Being mindful- 2013 scorecard

At the start of 2013 I resolved instead of having specific goals, to be more mindful. This mindfulness was to take form in a variety of facets over the year

  • Watch what I eat, keeping track via an app on my tablet. But it also means, savoring and appreciating what I have, and trying not to multitask (read, check my phone, go on the PC) while I eat.

This one came in fits and starts. The monitoring of my food via tracking did fall by the wayside, but towards the middle of the year I invested in a fitbit to monitor my steps and calorie expenditure, and at the end of the year I had enrolled in the Michelle Bridges 12WBT program.

I have found this to be a great incentive for focusing on my food, trying out new recipes and being more accountable for what and how I eat. I will admit that since Christmas it has been a struggle , but I am exercising more and feel all the better for it. My kids have also been very supportive along the way, with Miss BG throwing herself enthusiastically into the role of personal trainer. I think it was just an excuse to get a whistle to blow :).

  • Spending less time in front of a PC mindlessly surfing and being constructive with my time at home and at work

Once again a fits and starts kinda thing. Admittedly working full-time on Ballarat has meant more time at home and more time with the family- also with everyone wanting the computer it can mean less time for me! I have had to be more constructive with my time, especially keeping on top of the dreaded laundry (which is never an easy feat in the depths of a Ballarat winter), and I haven’t been blogging as much.

  • Finishing what I start

There is a great sense of satisfaction in this task, and I think finishing off a couple of craft projects that had been hanging around for ages were one of the highlights of my year. I am currently halfway through knitting a cardigan, which is my only craft project on the go, rather than being one of a myriad of unfinished items. I have projects lined up to do, but I am determined to do one at a time.

However if you read the next item, I wasn’t always entirely successful. I also started a MOOC about the Hyperlinked Library and did not see it through. When I initially registered for this I hadn’t envisaged it would coincide with a job change and a move to full-time hours and it was a ball I had to drop. The lesson is to know what you can achieve and to be mindful of what to accept to do.

  • Reflecting on the day, by taking a photo a day #2013PAD and by extension, a photo of what makes me happy #365happy. So no matter how flat or craptastic I may feel, I will always have at least one thing to feel good about.

This exercise was a struggle for me, for a number of reasons. I would get to the end of a day and feeling flat and uninspired, would take photos of my home life. Home did indeed make me happy, but it felt I wasn’t spending enough time there! Commuting was taking a toll on my home life and I was finding no joy in work. Retreating to my online life wasn’t helping and after a while the pressure of documenting part of my day online and trying to be happy about it was too much and I stopped. I took photos when I felt like it, blogged when I felt like it and felt much better. I learned you can still reflect upon the day without sharing it with the entire world of Flickr or Instagram, and that it’s okay not to be happy every day.

  • Be mindful of where I shop, shopping at local supermarkets, butchers, and fruiterers rather than Coles or Woolworths.

I am lucky to be within walking distance of a local IGA and a good butcher. There is also a great fruit and veg shop in Ballarat and with the exception of a visit to a Woolworths in Leongatha and a visit to Coles around Easter, I didn’t visit these stores all year.

BUT I did visit Kmart, Target, Myer, Big W, Dan Murphy’s , Bunnings, all of which are owned by either Woolworths or Wesfarmers. The duopoly that exists with these two entities over nearly all aspects of our shopping is really scary, and it is something I really need to continue to be mindful of.

Christmas was also different this year. Instead of a mass of toys for the kids, they got

  • something to wear
  • something to read
  • something they want
  • something they need

They got presents from the rest of the family and there were also chocolates in their stocking, but it was different to last year.

We spent our first Christmas at home, and not on the road travelling from one family to another, and that was peaceful and relaxing. The kids loved the dinner, mainly because they could scoff all the miniature Yorkshire puddings they wanted!

Other things I did try to be mindful about were about what I read. I took part in the Australian  Women Writers Challenge for 2013 and once again immersed myself in excellent women’s fiction. I think though my favourite book for this year was Tracy Thorn’s autobiography, and she is English :). I have avoided using Amazon this year, and my local library, Readings and airport bookstores have been getting more of my custom!

