Looking

I have walked past this tree hundreds of times on  my way to and from work, and I’ve never looked at it.

20170331 Tree in St David's Park 2 IG

Today I was in a go-slow mode and it caught my eye.

I noticed how it wraps around itself, whereas the surrounding trees are straight up and down. I had no idea that trees can be structured so differently. I always thought a tree was a tree was a tree.

It made me wonder how many other things I walk past without ever noticing them or looking at them.

I want to notice things. I want to pay more attention.

While I was walking with Kramstable to school this morning, some workers were in the process of cutting down a very large tree on a street corner. By the time we walked past that corner this afternoon, all evidence of the tree’s existence had gone, apart from the wood chipper and the roadworks signs. Looking across the road, it looked empty, and not quite right, but I couldn’t tell you what sort of tree it was, how big it was or anything about it, or even that there had actually been a tree there. Just that something was missing.

If we hadn’t walked that way this morning and I hadn’t seen the tree being removed, I wonder if I would have even noticed it had gone the next time I went past.

That scares me.

I want to notice things. I want to pay more attention.

Adventures in sourdough

I’ve been interested in sourdough breadmaking for a while and have tried making it a few times, but have never been very happy with the result, so I decided I needed some professional help.

A couple of years ago a friend told me about sourdough workshops that Kate Flint runs out of the Garden Shed and Pantry in Cygnet.  Lil Sis and I had talked about going ever since, and were going to gift a ticket to each other for Christmas in 2015. It never really happened, and I kept getting the emails about the workshops and never got around to organising to go. This time I said to Lil Sis that we were going, we booked, organised some accommodation for the night and on Friday afternoon we set off.

The workshop was run in two sessions. The first one on Friday night, was where Kate introduced us to sourdough and we made our dough using Kate’s starter. We then had to leave it overnight for an 8.30 start the next morning. Before we left for the night, Kate showed us how to make cultured butter.

The next morning, we went to the second part of the workshop, which was basically pulling the dough out of the proofing bowl, shaping it and getting it ready to cook, which was meant to happen about 1.5 hours later.

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Dough at the beginning of Day 2.

After we’d done that, Kate demonstrated how to get the dough into the oven, and her three demo loaves cooked while we were there.

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These look great! I need to get one of those cast iron pots.

Lil Sis and I put our dough into the fridge until we were ready to go, because Kate had said not to leave it out for much more than 1.5 hours before baking it, and we had a longer trip home than most of the other participants.

We got to try a selection of Kate’s breads for breakfast, which she had given us recipes for as well, and were able to stock up on supplies from Kate’s shop before heading home with our dough.

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Breakfast

It took about an hour from Kate’s place to my place, maybe a bit less, and I kept the dough on the bench while I heated the oven, so it was out of the fridge about 90 minutes all up.

The instruction was to heat the oven and baking stone or pot to 240 degrees initially. Now what you need to know is that one of the many quirks of this house is that the temperature on the oven dial is not the temperature that the oven actually is – so there is a baking thermometer in there to monitor that actual temperature.

I heated the oven and the pizza stone to 240. All good. Possibly put too much flour on the pizza stone, as I set the smoke alarm off.

At least I know it works.

Tipped out the dough (forgot to slash it, never mind), filled the bottom tray with boiling water and put the dough in. Got my water sprayer and sprayed water into the oven as Kate had suggested to do if you didn’t have a pot with a lid to create steam. The temperature dropped to 150 or thereabouts.

I expected it to go back up to 240 or so.

It didn’t.

I sat in front of the over for 35 minutes despairing as the temperature sat solidly on the 130-150 degree mark, depending on whether I believed the thermometer or the oven dial. Completely panicking! Slabs suggested I had interfered with the oven fan with the water spray as it’s a fan forced oven. I don’t know. Does steam work in a fan forced oven? I hadn’t even thought to ask this.

By this point I’m fretting that I’ve broken the oven. (You might say it was already broken, and I’d just advanced the case for getting a new one.)

Then finally about 35 minutes in, the temperature started to go up again. I had no idea what to do at this point, because according to the directions Kate gave us, after 35 minutes at 240 degrees, I was supposed to reduce the heat to 180. But it hadn’t even got to 240, let alone 180.

I decided I had nothing to lose, so I let it go for 25 minutes in the increasing heat. According to the thermometer, it got to about 220 in that 25 minutes. By that time it was starting to burn on the outside so I had to stop and hope it had cooked on the inside.

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And now we wait . . .

So then there was the anxious wait for two hours to cut it and see what it was like on the inside. One of my baking friends asked if it sounded hollow when I tapped on it, which it did, so that was apparently good.

