m staring at everyone else around me follow the clock outside I realise this might be one of the last times in a long time I’ll be able to do this. Just me, no one else, not even my own expectations of me. I guess the more the reason for me to enjoy it well. Although I’m not necessarily alone anymore either. You are making sure I don’t forget about you, kicking inside of me (Probably as a reaction to the amazing cheesecake I’m having). It’s hard to believe it’s only a matter of days before we finally meet! That is probably going to be THE moment of my life Because of that I’ve been full of worries in my head: Are you ok? Are you going to reach outside safely? Are you going to be healthy? Am I going to be the Mom you deserve?

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So for now it feels good just to be here: me, you, us. Just enjoying the cheesecake and occupying this once blank page. The world carries on, but for this once I just stop and stare. No distractions (no e-mail, no social medial). That’s right, to make the most of it all I have is pen and paper – and a big window in front of me. I can also stop and just imagine what the other people are doing. There are 2 other people in the room with me, both of them with their own computers. I used to play a game while I was in public transport trying to read people’s minds and creating stories behind their lives. You don’t even notice time goes by. Now I tend to do what everyone else does, which is to stare at stuff on my phone and occasionally read. I miss a bit of the old days, so let’s try to play it again.
The guy on the right and side of the window seems to be a programmer or a web designer doing some work. He looks really quiet actually. He’s probably used to work from places like this, feels somehow better than to work from home. Less lonely I guess, even if you’re not interacting with anyone. Also in London not many people have the luxury of space for an office.
I would probably fancy finding such a job, that would allow me to work from everywhere. Today this lovely cafe, tomorrow maybe sitting in front of the river. That would be quite a creative boost wouldn’t it?
The lady on my left working with a mac I suspect is a creative of some sort. She’s also quite young (not even sure if she’s even 20!). She just ordered another round of coffee. Probably she’s working at a startup in the marketing or fashion industry. She looks the type that could easily be a blogger and actually be working as such (yap, nowadays being a blogger can be a profession as well).
I have a blog too but I use it mostly to share photos and thoughts. Doubt I could ever make a life out of it.
Next to the counter people are chatting and socialising, but my attention keeps getting drawn to these two silently working from different corners of the room.
Would they actually benefit from talking to each other? I suspect so, but that would be awkward for them I guess, because at first glance, aside from both working from the same space they don’t seem to have anything in common. Also I guess in their heads there’s also an invisible cube around them. It doesn’t matter who else is in the room, who comes or goes. The chatter in the counter doesn’t seem to bother them either – I guess the same way it doesn’t bother me either.
Uh…. just realise my cheesecake is almost gone! It’s really good (one can’t resist happy calories, I surely can’t). I wish I could bake like this! Although I’m certainly improving. The brownies we’ve baked over the weekend were really good and my scones tend to make my friends smile (baby I suspect you will like them as well).
Shall we have the last bit of cheesecake? Let’s do it… and that’s it, gone. Now I’m staring at the plate with nostalgia, when the cheesecake was still there. While the last sweet sensation from the cheesecake goes down, you’re kicking (you recognise the sweet taste don’t you?).
I stop to admire the lights in the room as well as my real life telly (I mean the big window) of people coming and going outside. I’m also starting to feel I need a bit of a break because I’m not used to write this long in pen & paper anymore (need to train my hands on that old school process again). While that, I look at the newcomers, a mom and 2 really well behaved kids. They are quietly enjoying their cake and fresh milk. I’m sure our 2 workers are as impressed as me, as probably they thought that they would be disturbed. They haven’t. Although I suspect a bit of distraction would be a good welcome break to whatever they are doing. Ah, guess I was right, as he got up and he’s looking through the window outside. A mini break before getting back to work. Isn’t it amazing how small little breaks can be such a productivity boost? Which reminds me of an interesting paper I wrote back at uni (we were tasked with interview people and explore around the breaks they did at work and how that affected their productivity). I definitely miss writing. But as soon as I would have the pressure to write to meet deadlines that’s it, all the worlds would take holiday from me and vanish somewhere else. So I guess that’s not something I will be doing either. Just stick to blogging when the words come even if no one else reads it.
There’s a newcomer in the room, a nice guy and a dog. Yap, I know, I’m already assuming he’s a nice guy. But you can actually judge people by the way they treat animals. He’s caressing the dog and the dog seems so happy. I’m seriously smiling as it’s such a tender moment happening right in front of me. Mr worker seems to have noticed as well and he’s smiling, while the young lady is still striking back her keyboard completely distracted of what goes around her. I’m happy I’ve noticed and that I’m actually here right now to see it. Dog seems happy and so am I. Happy that I left the house and the distractions to appreciate moments like this.
I have no idea how long I have been here. I didn’t checked time when I arrived and certainly not checking it now either, but it feels time to go for a walk and stretch my legs a little bit.
The luxury of time does indeed wonders . I feel absolutely peaceful and free from any worries. It doesn’t matter what happens next but I’m just happy that I’ve stopped the clock and just came to my once cheesecake and blank page.

