Around here: the limp kale edition

There’s limp kale on the bottom shelf of my fridge right now. Its droopy leaves are a reminder of my more ambitious self, who, during last weeks grocery shop said, yes! I will have time to bake kale chips, and add kale to my morning smoothie! Clearly I did not have time, nor did I make any smoothies. In my defence, it was too hot to put the oven on, and so hot, in fact, that my sourdough seemingly melted when I turned it out of the banneton and into the oven, and I was left with a sad flat loaf (that I still ate).

The limpness of the kale could also represent how deflated I’ve become after discovering that the images in many years worth of blog posts have all but disappeared or been replaced by the wrong images. Oh my gosh. What a nightmare. I’ve already spent too much time moving over from one web host to another, and now this! It seems that there’s only one quick fix, but that it will cost more than $300 so I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the images no longer match the writing, and will one day just remove them all.

Aside from these depressing (yet very first-world, and in no way life threatening) issues, here’s me taking stock, because it’s Monday and I’m avoiding doing adulty things.

This week I am:

Making : my house tidy and clutter-free. Well, trying to.
Cooking : pizza scrolls for school lunchboxes, and sourdough naan for dinner
Drinking : Nerada Camomile tea
Reading: Tiny Habits and just finished Such a Fun Age which took less than 24 hours
Deciding: To do smaller grocery shops, more frequently, to see if that will affect the amount of limp kale and other vegetables in the fridge that haven’t been used
Enjoying: reading for two hours straight after school drop off on a Monday morning. It felt so indulgent.
Waiting: for the sourdough to prove
Liking: being back on Instagram
Loving: the beginning of a fresh year, and the framework we’ve created around it
Pondering: a run this afternoon, if the weather cools down enough
Listening: to the girls sing along to Hillsong worship as they got ready for school this morning
Considering: selling a bunch of junk in the shed on Gumtree
Buying: no new stuff. I’ve made a little promise to myself, and haven’t bought any new clothing or homewares this year.
Watching: The first episode of Season 5 Outlander! It. Was. So. Good.
Hoping: some hopes can’t even be articulated in words, it feels like this kind of hope in my chest
Cringing: about something I forgot to do, and keep putting off
Needing: to sort out the laundry cupboard
Smelling: peppermint essential oil, for motivation (fingers crossed)
Wearing: active wear, because I’m determined to go for that run
Noticing: how I don’t really need new clothes because I wear the same old faithfuls over and over
Knowing: I am much less anxious when my house is clean
Thinking: about which novel I’ll start next
Admiring: the bubbles in my sourdough starter, that I recently brought back to life
Getting: organised for the week
Disliking: the heat. I’m done. It’s too, too hot.
Opening: my phone lock screen too many times already today
Giggling: at the raucous laughter and stories shared on Saturday night with a bunch of long-time friends
Feeling: hot
Helping: with Joel’s English homework, Amie’s hair and Eden’s cooking
Slicing: chicken, which I happen to do with a fork and knife because I refuse to touch raw chicken.
Celebrating: getting tap shoes for Amie’s dance class second hand—it’s the little wins!
Forgetting: that thing I mentioned above. Also to pick up my passport from the post office!
Embracing: slow. Entering into a Lent season.

What are you noticing, thinking, wearing, reading? Feel free to copy and paste the prompts and tag me wherever you share your answers!

xx

Advent: an easy list of activities to usher in Christmas with your family

“Aren’t you getting a bit old for it now?” I asked him skeptically.
My thirteen year old son looked at me aghast, “Mum. It’s Christmas. I will never be too old for Advent.”
”But what about Christmas craft?” I raise my eyebrows.
”I’ll still do Christmas craft,” he’s earnest, and it’s sweet, but I’m undecided.
”But you don’t want to write cards for your friends anymore. You didn’t last year.”
”I’ll write them to like, Granny and Grandpa instead, if it’s card writing.”

