Christmas Traditions

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Tree Hunting and Decorating

Every year, since I was born, I have enjoyed the smell of a real tree. This year, Rob, Mum, Dad, my Brother, Sister-in-Law and Nephew, Felix and I headed down to Sunnybrook Christmas Tree Farm to pick out the perfect tree. Had it been cooler I think we would have spent longer hunting for the perfect one. As it was 33℃ we decided on the first tree Dad recommended! This year we have limited our tree to 4 ft; we are on a tighter budget and lack the 9ft ceilings our old Californian bungalow provided us back in Geelong. My parent’s tree is usually at least 6 ft…this year it looks more like 7!

Being a smaller tree meant we could fit it inside the car with us to transport it home. The smell in the apartment is incredible. There is nothing like the smell of real pine to inspire the Christmas spirit and get me into the mood for some carols. It’s probably the fastest tree decorating session Rob and I have ever done! Such a small tree. I decided to just go maximalist with the decorations. “Put them all on!” we yelled enthusiastically as we decorated to the sounds of Frank Sinatra, serenading us with his version of “White Christmas.”

Do you have a real Christmas tree? What does your tree look like this year?

xo Cat

Mandala Monday

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Yes, it’s that time of the week again! Mandala Monday, woohoo! Here’s my contribution for today. I had no fine liners on hand so I decided to use my small set of Copic markers for the whole thing. Listening to “Rivertribe- The Blessing” today I chose a short induction of eight long deep breaths to guide myself inward.

I opened my eyes to the blank page and decided to outline my drawing in black. Allowing the shapes to unfold naturally, I started to see a theme emerging in my Mandala. So much love! I saw the hearts and they became more prominent when it came to colouring in the lines.

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The name of this mandala is “Lovely Lily”. In my mind, I see this lily floating in a pond connecting to the energy of the water. Nutrients flow in and out. If I lean over and smell the lily, it tickles my nose with its hearts. The smell is delicious.

When I turn my mandala upside down it looks like a bunch of bananas in the centre. It also reminds me of Carmen Miranda and her crazy fruit hats. In another way, it reminds me of the Beetles film “Yellow Submarine”.

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I felt a lot of love drawing this one. It makes me happy looking at it. Vibrant colours, bold lines. It almost moves as I look at it. I did draw this one opposite my last mandala and although I have used a totally different set of markers, I can see similarities, especially in the colours. It was definitely not a conscious decision! That get’s me thinking about elements that I see repeating too, especially water and foliage. Nourishment seems to be a continuing theme. I’m looking forward to exploring this in my journal.

Have you drawn a mandala today? Notice any re-occurring elements, colours or symbols?

xo Cat

Christmas Traditions

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I love Christmas Time. To me, it is (cue music) “the most wonderful time of the year.” Aside from the actual lunch on Christmas day, there are so many other wonderful traditions that go along with the festivities. The first weekend of December is when the first of our family traditions kicks off with gingerbread baking!

This tradition started about 6 years ago when Mum and I wanted to gift something small to our work colleagues and close friends. Mum isn’t the best at baking, she just doesn’t really enjoy it. She indulges me this tradition and I love it. Every year the biscuits turn out perfectly thanks to this recipe here.

We spend the day making them and by dinner time we have baked, iced and packaged up our little gingerbread people. One year, Rob helped us decorate and decided “bikinis” and “mankinis” were the appropriate attire for Australian gingerbread people. So that’s the way we ice them now.

To me, is one of the highlights each Christmas. We laugh about the funny face we’ve just drawn on our mankini-clad gingerbread man and sing along to some Christmas carols. What are some of your Christmas traditions?

xo Cat

Vintage Find: Fruit Centrepieces

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Last week I helped Mum go through about 10 boxes of books she had stored in the attic. Most of the books were about old movie stars (one of Mum’s obsessions) some were about spirituality and pastoral care. We then came across a historical gem in the form of a 1963 November 13th edition of ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly’.

Whilst Mum rustled through the other pieces of history contained within the box, including her old stamp collection, I browsed through the delicate pages. One of these featured a competition to ‘win one of 6 Mini Morris 850’s.’ Entrants were required to write the next advertising slogan for ‘Tongala Condensed Milk’ in 15 words or less. Another page advertised ‘Lightning Nylon Zippers’- they’re self-locking. I can’t quite work out why the lady featured appears to be holding a knife…?

