Thursday, 6 March 2014
I've been thinking about this online space of mine. What it is, what it has been and where it might be going. I first decided to start a blog when I was pregnant with Lila; my first baby, almost six years ago. Back then I don't think blogging was a particularly well known concept and certainly anyone that did have one never could've predicted how the phenomenon would have blown up in recent years. For my part, I simply wanted a creative outlet and a place to write; a journal of sorts. Also somewhere to record and share memories and thoughts on this new adventure of motherhood I was about to embark on. I wanted to create something that my children could read back through when they were grown. In the years since then I've also blogged about my various creative endeavours, spaces, people and things that have inspired me. When we moved overseas it became a great way of recording what we were up to on the other side of the world to share with family and friends back home. I've not really done much at all to promote it and have never had aspirations of garnering a huge readership or making money from it with advertising or sponsored posts. At times I've updated it frequently but there have also been months of silence when life has got busy or all my energy and attention has been taken up elsewhere.
I like the fact I'm not pressured to write daily or even weekly, resorting to just churning out meaningless posts. Instead I wait until inspiration strikes and get something down that is actually real and important to me. I'm also not sure I would feel comfortable with encouraging people to buy products we couldn't afford and aspire to a type of lifestyle we don't really live and could never maintain. It's always been a more personal endeavour than that. However I do realise that the things we choose to share online don't always paint the most realistic picture. I think most of us are aware that everyone is generally trying to put forward the best possible version of their own lives (not just in terms of blogging, in every kind of social media). While I've always done my best to keep this a positive place as I am generally a pretty optimistic, glass-half-full person, I would never want anyone to be under the impression we live anything even vaguely resembling a picture-perfect existence.
We don't have a lot of money, drive a big or fancy car and certainly don't have a polished house full of super expensive possessions. I do hope we live in a home which may be a little shabby but feels comfortable, welcoming and full of love. My kids wear hand-me-downs and we don't buy new things very often. If we have made a choice to have something or go somewhere significant it will have been saved for or at the sacrifice of something else. We don't eat out or go on holidays or expensive day trips much at all but we try to make the most of where we live and what it has to offer throughout the year and we feel happy and grateful for what we have. I think often about our priorities and family values and what really matters in life. One thing that springs to mind is that when you live in a relatively small space with three other people (two of them small and like all children, prone to creating a whirlwind of chaos) I'd say it's fairly crucial that your happiness doesn't hinge on being able to maintain a clean and tidy house resembling a spread in an interiors magazine all of the time.
Some of the very well known family and lifestyle blogs have become hugely effective money generators for their creators but I know for many people they have sadly lost any sense of honesty or authenticity they may have once had, simply pushing products and an illusion of a perfectly curated life. I love finding online spaces that inspire me and feel real but I'm not a fan of the pressure others create to buy this, that and everything, to have and do it all. These seem to breed envy and insecurity, leaving a lot of readers feeling lacking in their own lives and themselves as people. Here's to writing from the heart and knowing that we are most likely not the only people out there with a pitifully empty fridge that could definitely do with a clean and no idea what to cook for dinner tonight (or maybe that's just me!)
Friday, 21 February 2014
I have a thing for stories. Books of course- my lifelong love of reading has been well documented here but I'm not just talking about the stories held between pages bound together. I love connecting with people, finding out what they've done and where they've been. What has made them who they are and where they long to go. I think I've mentioned before that I work in a little café on a Sunday and like many other jobs, it has its fair share of menial tasks and repetition and hardly a vast amount of financial reward, but regardless of that; I look forward to my shift every week. Some people may look down a little on 'café work', especially when it's done by someone who is no longer a penniless student, in possession of a degree and with a couple of career jobs under their belt. I couldn't care less though.
Over the years I've worked in many hospitality jobs at different stages in my life and in numerous places- pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes. All of them brilliant and on occasions, unpleasant in their own way. But the people I've met, the stories I've heard and the lessons I've learned. They are wonderful. There's no life experience like it. Every Sunday now, in the quiet lull of the late afternoon before the dinner rush, I make a tea for one of our regulars (always very milky with one large sugar). He is a 60-something local and we have a chat and set the world to rights. He tells me about the days of his youth in the 70's when the skateboarding movement was being pioneered and he competed against the legendary Z-Boys from America in the first skateboarding championships held in Australia. He reminisces on his past business ventures and what he would have done differently in his marriages and his relationships with his children. In return I tell him about the struggles and joys of life with a young family in these times and my hopes and dreams for the future
Aged five and a half, there is nothing more that Lila likes to hear than anecdotes about when Curt and I were children. What each of us did for fun, places we went to, what we liked and generally how we spent our hours. All the rest of our family members get grilled in the same way and as I re-live my childhood days and beyond, I realise that she is piecing together the fragments of the puzzle that make up our family. Gathering this sense of history is helping her figure out the bigger picture of life and her own sense of belonging within it. There is something pretty wonderful about that. There's nothing like becoming a parent to make you reflect on what has shaped you as a person, the influences and experiences that have defined you and the things you want to repeat with your own family (and of course those you shudder at the mere memory of).
