Life’s Little Pleasures

Flow Magazine and Womankind Magazine

Do you subscribe to any magazines? Although I don’t buy any on a regular basis, I do like to pick up a magazine from time to time. A food or craft publication in the run up to Christmas, or a few in the summer holidays to read on the train, or at the beach.

A couple of my favourite UK magazines are The Simple Things and the crafty Mollie Makes, but this summer I was delighted to discover, a couple of new (to me) magazines that were love at first sight!

The first is Flow magazine. This is a Dutch publication that celebrates ‘creativity, imperfection and life’s little pleasures’ and includes beautifully decorated papers that you can remove and use. It is not overwhelmed with adverts which usually turns me off a lot of magazines, but includes well-written articles and inspiration about artists and what it is to live well. It is like a breath of fresh air – as if to say – here – take some time to play and look after yourself.

The other is Womankind magazine from Australia. This one is ad-free – what a welcome relief. No subtle pressure to buy anything, but a wealth of interesting reads that encourage us women to reconnect with those things that give our lives meaning and enable us to live wisely. The design is absolutely beautiful (just to look at the illustrations and photographs is enough) and each issue is themed on a different country. The one I bought recently was based on Egypt and includes articles such as what we can learn from the ancient Egyptians about Living more Wisely, The Chore Wars, Letters from Cairo, The Lost Queen, The Curse of the Pyramids, On Duality, and Goddess of Nature.

I’m beginning to sound a bit like an advert here myself, though I am not affiliated with either of these magazines. I know they are in the business of making money like any other magazine, but I think these two have really made this kind of publishing into something meaningful and worthwhile. There was no icky feeling that I was being manipulated, or sold the same old same old with just a different catchy title. So I just wanted to recommend them, and if anyone else has any other recommendations of magazines that are similarly original and genuine, I’d love to hear about them.

‘The Mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.’

~ Plutarch

Summer in the Kitchen

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Blueberry Muffins

Thank you all so much for your comments on my last post. I have not been well and Jay has also been ill with a nasty flu bug and it is so nice to read your words. They really do cheer me up when I’m not feeling so great.

After writing that post about finding rhythm in routine, all of that got thrown out of the window this past week. Is it just me, or do you find that the minute you write about something, events arrive in your life to prove it all wrong?

Still, one place I always come back to is the kitchen. Preparing food is such an integral part of our lives, one I’ve not always accepted whole-heartedly. I do enjoy eating good food of course, who doesn’t? But I do sometimes resent having to spend so much time cooking. This then brings on the guilt. That little voice in my head that tells me how I ought to be grateful for having the means to buy and cook healthy delicious meals for me and my children.

Taking the time to pre-plan meals and to use fresh healthy ingredients goes some way to making the job of cooking every day more enjoyable. We are lucky to have a greengrocer’s in our nearby town and I am able to get lots of fresh fruit and vegetables at often very low prices.

I tend to buy what’s available from season to season, but to be honest our diet doesn’t change much from summer to winter. We like what we like. And I lean towards meals that are quick and inexpensive. Apart from the inclusion of more salads and uncooked meals in the summer, our diet is mostly fish/chicken and vegetables, frittatas, pasta, homemade pizza, wraps, risottos and casseroles/stews. My children love spicy mexican dishes and roast dinners so I cook them occasionally, and prepare something lighter for myself. I’ve been eating less meat, bread and pasta lately and feel much better for it.

In the pictures here are some blackcurrants and redcurrants picked from the garden and pepper and goat’s cheese frittata. My mum gave us a couple of bunches of magic purple runner beans from her garden which turn green when you cook them and taste just the same as ordinary ones. I found a recipe for Creamy Chicken and Green Bean Pesto Pasta, which everyone in the house loved. I think it may be the first time I’ve got Jay to eat green beans! There was pesto and vegetable pizza, juicy watermelon  (one of the very best things about this time of year) as well as Blueberry Muffins and Apple and Cinnamon loaf cake.

