Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another great Christmas!

We went to the coast for Christmas and I had such a great time that I forgot to take many photos! It really was a wonderful, happy, joy filled day. As Christmas should be.
Here are a few pics that I did manage to get ::

Happy times!

Check out my Art Every Day blog for current artyfarty stuff :-)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas decorations and preparations....

I have been busy knitting, crocheting, sewing and cooking up Christmas presents. Some of these have already been posted off and others are still in the making or ready to wrap. Our family like to make gifts and are also great recyclers so op-shops are on the shopping list spots when we do our Christmas shopping. I have found a couple of terrific gifts at our local recycling shops as well as jars for the apricot jam that I have made.

well, it is Christmas!
We keep the same decorations for years and none of them match. It's a nostalgia thing.
Home made apricot jam, and the apricots come from a tree right here in our suburb! How great is that?

This is hat/hood that I have designed - cute eh?

I still have things to make and get but I am feeling close to being organised. I think!

Here are a few more of our decorations :-)

I love this one with the little girl on Santa's knee!

We have a few Santas on our tree and a couple of Santa snow domes under it.
What is on your tree?

Monday, December 12, 2011

When do you know it's Christmas?

Christmas cake and pudding made and put away for the 'Big Day'.

Visit to the Christmas tree farm to choose a tree.

Find the tree stand, put the tree up and give it some water!

Family members come around and don silly hats.

Everyone helps to put some decorations on the tree.

Dance to the carols ('festive tunage') that are playing....

Engage in serious discussion, oblivious to silly hat.

Feel the family love <3

I love Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas cake √, pudding √ non-judgement √

I made my Christmas cake on Tuesday, marinated the fruit overnight Monday. I always make the 'Delectably Rich Fruit Cake' from the Australian Women's Weekly 'Cakes and Slices Cookbook'. The book is falling apart and my favourite recipes are easy to find because there are dried bits and pieces and wine and tea stains on some of the pages, but it still does the job and I feel very confident in the recipes.
I make a big shallow, rather than smaller and deeper cake as it is easier to cut into moderate pieces and my children are not huge fruit cake fans. Daniel and I adore it though and we feel virtuous having a few smaller pieces rather than one huge one.
We don't cut the cake until Christmas Eve. Do you have a family tradition about this?

I make a different pudding every year. For a few lovely years my big sister made the pudding and joined us for Christmas Day, but that is over now, so I make it in honour of her. This year I am making this pudding. I'll report back on it after Christmas. The mix is marinating now and I will cook it tomorrow.

I read something amazing in 'Wherever You Go, There You Are' yesterday. This part is about coping with a noisy mind during meditation. The author advocates practising being non-judgemental.

'When you dwell in stillness, the judging mind can come through like a foghorn' (I think this guy has been inside my head, yes, actually inside it!)

The author goes on to explain the role of judgement in human thinking. It is very interesting, and he says this

'..more often than not our thoughts tend to be less than completely accurate. Usually they are merely uninformed private opinions, reactions and prejudices based on limited knowledge influenced primarily by our past conditioning.' 

All I can say to this is Oh My God! This is certainly true of my mind - everyone who can relate to this raise your hands now! I feel an almost palpable sense of relief. I am not 'right', I don't have to be 'right'. These are just my thoughts. I can feel judgement slipping away already.

I am loving this book.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On mindfulness::

I am currently reading this book:

(and drinking this coffee)

'Wherever You Go, There You Are' is a book about 'mindfulness' which, so far as I can say, is the practice of being in the the moment that one is currently living, rather than thinking of the past, future, what happens next, or whatever.  

Basically I want to 'suck the juice' out of every moment, as much as is possible, and I am thinking that paying quiet attention to the things I am doing at any one moment might enhance my ability to do that. 
I am finding the practice of mindfulness a bit elusive, though it might seem the most obvious and easy thing to do. Years of stewing on the past or worrying about what might happen in the future have set their stamp on my mindset. It is curious that, that I don't go about daily life thinking happily about the great things that are going to happen in the future, but about the things that might go wrong. Anyway, back to mindfulness.

I have put my mind to it these past couple of days. The book (above) suggests focussing on one's breathing. So how to focus on something that I can't see, hear, feel, smell or touch, going into and out of a place that I can't imagine? All I could do was listen (breathe noisily) and feel my chest expand, relax, expand etc. It is a start.

Before my run today I started as usual with stretching and some 'salutes to the sun', but unthinkingly changed the order by doing the salutes first. The way I learned this set of yoga exercises was from a book and one must breathe in/out with each different movement, holding the breath through two of them, so you start with an inhale and end with an exhale. I always do the conscious breathing as well as the different movements, it is just habit, I haven't thought about it.

As I said I usually start with the stretching exercises and count to 20 through each one because I read somewhere that each stretch should be held for 20 seconds. I just count to 20, not 1 mississippi, 2 mississippi etc. 

Today, after the 2 salutes to the sun, I then went into my stretches but, without thinking, breathed through them instead of counting, at least I did until I was about half way through and realised that I wasn't counting to 20. Aha! thinks I, maybe I have been doing my salutes mindfully! I then reverted to counting to 20, but think I might continue to do the salutes first, breathing consciously through the stretches felt good. Maybe that is what focussing on breathing is, breathing consciously.  

