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.


10 More Days to Go (ish)!

Well. That depends on where you are in the world. It also depends on when you are reading this post. It might even depend on when the Big Day is to you. And whether or not I can actually count. But as it’s a Friday, we are looking at all things frivolous. Let us not get all tangled up in the intricacies of how many more days there really are until Christmas Day.

The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a real gem to share: do you love the world renowned Gruffalo story, written by Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler? Well, Mr Scheffler was commissioned to illustrate the Royal Mail Christmas 2012 stamps and they are absolutely lovely! A sweet little video on BBC News magazine looking at his work and the Christmas stamps themselves can be found here. Does anyone fancy sending me a few Christmas cards in different sizes and weights? You have until next Tuesday or Thursday to get them to me in time for Christmas, depending on whether or not you are sending them by second or first class post or both from the UK 😉

I am a lover of stamps, having inherited some albums from my mother and then sorted through bagfuls of them from my German landlady many years ago. It’s not just the actual designs, shapes and colours of them that I love, or even the fact that among them are many souvenirs of places I may never visit in my lifetime. I love how much I learned from them. In trying to sort them, I stumbled across nuggets of history, different languages and scripts, important personalities or things of nature and inventions. And then there are the celebratory stamps. No, I did not get the London 2012 collection (of which only the first class stamps can still be purchased until the end of the year), even though I was thinking of it. Will I get the ones of Gruffalo illustrator fame? I don’t know. Perhaps a signed souvenir cover will do!

On another note, did you know that today is… Save The Children Christmas Jumper Day? A day when you can do something good with those embarrassing jumpers your granny gave you every year (mine didn’t, poor you!) If you didn’t realise, or your granny was more like mine and you have not had time to knit your very own silly jumper with Rudolph or Santa on it, then I propose whipping up a quick jumper for your egg cup – oh yes, there are free patterns on the Save the Children website and they are seriously cute! Hopefully that will make up for my abrupt lack of woolly posts and lovely knits recently. My shoulder is still iffy, I think I need to pencil in the doc as my first appointment of 2013 😦

Whatever you are going through today and through this holiday period, take care. I’m sending you some Gruffalo awesomeness – get your shrewd, inventive mind ticking. Wrap yourself up warm and pour a cup of tea, or get out those beach shorts and wriggle your toes in the sand (depending on which of the two is more relevant, and responsible, for you). Have a good weekend!

Malvern Hills


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.


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! 🙂



This is the food of champions. Protein packed. Flavourful. Satisfying. Oh whatever. I’m not swimming any lengths today or scoring any goals or pounding any tarmac. I’m just going to eat like a champion and then strike some keys and talk to some fabulous people.

Simply scramble-fry an egg or two, smash some avocado with a crack of pepper and a splash of lime juice. Oh, throw in a pinch of cayenne for that extra kick to get you started. Pile it generously onto some Kallo Organic Rice Cakes and crunch away. Delicious!

I’m ready 🙂

#15 | READY

Photo A Day Aug | READY

In an attempt to console myself for there being no gold medals to cheer for right now, I’m watching this.

[This post is one in a series inspired by Fat Mum Slim’s photo a day challenge. I’m exploring ideas and often writing off the back of the idea of the day. It’s a chance to relax a bit in August but also do something slightly different. If you take part let me know – I’d love to see how you get creative with the daily posts!]



Where shall we go today. Shall we take a small step forwards or a big step backwards? Or hey, why not a strong, confident leap into the unknown?

When I was little my dad used to love taking us for an after dinner stroll along pavements, past rows and rows of houses and up a hill to the local patch of green. We didn’t have family holidays, but I have fond memories of spending precious time together, just walking nowhere in particular. I guess that’s why I was so at home when I lived in Germany, because the Germans love a good Spaziergang.

In the UK, we are fortunate enough to have a large network of generally well signposted public footpaths that direct us through thick forests and open fields, following alongside canals, fording streams and even trailing the coastline. Many footpaths give walkers right of way over private land. In recent years, I have grown to love exploring new paths. Most towns will have them, even in London. You can start off in a built up area and end up to your surprise, in a meadow of wild flowers. This is a great place to get started if you’re interested.

There isn’t much unspoilt countryside to dream of in the UK, but I enjoy how a lot of paths take you through farmland, maintained woodland, round the back of someone’s garden and along dirt tracks and bridleways. When it comes to putting on your boots, trainers or wellies to blow a few cobwebs away, it really does almost feel like we live in an equal society.