Our conversation went on like this, as I was stirring the dinner and he leaned his elbows on the island bench, watching me. I was smiling to myself, proud that we’d been able to create solid Christmas traditions that an almost 14 year old boy didn’t yet want to let go of.

I smiled even more when he reached for a piece of paper and began listing our every-year-without-fail Christmas Advent activities.
”Watch Elf, drive and look at Christmas lights… um… oh! Gingerbread houses, I can’t wait to do those again… And you have to use the calendar that we always use, with the pockets mum. Don’t get slack.”

There were years when the kids were little, and I was the driver of the Christmas Spirit, the creator of things I hoped would one day become tradition. Well, a decade later, and I’m sitting in the back seat—the wind’s in my hair and there are three kids in the front whooping with glee, directing and leading.
”Mum! Don’t forget the Christmas pudding candle that you always light!”
”Don’t forget we have to have a Home Alone movie marathon!”
”Mum! It’s time to get the Christmas mugs out!”
”Mum I created a new playlist, with Mariah and Michael Bublé”

You guys. I feel like I’ve made it.

And to celebrate, I’ve compiled our Advent activity list, thanks to my 13 year old who has written them all out so early.

Our advent calendar is one I sewed years ago, and what do you know, after a little bit of Google searching, I found the instructions (on the off chance you feel like making a tiny quilt from scratch right before Christmas, ahem). These types of advent calendars are easy to find in the shops now though, and Pinterest has a host of inspiration for you to create something with 24 activities.
I write our activities on little tags and tuck them in the pockets. The best thing is that you can move the activities around to suit—a movie marathon for a Saturday, writing cards for a week day after school. On days we’re pressed for time I’ll pop in an easy activity. On days I’m completely lazy, they’ll find a little chocolate each. I love that it can be completely simple.

For us, it’s not about extravagance. They don’t have to be expensive or over the top.
It’s about simply anticipating a day that is deeply important to our faith, and creating traditions of celebration and togetherness for our family.
Traditions are the foundations that memories are built on.
The way each and every year the kids remember dad decorating his gingerbread house with only icing and chocolate Freckles.
The way that I have to make rice pudding with vanilla ice-cream when we watch Elf.
The smell of a balmy summer, rising from the bitumen as we drive local neighbourhoods in our pjs, to search for the houses with the best Christmas lights.

Most of these ‘activities’ we’d do together anyway. Putting them in an advent activity calendar just makes them a whole lot more fun.

So here’s our (not exhaustive!) Advent activity list. I hope this helps you to prepare for your own memory-making!

1. Put up the tree
2. Write Christmas cards to friends and/or family (I bought these ones from Kmart this year, I don’t think you could find any cheaper than that!)
3. Create snowflakes to bluetack to your windows. There are heaps of tutorials like this one online.
4. Have a Christmas movie marathon. Our favourites are Elf, Home Alone, and Home Alone: Lost in New York. Last year my husband introduced our then 12 year old to Die Hard, oh gosh.
5. Bake Gingerbread. (My recipe is here, it is the BEST and easiest, and there’s a link to our little bitty Gingerbread house pattern that we use every year too.) This is usually two activities in our calendar – one day we make the dough and bake the gingerbread, the next day is for building and decorating.
6. Go to the city at night. There’s something about our little city, and the Christmas decorations and the carols playing in the department stores. The City of Perth says their Christmas Lights Trail will be even better this year, too. We loved it last year.
7. Santa photos. We vowed never to get Santa photos again, after they were terrible a few years ago. Instead we set up a tripod to get a cheesy family photo in front of the tree. This also doubles as a little Christmas gift for all the great grandparents.
8. Put candy canes on the tree. They’re $1 a bag at Kmart. When visitors come over, they get offered a candy cane from the tree.
9. Write a letter to Santa. Only, since they stopped really believing in Santa, it’s not really a letter to Santa anymore, it’s more a re-cap of the year. Favourite memories, accomplishments, things they’re looking forward to for next year. This is pretty sweet to stash away and read the following years.
10. Donate food. The kids schools do food donation drives for our local favourites SOUL Soup Patrol. We go to our local IGA and do a little grocery shop, especially to donate.
11. Go gift shopping. Each of the kids has a set amount to spend on their siblings. We take them shopping and they get to buy each other their presents. This is super fun, especially when we split up, each of us taking a child or two, and then having to hide their purchase/bags from the others when we meet up again. They’re always so excited about their choices.
12. Wrap the gifts they’ve bought or made for each other, and for others.
13. Drive around our local areas with the best Christmas lights on the houses, blaring Christmas carols of course.
14. Salt dough ornaments. These are great teacher gifts, and gift tag/decorations.
15. Create a wreath out of branches from the garden for the front door.
16. Bake/make Christmas treats and invite friends over to share them.
17. Go to Carols by Candlelight or a church Christmas production.
18. Decorate the house with Christmas lights.
19. Have a picnic dinner on the floor in the lounge room by the tree.
20. Have a hot/iced chocolate in a Christmas mug after dinner (I think I need to try this one, omg).
21. Make thank you notes, and deliver them to houses with beautiful Christmas lights.
22. Bake shortbread for an elderly neighbour.
23. Read your favourite Christmas picture books.
24. Christmas Eve for us is always unwrapping one present. And it’s always summer pyjamas with a little chocolate. It’s not a surprise anymore, but still something we all look forward to (yep, Daniel and I get new pjs too!)

