Sunday, 26 October 2014

taking stock

A little snapshot of life as it is right now, because it's fun to look back one day and remember.

Making: A mobile to hang above Pearl's cot, from driftwood and tiny ceramic birds, a ceramic leaf and a tiny ceramic toadstool.
Cooking: Lots of roast chicken, parmesan baked potatoes, and asparagus while it's still in season.
Drinking: A glass of warm water with lemon every morning when I wake, and a glass of pinot before bed.
Reading: Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery (the author of Anne of Green Gables). I should probably start reading real books for grown ups again but this is just pure escapism for me and about all my weary brain can handle right now.
Wanting: To make a new batch of granola as my breakfasts have been decidedly lacking it without it for the past couple of weeks.
Deciding: On a pre-school for Rose for next year, the local Steiner school is topping the list for me at the moment.
Enjoying: Dipping into 'An Everlasting Meal' by Tamar Adler. A different kind of cookbook which is changing the way I look at food, cooking and eating in general.
Waiting: Not very patiently, and with a great deal of excitement for our upcoming trip back to England in December.
Liking: Starting to do some work from home for a few hours a week and earn a little money again.
Wondering: When Pearl's first tooth will decide to arrive because it feels like she's been teething forever with nothing to show for it yet.
Loving: The warmer, lighter evenings.
Considering: An attempt at baking a loaf of sourdough bread.
Watching: Recorded episodes of George Clarke's Amazing Spaces.
Marvelling: At the garden bursting into Spring bloom. Every morning we wake to discover that a new plant has flowered.
Needing: More hours in the day.
Smelling: Pearl's little head, to get my fix of that new baby smell before it disappears.
Following: Along as this lady rocks her minimalist wardrobe and feeling inspired to do the same.
Admiring: Anyone who manages top get out of the house in the mornings without leaving the place looking like it's been burgled.
Buying: A few Christmas presents for the girls, including this book and these storytelling dice for Lila, so that we don't bankrupt ourselves in December.
Noticing: I really need to re-paint my toenails and get a fringe trim so I can actually see again.
Getting: The house decluttered by purging it of things we no longer need or don't actually use. It's a never-ending process.
Bookmarking: This list of Ways to be Kind to Your Children. Because lately I feel like I've been tired and snappy with them too often.
Disliking: The constant stream of illness that has rampaged through our household non-stop during the colder months. Please let it be over now!
Opening: A frighteningly big electricity bill that we managed to rack up over the Winter. Vowing that I will make everyone wear three jumpers each next Winter and never turn the heating on.
Laughing: At Rose and the way she says 'I-chair' instead of high chair and how she informs me that her hands have gone all 'sprinkly' after spending too long in the bath.
Feeling: Tired but happy.
Snacking: On bowls of chopped fruit mixed with natural Greek yoghurts, a handful of almonds and a drizzle of honey.
Wishing: That we had a dishwasher. Three children and no dishwasher is not a situation I could recommend to anyone.
Coveting: A new pair of summer sandals. There's a pair of Birks in my online shopping cart patiently waiting for payday.
Hearing: The girls playing outside together in the garden
Looking: Forward to getting back in the water and reacquainted with my surfboard again over the next few months.
Feeling: Virtuous that we've finally started using cloth nappies with Pearl, and guilty that we didn't with the other two, but all that washing whilst living in tiny apartments and homes with no drying space was just not feasible.
Hoping: to make a Saturday morning yoga class a regular thing. I've managed to get there the past three weekends and I've been feeling so much better because of it.
Wearing: A lot of outfits revolving around black skinny jeans, Breton striped t-shirts and a chambray shirt because it's easy and requires little effort. Thinking I should apply a dab of red lip stain to try and avoid looking completely like a boy, but usually forgetting.
Reminding: myself that I have a lot to be thankful for.