#14 | ARROW

Photo A Day Aug | ARROW

Further links that may be of interest (more via the Visit Britain link – as above):

  • Walk 4 Life – great site where you can set up a walk challenge or get involved in one!
  • Ramblers Free Led Walks (London 2012) – walks around Olympic locations led by volunteers. I’ve also seen maps around town showing you nice green routes you can take on foot to the Olympic sites.
  • Walk England – more walking stuff.

[This post is one in a series inspired by Fat Mum Slim’s photo a day challenge. I’m exploring ideas and often writing off the back of the idea of the day. It’s a chance to relax a bit in August but also do something slightly different. If you take part let me know – I’d love to see how you get creative with the daily posts!]


Mo Farah running away from things…

I have inserted the photo as a thumbnail so that you will click through to the site.

Mo Farah Running Away From Things

Follow this link to see a serious tribute to one of our great Olympians from London 2012…it is evidence that some of us are self-medicating in a bid to overcome Olympics withdrawal syndrome.



I feel something like this (see below) today. Except, possibly not as pretty. In fact, not half as pretty.

It’s got nothing to do with the party being over because, well, we’re just taking a break before the Paralympics to be honest. (Anyone else wondering why they extinguished the Olympic flame before we’ve actually finished? It does feel like a strange concept to have two flames…) And we’ll be partying well into 2013 at this rate, whether you’re joining us or not…but right now…as I said:

#13 | SIMPLE

Photo A Day Aug | SIMPLE

[This post is one in a series inspired by Fat Mum Slim’s photo a day challenge. I’m exploring ideas and often writing off the back of the idea of the day. It’s a chance to relax a bit in August but also do something slightly different. If you take part let me know – I’d love to see how you get creative with the daily posts!]



Just two weeks ago today, we hid behind our sofas, held our hands over our eyes and peeped through our fingers at our television screens in homes all over the UK, as the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony began. We crossed our fingers and toes and hoped that Danny Boyle would enchant us with some improbable magic. Deep down inside, we feared that his enchanting film of 2008, Slumdog Millionaire was an award-winning fluke. As we looked out at our overcrowded public transport, closing down high streets, gridlocked traffic and murky grey skies, we braced ourselves for a cheesy rose-tinted view over our fabled green rolling hills.

Then, something beyond magic happened. A seemingly haphazard montage of utter mayhem exploded into a beautifully lit stadium. The stadium we still hadn’t come to terms with actually finishing on time. We are British, we don’t meet deadlines, we don’t do success, we don’t impress…look at Crossrail et al…However, Mr. Bean, a giant Voldemort, sick children dancing on hospital beds and a parachuting monarch aside (oh, and we invented the WWW what, really?) for many of us who stayed up until the end, the best bit was the finale. No, not Sir Paul silly, I mean the lighting of the Olympic flame!

If there was anything that represented Britain today for me, that was it. Yes, we are known the world over for our history, and we do spend a disproportionate amount of time contemplating the fluff in our navels. But most of us do live day-to-day as though we believe the children are our future.

We may come across as a cynical, grumbling, pessimistic nation but when challenges come, we have grit and we have hope. We try to look for the best in others and foster the potential that we seek out. And we try our best to invite everyone to the party and have fun. We don’t ask them to follow the same groove as long as everyone can dance together somehow. And our favourite national past time is doing our bit to help that person with two left feet find their rhythm.

#10 | RING[S]

Photo A Day Aug | RING[S]

That’s why I’m glad this first gold rush only lasts about two weeks and we get a break before the paralympics kick off. I’m exhausted! We’re team GB, we don’t do medal hauls. We play fair, do our best and smile gratefully if we get a bronze. We’re the champion of the underdog and we don’t know how to cheer our team onto a win. If you want proof, just look at a few examples here, here and here!

So, there cannot be too much discussion about the legacy of these games. Where will this immensely successful Olympic Games leave us as a nation? How will we deal with all the success after the big party is over? Our Prime Minister has been attracting criticism for talking of reducing the number of hours sport should be taught per week in schools. The debate over public funding continues and the data analysis of which sports are more represented by which social groups, is happening even as the games are being played out. We are reminded that there is so much more that needs to be done.

