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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The transcience of bricks and mortar

In the UK we have a very emotive relationship to our buildings. Prince Charles and his passion for preserving heritage juxtaposed with someone like Norman Foster, who has been widely credited with bringing British innovation to the international stage, demonstrate the wildly disparate attitudes that exist.

In the economic downturn, one strong measure of public confidence was the effect on house prices and house buying. News articles abounded with stories of people frustrated with being unable to afford their own pied à terre, with corresponding opinions regarding how the Government was or was not managing the situation effectively. Unlike many countries including our continental counterparts, we are a country obsessed with acquiring our own “real estate” however insignificant its footprint when compared to those who are in possession of vast country pads.

In recent floods that have ravaged significant areas of the country, one of the most devastating things has been watching home and business owners in despair as they inspect property that has been damaged or destroyed by water. The repercussions extend far beyond simply being deprived of shelter from the elements, and the most traumatic consequences are often eventually emotional ones.

That’s why this magazine article interview with photographer Marcel Heijnen was so interesting to me. It suggests a completely different approach. Heijnen poignantly portrays these objects that we project our need for security and permanence onto, as what they really are: beautifully untrustworthy, prone to modification and destruction.

Photographer reflects the changing face of Asian cities | Marcel Heijnen

Click through for video article about photographer Marcel Heijnen


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A thought for 2014

We’re on the verge of a new year. For most of us reading this, it will be yet another new year. But through the ups and downs of 2013 and recent years, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I live my life. Where I invest my time and efforts. Some of these thoughts I’ve shared with you. Some of these thoughts have been inspired by you.

At the beginning of 2013, I had a go at making some resolutions. I have never made it through many weeks before I lose my resolve. I realised that I don’t like them because they are too prescriptive and restricting. I came up with some specific goals, and I would say that I have largely lived this past year in the spirit of them.. but not to the letter! A year is a long time, and I can’t even predict what will happen from one day to the next, let alone for a whole 365.

This year, I’m not going to attempt any resolutions as such, but I will continue bearing in mind lessons I have learned. I tried to live 2013 intentionally and mindfully, building on relationships that I have offline as well as online. I guess the overall idea is summed up in this thought-provoking talk by Ric Elias and also the first video I shared in another recent post:

I’m interested to know what your outlook for 2014 is. Not how you predict it will go, but what attitude you intend to have, going into the year ahead. I still intend to knit, cook and get creative as much as I can, but I’m hoping to have less time for that soon. More on that in the not too distant future I hope!

Well I wish everyone happy celebrations and einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr (I love how the Germans put it – roughly translated – a good skid into the New Year)!


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Let your dreams set sail…

I had the privilege recently, of taking a day off for no particular reason. To celebrate I whiled away a few hours eating a leisurely dim sum lunch overlooking a peaceful dock. The weather was mild and warm, despite there being no sun. It was cloudy but bright and I was in no hurry at all.

After I finished my meal, I spotted a fly a couple of metres away. Normally, a fly in a restaurant so near my table would repulse me. But this fly was not interested in food. It was pacing the floor to ceiling window between me and the water, trying to get back out.

Perhaps I was very relaxed. I was sipping my Iron Buddha tea, watching the world go by, my stomach contentedly processing the delicious delicacies I had just consumed. I must have lingered another half an hour as the poor, hapless creature paced up and down the shadowless pane of glass before me, examining nooks and crannies I could not see in the window frame.

As I sat observing, my thoughts somehow meandered vaguely into the philosophical. A fly’s lifespan is much shorter than that of the average human. This one was slowly eating away its time determinedly expecting to find freedom. Flies often look ridiculous banging their heads against glass that we put in their flight path. I imagine them saying over 100 times a day, “D’oh, ouch. Didn’t see that. Again.” I marvelled at how this fly could continue to cover the surface of the impenetrable glass and not just give up and die. If I were a fly, I would not last that long. I’m not one for banging my head against the proverbial window, let alone calmly persevering for hours and days on end at something seemingly fruitless.

