craft · family · health and wellbeing

Comfort

  

And so once again, it is all about to change.

Autumn is packing away its leaves to make way for Winter to unfurl its blanket of chill. It’s now with haste that laundry is whipped in before the early afternoon crispness descends and cats position themselves in ever diminishing wedges of sunlight. It’s not going to be the same as we have become accustomed to over previous months, we must now prepare for difference.

We all vary in our response to change – either shunning and resisting or welcoming and adapting. Either way it does present as a challenge and usually it is underlying fear of the unknown that creates the difficulty. These are the times when as humans we seek out comfort, immersing ourselves in rituals and activities that bring about a feeling of good.

Comfort of course is quite intangible, as the very thing that makes one feel good may not have any appeal to another. You do need to establish what constitutes yours, as it will serve as your armory in times of uncertainty. Defining your sources of comfort is a highly individualised exercise, but the time spent consciously and deliberately identifying these sources is time exceptionally well spent.

I have put this to task recently and have amassed a reassuring stockpile. Taking my cup of tea to sunny garden space (yes I am like my cats) is a wonderful mid-afternoon treat. Retiring to a blanketed sofa on a chilly Sunday night to be immersed in an 18th century Cornish copper mine saga, watching the protagonist Ross Poldark do his best to be noble, is a wonderful place to be. Pulling a baked dozen from the oven or settling the lid on a rumbling stew, provides an inner satisfaction that can not be manufactured.

Building a fabric of inter-looped yarn by rhythmic needle clicks, a pastime that calms the mind and rewards the creator –

 and then pulling such fabric on when the day’s work is over, only amplifies this simple pleasure.

Running alongside a sun-glistened bayside horizon, passing warmly jacketed dogs and masters while inhaling chestfuls of ion-laced breeze – magic.

And drawing the blinds on a task-loaded day to return once again to sun dried sheets and fluffed pillows.

Locate that irresistible journal or notebook that you knew you someday would need and gather your comforts. Pen them for referral, as times of change will always present.

 home bootsPostscript: If you would like to add these hand-knitted home boots to your comfort armory, here is a similar pattern to those I have made (which was purchased from Lincraft so cannot be reproduced here)

family · health and wellbeing

Walking

Bushwalking
Regardless of individual identity there is a singular attribute uniting us – we each tread a path. Of course our trails are as unique as our digital pattern but the questions and disclosures scattered ahead of our steps are essentially ones common to us all. Recently, as boots met earth, cracking summer-splintered twigs cast amongst early autumn leaf litter, a bushwalk revealed to me the intriguing parallels of forest rambles and life passages.

Life, principally the progressive unfolding of a series of challenges to be captured, secured and marked. Exciting stuff indeed. As a challenge presents, the perception is of its uniqueness to us, but in reality it is never a new circumstance as many will have conquered such a quest previously. We are not the first to experience fear, uncertainty and doubt as many have already weathered these emotions travelling this path before us – now they have simply moved off into the distance to negotiate their next rock face. By taking heed of this the psyche steadies, developing a confidence to proceed – we can do this too.

taking a chance

Keep also in mind, that challenges are not by necessity activities that must be achieved in isolation. Those trail blazers have wisdom, so draw upon them. Have them talk you through the steps and sequences they took so you too can coach those who will ultimately follow your path.

creek crossing

Occasionally you will forge ahead on your own.

climbing

The branches and undergrowth will seem unrelenting at times but clutch them securely and propel yourself forward as these impeding bush elements are actually markers of your progress in disguise.

And there will be occasion where the undertaking appears overwhelming. The perceived looming danger outweighing the possibility of newer and fresher tracks. On closer inspection however, this seemingly insurmountable life obstacle is actually the bridge linking two separate banks – banks welcoming you to lives that would be inaccessible otherwise. Traverse this bridge with patience and consideration, the length though vast is inevitably finite.

Tree trunk

In that glorious interval where one challenge closes, the next yet to appear, bask in the peace. Soak up the beauty and the quiet. This is your time to reflect on your achievement and realise your place.

quiet contemplation

As a point of final consideration, achievement, progress and completion are discrete experiences defining beginnings and endings. Beware they should not crowd the senses thus obstructing the delightful simplicity of the walk.

forging ahead
Postscript: And what could be more heartening than being the observer of one making such energetic tracks toward a bright future?

health and wellbeing

Rest

As we prepare to touch down into another weekend filled with ‘projects’ to tick off, ‘engagements’ to keep and ‘leisure activities’ to cover, don’t overlook the spine that supports all of this activity – rest.

In an age where we can artificially illuminate our lives beyond moonrise, we skew our natural sleep patterns by adhering to odd work shift hours, scheduling recreational pursuits well into the night and being lured by the temptation of digital entertainment, long after our bodies would benefit from simply being tucked into the sheets. Sleep, once a respected commodity, has now been relegated to the backstalls of our life choices.

However, short of returning to the Paleolithic age, we are not about to be forcibly blacked out from 7pm to 7am in the near future (mind you, with all of the current hype that surrounds the Paleo Diet it may not be surprising to see an emergence of a ‘darkness lifestyle trend’) so it’s nice to factor it in for yourself, where possible.

We have fauna in our midst that achieve this brilliantly.

Having said this, I cannot kip for all the tea in China, so rest defined by me, will be a quiet flip of a magazine or the week-end paper – enough time to turn a barking session into a casual shoulder shrug as I catch a glimpse of a teenage bedroom on my way down the hallway.