My neighbour generously gave me a large bag of rhubarb. I’ve never been that keen on rhubarb so have been searching for years for a recipe that I actually liked. I think I have found it in these Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble Muffins – a recipe I stumbled upon on the Quince Tree blog. Sue has some incredible recipes on her blog, which is where I found the above pictured Pineapple-Chilli Salsa – an easy and healthy addition to so many meals, and only takes a minute to make!

As I was writing this a baby thrush flew in my living room window and gave me such a fright. It flew around the room then straight back at the window. I flung it wide open and it flew straight out again! I am thinking it might be a sign that I need to spend more time out of doors🙂

So, I’m glad to be feeling better and hope to catch up with all your blogs soon. Emily has gone away to Soul Survivor Camp today and I have secret plans to redecorate her bedroom as a surprise. Though I may have overestimated my ability to get it all done in 6 days! I’d better get to work🙂

Apple and Cinnamon Cake

 

August Writing Prompts

August Writing Prompts

I have got a little out of step of late. The world and life knocks you about from time to time and the rhythm of our lives gets disrupted. I crave routine these days. I am finding more and more that I do not need so much excitement and adventure in my life. Being at home and living in gentle rhythm is just fine by me.

Days filled with reading, writing, knitting, sewing, preparing food, laundry, playing with paints, drawing, playing and talking to my children, long walks, planting seeds, weeding, household chores (okay, I could do without so much of the cleaning, haha).

Is this turning away from the world – burying my head in the sand? Perhaps it is. All I know is that, for me, it is a needful thing. It is that or choke to death on my own despair (a little melodramatic maybe, but not so far from the truth). For me it is not so much a turning away as a turning towards. Towards those things where I can have a direct impact on my life and the lives of those I love.

When I am focused on the news and current events that are taking place far away, my attention has been withdrawn from where I actually am. I might not be truly listening to the people I am with, or able to discern that poem that is bubbling up inside me right now, or notice if a neighbour needs someone to walk their dog when they’re ill, or what letter I could write to my local council that could make a small difference. There is always something that needs my attention right now . When my attention is on the latest world news, it is not here where I can actually take action.

I’ll still keep a distant eye on what is happening in the world so that I can make informed decisions for voting and suchlike. But otherwise, I’m making a conscious choice to get up close with the personal.

These writing prompts are a move to that end. Writing in my journal over the years has been an enriching part of my life. I find I write best when I do not have a prescribed subject but just a word or an image to spark the flow of whatever needs to come forth that day. I’ll share some of what I’ve written here on my blog and maybe if you’d like to join me you could link to your own posts or share your thoughts in the comments.

Not that what I write need always be deep and meaningful. But just the regular rhythm of writing brings me closer to the soul, closer to what life’s all about. And heaven knows we all need a little more of that.

Kim x

Zen Kitty

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Cats love to sit in the most peculiar places, don’t they? At least this one does.

Bo is absolutely adored in this house. It is hard to imagine that a cat could get more attention than this one. Jay, Emily and I dote on her every minute that she deigns to come home and grace us with her presence. She revels in all the attention she receives. We just love her funny behaviours. She sits sometimes and stares at the wall for several minutes, or jumps up randomly at nothing in particular.

She both hates and is fascinated by running water. Her favourite places to sit are in any kind of basket or vaguely round-shaped thing that she can squeeze herself into. Another favourite spot is on top of my computer. Then she’ll look up at me, as if daring me to move her, with that ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ kinda face. She knows very well she can get away with pretty much anything she likes. She does this especially when I have an assignment due – it’s as if she has a sixth sense about these things. Not only Zen kitty, but psychic kitty too🙂

The Spirit of Trees

Bark

She wanders, weaving slowly through the trees. Her feet kicking up the decaying leaf litter on the forest floor. Pausing at the base of an oak, wide as half a dozen people around, she wraps her arms around its trunk and lays her cheek against the rough bark.

As if listening to the ocean in a conch shell, she hears the life of the tree deep inside. A quiet smooth rushing and the soft trickle of sap.

