Why we love Pilates

Imagine exercise that’s good for the body and mind, free of gym fees and able to be practiced anywhere… that’s Pilates.

I’ve taken Pilates classes under instruction; watched DVDs in my living room. Now that I know what I’m doing, my favourite thing is to find a new beach or park, roll out my mat and breath my way through a simple routine.

Doing Pilates helps me relax and quieten my mind. I’m not one of those mummas who likes to exercise with my kids (sorry guys). I like to be alone, just me, my thoughts and nature. I don’t like to stare at four walls. Out by the ocean or under a canopy of green leaves is where I find peace.

All you need is a yoga mat. Occasionally I’ll light a scented candle or play some relaxing tunes to add to the ambience.

If you’re thinking of getting into Pilates I would recommend taking a couple of classes to learn the basic techniques, breathing and moves. Then the world is your oyster. For beginners I recommend Lindsay Jackson’s Pilates in Pregnancy and 15 minute Everyday Pilates by Alycea Ungaro.

My favourite way to end a session is with a quiet meditation or mindfulness activity. Check out the free Smiling Mind app which is one of my faves!

Until next time, happy stretching Xx

Where have all the neighbours gone?

When was the last time you had your neighbour around for a cup of tea? Do you even know what their name is? How often do you get to catch up with your friends, or talk to them on the phone, or write them a letter? When was the last time you met someone new, and struck up a new friendship? Sadly, the answer for many of us ‘busy’ people out there is rarely, or never. Is sitting down for a conversation with a friendly face really such a waste of time?

Recently I read an article that explored the idea that although the time we have for leisure activities has increased, we are feeling busier than ever. I think perhaps that’s why we’ve lost our sense of community. Because we’re too busy getting our own stuff together to care much about everyone else. We’re so caught up in our own business of living that we’ve forgotten about the outside world. We give more time and attention to our careers, tidy homes and other ‘productive’ outputs than we do our relationships. And I think it’s hurting us.

There are more people living on Earth than ever before, living closer to each other than ever before, and yet people are still feeling isolated, lonely and depressed. As a young person who moved to a new town, far away from family and friends, and become a stay at home mum I can truly say there was no lonelier time in my life. They say it takes a tribe to raise a child, and yet most of us are doing it on our own, behind closed doors. No wonder so many of us are struggling.

It’s sad to think that my local Country Womens’ Association branch is closing due to a lack of new memberships. CWA is a wonderful organisation that is all about women supporting each other and their community and yet no one wants to be part of it anymore. Why is it now considered lame or trivial to spend time with other women doing fun activities such as cooking or craft, talking about our struggles and dreams, making friends with people from an older generation, and working together on community projects?

I think it’s because we’re just so out of touch with each other. We’re glued to social media without realising it’s a world that only exists in our devices. It satisfies our need for information but leaves a massive gap when it comes to feeling truly connected. I hate to say it but it even feels a little bit lazy and I am the first to admit it… I am guilty of being a lazy friend. Posts and comments on Facebook don’t even start to compare to a hug and a chat over a cup of tea. And the reason? Because I am sooooooo busy. Well goodbye busy! It’s time for a new perspective on things. It’s about time I started placing more value on relationships and a sense of community over getting things done and scrolling through my newsfeed.

Last night I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. We shared a nice bottle of wine and just talked. I feel like I’ve hit the reset button, like a huge weight has come off my shoulders, and that I belong. It truely is a wonderful feeling.

So lookout neighbours and old friends… I’m coming for you! Xx

Anyone can grow an edible garden

Spring is here so now is the perfect time to venture outside and plant an edible garden. It’s an amazing feeling to grow your own produce and serve it up to your family and friends.

Whether you’re a green thumb or serial plant killer, there is an option for everyone. It doesn’t need to be expensive and you don’t need to have a lot of gear. In this blog we’ll show you how.

Start simple

If you don’t have a lot of time or money, or just want something fun to do with the kids, why not grow some yummy chia sprouts to add to your salad? All you need to do is sprinkle some chia seeds (the regular supermarket variety) onto some potting mix in a little pot or you could recycle something like an egg carton. Keep the soil moist and place your pot in a sunny position indoors (such as a window sill) or out and you’ll have little chia sprouts in no time. Little ones will delight in seeing those tiny little seeds grow quickly into lovely fresh shoots.

