A Visit To Montsalvat

The Great Hall of Montsalvat

I’ve been pondering this blog post and almost putting it off because if I’m going to write a blog post about Montsalvat, I’ll need to include some history of the place, right? So that means I’ll need to do a bit of research, some fact checking. And then I started dreading writing the post because suddenly it loomed like a chore.

So I decided that I’m not going to let it be a chore. I’ll just show you some photos, and you’ll see for yourself. And may be those photos will pique your interest, and you’ll want to do a little bit of research on this gorgeous place yourself. Or even better, go and experience it for yourself.

Montsalvat is a beautiful artists colony located in the picturesque outer suburb of Eltham, which is 20km north-east of Melbourne’s CBD. Established in 1934 by Justus Jorgensen, it a collection of historical buildings inspired by a French provincial village – and indeed it feels like stepping into just that.

Last Sunday was the annual Montsalvat Arts Festival. Knowing what was already there, I was keen to go back. My sister got married at Montsalvat, and it is the location of one of my first dates with my husband 💞. It’s such a romantic place and has a beautiful history; you feel like you should be waltzing around in a flowing white dress with a flower crown on your head (or something…).

Just one of the sculptures dotted around the grounds

It’s hard to be in the space and not be inspired. It is a place where art is made, taught and exhibited. It is teeming with art, both modern and traditional. Painters, sculptors, glass blowers, guitar makers, jewellery makers and many more creatives have enjoyed the creative inspiration afforded by Montsalvat.

The sun shone, the flamenco band played, the champagne was sipped as we whiled away the afternoon in a bubble of Sunday joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holidays, Anticipation and The Joy of Making Plans

In four days my family and I are heading away to Vietnam. We are all so excited, it is a big trip for us as a family. It has been brewing for several years, and has been many months in the planning. Some families go overseas regularly, like it’s no big deal. Not us. Nope. Air travel (even to Queensland) is a big deal. I’m happy with this. I consider this a gift that I am giving my children.

I didn’t go on a plane for the first time till I was 19. Yep, you read it right. I was 19 and I flew to the Gold Coast. So the novelty of getting in to aeroplane and heading off someone so completely out of reach is so thrilling for me, even now. I want that for my kids too. So, while travel is a huge gift, so is a life time of it not being ordinary.

In a way, something like this puts me a in a state of flux, simply because it’s so big and it crowds out everything else. So now that it is only days away, of course I am wild with excitement, not just for the heat, the food, the smell of the unfamiliar, but also for the delight of anticipation for after. For home coming, and settling.

I think that cycle of planing, anticipation, arrival, experience then beginning again is renewing, and energising. It’s just so good to make plans. Even when they unfold differently to how you imagine, it’s always a growth experience.

But as I check and recheck my to-do list for Vietnam my mind is already moving in to future plans, for when we are home. So I thought I’d share a few things I’d like to do when we get home:

Make a Commitment to Meditation – I’ve downloaded ‘Insight Timer’ and am ready to go. I was interviewing a beautifully inspiring woman on mindfulness recently and she quoted Rumi to me:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing

and rightdoing there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass

the world is too full to talk about.”

She said the field that Rumi speaks of, for her, is meditation. This had such an incredible impact on me. I’ve written about meditation for work many times, so I’ve read all the research on the benefits of meditation. My husband meditates every day and is a walking advertisement for the benefits of it – he is peaceful, calm, and generous of spirit. My father is a life-long meditator, who knows me well and continuously tells me that my personality needs meditation.

But it was the poetry and the metaphor for meditation that truly spoke to me. It moved something in me; so much more than any compelling scientific research on meditation ever did. That field sounds like a worthy place to visit, and this lady showed me how to get there. It’s up to me to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snail Mail – I am going to write more letters and post them. To strangers, and to people I know. I follow a gorgeous blog call Naomi Loves, which has it’s focus on what Naomi describes as the Snail Mail Revolution. If I am going to be involved in a revolution, it must a gentle revolution; so I think snail mail fits the bill. She paints beautiful pictures on envelopes and writing paper and posts them out to people she doesn’t know. I just adore the whimsy that this embodies and I’d love to be a part of it.

Naomi also subscribes to slow living, which is a permanent work in progress for me. But having been involved with The 100 Day Project, I’ve learnt that daily art is the perfect antidote to our manic modern lives. Regular creativity, combined with a sharing mindset, seeking community and connection can only be a happy positive way to spend one’s time.