I dearly hope we will manage to raise readers and book lovers, though I can admit I do get a little panicky at the thought of them selecting their own material after a quick glance at the young reader shelves at the library. No doubt there is likely to be a backlash against the numerous tomes offered up from our home shelves in the vein of 'What Katy Did' and 'Goodnight Mister Tom', but the Rainbow Magic fairy books series...it does make me shudder slightly. Actually, I just realised that aged eleven, I greedily consumed the entire back catalogue of the Sweet Valley High series in about two months flat so I should probably get down off my quality reading material high horse. Whilst written stories will always have their place, it's equally important that our children know the value of human stories, of getting out in the world and being open to meeting people of all ages, from diverse backgrounds and different walks of life. I can't wait to hear the stories they tell their own children. To discover which of the memories we are creating now will stand the test of time and to know they will leave behind a legacy of their own past shared through their words.
Image: Lila and Curt. She never gets tired of hearing his stories.
Friday, 31 January 2014
I first started taking more notice of the products I was using on my hair and skin when I was pregnant for the first time. Before that my basic purchasing criteria was along the lines of...Will it make me look significantly better? Does it smell lovely and have nicely designed packaging? I can't remember exactly where I first heard or read about parabens, petrochemicals, sulphates and the other chemicals present in the majority of products on the market, but as soon as I did a little research it worried me and the implications of what these nasties may possibly be doing to my baby was enough to make me sit up and decide to make some changes.
I figured that if you're going to be careful about most of the food you put into your mouth then it makes sense to do the same for what you apply to your skin and the rest of your body. Questioning what's really in it and where it's come from, then making better choices without of course taking it to extremes and sucking out every last bit of joy from life. I firmly believe life needs joy, and if that happens to comes in say the form of a pot of lovely non-natural body lotion every now and then, so be it. I've always been careful to choose chemical free toiletries and products wherever possible for my children and I'd like to say I kept this change up for myself too. However once each of my little ones has been born I've fallen back into my old habits, seduced into trying the latest, hyped-up creams or products which promise (and sometimes do deliver) wonderful results, or fallen back on tried and tested classics and favourites.
I can say with hand on heart that there's no way I could ever be a fully committed, doused-in- patchouli-oil hippy that has eschewed shampoo in favor of dreadlocks and completely ditched make-up for a strictly all-natural warts 'n' all approach. The lure of a select few luxurious, beautiful products such as the treat of a divine bottle of fragrance on top of my dressing table or a gorgeous nail polish colour will always be my downfall. They are such happy makers and surely one of the great advantages of being born a woman is the prerogative to indulge in a little pampering, not to mention the joys of a great lipstick and the transformative effects of a lightly flushed cheek or well defined eyebrow. But I decided when I fell pregnant this time around that I would find some really awesome, effective natural products that I would actually commit to carry on using for the long haul.
In general, Australia seems to be a good place to be when embarking on this quest. I'd say it's a pretty health conscious, eco-aware nation which has an impressive selection and choice of natural ranges that don't take much leg work to seek out. Of course it requires a little label sleuthing as you can't take anything with the words organic and natural plastered over the packaging at face value. Some of the brands that I've tried so far and loved include Trilogy - their Rosehip facial oil is a game-changer and the Everything Balm smells wonderful and can be used as everything from a lip balm to treatment of insect bites and for softening patched of dry skin. The Natural Instinct range has the body wash, body lotion and hair care categories covered and I've been impressed with the performance of the ones I've tried so far. Going into to the territory of natural deodorants seems a lot more of a serious commitment and one that I've not been tempted to venture into yet on the grounds that is there any chance that they could actually work effectively? The hygiene factor and distinct possibility of stinking out everyone within a ten metre radius is surely a sacrifice too far, though having said that, I have heard some amazingly good things about this product.
