Thursday, 12 September 2013

days gone by

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

the outdoor life

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

hello thirty: dreams for my next decade

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. 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

almost five

In 6 days it will be five years since my Lila made her entrance into this world. To say it's been a journey, not just for her but for Curt and I would be an understatement. She has brought out the best in me and at times the worst in me. There's nothing like motherhood to open your eyes wide to your faults, as well as your best qualities. But I've also found reserves of love, strength and resilience I never knew or even imagined existed within me.

Getting to know this little person and to see her learn and grow has been mind-blowing. Every year has brought with it its own milestones and challenges, but four has been an especially brilliant age. My big girl, at four (almost five), is brave, curious, creative and smart. We have our daily ups and downs but I feel like we understand each other now better than we have ever done. It seems that she has opened up her heart, that for a long time has been exclusively devoted to her Daddy on whom she bestows the very fiercest adoration. Now I get my share of the tightest hugs too, and the whispered secrets and declarations of love to the moon and back. And I can't deny it feels pretty great. My favorite moments of the day are when we lie beside each other with her head resting on my shoulder while I read aloud a chapter of her book before her bedtime. Together we get lost in the world of Laura and Mary Ingalls and The Little House in the Big Woods. 

I have a feeling that five will be even better. I honestly think this will be the case every with every year, and I'm so excited to see the girl she grows into. As a very wise person once said, "The days are long but the years are short". I'm soaking up every second, and holding the sweet memories close. 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

being // well

I've been thinking a lot lately about certain aspects of life. It's not a shiny or new concept, nor is it particularly exciting or flashy but matters of health, body, mind and soul have become a focus in the past few months. Wellbeing... and being, well. Allowing yourself to become the best version of you that you possibly can be. I don't think it's just me, I feel like there's something in the air, as though a lot of us are starting to be more mindful of the kind of lifestyle we lead and its effects on ourselves. While once upon a time I was consumed with living life to the full, having a good time and to hell with the consequences, I suppose I've just grown up. It's not that I don't want to have a good time anymore, its just that my definition of a good time has changed slightly.

And the past few years of raising babies have taken their toll. Interrupted sleep, exhaustion brought on from a hectic daily schedule and stressing about whether they are eating well enough is nothing unusual and all par for the course when parenting young children, but it doesn't really lend itself to actually thinking about taking good care of yourself. I actually found it hard to write this down, there is a lot of "I" and "my" in this blog post and it feels almost selfish to say it but I suppose I just took a backseat in my own life for a while. But now I'm starting to realise that I can't be the best person I want to be for my family unless I actually look out for and take better care of myself.

So a few months ago I decided to make some changes. Firstly in the way we all eat; instead of just concentrating all my attentions on what the kids consume. Our diet wasn't terrible by any means but I realised I wanted to make more meals from scratch, cutting out the processed wherever possible, eating simple, fresh foods, more wholegrains and less sugar. Also in looking after my body and mind. I have no desire to be a gym bunny or a hard core runner but I have always been drawn to yoga and after periods of doing it intermittently for years I've finally committed to making the time for one class every week and I love the way it makes me feel stronger and calms my mind. I've rediscovered my my put-on-hold passions of surfing and painting and discovered new ones like nurturing a garden and growing things. 

I now know what else is important to me, close family ties and friendships and making a comfortable home, a haven. One that reflects us and our lives and a place where my family and friends feel at peace and like they want to stay. Reading and writing. Being outdoors, experiencing the seasons. Nurturing a love of books, an imaginative mind and an appreciation or beauty, art and nature in my children. I feel like everything is just starting to add up, as though I'm finally figuring out who I am. A lot happened in my twenties; l was many different things and travelled a lot of paths but now I'm on the brink of my 30th year it's all slotting into place. I realised that almost all the posts I've written about here so far this year have detailed this journey of sorts, slowly reclaiming my self again and finding my way as a mother and as my own person too. I know I'm never going to have all the answers, but right now life feels good.

