Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A little life....

"Each day is a little life."
Why do we say... "my life is terrible", or "I don't know what to do with my life", or "my life is not the way I thought it would be"?
We are the only ones who can make it different. Why moan?
I remember a woman, a perfect stranger, coming and sitting next to my sister and I and my then two year old daughter, just 24 hours before my Mother died.
We had left the hospital for just a short time, having held long vigils there while Mum drew ever more laboured breaths, the cancer within her, slowly stealing her from us. Sitting in a local food court, we just kind of stared at each other mutely, knowing she was not with us for much longer.
What possessed this woman I cannot say, but she plonked herself down at our table, and opened a random conversation with 'I've had a terrible life.' She then waffled on without drawing breath about her (admittedly) sad life to that day, and waited expectantly (I presume) for us to heap sympathy upon her.
I was so shocked and so consumed with my own grief that I just stared at her open mouthed.
My sister, who can be more forward than I in some circumstances, simply said 'At least you've got your life. Our Mum is so sick, she'll probably be dead this time tomorrow', and gathered up her things and mine, looked hard at me to gather up my daughter, and we walked off without looking back.
I do not know or care what the womans response was.
But it's a lesson, isn't it.
Your life is today.
Today is all you have.
You can't change what's done, and you can't project yourself into the future and meddle there either.
Today is it.
Do something today that reflects the life you want.
Read a better book, turn off the TV, paint, write, meditate, plan, walk, eat better, love more, forgive easily, practice random acts of kindness, attend a church service, say sorry, hug someone who needs it, smile at strangers, thank someone, allow a busy Mum or frail or disabled person in front of you in the queue, volunteer, phone a long lost friend, rekindle your relationship, be kind to yourself and others, make friends with a neighbour, make a gift, pot a plant, plant a tree, grow some vegetables, love your children, apologise, write a letter, sew something, mend something, make something, make do.
What's stopping your from having your life today?
What's on your Tray of Bliss?

Friday, December 7, 2012

No cost gifts from the heart 3....

Dig up all of those photos you couldn't frame or use for scrapbooking because they're out of focus or not centred or someone looks a bit goofy. I've used this one where my daughter, who was about 18 months old at the time, was trying to put on my sunglasses.

I'd just been taking photos of the gorgeous gardens where we'd been picnicing, and hadn't thought to manually focus on her before taking the shot. So although the garden bed in the background is crisp and clear, the otherwise cute photo has languished in my collection ever since.

I've now resurrected it, and will frame it side by side in a frame, with a little story about how the photo came about. There are other photos from the same day, framed in our hallway, so it will also be a way to tell her how those came to be.

Just a moment in time, but at 12, a precious reminder of how little she once was.

You could even simply enfold this in a handwritten letter and it would still be treasured.

...Mama Guardian...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

No cost gifts from the heart...

"One day, I'll give you the moon in a jar.

The sky on a platter.

And the ocean in a pool of glassy blue.

Until then, know that I love you."

Print the picture out, paste onto some cardstock, hand write the verse inside.

No cost, hug inspiring gift.

...Mama Guardian...

Celebrating Christmas without a loved one....

This is my Mums constellation. It's called the Jewel Box.
We nominated this 'her' constellation as she always had a fascination with the heavens and the mythology of the stars. On clear evenings, I love sitting on our back deck, searching the night sky for her. The stars wink at me, and I feel her hands on my shoulders.
This will be our tenth Christmas without her.
Some of you may be celebrating your first, fifteenth or fiftieth Christmas without someone dear to you.
Significant days like Christmas, birthdays, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, and other celebrations take on a new poignancy when someone you love is missing, absent or has passed away.
It's hard not to immerse oneself in the pain of loss and grief. I remember someone telling me the pain lessens, and the weight of the grief becomes easier.
I didn't believe them.
I moaned, I wailed, I rocked back and forth, hugging myself as Mum had always hugged me when things went wrong. I did that for a very long while.
Then one morning, just before I opened my eyes from slumber, I heard my Mums voice say 'C'mon Darling, chop-chop, there's a new day out there. Aren't you going to put on some lippy?'.
I wasn't surprised. This was something she'd said to me, when she was here. Why wouldn't she say it to me now? It was the most natural thing in the world.
From time to time,when I am having an internal struggle with something, I'll hear her voice in my ear just before I wake, just as I did then. Always full of gentle advice. And then I'll feel a flutter, brushing my hand or my foot or my brow, like a moth or a firefly.
I know then, that she is with me, guiding me and smiling proudly when I do well.
From time to time, I'll see or hear something that I know is a message from her. A pod of Dolphins breaking the surface of the water at our favourite seaside getaway (she always joked she'd come back as a Dolphin), a butterfly coming to a prolonged rest on my hand, a whisper through the branches of the tree we planted in honour of her sixtieth birthday, jingling the wind chime that once adorned her back verandah.
I don't know what you believe, but I think the souls of loved ones can be carried between this life and the next. I believe that when you really need to hear that persons voice, they will speak to you. If not in your waking life, then perhaps while you sleep.
I have vivid and lengthy conversations with my Mum, in dreams that are so real, that I am genuinely surprised to wake from them. In these dreams I know that Mum has passed on, but accept that she is there to tell me something. Inevitably she imparts some words of wisdom, and then I'm awake.
I almost certainly find that I am then able to resolve some thus far unresolveable issue or conflict in my life.
Often we fly together, dipping and lifting again. She believed in Astral travel too, so who's to say we're not doing exactly that...
Trust in yourself and in the deep love you shared or still share, with your absent loved one.
Know that if nothing else, they live on in our hearts and minds and are always with us.
The bonds of love cannot be broken. Not by death or disappearance or absence of any kind. They stretch like a silken web and enfold us when we need it most.
Be still. Be very, very quiet. Breathe.
Your loved one is near.
Can you feel them?
Is that their whisper on the breeze, their palm in yours as you drift off to sleep, their favourite bloom inexplicably more beautiful this season telling you they are at peace and with you always?
I choose to believe so.
Perhaps you do too.
Be at peace this Festive Season.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Very Special DIY Gifts...Customised Notepads...

