Monday, November 28, 2016

The beauty that surrounds you*

Cottage at the bottom of our road

November morning kitchen view

Early morning commute view from the car

* John likes to sing this line from "Limerick You're A Lady" when we are in the car, accompanied by dramatic arm gestures pointing at the sunrise on the beach as we drive past, which prompts me to position his hand back on the steering wheel. While driving to work isn't fun generally, we are lucky to have such a picturesque commute (and it isn't long, 25 minutes). Whoever is the passenger (in the morning it's usually me, after one too many cringe-inducing driving incidents while at the wheel) marvels at the views and the light and tells the driver what they are missing. 

November has been kind but cold, no storms so far. We had a mouse, which made its way into the cutlery drawer and gnawed on our only pair of chopsticks. We think we have found and blocked the hole it came through and hope it didn't have a family.

Christmas is approaching way too fast, and I am busy wrapping up work projects and commissions, preparing for our (very small, thankfully) wedding, which is in December as well, and trying to paint at least one more room before the holidays, among countless other things. 

I haven't picked up any yarn in months, but with the dark evenings I think I will move from the studio to the sitting room (and the fire!) after dinner and do some knitting or crochet, something big but easy like a moss stitch blanket. It will probably have to wait until January, since I won't have many evenings at home between now and then, with all the Christmas parties. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Seaweed bath time

This week has made me crave hot showers. Even better is a seaweed bath. You can go to a spa, buy dried seaweed, or, if you live near a beach, get fresh fucus serratus, which is what we do occasionally. Afterwards we put it on vegetable beds in the garden as a fertiliser. This article about using seaweed and its miraculous properties in the garden also addresses how to collect it, as there are laws and rights (of course as individuals we only ever use a tiny amount, a small bucketful). It has become big business in the food, health and beauty industries, and it is important to harvest it in an environmentally sustainable way. During the Famine its consumption saved lives, and adding seaweed to meals is a simple way of upping your nutrients.

In a bath it is moisturising, extremely relaxing and soporific, healing and detoxifying, with a cocktail of vitamins and minerals. Some people feel squeamish about getting into the tub, as the seaweed is slimy, and while I do my best to avoid it when swimming in the sea (but more because of a fear of getting my legs entangled in it), I think it feels lovely to let yourself sink into it in a bathtub.

After scalding the fresh seaweed (or rehydrating the dried version for 15-20 minutes), it is added to the bath, which is filled with warm water. It releases its oils and also keeps the water hot much longer than usual. The body absorbs it easily, and your skin is wonderfully soft afterwards, and if you submerge your hair, it is better than any conditioner. Towards the end of the bath, which should take at least 30 minutes to get the full benefit, it is a good idea to scrub your skin with a handful of the seaweed. Apparently the seaweed can be reused, which makes the price tag of the dried seaweed  you can buy a bit less shocking (seaweed products tend to be expensive).

Baths are an absolute luxury, and we don't have them that often, as we try to be mindful of how much water we use. I am also strict about showers and never stay in there longer than necessary, turning the water off while applying products or exfoliating, so my hot showers are not of the wallowing type, but rather a short cathartic boost. Another (no waste) way of temporarily relieving a feeling of heaviness is doing this Yoga Rinse.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Paying attention

"The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty it will stay with you all the days of your life." Frank Lloyd Wright

"Pay attention. It brings such peace."
Charlotte Mendelson in the Guardian, 15/11/16

Predictions differ as to what kind of a winter this corner of the world will see this year, and it may not end up as stormy as last winter, but in any case we are making the most of the beautiful golden days and soaking up the light that October and three out of five November days so far have brought. Gradually more of the back garden is revealed as we clear away briars and nettles and free the stone wall, and the donkeys are taking care of the overgrown field behind it.

The writer Charlotte Mendelson keeps cropping up, and her non-fiction book Rhapsody in Green, about growing an abundance of food in her tiny urban garden, is on my reading list. There was a beautiful piece about her visit to Tolstoy's country estate in the Guardian recently.

I feel the need to slow down while trying to get things done that cannot be put off any longer. Late nights at work and at events or entertaining alternate with days we go to bed at 9pm. Thanks to Yoga with Adriene, I have been maintaining an almost-daily yoga practice, and I feel so much better for it, physically in myriad ways, including a stronger back and better posture, as well as mentally and emotionally. I had a bad headcold a couple of weeks ago and started burning peppermint oil while doing yoga and in the studio, and it has improved my breathing and my concentration.

Recently I started taking this skin supplement, mainly to prevent breakouts and cold sores (I stopped taking other supplement a good while ago, in the optimistic belief that I get everything I need with a good diet, and this is hopefully just a temporary aid for a stressful few months). I started with a low dose and still haven't gone up to the maximum, but it seems to be working. Then again, when you make a few changes at the same time, you cannot say which individual thing is responsible for any improvement you see, and I tend to introduce several changes simultaneously. This coincided with the beginning of my more serious yoga routine and remembering to take apple cider vinegar regularly.