Head in the (tech) Cloud? Or a bit fluffy around the edges?

clouds

We often hear talk of ‘The Cloud’ but was is it and more importantly, how do you use it? Here’s our quick (not super tecchie) heads up on the basics.

What is the Cloud? It is essentially an internet based, space saving, data storage service rather than a physical device, although ‘behind the scenes’ of the internet, the Cloud is linked to a network of mega servers all over the world. In basic terms, if you take a photo on your smart phone and upload it to Facebook or Instagram, you are essentially uploading it to the Cloud.

Why do I need the Cloud in my life? If you are storing lots of photos, music or files on your smart phone/ tablet/ laptop/ desktop these will eventually slow your device to a snail’s pace, frustrating the heck out of you, using up space that leaves you deleting things like a maniac or worse still, if your device goes bang/ gets stolen/ is lost, you lose all your precious files! EEK! Cue the Cloud: it’s automatically backed up, stored and saved to your Cloud account all your photos (even the ones you’d hoped you’d deleted), files, music and documents averting catastrophe and saving the day – you just need to login and it’s all there.
You can even run programs via Cloud services such as Adobe or Microsoft Word without the need to install memory munching packages. Just open your browser, eg Chrome or Explorer, and you can open up Google Docs and get cracking on that report. Similarly, open up Spotify to listen to your music collection or Netflix and catch up on TV and films. Clever stuff!
One of the great things about Cloud is that you can share photos privately with family and friends via sites like Flickr without having to stick them all over Facebook. On a more professional level, Google Drive allows you to work with other people collaboratively online.

Sounds great, how do I get some Cloud in my life? Have a mooch around on your devices, you may well find that they have Cloud services built in (personally, I’m an Android, so I have Google Drive on both my phone and tablet, Mrs W however is a iBod – not a tech term, just a Mrs N one – so uses iCloud on her mac, iPhone and iPad). If you are an iBod, follow the prompts on your device to sign up for iCloud, that way all your pics, music, mags, books, notes, movies – your whole life pretty much – is available to you across all your iDevices. For Google Drive, go to Google homepage and click on the icon in the top right hand corner to get started with Google Drive (there’s a little presentation to explain it to you in clear concise language so I won’t try to confuse you here!).

Not convinced? How about giving these a whirl instead?
Set up your own ‘Cloud’ at home in the form of a WiFi connected hard drive like WD’s My Cloud (loads of different brands available on Amazon). Once set up and linked to your device, you can access your hard drive from anywhere.

Free Cloud Apps to get you started:
Dropbox – for Mac, PC, iOS, Android and Blackberry. Very user friendly, 2GB (about 500 photos worth) of free storage, you can upgrade this to 100GB for £6/mth. You can privately see all your files on all your devices and if you want to share them with friends/ family, you can send them a link to access it. Data is kept encrypted.

Google Drive – for Mac, PC, Android, iOS and Blackberry. 15GB of free storage (4000 pics, 1500 songs or thousands of Word docs). Create, edit and share using Cloud based Google Docs. Clever.

Evernote – for Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows phone. I love Evernote. I use it as my scrapbook in the sky, writing lists (no shocker there!), taking snapshots that I can clip notes to, recording silly audio of the kids, you can use it ‘properly’ though and collate articles, itineraries, maps, confirmations – whatever you fancy really, all neatly filed within notebooks and easily accessible across your linked devices. You can upgrade to ‘premium’ should you choose for £4/mth but I’m happy on the freebie one.

I hope that if you weren’t Cloud savvy before that you feel a bit more in the know now… We always welcome tips and advice here, so if you have some good’uns to share, please do in the comments.

Right, I’m off to empty my busy head into Evernote, safe in the knowledge that the photos I took on my phone of the kids having a water fight earlier are safely stored on my Google Drive *happy face*.

