Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Pure Decadence

With the festive season well and truly behind us and my 'migratory' daughters now all settled into their new homes, it's time for me to get back into the test kitchen to try out some new recipes that I've been 'veganising' in my head.
Last night my sweet tooth had a fair say in proceedings, and out of the kitchen came a batch of Chocolate Dipped Lemon Shortbread.
It goes without saying that these are 100% Vegan. Yes, even the chocolate!
This recipe is something slightly different for me as I broke away from my usual high fibre, fruit and veggie filled creations and went for pure decadence instead.
Believe me, it was well worth the trip off the beaten path!
There just happened to be a couple of willing 'taste testers' in the kitchen at the time of baking and let's just say, I had to do some firm hand slapping to bring the sampling to an end.
I'm looking forward to a lot more time in the kitchen and to sharing my wares with you on a more regular basis.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Why I Write....

“We cling to music, to poems, to quotes, to writing, to art, because we desperately want to feel together. We want to know that we are not going crazy and that somewhere out there, someone is feeling exactly what we are feeling. We love everything that is tied up neatly, easily, and simply but when we can not find that, it scares the hell out of us, to not know the next step, or where things are headed. Being unsure is never part of our plan. But it’s those moments, the ones where you risk it and take a chance regardless of how vulnerable it makes us, that help us remember that life is larger than we’ll ever know.”

~Author Unknown~

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

'Alone' Or 'Lonely.' There Is A Difference.

For some time now, I have been wanting to write a post on the value of solitude.
The word 'solitude' in itself, when spoken aloud, can strike fear into the hearts of those who see 'aloneness' as something to be avoided. I get this. I spent the majority of my life making sure I was never alone, even if the company I kept had nothing to offer me but heartache.
Fast forward 'the majority of my life' and it's a very different story today.
My life is rich in so many ways, the greatest of these riches being the relationship I share with the significant others in my life, my loyal and loving family, my partner, who I adore, and my 'tribe' of beautiful and trusted friends. Add to this my long list of elderly clients who are always up for a chat over a cup of tea sharing stories and a hug or two. With so many beautiful people in my life, I have no reason to ever be alone.
I crave solitude. I have to have it. The ongoing relationship with myself has become central to every other aspect of my life, something that took me years to understand. The years I spent alone after 20 something years of marriage were probably the most formative years for me as far as my spiritual growth was concerned, and I learnt things about my inner self that literally brought me to my knees. Some of what I learned was beneficial and some, quite frankly, was bloody awful. I am now very conscious of my need to intersperse deliberate 'dates' with myself amongst my time with others. I use this time for reflection and self improvement but very often, I use this time to simply 'be.'
I recently revisited a piece of writing by one of my favourite authors, Leo Babauta titled The Lost Art of Solitude, which is a beautiful summary of everything I've come to realise about aloneness and its benefits in my life. I have posted it for you below as I truly believe it's worth sharing.

The Lost Art of Solitude by Leo Babauta.

“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are, for the most part, more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.”

~Henry David Thoreau~

You don’t need to be a monk to find solitude, nor do you need to be a hermit to enjoy it.

Solitude is a lost art in these days of ultra-connectedness, and while I don’t bemoan the beauty of this global community, I do think there’s a need to step back from it on a regular basis.

Some of my favorite activities include sitting in front of the ocean, still, contemplating … walking, alone with my thoughts … disconnecting and just writing … finding quiet with a good novel … taking a solitary bath.

Don’t get me wrong: I love being with loved ones, and walking with a friend or watching the sunset with my wife or reading a book with my child are also among my absolute favorite things in the world.

But solitude, in these days as much as ever, is an absolute necessity.

The Benefits of Solitude

The best art is created in solitude, for good reason: it’s only when we are alone that we can reach into ourselves and find truth, beauty, soul. Some of the most famous philosophers took daily walks, and it was on these walks that they found their deepest thoughts.

My best writing, and, in fact, act the best of anything I’ve done, was created in solitude.

Just a few of the benefits I’ve found from solitude:

time for thought
in being alone, we get to know ourselves
we face our demons, and deal with them
space to create
space to unwind, and find peace
time to reflect on what we’ve done, and learn from it
isolation from the influences of other helps us to find our own voice
quiet helps us to appreciate the smaller things that get lost in the roar
There are many more benefits, but that’s to get you started. The real benefits of solitude cannot be expressed through words, but must be found in doing.

