Monday, April 25, 2016

MITs and simple pleasures




It is rather difficult to work from home when the weather is as good as it has been for the past week. In fact, I cannot remember the last time it rained, and this is the west of Ireland. I keep making excuses to get up and do something that involves fresh air and sunshine (such as finally peeling off the foil on the new door frames, which clearly states "Remove immediately after installation"... oops.).

In an attempt to tick off at least some of the items on my to-do list, I have dug out one of those productivity tips I had stored away in a corner of my brain, which is to set the three most important tasks (MITs) of the day first thing in the morning. While I always have a million things I ought to do swirling around in my head, determining and writing these three down - and, crucially, thinking of them as 'most important' - helps me to focus. I have two sets of threes, one for work (both the Uni work and my freelance work) and one for everything else (these days, at least two of that second set are house- or garden-related, and the other one tends to be something to do with correspondence or organising, for example meal planning or scheduling things). It is so simple and works so much better than my overfilled and overwhelming diary (which I still keep, but I now try not to stuff sheets of paper covered with more scribbles into it).

I know I always go on about aromatherapy, but there is such a strong link between smells and wellbeing, and, perhaps accentuated by the sun, I am noticing them much more, and 'stop to smell the roses' throughout the day. The soaps pictured above were housewarming gifts, including a cinnamon soap from Germany, and they smell and look amazing.

We had friends over for lunch on Friday and Sunday, and I ended up making the same cake twice. I used to make this lemon-blueberry cake a lot a few years ago, but this time I made it with coconut sugar, which gives it a darker, more wholesome appearance (even if the health benefits over white sugar may not be that considerable). I love using citrus peel in baking and cooking (grating lime peel onto stir fries is a favourite).

 The garden is bursting with activity. You can watch things grow; the neighbours' dogs and cats visit; and we have added a bird bath (another gift) to the bird feeder - a safe distance from the cats' reach. I spent a good chunk of my work-from-home Friday weeding, which has got to be one of the most therapeutic tasks there are. The specks of orange in the photo above are calendula, which is not a weed, but we have tons of it (I need to ask my mom for her recipe for calendula balm), and a couple fell victim to John's polytunnel tidy-up.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Books and music and free time

 Drusilla Modjeska, Stravinsky's Lunch

Co. Clare with a blanket of snow

This is one of those weekends with only a couple of scheduled activities, an introvert's heaven and firmly within my comfort zone, which is exactly what I need at the moment, or so I tell myself. I now own a copy of one of my favourite books, Stravinsky's Lunch by Drusilla Modjeska, about the Australian artists Stella Bowen and Grace Cossington Smith. The same friend who introduced me to Modjeska's work gave me this beautiful edition. It was such a wonderful surprise, and I am falling in love with it all over again. The book is about the relationship between art and life (and love), examining the two very different paths of these two women's careers and personal lives, taking in modernism, feminism, Australian history, and Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.

Life was so busy for the first three months of this year that it feels spectacularly luxurious to sit and read or just sit - I have embarked on yet another attempt at making meditation a habit. The author Natalie Goldberg wrote this piece about struggling to make it a routine, which is encouraging to read for those of us who are too hard on ourselves. My younger sister does a Yoga Nidra style meditation when she breastfeeds and thus builds it into her day. On dry days (of which there have been quite a few lately) I open the French doors in the sitting room and sit on the steps looking at the sea and the Burren and the constantly changing light (the photo above was taken last week, on a very cold day just before spring fully arrived).

And even the work on the house is relaxing most of the time. I have been listenintg to old Desert Island Discs interviews while painting, which has yielded beautiful new additions to my playlist (for instance "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" by Alison Krauss with Robert Plant, from an album I had been close to buying several times, but never did. Thank you, Sigrid Rausing.), as well as a heightened feeling of connectedness with others and our shared humanity, which may sound odd to a lot of my friends - I have so much catching up to do; outside work I have been isolating myself, so it is high time to actively connect.

Sunday, April 3, 2016



 A blissful, quiet, sunny and still Sunday, spent between the house and garden, hardening off plants, painting rooms and furniture and starting a spring clean that doubles as moving in. This place is paradise on a day like today.