Financially there was no way I could afford to do a complete overnight overhaul of most of my toiletries so I've been waiting until something runs out before replacing it with a chemical free alternative. Natural, especially organic ranges usually come with a higher price tag, though I've learned that a big tub/jar of raw, unrefined coconut oil can do wonderful things in the field of beauty as well as cooking. Google it if you want to know more, but it can be used as a highly beneficial cleanser/make-up remover, skin moisturiser and hair conditioner. That kind of multi tasker has to be a winner in anyones book, just think of the amount of other bottles and clutter it can eliminate in the bathroom. If going natural takes a little more effort and means saving up for a few better products instead of a cabinet full of chemicals but doesn't have to involve sacrificing results then count me in. Next on my wish list is a bottle of this, a carcinogen-free nail polish that doesn't scrimp on style.
Thursday, 9 January 2014
Another year ticked off, the last few months of which raced by in a blur of crippling morning sickness followed by the inevitably frantic calendar of events which make up the festive season. The past couple of weeks have finally allowed some time to breathe and think about what has passed and what 2014 might have in store. A new baby girl for one (due to make her appearance in early May) to complete the family. I am giddy with excitement at the prospect of my three little girls, but also overwhelmed by the responsibilities that lie ahead in raising them all into them into smart, strong and kind women. I wonder if anyone ever really feels qualified for that job. I can only follow my instincts, keep everything crossed and hope that with a dash of luck and support from our extended families that we will manage to set them on the right path.
A couple of other highlights ahead include a long awaited month long trip back to the UK, my parents and our family home at the end of June with my sister and all our children. Also a newly begun freelance writing gig for which I'm looking forward to getting lost down a rabbit hole of words and crafting sentences, researching and sourcing images. Worthy of a mention too is the fact that in few short weeks I will be waving my first born off at the gates as she begins primary school. A whole new chapter in her life and mine. A time of great excitement but also the bittersweet reminder that she went from being a tiny newborn to a school girl in what feels like little more than the blink of an eye. She also lost her first tooth last week, a milestone I (probably naively) wasn't prepared for or expecting for at least 12 months yet. Just slow down already young lady, while I get my head wrapped around all of this.
The year just departed was on the whole a good one. We settled into our new home and surroundings, managed to grow some food and flowers in our patch of earth, made friends in the community and connections with our neighbours and added two new members to the family- our backyard chickens Daisy and Evelyn. There was also a long awaited and well deserved promotion at work for my better half which has taken a little bit of pressure off the question of how will we manage to raise and support three children?
I suspect we'll get along somehow as best we can. I know now- one of the redeeming aspects of tuning 30 I think- that life suddenly gets a whole lot easier and more enjoyable when you let go of the pressures bearing down from every direction. These and pointless comparisons that urge us to carry on spending and accumulating, keeping up with anyone that seems to be more together and having and doing it all better. One of my goals this past year was to simplify life, whittle down what we own, think more carefully about what we bring into our home and generally just spend less time worrying about what we don't have and more of it doing what we love and is important us. This is a journey which I want to continue and I look forward to more creating, adventuring and memory making in the upcoming months. Also spending time with our dear friends and family and making and eating a whole lot of good food. And with that, welcome 2014.
Thursday, 12 September 2013
I sometimes wonder if anyone else has an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for the ways of life that were lived a few decades ago. Maybe it's ingrained in me after a childhood of weekends spend with my parents wandering around every National Trust property in a hundred mile radius of our home, a carefree childhood growing up in a hundred year old farmhouse where (to mine and my sisters dismay at the time, we didn't own a video player until I was almost a teenager), afternoons spent cycling around country lanes when people were a whole lot less concerned about safety gear and unsavoury characters who may be lurking around in the hedges waiting to pounce on innocent children.
Clearly not everything in days gone by was idyllic, far from it, but there was certainly much more of an an emphasis on the things that really matter- time spent with family, pottering about outdoors, a sense of community, making do and mending, growing what you eat and preparing from scratch good food to share. I feel so much more of an affinity to a more simple way of life than the modern markers of success such as monetary wealth, racing up the career ladder, a ten hour work day, a constant state of stress and an unrelenting pace and lack of free time. I know the world my children will grow up in is already vastly different to the world of my own childhood. When I tell them that there was no such thing as the Internet or mobile phones back then they will look at me aghast and unbelieving.
There is undoubtedly no escaping from the technology that infiltrates every minute aspect of our lives, but I do believe that children should be allowed to be children in the way they always have been for generations. To play, to create from their own imaginations, to be allowed a free rein under a watchful eye on the sidelines, to not have every second of their free time scheduled with extra curricular activities, to be exposed to skills and crafts that have been passed down through the generations instead of being glued to a screen, remote or games console in hand. So I suppose I am careful about what we bring and let into our home- the books we read together, the choice not to buy them toys or dress them in outfits emblazoned with tv kids characters- I'd rather they have a chance to express their own creativity than be a walking billboard for brands and marketing execs. The decision not to turn the television on for them but to encourage them to explore the outdoors or help me out in the kitchen. Making the time to sit down for family meals and talk about our days together.
