On a Rainy Weekend: How to Find Sunshine in the Grey…

Changing Mindset
The dog dancing through the rain soaked bluebells

Why is it that it always seems to rain when you have made some weather dependant plan?

Where I live, rain is a frequent visitor. On the recent Bank Holiday, it rained, changing plans and the events of the day. Rain – cold, wet and grey – is always ready to make a dampening appearance.

Barbara Streisand famously belted ‘Don’t rain on my parade’ and I must admit that was very much my mood when I looked out the window at around seven yesterday morning. I had arranged an early morning park walk. How unfair!

I made the decision to go anyway. Even though I wasn’t going to have the spring morning walk I had envisioned, I (somewhat grudgingly) decided that I would still go to get a little exercise…

Despite it being bitterly cold, being outdoors was beautiful and uplifting. In spite of my icy fingers, and my numb toes, I felt my spirits lift as I watched the dog dance through the rain-soaked bluebells. She was full of joy, in the moment, and loving every second of it! It set my mood for the weekend.

Taking the time to stop and appreciate the small things!

Despite things not being perfect, or exactly as we envision them, we gain much when we open ourselves to appreciating the good, and the beauty in what we have.

Today, I went for another walk with my sister, a friend and the dogs. My sister brought us to a bluebell wood, where the bluebells were even more abundant than before.

The dogs frolicked and cavorted in the morning air. We also felt the morning joy. We stood and belted out songs, laughing at ourselves, but loving the freedom and joy of it. We were in the moment- and it was fun!

What do you do that makes you feel a sense of gratitude? Share in the comments below. Have a good day!

Finding the Time…

Ever since March last year, I have found the concept of time to be a strange, paradox…

Some days, even weeks, are apparently ephemeral. Minutes and hours seem to slip away as if some wizard has magically accelerated a sand timer. One blink of an eye sees a new month appear on the calendar.

On the other hand, some days are long, treacley and never ending. The minutes tick heavily on the clock, and the day seems to last aeons longer than its allocated twenty hour hour slot!

We have had a difficult year. One thing that has become abundantly clear is the need to pause, and to value the people and experiences that we fill our time with.

I started writing this blog, as way to acknowledge, discuss and appreciate the many new experiences that I have opened up to, given the opportunity to reevaluate how to use my time, during lockdown. I wanted to connect to others who are having similar experiences.

‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’

J.R.R Tolkien (Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring)

I started writing my blog during my Easter holidays, from school. I am a teacher and on that first week, on my maiden blogging voyage, I felt (holiday-spirited) as if I had acres and acres of fresh, green fields of time to use and play in as I pleased.

Now, however, that I am back in the busy day to day hustle and bustle of teaching, my time to stop, and think and write, is much more limited. In fact, for the past week and more, I have felt as though I had hardly any time at all. But, as Gandalf says in The Fellowship of the Ring, ‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’

Take the time!

So, I have taken the time to sit, to think, and to write. I have organised my kitchen, and enjoyed a lovely tea.

I have taken the time to recommit to myself. To ensure that I remember and choose to do and embrace things that bring joy to myself and to others. On this rainy, grey Bank Holiday Monday, I wish you joy in the time you have to use!

The Power of the Voice

I have always loved singing. There is something delightfully liberating about throwing your head back and belting out a favourite tune at full volume.

Opera, pop, jazz, county, rock- it doesn’t matter what the song is, or which genre it belongs to, it is the singing that is so wonderful, so fun and so freeing.

When my son was little, he had glue ear. Until he had vents in, when he was almost aged three, he spoke (and sang) very loudly.

At that stage, in my early twenties, I loved the band, the Pixies. I smile when I remember him jumping up and down on the sofa, roaring along to ‘Debaser’ on the hi-fi.

Singing together was just another way for us to bond. To shout. To celebrate our voices.

Almost twenty years later, he still loves singing that song, but now he plays it on guitar, and we roar along together! At 22, almost 23, and 44 respectively, we are still bonded by the joy of singing.

‘The only thing better than singing is more singing.’

Ella Fitzgerald

Singing connects us. There is nothing quite like doing a karaoke duet with a friend or family member while the ‘audience’ supportively (and perhaps sympathetically) encourages you in your endeavours.