On the whole it has been an interesting exercise and a great way to learn more about yourself. I am hoping that 2014 will bring more mindfulness in other ways as well!

Post Christmas Op Shopping

I don’t do the post- Christmas sales, as a rule. Having worked on the other side of the counter as a uni student, I can honestly say shopping is not a therapeutic experience for me. But, as I left the house yesterday in a bit of a lather and jumped in the car, I found myself driving down the street to the centre of town, parked the car and emerged an hour later with a couple of bags of stuff. All. For. Me.

I was looking for a pair of jeans, standard blue and a pair of flats in a nude colour. I started off in the Red Cross Shop and emerged with a pair of flats (black) and two dresses. Ok, not exactly jeans and nude shoes, but they were there and I know I’ll wear them…It’s also a case of pot luck with op shops and charity stores, and you honestly don’t know what you’ll find!

Post Christmas opshopping

Each item was $12.95, which is a bit on the pricey side, but I had seen both dresses in the shops this season (retailing around $50 each) and the shoes had hardly any wear on them. If I had bought these brand new I would have been looking at over $200 combined, so it was a saving :).

Heading across the street to the local shopping centre I finally scored a pair of jeans in Rivers ($8) and ended up in Target for a pair of shoes ($30).

My Christmas money spent, I wanted to stop off and enjoy my purchases with a coffee, but sadly all my favourite coffee spots had taken a well-deserved holiday. Plus I also had to do what I originally came out to do, which was the weekly grocery shop :P.

Christmas Cake

For as long as I can remember,  Mum has baked a Christmas cake for Christmas. It is dark, and rich and smells potently of alcohol, and is delicious.

The recipe has come from an out of print recipe book Dad bought Mum in 1982 for Mother’s Day. It has pages taped, the binding is held together with more tape, but you can still read on the front cover Dad’s message to Mum. ‘Happy Monther’s Day- what more could a man ask for other than breakfast in bed xxx’.

There has been the occasional year that it hasn’t been baked (usually because they have been visiting relatives overseas), and it just hasn’t been the same at Christmastime.* Actually one year, mum made a healthier version, and while that cake was quite nice, it just wasn’t the same.

It was also my wedding cake; in fact in the recipe book it’s listed as a wedding cake.

So this year, I decided to make my own. Dad took a photo of the page, sent it to my phone, and I was set!

I bought currants, raisins, sultanas, mixed peel, glace cherries, all of which were soaked in brandy overnight. Then Miss BG and I creamed butter and brown sugar, added eggs and vanilla, fig jam (it should have been marmalade, but I’m not buying a jar of marmalade for two tablespoons when I don’t eat the stuff), and grated orange and lemon peel. We folded it in to the soaked fruit, along with sifted flour and spices. And stirred and stirred and stirred before popping it into a big tin lined with brown paper and placing it in a slow oven.

The proof will be in the eating…

*Another tradition has been the Christmas stocking which my parents threatened to discontinue for us a couple of  years back. All of us, in our thirties, protested vociferously against this :).

Ho ho home!

After a 500 kilometre-round trip involving two Christmases, lots of presents and not enough alcohol, I’m home.

Home is full of laundry to be washed hung out and sorted, dishes to be put away and toys to be sorted, but it’s also home to a cat that is glad to see us, and a bed that isn’t too soft or too hot, but just right.

I also received some good news about my beloved phone which had finally been repaired after two weeks, after a bounce test failed.

I have also, thanks to being on the road for the past two days, managed to avoid much of the madness of the post-Christmas sales. After having survived 7 Christmases as a retail chick in Myer, I am immune to the siren call of stocktake sales. Plus, after having to brave shopping on Christmas Eve, the last place I really want to be is back in a shopping centre again. Besides, I’m saving my shopping dollars (or Euros) for other ventures and places :).

Do not nerf Tiger*

6.24am was the time when we heard ripping and things popping from the lounge room. Master BG had found his toys from Santa. There was a gleam in his eyes as he surveyed his presents.

Miss BG’s first words when she was woken by her brother were ‘Santa! Presents!’ as she leapt out of bed and ran.

After much snipping, snapping, screwing and slotting (scissors, screwdriver and huge packs of batteries of differing sizes are always good to have on hand), the children were engrossed in playing.