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However, the true gem to be found within the pages of this magazine wasn’t in the advertising. It is the article entitled “Arranging Flowers the American Way.” Brace yourself, this is going to change the way you look at your fresh produce forever.

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Richard and Charles, two flower specialists from San Francisco designed a watermelon centrepiece for a summer buffet party. I think my favourite though has to be the butternut pumpkin come candelabra. Classic. Nothing says ‘dinner party’ like an arrangement of artichokes, garlic and a head of cabbage with a couple of candles wedged between them.

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There are so many vintage trends, crafts and DIY that are experiencing revival at the moment. I’m not sure if this will catch on… maybe it will, I’ve been wrong before! Perhaps the next time I’m looking to decorate my table for my dinner guests I’ll look first in the crisper before heading to the florist.

xo Cat

Top 5 Christmas Movies to get you in the Spirit

Woohoo! Christmas is coming. I love Christmas. One of the best things is watching cheesy, corny Christmas films. Yes, I love it! Can’t get enough of them. I have my favourites, though. Here are my top 5, in no particular order:

A Muppets Christmas Carol.

Ever since this came out in 1992 I have watched it each year religiously. The best part about watching it now is that they’ve cut out the terrible song in the middle of the film that we all used to fast forward through anyway. I know all the other songs off by heart, all to Rob’s dismay. “There goes mister humbug, there goes mister grim. If they gave a prize for being mean, the winner would be him…”

Love Actually

I started watching this at Christmas time upon the suggestion of my Brother. It honestly had never occurred to me that this was, in fact, a Christmas film. I love how the individual stories are all somehow intertwined. I always yell at the TV when she doesn’t turn her phone on silent. Just turn the phone on silent! It will be the first viewing since Alan Rickman died this year, we’ll see if I can get through without crying. (unlikely).

It’s A Wonderful Life

This is, without a doubt, mine and Rob’s favourite film to watch together at Christmas time, traditionally on Christmas Eve. What a wonderful reminder, that no matter how shitty the year has been, life is precious. I’ll be crying at the end of this one too. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” Classic.

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To me, number 1 is where it’s at. The original and the best. “Keep the change you filthy animal!” Oh, the satisfaction of watching Kevin McCallister get the bad guys. I also enjoy the soundtrack and can’t shake the image of Macaulay Culkin’s face screaming in the mirror whenever I hear “White Christmas.”

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I love Bill Murray. Not like romantic love, but Dad-like love if you know what I mean? The combination of  slapstick and whitty humour in this film never fails to put a smile on my face. I’m laughing already thinking about Bill being kicked in the nuts by the ghost of Christmas present. Hers is the standout performance in my opinion.

What are your favourite Christmas films to watch over the holidays?

 

xo Cat

 

Mandala Monday

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I have named this Mandala “Hope Springs”. I feel as though the centre flower is unfolding. Water flows from within the centre of the flower; it nourishes itself. The birds circle around the centre in a continuous loop admiring the flower and enjoying its nectar. The flower has new growth, new seedlings to care for.

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There is a lot of clean, white space; it feels spacious. I can breathe.

It reminds me of a Christmas bauble. Maybe that’s on my mind as we are only 4 weeks away from Christmas. It looks as though it were spherical, rolled slightly to one side. When I look at it from different angles, it reminds me of a Kaleidoscope. When I turn the page around I’m expecting the image to change and grow. In my mind, I see the birds fly up to each corresponding pond and land on the water. I see the water droplets nourish the seedlings which in turn sprout a new flower.

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Here is the process and some questions I asked myself, and my Mandala today:

1. Look at the Mandala from different angles, turn it around and around. Stop where it feels like it should be.

2. What are the main colours in the piece? What colours did you use most of? Least of?

3. What does it remind you of?

4. Notice now the shapes you created. Take note of soft/ hard/ jagged/ smooth lines.

5. If this Mandala could speak, what might it say?

6. Are there any areas of high contrast?

7. Ask the Mandala if it has a name?

 

Have you created a mandala for Mandala Monday today? Please share it with me, I’d love to see.

xo Cat

DISCOVERING THE JOY OF SWING DANCING

 

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Sometimes saying “yes” is a good thing.

There are so many posts on learning to say “No” and trust me I am the first to admit I need to read every single one of those! The best answer this weekend was “yes.”