Pictures...the beautiful pink king proteas currently gracing our table...the mobile I made to hang above Pearl's cot...a newly flowering geranium....a newly sitting Pearl discovering grass for the first vision of a wooden fence with climbing flowers growing up it is slowly coming to fruition.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

let the sisterhood unite

Us women, we are so hard on ourselves. And sometimes, each other. And when children come into the equation, this is only intensified ten fold. So many expectations to strive towards; rearing the most well-rounded children, being a text book wife or partner, maintaining the perfect home, keeping a foot on the career ladder and of course looking flawless whilst doing all (just because we have kids now, it doesn't mean that we've taken our finger off the style pulse, or god forbid, become 'mumsy'.) Well I'm putting my hand up and saying I've fallen off the bandwagon. If sporting an ugly pink fleece dressing gown for too many hours of the day with hair that relies embarrassingly heavily on dry shampoo repels anyone then I'm sorry but it's the truth. I have no idea what I'll do when it's time one day to leap back into the work force with both feet. I also couldn't possibly tell you what's current in the music scene because when I try and listen to a radio station playing the latest hits my kids just latch onto the most horrendous pop songs with questionable lyrics and sing them relentlessly. So we end up listening to Smooth FM in the car which makes me feel like I'm sixty, but at least it's a relaxing antidote to any bickering coming from the back. I can't pretend this isn't making me shudder a little...just who exactly have I become? But at the same time, I'm tired. And I suspect I'm not the only one. Tired because I have a three month old baby but also tired of the pressure of trying to seem like I always have it together (of course anyone who spends time with me regularly knows this is certainly not the case).

I think we need to be kinder to ourselves and to each other. When we become parents we all inevitably do things slightly differently and though we're no doubt guilty of a bit of judgement now and then, the bottom line is that we all love our kids like crazy and we're just trying to do the best we possibly can for them, whatever that looks like. And you know what? That's good enough. I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by an amazing, unfailingly supportive bunch of friends who never make me feel lacking for my shortcomings but when womenkind in general are being upheld to ridiculous expectations of 'doing it all' from everywhere we turn then it's time for the sisterhood at large to rally together and reassure each other that it's ok just to be ok. There's something chilling about the idea of motherhood and life in general being a competition. Most days I'm not excelling in any field, just getting by and finding happiness in the small moments when my baby breaks into a beautiful smile when she sees me or when I find my eldest with her head buried in a book. Then I know I must be doing something right. My three year old certainly isn't wearing a pair of the latest trendy leggings that cost half of a weeks grocery shop, but she's eaten two and a half meals today. If I also managed to shower, get dressed and do a load of laundry and hang it before it started smelling all damp and horrible then things are looking good from where I'm standing.

This life business that we're all trying to figure out as we go along, ebbs and flows like the tides, and  we all encounter days when wish we could just crawl back into bed. Often a cup of tea and a hug can be all that's needed to get back on track, and the reminder that we're all in it together, doing our best to keep the train of daily life on the tracks. Next time we find ourselves at the playground, let's vow to throw out a smile and a hello to the other mothers that don't look like they've just stepped off the fashion pages of the latest magazine, but do look like they would welcome some extra sleep. Or if children aren't in the equation, then maybe a quick chat and a cuppa with a work colleague who you suspect may have had a rough week. The bottom line is we never know what battles others are fighting behind closed doors and it's easy enough to spread a little compassion and support each other.

It has bothered me a lot more than it should that I can't fit into most of my pre-pregnancy jeans (turns out that regaining your body after three babies is not quite the walk in the park it was after the first two) but I'm not wasting another minute of precious time dwelling on it. I know I'll get there in the end. No doubt when I find the willpower to stop eating chocolate and make time to exercise. And even if my hips never return to their former selves, well it's really not that important. My precious little crew, flaws and all, is worth a whole lot more to me than the satisfaction of fitting into all the skinny jeans in the universe. I hope you feel the same way too and know that if your house isn't as clean as you'd like or your hair isn't cooperating today then you're not alone, because I can guarantee mine isn't either. Lets just shrug our shoulders, smile about it together and instead get on with enjoying all the good things life has to offer.

Image via Pinterest. Sadly I wasn't able to discover it's source.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

reading material

As much as I love to have my head buried in a novel whenever possible, I also appreciate a good non-fiction read too. I've never really been drawn to self-help bibles and generally steered clear of the majority of run-of-the-mill parenting manuals, preferring to follow my instincts after I picked up a copy of The Contented Little Baby by Gina Ford shortly after my eldest was born. While her approach no doubt works for some, it quite frankly terrified me with all its talk of rigid scheduling of newborn babies and seemingly a complete loss of joy and flexibility in the whole parenting experience. However, there are a few books in particular that I've come across which have really made an impact over the past couple of years. These have inspired me, offered up new ways of thinking, put forward practical tips and confirmed in my mind the kind of lifestyle I want for myself and my family. I usually borrow any I am interested in from the local library first and if there's one I truly love then I will buy a copy to refer to whenever the mood strikes. Here are the ones which have made the most lasting impression...

