The Therapy of Baking and Why It Can Be Helpful to Not Be a Minimalist

 

Sometimes bad things happen. Things that you think only happen to other people. When you hear the stories you gasp and say ‘how awful, how terrible for them’. And then you move on. Until one day it is you being told the terrible news that something bad has happened.

Your brain goes in to a dream like trance – I think the official term is shock. I remember when I got the call from my sister to say that my Mum may not survive and if I wanted to see her one last time I would need to come to the hospital immediately. In the time between leaving for the hospital and trying to contact my husband I took to sweeping the floor.

There is comfort to be found in the domestic, in the mundane, when big bad things happen that your brain can’t quite process.  Busying one’s hands while one’s mind tries to swim through the reality of shock is oddly soothing.

Today I made one of my favourite cakes – the Bill Granger vanilla buttermilk cake. I made it to take away for the weekend to share with our extended family. I mixed up the ingredients in my Mum’s metal mixing bowl – it would be called vintage now. I sifted the flour using my Gran’s sifter. I remember using it as a child at her place in the country. There was always a cake at Gran’s house.

As my mind was reeling over the bad news we received the night before, I found solace in holding the bowl that my Mum had held and mixed, just as I was. And holding the strong metal handle on the sifter I thought of my Gran, and I thought of all the bad news they would have heard over the years; the deaths, the sicknesses, the losses… the sorrow, the sadness.

 

And now it was me. Holding their things. Being propped up by both of them. The scrape of the sifting handle being turned to sprinkle flour into the creamed butter and sugar. The clink of of the wooden spoon on the metal bowl as I stirred the in eggs, and I thought about both of them and their strength of character and their will to keep going, their mettle. To keep going, to not drown in the shock of bad news or from the sorrow of loss, or the fear of what will come next.

Often I curse myself for holding on to things, to stuff; for being so sentimental. Cursing the clutter and often wishing I could be as clinical as Marie Kondo. If it doesn’t spark joy – it goes.

But today I was thinking ‘thank goodness for my sentimentality’. Whatever those mundane domestic objects were imbued with over the years served as a crutch for me today. Their stoic utilitarianism brought the strength of my Mum and my Gran to life. The act of beating, stirring, and mixing was a salve to my troubled thoughts. To the chaos of shock, to that feeling of not being able to catch my breath.

Who knew baking a cake could be so therapeutic?

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?

Womenfolk series: Sandra McGaw – Accountant, Mother and Maker of All Things Delicious

sandra-img_0162

Career aspirations come full circle and Sandra McGaw always wanted to be a teacher. Work experience in a primary school changed her mind and she ended up becoming an Accountant. She  now owns her own accounting firm, BMS Accounting, which she founded in 2007.

Every person has a creative soul and self-expression comes from the soul of the person. Working with numbers, for Sandra is just one part of the person that she is. Being creative is not just about drawing, painting, music or writing – it is doing something that allows you to get lost in the flow, push boundaries and feel passionate. [Read more…]

Taking Stock: September

My Happy Place

The change in seasons always brings about contemplation; for me anyway. It marks the passing of time much more significantly than the start of a new month. It’s the physicality of season change that does it. Suddenly I feel too warm in all my layers, and I can leave the house without worrying about a coat (sometimes).

With that comes the feeling that time is escaping me; it’s a border-line panic about something I can’t quite put my finger on. When this feeling sets in it’s time to take stock; the perfect antidote to this uncomfortable low-grade panic.  [Read more…]

The Stuff of Life: Balancing the Good With the Bad

Hell yeah

I’ve written before about how I write Morning Pages and how the act of writing out what I am thankful for has made a huge difference to my wellbeing. You know, sometimes you just wake up in a funk. My husband calls it waking up ‘with a bag on’ – meaning you feel like you’ve got a bag over your head. A little cryptic, but I think it describes how I sometimes feel.

On those days, this is when I benefit most from writing out my Morning Pages, but in particular, writing down the three things that I am thankful for. I’m not going down that path of banging on about practicing gratitude. It’s a bit over-talked I think, but I guess it’s because it works. It really can improve your outlook on life.  [Read more…]