The sunlight dances on her skin as she sinks down to sit on the arched roots where the tree clings to the ground. Her cheek brushes moss, a cushion, a contrast to the parched cracked texture of the bark.

Its wrinkled skin, impermeable, etched with the lines of life, of wisdom, holds her close in spirit. And right then she knows, after so long searching among people, here is where she belongs. The forest is her tribe, the oak her elder. She need search no more.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ~ Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenI’d seen this book floating about the Internet for a while, and when I spotted it in a charity bookshop I knew it was coming home with me. Though I must confess, it was the intriguing cover and title that initially piqued my interest.

It is the story of Jacob, a teenager who discovers, under his grandfather’s bed, a secret box of bizarre photographs of unusual or ‘peculiar’ children. When his grandfather dies in a particularly gruesome way, Jacob sets off on an adventure to a remote Welsh island to find out if there is any truth to the photographs and his grandfather’s strange stories. Jacob discovers that there is an unseen world, out of sight of ordinary people, and this discovery will change his life forever.

Ever since I was young, I’ve been attracted to the ‘Alice in Wonderland’  kind of story, where a secret magical reality is uncovered; a world within a world that points to the fact that reality is not always as it seems.

In the back pages of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, there is a series of questions in conversation with the author Ransom Riggs, with some interesting insight:

One of the themes of Miss Peregrine, and I think of any novel that involves the discovery of a secret world, is awakening—the protagonist’s awakening to an awesome and wonderful and, in some ways, terrible reality he scarcely could’ve imagined before, but that was right under his nose all along. At the end of Miss Peregrine, Jacob writes that his life was never ordinary, but he ‘had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.’

By far the most interesting thing about this book is the collection of black and white photographs. These are all original ‘found’ images, used to inspire and illustrate the story. The images are strange, often creepy, with unusual compositions, shadows and reflections. They arouse curiosity and I’m afraid, for me, the story just didn’t live up to the expectations inspired by the photographs. It was a good idea, but I was left feeling disappointed.

After a long slow build up and brief climax, the story dwindled to an unsatisfying conclusion. Not that every story must wrap up each loose end, but the open ending here leads onto the next book in the series and I wasn’t seized to rush out and buy the next installment. Although, perhaps you do get to know the characters in more depth in those subsequent stories.

I would be interested to see some more collections of the strange photographs and think they would make an excellent book by themselves.

Emily would like to see the film adapted from this book which comes out later in the year, so we’re looking forward to that. With Tim Burton directing, I am hoping he can make more out of what really had the potential to be a great young adult fantasy story.

Tales from the Garden

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It is that time of year again, when every plant in the garden doubles in size if I so much as turn my back – that goes for the weeds as well. I have just spent the last few hours uprooting ground elder and the dried dead remains of spring’s forget-me-nots, and pulling great handfuls of herb robert and cleavers that were intertwining with and choking the shrubs. There are still plenty left for making herbal teas… it’s been a while since I dried some herbs so I look forward to getting on with that soon.

The wee fella in the nest at the top was rescued from the darned cat who’d deposited it on the lawn. She sat there proudly as if we would come and congratulate her fine hunting skills! Instead, she was promptly scooped up and locked in the house while we searched in vain for the little bird’s nest. The blue tit chick was yet too young to fly, so we made a nest in a bowl and wedged it high up in the hedge in the hope its parents would come and feed it. Sadly he didn’t make it to the next morning.

The fruit and veg are coming along nicely. We’ve had a couple of handfuls of strawberries and there are hundreds of blackcurrants ripening on the bushes. The fruiting cherry is a disappointment this year, only a few small fruits forming when last year we had so many. I think I may have to transplant it out into the garden rather than leave it in the pot it’s been in the past few years. It no longer seems happy where it is, perhaps the roots are restricted.

We’ve been eating salad leaves and leeks. My favourite way to eat leeks is to slice them and boil them in the same pan as potatoes, then mash them altogether with butter – delicious!  The kale, beetroot and chard are suffering from the onslaught of slugs, but putting on a brave face.