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids // By Kim John Payne

If you are a parent (or are thinking about becoming one in the near future), then I would seriously recommend getting hold of a copy of this book. It brings to attention the undeniable truth that our lives today are busier, faster, with too much stuff, too many choices and too little time and this is all leaving childhood in a sad state of affairs. Offering up a blueprint for change, it helps parents reclaim for their children the space and freedom that all kids need for their attention to deepen and their individuality to flourish. It advocates scary things like getting rid of at least 50% your children's toys and not just plonking them down in front of the TV when you need to get things done, but I can say hand on heart that I've found that these things are so worth doing. Aside from ideas on how to streamline your home environment, it offers advice on how to establish rhythms and rituals which help children feel secure and ease tensions, how to provide intervals of calm and connection in your child's daily routine and scale back on parental and media involvement.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder // By Richard Louv

I love the idea behind this book, which documents decreased exposure of children to nature in our modern society (the book focuses on America as this is the home of the author, but the message is relevant to us all), and how this harms children and society. The message is that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. It examines a lot of research and certainly some of the text can get a bit heavy at times but it's easy enough to dip in and out of chapters, focusing on any which particularly grab you. The list at the end, which breaks down all the different ways you can get out and experience nature with your children is fantastic if you feel like you're lacking in ideas.

Free-Range Kids: How to raise safe, self-reliant children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) // By Lenore Skenazy

This is written by the mother who hit the headlines and caused a media furore a few years ago for a piece she wrote about letting her 9 year old boy ride the subway in New York City alone. Dubbed 'America's Worst Mother' by some commentators, she was applauded by others for allowing her son (who had ridden the subway countless times before and been fully coached on how to handle the excursion) the freedom he was desperate for a taste of. The antidote to the increasing number of 'helicopter parents' in todays world, Free-Range Kids has since become a national movement, advocating that children today shouldn't be sheltered from every possible risk, danger or difficulty in their everyday lives, as this gives them no opportunity to grow up. Indeed, the greatest risk of all might just be trying to raise a child who never encounters choice or independence.

Rethink: The Way You Live // By Amanda Talbot

This beautiful, hardback book with stunning photographs shows how in different corners of this rapidly changing world, people are reviving age-old methods and redesigning their homes and communities to blend with modern life. We are having to adapt to accommodate new social and environmental behaviour and more of us finding creative outlets for reuse, recycling and reappropriation in our homes. It has an emphasis on day-to-day habits such as growing your own food, sourcing quality products instead of big-name brands, and taking time to craft rather than purchase. Focusing on case studies of specific families, couples and individuals in various countries, it takes a look into their lives and homes and reveals the ways we can combine old resourcefulness with new methods, modern technology and a fresh vision and strive to weave creativity, sustainability and quality into our life and home.

The Thrift Book: Live Well and Spend Less // By India Knight

My mother bought this book for me one Christmas, when I was just setting out in my first (very badly paid) 'proper' job post University and travelling, which was also when the recession first hit. Though it was written back in 2009, it's still incredibly relevant and I continue to pull it off the shelves and read it at least once a year, just to refresh my memory of its genius advice. It's written by the very humorous British author India Knight, who is a regular columnist for The Sunday Times. All about how to live beautifully while saving money and easing your conscience, it covers every aspect of life from how to make wonderful dinners with very little money, dressing fabulously on a budget, and holidaying imaginatively with very little carbon footprint. It contains a wealth of great suggestions, tips and resources though I should point out that whilst a lot of the advice is universal, some of it is tailored with the UK resident in mind.

Friday, 25 July 2014

the divinity of ordinary things


The times they indeed are a-changin, as Bob Dylan declared in his famous song. The past few decades have seen the excess and decadence of the eighties, the huge technological and online advances during the nineties, followed by the recession and financial crisis and now the increased unrest about the state of the planet we call home. Instead of dreaming about owning a designer handbag, planning exotic holidays, or pouring time and energy into mindless consumption and one-upmanship, I think it's fair to say that many of us are looking for comfort closer to home and redefining our priorities and experience of joy.

