this is lemonade

A mindful, grateful, creative life: Life constantly hurls lemons at us. I’m on a mission to make lemonade as best I can, by God’s grace.


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Relax…

I can’t remember where I stumbled across this old news, but I’ve listened to the three music tracks below a few times this week. They were ranked as the top three most relaxing pieces of music in the world last year, based on how the rhythm influences your heart rate among other things.

The first one is officially the most relaxing. According to Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, it “contains a sustaining rhythm that starts at 60 beats per minute and gradually slows to around 50. While listening, your heart rate gradually comes to match that beat…And there is no repeating melody, which allows your brain to completely switch off because you are no longer trying to predict what is coming next.

I don’t work well to music in general because I get immensely distracted anticipating what is coming next. It’s worst with songs because I start singing along to them in my head (if not out loud). But I also get very distracted by people around me talking, walking around, making random irregular sounds by sighing, picking things up, putting things down, dialing a phone number…

We had some fun in the office yesterday afternoon after lunch. A few of us were feeling particularly tired and zoned out at the end of a long week, so we decided to put the music to the test. It just so happened that some sunshine started streaming through the window at the same time, after the lunch time downpour.

Some of us felt all too ready for a weekend lie-in as a result and one colleague found the first tune annoyingly boring!

I really enjoyed the resulting atmosphere however. It was so nice to be able to relax into the remaining tasks of the day. I think these three are going to be my go-to tunes when I find myself unable to focus whilst blogging too…let me know what you think. Do you work well to music or are you easily distracted by it?

  1. Marconi Union – Weightless
  2. Airstream – Electra
  3. DJ Shah – Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix)

(Links via Soundcloud)


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Beautiful things….

I love beautiful things. I’m very selective, but once I’ve fallen for something, I will enthuse about it forever.

At random times. In unexpected ways. Suddenly a passing word, a fleeting flash of colour, a sound, a particular level of humidity in the air, the frosty wind….something will trigger a memory of whatever I fell in love with and it will bring a smile to my day. I get really excited about texture, colour, form, a shape or line, a voice, music, reflection, a small discovered detail…a print…which is what brought me to write this post:

Printed skirt : Wendy's Lookbook

Printed skirt : Wendy’s Lookbook
(Clicking on the image will take you to the source.)
I love the ink-drawn lace-like quality of this pattern as well as the purple-grey shades that remind me of what you get with blotting paper and fountain pens…

Because the dearly beloved gathered around me don’t usually get it, they will only perceive my over-excitement for a tiny bit too long. Their blank expressions usually prevent me from oohing and aahing too much. But I will continue to glow inside from the beauty of whatever it was that captured my imagination, and every time I remember what I loved about that thing, it will flood me with intense happiness and give me that elusive warm and fuzzy feeling.

In my mind, are countless memories of beautiful things I have seen, touched, tasted, heard and internalised. The unspeakable grandeur of a Norwegian fjord, the crisp pure air on a Swiss mountain, the enchantment of walking up a Roman fort in heavy snowfall, the expansive calm of the Lake District in temperate spring, the moodiness of the heather-cushioned Yorkshire Moors underfoot. The feel of the wood on a gently crafted chair, the intense flavour of a ripe avocado and the different shades of its buttery green flesh, the sound of birds singing after rainfall, the magic of a double rainbow…a bright ray of sunshine in a land that is prone to cloudy skies…

Many moons later, I will have forgotten the exact detail of the beautiful silk dress I handled or the simple form of a piece of porcelain that caught my eye, but I will remember the feeling that I wanted to hold on to for a little bit longer. I may even have whipped out my camera at that brief moment in time in an attempt to encapsulate the senses that came to life as I took in the hue, texture and weight of the object before me. In vain. Dissatisfied, I probably deleted the crisp digital image and walked away with just a slight skip in my step and an arguably disproportionate sense of euphoria. I very rarely buy things I love. Sometimes they are simply not for sale (like the breathtaking views from the Minack Theatre in Cornwall) but mostly, I just don’t have enough room in my life for that much stuff!

Minack Theatre

Minack Theatre panorama
Click on the image to view the panorama file

I love thoughtful design because it connects you to the creative process someone else went through; those moments of inspiration enjoyed by another human being. There are eureka moments but, largely speaking, truly beautiful objects are the product of someone else’s hours of labour, frustration, experiences and collated ideas of what is beautiful to them.

So I propose to dedicate Thursdays to compiling a treasure trove of beautiful things, places and experiences. Things that I have loved in the past, things that I am still discovering, things that I would love to share with you.

I don’t know if, like me, you also find that things of a particular kind of beauty give you a certain added buoyancy on those dark heavy days. Perhaps there are things of significance to you that no one else quite understands. I’d love to hear from you below. Hopefully you will share gems that I’ll not be able to resist adding to my own treasure trove. Happy rummaging!


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Introducing Mr. G

Frivolous Fridays are a celebration of the lighter side of life, and we all need some of that. Even if it has to be hidden somewhere in the dark, buried where no one else can see it. Somewhere, there needs to be light, or we can’t live. So, we’ve got to Friday, let’s celebrate!