These are things we do each year. But there are hundreds of other ideas for advent activities across Pinterest.

Tell me what some of your favourite Christmas traditions are?

xx

PS our tree has been up for almost two weeks already. Shhhh.

drink the wild air

A few years ago a counsellor I was seeing was telling me of the numerous studies that have been done, showing the benefits of families who go camping as their children are growing up. These studies revealed that camping creates a cohesiveness in families, and those families who went on camping holidays together showed stronger relationships between parents and their teenagers and adult children in the future.
Interesting isn’t it?

I didn’t read any of the studies, or do any research, but you don’t need to be a social scientist to understand the benefits of camping. We made a commitment as a family a couple of years ago to camp often, and last year we pitched our tent no less than five times!
This holidays was our third camping trip for 2019, and the best by far.

It’s escaping the fast pace of every day.
It’s togetherness—close togetherness, jammed tight into a car on a long trip, into a tent with mattresses lined up in a row.
It’s team work; setting up and holding tarps and tents, tapping in pegs and unfolding sleeping bags.
It’s in the way that doing simple chores becomes adventure, and preparing meals becomes a novelty.
It’s living in sunshine, swimming the sea, drinking the wild air’s salubrity*

It was slowing down, watching the trees blur by with the mountains of the Great Southern behind them. There were fields and fields of bright yellow canola, and cows and horses and sheep and lambs, and there was comfortable quiet, and conversations that rambled like the hills.
We pitched a tent with ocean views, and watched whales in the bay with our morning coffee!
We moved close around the fire in the evening, roasting marshmallows and remembering funny family stories—rehashing those family tales, the ones that confirm our place within the world, our world.
We rustle up simple grub, that tastes like five star gourmet after full days of sun and sand and salt.
We wake early to explore, roaming beaches and trekking down hills, never knowing where they’ll lead us, and always finding magic. The magic of whales, breaching just beyond the breakers, and of watching dolphins, and of discovering hidden coastline framed with mountains.
We’re off our phones, off the beaten track, off the grid, the wheel, the grind—off in our own little worlds.
There is nothing like it.

Drinking this air, in the wild of creation, and all of it singing His songs.
We’re creating memories and I’m breathing it all in; basking bodily on warm rocks, and eating too much chocolate, waking up to the birds (and the piles of kids, rolling across our sinking air mattresses, tickling and giggling).
We’re memory making and simplifying and resetting, mentally and spiritually.