Mrs N x

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Sugden and Daughters

We are extremely lucky to have some brilliant shops near to Nicholas and White HQ, one of which is the fabulous Sugden and Daughters Barn shop at Yardley Hastings. Sugden and Daughters is very much a family affair, run by Louisa and Mark Sugden, with many of the beautiful objects they sell having been designed, handmade and crafted by the husband and wife team for our pleasure. With the tagline ‘fabulous things for individual living’, they are passionate about upcycling, repurposing, with a strong belief that good design and quality will always be ‘on trend’. Many of the treasures they sell have a history to them and part of the appeal (for N&W anyway) is that history. Louisa and Mark are also stockists of fabulous fabrics by the likes of St Judes and Cloth & Clover, paints by Little Greene and Grand Illusions Vintage Paint and wallpapers by Astrid & Rudolf – you can bedeck your whole home in the leafy surrounds of Northamptonshire then nip over the yard to the Red Lion pub for lunch!

The Barn entrance

The Barn entrance

Let’s start with an easy quartet of quick fire questions:
Your favourite quote? ‘There are two ways to be rich; Earn more or want less’ (unknown). I have no idea who said this but I read it somewhere years ago and it really changed the way I look at life. I have had it scribbled on a chalkboard in my kitchen ever since. It had a major influence on us when we were deciding to start Sugden and Daughters. The quote has made such an impression on my life that we have recently worked with a printmaker and had it produced as a print for our shop, printed on a 1940’s printing press.

Ultimate relaxation? Hmm, this is a difficult one. I’m not sure ultimate relaxation actually features in my life. The last time I recall feeling so relaxed was when Mark & I had two nights in Byfords, a luxury B&B in Holt; Egyptian cotton sheets on a Kingsize bed, Bang and Olufsen sound system streaming into the ensuite, candles, wine and a decor that Sugden and Daughters very much approved of. The weather was cold and miserable outside so we stayed in our room most of the time. We slept for England and in between sleeps I indulged in luxurious candlelit baths.

Books or magazines? Interior & Lifestyle magazines. I love reading but rarely get the time to sink into a good book which is a shame. Magazines allow me to keep up to date with interior trends & indulge my passion for design and interior design.

Most memorable meal? Mark & I love food and eating out and we have dined in some amazing places but the most memorable meal is eating fish and chips in Suffolk. We had a rare child free afternoon so we drove to Walberswick and caught the rowing boat ferry over to Southwold. We bought fish and chips from a hut nestled amongst the fishing huts and sat outside in the fresh air looking at boats go by. It was one of those happy moments when I realised how happy & content I was with my life. I love simple pleasures!

Barn Interior

Barn Interior

Sugden and Daughters have been trading for almost two years now, how do you manage to juggle design, crafting and business commitments with those of being a wife and mum? Are you an expert delegator or are you just super organised? Another tricky one to answer. There’s no one to delegate to so it can’t be that. I suppose I am pretty organised. Very early on I realised that I can’t do everything so I have had to let some unimportant things slip. Friends & family are very important to me so no matter how busy I am I always make time for them. If my housework suffers so be it.

Could you give us a little insight into the why and how of you launching Sugden and Daughters? Pre children I was a career girl but post children my priorities shifted. Living life seemed so much more important that being on the career hamster wheel. I felt a strong desire to break free from the corporate world & thankfully I have a very supportive husband. Following a back operation and weeks off work I dreaded the thought of going back into an office so I walked away from my career. Mark was in his final year at college & we suddenly had no income. Sugden and Daughters was literally born overnight. It sounds irresponsible now but having a passion for decorative antiques and interiors already we felt confident it would work with hardwork and determination.

Is there anything you would maybe do differently now with hindsight (without giving all your secrets away of course!) or advice you would give yourselves now if you were just starting out? Actually, no.