Enjoy fresh herbs

Mint for you mojito? Fresh oregano for your pizza? Heck yes! If you’re ready to graduate from chia sprout growing why not try your hand at a bespoke herb garden? Herb varieties do really well in pots, so they’re great if you’re renting or don’t have a garden bed. Simply choose your favourites, plant them into a large pot and water regularly.

Fresh herbs deliver so much extra flavour to your cooking and look so pretty. Some herbs like rosemary and tarragon also flower and their blooms look really sweet cut in little bud vases.

Go all out with a vege patch

If you have the time and inclination why not jump into the deep end like me and plant yourself a vege patch. You could try a raised bed, or simply add some top soil and garden edging to a spare spot in your backyard and cultivate a garden that way.

Don’t be afraid to plant anything and everything. Seedlings are inexpensive and if your crop fails it’s really no biggy. You’ll soon learn what does and doesn’t like your climate and soil. Things that are generally easy to grow include zucchinis, tomatos, strawberries, lettuce, and citrus fruits.

Planted at the right time and with plenty of water you’ll be amazed at how well they grow with little intervention. The kids will love getting involved with planting and harvesting too.

It doesn’t take a lot to get started. My gardening kit includes gloves, secatuers, garden stakes and cloth/ties. We buy our seedlings from the local produce markets, so we can be confident that what we’re planting will be in season, and it’s cheaper.

If you’re time poor (aren’t we all?) I highly recommend investing in an irrigation system to make regular watering easier. Our go-to, budget method is to install sprinklers in the garden bed with a simple hose attachment.

For more great, reliable advice visit the Gardening Australia website.

No matter where you begin, remember it’s beginning that counts.

Until next time, happy gardening Xx

Avoiding the urge to do too much

One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered trying to live at a slower pace is actually finding the time to be slow. Ironic right? As it turns out it’s actually really hard to slow down in the fast-paced modern life we exist in. Even with the best of intentions to slow down, I actually found myself doing more work. For example, baking every weekend, instead of buying processed foods, and planting a vegetable garden which needed my constant love and attention. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I was actually burning out while trying to slow down. I started to argue with my husband about jobs that had to be done, and offload my child more often so I could ‘get stuff done’.

I learned a big lesson. To slow down you must learn to outsource, say no and prioritise the things that bring you life. I came to the realisation that it’s just not possible to work, raise young children, have a sparkling clean house, enjoy home cooked, healthy meals, exercise, have a social life and spend time on hobbies all at the same time. Well not for me anyway, there just weren’t enough hours in the day and something had to give.

So even with the best of intentions, I found slowing down really hard.

Here’s how I am doing it. And I must caveat this with “I’m still learning”, so it’s likely in another six months I’ll be finding new ways to ‘keep the peace’ and enjoy a more laid-back lifestyle.

  1. I hired a housekeeper. I actually don’t mind housework, in fact being the perfectionist I am, I get a real kick from freshly mopped floors and an empty laundry hamper. However, it just wasn’t the best use of my time. As a manager and strategist in my professional life, I could see that spending my time on housework wasn’t providing a good return on investment. So I outsourced. Now my spare time is free to write, play, snuggle with my baby girl and do other things. I only have the housekeeper come once a fortnight for a couple of hours, so it doesn’t break the bank. For the jobs the housekeeper doesn’t do, I schedule them into my week so I can complete those mundane tasks as efficiently and infrequently as possible. For example, I schedule two days per week for washing, and one for folding/ironing, so I don’t find myself doing those jobs every day. And I only wash and pack the dishwasher, and tidy Elsie’s play area once at the end of the day, again, reducing the frequency of those pesky time-consuming tasks.
  2. I started shopping for groceries online. Living in a regional area I’m no stranger to online shopping, however, I wasn’t an early adopter of online grocery shopping. I had a bit of a trust issue with other people choosing my fruit and vegetables and other items. But I got over that pretty quickly (you can even specify preferences/notes on each item if you’re so inclined). It’s a big time saver and I don’t have the hassle of parking, pushing a trolley, loading and unloading. Yes, I pay a delivery fee, but I bought an annual delivery subscription so it’s much more affordable.
  3. I became best friends with my freezer. Baking every week just wasn’t possible, however, I still wanted to eat home-baked, nutritious foods. Now I always cook in bulk and freeze what I am not going to eat straight away. Biscuits, cakes, savouries and leftover dinners freeze and defrost beautifully, ready for lunchboxes and visitors. And if I run out of time to cook, there is usually something healthy waiting to be zapped in the microwave for lunch or dinner. I am a big believer in the ‘cook once, eat twice’ philosophy, again aiming for maximum efficiency.
  4. I simplified my morning routine and rise earlier. Two words: BB cream. I have simplified my daily make up routine to BB cream, mascara and an eyebrow comb. By doing this I still feel like I am taking care of myself, without the burden of half an hour of make-up application (now reserved for special occasions only). I rise earlier now so I have a bit of ‘me time’ before Elsie’s wakes. I am definitely not a morning person, so allocating an hour to rise slowly and have some quiet time makes me feel so much more ready to face the day.
  5. Last but not least I have been making a conscious effort to try not to overestimate what I can achieve in one day. I was finding myself feeling constantly dissapointed that I wasn’t ‘acheiveing’ everything that needed to be done. Now I look at what needs to be done in the week and break it down into realistic daily lists based on whatever else is going on that day. I am trying to prioritise the things that have to be done, i.e. prepping for dinner, over those things that I might like to do on a whim, i.e. scrolling my Facebook feed, or popping out to the shops, so that I am not trying to squeeze too much in and rushing in the evenings. It takes a lot of discipline, let me tell you! But I am surprisingly happy with my efforts so far in being able to control and limit myself, and let go of what I cannot fit in. A big mantra for me at the moment is ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’ so I remind myself of this when I find myself lamenting on saying no to someone or something. If I want to be able to give to others, I must first I must take care of myself.