I said “yes” to an old friend’s suggestion that we go check out the live swing band at the Austrian Club on Saturday night. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. When we arrived the place was pumping. People were seated at tables surrounding a central dance floor, dining on typical Bavarian cuisine. The smell of oversized sausages, chicken schnitzel, apple strudel and beer from Salzburg curled up our noses. Taxidermy deer heads, wall sconces, pictures of Austrian countryside and palaces adorned the walls whilst chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Reminiscent of an old ski lodge, the decor tacky, but fun!

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Our group of late 20’s early 30-year-olds brought the average age down to maybe 50. I felt young and in awe of the moves these baby boomers were making on the dance floor! Fortunately, my old friend Jam just happens to be champion swing dancer. A  couple of car park lessons on the Charleston later, Rob and I were having the time of our lives (pun intended, who can resist a dirty dancing reference).

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The old world romance of dancing this way with a partner is so joyful.  I don’t think I stopped smiling, laughing or squealing with delight as I twirled around the dance floor. I’ve already researched swing dancing lessons in our area so Rob and I can work on our moves next year. Saying “yes” to this was the best decision this weekend, not only did I catch up with a dear, old friend, I discovered a new joy.

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When was the last time you said “yes” and discovered something new about yourself or others? I’d love to know.

 

xo Cat

 

Food Choices

 

Wow…The emotional response I had to this documentary film was unexpected. I literally burst into tears at the end of it. I’d never thought that I would go off eating meat completely.

It’s not like there is a huge amount of meat in my diet at the moment anyway. To tell you the truth I cut down on our meat consumption, not because of any moral or ethical dilemma. It is simply too expensive for us on our limited budget. We eat free range chicken once a week, that’s it. On the advice of my acupuncturist, I already eat a dairy and gluten free diet.

In the past I’ve seen other documentaries on the meat industry, for some reason, this one really hit home for me. I think it was the combination of wanting a better future for our planet, realising the health benefits of a plant-based diet and understanding the role “big business” plays in manipulating the general public to consume. Not to mention the obscene cruelty to animals that is so unnecessary in our 21st century.

This is the journey I’m choosing to embark on. It won’t be for everyone. I think my family are going to find it really hard to understand. I have an Uncle who has been a vegetarian my whole life. I think a phone call to him is in order.

What does your diet look like? Have you seen the film? Will you? Has something like this ever motivated you to make a dramatic change in lifestyle? I’d love to know.

xo Cat

 

Mandala Monday

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I like Monday’s. I actually really do. Not only does it signal the beginning of a new week on the calendar, it marks a new week full of new possibilities.

What then is Mandala Monday? In 2012 when I began my Art Therapy Diploma, I had no idea what a Mandala was. I soon discovered the healing power that circle of containment provided me. ‘Mandala’ is an Indian term which loosely translated means “circle”. You’ll often see Mandalas with different patterns that seem to radiate out from the centre. They can be a symbol of life, of healing and wholeness.

Drawing, painting, collaging, crocheting or using found objects to make a Mandala helped me practice mindfulness. Creating the Mandala allowed me to process everything that happened during the day or week. Sometimes I make a Mandala based on my feelings at the time. The magic of the Mandala is that there is no right, no wrong, it doesn’t have to be neat or perfect or beautiful.  A mandala just has to be for me.

I’ve decided to share my weekly Mandala here on my blog with you. Maybe you’ve never made one, why not give it a try and make your Monday a “Mandala Monday” with me.

Materials: Choose what you would like to use to create your mandala today. I’m using pastels today but you could use pencils, paint, markers, whatever you like. You’ll need a piece of paper too.nov14_2016_5

Environment: Make sure you’re somewhere you can’t be interrupted and have some soothing music on in the background. You could do this on the train, I have, with my headphones in.

Step 1: Draw a Circle- I Like to trace a bowl, cup or plate depending on how big I want my Mandala to be. Today I’m choosing a cup, it’s a nice small size and will probably take me 5 mins to do, perfect for when I’m low on time or if you’re new to Mandala (it feels less overwhelming than a salad bowl)!

Step 2: Let your feelings inspire your mandala art. I like to close my eyes for a few minutes and breathe, noticing how I’m feeling in the moment.

Step 3: Open your eyes (if you have them closed) and choose a few colours that speak to you. Put your pen to paper within the circle and allow the image, lines or shapes to evolve and transform as you draw.

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Your finished Mandala will represent and reflect who you are at the time of its creation. I like to give my Mandala a name and date it. Do you enjoy making Mandalas? What did yours look like today? Please share them with me too, I’d love to see.

xo Cat

First Things First

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Milky Joe, who fortunately didn’t have to spend this year living inside a paper bag.