And what a way to begin the series…with Mr. G and his wonderful kids! I stumbled ROFL onto the Mr. G comic blog just this week (actually, I think the artist Matt Gajdoš might have stumbled onto my blog first, and aren’t I glad for it)! It has been one of those weeks when I won’t even remember what has been happening if I don’t brew myself a quality Earl Grey and sit down for a good long think. Except that I’ve run out of Earl Grey..so you’re out of luck.

Anyway…where was I?

Aah…here’s a treat for you if, like me, you could do with a daily pick-me-up. Look no further for the reason why I think you should all go on over and have some deep belly chuckles at Mr. G.

Mr.G : FLOWERS

Matt Gajdoš : Flowers
(This is the one that got me hooked..aww..*chuckles*)

I love the reference to yellow in this particular post. The more I look at it, the more I love it. I think because yellow is such a bright and cheerful colour. Right now, it’s grey outside and pouring with rain. But yellow is the colour of sunshine, sunflowers, daffodils, dandelions, daisy hearts, buttercups and lemons…which make lemonade! Yellow is in spring, summer and autumn…aaah I’m bursting with bright yellow happiness. I totally know what yellow smells like :D

Mr. G is “A 100% true comic about stuff kids say in elementary school” and if you have kids or have ever worked with them, I think you’d say it’s the truth in how the kids talk and the spot-on way Matt captures their expressions that makes this a winning, heart-warming comic. Genius!

Needless to say, I am now a follower, and Mr. G even updates every weekday at midnight GMT. Great if you want to have cheerful dreams! Thanks Matt!


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ziggyshortcrust : An Elf Child is born

When I started this blog, I never in a million years thought that I would so quickly meet such amazing people with such wonderful talents. I thought that I would look at it as a bit like a personal journal. Write a bit, see how it goes, and maybe tell my friends after a while what I was doing. See if they would be interested in reading.

So I was blown away, when I received my first comment on Monday.

Knowing that someone else out there is reading my blog, that’s something. Getting my first comment, that’s pretty special. Receiving my first comment from someone who deals in “Scribbles, Doodles and Campervan Tootles”…that’s quite charming. Going on that person’s blog and finding that she’s a tea aficionado and works in a museum dedicated to the art in children’s books is kinda getting really magical…then finding that she spends a few minutes a day putting a fine liner to paper and creating elves…that’s simply enchanting stuff…especially if you get to ask for your very own elf! So how could I resist?

An Elf Child is born

ziggyshortcrust : An Elf Child is born

I came home from work yesterday to find that I now have an elf child, and it would be an understatement to say that it made my day. I might be biased, seeing as she is my elf child… but I think that she has the makings of a real children’s story book character…what do you think?

Make sure you pop over to ziggyshortcrust to see the magic for yourself…Thank you again Ziggy!


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A Fish With A Smile

Was just thinking about evocative images, and remembered an illustrator whose whimsical drawings I fell in love with some years ago.

This Taiwanese award-winning short film, based on a book written and illustrated by Jimmy Liao, won best short film at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2006.

Although the film shown here has Chinese subtitles, it’s so beautifully brought to life by the music and illustration that I don’t think you need any particular language for it to move you.

Enjoy!


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marc johns : this is a stick

this is a stick

I love this drawing, it reminds me of when I was in primary school. At play time, I could often be found squatting among the trees at the bottom of the playground with my best friend, playing with small twigs. Digging moats in the mud, weaving walls and fences, imagining houses out of sticks. Immersed in a world of possibilities where very little was needed to achieve big things.

As an adult, it is easy to become limited by reality and I forget to dream most days. This simple drawing reminds me of something bigger than just myself and my circumstances. Make of it what you will……but whatever situation you’re in right now, think outside of just yourself, see if you can’t be inspired!

I hope you have a meaningful week…

Lovely and moist


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Yummy and moist carrot cake

Yummy and moist carrot cake

Yummy and moist carrot cake

There are not just a few people among my friends and family who love carrot cake. I’ve been meaning to try my hand at baking my own since having tasted such a variety of shop-bought and café versions. My first port of call was my favourite recipe site, where I found Lennie’s offering rated by over 400 cooks at pretty much 5 stars. Yesterday, almost three months after I saved it to my cookbook, I baked my own with some modifications.

I prefer a nice chunky wedge rather than slender slices. However, I imagine the quantities below would fit just as well into a wider, shallower tin which would probably require less baking time.

You will need…
2 cups wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons sodium bicarbonate
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ cups muscovado sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 can crushed pineapple, well-drained (225-250g/8 oz.)

Directions…
1. Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat oven to 175°C/350°F. Line a 7 inch/18cm diameter deep cake tin with baking parchment.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sodium bicarbonate, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon.
3. Make a well in the centre and add sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well with a wooden spoon into smooth thick batter. Add carrots, coconut, walnuts and pineapple, incorporating evenly.
4. Spoon mixture into cake tin and bake for about 60-80 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

To finish the cake, you can cover with some cream cheese icing (which I usually love). Because I was hoping to share it with the men in my family who don’t really like sugary things, I did not ice the cake this time. Instead I put aside 3 walnut halves unchopped for pressing into the centre of the batter, before putting it in the oven to bake.

My mum texted me today to say that she’d had a slice for breakfast and it was “delicious” (now that’s very high praise coming from my mum)! I hope you have some fun with it too. Thank you to Lennie for sharing a delicious recipe!

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