That’s why I look for inspiration and encouragement at every turn. I don’t just thrive on it, I survive on it. I need it. And that’s why the latest addition to a range of monthly desktop/phone backgrounds by the lovely Clemence at Oh the lovely things touched me so much that I wanted to share it with you. Truth be told, it often does not dawn on me that another new month is upon us, until her monthly wallpapers post drops in my reader. She must be tired of my repetitive comments: “What it’s May already?” “Is it April already?” “I’m still in shock that it’s March…” (I didn’t leave one last month because I thought it was getting a bit like a broken record!)

Let your dreams set sail | Wallpaper - Oh the lovely things

Let your dreams set sail | Wallpaper – Oh the lovely things

July is the most special month of the year for me. It’s also the turning point in the year where we start dangerously dipping downwards on the roller coaster towards winter again. So the simple message for July has really picked me up and made me smile to see it. July has already proven to be full of beautiful surprises for me, not least with the current (reportedly soon-to-end) heatwave. I’ve been challenged to try and remember to dream and live like dreams can become reality, at least sometimes, for the whole month of July :) And I’d recommend you take yourself over to Clemence’s blog to grab some inspiration for yourself if you haven’t already.

I doubt the aforementioned fly has as rich a life as mine. In fact, its brief existence has more than likely expired. But it didn’t give up its tedious effort to achieve its goal for the seeming eternity during which I observed it. There’s a lesson in that.. I guess there’s also a lesson by extension, that your dreams often can’t set sail until you stop pacing about on the closed window and find the open one – it’s just that sometimes it takes a bit of time to work out which is which ;) I’m definitely not one of those people who have it all together and I’m guessing I’m not the only one. Thank you for being on this journey with me. What adventures do you wish to embark on? Let’s keep on keeping on and I wish you fair winds behind the sails of your dreams!


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Make mine a sparkling lemonade please…

Happy July! We had a relatively scorching hot, sunny day in London yesterday. It was glorious, if a little bit of a shock to the system ;) “Change” is threatened, with a glimmer of hope for next weekend, but we won’t be holding our breath too much. Anyone for tennis? The tournament has so far been full of surprises, I wish I were there in the sun today – have any of you watched Wimbledon in person?

Talking about surprises, I have been the grateful beneficiary of a few very pleasant ones over the past half a year or so – a few awards that I have regrettably been remiss to acknowledge properly. My sincere apologies to five lovely bloggers who have dropped such thoughtful gifts of encouragement on my blog along the way and made me smile. They were especially meaningful as I was struggling to get words out and not actually writing a lot at the times when I received them! As I have said in the past, I am so touched by the generous kindness out there from all of you. My heartfelt thanks for reading and holding conversations here!

This time I’m going to break all the rules of awards there ever were, and do my own thing!

First of all, I hope you will forgive me for not nominating any other bloggers for the awards below. I wanted to acknowledge the people who gave them to me, but I will not be writing any more award posts after this one. I’ve recently started using my Facebook page to share blog posts that have inspired and challenged me. That way I have a focus for Facebook and a focus for the blog – I can share posts I’ve enjoyed easily as I read, rather than dawdling half a year to write something like this! I hope you’ll check my page out, click like to subscribe if you do indeed like it and please visit the links from posts I’ve enjoyed and share the love!

this is lemonade on Facebook

Secondly, one of the good friends of this blog, Diana, shared a post about personality colours not so long ago and I went and googled it and found this file. It’s a short version of the real thing I’m guessing, but a whole lot of fun! I wonder what colour you are – do have a go and let me know in the comments below what you think and what colour you are… I’m BLUE :) Exactly what I would actually have expected!

Thirdly, just because I’d love to find out some random things about you dear readers, feel free to answer the following questions on your blogs and link back in the comments to let me know you’ve done it!