Getting a Grip on Our Finances – Of late I am moving from a mindset of scarcity, to one of abundance. When I say scarcity I mean that I always feel like we need to earn more cash, but in truth, we have have what we need, we don’t need more.

Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely a work in progress. But I am recognising that the mad scramble for dollars that punctuates our every day, almost our every moment, is a ruse. We don’t need to do this. In fact we need very little, and most of us live with such abundance we don’t even realise how much we are wasting.

So I am going to re-do our budget, get a grip on the actual expenses of living our life, scrap what we don’t need and focus on less waste. Shifting the focus to less waste rather than getting more money makes so much sense to me. Because that spiral of more money really just means more waste. There is only so much we humans need.

The Garden – Just on that, part of aiming for less waste means getting back to basics. My husband grows food every season, I can’t claim any of it. But I want to be part of it – I want all of our family to be part of it. When children understand the cycle of growth, where their food comes from, the energy and resources that go into growing it, it is a knowledge base that will inform all aspects of their lives.

So while all of these plans and the associated anticipation of carrying them out, is quite delicious, I’ve got a holiday to go on first! I’ll be back at the end of July.

I’d love to hear of your plans for the second half of the year. 

June Taking Stock

Whoa! It is June already. Most definitely time for a Taking Stock post. These posts are lovely to write and lovely to read, courtesy of the lovely Pip Lincoln from Meet Me at Mikes.

Taking stock is a great thing to do. This year has taken some interesting and unexpected turns, some good, some not so good. And in light of the awful events in Manchester and London over these past couple of weeks, checking in with yourself is a really good thing to do.

Obviously June is the start of Winter, and I would suggest it is the most unpopular season, but dare I say it, I totally loved Autumn this year and perhaps all that bad press that Winter gets is not totally justified. Don’t get me wrong, I do NOT like being cold; but there is something so lovely about being toasty and warm – winter food, open fires, hot chocolates, red wine… so many things.

Perhaps I’m engaging with the seasons more because my #100dayproject theme is #100daysofseasons – so I’m looking outwards to the seasons – not just the seasons of the climate, but other seasons. May/June are my season of sadness because my Mum died in early June, but the last time I saw her at home and was able to have a conversation with her, was on Mothers’ Day – so, it is a season of contemplation and reflection as well.

When I’m feeling a bit wobbly I look for comforting things, so the cooler months of late Autumn and early Winter are the perfect time to seek comfort. Staring in to a beautiful fire, cradling a glass of red wine and wearing some wooly booties will always life my spirits.

So on that, I’ll just launch straight in to another Taking Stock and make mention of a few other things that have been happening around here.

Making : Art! Lots of it, for #the100dayproject. This one is last night’s sketch, and you can see what else I’ve been up to here.

Cooking : Home baked bread. Thanks to Annette at I Give You the Verbs I got inspired to make a no-knead loaf of bread. It’s the best, the recipe is here if you’re keen to try.

Drinking: Tea. And red wine – but not together (obvs!)

Reading: “The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well” by Meik Wiking.

Looking: At lots of travel websites – an adventure is afoot!

Playing: Scrabble. For the first time in ages my husband and I had a game. I got rid of all my letters in one word, and even with the bonus 50 points he still beat me! I need to pick up my game!

Deciding: when to put the kettle on. My husband has just baked the most incredible sour dough with apricots, fennel seeds, walnuts and saltanas so I want a piece toasted, with lashings of butter. The tea is just an excuse for a slice of the fruit loaf!

Wishing: this lurgy would clear off – I’ve felt unwell for eight days now.

Enjoying: the change in seasons.

Waiting: for our Vietnam adventure to begin!

Liking: the anticipation of another family adventure.

Wondering: what the rest of the year holds – it’s already been one out of the box!

Loving: my book club. We have met twice now and have read two fabulous books (Nina is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi and The Cows by Dawn O’Porter – both fabulous and highly recommended by moi!) Next is a memoir, and I cant wait to get into this – I have ear marked this as my holiday read.

Pondering: a few things on ‘imposter syndrome’ – I plan to blog about this, but have a little more pondering to do.

Considering: what direction to take once back from holidays.

Buying: (maybe) a new pair of bathers for our holiday.