What top tips do you have for harmonious living or possibly more importantly, anything that should be avoided at all cost when working together for yourselves? Thankfully Mark & I work really well together. We have naturally fallen into different roles within the business and where we have a skills shortfall we work through it together. Probably the top tip is to talk to each other. We talk all the time so nothing gets bottled up or forgotten about.

You stock a lovely wide range of products, where does your inspiration come from when you are upcycling or repurposing items? Mark & I are both creative thinkers so we just throw ideas around. Both my dad and granddad were upcyclers long before it became a buzz word. I suppose they are my ultimate inspiration. I think my granddad was the original Womble.

Barn Interior

Barn Interior

One of the many things we love about your barn is that although you are constantly changing the stock, you always seem to have something that catches the eye (fans of ‘Show All Sunday’ here!) whether that be a gorgeous scented candle (the Black Rose and Frankincense is just divine, though am partial too to the Lavender and Geranium and..!) or a handmade soap, notelets, coffee pot lamps, mugs, fabrics… you have a real knack for not only finding great pieces, but also unusual ones: how do you manage not to buy EVERYTHING for your own home?! We are not currently in our ‘forever home’ so not keeping things is easy. Everything we sell is a step nearer to moving house. I think when we’re in forever home it will be a different story but for now we have a rule; everything is for sale. We occasionally caretake pieces that we can’t bear to part with straight away. It’s turned into a bit of a joke where Mark sells the things I covet and vice versa.

Alongside stocking Little Greene Paint and Grand Illusions Vintage Paint, you are now branching into paint courses, is an upcycling course on the cards for the future? Good thought. We hadn’t thought of that one. If there is a demand we’d certainly do it.

Finally, what’s next for Sugden and Daughters? We are opening another barn shop in September. We’re sticking to the theme of a barn next to a pub. Location number 2 is at The White Horse, Old, Northamptonshire. We’ve also started importing antique French & Indian furniture. Mark is also looking for a workshop premises so that he can concentrate on making country industrial style furniture. There’s no rest for the wicked!

Sugden & Daughters can be found at – 89 High Street, Yardley Hastings, Northants NN7 1ER or online at www.sugdenanddaughters.co.uk.
Also found at Kempton Antiques fair – see Twitter & Facebook for dates

Soft Furnishings

Soft Furnishings

Tempting eh?!

Tempting eh?!

Pictures: Perfect or Purge-worthy?

Camera

I don’t know about you but the thought of losing my photos fills me with ‘The Fear’. Growing up, my Mum was the lady who was never without her camera, whatever the event, out came the Canon or ‘The Big Olympus’ *serious photo time*. Whilst we all used to groan, now as Mum myself, I see why she was always snapping away (more impressive was that Mum always got her rolls of film developed promptly then put the pics into an actual album). The memories that are evoked by flipping through the pages on a damp afternoon, seeing us all at the beach of a weekend, sandy sarnies, ice creams and body boards are, frankly, priceless. Dad was also a keen photographer, so we are extremely fortunate that as a family, we have hundreds of photos and slides to pore over.

Fast forward twenty odd years and having snap happy folks has clearly affected both my brother and I – he now plies his trade as a professional photographer for Transworld Skateboarding magazine in the US and me, well I’m constantly clicking away at my kids with my camera phone – often feeling guilty that I have a fabulous camera that rarely sees the light of day because I always have my phone to hand.

Back to the task in hand: whilst I’m not implying that we should all be regularly putting our snaps into an album (though it is truly a lovely thing to flip through on a wet day), what I am suggesting is that once a month you commit to decluttering your SD card. Most phones will automatically back up your pictures to your ‘Cloud’, certainly my android does over the home WiFi.

First and foremost, scroll through your photos – how many of the shots are blurry/ duplicated/ out of focus/ ones you’d prefer not to keep? Delete them, free up space.

Download your photographs on to your picture management programme – iPhoto for Mac and Windows Photo Gallery on PC. Once you have downloaded them, delete them off your card (scary yes, but be brave, you know they are on the computer).