I realise this all sounds very like 'The Waltons' or something (it's not, there's way more bickering). We're so far from perfect I can only laugh at the concept and and have our share of family ups and downs just the same as anyone else. Sometimes it's hard to try and explain to Lila that she can't watch Barbie Princess Charm School on You Tube when that's what a few of her friends from kindergarten are spending their time at home doing, but she soon forgets it and gets back to the business of making dens under the kitchen table or drawing. And yes, I know that at some point, (hopefully not for a long time yet!) they will no doubt be exposed to High School Musical and Justin Bieber or whoever his god awful equivalent may then be, but I hope by the time that happens that they will have enough of a sense of themselves and their interests that they will be able to decide if that's what actually floats their boat or not. One day I hope my girls will look back and appreciate their childhood in the same way I do mine.
Top image- scenes from our home.
Above- Lila at kindergarten, Rose and Curt ocean gazing.
Monday, 26 August 2013
As Winter here in Australia is in its final fling, naturally thoughts- well mine, anyway- are turning to the promise of Spring and the new life and fresh beginnings that it brings, warmer and longer days, more time spent enjoying the outdoors and hopefully less of the Artic-esque winds that have been blowing through town for the past few weeks. Brrrr. The thought of shedding some layers and not having washing hanging out on the line in the constant cycle of drying- getting rained on- partially drying- getting rained on again, and again and again, well it's all sounding mighty appealing.
I've been taking advantage of any dry-ish weekends to spend some time working on the garden. The veggie patch is in its second crop now and almost ready for harvesting. We planted parsnips which probably look the most promising at this stage, carrots which seems to be slightly stunted in terms of growth, beetroots which to my untrained eye appear be doing well, and broccoli which is pretty much a write-off, having first been attacked by caterpillars and then developing some form of disease whereby the leaves become covered in rapidly expanding mysterious yellow patches. Oh well, you win some, you lose some! I've been growing some flowers from seed and planting the seedlings in pots and scattered around the front of the house ready to add some colour and welcome the start of the warmer months. I'm most excited about the sweet peas flowering, strategically placed in mis-matched pots in front of the ugly metal shed to try and pretty it up. Painting it in beach hut inspired classic stripes is another project on the ridiculously long and over-ambitious list of outdoor DIYs and tasks we (I), hope (Curt) to complete before Summer rolls around. Along with creating a paved entertaining/ seating/ barbeque area and a path from the back deck to the shed to name just a couple.
And chickens, I am not giving up my dream of backyard chickens even though it was originally vetoed by the man of the house. I am steadily working on him and spending probably too much time researching the logistics of chicken coops and types of hens and their laying habits. Not to mention Lila's kindergarten just had a clutch of baby chicks born which will shortly be looking for homes- it's a sign! I am probably out of my mind considering one of my children absolutely refuses to eat eggs and the other one can only rarely be coaxed to eat them, despite having offered them up in every appealing form under the sun. However I am ever optimistic this may change in the near future with the excitement of collecting them freshly laid! There has also been talk of getting a dog, which there has been since we finally bought a home and moved here last October but now we have got as far as identifying a possible time-frame, which is at the end of the year. I think we may be the only people who live in our little town that don't have a dog, and I promise I'm not exaggerating. The ratio of dogs to people here is staggering but I suppose it makes sense seeing as there are no lack of beaches right on our doorstep there are some many great coastal paths and bush walks to take them out for a run.
Lastly, I am looking forward to some trips to explore some more of the amazing coastline we are surrounded by. Aside from a couple of day trips, every spare moment of our first Summer here was taken up with house projects, accumulating furniture and establishing our home (I shudder at the amount of money and time we have spent at our local home improvement store). So I am ultra-keen to make up for lost time by embarking on many adventures in the upcoming months. Even camping, which we have never done before due to an anti-camping husband who is not a fan of giving up his home-comforts. However, I know it would be so much fun and the children would love it, and so again, I am working to convince him to dip his toe in the waters. I am hoping all these beautiful images of Artemis and her family camping in the English countryside, well 'glamping' is more like it (from the lovely blog Junkaholique) may help to convince him that it doesn't have to be all dingy toilet and shower blocks, cruddy food and nylon sleeping bags. This is most definitely the type of camping I aspire to one day. Surely if camping was always this spectacular, no-one would ever feel the need to get on a plane again. We just need to lay our hands on that vintage VW camper and amazing canvas tent!