The wonderful Ella Fitzgerald aptly said, ‘The only thing better than singing is more singing.’ She was absolutely right.

Today, as we approach the start of the weekend, I encourage you to find some joy, pleasure and release in the wonderful act of singing!

10 Ways to Sing Today

  1. Put on a Disney movie and sing your heart out!
  2. Pick a tune you already know, and make up your own lyrics about a friend or family member.
  3. Go on YouTube and find a pop act you love, and sing along.
  4. Find a song that makes you feel like you own the world- strut around the kitchen singing it!
  5. Sing with your children. Sing nursery rhymes or nonsense songs.
  6. Sing to your pet- yip, yap and yowl, and try to get them to come on board too!
  7. Roll your car windows down and sing at the top of your lungs.
  8. Find an operatic number- have a go at performing it!
  9. Choreograph a dance to accompany one of your tunes.
  10. Try to remember your favourite song as a teenager- blare it out on a video call to a friend!

Today is World Voice Day. It is a day of celebration of the voice. It also aims to get us to look after and address our vocal health.

Whatever you sing, say, or shout today- use your voice kindly, and treat it kindly.

In the comments, please share your favourite memories singing, or how singing brightens your life!

The Privilege of Being a Mother

When the midwife placed my son in my arms, almost 23 years ago, I will never forget the rush of emotion.

I was just 21, and after nine (seemingly endless) months and two weeks of waiting, he was finally there. New. Beautiful. A stranger.

At first, after the initial euphoria, I remember the strangeness of my first night in hospital with him. I literally couldn’t sleep. I just kept staring into the tiny, glass cot at this stranger who I was now responsible for.

I spent that night learning him. What he looked like. What he sounded like. What he smelled like. I watched his breathing, and I got to know him.

I remember after coming home from hospital, suddenly bursting into tears. I (probably delirious from lack of sleep) suddenly imagined a large dog coming into the room, and attacking my son. I knew in my core that I would allow myself to be eaten before I would let anything harm him. It was a visceral feeling of protectiveness.

I remember too the joy of his first smile. The bubbling, irrepressible infectious swell of his baby laughs. The way he gurgled along to nighttime crooning. The beauty of him.

It is only after becoming a mother that I can understand Gillian Clarke’s imagery in her poem Catrin (about her daughter) where she speaks of the ‘tight red rope of love…’

That strange umbilical connection is a feeling (in my experience) more potent than any other. At almost 23, my son is still the centre of my thoughts, and of my heart.

Today is National Safe Motherhood Day, in India, where approximately 44,000 women die each year, giving birth.

The World Health Organization states that globally, ‘the high number of maternal deaths…reflects inequalities in access to quality health services and highlights the gap between the rich and poor.

There are many charities addressing this issue. We can all get involved. The privilege of motherhood should not only be for the privileged.

A-Z Of Showing Love For Yourself And For Others Today…

P- Pour a cup of tea, or coffee and sit and enjoy the drink. Prepare some food and savour the flavours.

Today’s post is an A-Z ‘to do’ list, to inspire us to take the time today for ourselves, and for others.

I admit that, caught up in the pressures of day to day life, often I forget to be grateful, choosing instead to focus on the minutiae, rather than on the many reasons I have to be glad.

This list has been created to encourage awareness, and gratitude- in myself, and in others.

It is important to notice and nurture the small moments, and to take the time to be kind to ourselves and to those around us.

If you have lots of time today, you can work your way from A-Z. If you are short on time, pick a few letters, and show some love to yourself and those you spend time with today.

A– Ask questions- be interested in loved ones and ask them about their lives.

B– Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. As the quote says, ‘Kindness is like confetti- sprinkle that stuff everywhere!’

C– Create something. Pursue an activity that interests you- music, writing, art, gardening, decor- and enjoy the pleasure of being creative.

D– Dance. Put on some music, from a genre you enjoy, and shimmy and shake a smile onto your face!

E– Exercise- go out for a walk, or run, or do an online workout with friends. Release the endorphins and feel the benefits!

F- Forgive yourself, and others in your life, for hurts and harm. Forgiveness frees us from negativity.

G– Go outdoors. Go outside and enjoy the fresh air. Notice the temperature, and the colours, sounds and smells.