They also ended up with a multitude of books and clothes and have declared Christmas so far to be ‘great’. There has been much discussion as to what to bring down to Nana and Papa’s as we head down to Christmas dinner.

It’s a times like this, after months of ferreting away toys, casually asking about likes and dislikes, dropping hints and finally entering hell that is the supermarket on Christmas Eve (9.30am and the queue outside the seafood shop was at leat 50 people), that you see the wonder and pleasure in a child’s face and think it was worth it.

No matter how you choose to celebrate Christmas as a deliciously pagan festival of indulgence and gift giving or as a celebration of Jesus’ birth,  may your day be happy and enjoyable.

*Quote of the day. A stationary cat and a boy with a Nerf gun is an irresistible combination…

Secret Santa and Stockings

One of the best things about Christmas is the surprise of getting a present that you have no idea what you are getting. It could be the Secret Santa or Kris Kringle present from a work colleague, or a Twitter colleague like my lovely present of a string bag and note holder,

or a present from totally out of the blue of lip balm and American chocolates from my gorgeous girl Jenelle. I can attest to the yummy minted rose lip balm and I did eat a Hershey’s peppermint before the photo was taken!

I think that’s why my favourite part of Christmas was the stocking. Because we would write out a list we kinda knew what Santa would bring. However, Santa always managed to fill the stocking up withsurprises like lollies, chocolates and what mum called knick knacks that we loved. They were not that expensive, but it was the thrill of finding out what we were getting that was the  I confess to say it has only been a few years since the stockings were retired for me by my mum and dad *squirm*.

If I had one wish for Christmas for myself it would be to have something nice in my stocking that was a total surprise- unfortunately my stockings are big enough to hold this surprise 🙂

Bookgrrl’s Christmas Book list

I did say in a recent post about gift ideas that one of the best presents to buy a child was a book. Well, there is absolutely no reason not to buy a book for a big person as well.

Readings have offered a great selection of book suggestions on their website, and at the moment are offering free postage Australia-wide. They have categorised their selections for a wide range of teens, foodies and mums and dads. I would have to say their selections are more to my taste, as is their free postage :).

Anyway, here are a selection of books which I’ve read and loved this year and which I would whole-heartedly recommend. And what’s more, they’re all female, Australian writers, true bookgrrls!

Marieke Hardy – You’ll be sorry when I’m dead. Marieke’s collection of essay cum memoir which is ripsnortingly funny. It should come with a warning not to read this on public transport lest you start making choking noises as you attempt not to laugh out loud.

Peggy Frew- House of Sticks. The story of Bonnie, a woman who has put her musician career on hold while she is a stay at home to 3 young children. While there are no regrets for this decision on her part, her relationship with her partner Pete is tested by her children and the arrival of an old friend of Pete’s. A great depiction of contemporary inner-city Melbourne domesticity.

Kerry Greenwood- Cooking the books. Latest in the Corinna Chapman series which sees Corinna taking on dodgy accountants, soap opera divas and an absconding apprentice. A fun murder mystery which will be a good holiday read.

Kate Grenville- Sarah Thornhill. The sequel to The Secret River, Sarah Thornhill the youngest of William’s children, and her love for Jack . However the actions of the past have a way of impinging on the present. Great Australian literature.

Jessica Rudd- Ruby Blues. The sequel to Campaign Ruby, Ruby Blues takes up the story of the intrepid Prime Ministerial media advisor Ruby Stanhope 2 years later. The PM is under pressure and Ruby’s love-life is also polling badly. Not only that she has to deal with her boss being blackmailed, a super-enthusiastic intern and turning 30. I’d describe it as political chick-lit that is light, fast-paced and utterly plausible.

Nikki Gemmell- With my body.Possibly my favourite book of the year. It is a deeply moving story of a mother’s personal and sexual awakening through revisiting the memories of an old love affair. Yes, it is quite raunchy, and not to everyone’s taste, but it’s written so beautifully and feels so real.

And a stocking filler please add The Harp in the South by Ruth Park. I haven’t read it for years (ok, 1987), but it is a gripping, realistic tale of life in the slums of Surry Hills. You can get it as a Penguin Classic so it’s nice and affordable.