And when I did cut it, it looked pretty good, much to my surprise. In fact I’d go as far as to say that it’s the best loaf I have ever made, so something went right somewhere!

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Not bad at all

So I was happy with the result and now that I know what I’m doing (I think) I’m going to try this again.

Challenge 10 – 30 days of more sleep

At the start of this year, or at the end of last year – sometime a few months ago anyway, I did that thing where you choose three words for 2017 to guide you over the course of the year.

I’ve seen several people do this. I don’t know where the idea originated, but here’s a post that explains what the concept is all about.

Some people choose one word rather than three, and there’s a nice project that Ali Edwards does over the year, called One Little Word, that sets prompts for you to creatively explore your word over the year.

I signed up for this class once, but in true non-completer fashion, it got too much for me and I gave up after a few weeks. I do have a nice title page of my album though.

I got inspired to choose three words for 2017 after reading Kylie Dunn’s post on her three words. It occurred to me that I had taken on rather a lot in my Stepping on the Cracks project, that I was rushing through some ideas, and not getting very far with others, and not really learning from either. The word “consolidate” kept coming into my head over and over. Reflecting on what I’ve learned and putting it into practise, instead of chasing after the next shiny object that comes along. Seeing something through to the end.

The next word fell out of that one – “simplify”. Focus on one thing at a time. Release what doesn’t serve me. Don’t come up with complicated plans when all I need to do is take the next step. This can be applied in so many ways: getting rid of stuff I don’t  use or need any more, making space to do the things I want to do and doing them, saying no to things unless I am prepared to give something else up.

The final word “nourish” works on a couple of different levels. It could be about food, and certainly one of the things I am interested in learning this year is more about fermentation and about improving my diet. But it’s also about taking care myself on a broader level.

  • Nourishing my body by eating better, moving more, resting more.
  • Nourishing my mind by staying calm when things are spiralling out of control, doing things that scare and excite me, and by finding the opportunities for growth presented by challenges.
  • Nourishing my soul by surrounding myself with beauty, and by creating things for the sake of doing them, and by giving myself time for rest and relaxation.

That doesn’t look very simple when it’s written down like that does it!

So, rather than take on everything at once, I’m combining two very similar pieces advice that I’ve seen over the last couple of days to come up with a new 30-day challenge.

This article from Lisa Grace Byrne of WellGrounded Life came up in my Facebook feed yesterday. Here Lisa invites us to choose three self-care practices based on what we most need for our own well-being, to set a daily goal for each one and to see how many days in the next 30 we can accomplish the goal. She give some examples in this post, and a creative way to record progress at the end.

Simplifying this even further, Kendra from Hey Kendra! asked me if I could just choose one area that I want to make progress in, and then choose just one thing to help me in that area, what would it be? And her advice was to then focus on doing just that one thing for the next week. It might be different thing every day, or the same thing, but just to focus on that one area.

The title of this post probably gives away what my choice is. I realised the other day as I almost fell asleep on my feet while I was out walking, that lack of sleep is the key issue for me, and that I urgently need to do something about this.

So I’ve set myself a challenge for the next seven days (to start with) to go to bed as early as I can. To do what I have to do after dinner as efficiently as possible, turn my screens off as soon as I’ve finished what I need to do (rather than getting lost in a YouTube rabbit hole or checking my social media feed just one more time), take some time to relax, and go to bed  by no later than 10pm.

As a way to keep track of this, I’m going to use this little flower, which I believe was originally designed by one of the women in the WellGrounded Life community. It was a way for her to see her progress in the open-ended challenge, by colouring in one section each day she reached her goals. (It’s explained more in the post I linked to above.)


Obviously this is designed for 30 days rather than seven days, so I hope that seeing seven filled in petals will inspire me to continue for the rest of the month.

 

12 commandments

I got a bit lost on Challenge 6, 30 days clarity.

The idea for this challenge came from Stephen Covey’s Second Habit: Begin with the end in mind. That is, to start with a clear understanding of your destination; to know where you’re going so that the steps you take are steps in the right direction.

I imagined that I might do some activities in this sphere that appealed to me including writing a personal mission statement, identifying my personal values and setting some goals.

I made some progress on the values idea, which actually came about through another exercise rather than this challenge, and I’ve been tinkering with this document for quite a while.

At the same time I’ve been re-familiarising myself with Gretchen Rubin’s work. One of the things she did in her Happiness Project, which I really liked, was to develop her 12 Personal Commandments. These are overarching principles on how she wants to live her life

She describes it as “a creative way to distill core values”.

While I love the idea of having this sort of list, it also terrifies me a little to think about setting down my own rules for my own life. You know, because once you have rules set down like this you can never ever ever change them because they are set in stone . . .