And when we come home grubby, and tired and full, and while the washing machine seems not to be finished even days later—we are rested and recharged and ready to head headlong into our every day lives. Only now we’re slower paced, self-aware, carrying with us the sense that life doesn’t have to be complicated, and that camping doesn’t have to end when the tent is rolled up and the fishing gear is put away.
We’ve got our every day moments together. We may not have whales to watch while we drink our morning coffee, but the willie wagtails on the front lawn can bring wonder if we let them. We may not have marshmallows to roast, but we have daily meals to eat together, and stories to tell and memories to make. There’s a beach down the street, and lengthening days to fill with our people.

We knit it all into the fabric of our days, drinking the wild air and living in the sunshine.

xx

*Ralph Waldo Emerson, beautiful words

The August Booklist

Look, it’s been a big few months okay?
There have been some job changes over here in the H household, and I’ve felt all the transitions between seasons down deep in my bones—achey and slow.
Sometimes there’s just no brain space leftover for reading. I had two library books on my bedside for weeks, and I couldn’t pick them up. Back to the library they went.
For a little while, reading just felt hard you know?
I’ve eased myself in again, in the past couple of weeks and I’m glad I’ve reacquainted myself with this love.
Anyway. Being the low-reading month that it was, my August reads were as follows…

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert.
This was our book club read for the month (I really, really must blog about book club soon. It makes me so happy), and my favourite pick of book club so far. It had me at New York City. Then it had me at 1940’s New York City. And although I’ve had a love-hate relationship across Gilbert’s works over the years, this work of fiction is stunning. Vivian Morris lands in NYC as a nineteen year old, come to live with her Aunt who owns the Lily Playhouse. Vivian is a talent with a sewing machine, and creates costumes for the show girls who work at the playhouse—and although her character as a whole is rather shallow, she’s still self-aware enough of her naiveté. And look, there is definitely some debauchery throughout the novel as Vivian discovers the world of the show girl, but it’s simultaneously light-hearted and profound.
A couple of my favourite quotes I noted down as I came across them (I’ve found it handy lately, to read with a notebook nearby for moments such as these!):

“Then my mercy swelled, and for just a moment I felt mercy for everyone who has ever gotten involved in an impossibly messy story. all those predicaments that we humans find ourselves in—predicaments that we never see coming, do not know how to handle, and then cannot fix.”

“I fell in love with him, and it made no sense for me to fall in love with him. We could not possibly have been more different. But maybe that’s where love grows best—in the deep space that exists between polarities.”

“All these years later, I felt like he was still trying to do that. Still trying to find a safe radius somewhere in the world. Someplace where he could stop burning.”

The Binding by Bridget Collins
I loved the concept of this book. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before.
Set in nondescript medieval history, there exist craftsmen called bookbinders, who not only craft beautiful books with leather and gold, in their workshops, but have a gift of binding the book owners memories into them. Those who have experienced that which they’d rather forget seek out these bookbinders, who remove the memories, creating a book with them, and locking them safely away. They then are dangerous and secret, holding the scars of people who no longer remember that they’ve been bound. Magical realism at it’s finest.
The story follows farmer-boy Emmett and his lover, and while it is immersive fantasy and incredible storytelling, I couldn’t help but feel that it was lacking something I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe I just wanted more of the history, the place in time… something. I felt that it took me on a path I wasn’t quite interested in, and there were other offshoots to the trail I would have preferred to wander down.
Still, if you go in without expectations (especially if you have expectations regarding the blurb, do not read the blurb) I think you’ll be glad you did.

That is all.

xx

The May Booklist

I finally found the perfect little armchair for our lounge room, but it’s become the favourite spot for children and/or a certain ginger cat to curl up in. So when I don’t have the heart to remove them from their cosy space, the autumn sunshine was very kind to me, in my little corner of the bedroom.

I spent last week sick with flu symptoms, and barely made it to (newly formed, very fabulous) bookclub, but really, nothing was keeping me away. But reading is hard when you’re snotty and exhausted, so Netflix won out most nights. Before that, however, I impressed myself with my intentional stopping and reading—who knew that even without Instagram I could find distractions from doing the things that are best for me?!