Image 1 //  Image 2- source unknown- via pinterest // Image 3

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

sunsets and things on my mind

When we moved here, it didn't cross my mind that living by the ocean would mean out of this world sunsets. And now it is darker every morning before we wake so I can witness them; sunrises too. A full spectrum of shades from deep purple, inky blues, to pale coral, dusky pink and intense fiery orange but no two are ever the same. All this is played out in the same little expanse of sky above our garden fence (in the morning) and across the street above the rooftops (at twilight). For the most part I've now stopped reaching for my phone and trying to capture them, partly because they never, ever look as good on a screen and also because as soon as you start snapping and considering composition and different angles, the perfect beauty of the moment is already lost. A sunset is for drinking in, for feeling glad to be alive.

If this all sounds incredibly gushing and twee then it's probably because for the past few months I've been re-reading the entire series of Anne of Green Gables books. It's an escape, my guilty pleasure at the end of the day which instantly transports me back to my girlhood days and long hours during the Summer holidays spent curled up in a quiet spot devouring pages upon pages of wholesome goodness. There's nothing like Anne's genuine delight in and observations of the beauty of nature and the world around her to make you really stop and take notice. It's a lesson in gladness if nothing else.

So I've been reading, and I suppose being busy with the business of enjoying my family and friends and everyday life. Sorry for the silence here but blogging about not blogging is just deathly dull and posting just for the sake of it even worse. My mind has also been busy thinking, mulling over dreams for the future and making plans. Especially savouring every second spent with my babies as it has hit me harder than ever that next year Lila will start primary school and before I know it they'll be 18 and waving goodbye to me as they embark off on their own life adventures. I feel like I've been saying this to everyone I know lately but I genuinely can't believe how quickly this year is flying by already. As does every year past the age of about 20 but this is just getting alarming.

Fighting the urge to panic as the days and weeks pass by at lightening speed, I'm borrowing some wise words from the irrepressible Anne, "I believe that the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or exciting or wonderful happens but just those that bring little pleasures following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string". It may only be children's literature but I think this beloved heroine just summed up the secret to happiness that so many spend a lifetime searching for.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

the sea for me

Last weekend Curt bought me a long board and I got back in the water to surf for the first time in almost five years. It's hard for me to put into words how good it felt. How I could've ever left it so long. I only caught a few small waves and it will take me a while and a lot of practice to ride with anything resembling grace but I can't think of anything better than the journey to that point. It seems crazy to think that when I still lived in England I would drive for hours on end to get to the coast and that for the past couple of years we've been living almost right on the water and it's taken until now.

I suppose the all consuming nature of growing and raising little people just completely took over and when I was pregnant with Rose I sold my neglected board as we needed some extra money. I've long admired the elegance of long boarders, that dance along the board and the innate connection with and respect for the water beneath them. This time around I instinctively knew this was the way I wanted to go. A shredder I am not and never will be. Right now I'm so thankful for the chance- the board and the time- I've been handed and a husband who just knew it was exactly what I needed to do. Best of all has got to be that feeling of getting back a little but crucial piece of yourself that was lost, or at the very least well and truly buried.

Below is a short vide clip showing the beauty of long boarding at its very best, featuring renowned surfer Belinda Baggs and shot by Macauley Rae.

The top images are by surf film maker and photographer Nathan Oldfield. His blog Look and Sea is a great read for anyone with an affinity for waves and the ocean. His latest film, The Heart and the Sea, is definitely worth watching and beautifully explores the joy that lies at the very centre of a surfing life: family, friends and a shared intimacy with the sea. It premiered here in Torquay last month and Curt and I were lucky enough to get the chance to go and see it. Highly recommended.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

the first veggie box

This is the year I decided it was time to get it together when it comes to the food we eat and to stop making the same old randomly put together meals, probably featuring sausages and fish fingers a little too often, usually conceived of fifteen minutes before the childrens dinner time. To start actually using some of the stack of cookery books I own, to plan more in advance and cook good, simple food. I wanted to start buying less but better quality ingredients and making more conscious buying choices which support local producers when possible. Another key factor was that I was also pretty sick of the below average fruit and veg from the supermarket which was often starting to go bad before I'd even got it in through the door.

So in addition our very young vegetable patch in the garden, I also signed us up for an organic box scheme with a newly launched local co-operative not long after we moved here. After a few months of patiently sitting it out on the waiting list, they finally had a space for us to join. This Thursday, our very first weekly box of organic vegetables and fruit was delivered to our doorstep. Rose was so excited she actually tried to climb inside the cardboard box with it all.