H– Help someone. Offer to give someone a helping hand. We gain as much as we give when we help others with their tasks and problems.

I– Invent a new game, or a new way to pass the time. There are templates on the internet for board games, if you search for them.

J– Joke and jest! It is important to be playful, and to have fun.

K– Keep on smiling. Find things that make you happy and do them.

L– Look at your environment, notice things you love in your home. Look at photo albums and reflect on the memories you have.

M– Make time for yourself: put on a face mask, listen to a podcast, or do something else to make you feel relaxed.

N– Number the positive things in your life and be grateful for them. Gratitude lists can help you develop a more positive outlook, and can help you focus on the good things in your life.

O– Organise your clutter. As Marie Kondo says, ‘Life truly begins when you put your house in order.’ Pick an area, or even a drawer and tidy your possessions.

P– Pour a cup of tea, or coffee and sit and enjoy the drink. Prepare some food and savour the flavours.

Q- Quieten your mind. Take time to relax and meditate. Pay attention to your breathing.

R– Read a book, magazine, newspaper or blog. Read aloud for someone, or read a story to a child.

S– Send someone a card., an email, a message, or a letter. Brighten someone’s day by showing that you care.

T– Talk and share stories, ask people around you to share their childhood memories.

U– Understand that stress is a normal part of life. Be gentle with yourself and do not force yourself to jump through too many unnecessary hoops.

V– View a film or series that you have wanted to watch. Relax!

W– Waken your inner child! Get skipping ropes, a hula hoop, or a ball. Have fun like you did when you were a kid!

X – X-ray your wardrobe. Go through your clothes and reorganise them. Get rid of those you do not wear, or love.

Y– Yearn for new adventures! Lockdown has been difficult for those with a wanderlust. Research a place you want to visit, plan what you will do there.

Z– Zzzzzzz- Catch some Zzzz!

The Joy Of Kitchens- 10 Ways To Show Love For (And In) Your Kitchen Today!

Does everyone perhaps find their kitchen, somewhat bewilderingly, like the Tardis?

How is it actually possible to suddenly realise, on a Saturday afternoon, that you have been in there for several hours, without actually noticing the time slipping by?

How can it be that you sit down to chat, over a cup of tea, or a cappuccino, and realise (seemingly aeons later) that you have set the world to rights, and also decided that your dresser really should be chalk painted a different colour, and that lasagne would be a good idea for dinner?

Is any other room in the home so endlessly nurturing and so versatile about activities, conversations, experiments and events?

Ever since childhood, I have felt at my happiest in kitchens. I know it is a heavily worn idiom, but is it possible to deny that the kitchen really is the heart of the home?

Where else in the house can you sit, and enjoy the colours, and sundry smells of someone working? My memories are full of such snapshots, of watching my Grandmother and my Mother,in their respective kitchens, preparing food, labouring over pots and pans and showing love through their efforts.

My son is also a keen cook. He loves to research, explore and enjoy food from a variety of cultures. There is something very special about standing by the kitchen worktop, seeing him labour over a ‘Pasta a la vodka’, or carefully nurturing a dish in a sizzling wok. Every dish he serves is full of his care.

Food is nourishment, but it is also a way to nurture and to convey love. Although kitchens look alluring in showrooms, it is only when life is breathed into them by their owners that they become places of true magic; places where we show our love through our daily (although admittedly not always successful) efforts.

Kitchens are places of adventure too. The table or counter is a perfect space for being creative. Some of my warmest memories are of sitting with my son (and often his friends) making treasure maps, carving pumpkin sculptures, baking buns or making rocket ships and mini-dens out of paper and used food packages.

During lockdown, my kitchen was also my sanctuary. It was where I exercised three times a day, online, with friends. It was where I sat, for hours on end, painting my first efforts at portraits of my friends and family. It was also where I ‘hung out’ with my son, cooking and.chatting, as we helped each other to adapt to the newness of daily life without friends and family.

So, the purpose of this blog is to pay homage to kitchens. Big or small, sleek or shabby, old or new- they are places of love and connection. Today (after you read this) go to your kitchen and sit down. Relax. And show it some love!