Finding a patch of peace somewhere, for a short space, is often all it takes to turn an Everest climb of an afternoon ahead, into a pleasant stroll among wild flowers. Even if sleep eludes, or may interfere with your night pattern, time out from the motion of life is a good thing – for us all.

Asleep in the hammock

Postscript: I really need to take a leaf out of the two and four-legged creatures under my roof – they all have the art perfected.

health and wellbeing · recipes

Crunch

To have a jar filled with toasted grains, nuts and seeds sitting on the countertop, to be scooped from when a nutritious snack is in order, is a wonderful thing.

As our chilly grey mornings have now turned to sunny ones, I’m ready to rest the tight-knit oats and opt for a more scattered breakfast – in the form of granola. Such a simple breakfast it is, with everything seedy and nutty premixed, that all that’s left to do is add the skim milk and you’re away.

The granola in our kitchen really earns its keep, as not only does it provide a breakfast staple, but is regularly topped with yoghurt and a splodge of jam to keep body and soul together between meals. Occasionally it has even been known to be the ‘crumble’ on top of hot stewed apples and passionfruit.

Granola really is a mix of grains, seeds, nuts, spices, dried fruit and a sweetener, and how you put yours together will entirely depend on the sorts of ingredients that meet your approval. Here are mine, feel free to add and subtract as you will (and should you come up with a winner – keep me updated).

6 cups oats
1 cup almonds
1 cup pepitas
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey or rice syrup (depending on the flavor you prefer)

Pre heat the oven to 325 degrees celsius.

Toast sesame seeds gently in a frying pan and cool. Combine oats, nuts and seeds in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the cinnamon and salt and mix through. Warm the syrup or honey in a saucepan so it comes to a pouring consistency and add it to the mix. Turn the granola over thoroughly so that it is all well coated with the sweetener.

Spread the granola over a very large (or two) baking sheets lined with baking paper and place in the oven. Bake for 30 mins, regularly opening the oven and turning the mix so it browns evenly. When it is browned to your liking, remove from the oven and cool before storing in a sealed jar.

family · health and wellbeing

Punting

“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”  A claim made by Ratty to Mole, in Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale, The Wind in the Willows, that would be firmly backed up by every minor in our household.

To be the captain of your craft, or as an extension of that, the master of your own destiny, is something so foreign to a child who by necessity, must live on a daily basis by the rules and commands of senior figures. To navigate one’s own way without obligation to seek authorisation, is something the young can only dream of. Unless of course, there is access to a paddle and a boat.

Immediately, without warning,  decisions concerning enemy, invasion or location of buried treasure fall on young shoulders – and throughout, they must ensure the craft is on course and their stability within it is maintained. Strategic thought develops. To ensure the success of the mission, the relationship between captain and crew must be one of consultation, negotiation and inclusion. Team players emerge. And finally, if by chance, unforseen circumstances such as a capsize or leak should arise, reflection upon events with recommendations for future quests will be identified. Appraisal and evaluation in its infancy.

As the significant adult, your role is to remain by water’s edge, as silent sentinel, witness to the life skills that are maturing in the best way children know how – with play.

Postscript: whilst writing this post, I recalled, as a 7 year old, being passenger on a ‘tinny’ (like the one above) with my 8 year old friend and her brother on the Murray River at Wentworth Caravan Park. A regatta had been held on the water the previous day and the surface was littered with rubbish. As the brother (maybe 11 years of  age) hurtled us along (without life jackets), we leant over and scooped up cans and assorted debris, emitting shrill squeals at each successful swipe. Could not understand why my friends’ father summoned us furiously from the riverbank and forbade us from returning to the boat for the rest of the holiday ……

book reviews · health and wellbeing · recipes

Rosemary

Rosemary has been an asset to me over the years. Not only for boosting the flavour of many a lamb roast, but also for the most reputable nutritional guidance one could ever hope to receive. The former of course, being the glossy green herb and the latter, Dr Rosemary Stanton OAM, one of Australia’s leading nutritionists.

Rosemary Stanton received her OAM (medal of the Order of Australia) for her services to community health. She has dispensed, across the decades, sound evidence-based information regarding food and nutrition, and during sessions of nutritional wagon falls, it is her books I turn to with a cup of lemon balm tea. My advocacy of her work is not solely based on her most recent enlightening book, The Choice Guide to Food, but by virtue of the fact that, dietary recommendations she has made in her early career and over the years, still stand today –  whilst a multitude of other nutritional claims and fads have come and gone.

When a delve into the science of human nutrition is required, we need the information to be delivered in simple terms, so we have the ability to surface with knowledge that is relevant and practical for us to live by. Rosemary’s style of writing supports this. I was thrilled to discover in her latest publication, not only does she cover food from the view of our physical health, but also for that of the health of our budget and  the planet.

To boost your own nutritional wellbeing, incorporate a couple of her recipes into your weekly meal rotation, they can be found in many of her publications or in various pages on the web. Here is her farmhouse soup from which to launch.

Let’s not overlook, however, the other rosemary who has also done a fine job throughout her career in my kitchen. Scattered over roasted potato wedges, blended through soups and kneaded into bread dough, Rosmarinus officinalis could also qualify for her own medal – for services to our taste buds.

Postscript: this post was written with a salute to Remembrance Day