We made a beeline for the juicy plums and oranges, oohed and ahhed over the lovely array of vegtables and pondered over the remaining few ("....Erm, so what exactly is that then?"). Thanks to google, they have now been identified as beetroots. Slightly embarrassing to admit when I grew up in the countryside, on a farm no less. It would seem I didn't pay much attention to things of little interest to me at the time, including vegetables. I will also come clean that I had to watch a video on you tube about how to prepare a leek (with Lila peering over my shoulder adding helpful observations along the lines of "Mummy, why aren't you chopping yours as fast as that lady?"). It's all a learning curve though and the resulting leek and bacon risotto topped with a poached egg was worth the effort and the large pile of washing up. I have no accompanying picture because as a general rule, I would rather eat my food as soon as possible than stand around photographing it. The kids finished every bite without even the mention of a post-dinner biscuit bribe, so that can go down as the first veggie box success story.

What shows up in the box every week will be completely different, depending on the season and what is in abundance, and the idea is that this will force me to be more creative and venture away from the old favorites on permanent, boring rotation. No doubt there will be a few surprises and a fair amount of what arrives may have never made it into my shopping trolley before. I know that some days it's likely to all feel a bit overwhelming but it will be Autumn here soon and so when all other inspiration fails then I can just throw it all in a big pan to make soup and at the very least it should keep us warm.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

life on the surf coast

There's nothing like living by the ocean to make you feel alive. One of my favourite things to do is to head down to the beach when Curt gets home from work and take a walk together as a family, feeling the sand underfoot, the wind blowing our hair and salt on our lips. Often Curt surfs while we play on the beach and watch, or if the waves are smaller he takes Lila out on her little board. When it's flat then we dig or build palaces and collect shells. I feel so lucky to be able to do this and give the girls an appreciation and respect for the water and nature.

We've been even more lucky for the past couple of weeks as my parents have been visiting from England, so we've been able to share with them all that we love about living here. Today we had to say goodbye until we see them again in a year. Until then I will just have to treasure all the memories we made and throw myself back into daily life and working on our home and garden.

Next week the new term starts and Lila will begin kindergarten. I will begin painting again. My new easel, my best Christmas gift, has been sitting patiently waiting for me to find the time to pick up my brushes again and create just for the love of it. I also have a new Etsy shop waiting to be filled with images and listings of all my necklaces so I will be keeping busy to help to ease the emptiness and the inevitable void that is left behind after the farewells have been said and the aeroplane has departed.

Photos taken by Curt.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

things i want my children to know

My beautiful girls...

Never stop dreaming. If you allow yourself to dream you will find out what your heart truly desires, your passions in life and you can begin to carve your path. And whatever you dream of, it is all possible. If you long for it then do everything you can to get there and make it happen. We will do all we can to help you. For of course it's not only about the dreaming but the doing. Don't be afraid of failing, pick yourself up, learn from the experience and try again.

Read books; to escape, inspire and broaden your horizons. Travel, not only to find yourself but to find out about the world. Carry on learning and be curious. Talk to people, from all walks of life. Make a connection because everyone has a story and often people come into your life for a reason, whatever that may be.

Choose to wake up in the morning and have a good day. Don't get hung up on the small stuff, take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture. Know the power of positive thinking. Believe in yourself and your goals and try not to let what other people think get in the way. Trust your instincts. Stay true to yourself and be yourself and people will respect and love you for it.

Don't dwell on the past too much or wish away the present, even if it's a place you'd rather not be. There is something to be learnt and taken from even the most shadowy moments. And broken hearts do heal, eventually. Live in the moment. The simplest things bring the biggest joy and shared experiences are usually more valuable than material possessions so breathe and take it all in. Hold you family and true friends close to you. Be grateful. Smile often. Be kind and treat others as you want to be treated.

Most importantly, know that I love you. More than anything, always. Whatever happens, no matter the choices you make or how ever many miles away I am, if it all falls down around your ears, I will be here to pick up the pieces. Whatever you do, wherever you go I will be by your side and I believe in you.

Your Mama xxx

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