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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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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{WOW Wednesdays} Plush Perfection

I haven’t done a WOW post for a while. I’ve tried really hard to make lemonade recently, but it always turns out flat. With all this grey cloud, white cloud, dark rainy cloud business it’s hard not to succumb to SAD – even though the current season was named “summer” a long time ago, I think the UK should have a specific season simply called “grey”. I love that we have long, long days in the summer here in the UK. I love that we can see blue skies from time to time, and white fluffy clouds. But for that, we also have dull grey skies, stormy, blustery rain storms and dismal, chilly nights.

I have been filled with wonder through this year so far though. It did take a while for nature to wake from its slumber in “spring”. But when it did it was relentless. At the first ray of sunshine, green sprouted everywhere. Then there was rain and everything suddenly exploded with vigour. Butterflies flitted in and out of the shrubs, robins darted back and forth hopping excitedly about doing their thing, squirrels stopped anxiously digging up supplies and checking on their dwindling larder stock…

pink peony

At the beginning of June, I started getting excited. I have a herbaceous peony plant in my garden, and it had sprung up out of the ground again as though overnight. When we moved in a couple of years ago, I didn’t know it existed. Then, a few months afterwards, some stems and leaves appeared out of nowhere. We wondered what this mysterious plant could be. It didn’t seem to be a weed and though lush looking, was decidedly bland with its long rigid stems and waxy dark green leaves. Then one day, I went out into the garden and saw some familiar, tight balls of red fringed green with some pink peeking out. I could not believe it. We had inherited a surprise. My absolute favourite flower.

pink peony

I only discovered peonies maybe ten years ago? All I remember is that there were some curiously spherical buds for sale at the supermarket. They had lovely firm stems and waxy leaves and were marked down considerably. I put them in a vase when I got home. I was intrigued when they started opening up and revealed a most amazingly soft pink clutch of petals.

pink peony

But it was the morning when I discovered that small ball had exploded into a huge lush puff of powder pink something like eight times its original size that I was completely smitten. The peony ended up being the star of my wedding bouquet. And that’s me, who isn’t really into powder pink. But this particular pink is deceptive, those petals are seriously resilient with a lovely smooth texture. The mere idea that this small, tightly packed sphere can possibly unfurl into an amazing show of abundance with such a wonderfully calming fragrance still bowls me over.

pink peony

pink peony

So you can imagine how special it was for me to discover that, hiding beneath the cold, hard, frosty soil of winter, was this wonderful plant in my garden. Waiting to surprise me. And this year, perhaps due to the strangeness of the seasons so far, there are almost twice as many buds on the plant as last year. I couldn’t help but cut one to take inside to cheer things up. Sometimes I just find myself sitting there staring at it. I am filled with this indescribable amazement and wonder. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me just to see it.

pink peony

The sun is fighting through the clouds right now. I wouldn’t call it the height of summer, but it sure is good to get some colour outside the window. I am reminded that sometimes we may struggle, sometimes things fall apart, sometimes we fall apart, but we aren’t here alone. When I look at nature, I see that we are not designed to rely upon ourselves. Looking at this flower, in its frailty, God’s design enables it to withstand the cruelty of my secateurs and still bloom to give me such enjoyment of it. I give thanks for where I am right now, in spite of not knowing where I am heading. For what it’s worth, I am also thinking of you all and keeping you in my prayers, especially if you are enduring difficulties however great or small, wherever you may be.

And below was the soundtrack for May – the wedding themes I enjoyed. They remind me of sunshine, I hope to spread some to you too (even those of you who don’t like sharing!) 😉

  1. River Flows in You – Yurima
  2. A Thousand Years – Christina Perri

(Links via Soundcloud)


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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?

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! 🙂