Watching: The Voice. Yes, we are The Voice tragics in our house. (Go George!!!)

Hoping: that the Netball team I coach has success in their Grand Final.

Marvelling: at how far they’ve come in such a short period of time – this time two years ago (their maiden season) we had scored just six goals for the entire season.

Cringing: at being a Voice tragic (but also owning it!).

Needing: my headache to lift – please – the long weekend is coming and I’ve got plans.

Questioning: what else I need to do to slow our lives down a little.

Smelling: not much – too blocked up.

Wearing: a winter puffer jacket inside – I know! It’s this damned lurgy.

Following: I try not to be a follower, I hate that term, but I am enjoying the Slow Your Home blog and podcast, and looking at lots of beautiful art on Instagram.

Noticing: little things in nature – like this butterfly trying to be born.

Knowing: that it will be a huge struggle for that little mite, but it will be worth it for those 24 hours of life.

Thinking: about lots of things… too much in my head actually, so really thinking I need to be more disciplined about getting a regular meditation practice happening.

Admiring: my husband, he’s got this meditation thing down pat and is the most zen guy I know.

Sorting: out finances for our trip.

Getting: excited! Only 24 days till we leave.

Bookmarking: the no-knead bread recipe – it’s such a keeper.

Coveting: everything, but nothing really. So actually, nothing really.

Disliking: how sore my nose is from blowing it and how scratchy my throat is.

Opening: more tissues.

Giggling: at my daughter’s face when she realised the parcel that arrived from England was for her.

Feeling: lethargic.

Snacking: on home made fruit sour dough (soon, very soon).

Helping: myself to a cuppa (and see above).

Hearing: my husband put the kettle on – phew, that was good timing.

Back from Blog Holidays & The 100 Day Project

It’s been a while, but I’ve been having a little blogging holiday. Sometimes I just lose my mojo and get a bit distracted so I don’t blog. I take a step back. Sometimes I fret about it, and worry that I should be blogging. But when I think about it, holidays are good and they help you feel refreshed and recharged. So it’s been a blogging holiday.

So I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been busy with this business we call living. School holidays, Easter, work, life.

If you follow The Morning Drum on Instagram you’ll know that the other thing keeping me busy is The 100 Day Project. I am loving this project. For so long I’ve been wanting to make space for more art and creativity. All the best laid plans would always fizzle, I’d get busy with kids or work and I’d be left thinking ‘maybe tomorrow then…?’

But very rarely did tomorrow bring that mystical pocket of time that I needed to sit and do some sketching or painting.

I’ve written about how I needed to make the time to write daily, so I got up earlier. That has worked like a dream and I am consistently writing on weekday mornings now. As I sighed and contemplated the art practice that never happened, I realised that if I really did want to do this (rather than just ruminate on how I wish I could do it) I needed to make a change, somehow.

With my pre-dawn rising already committed to writing, I had been thinking about how I could work things, and still manage to do my paid work, and all the running around that comes with three kids.

Then one morning I was reading about The 100 Day Project.

And there was my answer. I just needed to commit to something. So I rather spontaneously decided that I would do it. After a few hours I felt a little bit sick thinking about 100 days, (it seems like such a long time!) and the project finishes on July 12th. We leave for Vietnam on July 1st – my first road block.

But I forged ahead and decided I would just work it out.

The 100 Day Project is about making art, or creating something every day. You choose a theme and create daily based on that theme. Mine is 100 Days of Seasons, here’s my hashtag if you want to take a look on Instagram: #100daysofseasons.

The 100 Day Project promises to help cultivate a daily creative practice, gives you access to a supportive community and an opportunity to look outwards and see what other people all over the world are creating.

Day 2/100 Tomatoes for Summer

Some of my offerings scream “amateur”; but some I am very proud of. The 100 Day Project has made me a little braver. Braver about putting myself ‘out there’, and braver with the type of things I am creating. I am trying different styles and different mediums. Ultimately something like this fosters growth. It’s Day 22 today so it’s early days, and who knows what is around the corner. But while I can manage to do a piece of daily art, I’ll continue with it because the benefits have been so wonderful.

I’m virtually off social media – I post my art on Instagram (as part of the project) and while I’m there I stop to look at other people’s projects. But when it comes to Facebook, I briefly pop in and then pop out again, which I am SO damned happy about. Late last year I took a month off Facebook, but it snuck back in. I feel like I’ve broken the habit and because there is no embargo on my use of it I can dip in when I like, but I’m finding I just have better things to do.