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.: In the Kitchen – Brownies :.

So they say, couples that cook together stay together

Photo from google

And I don’t mean one being in the kitchen to make each other’s company, I mean really doing some proper team work. We actually enjoy doing quite a lot. We just don’t do it more often because we’re both lazy, so we end up doing something in the lines of: if one cooks the other is responsible for cleaning the kitchen afterwards.

Yesterday, we were talking about childhood memories and one of his sweetest memories (literally) was to cook brownies with his best mate. He said that they had done the recipe so many times they knew the page by heart, plus the mess was so big that the page was full of chocolate! Once we’ve started living together we’ve ended up buying the book just so we could do the brownies recipe.

This is the book: the joy of cooking (available on amazon here) and you can read it all about it here.

Unlike today’s books it’s doesn’t contain pictures of how the dishes look like and the instructions follow a more classical approach. I have to admit that apart from the brownies I haven’t tried anything else yet. But have flagged a few to try in a near future.

Here’s the recipe

Preheat oven to 350 F / 180C

1/2 cup butter (around 115g of butter)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate (we’ve used 125g)
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar (400g)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted (around 136g)
1 cup pecan meats

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double-broiler (or a pot over another pot of boiling water). Let this mixture cool, or the brownies will be heavy and dry. Beat the eggs and salt until light in color and foamy in texture. Add the sugar and vanilla gradually and continue beating until well creamed.

With a few swift strokes, combine the cooled chocolate mixture and the eggs and sugar. Do this by hand instead of using a hand mixer. Before it’s well mixed, fold in the flour. Add the nuts if desired. Stir gently until mixed. Try not to beat the mixture too heavily. Bake in a greased 9 X 13 inch pan for about 25 minutes at 350 F. Cover the pan with a towel and leave it to sit between 30 and 45 minutes. Don’t cut until the brownies are cool as the interiors are still moist when fresh from the oven.

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We’ve managed to get the 3 C’s (Crunchy, chewy and creamy inside), although it could have cooked a few minutes more than the instructions said.

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I had mine with a bit of my home-made banana / nutella ice cream

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My own notes:

  • Next time I’ll actually use half of the sugar and use brown sugar instead. Although the flavour was amazing, it felt like too much sugar
  • I’ve added a small espresso into the mixture because same as the salt, it enhances the flavour of the chocolate. I could really feel it in the end result.
  • I didn’t use pecan meats but I’ve used some mixed nuts

To think that we hadn’t done brownies for almost 6 years! Last time I had replaced the nuts with pears (chopped thinly) and it was so good and so moist!

Have you done brownies before? What is your favourite recipe?

.: More random thoughts :.