Personalised anything is the name of the game for pretty gifts around here.
I made these notepads for my daughters friends recently.

They're so easy, and when you consider what you pay for personalised notepads even online, they're eye poppingly inexpensive.
Just print a picture or graphic you think they'd like onto 50 or so sheets of A4 paper. Cut the paper in halves or quarters if you like a more compact notepad.
Clamp the pile of paper to the edge of a table or desk or workbench with a D Clamp, and smear the facing edge (what will be the spine of the notebook) liberally, with Aquadhere...a sort of gummy hardware glue.
Allow the gummy glue to dry overnight, then remove the clamp.
Customised notebooks. Who knew? Easy, right?
Let your imagination run riot and use wedding photos, baby photos, a hand drawn graphic which can then be scanned, holiday memories and so on.

Use pastel coloured paper or use stamps and clear stamping ink to give a watermarked effect.

Do ahead of time, and store in a shoebox with scented sachets, and you have scented notepaper!

A pretty gift for very little effort.
What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

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The Charm of Home

Being Broke at Christmas....

Mother's Day Comments Pictures
More Images @

Some roses for you, because if you're here, maybe you need a smile. Christmas is tough if you're broke.
No, hang on, it's tough all the time if you're broke, but particularly so, at Christmas.
Everyone else is kicking up their heels and all you can do is worry about how to pay the rent or put food on the table.
First of all, take the pressure off yourself. Have you made arrangements with anyone you owe money to?
Have you had an honest conversation with your family about what you can and can't afford? Kids, parents, siblings, partners, can all be counted upon to be more sympathetic, if they know what's really going on. This is NOT the time to put your head in the sand and your credit card and credit rating on the line.
The older I get, the more I believe that the things that matter are people, not things. Make people your priority this Christmas, not shopping, or food, or glittering decorations. Gosh, I shop all the time on-line and never actually buy anything. Indulge in a bit of window shopping on-line this year. Print out pictures of all the things you'd buy your loved ones if money was no object.
And then, do this.
Sit down, pen in hand and paper on the desk or table and write them a letter. And I do mean HAND write. It'll mean more to them.
When was the last time you wrote a heartfelt letter to those that are important to you, telling them how much they mean in your life? Sharing a memory of a particularly happy moment, or a time when they made you so proud you could almost burst?
When was the last time you spent an hour with one of your kids or your Mum or Dad, or brother or sister or your partner, just them and you, listening to them, taking an interest in their world without thinking about what you're going to say when they stop talking or drifting off and thinking about what you have to do next. Long time, huh?
Make this the year of telling those you love, how much you love them. And to hell with shopping. You won't regret it, I promise.
And if you still want to do the whole shebang, challenge yourself to do it for as little expense as possible. More on that in my post here.

...until next time...


Sunday, December 2, 2012

So you're broke and it's Christmas...what now?

Take a moment.

I'm listing some practical ideas at the end of this post.

But first...
Focus on what's really important.
It's not expensive gifts.
It's not a table groaning with $500 worth of food, $250 of which will be thrown away at the end of the day.
It's having our loved one close. Appreciating the true meaning of Christmas.
Peace and Goodwill to all Men.
Believe that you have a Guardian Angel watching over you. We all do, you know.
From this, you are meant to learn.
From this, you will gain a new appreciation of what you can do when faced with a crisis.
From this, your family can grow and learn that dealing with adversity is a necessary human skill.
Exchange letters, hand decorated with magazine clippings. Write your family history. Spend Christmas day doing nice things for each other...a foot massage, a shoulder rub, brushing each others hair.
Give of yourselves, not of the supermarket and shopping mall.