10 Ways to Show Love For (And In) Your Kitchen Today:

  1. Have a connected conversation with someone (either online or face to face, in your bubble)
  2. Bake something you are good at, or find a recipe and try something new.
  3. Cook or make a dish for yourself or a loved one, or with someone.
  4. Have a cup of tea or coffee and read a book or newspaper.
  5. Look around you and use what you see to inspire a poem or a short piece of writing.
  6. Organise a drawer or cupboard and feel a sense of achievement in the results.
  7. Find something that you can change or upscale easily- a chair to chalk paint or a new arrangement on a shelf. Enjoy it!
  8. Go through your spices and throw out any that may be out of date. organise the ones you have left. Notice the colours.
  9. Paint, draw or colour in. Take pleasure in being creative.
  10. Relax and enjoy the space around you.

Happy Kitchening!

What do you love best about your kitchen?

  • What do you love best about your kitchen?
  • Do you have any kitchen memories that you’d like to share?
  • Have you any interesting facts, information or tips about kitchens?

Please share in the comments below.

The Joy Of Creativity – Poetry Challenge!

Today, I want to reach out to you with a creative challenge. Before I share this, allow me to give you a little anecdotal context.

Although I am no expert, I find the process of writing rewarding. All kinds of writing. I am never happier than when I’m sitting, with a sense of purpose, waiting for the words to come. Although writing can seem daunting, freeing yourself from the burden of too many expectations can yield unexpected results.

It is the blankness of a page or a screen, which then changes and takes on life, once it is covered with your words, that is so uniquely satisfying.

I have spent many family Christmases and get-togethers, urging relatives to get involved in group stories, inventing mini speech competitions, and challenging them to write festive limericks and haiku. At times, admittedly, I have been met with reluctance. Invariably though, we have had fun.

My son and I shared an unexpected, lovely moment (among the many lovely moments we have had throughout our lives together) when we both had horrible sinus infections, the autumn before last.

In an effort to lesson our misery, as way lay on our respective sofas, I encouraged him to try writing with me.

I introduced him to a type of ‘Beat Poetry’ that I had the fortune to attempt writing myself in an English tutorial with the late poet, Kenneth Koch, of the New York School of Poetry, when he visited our university, around twenty years ago.

“I am a writer who likes to be influenced.”

Kenneth Koch

I still remember my sense of surprise at his approach. He asked each of us in the tutorial (we were eight, including our Professor) to randomly donate the first words that popped into our heads.I remember several of them yet- iridescent; chewing-gum; pigeon!

They were an arbitrary mix of words- some vividly descriptive, some mundane, yet all were incorporated into a scribbled chalkboard list, to function as the impetus for our writing.

We had to write poems- our only constraint (there were no dictates of rhyme or rhythm) was that the list of eight words had to appear, in order, in an eight line poem, one (anywhere) per line.

The process, when I first encountered it, was liberating. The strange list of words engendered their own story within the creative process of each writer there. The poems at the end of the session were fresh, original, and shared proudly.

My son also enjoyed the process when I recalled it for him. We had fun speed- brainstorming the random list of words. Initially lacking confidence in his ability to write, he quickly grew in belief and produced some powerful poetry that he felt proud of. I was so happy to share the process with him.

And, I would love to take part in this process again. I am reaching out to you, fellow bloggers, and much-appreciated followers of my fledging blog, to write, and post, some poetry!

I used randomwordgenerator.com to donate a list of eight words for this fun and freeing poetry process. Here they are:

  • Cooperate
  • Forget
  • Mosaic
  • Dinner
  • Dragon
  • Weave
  • Weakness
  • Bank

Have a go! Use them in your own piece of poetry (free verse or otherwise!) and post your poem in the comments. Let’s share the joy of writing, and of poetry, together!

How Do You Spend Your 1440 Minutes Each Day?

For me, as I am sure for many of you, a huge change that has affected my daily routine, over the past year, has been the amount of unclaimed time I now have had on my hands.

I remember at the start of 2020, busy with working full-time, how I yearned for time, spending (ironically) any spare time I had, wishing that I had more to spare!

I can recall, keenly, the sense of blissful anticipation I felt when I booked a weekend alone in a hotel, just to sleep, read and indulgently binge-watch Modern Family!

