Thursday, 16 February 2012

Sloping Off

Ever done anything that seemed a bit naughty but which made you feel great? I had a day like that on Tuesday. Being self-employed does have some benefits - one of which was sloping off for a day out when everyone else was at work. After years of being in the corporate world and having to book holidays way in advance, there is still a delight in being able to decide at a moment's notice that you will have a day out.

Even better - as my husband is also self-employed, he was able to join me. So a delightful day in Bath was had by the two of us including lunch at Jamie's Italian.

It's good sometimes to be less sensible and to do something impulsive. And it's also good to appreciate these opportunities and be thankful for the life you have chosen which enables such freedom.

What do you have to be thankful for today?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Share the Love

It's that time of year once again. That time when it becomes impossible to book a last minute table in a restaurant, that time when if you wanted to send some flowers you should have placed the order weeks ago and that time when the shops are filled with giant heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. And is it just me or is there an awful lot of red around? Yes, in case you haven't noticed it's Valentine's Day - a day that puts fear into the hearts of men and a day which raises unusually high expectations from many women.

But that aside it is a day to share and express love. So let's put all thoughts that it's a giant ruse from the greeting card manufacturers to boost sales to the back of our minds and simply or extravagantly (however you chose to do it) express our love to our loved ones. And if you don't have anyone right now to share your love with, then ring a close friend and tell them how important they are to you or just treat yourself to something wonderful or do something great today to celebrate yourself as a fantastic human being.

As I am writing, I can hear a blackbird out in the garden sending his love call to a waiting lady blackbird. I hear her respond.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Letting Go

I've just finished a giant office and household paperwork sort. Isn't it amazing what you can accumulate over the years? Articles, blog posts, things torn out of magazines and newspapers, ancient paperwork relating to houses you no longer live in or to things that you no longer own. I'm sure that you have heard yourself say too many times I'll hang onto that just in case I need it. And it turns out I didn't. I didn't need any of it. It had sat in boxes and filing cases and ring binders awaiting that moment that it would be needed and that moment never came. During this process, it's strange what can happen. I definitely felt lighter. When the paper went off to the confidential shredder or into the recycling bin, I was able to take a big sigh. It was gone. I was no longer hindered by all this unnecessary stuff.

It's easy to do this in many areas of our life. It's easy to keep amassing more of the same. I love to read and buying a book is a real pleasure to me but again just before Christmas, we had a book culling in our house. We took over 100 books to Oxfam, after all are you really ever going to read that thriller again, especially when you already know that it was the long lost cousin who committed the murders. In addition, I like the thought that someone else is going to get the opportunity to read that book that I really loved and hopefully keep passing it on.

And I'm sure that we do the same thing in our emotional lives too. We fill our heads with all this stuff - the what-ifs, the maybes, the shoulds and coulds and as a result we can easily weigh ourselves down with the thought of it all. We forget that we can choose to let go of these thoughts in the same way we can let go of a book or an old piece of paper. I know that over the years I have worried unnecessarily about things I had no real influence over and it got me absolutely nowhere. In fact, solutions often seemed to materialise more readily when I just stopped worrying and let go of the thoughts. I agree that somethings are worth hanging on to, but have a good think about what you're holding onto. Could this be a good time to let it go and to take that big sigh?

Friday, 10 February 2012

Surrender to the Exhale

Surrender is not a word we hear very often and it can have a negative connotation in a world that often feels full of challenges.  You'll often hear people talking along the lines of winning this particular battle or I can fight this or never give up.  It all seems to indicate that you have to push and struggle onwards to get to your desired outcome. 

The word surrender is linked to giving up and in battle is an indication of defeat.  And yet at a recent yoga class during the relaxation session, the yoga instructor asked us to surrender to the exhale.  What a wonderful moment that was to just let go, let the body completely relax and yield.  It was a pure moment of being in the now and being able to escape to a place where everything felt ok - a place where thoughts were able to drift in and out of the mind and for the muscles of the body to let go and sink deeper into the support of the mat and the floor beneath.  In that moment there was a level of clarity and a sense of freedom.

In this world of rushing from one thing to the next and of trying to fight the ongoing battle to get to the end of our to do list, perhaps we should take some time to simply surrender to the exhale and let go - if only for a few moments each day.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The plot thickens

I've been reading a fascinating novel called My Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas.  One of the topics raised in the book is about the fact that the main character is trying to write her novel and is struggling to do so.  She is able to ghost write and writes a series of books under this guise, yet every time she sits to write her novel, she ends up deleting more and more until there is virtually nothing left.  So the author is writing a novel about struggling to write a novel and I am reading a book about struggling to write a novel when I am struggling to write a novel. 