At least we proved to ourselves that in spite of all this, the old adage continues to ring true: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Our games volunteers showed us that, our athletes demonstrated it convincingly. Crucially, we need to work as a team. Funding helps, research helps, but let us not forget, we were all team GB – all of us waving our flags, painting our faces, braving the weather, yelling at our screens, reaching for our hankies. We all have the will, it’s a question perhaps of whether or not we know what to do with success and how best to live well with it.

The motto of a school I used to know well was simply: Success through effort and determination. Seems fitting to me. Let’s not forget that Olympic flame and the much discussed legacy, that inspiring of a generation. It can be done, with a healthy dose of cynicism of course.

[This post is one in a series inspired by Fat Mum Slim’s photo a day challenge. I’m exploring ideas and often writing off the back of the idea of the day. It’s a chance to relax a bit in August but also do something slightly different. If you take part let me know – I’d love to see how you get creative with the daily posts!]

London Olympics: Every Great Britain gold medal so far
Just in case you’re a Brit and you’re dreading the end of the Olympics on Sunday (don’t worry, we still have the Paralympics don’t forget), here’s a link to a little feel good video from the BBC!



A while back, I left a comment below a British news article, which included the word “cuss” in it. I no longer remember the context of the article or the comment which I left. I just recall my shock at being berated by an American lady who personally disliked my choice of vocabulary. She was somewhat aggressive towards me (or came across that way from her use of words) simply because I had said “cuss” – not even because I actually cussed.

I knew straight away where the misunderstanding lay. As an East Londoner (I dare not speak for the rest of the country) the use of cuss to mean curse is quite foreign to me. Although having said that, I can hear it in a local Jamaican accent in my head. In fact, the use of the word curse here tends to have more sinister connotations than its usage common in American English. In the British English that I am familiar with, to “swear” would be the equivalent to the American “curse”.

So for the benefit of general diplomatic relations aka entertainment, I thought I would post a demonstration of an East London conversation that turned into a minor cussing match, taken from recent real life. I guess you could call it an amateur rap battle without the rhyme…


Photo A Day Aug | GLASSES

A: [Holding up a cup of water from the water cooler] There’s something wrong with the water y’know.
B: Don’t say that! I’ve just drunk a whole glass.
A: [Holding up the water against the light] No really, there’s something in it. It was a small piece of something hard.
C: I’ve been drinking it all day, nothing wrong with it. It’s probably a bit of your tooth.
A: No! It must be lime scale or something. Can’t be my tooth, that’s horrible!
C: Well, the water’s completely clear. There’s no lime scale in it, that’s utter nonsense. It’s entirely probable that a bit of your tooth fell in.
D: And if it’s not your tooth. It’s probably plaque.
A: Aww that’s disgusting! I don’t have plaque. Look at my teeth!
D: Eww! Why would I want to get close to your plaque, just drink your water!
A: [Mumbling and eyeing the water suspiciously] I don’t have plaque. There’s something in it man.
E: I have plaque.

Who am I kidding, this probably comes across as a rather immature form of workplace bullying! But allow me to assure you that it is in fact an example of the bundle of laughs I have at work. (Albeit a very poorly written example!) The above exchange was all in jest and “A” can give as good as she gets when she’s not feeling slightly insecure about the office drinking water. She’s got good reason to feel that way too, believe me. But this kind of cussing squeezes a lot of lemonade out of the lemons at work and gives us all regular belly chuckles to keep us going.

[This post is one in a series inspired by Fat Mum Slim’s photo a day challenge. I’m exploring ideas and often writing off the back of the idea of the day. It’s a chance to relax a bit in August but also do something slightly different. If you take part let me know – I’d love to see how you get creative with the daily posts!]



Taking it easy is all well and good. But I’m spending too much time in front of the screen at the moment, what with doing my part for my country, yelling my support at the British athletes in front of the TV of an evening when I can. For this reason, I’ve recently gone back to basics and taken up pen and paper to work on future posts. Here’s a sneak preview.

Does anyone understand pole vaulting by the way? Why is at least 80% sour-faced and what are the coaches doing with their hand gestures and secret signals?  There’s no commentary to assist me and I don’t know why I am watching it… 😛


Photo A Day Aug | WRITING

[If you take part in Fat Mum Slim’s photo a day challenge, let me know – I’d love to see how you get creative with the daily posts!]