Life, however, since the pandemic, has changed in so many ways. One of these myriad changes is the way in which lockdown has removed many of the daily markers, born from social interaction, which we normally use to notice and acknowledge the passing of time.

Where before I would meet friends and family, and while away the hours over coffee,theatre, cinema visits, meals and shopping, now I am adapting to having seemingly acres and acres of unclaimed time. And, what to do with it.

In spite of previously being hungry for time, I admit that the reality of having an abundance can be a little overwhelming. At points, I have found the thought of the hours stretching out in front of me somewhat daunting. Bereft of the readily available timetable-clutter of normal social intercourse, I admit to feeling a sense of panic, here and there, about having so much spare time on my hands.

On a video call, it was my (ever-wise) Mother who suggested taking up painting as a way to occupy the spare moments by filling them with creativity. What a good suggestion that was. I am so grateful for it.

Despite being an absolute beginner, I found a joy in applying acrylic to canvas. I started and finished paintings. I felt a sense of pride. I kept on painting.

The empty time became filled. It became a space for creativity. It became a catalyst for thinking of, and finding new ways to use my 1440 daily minutes. But, more importantly, it was also was a lesson in appreciating the moments we have by putting them to good use.

This isn’t always easy to do. There are still moments when I feel a slight flutter about how I will shape my day. But, when I feel this, I think back to starting painting and I use this as a reminder that time is a gift. We should use it with gratitude.

Snow On The Tulips – 20 Things To Do Today To Embrace Potential

Today started with a strange juxtaposition – the sight of a few errant, spring snowflakes falling on my pots of almost opened tulips, just outside the kitchen window.

I have been so full of embracing the associations of spring – newness, fresh starts, beauty, new potentials – and incorporating them into my daily activities and mindset, that the snowflakes came as a surprise. The ghost of winter, hovering over my sprightly spring mood.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

-Epicurus

It made me think- am I, we, sometimes guilty of being overly prescriptive? Do we hold a fixed view of how we want and expect things to be, rather than being open every day to the often tiny, but very real, opportunities for appreciation? Today, here are 20 things you can do, to embrace the potential of the day:

  1. Go outside and enjoy the fresh air
  2. Read a book
  3. Bake something and share it
  4. Contact a friend
  5. Connect with your family
  6. Sing your favourite song
  7. Try to paint or draw something
  8. Write
  9. Play with your pet
  10. Work in the garden
  11. Tidy your drawers
  12. Do some exercise
  13. Notice the sky
  14. Talk to your neighbours
  15. Smile at people
  16. Research a place you’d like to visit
  17. Go to a park and enjoy the space
  18. Enjoy a meal
  19. Do something kind for someone else
  20. Be grateful!

Reasons To Eat Chocolate This Easter (and then go back to juicing tomorrow!)

Why is it that the sight of variously sized chocolate ovals, gaudily wrapped in golds, blues, and purples, brings out the excited child in us, no matter what age we are?

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” Charles M Schulz

At 44, and on a (fairly) committed path to my summer physique, why am I still as enthusiastic about getting Easter eggs, as I was when I was young? Is it that they are, in their glittering foils, alluring aesthetically? Is it maybe, because I am greedy? Or is it that chocolate (although it must be taken in moderation!) is actually good for us? Today, I prefer to go with option number 3!

5 Reasons Why You Can Enjoy Chocolate, Guilt-free Today:

  1. Dark chocolate, with a high percentage of cocoa, has lots of health benefits as it is full of antioxidants.
  2. Studies have shown that it can help the brain and protect against cognitive decline.
  3. Chocolate can help to boost your mood! Eating chocolate can produce endorphins which help you to be happy.
  4. It’s Easter Sunday – take the gift of the day, and run with it!
  5. It’s very delicious! Enjoy!

Carpe Diem: And Then Tomorrow, Get Back to Moderation!

The egg has always been a symbol of new life, and new beginnings. While chocolate eggs are the favour of today, tomorrow, for me, will be about moderation again. Tomorrow will start with a run, and a healthy, fruit-filled breakfast.

But today – today, I will enjoy the sound of the foil; will savour the smell of the chocolate; will eat far too many eggs. Happy Easter!