Wednesday, December 26, 2012

As the sun sets in 2012

I've been in quite a really reflective mood lately, thinking about how 2012 played out and the twists my path has taken. The charming Miranti over at Pen & Peplum recently wrote about the things that she was thankful for over the year, and I thought this a great exercise as the year draws to a close.

This year was a roller coaster, no doubt about it. Sometimes nondescript, sometimes crazily intense, sometimes fun and often frustrating. I started 2012 in complete fog having, for the first time since I can remember, no real goal. It felt very very uncomfortable. Much squirming and sighing slowly gave way to questioning, reevaluating and challenging who I am and where I thought I was going with my life, and how I was living it. I faced some big decisions which had me closing chapters and opening new ones. I was tried and tested. Yet here I am - very thankful for journey.

For my family; my Rock of Gibraltar, and for my friends old and new. But particularly P, who has been patient with my never-ending ambivalence, and who brought me out of the box when my mind was in lockdown mode.

I'm thankful for my home, my very own, which provided me with a place of solitude to rest and rejuvenate.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to travel freely, for the clarity and inspiration that time in Sweden gave for me to create a beginning from an ending.

I am thankful for the situations where I wasn't myself, and for the resulting discomfort that reminded me of the person I am not.

I'm thankful for the professional highs that have uncovered skills I didn't know I had, and the lows that have forced me to contemplate necessary change in the coming year.

I am thankful for all those random events, serendipitous finding of books and courses, and conversations with people that have culminated in clarity in how I can merge my talents in a way that has fills me with real excitement.

I am thankful for the return of my chaotic creativity.

So 2012, thank you for the many challenges, the joys, the connections and the reconnections. Thank you for sending me uncomfortable jolts and timely reminders when I needed them. And above all, thanks for helping me strip back the old canvas and creating space for a new vision which collages old and new.

2013 is all about implementation. Boy, I can't wait!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Live like a French person everyday

This is a little story about why you shouldn't drink takeaway coffee and other daily habits we can abandon, others still we can adopt to live a more mindful and elegant existence.

When I was a child, eating while we were out and about on the move just didn't happen. If you wanted something to eat, or drink for that matter, you sat at a table. Fast forward some years I was pulling into Seattle on an early morning bus on my first trip to America. A first glimpse of Seatillites had me feeling like I'd just landed on a dehydrated Mars. Lining the streets were people walking, waiting for buses, and in cars slurping from enormous bucket-sized cups of coffee. It was totally bizarre and had me wondering what great stress these people were under to not have time to drink their coffee with their breakfast before they left home.

Now fast forward again another few years to my first trip to France. I love this country, I loved it long before I visited it and I still love it 15 years later. But what struck on this initial trip after having lived in North America for a couple of years was the sheer lack of take-away coffee houses. When people wanted a coffee they would go into a cafe and either sit down and savour a creamy cafe au lait or, if in a hurry, they'd stand at the bar and whip down a bitter brew from a tiny ceramic cup. But they would not, I repeat would not, run away down the street with it and let it get cold before drinking it at their desk. Still now in Paris take away coffee is fairly rare.

So where am going with this coffee rant? Well, despite my reluctance to admit this to my French friends, I think that this gaelic nation in many aspects of living has got it just right. Their pace is comfortable, the aesthetic is right on. They live an elegant life without it being overdone.

I've been thinking for a while about how I can inject a bit more French into my own life rather than just while I'm staying in their country. After some pondering I've come up with my ten tips on how to live more like a French person everyday.

one  //  Drink your coffee (or in my case tea) in a cafe or at home at the table. In a real cup. Not walking down the street.

two  //  Put some effort in what you wear. Have high quality basics in your wardrobe that you feel good in. Learn how to accessorise. Know what looks good on you and flaunt your assets, elegantly.

three  //  Never eat at your desk. Its impossible to be mindful of what you're chomping on while infront of a computer screen. It's a bad habit and besides, crumbs and leftover spaghetti sauce are hard to get out of the crevices in your keyboard.

four  //  Get outside and breathe some fresh air every day. Go for a walk in the park, ride your bike. Step away from your screen and get some air through your lungs.

five  //  Eat only fresh, seasonal foods. Don't eat junk. Eat simply when at home, make a proper meal even if its only for you. A tin of tuna does not constitute a meal.

six  //  Indulge yourself sometimes, and savour it. Buy a single exquisite chocolate, the best you can afford and eat it slowly, rather than demolishing a bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk. Get the occasional manicure. Buy an Italian Vogue. Whatever floats your boat do it, not every day, not even every week, but every so often. A little decadence goes a long way.