Create a folder on your hard drive for each month, you can have as many sub folders within that month as you like, for example ‘Birthday party’ or by subject such as ‘Kids’ or ‘Beach’. Now file your snaps neatly within each folder, deleting any duplicates or duff shots along the way.

Now, you are nearly there, back your photos up! Heaven forbid your computer dies, taking with it all your pictures! Personally, the Nicholai use a combo of external hard drives and Cloud sites, but you could also back up to DVDs but these don’t hold as many pictures as an external drive or Cloud facility. (An external HD is like a giant USB stick that can store hundreds of thousands of photos, which you plug in to your computer via a USB port. Once plugged in, look for the drive icon on your desktop then drag and drop your folders across to it. A Cloud site is a secure place to store photos, docs, videos remotely that you can access from anywhere via your login – password protected for privacy. Popular sites are SkyDrive, Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive.)

Share your pictures! Whether it’s showing off or sharing, let your friends and family share in your photos. Most Cloud sites have sharing capabilities, or you can use specific sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa which you can use for free. You could make yourself an album with online sites such as photobox.co.uk or snapfish.co.uk or even go ‘Old School’ and print out your photos and make your own album!

Whatever method you choose to do, do it – the heartache of losing your phone or camera or computer and all your photos vanishing doesn’t bear thinking about for me. Yes, initially this could be an arduous task, but also satisfyingly enjoyable. Like all these things, once the routine is in place, it becomes second nature. Go, take pictures, make memories…just remember to edit and file them later…

Mrs N x

June Already?!

What does June mean to you? Here it signals the rapidly approaching end of school year, which in turn equates to getting a mammoth push on the list of ‘things that need to be done without help from small people’! Disciplined collating of paperwork, list making, tidying away – all those things that are ‘jobs for another day’ suddenly take on urgency when the thought of six whole weeks of the kids being home lurk on the horizon. Crazy lady behaviour, true, but I know I’m not alone! So here I am, writing out my latest list of things I feel I need to achieve before the end of term, including getting some blog posts in ‘The Bank’ for when I don’t have time to sit and write without interruptions, when the realisation hits me that we’re already a week into June and I’ve not got a food post up yet for this month. Cue abandonment of list, and hitting the keyboard. Without further rambling, here’s your mini guide to what is seasonal fare in June…

Image via Jamie Oliver

Image via Jamie Oliver

English Asparagus – bountiful now in farmer’s markets, unbeatable for taste (in my humble opinion) to its air freighted cousins from South America. Asparagus loves: Parma ham, bacon, dippy eggs, hollandaise, salt and pepper, lemon juice, fish, shellfish, new spuds, butter, chilli…Keep it in the fridge – nobody likes floppy spears!

Broad beans – young’uns can be gently cooked and eaten with the white skins still on, bigger ones you may prefer to peel the skin off once cooked. Broad beans love strong flavours and go well with things like chorizo, chilli, salty hams and bacon, mint, feta cheese, lamb, lemon, garlic and nuts. Great whizzed up into a dip with some yoghurt, mint and lemon (delicious on toast too). Keep them in the fridge. If you are lucky enough to have a glut, blanch in boiling water then plunge into ice water before freezing. Cook straight from frozen or defrost to use in salads and dips.

Courgettes – did you know these are actually summer squashes? (Courge is French for squash – every day is a learning day here!) Courgettes are as delicious raw as they are cooked, try them raw in salads (as you would a cucumber), thinly sliced with feta and lemon juice, roasted in the oven, baked, stuffed, in cakes, dipped in batter and flash fried, steamed – the possibilities are infinite! If you have grown your own, the flowers are beautiful stuffed with cheese and/or rice.

Broccoli – Broccoli is busting with vits and flavours, loves cheese, garlic, almonds, ginger, beans, pulses, lemon, soy sauce, cream and nuts. Delicious hot or cold, raw or cooked, in salads, stir fries, bakes, soups, roasted or steamed to name but a few.