  1. Do you take sugar in your tea or coffee? I used to take sugar in my tea because my dad did. Then I tried it without and haven’t looked back since. My dad no longer does either. With coffee, if it’s rich and aromatic… white but no sugar for me thank you! Sometimes I do fancy a bit of sweet to make it taste something like the coffee creme chocolates that started me off on coffee in the first place though…
  2. Are you happy with where you live? I was shocked to read this report. I hope the views of my neighbours were taken on a miserable, grey and rainy day when everyone was simply grumpy and would rather not have been answering a lot of questions. I personally feel privileged to be living in London in spite of all the slightly smelly and grimy things about it. I like to call the not-so-nice bits “culture” whilst keeping my personal belongings with me at all times :P
  3. Sun or snow? Definitely sun. But not hot and humid if I get a say – I actually love sunny winter days when everything feels crisp and fresh, hot with breezy shade is herrrrrlich too. Love snow too, preferably not in London though!
  4. Do you listen to music while you are working on something? Only if I don’t need to focus very intensely. If I’m writing (e.g. blogging) it’s got to be instrumental music,  I get very distracted if there is singing or talking in the background, especially if I like the song or find the conversation interesting. But if I’m doing chores, cooking or painting for example, music helps to motivate and focus me and beats are great!
  5. Evenings in or out? I prefer no more than one or two nights out a week if it’s with a group of people. Coffee with one or two friends at a time don’t count as I love to sit back, people watch and have a lazy natter! I love a bustling house too and prefer entertaining at home simply, without fuss. 
  6. What do you wish you were doing right now? Having a barbecue or a picnic, wiling away a lazy afternoon :)

And finally and very importantly…

Blog of 2012 Award

Thank you to the wonderful Mags, one of my oldest blogging friends, a colourful ball of energy, creativity and optimism; and to Rabbit, an undaunted adventurer in all things edible (she has just started baking as well as cooking) for the award from last year! Do check out their inventive blogs if you want to be inspired! (Please click on the image to take you through to the rules and info on the origins of this award.)

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Liebster Award - a nerdy crocheter

Thank you to A Nerdy Crocheter for the Liebster Blog award. Her beautifully crocheted projects are an inspiration and pleasure to read about, do go on over and get ready to admire her work!

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Beautiful Blogger Award - licking the plate again

Thank you to a Licking the plate again for the Beautiful Blogger award. Click through for a very tasty, travelling view of the world, and another view of the UK from a slightly more northerly perspective.

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Shine On Award - Alicia Benton

And last but not least, thank you to Alicia for the Shine On award (I’m not soo late in writing about this award ;)) She has been taking part in a challenge to write every day for a month, so go and check it out!

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To see previous award posts and visit some blogs I’ve nominated in the past, simply click on the award icon in the menu bar on the right. (You may need to maximise your browser window as this menu bar is set to be hidden on a smaller window.)


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Getting Into Gear

We are well into February, and thankfully, my rather shaky start to 2013 has stabilised somewhat for now, thanks to all your support and encouragement. (Really, I’m not just saying it – thank you.) End of January, I took my first tangible step to work towards my fourth goal as stated in the first post of the year: to give more thought and time to offline, tangible investments in my relationships. I bought this card which I just love and then I wrote and sent it off last week:

wiggletoes_card

Card from Pencil Diaries at Paperchase.

One thing that I have neglected in my personal relationships that I enjoyed so much in the past, was writing snail mail. Letting my loved ones know that I am thinking of them has not happened for too long, beyond sending a quick text, email or Facebook message. I had already been forming a plan in my mind, to write at least one card per month that is not a holiday or birthday card. It’s not even halfway as ambitious as Ziggy’s Illustrated Letters project, but I think it’s manageable for me.

I read Ginna’s February Goals post (haw haw, accidental pun) for her blog, My Pretty Pennies, on 1st February. What a great idea to link up and encourage each other to reach our goals! I’ve been a little slow to complete my post but I wanted to share the step-by-step goals I have set for February. All the goals I share are connected to my overall goals for 2013 to reduce the risk of overwhelming myself!

  • Write a card to someone for no particular reason, just to let them know I’m thinking of them
  • Complete a knitted surprise gift and send it by the end of the month
  • Fill a home made mini sketchbook by the end of the month
  • Clear my desk of things that are waiting to be filed away
  • Sort through old clothes that I have piled up as potential sewing material, deciding which to keep and which to donate

As I have explained, I don’t live life straightforwardly, so I won’t be too surprised if I get started on some side projects along the way. But now I’ve put this month’s goals out there, hopefully it will help me to focus and work towards getting them done! I’m excited to be able to cross the first one off already and to be almost through the second at this point. Hopefully, I will be able to cross everything off by the end of the month!