If, like me, you’re struggling with trying to be everything to everbody and live a happy, ‘slow’ life I hope that these tips will help inspire you to try a new approach and find peace within your home and yourself.

Until next time,

Emily xx

Here we go ’round the merry-go-around.

It’s another one of those weeks. Elsie is sick, my husband is away at work and now Elsie has passed on her bug to me and I feel like, well, poo. And I’m trying to take a nap, but I’m scrolling through my newsfeed and there’s something about FIFO/DIDO workers ( which seems to be quite topical of late) and I am compelled to read on. Goodbye nap, hello inspiration.

The writer is saying how hard it is to work in mining, on a roster, away from your family, in less than pleasant conditions. It’s true. I am usually the one complaining how hard it is to be the one at home, with the sick baby, on my own, but it’s equally as tough for my husband. I can only sympathise though, as I have no idea what it would be like to be out there on your own, a million miles away from reality and your friends and family, working for 12 and a half hours, dawn till dusk, or dusk till dawn, day after day. To my husband: thank you. Thank you for doing that so we can afford our wonderful lifestyle.

But it does make me wonder. Is it all worth it? Are our well-paying jobs worth it? Is having this beautiful house and a new car worth it? Money makes us comfortable, but does it make us happy? If we had less money would there be more stress because we couldn’t do the things we want, or be spontaneous, or fly home to see family when we felt like it? The answer: I don’t know.

Some days I just want to throw caution to the wind and pursue my dreams, however wild they may be. But most of the time I just let comfort and security hold me back. At times I tell my husband to quit work and find another job so he can live at home with us all the time, and then I think of all our plans for the future and how much further we’ll be from achieving those dreams if we can’t afford them. It’s a hard question. Live for the moment or live for the future? I don’t have the answer.

One thing I am certain of is that I spend way too much time thinking about everything I haven’t got and not practising gratefulness. Like when Justin isn’t here to help me, and material things I ‘need’ to buy, or things in my house that I want to change, not to mention the jobs that haven’t been done.

Starting today I am going to make a conscious effort to stop dwelling on the negative and focus on what I do have. All the wonderful things I own like our beautiful furniture, and books, and craft supplies hidden away in those back cupboards. What I can give to others, and what can I make for myself and my family. And of course, most important of all, all the wonderful love of my husband and daughter during the special times we do spend together.

Image note: A photo from my morning walk, just 5 minutes down the road from my house. How lucky am I to live in such a beautiful part of the world?!

 

Life in the fast lane, surely make you lose your mind

Thanks for the reminder Eagles! If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know by now I’ve been trying a change of pace and hoping to get more out of life by doing less, and guess what — it’s working!

For anyone who knows me, this comes as no surprise… but I’m a bit of a control freak. It’s not an ego thing, I actually just want everything to be perfect and I spend a lot of time thinking about and researching the best way to do things. My mind is constantly in analyse mode – better, faster, more efficient…. You get the drift. So when someone’s doing something differently (hubby for example), I’m like ‘hold on mate… this is how you’re supposed to do it’ or ‘hold on, you’re doing it wrong, let me do it’. Now that I am getting a bit older (and wiser), I have realised that perfect isn’t really all that great. In the pursuit of perfection I would just end up doing too much and not sharing the load, or being continually disappointed. Not to mention always second guessing myself and driving myself crazy with my own indecision. It’s time to let go!