If there’s a thought there’s been in my head for a while is how to live more and worry less. We’ve all seen the latest trends: minimalism, declutter, meditation but somehow it seems a lot easier said than done.
I have started meditation back in May and have been doing it daily ever since (I don’t regret it at all). It feels liberating to take 10/15m out of your time to try not to think about anything. Not the past, not the future, just being there and learning to breathe too. A bit later started yoga, which I’m planning to go back into as soon as I have the chance as well.
But, there’s one thing that still bothers me, and that’s the constant worries, that sense I could be doing so much more out of my life than I’m actually doing. That constant sense that somehow I’ve lost the real me, or even worst, that I don’t even know who the real me is. Life for me is changing, for sure, the biggest change of them all and I guess that will force me to look myself in the mirror and try to understand: where next? What is really really important.
Should I carry on my life as it is? Am I feeling fulfilled with what I’m doing? Probably not, but from this moment on I can’t also just leave it all behind be crazy and start something new. Responsibilities and commitments are about to change. But surely, something can still be done. Can I find the right balance and wake up every morning feeling calm knowing that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing?
This must be the billion dollar question that all of us try to answer. The other day I was talking about this with a friend. I was saying that most of us talk a lot of time about work, it tends to be to complain about it. And then there are those, like my sister who talk about their work and feel excitement, feel passion as if they are doing the right job in that moment in time. I take job and commitment way too seriously and it’s really easy to let it control me and take priority over everything else. I miss the days when I used to feel creative and having time to wonder and just enjoy the things around me, without this constant worry to follow me as a shadow.
If you read what I’ve been doing the past few years you’ll easily notice the trend. I know for a while now I need to chance, except I haven’t yet figure out what. So I carry on, with the stuff I know, not daring, not stopping to look around. I still hope that the answer will come magically knocking on my door, but then again I was never one to trust luck. I guess it could help if I focus in what I know I like and move from there, step by step and try to discard everything else I know I don’t enjoy either. Like a brain declutter ultimately. Probably I should try to do one of those spiritual breakaways, which I kinda experienced last year over a long weekend in lake district. It was so beautiful around me, so relaxing, I just felt like walking slowly and enjoy the beauty around me. It made me realise I really need more moments like that, and they shouldn’t resume to just be over the holidays. Somehow I should be ensuring that I have more moments like that continuously during the week. Or maybe I just need to ensure I just relax more and let everything happen. Rather than keep on trying to find solutions let myself relax and let the solutions pop up in my head while I’m doing something I enjoy, let’s say while listening to music and enjoying the sun on my face or just feeling the wind in my face. Maybe and only maybe the key for finding the solution is to stop searching for it. Maybe and only maybe I’ll start to feel the weight on my shoulders reduce and feel that it can be ok to just wait and try to find a way of making each day matter, at my own rhythm, at my own pace. Maybe and only maybe, when I’m least expecting, I’ll discover all the things I’m searching for are just standing here, by my side waiting for me to grab them and hold them.

.: Who do you want to be? :.

“If you could be anyone today who would you choose to be? Would you be doing exactly the same things as right now? Why is this a question we only ask ourselves when something really drastic happens in our life?
What if we stop waiting for the turning point and stop the clock right now. Imagine you have a magic clock in your hand and with the turn of the engine you could be anything? What would you be? Would you be a musician? A bailarina? A creative? For a small group of us out there we would rather say: at this point in time I am what I want to be, no change required. For most of us though, that endless door of possibilities is a fiction book we are only allowed to read once in a while in our dreams. But we barely read it so every time we do it we have to start again. What happens with our lives that we just let go of all possibilities and we no longer there. Someone would point out that it’s part of growing up and having responsibilities, that we can’t have everything.
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Deep inside I feel like Peter Pan and refusing to grow up and still feeling that little star within me that keeps on whispering it’s never to late why don’t you try it out? Then the rational side of me says if that was that easy…  You don’t ever know what you want, so just go back to what you know and stick with it until you’re sure. But will I ever be sure?
When I was a little girl I wanted to be a lawyer because I used to believe I could make a difference to people. That soon disappeared from my mind. Then I  don’t think I had any further wishes and was always wondering what I wanted to be. Used to spend hours writing. Oh I loved writing. Would let my feelings guide my pen and just feeling free. Maybe in those pages I could be a hero and be doing all the things I wouldn’t ever dare to dream. Then I would draw stuff although I don’t think I was that good at it, so went back to writing. At that point I was a teenager and had lots of emotions flowing through my veins. There was this constant search for love. A love I felt it would never come. Had no other wish back then but to be loved. I was quite the classical dramatic and emotional teenager. One day I found love but that was at the same time as growing up. Start to work, pay the bills and follow up routine like everyone else. Throughout the years though I always felt that a part of me was missing. That my creative side had felt into a black hole and ever since I’ve been trying to find it. I know its within me somewhere and I hope that by finding it I’ll finally find the answer to who would I be if I could be anyone tomorrow?”