How about you? Have you tried regular goal setting? Does it work for you?


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Aaaaatishoooooo!

I wish sneezing would banish mosquitoes from around me! I have sustained five bites overnight in the most aggravating way. I hate waking up to the evidence that something has taken a leisurely stroll down my leg, sucking my blood. Gross and totally uncalled for if you ask me. All I ever did was aggressively exact revenge on two of your species in the past week with my slipper *thwack*! That is no justice for the total of ten bites and counting… An average of one per day. Grrrrr!

The crazy thing is, mosquitoes are totally out of season here right now. But this year’s weather has been out of kilter all around the world it seems. I’ve seen news of more flooding in the UK. I hope everyone is ok back in good ol’Blighty?

I thought I’d post a cheerful photo to help make the lemons easier to swallow. I flew Virgin Atlantic last week and was given a mini tube of Love Hearts as we were preparing for landing. I do dislike long haul flights and would not choose to take them if I had the choice. But I do find marketing and consumer psychology interesting!

image

I’m not adverse to allowing myself to appreciate the quintessentially British style that Virgin employs. No milky coloured pile of mints for them on the approach to your destination. Just some playful and nostalgic (if you’re a Brit) compensation for having suffered the discomfort of embedding your knees into the passenger in front for the last eternity.

And my last Love Heart is a message for you this week. Framed by my favourite pen to travel with. My fun Muji 5-colour plus pencil contraption (also somewhat nostalgic – did I ever mention that I love stationery?) Have a very blessed week, whatever you are facing.

I desperately miss home with its cold early evenings, frosty mornings, proper dark and neon light deficiency, easy accessibility to good cheese, strong black tea that goes well with milk, slightly less unpredictable weather and hibernating bitey things.

When you are away from where you call home, what do miss the most?

Malvern Hills


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Scaling heights: Queens and high hills

If I believed in previous lives I could, without a doubt, tell you that I was an ostrich. Actually, forget about multiple reincarnations. I am an ostrich mocked up as a human being. (I just got a picture of that. It’s ridiculous.) I am an expert in living in denial, pretending like it’s never going to happen so that it will go away. At times, I have been known to completely refuse to prepare for something that is bound to happen, because I feel so overwhelmed by what I have to face. I end up panicking and doing everything last minute, or even having to wing it. Stupid, I’m telling you. If only I could bring myself to pop over for tea with Her Majesty from time to time, I’d have been the first decorated ostrich in the Kingdom a long time ago. I am so accomplished at digging holes in sand where there isn’t even any sand around!

I do not just buckle at fears. I mean, this applies to how I tackle fail at packing for travel too. I see a myriad items and pieces of clothing that I have to collect from all corners of the house, and I envisage an organised and packed suitcase. And the conclusion I invariably draw, is that I can make the one turn into the other by sheer willpower and remaining completely immobile. A procrastinating ostrich is a terrible beast. I suppose much of my inaction is related to things I desperately do not want to do, places I do not want to go. I often have a choice in these matters, but I know that I should make the choice that I do not want to. So, I try to make it all go away by sticking my head stubbornly in the sand and chewing it.

Fears, as we all know, do not have to be rational. After we have talked ourselves into being ok with something, we can still get to the point of almost getting into gear to face it, only to suddenly and completely freeze. On the other hand, I have some real, deep-seated fears that propel me into positive action. The desire to overcome them, motivates me to try to tackle them.

I do not like heights. I know in my mind that there is nothing to fear, and yet my body will tense up and it will be a mission to keep going. What really annoys me, is that my fear is tied to my lack of confidence in my own body to keep me upright. I’m not even talking about scaling a high mountain. I’m talking about the inability to walk up a tame hillside when the wind is approaching from the wrong direction. Perhaps it isn’t so much a fear of heights, as a fear of falling. And it doesn’t have to be falling from a great height either. Perhaps my fear is of a loss of control. Of stumbling into an indefinite slide and tumble…I fear…hiking. There I’ve said it. Snigger all you like. It absolutely infuriates me.