I work in a busy marketing role. I used to feel unhappy at work all the time, like I had too much to do, and not enough time, money or manpower to do it. What I realised is that despite this, as a team we continued to deliver some pretty cool outcomes in these tough circumstances (which I may add are not unique to my workplace, but seem to be the common experience regardless of industry). Everyone is much happier if we’re more realistic about what we can achieve with our limited resources and work together on solutions for the challenges and setbacks, rather than being rigid and expecting perfection at every turn. In fact, some of the best moments in my career have been born from imperfection. If things don’t to plan, and yet you can still achieve a really good result, that’s what I call real satisfaction.

Talking about work, I’ve decided that to be able to have the lifestyle I want at this point in time, I am going to have to work less (in my paid job that it). In life, you have to make choices. I am not bitter about it. I want to have a career, be an at-home mother and pursue my own hobbies and interests, but what I’ve found is that I can’t work full time and do all these things, as I am burning out. So part time it is. What an awesome job I have to enjoy such flexibility! I don’t feel like I am putting my life or my career on hold, just putting a stop spreading myself too thinly. Yes, we’re going to have a bit less pocket money (a lot less), but I guess I’ll just have to bake more from scratch and find some other thrifty ways to make our dollar stretch further.

Living more slowly is all about changing your habits. One thing I find hard about trying to change my habits is simply remembering it is that you’re trying to achieve. I am a bit like a distracted puppy, jumping from idea to idea, forgetting all my resolutions as I go. A couple of Facebook pages I have found to be a great daily reminder to slow down and smell the roses include The Hands Free Revolutation and Becoming UnBusy.

For the past 28 years, I have done very little to live slowly — in fact, I have always gone 100 miles an hour. I never slept during the day as a baby (sorry mum; truly!), playing every sport at highschool, worked nights and weekends throughout uni… You get the drift. So needless to say it was (and still is) going to be a hard habit to break, but a couple months into my journey I am finally starting to make a breakthrough. I am finally trying to squeeze less into a day and not feel guilty about it. Hooray! For example; two weeks worth of washing is sitting in the back room unfolded and here I am blogging. It urks me, but I’m holding back and letting go.

Oh and another thing I have been excited about, well a bit of a revelation actually! Drumroll please… Sleep isn’t the only activity that gives me energy. Sure it’s really important, and you need to be getting enough of it to be happy and healthy (experts say at least 7 hours), but becoming a mum has made sleep a real obsession for me. An annoying obsession: how much the baby was getting, how much I was getting… you know the struggle: always trying to lay down when the baby went to sleep. Feeling angry that I couldn’t sleep because I knew I wouldn’t get another chance. So anyway I decided enough was enough. I didn’t want to be stressing about sleep anymore. So I tried some EFT (counselling technique) and it helped me to unpack my feelings about sleep and let them go. And you know what? It worked! Now I sleep when I really want to sleep — not when I feel I have to. And if I want to do something else, like write, sew, cook or just read, I do. I even started getting up two hours earlier to exercise and have ‘me time’ before Elsie woke up and it was awesome. Granted I have let that slip, but back on the bandwagon this week, promise!

So what slow activities have I been up to? Well, heaps! Picnics in the countryside with family, visiting the art gallery, baking treats to take to work (see recipe below), gardening and sewing a little dress for Elsie to name a few. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Here’s my date slice recipe — it’s quick and delicious, so; winning! You can also substitute dried apricots for the dates and drizzle some dark chocolate on the top (after baking) for a fancy touch.

  • 1.5 cups dates, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 250 g melted butter

Mix ingredients together and press into a slice tray. Bake in a 180-degree celsius (fan forced) oven until golden brown on top (about 20-25 mins). Bake for less time if you want it really soft and chewy, or a bit longer if you want it more crisp but take care not to burn it. OMG this is so yummy, and quick to make!

Also on the cooking front, now with the cooler weather settling in it’s the perfect time to get out the slow cooker for some old-fashioned, hearty meals. From the Complete Slow Cooker by Sally Wise. I made the Lancashire Hot Pot, and served it with homemade ciabatta bread (feature image for this post). This combo was to die for, and I was proud as punch for making it from scratch. I don’t have a bread maker so the ciabatta took a little while, but was simple enough and totally worth the wait. I used the Lauke brand pre-mix. It was great.