Cherries – utterly divine, just as they are. Also good with duck, feta, salads, ice cream, baked in cakes and puds, as compote or jam.

Peas – freshly picked and podded peas are a thing of beauty. Lovely used in salads and dips, cooked and dressed in butter with fresh mint, as an accompaniment or as a treat on top of hot toast and soft cheese, chuck in a handful with pretty much any dish and these lovely pops of freshness will lift the dish (e.g. risotto, rice, noodles, curry…)

Radishes – lovely on their own, good for snacking (as you would grapes) eaten whole, thinly sliced and lightly pickled, use to add crunch to salads, top burgers, dipped in salt, delicious with smoked salmon, stir fried with lime, ginger and chicken, mixed through a potato salad – you can even chuck them in the juicer with a couple of carrots and ginger for company. Good friends with goat’s cheese, mint, hummus, mackerel, olives, as a salsa with lamb or fish – leaves are also good in juices, salads and as a base for ‘pesto style’ sauce.

Strawberries – yes, we can get strawbs year round here in the UK but June is when our home-grown British strawberries hit the shelves. Do a taste test for yourself; the difference between the big beefy imported numbers from Spain and Israel, against our smaller, sweeter British counterparts is in my humble opinion huge. There are so many ways to eat a strawberry, from ‘naked’ to homemade ice cream and cakes, in jams, smoothies, in sweet or savoury salads (good with peppery rocket), with grilled halloumi and Parma ham, with balsamic vinegar or ground black pepper (really) – give some a whirl.

Watercress – another from the ‘delicious raw or cooked’ tribe. Great as a peppery salad to accompany richer foods, in soups and juices, mixed with some grated carrot and raw grated beetroot and sesame seeds with a soy dressing. Like its fellow peppery salad leaf rocket, watercress is partial to blue cheese, nuts, steak, chicken, grapefruit, salmon, potatoes and oily fish.

Much of what was good for eating in May will blur over into June, especially with the weather being so erratic these days – think back to Winter 2012/13 – months of freezing and snow and yet this past winter there wasn’t really a ‘Big Freeze’ so to speak, just a very soggy, grey collection of months: the crops are as confused as we are so some are early and some are late. Your local farm shop/ farmers market/ greengrocer should be more than able to help you out with what is local and perfect for eating right now.
Whatever you decide to eat this month, enjoy it, experiment a bit and cook up a storm!

Mrs N x

What’s Your Therapy?

Here at N&W it’s been all kinds of crazy of late with all sorts of things going on, taking up headspace and time which has meant we’ve been a little neglectful of our readers and we are very sorry. Between us we have, as you know, 5 children, 2 husbands, a dog and a cat, all of whom require varying levels of attention…and seemingly endless feeding! The eldest Miss N has just taken her SATs exams, throughout which she was quite the level-headed superstar (no diva like meltdowns), alongside the academia there has been end of season rugby medals x2, a rock climbing competition, new season of cricket starting, many miles on two wheels by Mr N, Mr W has been poorly so no running for him, a Brownie promise, cow milking for the youngest Mr N and Miss W as part of the Farm schools project, tennis lessons, barbecues, Mrs W’s online shop set up…and of course general family life too. Phew! No wonder heads are reeling a little here.

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Image from here

All this got us thinking: what’s your therapy? What do you turn to as your fail safe when your head is full of white noise and jumbled thoughts? We both know that when the noise in our heads becomes deafening, the most noticeable absence in our lives is music: the radio is silent, which as a pair of music lovers who start the days by synchronising the kettle and the radio, seems inherently odd. Generally speaking, music is our constant daily soundtrack, if we pop in on each other and there’s no noise, it will automatically trigger the boiling of a kettle and the question ‘what’s up?’ For Mrs N, cleaning/ ironing/ organising is an instant soother (something inherited from her mum!), exercise (preferably outdoor, whatever the weather) is another head clearer, alongside planning/ list writing and talking things through. For Mrs W, smashing a few tennis balls about is a good tension buster, again with list making and talking things through, usually with a ‘90’s soundtrack and a gallon of tea for good measure!