The flowers are always a joy to see at this time of year. The iris, celandines, foxgloves, fragrant sweet peas and roses are all in bloom. It’s nice to be able to go out and pick a jam jar full of sweet peas to brighten the kitchen table every few days.

I’m afraid with all the rain we’ve had lately, the garden is a bit neglected. I’m regretting leaving it so long. The brambles grow over the fence from my neighbour’s garden and it’s such a tricky job cutting them all back, my arms are scratched to pieces. It’s good work though. The plants are no longer being strangled by the weeds. My body’s aching, but it’s a worthy kind of ache. I’ll sleep well tonight🙂

30 Days Wild: Ant Colony

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I lifted my garden parasol the other day to find this intricate ant kingdom beneath it. It’s quite a work of art with its labyrinthine passageways don’t you think?

I did feel guilty for upsetting the hundreds of ants who went a little crazy on finding themselves exposed to the daylight. However, they have since taken up residence on the lawn and seem to have settled into making their new home.

These were black ants or Lasius Niger. If you look closely you can see the larvae. It won’t be long before some of them grow wings and take flight to make new nests elsewhere.

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The Bookseller of Kabul

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Afghanistan would probably not be high on my list of places to visit should I get the chance, but it was a fascinating visit via this non-fiction book by Asne Seierstad.

The author is a Norwegian journalist who has reported on war zones such as Syria , Iraq and Chechnya. This book is an account of her stay with a large Afghan family after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

I did find the journalistic writing a bit jarring after a while – I found myself wanting a more personal point of view – but it was worth reading for the detail into lives that are very different, unimaginably different, to my own.

The book brought up a lot of conflicting feelings – sympathy for the bookseller and members of his family for the suffering they had to endure under the Taliban regime, but also frustration and fierce anger over the treatment and lives of the women.

I felt especially for poor Leila, a nineteen year old girl and lowest in the pecking order of the house. She does all the cooking, cleaning, and caring for the extended family, working from dawn to midnight every day and never has time alone.

“Leila never walks alone. It is not good for a young girl to walk about without company. Who knows where she might be going? Maybe to meet a man, maybe to commit a sin. Leila does not even walk alone to the greengrocer a few minutes away from the apartment. She usually takes a neighbour’s boy along with her, or asks him to run errands for her. Alone is an unknown idea for Leila. She has never, ever, anywhere, at any time, been alone. She has never been alone in the apartment, never gone anywhere alone, and never remained anywhere alone, never slept alone. Every night she sleeps on the mat beside her mother. She quite simply does not know what it is to be alone, nor does she miss it. The only thing she wishes for is a bit more peace and not so much to do.”

Leila is treated worse than a servant and dreams of a different life where she might have gone to university or been a teacher.

The Afghani people as portrayed here, are stuck in a kind of no man’s land – half wanting to be pulled into the modern world, but also resisting that and clinging to the staunch traditions of Islam with which they’ve been brought up.

It was the dusty, overcrowded, claustrophobic atmosphere of the house where they all lived that lingers with me the most. The women of this family may have willingly, gladly even, thrown off the Burka, but there is still so much of the oppressive system deeply ingrained into their behaviour that it is clear it will take generations to shrug that off.

Reading this gave me greater understanding into how ordinary people with essentially good hearts get trapped into oppressive cycles; an interesting, but definitely not easy read.

Vincients Wood

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We recently took a wander through a small ancient wood in the nearby town of Chippenham. It is our nearest wildlife trust site, and I was amazed to have never been there before as it was only about a mile from where I grew up.

Hidden and completely enclosed by dual carriageway and housing estates, it is surprising this little gem of woodland survives at all.

The trees, oak, ash and maple form a canopy, muffling some of the outside sounds. A robin hopped from tree stump to hawthorn as we wandered down the overgrown paths.

Despite the noise of the nearby road, it is still a pleasant place to spend a couple of hours. The air was cool and clean and otherworldly, the wood anemones were in flower and the ground was wet through with the smell of damp wood and crumbling leaves.

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