I set off for my run, breathing etc.. Found it a bit hard as I kept wondering what the air was doing and how I would feel if it suddenly disappeared (like the ocean in a sky tsunami), found this distracting so concentrated on my digestion instead. At least this got me to feeling my body, bounded by my skin, running through space. 

I started thinking about my sister, her funeral, the eulogy, the shit that hit fan afterwards.....

Back to the pursuit of mindfulness. I felt my breathing again, I let the immediate surroundings in. It felt like this.

willow tree, willow tree, willow tree..
willy wagtail..eucalypt..eucalypt...bark peeling..
'after the last gapped wire on a post, homecoming to me to enter the gum forest, this old grey battlefield, spent armour, cracked collars, elbows, scattered on the ground' (Les Murray)...
Indian mynah wattlebird..attacking eastern rosella!!!
casuarina tree..eucalypt.. child's wheels...
casuarina twigs and cones on the ground..sulphur crested cockatoo..
sulphur crested cockatoo, sulphur crested cockatoo..
moorhen..another moorhen.. two baby moorhens!!! and black bark..
eucalypt..long strips of dry bark hanging like shreds of burned skin..
wattle tree..
Indian mynah
sign..share this out for cyclists..

You get the picture. I must have done a decent job of being in the moment because I didn't think about the future or the past and kept breathing. I feel alright too.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why so few women artists in this exhibition?

Yesterday I went to the National Museum to have a look at an excellent exhibition of Chinese art. Admission is free and the work has been well curated so that it is easy to have a good look around without feeling overwhelmed.

You can check it out on the museum website here:

The publicity claims there are more than 70 works, yet I only counted three by women (one sculpture, two paintings) and one collaborative work with a woman, a husband and wife team. The three works by women all featured women, two of them very pretty, contemporary looking, young women. I was surprised by this for some reason, perhaps I expected a communist country to have a more egalitarian attitude to participation in the arts. The big subjects - the environment and the representation of Chinese people in a political context - were not represented by women artists at all. Interesting.

There are quite a few excellent contemporary Chinese artists living and exhibiting in Australia (some of them represented in this exhibition) so this exhibition provides an interesting historical background to Chinese art for anyone interested in this ancient and sophisticated culture. It is also a beautiful and interesting exhibition in it's own right and well worth a visit.

I had a look at this exhibition too.
There are some fantastic gems of indigenous art featured and displayed in a way that puts them into an interesting historical context. I enjoyed this exhibition a lot. It is at the 'First Australians Gallery'. This is the first time that I have been to the First Australians Gallery - it isn't exactly centre stage is it? Lots of interesting stuff there, though in the way of the National Museum, a bit higgledy piggledy.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What is your 'element'?

I am currently reading this book by Ken Robinson. I realise that I am possibly one of the few people (and educators ... ouch!) who didn't know about it until yesterday but I have certainly found it at a very fortuitous time in life - seeing as I am seeking my personal 'element', as it were.

I read the first chapter to find out what the 'element' was (worried that it might have to be something I would have to positively visualise into being or discover the secret of) and then, reassured, skipped to 'Is It Too Late?', for obvious reasons, me being on the bad side of fifty five. Fortunately it isn't too late, unless I want to leave my ambitions to be the lead in Swan Lake until I am nearly 100 and haven't taken dance lessons by then. Phew!

Are life changing experiences generated by books like this, or is it that people who want to change their lives seek out the means (books, blogs, gurus, education, networks, whatever) to help them make the changes? My journey of change started with quitting my job as a primary school teacher a few months ago. What that journey would mean and where it is likely to take me were all up in the air at that stage. I just knew that I had to stop what I was doing in order to have the time and energy to think about what to do next.

One thing that is very obvious to me is that social media of various types are playing a big part in connecting me to people, ideas, books and thoughts. Amazing stuff really.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What is in the gardens today?

I often go to the local botanical gardens to sketch in watercolour. It is like life drawing, very good for the eye in terms of deciding what to paint, what to leave out, what colour to choose, warm/cool and so on. Also very good for the eye/hand co-ordination necessary for fluent interpretation of whatever it is one is wanting to paint. 
The gardens now, in late spring, are too, too beautiful. So hard to choose where to sit and draw/sketch. There are flowers of every hue, shape and size and birds, bees and lizards everywhere. I even saw a rabbit in there today!

There were lots of other people - bird watchers, school children, friends strolling and chatting - in the gardens today. I love the quiet respectfulness that natural places of profound beauty inspire. 

It was heart lifting.

I hope you are having a nice day :-)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

please explain?

I live about ten minutes jogging distance from a lovely man made lake. It is a beautiful place and very popular with us joggers and dog walkers and cyclists, and mums and dads with babies, and friends going for a get the picture. Recently some new units have been built directly opposite part of this lake. 
Oh lucky people who are getting to live with our lake as their front yard!!

This is the lake from where these new units have been built :

pretty isn't it.

Now these new units are going to be people's homes so I won't say much about the 'we've got to house the masses' communist era chic nature of the architecture. The front blocks of units (there are a lot of them) are only a couple of stories high :

The bit I really don't get is this. Those murky, poo brown, head height cement rendered walls are in front of glass doors that overlook this :

Look closer, it's true.

Why would anyone plan to block out a calm, beautiful, spirit lifting and probably reasonably expensive view (which sometimes has ducks and swans in it!) with such an er, odd, wall? I really don't get it. Privacy? Hello, curtains!

Is there a rational reason for this design element?