I sense a return to simple but infinitely more rewarding pleasures such as time spent with family and friends, playing a role in and being part of a wider community, connecting with nature, the land and the seasons. Enjoying the experience of real food more often than processed and convenience options and preparing nourishing meals for our loved ones with simple, fresh ingredients. Rediscovering the crafts of our grandparents generation, such as sewing, knitting and woodworking. Reusing, repurposing and making do and mending. All of which are far nobler and more rewarding pursuits than the accumulation of bigger, better, newer possessions and countless extra hours spent at the office clawing up the career ladder when doing so is at the detriment of all the other aspects of life.

It's a small but significant revelation to realise that fulfilment and contentment can be found in the most ordinary of tasks and everyday domestic occurrences. Something as mundane as making a cup of tea is actually a ritual which allows the chance to gather a favourite mug, take a moment to breathe and regroup whilst the kettle boils, then wrap your hands around something comforting and warm. Hanging the washing on the line or walking to work is an opportunity to get some fresh air and take note of what is happening outdoors, be it a bird singing on the fence or the first shoots of spring pushing their way up through the soil. Getting our hands dirty and growing things brings satisfaction from the toil itself as well as the rewards it yields, even if it's on as small a scale as growing herbs in pots on a window ledge.

I think awareness of spirituality, not only in terms of religion but the general state of self, and the practice of meditation and mindfulness will become more apparent. Of course, there will always be bills to pay and no doubt money and power still speak volumes, bringing with them the beauty of choices but no guarantee of happiness or wholeness. Even if we can't escape the rat race altogether it's about slowing down, making time for what's really important, enjoying the little moments in the everyday and holding those dear to us close. Hopefully we can all find a balance, not striving for perfection but a life well lived and loved.

p.s The happy mundane series is having a brief hiatus, not from a lack of gratitude, merely a lack of time :)

Saturday, 12 July 2014

these are the days

The laughter, the chaos, the trails of toys. The crumbs, grubby faces and sticky, jam coated fingers. The endless laundry and the tiny baby clothes hanging out on the line.

The great days and the darker days with tear stained cheeks. The mistakes and the promise of a fresh start with every new morning.

The midnight feeds, the whispers and warm embraces soothing bad dreams away. The dimpled elbows and unruly ringlets. The blanket forts where dreams are shared and mighty adventures planned. Puddle jumping, rock pool hunting, well-worn books and fairy tales.

And the love, mostly the love. The fierce, unending, gut-wrenching love at the heart of it all. These are the days I will remember at eighty two. And smile at life so vivid and tumbling, joyous and whole.

Monday, 7 July 2014

the happy mundane #5

I briefly considered naming this gratitude list 'The Birthday Edition' or 'The Flu edition' or 'The School Holidays Edition'. All of which are relevant seeing as in the past week I've celebrated my 31st birthday which coincided with the first day of the two week winter school holidays and then got sick a couple of days afterwards with a nasty cold/flu which I still can't shake off. I decided against each of these as the one thing that actually stands out amidst all of it is friendship.
Friends that are more like family, since (with the exception of my sister) my actual family is many oceans away. Friends that hand over their no-longer needed baby items and clothes without a second thought. Friends that invite us all to their home to share their food and conversation. Friends that send parcels from the other side of the world containing the most thoughtful gifts. Friends that let me bring loads of laundry over and put it in their drier for me whilst ours is broken. Friends that hold my baby so I can eat a meal. Friends that come to visit and bring a freshly baked cake to share with us. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. You all know who you are if you are reading and I don't know where I would be without you.
Here are a few other things that have kept me smiling from underneath my mountain of tissues and helped distract from the most hideous of hacking coughs (sorry to everyone who has been subject to how annoying this cough is. But believe me, it's annoying me more).
1 // Slow mornings and a generally more relaxed pace of life now we are not chained to the ring of the school bell twice a day for two glorious weeks.
2 // Having my big girl around all day. She's become such a help to me these past few months and  has stepped up to her role as big sister to two with such grace and acceptance it has really taken me aback. She is what makes it possible for me to take a shower of a morning and feed and tend to the chickens at dusk.
3 // Hitting the jewellery jackpot with a beautiful bracelet bearing a tag inscribed with each of my girls names, sent to me by one of my oldest and dearest friends from home and a dainty gold bar necklace hand stamped with the letters L & R & P on a fine chain from Curt.
4 // A birthday high tea celebration with (most of) my main ladies. What a treat to be able to have a conversation blissfully uninterrupted by our offspring whilst indulging in a full spread of sweet and savoury treats.
5 // My one birthday request for the day itself (not having to cook dinner or do any washing up) was fulfilled thanks to Curt picking up pizza for us all then rounded off nicely by a delicious chocolate cheesecake and then cosying up for the evening to finally watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
5 // A garden bench and two huge pots offered up to us for free by our neighbours, which serendipitously completed our new outdoor deck area like it was meant to be.
6 // Hearing Lila reading stories to Rose. She can read now, actually read, and I am so proud of her. It all seemed to fall into place for her during the past month or so and she now picks up and fluently reads any of the books from their shelf or the library box. She is unstoppable.

