Review of ‘Simple Matters’ by Erin Boyle


Erin Boyle lives in a tiny apartment in New York with her husband and daughter, and writes a blog called Reading My Tea Leaves about simple, sustainable living.

Erin’s book, Simple Matters, covers similar themes to her blog and provides practical advice on how to declutter your home, change your purchasing habits by buying less, as well as investing in items which are durable or recyclable, and other ways to reduce waste and protect the environment.

This book is full of ideas on how to simplify and style your home, how to choose natural beauty products or make your own to reduce the chemicals that we put on our bodies, as well as DIY cleaning products (white vinegar, lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda have a multitude of cleaning uses) instead of the harmful detergents and bleaches available in the shops to reduce the toxins in our homes and our impact on the world. My favourite piece of advice (which I adopted before I’d finished reading the book) was keeping food waste to be composted in a sealed box in the freezer which prevents it from going off, smelling or in our case our cat from getting into it.

The writing can be a little dry and instructional in places, but comes to life when she describes her personal experiences of moving home, travelling, parenting and living simply. I appreciated that while Erin is dedicated to reducing her impact on the planet as much as possible, her personal brand of minimalism and sustainable living is both aspirational and pragmatic, she advocates conscious consumption but she doesn’t beat herself up for eating her favourite fruit out of season once in a while.

The presentation of this book is lovely, it’s packed with photos of her home and its contents to show that simplicity and minimalism can be stylish as well as functional. This was an easy book to read which made me think about ways I could live more sustainably and simplify my home.



Just a Hint of Garden Envy

Raindrops on roses…

My husband and I rent our home and it has a small front garden, which we try to keep tidy by cutting back the prickly, red Barbary shrubs someone before us planted and tending the half-barrel planters with our own little Japanese Acer tree, Tayberry, and Montbretia, but we’ve never really invested in the garden because there was always the possibility that we might move (though we’ve lived here for three years now), and we didn’t want to plant seeds only to be gone before they flowered.

I find myself feeling garden envy whenever I visit my parents. Mum primarily grows fruit because it’s easy to grow and expensive to buy in the shops, she reaps strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, apples and plums. Dad prefers to grow vegetables and takes pride in cooking us roast dinners with his own potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beetroot and onions.

It might sound melodramatic but I believe gardening provided a lifeline to both my parents in difficult times. Through periods of my childhood, when my parents were hard up, mum grew her own fruit and vegetables to save money. Later, when dad was going through hard times, gardening provided a distraction from his troubles, as he devoted himself to building raised beds, turning the soil, sowing seeds and eventually harvesting his crops.

Gardening is a lesson in delayed gratification. The slow, steady pace of gardening encourages us to work hard today and look forward to reaping our rewards tomorrow.

Our own little patch is too exposed for us to enjoy sitting outside in the sunshine, but I find myself furtively eyeing up garden furniture anyway. We are lucky to have lovely parks practically on our doorstep and the beautiful Scottish countryside not far away, but I yearn for a little patch of earth of my own to cultivate; I long to grow snowdrops in January, tulips in Spring and big, bold roses in Summer. One day we will have a garden of our own to lovingly tend, but until then I will gaze at other people’s gardens for inspiration with just a hint of envy. Have a lovely week.


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Our Tayberry

Pepper, Pea & Potato Frittata Recipe

This is a summery dish, which can be enjoyed hot or cold, and is ideal for light suppers, lunches or picnics.

Ingredients (serves 4):

2 Medium sized Potatoes (quartered long ways and finely sliced into triangles)

1 Red pepper (chopped into cm squares)

1 Onion diced

½ Cup of Frozen Peas

6 Eggs (whisked with a fork and seasoned with salt and pepper)

1 Tablespoon of Smoked Paprika


Put a large, deep frying pan on a medium heat with a generous splash of olive oil.

Once the oil is warm, add the potatoes to the pan, stirring to coat in the oil. Fry the potatoes until they are cooked through, they may appear slightly translucent or slightly softened, but don’t allow them to crisp.

Add the onion and red pepper to the pan, stirring frequently for about five minutes or until onions appear translucent.

Mix in smoked paprika and cook for about one minute or until everything is coated.

Add frozen peas, cook for about one minute.

Pour in the whisked eggs, mix everything together ensuring eggs and vegetables are evenly distributed in the pan. The egg will start to solidify quickly so do not stir once it starts to set.

Cook until it has the consistency of an omelette.

Put the pan under the grill for 2-5 minutes or until the top of the Frittata appears cooked or turns golden.


Review of ‘You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)’ by Tammy Strobel


I’m only taking my first tentative steps towards minimalism and simple living, and found Tammy Strobel’s blog RowdyKittens while looking for de-cluttering advice. Tammy’s disillusionment with consumerism and desire to simplify her life resonated with me.

You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) follows Tammy’s journey to downsize her possessions, clear her debts, find rewarding work and to design and live in a mobile tiny home with her husband and their cats. This is a short book, just over 200 pages, but it doesn’t read like a collection of blog posts, instead each chapter is fully-fleshed with research, references, interviews and personal anecdotes into a cohesive, stand alone book.

While I don’t see myself moving into a tiny home of my own anytime soon, I found Tammy’s book easy and enjoyable to read and full of inspiring interviews with other minimalists and practical advice about how to downsize and simplify your home and life. Tammy’s tone is conversational, her enthusiasm and gratitude seep through the whole book, but she avoids preaching to the reader about her lifestyle choices. I appreciated Tammy’s honesty throughout the book, she never makes the significant lifestyle changes she adopted sound too easy and she doesn’t shy away from describing her former materialistic self or the arguments and reservations she and her husband had about getting rid of the TV or exchanging their cars for bicycles.

Tammy provides a holistic approach to simplifying that goes beyond downsizing possessions and includes sections on changing our spending habits, investing in relationships, building communities, meaningful work and practicing gratitude. My only disappointment is that Tammy, a prolific Instagrammer and photographer, did not include any of her photos in this book, though she has published another book on iPhone photography. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can see myself re-reading sections for inspiration and advice as I try to simplify my own life and de-clutter my home.