Right?

I know this isn’t true, but it’s one of the mental barriers that I think was preventing me from taking action on this challenge: the mistaken belief that once I’ve written down my life goals, I’m wedded to them FOREVER.

It’s why I could never decide what I wanted to be when I grew up because I didn’t want to make a decision that would bind me to a career path for my entire working life. (So I’ve ended up in a career I chose because there was nothing else going at the time. I’ve been here for 20 years. And on reflection, I seem to have decided my fate by not deciding. Wrap your head around that. Ha.)

I’m thinking about getting back into the clarity exercise and, to kick it off, a few days ago I decided to make my own list of 12 commandments – not for my life forever, but for the way I want to live my life this year. That seems a whole lot less daunting than committing myself to something forever (even though, as we know, it wouldn’t have necessarily been a forever commitment).

Here’s my work-in-progress list. I wanted to put something together now and see how it sits, and make adjustments as I work my way through the other exercises I’m going to do. I think something to start with will be better than nothing.

My 12 (draft) Personal Commandments for 2017

  1. Be kind to everyone I meet.
  2. Nourish myself. (Take care of myself.)
  3. Express gratitude.
  4. Pause before responding, rather than reacting instantly.
  5. Be the change I want to see in the world.
  6. Focus on cultivating positive habits rather than eliminating negative ones.
  7. Be present. Feel my feelings. Fully immerse myself in my experiences.
  8. Fix what bugs me if I can change it. Don’t complain about it if I can’t influence it.
  9. Start where I am; Use what I have; Do what I can. (Know that I am enough.)
  10. I am what I am.
  11. Know what’s important and focus on that.
  12. Simplify. (Don’t take on anything new unless I have identified something to give up. One in, one out.)
  13. Consolidate. (Reflect on what I’ve learned and put it into practice instead of collecting more shiny new objects.)

Yeah, I know. There are 13. The Arthur Ashe quote (number 9) wasn’t in the draft list of 12, but it came into my head while I was writing this post. I love this quote and it needs to be there, but I don’t know which one has to go to make way for it. Maybe none of them do. Who says it has to be 12 anyway? Make your own rules.

I think I want to re-read The Happiness Project now, but I already have three books on the go, so in the spirit of “one in, one out”, I’ll wait.

The three words in bold are the three words I picked out at the end of last year to try to guide me through this year. This is a thing. Three words or one word. It sounded like a good idea, but I’m not really sure what to do with them, so I incorporated them into my commandments. Now I’m not sure if I need big ticket ones and subordinate ones, or if they all belong together . . .

See! This is why I never get anything done. I overthink things.

Just put the damn list out there, refer to it regularly and do it.

I’m going to print this list out and stick it up where I can see it, so I don’t forget. I hope that this will be the restart I need to get me back into the #steppingonthecracks project.

I’m back!

Not that I’ve been anywhere. I’ve been lurking, and feeling a bit like my progress in the #steppingonthecracks project has come to a screaming halt.

If you haven’t been following my project, it’s a series of challenges where I try out a new habit, technique or idea for 30 days to see how it works out. The idea is to put some of the things I’ve been reading about and learning into practise instead of filing them away under “interesting idea, should try this one day”.

I’ve had varying degrees of success with the different challenges, and I was about half way through challenge 9 (30 days of undone things), when the end of the year struck, holidays and various other unsettling events that threw everything out of line and most of my good habits went out the window, along with any capacity to make any progress on these challenges.

I’ve spent much of the past eight weeks feeling like I’d come so far, but that I’ve let myself down by letting everything go to shit. All the other stuff that was going on, well that was just an excuse to not do this.

I know! I’m being harsh on myself, and the perfectionist voice is speaking very loudly. It does that.

Last week (or thereabouts), I found the original hand-written list of the 30 little things I wanted to get done in December – you know, those things that take about five minutes, have been on your to-do list forever, but you can never quite get around to doing them. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, even though the project had collapsed, I’d still finished 20 of them. That’s two-thirds. For December, I think that’s a fairly reasonable achievement.

Hooray!

And many of the 20 things are things I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t started this challenge. The button would still not be sewn on. I probably would have lost it by now. I’d still be using towels with holes in them.

All that’s left on the list is:

  1. Book skin check
  2. Order yoga shoes
  3. Make a list of jobs that I can do in 5/10 minutes for when I have a short gap in my day
  4. Make a list of things I can do when I have low energy rather than go on my phone
  5. Get my baby slides scanned
  6. Finish the Facing Fear worksheets
  7. Get new cord for Kramstable’s greenstone pendant
  8. Sew buttons onto purple shawl
  9. Make a list of the beers in the beer books
  10. Wash baby mat

It seems perfectly doable. Other than the purple shawl buttons. That is not doable.