7 // Taking care of our friends sweet bunnies whilst they were out of town for a couple of days. These gorgeous little creatures stole our hearts completely and I now have two children hell bent on us acquiring our own fluffy friends to add to the family. 
Photos....Warm toes and cups of tea...a thank you in the form of a cinnamon teacake which we devoured in minutes...the very cute Jonathan and Rosie...birthday bracelet...our newly completed deck area.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

the happy mundane #4

This was one of those weeks where the living room carpet had a few crumbs on it on Monday which I kept meaning to vacuum but then never had enough minutes in the day. Then by Friday the carpet was nowhere to be seen and it was just a vast sea of crumbs, flakes of Weetbix (always baffling as the children are banned from eating it anywhere except the table) and small sequins in the shape of leaves- part of the aftermath of Rose dumping the contents of the craft box all over the floor. At least when I finally got it done late on Friday afternoon the sense of relief was palpable. A clean area underfoot could be enjoyed by everyone for all of the ten minutes it took for the crumbs to start building up again. Such is life with children. You have to laugh about it or you'd go completely batty.

Despite the less than ideal house cleanliness situation, I did manage to get a good home cooked meal on the table every night and vaguely keep on top of the laundry so I'm calling that a win. I soon realised when we went from a family of four to five that if laundry doesn't get done every day then things get out of hand very fast. Drowning in it probably sums it up best. So, after that vastly uninspiring introduction to my weekly gratitude list, here are some hopefully slightly more interesting moments and little goings on that serve to give me a kick up the rear end and make me realise that all things considered, it's pretty darn great to be alive and breathing and living this messy, imperfect but pretty awesome life.

Here goes...

1 // The early evening Winter ritual of making the house cosy and getting ready to hunker down for the night as the sun goes down by closing all the blinds and curtains, lighting a candle, and turning on the heating if it's a cold one.

2 // Our glorious freshly painted newly white walls. Happily they turned out just as wonderful as I has been picturing them since the day we first viewed the house. So fresh, so clean, so light. So much better than magnolia. Now just the bedrooms, bathroom and laundry room to go, though it may take another year to get around to that. We shall see.

3 // A lovely two days spent with my sister and her little clan at their gorgeous home. Time with my family makes my soul sing like nothing else. Also, the fact that all of my little ones slept for the entire two hour evening drive both ways, whilst I got to have a chill and listen to some tunes. Practically a holiday in itself really.

4 // My Mason Pearson hairbrush. An early birthday present from my sister, who knew this had been on my fantasy purchase wish-list for a very long time. Nothing like a good old fashioned, quality hairbrush to make you feel like a real grown-up. I've been spending a happy five minutes every night before bed brushing out my hair, during which I think it would be rude not to imagine oneself as a grand lady in her manor house sitting at her dressing table in an elegant nightgown, patiently counting out her requisite one hundred nightly brushstrokes. Or maybe that's just me and my continued love affair with Downton Abbey.

5 // A few hours in the evenings to hang out with the husband and take some time for myself (and ignore the crumb ridden carpet) now we seem to have got Pearl in a nightly routine of going to bed at the same time as her big sisters.

6 // The bath I managed to have this week (thanks to the above), with a hefty dose of epsom salts and a few drops of lavender oil. This has been long and eagerly awaited, as has the glass of red wine I enjoyed in it now I know I have a few hours grace before Pearl wakes in the early hours for her next feed.

7 // The paved path in our garden that now leads to the shed (and the person that created it). Thank goodness I married a man who knows his way around a tool box and doesn't mind getting his hands dirty. Whilst I am great at having the grand visions and coming up with crazy schemes, he is the one that makes them happen and for this I am eternally grateful.

Photos.... hello new path... this weeks colourful and abundant veggie box delivery... white walls and kitchen shelves... my king of hairbrushes... happy tiny girl at seven weeks old.

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