All images via Junkaholique
Sunday, 30 June 2013
So here it is. Today I wave goodbye to my twenties and start on a new decade. The feeling of dread I'd always anticipated I would be experiencing at leaving behind the last vestiges of 'youth' haven't actually arrived. Honestly, it feels good to be starting a fresh chapter. The past ten years have been a wild ride, one which I was definitely not expecting but it's been great. Though hard work and an uphill struggle at times, absolutely. Many of the things I had dreamed of for my future materialized, I just wasn't expecting them to happen so fast. That they did I couldn't be more thankful.
I've heard it said before that as you get older, you find more peace. Your formative years are typically spent trying out different avenues and identities but there becomes a time when you've pretty much figured out who you are, what you're about and what really matters to you. I'd agree there's definitely something in that. Now, as I look forwards I know that I want my next ten years to be focused on living with intention. Pursuing a more authentic life. I've been taking small steps in this way of thinking and living for the past few years but more than ever, I'm ready to push forward with it.
This is what I'd like living with intention and meaning to look like....
- Simplifying. Less focus on material possessions, mindless consumerism, on generally 'wanting' and keeping up with the Joneses mentality. Manifesting this by downsizing the scale of gift giving at Christmas and birthdays and generally ridding the house of any remaining vestiges of pointless crap. If it's not sentimental, useful or beautiful, it's time to say goodbye. I could throw out all the cliches here- "Less is more", "Buy less, buy better" but seriously I do want to find a balance between making considered, saved-up-for for purchases of special, beautifully designed or unique things and using and re-purposing found objects or items we already have.
- Getting Outdoors. Embracing nature, putting our hands in the earth, getting muddy, nurturing a garden, growing our own. Less screen time (for the kids, and me too- let's face it, too much time spent browsing Pinterest can only help fuel the fires of want. Beach trips, bush walks, picnics. Hopefully, a dog one day not too far away. Chickens!! Just putting it out there. I dream of going the whole hog on the urban homestead front. How ironic, when I grew up on a working farm, probably not appreciating it enough at all and now I yearn for that life. It must run deep in my blood, I'm ready to embrace and celebrate my roots now.
- Adventuring. Packing up some possessions in the car and taking off on spontaneous trips to see more of the immense country we are lucky enough to be living in (for the present time, this will unfortunately not be in an awesome old combo van or similar! For now, our little car will suffice). It doesn't have to be fancy or costly, just sharing good, simple times with family and friends and exploring some beautiful spots around us and further afield.
- Home and Family. Central to all of these ideals is that when it comes down to it, the most important things of all are the relationships with those we love. Spending time with my family and friends, and creating a home, a sanctuary where we can live and grow together is paramount. A place that reflects us and our interests, that evolves with us and where we can create lasting memories. A welcoming haven, filled with things that have meaning where those dearest to us want to gather. I want my children to know the arts of sewing, cooking and how to repair a bicycle puncture...not to be a whizz at some playstation game. I hate the thought of these and many more skills becoming lost arts which die along with our grandparents.
- Community. Making full use of community resources and initiatives. We're lucky enough to live in a wonderful, vibrant and supportive community. We already make full use of the library and the local vegetable box co-op scheme, the farmers and arts and crafts markets and various play and activity groups for the children but there's so much else going on here. I love that and I want to be part of as much as I can, getting involved, helping out others and forging friendships and connections.
- Wellbeing. While I'd love for us to have a diet of completely organic, whole foods, realistically that's not totally feasible at the moment on our budget. But making meals from scratch, keeping it fresh, healthy, local and being mindful of what I and my family eats is a big priority. As is keeping up my yoga classes and yoga practice and finding opportunities to chase waves. Time spent on my surf board is never wasted, and no doubt Curt will be making progress on his own journey of raising surfers as soon as the water warms up enough for small bodies. More than just heath and fitness thought, it's about pursuing passions- painting and writing, reading of course, and carving out a little time to do what I love and realise some personal ambitions, projects and goals.
Of course I have no idea what the future holds, some unexpected surprises I'm sure, but it feels good to have a framework of sorts. These may be my goals and current mindset for myself and my family but I certainly don't judge anyone one else who takes a different view or chooses another path. If there's one thing I've realised after 29 years lived, it's that happiness lies in the simplest, most basic of things and the smallest everyday rituals. Certainly buying the latest and greatest offered to us by every company, marketing agency and glossy magazine under the sun won't hold the key. Maybe we're all enough, just as we are.