The list of things that I can do in 5-10 minutes has been a work in progress for a while. I haven’t finished it because I’ve never known what to do with it, or where to put it, which is probably a reason why there were 30+ undone things in the first place. And I never felt like it was complete, so it couldn’t be put anywhere.

(I’ve combined it with another list I started ages ago of things Kramstable could do when he’s bored. He wasn’t interested.)

So, in the interests of crossing things off the list, and acknowledging that this type of list is never going to be finished, and there just has to be a point where you say, “This is enough and I’m sticking it on the pinboard and next time I have five minutes spare I’m going to do one of these things”, I present it to you now.

  • Put some washing on
  • Put washing away
  • Wash up or put the dishes away
  • Clean out a shelf in the pantry
  • Empty the bins
  • Pick up stuff off the floor in the lounge room
  • Take things that are in the wrong place to the room they belong in (bonus points for putting them away)
  • Clean out a drawer or a shelf
  • Put 10 things away
  • Vacuum a room
  • Sweep the floors
  • Quick tidy of one room (10 minutes with the timer)
  • Clear off and wipe down the bench, coffee table or dining table
  • Wipe down the bathroom sink or the bath
  • Take out the compost or the recycling
  • Go through the fridge and throw out food that’s off
  • Dust a shelf and tidy it
  • Throw something out that’s broken or we don’t need
  • Refill soap dispensers
  • Update the freezer list
  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists
  • Write a thank you note
  • Find a new recipe and add it to next week’s meal plan
  • Book a doctor appointment or haircut
  • Go for a walk
  • Go outside and look at the clouds
  • Hang out with the chickens
  • Do some colouring in or drawing
  • Write in journal
  • Write down things to be grateful for
  • 5-10 minutes of breathing exercises or meditation
  • Have a glass of water
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Read a book
  • Doodle or scribble
  • Sort a paper pile
  • Organise a file
  • Make a to-do list
  • Process emails
  • Download photos from phone
  • Sort some photos
  • Put photos in albums
  • Do something from the 30 undone things list
  • Make a new 30 undone things list

Let me know what you think.

Do you have a list like this? What’s on your list that I missed?

Here’s to getting things done, one five minute block at a time!

I sewed the fucking button on

Yeah. The thing that started #30undonethings. I did it. There was much coarse language and finger-pricking, because it wasn’t as easy as it looked like it should have been.

Actually it wasn’t the one on the list that was the problem, but another button that was sitting next to the one-on-the-list that caused aforementioned coarse language and finger-pricking.

But they are both done, and I can rest easy knowing the buttons are no longer on the bathroom vanity glaring at me every time I go in there.

I did a couple of other things from my list this week too, but I haven’t completed all 30 for December.

But I made a start and I am pleased.

Happy New Year.

30 days of undone things – days 2-6

I’m now six days into my challenge of doing 30 annoying little things that have been on my to-do list forever and that are mostly pretty easy to do, which which I just can’t seem to get done.

Day 2 (Friday): I put everything away off the bench top and cleaned it off (Number 2 on the list), and I put the instruction book and receipt for the new whippersnipper into the folder with the other instruction books (Number 11).

Day 3 (Saturday): I labelled the new jar for the marjoram and put it into the jar (Number 34 – it wasn’t on the original list) and I washed the fruit and veggie bags (Number 21).

Day 4 (Sunday):  I cleaned the cutlery drawer (Number 29)

Day 5 (Monday): I confirmed my blood donation appointment (I AM going to do this – Number 15) and I went to get my identity documents verified (half way to Number 13).

I also learned why we shouldn’t put little things off.

One of the things, that wasn’t on the original list but is on a list somewhere, was to get a plastic tub for the Christmas decorations instead of having them in a Huggies box in the car port (let’s call it Number 35). I went to get them out yesterday to put up my “…. days til Christmas” countdown tree, only to find that rodents had got into the box and destroyed several things, including my beautiful wooden Aarikka elves that I was given when I left Finland 27 years ago.

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I’ve always loved these as they are so cute and they remind me of the year I almost had a white Christmas. I was devastated to see them like this. I was also shattered to find  some of Kramstable’s hand-made decorations from school had suffered a similar fate.

Don’t procrastinate about the little things or you might lose the chance to do them at all.

Day 6 (today): I mailed my change of identity documents to the credit card bank (the other half of Number 13). I cleaned everything off the couch (Number 22). I bought the new tub for the Christmas decorations. (Number 35. Don’t ask whether I put them in it…)

How are you going with your #30undonethings? Reply here or tweet me and let me know!