You reap what you sow.

 Don't sow anger and unfulfilled need. Sow a peaceful and glad heart that you and your loved ones can gather together in a safe place and go on.
It may well be the best Christmas you've ever had.

Here is my cheap, cheap, cheap, impressive Christmas lunch.

Here are my no cost Christmas Ideas Number 1, number 2, number 3, number 4. and more to come. Stay tumed.

 ...until next time...

And so the caterpillar became a butterfly...

I know we're there...
Any minute, my girl will hatch from her cocoon.
She'll spread her pretty wings and fly.
Not yet though....a few more precious years up our sleeve.
But not many....
I'll hold her in my silken grasp for a little longer,
Before she launches herself on the twilight breeze.
What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cheap, cheap, cheap Christmas Lunch!

Why do we get all hysterical about Christmas Lunch?

I can turn out an impressive lunch any ol' day, and it doesn't have me hot and bothered for weeks or days in advance. Nor does it mean the kind of assault on my bank account that means no more bling for me for six months!

We've all gotta just calm the farm (as my twelve year old says) on this Christmas lunch thing.

A crisp white or patterned sheet on the table, a simple centrepiece, polished cutlery and glasses and a tasty meal with our family and friends close, and we're fine and dandy here thanks!

Here's my all time favourite for a posh but penny pinching impressive lunch. Good enough for guests, frugal enough for my peace of mind, and just as pretty as a picture!

Mama Guardians's Famous Festive Chicken Roll
Serve hot or cold

One will serve 4-8 people, depending on the size of the serves and how thick or thin you cut the roll. It also slices more readily into thinner slices, once chilled. You can double or triple the ingredients but I recommend making multiple rolls or miniature ones (adjusting the cooking time accordingly) over making one gigantic one. It won't present as prettily and will be too dry on the outside and not cooked through. This is also fabuloso, cooked in Texas muffin pans with the filling in the middle, or in smaller ones as a cocktail bite.

500gms minced meat ... turkey, chicken, pork, veal and beef are all good
2 eggs
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (plus 1 cup extra)
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp chopped dried fruit and/or nuts
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (chives, parsley, thyme)
Baking paper

Mix the mince, 1 egg, the milk, 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, and the fresh herbs.

Take a sheet of baking paper and spread the mixture over the paper in a large rectangle about 20cm x 30cm.

Mix the other cup of breadcrumbs, the dried fruit and/or nuts, and the second egg. Spread this down the long side of the mince rectangle, closest to you.

Using the baking paper to start the roll, enclose the stuffing and then roll into a long sausage shape, finishing with the 'seam' underneath (it's a bit like rolling sushi or a swiss roll sponge). Press the ends together.

Place, seam down on a baking sheet, and bake covered for 45 minutes, then remove cover and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Serve sliced with relish or sweet chilli sauce, salad and crunchy bread.

I love Christmas. I don't love what it does to people's anxiety levels. I think this recipe helps reduce some of that anxiety. For under $30, I can feed 30-40 people by making six of these. I vary the fillings so that when they're cut, they look prettily jewelled. Add another $20 for seasonal fruit and salad leaves, and we're well fed with a memorable meal. $10 more and I can have make 2 of my Mums Pumpkin Fruit cakes for dessert, and we're as happy as Larry.

Here's the recipe in a few sentences, the way they used to be passed from family to family, hand to hand. Always a winner.

Save 1 cup mashed pumpkin from dinner for this cake. Cream 1 cup brown sugar and 125gms unsalted butter. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the mashed pumpkin and 2 tablespoons Treacle. Add a cup and a half of mixed dried fruit. Stir well and add 2 cups Self Raising flour. Pour into a lined cake tin and bake at 175C for an hour and a half.
Have a calm Christmas....

Life's path...

My little daughter.
Walking life's path.
This is my girl, wandering in a French village somewhere. I'm so glad I thought to capture this moment.
Like a modern day Alice, she's distracted by something out of frame, despite the beauty all around her. The late afternoon light shining through her red gold locks rendering her Rubensque in hue, if not stature.
This photo was taken four and a half years ago, when she was still just a little girl.
Now my little girl is a young colt, on the verge of womanhood, and about to launch herself into her final Summer as a child.
We've had so many fun times, my girl and I.
I hope the young woman she is becoming will still seek fun with Mum.
What's on your Tray of Bliss today?
... Mimi