I LOVE the outdoors. I LOVE walking. When I lived in Hamburg, one of my favourite things was the German obsession with the Spaziergang. The culture of taking a leisurely walk with friends, combining with my other passion – a good ole natter. Finding a good coffee and cake or ice cream along the way never hurt either.

Alfred Wainwright is my hero, with his beautifully illustrated and fondly crafted pictorial guides to the Lakeland Fells including charming stories and anecdotes from walking over some of the most beautiful terrain in good ole Blighty. And yet, I had barely touched the foot of the gentle Barrow a couple of years ago, before the incline became too much to handle. Thankfully, there were few witnesses to my display of cowardice. One day, I will respectfully set foot on a little ridge somewhere in the Fells…

However, today’s story is a little more positive. There is hope yet.

Malvern Hills

Earlier this year, as the Olympic torch was passing through Stroud, I was on my way up the beautiful Malvern Hills. I took a gentle route starting not far below St Ann’s Well, approaching from a steep little road going away from town past some lovely cottages. I made my way up towards the Beacon, the highest point along this beautiful hill range. Most of the way has well laid footpaths to make it accessible to more people, although scree does make me nervous when I am going downhill. As you approach the Worcestershire Beacon however, there is a short part of the route that requires a gentle amble up well worn but slightly more undulating paths.

The weather was beautiful – sunny, but with a good breeze. Having almost reached the hilltop, the wind was quite spectacular. In fact, that was the reason why my walking companion wanted us to go up there. And, having made it to the top of the hill, except for another ten metres or so, that’s where I buckled. With the hillside gently sloping away, I settled in a little nook just below the summit, where there was shelter from the wind. I decided, I thought, that I had made it just shy of the top and it was a good achievement.

Malvern Hills

But then, I caught sight of the  toposcope at the very peak, designed by Malvern architect Arthur Troyte Griffith. To be precise, I caught sight of the words on the side of it that told me that it was erected to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. Fortunately for me, I made my first ascent of the Malvern Hills in Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee year, at a time when the country was in great anticipation of the Olympic Games. It gave me that extra impetus to brave the wind, and practically crawl up to the very summit. Yes indeed, Queen Vic gave me a kick up the bum and told me to do those last ten metres since I was up there already. I was not likely to get another chance to do something so momentous for another little while, so I might as well just do it.

So. I made it up to touch the toposcope. On the Worcestershire Beacon. At a mere 425 m  or 1,394 ft (according to Wikipedia). I’ll have you know, I clung on for dear life while we snapped a few photos for posterity. I will not show you them. The strong winds were whipping my hair upwards giving me an extra foot in height, even though I did have it tied back. To the traumatised cyclist out there somewhere, who had just approached via the ridge to witness a crazed woman shrieking and laughing manically, I apologise sincerely. The wind was buffeting around my ears, giving me the illusion that no one could hear the racket I was making… until I took those few steps back to the nook where I hid before and realised how beautifully quiet it was if one was not exposed to the wind…

But I will share with you, a souvenir of my little adventure:

Malvern Hills

To end, I may be mostly ostrich-like, but I do have my moments of brilliance when I will kick into reverse-ostrich mode and find some grit to make me do things that continue to amaze me afterwards. These moments may mean nothing to someone like the poor cyclist or a couple who preceded us up the hill, one with a child on his back and the other pushing a buggy with another child clambering about in front of her. But for me, they are moments where I made a brave decision, and half a year later that shrieking moment still makes me smile just thinking back to it. There is no lemonade bubblier and sweeter than that.

I hope that you will join me in braving those little challenges this coming week. We all have our fears. Others may dismiss them as silly, but if it is a fear for you, it is REAL. But it is yours to confront. You may not completely overcome the fear, but that shouldn’t stop you trying for those little victories. (Woohoo! *Punches the air*.)

Maybe one day I will tell you the story of the glacier and the fjord…

If you are interested, here is a YouTube video I stumbled across whilst writing this post. Jon Bywater kindly shot some footage of their little amble up the hill and it’s lovely.

and

I came across the following beautiful, inspiring and uplifting post by John D Burns on 3 December. I wanted to add a link so that I would remember it: Treasure In the Hills. It just made me smile! :)

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