It seems only fitting that Pip Lincolne’s “Taking Stock” should be my first blog post. I’ve had a crazy 18 months (another post for another time). Needless to say moving 3 times in one year is not great.

At the moment I feel quite displaced; my husband, Milky Joe and I are living in my brother’s old room come DVD library and most of my possessions are in a storage facility back in Geelong. “Taking Stock” is like a little snapshot of what’s happening right now. Though I still feel displaced, I think this exercise has allowed me to accept and appreciate where I am and what I’m doing.

Making: a crochet beanie with detachable popcorn stitch beard for my Nephew’s 2nd birthday.

Cooking: sweet potatoes, I’m obsessed with baking them, splitting them open and filling them with all sorts of toppings. It’s the easiest lunch/ dinner to make when I can’t be bothered cooking.

Drinking: Dang Gui SI Ni Tang. I have cold extremities and this Chinese herbal concoction is meant to warm me up. The taste is… well let’s just say Mary Poppins knew what she was saying when she sang “A spoonful of sugar…”

Reading: Dewey- The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

Wanting: a Massage…I’ve slept on 10 different mattresses in the past 3 months.

Looking: forward to dancing up a storm with an old friend on Saturday night to a big brass band at the Austrian Club.

Playing: a Spice Girls “best of” list on Spotify, so, so good.

Deciding: when to book my car in for a service

Wishing: the dishwasher was fixed.

Enjoying: the Blog with Pip Course.

Waiting: to move into my apartment (only two and a half weeks to go, yay).

Liking: the fact that since turning my iPhone on silent I have less anxiety, fewer interruptions and more time during the day.

Wondering: where to go and what to do for Rob’s birthday next year. He wants to go overseas for his 4oth in May. I know it’s a little while away, but there’s nothing like dreaming about a tropical paradise when it’s cold outside.

Loving: my kitty Milky Joe, he’s keeping me company today.

Pondering: Minimalism and intentional living. Downsizing from a three bedroom house to a one bedroom apartment has really made me rethink my lifestyle and my stuff.

Considering: going back to brunette. Whilst I’ve enjoyed being a blonde, bleaching my hair platinum has required a little too much maintenance.

Watching: ‘GIRLS’- I know I’m a little late to the party, but I love it! An advantage of living at my parents is the binge watching capabilities that their Foxtel subscription affords me.

Hoping: the world is going to be ok now that Donald Trump is the President of the USA

Marvelling: at how long Milky Joe can sleep for!

Needing: a cup of tea…

Smelling: Rooibos tea, mmm

Wearing: Dobby socks. Inspired by one of my obsessions, Harry Potter. 50% of the profit goes towards stopping child trafficking.

Following: The Minimalists

Noticing: my desk is untidy.

Knowing: I am enough.

Thinking: I should go and do the dishes before they pile up…they’ve already piled up…I’ll go do them now before the pile becomes overwhelming…

Feeling: good about having done the dishes!

Admiring: the 2017 Flow diary. I keep looking it up on the internet and wondering whether to purchase it for myself or pop it on my Christmas wish list.

Sorting: out my finances (boring but necessary).

Buying: ‘Gratitude Conversation Starters’ from Kiki.K

Getting: excited about Christmas! It’s so close now I can almost smell the pine needles.

Bookmarking: Free things to do in Melbourne. I’ve decided to be a tourist in my own town when we move back to Richmond. After discovering Brisbane through free walking and riding tours, enjoying free exhibitions, art and gigs, I think it’s time I rediscovered all Melbourne has to offer.

Disliking: advertisements on Instagram.

Opening: my copy of “Just quit it” an indie magazine I purchased back in 2010 when I lived in Newcastle. It’s helped me quit many jobs and I’m sharing the wisdom it contains with a friend.

Giggling: about my Dad talking to himself in the next room. I used to answer him or ask “What’s that Dad?” he’d reply with “I wasn’t talking to you Cat, I was talking to myself.” Now I just leave him to happily chatter away.

Snacking: on Medjool dates, I’ve been on a bit of a health kick lately and these have saved me from reaching for chocolate.

Coveting: Rocket Book! What is this thing?! I’m either a total sucker or I must count this notebook amongst my future possessions. Can I please have one for Christmas?

Helping: myself by meditating every night before bed.

Hearing: Milky Joe chomping down on his dinner.

xo Cat