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.

The Importance of Finding Purpose

The idea of ‘finding your purpose’ can be all sorts of scary. Call me a cynic, but the idea has been appropriated by all manner of gurus, counsellors, and coaches who don’t have entirely noble intentions. It is not uncommon to see ads proclaiming to help you find your purpose (at a cost) and achieve a lifetime of happiness.

It sounds cliched, I know this, but I have found that a sense of purpose can only come from within. While I acknowledge that it is not as black and white as this, as different people have different struggles, ultimately, it is as black and white as this.

It just requires honesty, and perhaps a little bravery.

I want to be clear also that purpose and passion are two entirely different things. Again, the idea of ‘finding your passion’ has been appropriated for marketing value and has come to be a meaningless statement. We’ve been sold this idea, but at best it may be something temporary, at worst it is a flakey premise with little or no substance. But purpose is something else entirely.

As soon as I let go of the anxiety around  ‘finding my life purpose’ (as if it was a singular golden ticket to a happy life) and sat with the idea of peaks and troughs, my life became much more purposeful and deeply satiating on many different levels.

For some, their purpose maybe getting up each day to tend to their children – creating and nurturing family life, for others it may be to create art, or for others, go to their place of work and do a day of honest graft. Different things appeal to different people. But finding your purpose, to me, is about feeling like you are home when you are doing what ever it is.

I’ve accepted that purpose is fluid; just like people. It seems crazy to me that you discover something and expect that one thing to fulfil you forever more. Growth comes through continuing to explore multiple purposes in life.

I’m grateful that I’ve never got caught up in the idea of status. I don’t care what car I drive, as long as it’s safe, I don’t care that I don’t live in a castle; I only want my home to be a haven. I’m not fussed about fancy clothes – I want to feel good and comfortable. I don’t care that I am not changing the world or saving the world from itself.

I’ve found purpose in doing enough paid work to help pay the bills, but not so much that my children never see me. I’ve found purpose in temporary projects, like the #100dayproject (which I’ve written about here), I’ve found purpose in planning our next family adventure to Vietnam, I’ve found purpose in baking a simple treat for my family.

I guess what I’m getting at is that purpose is fluid, and it can be whatever brings you joy, motivation, contentedness. Yearning is natural, that cliche “the grass is always greener”, it’s a cliche for a reason – because of the truth in it. I yearn for many things – sometimes those yearnings are in conflict and soon dissipate, other yearnings are more consistent, and longer lasting. When I follow these up it helps bring me my sense of purpose.

In paying attention to what brings me this sense of purpose, I’ve also established what I don’t want from life. I don’t want to be harried and rushed and hassled, because it leaves me irritable and grumpy. I don’t want to be anyone’s slave or a slave to any one thing. There’s no satisfaction in being a martyr. I don’t want to accumulate much of anything – not money, not clothes, not modern gadgets.

Filtering in both directions – looking at what you don’t want, and then seeing what nourishes you, is a great exercise. Essentially it is about being mindful (that ole buzzword!), and tuning in to yourself – often we have found our purpose already, but just haven’t taken the time to notice.

I’m interested in this idea of purpose and what it means to others.

I’d love to hear what brings you to your sense of purpose? 

Slowing Down: the Path That Brought Me Back to Golden Syrup Dumplings

The dreaded gastro visited our house last week. Fortunately only one of us got sick. There is nothing quite like being under house arrest with a highly contagious child to slow things down. My little girl felt pretty rotten for a good few days, so between the endless loads of washing and endless cuddles on the couch, on the bed, and back on the couch, and in the kitchen… you get the picture, there were lots of cuddles,  I got the chance to catch up on some blog reading. A happy upside to a pretty crappy few days.

Fellow blogger, Danni, from Eat My Street posted a lovely old recipe for a ‘Good Cream Cake’ that she found written on a slip of paper. I loved the idea of someone from another generation, perhaps passed on now, or maybe enjoying their old age somewhere lovely eating their good cream cake with a delicious frequency that old age deserves.

I was curious about the recipe as “Good Cream Cake” doesn’t give a lot away. I decided to look it up in my Mum’s go-to cook book – the PWMU Cookery Book. PWMU stands for Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union. My Mum wasn’t Presbyterian but someone in the know gave her this gem – it was either a ‘glory box’ gift, engagement or part of a wedding gift – I can’t recall which one.

It was the go-to cook book for everything when I was growing up. The original version fell apart when I was a young adult, but was replaced again. After Mum died, I ended up with it. It is loaded with recipes from my childhood and beyond, as it was first published in 1904.

I looked up this Good Cream Cake but found no such description, although I did find a recipe for a ‘Plain Cake’ which had the same ingredients, but slightly different quantities and method. There was no mention of good or cream, sadly. I think both words add some excitement to what is essentially a ‘plain cake’.

However, as I browsed the pages of Mum’s book, something I hadn’t done since I was a child, I became very nostalgic. Recipes for pikelets, Lemon Delicious, Date Loaf, Tea Cake, lemon cheese cake (a regular birthday dessert growing up, which only yesterday I made for my husband’s birthday), and one of my favourites… Golden Syrup Dumplings.

Sunday Special Treat. 

I had completely forgotten about their actual existence. As soon as I lay my eyes on this recipe I knew that sometime over the weekend my family would be enjoying these little bombs of sugar and love – carb coma, here we come! In fact, I was so excited by these that Golden Syrup was my topic for The 100 Day Project the evening that I made them.

I don’t think there is a person in the world that deserves to miss out on the most simplest of pleasures, that is the Golden Syrup Dumpling. So here is the recipe for you to enjoy. It is so easy and quick, and perfect for a Sunday evening treat.

A word of warning: they are not pretty, any effort to pretty them up will be wasted. Golden Syrup Dumplings are a sensory taste experience, they deliver 10-fold on this front, to make up for their lack of aesthetic qualities.

Image courtesy of taste.com.au – ours were devoured way too quickly to snap a photo!

The Dumplings

1 cup of self-raising flour (150g)

2 tablespoons butter (40g)

milk

The Sauce

1.5 cups of water (375ml)

1 tablespoon of golden syrup

1/2 cup of sugar (125g)

juice of one lemon

Rub butter in flour. Mix to a stiff dough with a little milk. Form into balls (slightly larger than tea spoon size). Bring water, syrup, sugar and lemon juice to the boil. Drop the dumplings into the boiling syrup and cook for 20 minutes. Serve with cream or ice-cream. 

So, while illness is not fun, it can sometimes bring moments of lovely serendipity. It can make you slow down, look around (enjoy the multitudes of cuddles), and rediscover something lovely. 

I’d love to hear about your favourite recipes from your childhood.

Was there something lovely that your Mum used to make you?

Share in the comments below. xx

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?