.: How to find motivation to cook just for one :.

I’m sure we’ve all been there at least one. It’s just one of us at home and it’s meal time. Feels like eat a sandwich or some cereals and not bother to cook at all. It’s a lot easier, mentally, to cook at least for 2. Since I struggle with motivation to cook for the 2 of us on a daily basis, when I’m home alone, I’ll typically do something really quick, such as just cereals or maybe pasta with tuna or similar.

My inspiration in this field has to be my sister. Most of the time she does cook just for herself. The way she does it though, is to cook as if it was for 2 and then next day she doesn’t need to buy or cook an additional lunch. Sometimes she will store the leftovers and mix up with something else so she doesn’t get bored of the food.

She says if she wasn’t going to cook, then she would be eating just cereals and rubbish and that’s not healthy. Plus she really likes to eat, and she eats quite well. She’s also really skinny, mostly due to the amount of exercise she does. Although she eats a lot, she actually eats healthy, avoiding fried stuff or too much sugars on a weekly basis.

Here’s some of the things she cooks:

Here’s one of my favourites, this is actually cod, with corn bread and shrimps on the top.

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Corn bread with melted cheese and oregano for the starter

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Stuffed mushrooms

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Peas with chorizo & poached eggs (this is quite a classic in the portuguese menu)

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Not sure what this one was

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And this was her lemon merengue pie, which was absolutely delicious!

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Do you struggle to find motivation to cook just for one? Any main dish you rely on?

.: On a mission to eat healthy :.

Yap, this year I’ve been on a mission to eat healthy. First of all, because that’s what we all should do by default, then, because it’s no longer just about me! Then as I’ve lost a lot of wait for the last few months, trying to recover with lots of healthy food. And as I know, eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring, can be really tasty it just gives a bit more work.

Little steps I was already doing:

  • No Soda drinks – This is something I was already avoiding anyway. Even juices I tend to avoid. I rather have water with lemon and ice, it’s much more refreshing and healthier too
  • Don’t drink your fruit – eat it – As per point above, I’ve been avoiding juices. But once in a while will do a smoothy, like banana & honey and a bit of milk. So good!
  • Avoid fried stuff & avoid ready made meals
  • I don’t use salt in the food. I’m not the type that seasons everything with salt. I use herbs instead, pepper, paprika, coriander, parsley, whatever I have available. I do use the knorr once in a while for the pasta (which on it’s own has a lot of salt)
  • As I love pasta and bread, I replace white pasta / bread by wholemeal versions of it. I love wholemeal pasta, really tasty!

This year I’ve started to prepare my own soups

  • I’ve done tomato soup
  • Juliana de legumes (pretty much a portuguese soup based out of potato, and cabbage)
  • Carrot cream
  • Ramen (well this is a kind of a soup – I use Nigella’s recipe)

I had no idea how I was craving for soups until I left Portugal! Nothing is better than a good soup, seriously. It really makes you feel warm within.

I’ve started to eat a lot more fish, mostly cod & salmon. If I go out for dinner, I tend to scan the fish options and go for it. Unfortunately within UK it tends to be the classic fish & chips (so fried…) But I find that more places offer fish options these days.