Go on, spill the beans, tell us what you do to soothe your soul…

Mrs N x

Spring

I love the change in the seasons and Winter to Spring is my favourite.  I got married in spring, mostly because of the seasonal flowers for my bouquet!  I love how you can see the buds blossoming into leaves and flowers and the change is noticeable day by day.

It’s raining here today as I write this but as I look out of one window there is a blanket of three or four different shades of green leaves and out of the other I can see my garden with an abundant colour palette of greens, creams, pinks,  yellows, purples and a deep reddy maroon of the acer in the corner which is perfectly complimented by the sage green of my shed. There is a wonderful scent to the air too, there is lots of lilac on our walk up to school and it’s so lovely to see the wisteria blooming too.

20140508-100439 am.jpg

Nature is so grounding isn’t it?  Without wanting to sound like a tree-hugging hippy (which is ALL kinds of cool by the way if that’s your thing!) we need to take time to connect with Mother Nature as often as we can.  Get outside, breathe some air – hopefully you’re not suffering with hay-fever.  Walk barefooted on dewy grass – I often hang the washing out in my bare feet when it’s not sub-zero.  Even a bunch of fresh flowers in a vase near your desk lifts the spirits.

Which season do you like best?  Are you yearning for summer to arrive or do you miss winter?

Mrs W xx

 

Food Glorious Food!

Gosh this year is marching on a pace! Blossom is well and truly on display here, with the magnolias and fruit trees shedding their prettiness already, making way for lush greenery. I am very aware that I’ve been somewhat slack in the food post department of late (sorry!) so am rectifying that now with a bumper ‘end of April, all of May’ one.

As ever, seasonal and local are buzzwords here at Nicholas and White, we are very fortunate to live in a beautiful county with access to fantastic local produce and suppliers of the aforementioned deliciousness who are both friendly and knowledgeable. We are lucky enough to have a bustling monthly Farmers Market, greengrocers, farm shops, a local micro brewery in ‘Hopping Mad’ (which Mr N is very fond of), artisan breadmaker in ‘Amazing Grains’ and three great delicatessens. Several of our local pubs are also very proud of the local provenance of their dishes and beverages and advertise it as such accordingly. Do actively seek out your local suppliers (try bigbarn.co.uk for local to you info) and make full use of them, there is nothing better or tastier than enjoying high quality, local produce and doing your bit for your local economy.

Image and recipe for this here

Image and recipe for this here

Moving along to seasonal delights….Traditionally, Spring was known as the ‘Hunger Gap’ as it was historically a time for planting rather than harvesting crops, of reaching the tail end of the pickles and preserves that had been made from the summer gluts and stored up for use over the winter months, but, climatic changes *read unpredictable weather* and air freighting have changed how we farm and feed ourselves. The veggies below are what are traditionally available to us at this time of year, but we do obviously have other veg that are grown and available year round here in the UK, and of course courtesy of the supermarkets you can eat whatever you fancy pretty much year round! In terms of meat and fish, lamb is at its best now, along with brown trout, herring, plaice, langoustine and Atlantic cod to name a few (see our foodie post back in Nov ‘13 for full pdf of MSC fish calendar).

Asparagus – loves being a bread substitute for dippy eggs and soldiers, butter, hollandaise, parma ham, shellfish, salmon, parmesan. Steam, boil, roast, griddle, anything goes!

Beetroot – loves apple, feta, watercress, carrots, lentils – delicious grated raw over salad leaves and lightly dressed, juiced with apple and ginger, you can eat the leaves too, just treat as you would spinach or chard.