So there you have it. I am well on my way to living more slowly, and I am looking forward to spending some more time at home with my little pumpkin. Please share with me your tips on living slowly; what’s worked and what hasn’t as I love hearing your feedback and ideas!

With love,

Emily x

 

 

 

Making progress, slowly

So my first weekend of try to be slow went a little like this. How can I be slow all weekend? What are all the slow things I should be doing? Oh I know, I’ll do all my housework on Friday night so I can relax for the rest of the weekend. Hey, let’s cook a million things from scratch rather than buying them fro the supermarket-that’s slow. Let’s go to the beach for the afternoon, great. Let’s have friends over for brunch, even better. Hold on, what? I’m exhausted, I’ve been flat out all weekend. Somewhere between the homemade custard, zoodles (zucchini noodles) and getting stuff done to make free time, I lost my way. I became a slow try hard.

So what did I learn? Being slow doesn’t mean doing everything slow. It means putting a bit more slow into your life, not being obsessed with it.

So I toned it down a bit. I invited the CWA ladies over on Saturday for handcraft and a cuppa, and went for a stroll at the beach and a play at the park. I had a sneaky nap yesterday and did no housework at all. Now I’m sitting here in my trackies while my baby girl is having a snooze and I’m catching up on the latest episode of MKR (recorded, naturally, because sometimes I can only dream of having enough time to sit and watch a TV show). And to indulge in all this slowness, I’ve had to make sacrifices. The floors are a bit messy, I haven’t meal prepped for the week ahead and my hair isn’t blowdried. But I’m coming to terms with it, and I am feeling pretty damn good. Maybe I’m starting to get the balance right.

One of my great loves, which I have been reacquainting myself with, is reading. I do read books, but at the moment I’m loving a couple of new magazines I’ve stumbled across. Lunch Lady has heaps of cool parenting ideas and recipes and Breathe is all about health, mindfullness and wellbeing. I enjoy reading a couple of articles as I wind down in the evening. For me, reading is like a constant little reminder to live more slowly. I like the way reading brings new ideas and inspiration, and at other times offers a different perspective on things. I think it’s good for the mind and soul.

Now, I want to talk about slow cookers (love, love, love). I was given a slow cooker when I moved out of home, and I never used it much-until now. Could there be anything better or more comforting than meat falling off the bone and tender vegetables bubbling away in a delicious sauce? What makes this cooking method even more appealing to me is that slow cooker recipies usually suit the cheaper cuts of meat (promoting the head to tail eating ethos), require little prep time, and fill my home with wonderful aromas as I get on with other things. But wait, there’s more. Slow cooker dishes lend themselves really well to freezing. So I can cook now and eat later-winning! I have found some wonderful recipes in the Complete Slow Cooker by Sally Wise. So far I have tried (and loved) Braised Lamb Shanks with Lemon Couscous (pictured, kitchen note: I amplified the lemon in the couscous by adding juice) and Corned Beef. Next I want to try Cabbage Rolls, and Moroccan Lamb. Yum!

In the garden, the herbs are becoming well established. The basil is really taking off, and I read somewhere that I should nip off the flower heads and stems before they become woody in order to keep the leaves young and tasty. The herbs are so abundant, I am going to harvest some to take into work tomorrow, so my work mates can enjoy them too.

I’m trying to spend some more time doing crafts. Presently I am learning how to do hand embroidery. My teacher is Shirley from the CWA and gosh she is patient with me. Yesterday she was showing me a new stitch and damn it’s hard! The older I get the more I realise how I (and many like me) expect instant gratification. I often think I can try a new thing and do it perfectly from the get go. No. Good things require dedication, practice, failing and learning. I’m really glad I’m challanging myself to learn this new skill, no matter how difficult. I’m working on some secret projects that I will be able to share with you next time.

Here’s some ideas on how you can take it slow this week, without over doing it.

  • Take yourself out to breakfast.
  • Find a new book or magazine to read.
  • Enjoy a long, hot bath.
  • Organise a slow cooker meal for Sunday.

For all those following along at home, how have you been going in your own pursuit of slow? Did you learn anything you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear from you. Just click comment. Also, you can subscribe to our blog as well, so you will get emails when we post. A good idea if you’re like me and like having content delivered straight to you inbox.

Until next time,

Emily X