A few other ideas I have tried:

  • Banana ice cream – Frozen banana is all you need to prepare a creamy banana ice cream. It’s really easy! I’ve done my version with honey and cinnamon

Photo from thekitchn.com

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  • Tuna & bean salad – This is a dish that reminds me of my childhood. We would call it “russian salad” known as Olivier salad. We would have boiled potatoes, boiled egg, tuna, olives and sometimes green beans and mix it all up with mayo. As I don’t really eat mayo anymore (something I really avoid at all cost), I did my version with boiled potatoes, boiled egg, tuna & chopped tomato topped up with portuguese olive oil. It looks similar to this italian version from Tesco’s website.

For dinner today I had water with ice, strawberries and lemon

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And prepared cous-cous with grilled chicken in parsley & honey sauce, chopped plum tomatoes & nuts in parsley, olive oil, lemon & honey. It ended up being a quite tasty and flavourful meal. For dessert fresh strawberries!

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Another ideas, pesto pasta with grilled salmon and cherry tomato.13321812_10207505053359259_4373151561322365991_n

Any good recipes that you rely on?

.: My headspace :.

Ah is there anything better than a long weekend? I went to South Wales on this one, which I find is one of the best places in UK to slow down and relax surrounded by all the green scenery. For instance I love Lake District a lot, but it just takes forever to get there, especially if we’re talking about a long weekend! I’m hoping to be back at some stage, in any random weekend to spend a few days there. South Wales is a much easier option as it’s just 2h15 from London (or 3h and a bit with the traffic on a long weekend).

The point of a weekend away tends to be to relax, and starting the weekend stuck in 6h queues isn’t a great start. Finally one that was far more relaxing! We’ve managed to reach the hotel for dinner at 08h! I will be sharing the photos of the hotel and the weekend on my other blog here

What I really want to stay is that I took this weekend to turn a page in my book of live and to learn to let it go. I’ve been way too stressed lately. A month ago I ended up crying on my way home after leaving the office due to the stress and frustration. Maybe I can blame it on the hormones, but… this not the way anyone should live. Not worth it as everyone around me says, especially not now. I’ve been having all my priorities all wrong (I’ve been saying this for a while, have I not?)

Recommended by a friend I’m now doing daily meditation (using Headspace), reading a book about it and just joined yoga classes that will start in June. I do want to change for real, taking the train of the biggest change ever! I want to look back and say:

“I was doing it all wrong, but now it’s better. I’ve managed to change and I feel a lot better. I feel that for once I can grab life with both hands rather than feel it keeps on escaping through my fingers like water drops.”

The truth is I’ve just arrived home and I feel so much better! Just 2 days away and I feel almost brand new. The full test of fire will be once I’m back into the office, but for now I’ll enjoy it, peacefully.

About Headspace (Disclaimer: I’m not being sponsored at all for this post, it’s a genuine review as I really enjoy the program and the design of the app)
Headspace is a really lovely animated app that you can use on your computer and phone, with tailored programs for meditation. I’m still using the free program, which includes a 10 days guide for beginners.

For more information check their website or app.

Which relaxation techniques do you use to handle a stressful life? Anything you would recommend?

.: Capsule wardrobe :.

I believe I have already published something in similar lines before, but it’s always good to remember. I’m in the process right now of starting to check my wardrobe (and stuff in general) as I need space. Because I still have 3 months to go I haven’t really started, but it’s always a good time to start. Every season I check the items I have, the items I need and I create 2 piles: throw away (if it’s no longer in good enough condition) and give away – in our building we have a clothing storage which makes this process easier.

A few years ago I’ve also created 2 boards on pinterest: my wardrobe – so I remember what I already have – and the wishlist – to make me think twice before I buy it. When I finally need something e.g. a dress, I go into the wishlist and see the items I already have in there. I tend to buy most of my clothing online as I don’t have much time for shopping and also, because every time I go to the stores they never have my number, this is why this system works for me.

Recently I’ve been wearing 95% of my time dresses for work and leggings over the weekends – or just PJ in a lazy day like today.

So I’ve really enjoyed this little video as it summarises what I’ve been trying to achieve at home:

The app looks pretty easy to use, so will give it a go and see how it helps.
Any personal ideas on how to de-clutter?