Spring Greens – lovely steamed or lightly sautéed with garlic and butter, use as you would cabbage.

Wild Garlic – smaller and more delicate that ‘normal’ bulb garlic, think chive like in flavour, leaves are tasty in soup, mixed through mashed spuds, in salads – if you don’t have anywhere local (wild garlic favours woodlands) to forage, try your greengrocers.

Early carrots – smaller and more delicate in flavour than main crop variety, so don’t overcook. The green frilly fronds can be used like you would parsley.

Chard – loves eggs, chilli, spices, sausages, parmesan, nuts and cream. Great in quiches and omelettes, added to curries in place of spinach, gratins, stir fried…

Jersey Royals – as a Jersey Girl, the only way to eat these beautiful gems for me personally is swimming in Jersey butter with some salt and pepper, a seaview and a cold, crisp glass of white!

New Potatoes – self explanatory really, smaller that the main crop variety, a good scrub, a sprig of mint and butter are all these need.

Leeks and Spring Onions – very happily married with any cheese, lovely with eggs, lentils, crème fraiche, lamb, mint, coriander… gently pan fried and put on toast with some cheese under the grill and you have a simple but delicious speedy treat.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli – to keep the colour, stir fry or griddle as boiling/ steaming leeches the colour but most importantly, not the taste.

Early or Forced Rhubarb – loves vanilla, pork, ginger, duck, mackerel, chilli, cream, oats, crumble topping: a favourite here in the Nicholas house (well, 4 out of 5 love it!) as a compote on porridge, in crumble, with pork (Jamie O has a fab recipe for it), made into cordial. It also freezes well (uncooked).

So, what’s for supper then? Happy eating, promise not to leave it so long next time! Mrs N x

Some links you might like…

bigbarn.co.uk
hoppingmad.com
amazing-grains.com
pasturespoultry.co.uk
muchadocatering.co.uk

Get to grips with your cluttered inbox…not as scary at it sounds!

Image from here

Image from here

Are you sinking under more emails than you can actually deal with: newsletters, correspondence, bills, special offers, junk mail – the list can be endless, and even if you aren’t on the receiving end of huge amounts of electronic mail there’s a strong possibility that you still check your account more often than strictly necessary during the day or get distracted by social media, texting etc. There is a regular flow of electronic messaging in our day to day lives, fact, which can leave us feeling overwhelmed and occasionally (if you’re being honest) panicked.

So how do we counter this relentless flow of electronica? Fret not, we’re not suggesting anything so crazy as ditching the lot and doing a so called ‘detox’ from social media sites, texts and emails, this is far more revolutionary…and *whispers* has a modicum of good old common sense. Here goes: you own your phone, it does not own you: just because it pinged, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pick it up and check it – it’s not a small helpless baby, it’s tech, you are it’s boss not the other way around. Revolutionary thought no?!

Ownership established, as the majority of us are smartphone users, let’s start simple: set a different tone on your phone for your notifications so that you know instantly if you have received a text, email or social media notification. Sounds simple enough, and many of you may already be on to this, but combined with some will power this will help you cut down on data distraction no end. Schedule your email checking so that (unless you are waiting for something specific – though do remember the old adage ‘a watched kettle never boils’ – or your job is such that more frequent email checking is required) you aren’t wasting precious time refreshing your screen on the off chance there might be something interesting there in your inbox.