It feels as if I'm looking into one of those massive mirrors and I can see hundreds and hundreds of reflections...

Was that a silent scream I just heard?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

I am in my space

I clear the papers from my desk and put them on a shelf behind me.  I can no longer see them and in so doing they don't call out to me and vie for my attention.  I pick up my mobile phone, switch it to silent and put it away in my desk drawer.  If anyone calls I can always call them back. 

I am in my space, doing my thing. I feel calm. 

I switch off email, Facebook and Twitter and suddenly the noise is gone.  It's just me and the keyboard now.  There are no longer any excuses or distractions. 

I am in my space, doing my thing.  I feel calm. 

It is silent, the only noise being me tapping away on the keys and sipping from a big mug of tea.  I glance out of the window.  If I hold my head at a certain angle  - I can't see the disused warehouse building, only the outline of the trees, an occasional bird and today the blue sky.

I am in my space and doing my thing.  I feel calm.

I relax back in my chair and close my eyes for a moment.  I take some deep breaths.  When I open my eyes, I start to type once again.  

I am in my space and doing my thing.  I feel calm.

Procrastinating Again

As you may have seen I posted about my experience of making the gluten-free, refined sugar-free, egg-free banana bread.  When I re-read this post, it made me think about the things which had delayed me from making anything from the babycakes recipe book, despite my friend asking me quite frequently if I had done so.  Actually if I had just decided to make one of the recipes I could have quite easily found out where I could source the ingredients I needed and very very easily converted the measurements and oven temperature.  Instead, it took me over a year. 

Do you find yourself in a similar position trying to do things in your life?  It's very easy to put things off, to procrastinate and to never get around to it.   In fact, I seem to have a couple of years of general procrastination in several areas of my life and as someone in the business of helping others get on with their lives, I'm wondering why it's so hard to take my own advice.

I'm currently trying to write a novel.  I've never done anything like this before in my life and as it is something new and different, as much as I enjoy it when I'm doing it - getting to a position where I am sat down at the keyboard and ready to write seems almost impossible.  I have become a master procrastinator when it comes to this particular matter. 

So I'm after your help.  Do you have techniques that you use to get things done?  If so please feel free to share them here.  It might well mean that I'll get to make the raspberry scones by the end of this month rather than the end of this year and even better I'd love to be able to tell you that my novel is finished and I'm procrastinating about how to get it published - well everyone has their dreams!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Everything-free Banana Bread

A friend of mine bought me a new cookery book for Christmas a couple of years ago.  I should probably add that she lives in America and so the book was from an American bakery based in New York. (  The recipes looked really interesting as they were gluten-free, wheat free, refined sugar free - well virtually everything free in fact.  The recipes looked a much healthily way to enjoy cake, biscuits and scones - all the things I love in fact.  Anyway, to cut a long story short, it has taken me over a year to finally bake something from the book as when I started to read what I needed there were lots of ingredients that I was not familiar with - things like agave nectar, xantum gum, coconut oil etc.  I did, however, hold these ingredients in my head and over time managed to buy them at health food stores, specialist food shops and in fact at the local Sainsburys store. In addition, I also had to convert the oven temperature into celsius and sort out the weight of the ingredients I needed as everything was measured in cups.  Yes, I know it's all quite easy to find out on the Internet now, but it's amazing how the combination of the ingredient search and adjusting to metric measurements had delayed me.  

So last Sunday I made the banana bread.  It all went quite well other than the mixture was quite firm.  It was more dough like than muffin like, making mixing in the bananas at the end quite difficult.  When I took a look at the babycakes website, their mix was far more runny than mine so not sure what I did wrong but hey I persevered and stuck it in the oven to cook.  The result is lovely.  It does have a slightly different texture to the banana breads I have cooked before and it is more dense - much more like a bread than a sponge.  And you certainly know when you have had a slice - it fills you in a way that a slice of cake does not normally do.  It lacks the usual overall sweetness of cake which sometimes I have to say I do find overwhelming so it certainly suits my taste buds.  Overall, I would have to say it is a success and I shall be trying out other recipes from the book too - so watch this space.