Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ringing in the changes

Today's pictures are of the wonderful Italian banquet that my DH gave for a group of friends and I last night -New Year's Eve- in honour of my birthday. They are in order of appearance
  • Tasting Plates of olives and salami served with asparagus and roasted capsicum;
  • Sicilian pasta with garlic and silverbeet;
  • Osso Bucco,
  • Insalata of tomatoes and capers;
  • Watermelon Pudding
  • and a great Italian torte
    Thanks Darling!

When I think back over 2009, it is with a sense of amazement at what changes I made, mostly as a result to the way I changed my thinking. It seems to me that if 2010 is going to be better as a year for me, it is important to notice this and to build upon it.

For example, I learned how to quilt when I was on Long Service Leave, and I kept on quilting because
  • I signed up for more classes even when I went back to work and
  • I learned how to make quilts in the evening and at weekends, even if it did mean that I had to set up and put away afterwards.
You see, I had always thought that it was too hard to do this -"I do not have time on my weekends to go to classes -the housework takes up all the time there is! It takes too long to set up the ironing board, to clear off the dining table so that I could cut my fabric and so on". When I decided that the effort was worth the inconvenience, I had great fun and gave myself a much needed creative outlet.

I made several promises to myself at this time last year, and I kept many

of them. This was in part due to the fact that I changed my priorities in order to give some kindness to myself. I made changes in the way I worked and the way I played. I started putting some boundaries around hurtful relationships.

Last night's celebrations were in honour of my 55th Birthday. For lots of people -for me at one stage, such a number would bring horrible thoughts such as " I am getting old!" (which of course is true) but I have a different attitude since a life threatening illness some years ago taught me better. Each year is a jewel to be treasured, and the more of them you have the richer you are.

I find myself more content with each passing year, more self-aware and more sure of what I know to be true, and less sure of everything else! These are great gifts in themselves and I want to build on these too in the new year.

I am quite sure that there is a way of thinking about life which treasures the things that last -things like wisdom and friendship and hope -and lets the rest go. If I have a New Year Resolution, it is to focus even more on these things.

I hope you all have a wonderful year in 2010 !

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hearty celebrations

Here is proof that I managed to finish the Advent quilt and hung it before Advent was over ...about 6 hours before Advent was over in fact. LOL.

Hope you are all having a Christmas day with lots of Hearty heartfelt good wishes.

I have had a champagne breakfast and we have all sat around the lounge room opening presents and laughing a lot.

I have a wonderful family and each of them -husband (DH), adult son (DS) and beautiful adult daughter (DD) is very special.

We have bought each other books and DVDs -these are great because we can all share the love as we watch them together. I have been spoiled with a trolley to carry my fancy dancy sewing machine to sewing class and lots of fat quarters of fabric and thread and bobbins and stuff.

Hope you are having a lovely day. If nothing else, be kind to yourself today!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas where the gum trees grow

.....there is no frost and there is no snow!

I have noticed that lots of my blogging friends in the northern hemisphere are getting snow for Christmas. I think I like it fine this way! I had snow when I was a little girl in Liverpool. Nice one day, a pain for months after that.

We started our summer holiday ritual of walking on the beach last weekend. We kick off our shoes and go barefoot, just on the edge of the water where the sand is cool and the odd wave comes in to wash between our toes.

Up to the reef and the rocks. Find the crabs scuttling to shelter.

Back the other way to the surf club, past the fisherfolk angling for herring.

Smile at the young parents with their babies having their first trip to the beach. Toes in the water.

Give a smile to the guy who always runs at this hour every morning. How old is he really? 60? 70?

Let the wind blow your hair. Admire the young people getting ready for the Marathon.

Hopefully we will be walking in the early morning every morning we can as long as summer lasts.

For Christmas Day itself, we are planning a bit of a special breakfast at home for the Day. I am thinking of scrambled eggs and leg ham, followed by rye bread toast with grilled figs (if I can find any) and Little River's "Brut de Brut" sparkling wine. (The EU says we are not allowed to call it the Champ....gne word because we are not French!)

This followed by a salad lunch with DHs family. I am bringing the salads and they will supply roasted meat (cooked outside on the barbie) and desserts. Well, it will be at least 36 degrees C!

Boxing Day will be a huge get together for my side of the family and we will have a " bring and share'" relaxed meal, with presents for the kids and a swim in the pool for anyone who wants one.

Happy Christmas everyone. Take time to enjoy the ones you love. Several sad things have happened to us and our extended networks this month to make us even more aware of the need to just enjoy and love the ones we care about, whilst we have them with us.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Things I learned while quilting

This is the Advent quilt I am making -at this stage it had just come together as a quilt top. Since then I have had great pleasure in machine quilting -first with my walking foot doing straight lines. Next I will get out my darning foot, pluck up my courage and jump right in to the most fun you can have with a sewing machine (at least, that I know of so far!)

I have been reflecting on what I have learned in my quilting this year.