Limit yourself to checking it two or three times a day if you can, and if you set yourself specific times to actually sit, engage and nail the influx rather than flitting back and forth between screens you will get it done far more efficiently. Email and social media can become the electronic form of constantly checking the fridge when you’re bored, just in case something super tasty appeared in there since the last time you checked it! Obviously within some lines of employment hourly might be preferable, but you will find your own schedule with practice. For the really disciplined amongst you, take it a step further and switch your email alert to silent once your working day is done or it’s guaranteed to ping and niggle away at you until you just have to check it…then reply… and boom, it’s 10pm and you are still working even though you left your desk hours ago. You’ll probably find it bugs the heck out of your other half too…

Next up is a bit of a biggie: be honest, do you have an organised inbox or is it a mish mash of tasks needing to be dealt with, active conversations, offers from Amazon and the like, junk mail, unopened old messages and general dross? If it’s the latter of these two, consider yourselves gently scolded: this is your inbox not a general dumping ground! Do you leave post and junk mail ‘filed’ on the floor at the front door? No? Didn’t think so. Be brave, make a folder in your inbox and call it ‘backlog’, move any mail that is older than say 3 months and put it all in to this folder. Realistically, if it were urgent or needed a response, whoever sent it would have either resent it or called you by now. You can either be brazen and delete the lot or go through it methodically and filter out the rubbish and archive the rest. If an email comes in and you know instantly that it’s either junk (hopefully you have sent junk/ spam filters on your inbox so shouldn’t get too many of these) or you don’t need to read it for whatever reason, rather than ignoring it, delete it straight away. If it is something that you don’t need to action but do need to keep, file it in a folder for later. Emails that do require actioning should be dealt with as soon as possible then archived off into the relevant folder. Hey presto, much cleaner, leaner looking inbox!

Most email providers offer methods of filtering your inbox aside from the usual junk folder, so you can group conversations together, Gmail for example filters mail into ‘social’ ‘promotions’ and ‘primary’ – I’m sure it does much more too but I will put my hand up and say I’ve not mastered it fully yet as I’m still an old Hotmail (now Outlook) girl at heart!

Sounds straight forward enough really doesn’t it…just spend a little bit of time putting it in to practice and hopefully this will reap rewards for you too. Let’s us know how you get on or if you have any other tips to share please!

Change Your Mood

Because we’re friends, I’ll share with you that just lately, I’ve been feeling a little fed-up.  A bit flat and ‘meh’.  Do you get like that sometimes?  So, I’ve been thinking of a few ways to get my-self out of the funk and back to my usual self…

  1. Get outside.  We are fans of the great outdoors here at Nicholas & White and sometimes getting outside is just the thing to do, even if it’s a 10 minute walk around the block in your lunch hour.  If you have a bit longer, borrow a dog if you don’t have one of your own, and have a yomp over the fields.
  2. Try and do something out of your normal routine.  You don’t need to be too radical, it could just be that you take a different route to work/school run.  Try and change something.
  3. Get into the kitchen.  There are times when only chocolate cake will do and homemade is the best kind of cake.  Maybe you could try a new recipe?  It’s nice to sit down and leaf through cookery books and try something new.
  4. Light a candle or two.  I’m a fan of delicately scented candles every now and again and there’s no nicer start to the day than lit candles on the breakfast table, well it is the most important meal of the day…
  5. Get some fresh flowers into the house.  Just the sight of spring flowers lifts my spirits and if you split a bunch into jam jars or old milk bottles you can have a few in each room.
  6. Put on your favourite song or album, shut the windows (or open them!) and sing at the top of your lungs, dance around like a lunatic and enjoy it!
  7. Change your sheets.  I love clean bedding – I’m sure it makes me sleep better!
  8. Write a letter or postcard to a friend/relative.  They’ll appreciate it and you might get one back!
  9. Count your blessings.  I’m not being ‘preachy’ but there is always, always someone worse off.
  10. Talk to someone or write it down.  It really does help.  A good friend, partner, family member will always know whether you need a hug, cry or a laugh – sometimes it’s all 3!

How did I get out of my flatness?  I went to a farm for the day with my family to see baby lambs, I went through all my cookbooks and tried out a couple of new things, I chatted with Mrs N (who ALWAYS knows what to say) and I wrote a list!  I’m still having the odd feeling of being stiflingly overwhelmed but I’m doing ok.

How are you?  How do you sort the head and heart out when feeling out of sorts?

Mrs W xx