My little May reading wrap up and mini reviews:

1. Home Fires by Fiona Lowe
This is a newly released novel by Australian author Fiona Lowe. My lovely writer-girl friend Amanda Viviers was given a box full of bookish goodness by publisher Harper Collins including multiple copies of this novel, specifically with the request to use it for bookclub! How incredible! She gifted one each to a circle of local writers and book-lovers for us to read, with the promise of a chat with wine and cheese at the end of the month.
I must admit, I flew through this book.
I loved the Australiana, and it made me realise I don’t read enough from Aussie authors (bookclub will soon fix that!)—the fictional town of Myrtle with its Country Women’s Association, Aussie volunteer fireies, and themes around friendship were the best aspects.
And although I felt that the story moved too slowly in the beginning, and wrapped up too quickly at the end, I did love the light it shed on the aftermath of a bushfire for regional towns.
It was easy to read, and light entertaining (with darker parts of the plot line though, as a little warning from me).

2. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
THIS. The best book I’ve ever read on writing. Ever.
It’s compiled of short essays, each chapter tackling a theme or an idea or a thought.
It made me want to write, and I did actually begin to see and feel the act of writing and journaling as a practice, the same way as yoga practice or meditation practice. There’s an aspect of writing that we can use as a tool to explore the deepest places in us, to record memories and life. The book reminded me that all of life is magnificent and none of it is unworthy of our attention, and that every one of us has a story and a perspective—a way of looking at the world that is unique to us, and that we can and should write it down.
It reminded me of my deep, forever, unending, passionate love affair with writing. I am so grateful for this book, I know it’s one I’ll go back to again and again.

3. Love Does by Bob Goff
When this book was released, there was a lot of hoo-ha across my Instagram and other social media. It got me curious and I added it to my to-read list.
I finally got around to it, and listened to this one on Audible. I did really enjoy having Bob narrate his own book straight into my earbuds, and I did enjoy his writing style and the way he wove his stories throughout the book—what a life he’s lived! He’d be a great guy to spend a day with, just to hear about his adventures. However. You know when a movie isn’t as good as you expected purely because of the hype around it, and you know you’d have loved it so much more if you didn’t read any reviews or didn’t hear all your friends raving about how phenomenal it was? Yeah. I think I would have enjoyed the book so much more if I’d not had such high expectations. A good reminder to myself to lower them.

4. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
I’ve been diligently following along Reese’s Bookclub recommendations, and borrowed this one from my local library, who I’m sure actually bought the book on my request. I love being the first person ever to read a new library book (book nerd thrills!) While I’ve absolutely loved every one of Reese’s Bookclub books so far, this one is probably my least favourite. Maybe it was the rom-com, chick-lit kinda genre… it just seemed like the plot was pretty linear, and I didn’t get to know protagonist Nikola as well as I would have liked, I think because of the changes in tense. In saying that though, the friendships between the three women are pretty accurate, and did make me laugh at some of their text conversations. I also loved imagining living in East LA, walking to cafes and living in apartments, and drinking in trendy bars, and being a freelance writer for the New York Times and O magazines. It wasn’t terrible, and I read it in less than 24 hours. A good one for a lazy Saturday recovering from the flu.

So. As usual, I’d love to hear your recommendations! What have you read and loved recently?
Have you read any of the above? Did you feel the same about them? Drop me a line and we can have a mini bookclub chat!

For book club this coming month we’re going to read some Tim Winton and the latest from Madeline Miller Circe which I’m telling myself to have ZERO expectations for.