1. You have to be humble to learn something. I am coming up to my 55th birthday -most of the stuff I do in life I now do well, having had lots of practice. I can make a meal without a recipe. I can balance the household books. I can operate at a high level of functioning in my work environment. Learning to quilt took me back to being a learner. I made mistakes, I had to ask to see how it was done, I had to do less than I hoped for if I was ever going to get better. These lessons were good to have again in my life.

2. The sum is greater than the parts. The quilt takes little pieces of seemingly unrelated fabrics -some of them dull and insipid when alone -and when they are all together they are stunningly beautiful. Life is not made up of starry days every day, but over a lifetime it takes on a complexity and beauty that is truly unique.

3. You have to be able to keep going sometimes. This quilt needed a very tricky technique to make the stars around the tree -and I made an afternoon full of failures before I got them right. Those 24 pockets took a lot of discipline to make - I was bored and it seemed like I would never finish but I am so glad I did.

4. We all need a little help from our friends. In this case my lovely teacher Trish was a great boon - I have learned so much from her this year. And my DD who would not let me slack off but kept on insisting that I keep sewing until the job was done.

5. Deadlines help. Yes the fact that this is an Advent quilt has made me want to complete it -and hang it- before Christmas eve. Of course it would have been better to start sooner!

6. You can make yourself happy by immersing yourself in something challenging and rewarding! Life has not been too great around here at times this year -but this quilting has been a way of switching off all the negative thoughts and just enjoying myself. Sometimes it feels as good as meditation!

Thank you to all those who visit my blog -you are a great encouragement to me. That 'widget' that shows where people visit is amazing!

Thanks to the friendly West Aussie ALSer who made such nice comments on the Aussies Living Simply website about my last post.

Feel free to make a comment - I am always happy to hear from you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Don't hate Christmas!

In my office today the young receptionist was grumbling as she waded through the box of Christmas decorations. Eventually she exploded: "I hate Christmas!"

I went over to assist the unpacking of the tree, and talked about how, as a dedicated Church-goer and collector of Christmas decorations, I love Christmas.

I know what she means though. For many people Christmas is a rush from one end of year festive occasion, to another shopping trip, to another worry about how much this is all costing, to another panic over family expectations and so on.

Over the years I have tried to simplify our experience of Christmas and help us all enjoy it more. I want to share some of our practices with you.

1. Be upfront and let each other know what you want for Christmas
There is a funny sort of belief which is quite prevalent in our society, that if we really love each other we automatically know what the other would want for Christmas, and where we could get it, so that they can be surprised on the day with the perfect present. We feel as though this is totally unrealistic. People who love each other are quite often unaware of what the other wants. I believe that we need to be willing to help our loved ones out by giving a hint or two or a whole list of suggestions, so that they don't waste their money and time getting something which will not be appreciated.

In our house we give each other quite extensive lists of things -some quite expensive (in our standards) and some things quite inexpensive. We all choose something to purchase from the list of things we know our loved ones want. Often we add a small 'joke' present as well, but nothing elaborate.

This one practice takes a huge amount of stress out of the gift-giving.

2. Keep away from the shops

I mostly buy things on the internet. I love this way of purchasing because it is so convenient and I am not tempted to buy more things than I want, or to purchase coffee and cake to reward myself for venturing in overcrowded shops in the heat of summer.

This year my work party has suggested that our 'secret santa' gift to each other should cost less than $10 and come from an Op Shop. Easy!

3. Make up some family events or decorations

Putting meaning in Christmas is a matter of doing things which bring joy, rather than purchasing things. It can be anything from decorating the tree together to going to a
Carols by Candlelight' service on the school oval. Lots of families walk around the neighbourhood and look at the houses which have put up special lights displays.

I love to add a personal touch with the things I make to decorate the house. Each year the collection grows and I feel like I have found an old friend when I unpack these things each year. I made the tree quilt a few years ago now, and am currently working on a quilted Advent calendar.

4. Keep it simple

Years ago we made a budget for Christmas and it has hardly changed since. Our view was that this was a Christmas gift, not a birthday present. It would have a specified dollar value and that was how it would be.

Similarly we like to enjoy nice foods at Christmas, and in the past I often felt stressed about it. Now my family talks over the menu and encourages me to keep the plans tasty but easy. A stressed mother makes for a stressed day. A relaxed mother makes for a happy day.

We have a special breakfast -and this enables us to feel festive all day -and a light but tasty lunch (often served cold in Perth's hot weather) and we linger over it.

Dinner is often just lunch's leftovers.

As we often give each other DVDs at Christmas, there is usually some kind of new blockbuster to watch together and relax.

Our extended family meets up for a special celebration on Boxing Day. We all bring a contribution to the meal. At first some people were unsure about it not being on Christmas day, but now we realise how much less stressed and tired the children are if they can spread the family obligations over the two days, and we all can be much more relaxed and at ease.

5. Remember where it started

Christmas belonged to Jesus long before the stores took it over and turned it into a festival to greed. Sing a few Christmas carols, listen to Handel's "Messiah", read Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", maybe even venture into a local Church. You need the context of the celebration to make it meaningful.

I wish you all a peaceful start to the Christmas time.