seven  //  Buy fresh flowers weekly or pick them from your garden, and display them in the rooms you live in the most. Even a simple bunch of inexpensive daffodils or daisies can make a house more bright and homely. Why? Because you're worth it.

eight  //  When at home, dress as if someone might appear at your door at anytime. Comfortably, yet with some elegance. One day a friend and I spontaneously dropped in on the lovely Mme Bénazet of Toulouse. At over 80 she was a picture of simple style in some comfortable wool trousers, a fine knit jumper and her silk and wool 'house scarf' to keep the chill from her neck. Gorgeous.

nine  //  Adopt a five-minute bedtime beauty routine. Clean off your makeup with a cream cleanser, apply a night cream and eye cream, brush your teeth and your hair. Maybe even rub a little lavender oil on your temples. You'll feel pampered and calm, ready for sleep.

ten  //  Enjoy small rituals in your day, month, week and year. Whether it be 4pm goûter, Sunday lunch with family, or a monthly ’knife-and-fork’ lunch with friends. These rituals mark the cycles of time and make it feel less like life is running away from us.

So there you have it, the tips I have learned from the French on how to add a bit je ne sais quoi to your everyday life.

I'd love to hear about your experience of these. Do you have tips of your own?

Girl & geese c/o o-check graphics

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Resolve early

Who makes New Year's resolutions? I do. Every New Years day I make a list of all the things I hope to achieve, and then swiftly go about breaking them when life gets in the way.

Last year was a crazy year with far too much going on. Never one to say no, on top of full-time work and part-time study I took on too many projects and drove myself completely into the ground. It really took its toll on me physically and mentally. By December I was a blubbering unhealthy stressed mess.

I decided enough was enough, but surprising myself, I didn't want to wait until the new year kicked in to make a start making changes to clean up my act. On Christmas Eve I went to see a naturopath that a friend had recommended to get a health makeover. Yes, you read that right - on Christmas eve! The gorgeous Anthia greeted me with a cleansing cup for tea in a pretty china cup and gently discussed where I was going wrong and how I might make improvements. She was delightful. She was kind. She was exactly what I needed.

That hot 24 December I walked out of her store not only armed with a bitter tonic and some cleansing tea to aid my digestion, but something far more important - resolve. Resolve that this year would not be like last year. That I wouldn't wait til 1 January to start being a better me. I decided to act immediately and see Anthia before christmas, an action that saved me from completely blowing out on junk during Christmas and New Year. I went into the season armed with a strong vision of change, and kept it in my mind the entire time. By January 1 I was already eating better, being kinder to myself and walking more. The resolve, I kept it up for most* of the year.

It seems for me that kickstarting changes pre-New Year helps me see them through. So this year, as Christmas Day looms, I have again resolved to resolve early. I've booked in to see Anthia in the week before Christmas to assess my progress in becoming a healthier me. But this year I'm kicking my resolve up a notch and building extensions. Having had twelve months rest from study and started to find my creative mojo again, I'm starting to contemplate what I want next year to look like professionally. Importantly, I have resolved to get this transition going also before new year. I've started mapping and drawing and sketching and talking to people about my business concept and next steps. I have a clear vision about where I want to be by this time next year and I'm doing everything in my power to get as much grunt work done now as possible. I have a feeling, that come New Year's Day, I'm going to have made some steady progress.

This is an important lesson I've stumbled upon. There's no point waiting for the future to come, it never does. Its important to act now. You only need to make small movements, but don't dawdle. Be definite. Be bold. It's amazing what some early resolve can do.

* I have had a few blowouts this year, but hey, I'm only human.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Madame, pomp adore!

You'd think after the origami advent calendar I'd have had enough of Christmas craft. Well think again. This morning I braved the Sydney heatwave loaded with fabric scraps and scissors, and headed to Darlinghurst to attend the City of Sydney "Upcycling: green up your Christmas" workshop.

The delightful Julie Paterson from clothfabric opened her space up to a bunch eager festive-makers. Over the next couple of hours we followed her simple instructions to turn string, scraps and fabric left overs into pom-poms, strings of garlands and bunting.

I must admit, I liked the pom-poms the best. I used mostly the beautiful screen printed clothfabric scraps to make four fluffy balls that will give my place some christmas cheer. They're pretty effective, don't you think?

They were also really simple to put together. If you're keen to make your own, follow the instructions I have found over on the 5 orange potatoes blog.

Thanks Julie and the Green Village for a fun morning!
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