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. 

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

Finding the Joy De Vivre

I love all the french expressions that have found their way into english vernacular, and none more than joy de vivre. I’m not a french speaker but I don’t think it even requires a translation – it just sounds like it is bursting with all the good things. It’s pronounced ʒwa də vivʁ, just in case you’re french is as bad as mine.

But for those that can’t hear the meaning in the sound of the words, it means finding the joy in life. It is described as an exaltation of the spirit, a joy of conversation, a joy of food – a general delight with living.

So in other words, it’s finding joy in the small things. Stopping, taking a moment to look. Tuning in to the small things. To me, this is living slowly and mindfully. Today, these are some of the things that helped me feel the joy de vivre:

★  Walking my daughter to school on this fresh autumn morning. Rugged up in my new scarf, and a warm jacket, with the sun on my face and my kiddos chatting easily with me about life.

 Taking a bus with my youngest. We usually have the car, but not today – my husband needed it for work. So I thought we’d have a little excursion. We took a bus to the station, then a train two stops. On a recommendation, we had morning tea at The Sunbeam Cafe. It is as delightful as the name suggests. Established in 1945, not a great deal has changed in The Sunbeam Cafe since then, including the style of cakes. (Think cream puffs, apple turnovers, chocolate eclair… my mouth is watering just thinking about them.)

 Coming home, and on a whim deciding to make lentil rolls from the Lunch Lady website. How can anyone go past these, when the headline is “it’s a long way to shop, if you want a lentil roll”. And even better, the real song is stuck in my head. Here’s the result.

(I supplemented the pumpkin for a tin of cannelinni beans, added a zucchini and some LSA instead of breadcrumbs, and happily, none of this was to their detriment.)

 Whispering silliness into my four-year-old’s ear, and hearing her electric cackle escape loudly from deep within her belly.

Taking the time to reflect on these little, but magical things, improved the quality of my day in an immeasurable way.

Are you taking the time to find the joy de vivre? Tell me some the things that have left you delighted with life.

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?

It’s March Already: Taking Stock.

We are in March already. Sometimes I want to just press pause for a moment, but no matter how    hard we try the cyclone of life collects us up in its frenzied twister and dumps us into the new month. The arrival of March signals a change in seasons, cooler autumnal weather, which ultimately signals winter. While we can’t complain too much in this southern tip of Australia with warm sunny days every day this week and the same for next week, the mornings are decidedly cooler.

My daughter observed on a day last week when the temperature tipped 36 º, that in Summer she longs for the Winter, and in Winter she misses the warmth of the Summer. I completely understand this, and often find the same. Although the benefit of adulthood is that I can remind myself not to wish life away. The cooler weather will come, all longing aside. It will come anyway. And then we will curse how cold it has got, and will the Winter days to pass so we can glimpse the Spring.

As most of you who read regularly will know, I took all of December off Facebook. It was quite a    revelation. If you’ve ever given up sugar or caffeine, I liken the experience to this. Withdrawal headaches in the first week, shadowy voices calling you back with temptation. December was a hard month to step away, with parties and lots of goodwill – and perhaps a toned down version of the internet outrage. There were a few times in that first week where I did feel that I was missing out.

Then I started being mindful and taking stock of what I was doing in the time where I would otherwise be staring into that lonely blue computer screen. I found time for art, reading – both books and magazines. I found an embroidery, buried in a box, that I started more than 20 years ago. It was a gift from my Mother-in-law when we still lived in the UK. I haven’t done a lot of work on it, but it has been lovely to be able to pick up, do a little then put it down again.

First corner completed (most of it was done 20 years ago!)

 

Making progress on the second corner!

It is only when we stop and take stock that the important things come back into focus. My  daughter is giving up the iPad for Lent, so I decided to pick up her lead and give up evenings on Facebook. I find the evening is when it becomes so insidious – it’s my down time from the busyness of the day, the kids are in bed. Facebook is easy, it’s so mindless that before I know it an hour has passed and I’m fast losing my evening to something I don’t much care for. The happy result thus far, is that I’ll have a quick look during the day but my separation from has highlighted just how inane it can be.

While I have made some lovely connections on there, and been able to keep in touch with friends and family who are not in my immediate orbit, there is a lot to wade through for these benefits. But enough Facebook bashing, this post is about taking stock.

So this is where I am at on this day in early March.

Making : time for the things that I love doing (well, trying to anyway)

Cooking : Jamie’s Fiery Dan Dan Noodles from the Jamie’s America cook book. It’s a good way to use bok choi, which I’m really not keen on, but it comes in my organic box and I hate the waste!

Drinking : right now it’s tea, but over the weekend it was home brewed beer, and some bubbles.

Reading: I just finished The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith, and tonight I start The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman.

Wanting: a little something to nibble with my cuppa

Looking: at a gorgeous rose I just picked from my garden. (See above right). The bush is old and gnarly, and the roses are covered in thick thorns but it never fails to produce velvety bright orange roses. This one is still in bud. I love the anticipation of what it will become, and the smell is just heavenly.

Playing: with my four-year old daughter (well, in a minute. We are going to the park just as soon as I finish my cuppa.)

Deciding: How to spend the long weekend in Melbourne. We are contemplating a camping trip but I am also keen on a slow weekend pottering around the house, mornings in pjs and pots of tea in bed.

Wishing: that this weather would last forever. It is my perfect climate, sunny and warm, but cooler at night so sleeping is easy.

Enjoying: being back into reading, and making time in the evening for reading.

Waiting: for my second round of home grown strawberries to ripen

Liking: growing my own strawberries. There has not been an abundance, perhaps one or two a day, but we split them five ways and all enjoy a slither. I feel like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, the sweetness…

Wondering: what 2017 has in store

Loving: getting to know our new chooks – we have four of them. And they are funny little things.

Pondering: how I can get more organised, why siblings fight so much and how I can tune out from that.

Considering: going for an after dinner walk. The sun is shining till late in the evening at the moment and it’s an opportunity to claim half an hour for myself.

Buying: not too much but considering a new couch. Our current couch is 15 years old and was bought pre-kids, but now that there are five of us, we don’t all fit on it.

Watching: The Crown – just so good.

Hoping: to spend more time in our art room – maybe over the long weekend.

Marvelling: at how my eight year old son can continue to talk non-stop without drawing breath.

Cringing: at my Kath & Kim dancing on Saturday night. Fun at the time though…

Needing: a nana nap. And a slower pace of life.

Questioning: our way of life, we seem to chase our tails working, earning, spending…

Smelling: my gorgeous home-grown rose.

Wearing: shorts and a t-shirt, it’s 28C and sunny.

Following: lots of England-based people on Instagram, which is making me pine for the mother-land…

Noticing: how tired I feel right now.

Knowing: that we are all doing the best we can.

Thinking: that kindness costs nothing and it can make the world of difference.

Admiring: lots of artists on Instagram

Sorting: dinner out – the kids are excited about the fiery Dan Dan noodles

Getting: excited about planning our trip to Vietnam in July (recommendations please!).

Bookmarking: not much actually, it’s amazing how much less online reading I do since disengaging from Facebook.

Coveting: not much, but maybe that new couch

Disliking: all the running around and chasing of our tails

Opening: a new book tonight – excited!

Giggling: at my funny little chooks.

Feeling: thankful for the day I’ve had.

Snacking: hmmm, perhaps some cheese and crackers, or some nuts. I didn’t realise I was so hungry!

Helping: my son with his home work – this is his first year of homework and it’s been a bit overwhelming.

Hearing: my kids chatter (and not fight!)

What’s been happening for you?