Day 11/100 Bunnies for the Easter season

I am constantly working towards living a slower life. It is a work in progress, of course, because the actual world we inhabit is not that slow. Not slow at all, in fact. So in a way it is like running against the tide. But doing something like The 100 Day Project is a perfect accompaniment to living at a slower pace. In the evenings I’ve been leaving my lap top at my desk and sitting with my sketch book. It’s mindful, it’s considered and it is so satisfying.

In the morning the kids are eager to see what I’ve created the night before. Happily, my work is a source of inspiration for them. So once they are dressed and fed, they’ve been reaching for their own sketch books. I tell you, the volume of art work coming out of the Beck house at the moment is extraordinary – anyone would think we had a contract with Lombards!

For my youngest, in just three weeks, she has gone from writing her name in a way that (sort of) resembled letters, to writing her name clearly and neatly on each drawing. Every day her pictures improve and she adds more and more new detail. There is less nagging for the iPad and the three of them interact and compliment each other on their work.

The thought of participating in something like The 100 Day Project in the past has been too much to get my head around. But the benefits are more than I could have imagined – and we are only three weeks in. While taking on something extra like this may seem tin conflict with my ultimate goal of slow living it has actually made me feel less stretched and hassled by the day to day machinations of life.

Day 20/100 Poppies for Anzac Day

What helps you slow down? Do you have a daily practice of any thing?

Falling In Love With The Sunrise

When there is a change in routine within the family it can take some adjusting. I’ve written in the past about writing Morning Pages, and over the Summer holidays, not only did I break my habit,  it actually fell in to pieces.  Strangely, I found that my sleep quality was hugely compromised also – there are many reasons I can find for this, but I still wonder if because my daily ‘unload on to the page’ wasn’t happening any more, I was carrying around peripheral ‘stuff’, and so may be it was interfering with my sleep.

I’ll never know. But I did recognise that I needed to get back to writing my Morning Pages, not just for my wellbeing, but also for my writing. Daily writing is good for honing my craft; it’s important that I keep practising.

What I found when I tried to go back to it was that the new routine for 2017, which consists of three different morning start times because of sessional kindergarten, meant that I’d always run out of time to sit down and do them. I chatted to my husband about it and he is an early riser. He leaves for work before seven, but he gets up extra early to meditate. We decided a few tweaks to our morning routine would help give me the time to write.

The voice of reason that he is, he showed me that the only solution was to get up earlier – like he does for his meditation. I now have my cup of tea at 6.00 am, and I have 20 minutes to ease into the morning. As much as I didn’t want to get up any earlier, I knew he was right and that if I was committed to this practise it was only me who could make time for it. I’ve barely missed a day since I made this new commitment. Sleep quality is slowly getting better.

The happy result of committing to writing every morning (apart from actually writing every morning) is that most days I am up before the sun comes up. I never used to see the sun rise.

There is something so magical about seeing the sun rise.

Even if it not that spectacular, it is still a marvel. The stillness and serenity leave me feeling calm and optimistic. Now I understand how our bodies were once so attuned to the waning of the moon and movement of the sun. While largely that has been interfered with because of our modern lifestyles, there is something innate that helps you move though the day when you witness the natural beginning of the day; the literal new day dawning.

Mother nature has particularly spoilt me these past few weeks and I have found myself outside in my dressing gown with my camera, (probably looking a little like a crazy lady!) experimenting with the changing light. Here are a few of the sunrises I’ve been part of.

I live opposite a golf course so I was delighted to capture the dawn players in the distance.

One morning, the light changed dramatically when the clouds came over and  everything was bathed in a golden light. It was quite magical!

This was taken from the back yard, when I realised it was going to rain I dashed out the back to pull the clothes off the line; the light was awe-inspiring.

The other lovely thing about seeing the sun rise and taking photos is that I have started to play around with my camera a bit more. Here are a couple of shots from a recent bush walk we went on.

  

My son spotted this overgrown mushroom (toadstool?) hidden under the grass. I feel a bit like I’ve been hiding under that dark mushroom, having missed almost a life time of sun rises.

I’ve fallen in love with the sunrise – it’s been a revelation!

How about you – has anything surprised you lately?