Can you believe we’ve hit June already, and winter here in Australia?
The sunshine today would say otherwise – I’m off to curl up in some of it and read for a little while.

xx

Around here + 2018 goals

I’m a little bit quiet about my resolutions when I make them.
I do make them, but I don’t share them loudly and proudly because, honestly, it means I’ll be accountable. 
Maybe you, reader of this humble blog, will not check in and ask me how those goals are going (or maybe you will? Who knows?) but I’ll know that you know what they are. 
I’ll know that my husband will know that I want to read more books, but he sees me scrolling, and woe unto him if he reminds me of that goal I shared!
And sometimes I don’t really set them for myself, except for a deep hope of just being better
Better at life, at controlling my thoughts, working hard in ministry and motherhood and study and all things in between. 
At the beginning of a new year I always envision me at the end of it – wiser, fitter and more accomplished. 
But I know that the me that’s waiting for me at the end of the year will be the sum of how I spend my hours now. 
And I know that instead of writing myself unachievable goals, which leak shame when they go unfulfilled, I should hold tightly in my hand my priorities for the year.
And let the things that I say yes to be filtered through these priorities. 

It simplifies everything. 
So, although they’ve been unspoken until now, these are what I’ve been filtering some of my yesses and no’s through:
 
FUN: at the end of last year I made a commitment to myself to have fun. To say yes to spontaneous camping trips, to allow myself to let go of routine and control when I need to – fun for my little family of 5, and fun in my own friendships. To say yes to the memory-making, even if it means going to bed late.  

FAMILY: I want to get to know my grandparents better. I want my kids to build relationships with all their great grandparents. And I want to spend more quality time with my immediate family. I have the cutest nieces on the planet – I want to be the aunty they remember being interested in who they are, and their everyday lives. I want to spend quality time together with the five of us – before Mr Highschooler refuses to join us. 

READING: I want to read more. I love to read. I love to read books that expand my spiritual life, and my health and my emotional life. I want to read books that are intelligent and wise and teach me things I didn’t know. I want to invest in books that do that.
But I also want to make time to read fiction again for the pure and unadulterated pleasure it brings. It’s my favourite thing to do.
I need to do more of what fills my soul, without feeling guilty.

RUNNING: I dislike exercise a lot. (Obviously, because, bookworm). But as hard as it is to put my running shoes on and psyche myself up to pound the pavement, once I’m out there, by the ocean, podcast in my ears (I can’t run to music, I need a podcast to take my mind off the pain of exercise!) it’s doing more for my mental and emotional health than my fitness. I feel better about myself, about life. I hear God more clearly. It stills a very whirring and overthinking kind of brain. 
But the fitness thing is a bonus too – defined calve muscles? Yes please. 

WRITING: I want to be here more. To share my heart, to be vulnerable and real and me. Because, regardless of whatever insecurities I have about sharing, writing is the one thing that makes me feel alive, and gives me purpose. One day: books, but for now journals and blog posts. Promising myself I’ll share more in this space (Starting with a Lent series… stay tuned!)

What about you?
Have you set very defined goals for the year? I am always so impressed with those of you who do, and who manage to stick to things for an entire year! 
6 weeks in, only 46 to go. 

xx

happy days

The cubby house got a spring clean on the weekend.
It was sprayed for spiders, dusted and scrubbed and has become their favourite place.
My favourite place now hangs below it under the shade of a giant pine-y tree. It gets morning sunshine, this place, but it’s not until the afternoon that I find myself wandering out there to collapse. I use one foot to swing myself gently, as I listen to the Secret Cubby House business. 

“This is a light pink, a light pink, a light pink” she sings
Her big sister corrects her, “That is actually skin colour Amie. But some people have skin that is this colour. See? It’s browner. Like daddy. He has brown colour skin”
“Yeah and freckles” giggle.
“Do you know where dad is actually from? He’s actually from New Zealand”

By this time I’m stifling giggles. [their daddy is not from New Zealand]

The three carried a tiny table and chairs up the stairs to the cubby, and insisted on eating their dinner there.
We turned on the lights because we could.
Miss Eden is becoming more and more animated, and Amie was happy to have Indiecat join the fun.

Daddy cooked us sausages, and I snap, snap, snapped, trying to become familiar with my new Canon, after so long being a Nikon girl.

Happy days.

xx