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.