How to Find Solitude

You start by disconnecting.

Take every means of connecting with others, and sever them. Disconnect from email, from Facebook and Twitter and MySpace, from forums and social media, from instant messaging and Skype, from news websites and blogs. Turn off your mobile device and phones.

Turn off the computer … unless you’re going to use the computer to create, in which case, shut off the Internet, close your browser, and shut down every other program used to connect with others.

The next steps depend on which of two strategies you use:

1. Holing yourself up. This can be done in your office, by shutting the door and/or using headphones and the calming music of your choice. If possible, let coworkers know you can’t be disturbed during a certain block of your day. Or it can be done at home, by finding a quiet space, shutting the door if you can, or using headphones. The key is to find a way to shut out the outside world, including co-workers or those who live with you.

2. Getting away. My favorite way to find solitude, actually. Get out the door, and enjoy the outdoors. Take a walk, find a park or a beach or a mountain, find a quiet coffee shop, find a shady spot to rest. People watch, or nature watch.

Other tips:

Try taking a quiet, relaxing bath from time to time.
Curl up with a good novel.
If you’re married with kids, ask your spouse to give you some time off to be alone, and then return the favor. Make it a regular swap.
Take a walk every day.
Get into work earlier, and work in quiet.
Have a nice cup of tea.
Try a regular time each day when you’re disconnected.
Consider limiting the stream.
Trouble with self-control? Use one of these tools.
No time for solitude? Try these tips.
Try sitting still, and focusing on your breath as it comes in and goes out. As your mind wanders to thoughts of the past and future, make a patient note of that, then gently return to your breathing.

“I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.”

~Albert Einstein~

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Conquering My Cyber Fears

Good morning Sunday, a cooler, more garden friendly day.
My hopes of spending a day in the garden yesterday were dashed by the scorching sun and temperatures in the mid 30's. Ordinarily, in my pre 'life de-cluttering' days, having to remain indoors for extended periods of time would have had me riddled with guilt and anxiety as I struggled to find value in tasks that weren't seen as physically productive or at the very least, thought of as work.

Yesterday was a lesson in slowing down and immersing myself in activities that I can never find time for during the working week, activities that I also often put off due to their (apparent) complexity.
I.T. isn't my strong point, but it's been a goal of mine this year to teach myself how to be a little more tech savvy, to be able to independently install programs on my desktop PC successfully without having a meltdown, and to then sync the said programmes between my devices. This required flicking the override switch in my brain yesterday every time it said "That's enough sitting down, it's time to do some 'work.'

Well, guess what? I won! I actually beat the 'whip cracker' and spent several hours at the computer conquering my fears. I purchased two programs, successfully installed them on the Mac, synced them without incident with my other two apple devices, added some Chrome extensions to my browser and then sat at my desk for quite some time admiring my handiwork. Just between you and I, I did, in fact, expect to get up this morning and find that the devices were no longer synced. Yeah, I know. I need to stop doubting myself.

The day also included wonderful interactions with some of my very favourite people, both online and in person, with meaning and love being poured into my life on so many levels. With all of these things combined, the day was a winner and the lessons were many, although I am going to have to be careful so as not to become addicted to this tech stuff. I think I like it.....

Monday, 2 February 2015

The Glorification Of 'Busy'

If you are familiar with my postings on any of the social media platforms that I use, you will no doubt have picked up on some recurring undertones in the kinds of things I write about, the use of the present moment being one of them.

Living in the fast paced world that we do, it's not surprising that we often feel as though it's all work and no play as we 'live to work' rather than 'work to live.'  It's exhausting! Our work consumes our lives (if we allow it) and by the time we fit in the other (apparent) essentials such as housework, appointments and general domestic duties, there's little time for the things that make our souls sing.

As I look into this topic more deeply, I'm interested in your feedback as to what types of things prevent you from immersing yourself in activities that perhaps you'd always wished you had time for but continuously find a myriad of reasons why you don't/can't.

Over on the right hand side of this page, I've created a survey with a multiple choice question and a series of possible answers that I'd love you to take part in if you have a moment. Your answers are anonymous and will be tallied automatically next Tuesday when I will share the outcome with you.

I'm on a mission to slow my life down on every level and to my surprise, it's proving far more complex than I first thought. I won't give up though. I'm using this year to make the changes I need to re-claim my life and to restore the balance in my life that I so desperately crave.
You're welcome to join me.....

My Life In Pictures 1964-2015