Common sense would say that I shouldn’t be thriving right now. Its the middle of a fairly dreary Winter, Dave was in and out for half of last week at an academic conference, Eli has been reliving some epic extended tantrums and the wider world seems to be in a confused state of agony. And there have, of course, been moments to forget… clashes of wills, instructions that are repeatedly ignored until I change to my ‘cross voice’ and the loads of washing perpetually hanging in our living room. And yet…
When I started thinking about the things that are bringing me joy right now, they came slowly at first. Then, as one lead to another and another, a deluge began pouring in. It isn’t a secret that poetry has wound its ivy tentacles into my soul… if anything it is a struggle NOT to write in verse now. Then there are the whispers of enticement, the white bloom of the Orchid flowers I had given up as deceased, the steady paper trail of artwork that winds its way onto the refrigerator door each evening.
In no particular order, here are the things that are making me happy right now:
1. Mindfulness Sandwich
It’s like the worst kept secret at the moment. Mindfulness is the answer to (almost) everything. It’s the thread that weaves its way through each On Being podcast I listen to, the answer to feeling stressed and overwhelmed, the spark of wonder that makes everything slow for a moment and click satisfyingly into place. I’m getting better at noticing the little pieces, but eating has never been a strong suit for me. I’m usually wolfing down a sandwich in one hand while flagging down a sticky child with a wet cloth in my other. Not that I can entirely blame the kids for this. I feel self-conscious when I eat alone and cannot conquer the unbearable itch to distract myself – whether with the ‘scroll of death’ on Facebook or catching up on blog posts on Feedly – I’m always eating… but never really tasting.
Enter the Mindfulness Sandwich. The ingredients change slightly, but the concept is always the same. Toasted bread, a slice of gourmet cheese, homemade chutney, shaved ham, mustard and pickles. I make it slowly and sit at the table with my phone firmly out of reach. I force myself to pay attention to each bite, each morsel and appreciate the textures as they play against each other. It is the best sandwich I have ever experienced… which I suspect says more about my approach than the ingredients!
2. Rearranging the Living Room
I don’t know about you, but I need a change of scene once in a while, and the cathartic process of just moving around the couches and bookshelf seems to trigger something refreshing in me. A few weeks ago, we rolled up the rug, heaved furniture into different spaces and found all the lost toys and I love the new configuration. We now have a ‘nook’ to watch movies in, and a corner for the kids to draw and do craft. It feels more cosy and suited to the constant greyness in the skies.
3. Salted Caramel Sauce
I am the opposite of a health nut. When we were in high school, my mum watching a documentary that convinced her that our true and natural state was to be Vegan. I have vivid memories of canned ‘nut meat’, slimy tofu, disconcertingly tangy ‘yoghurt’ and speckled ‘cheese’. Prior to taking the plunge into the ‘land with no flavour’ we had been well accustomed to health snacks – sultanas, nuts, fruit smoothies for breakfast – but this was a whole new level of extreme. It is fair to say that the remainder of my life has been dedicated to eradicating these food memories. So, salted caramel sauce – I welcome thee. Dave and I savour this butterscotch delight on sundaes as soon as the kids are in bed, Dave adds a light dusting of freshly ground coffee, I could just eat the sauce out of the jar.
I’m a bit of a broken record on this, I know. After growing up in a tradition that was highly suspicious of anything Eastern, it took me a long time to admit that I even like Yoga! But the daily rhythm that slows me down, forces me to intake large amounts of oxygen and turn off my ‘thinking brain’ for a few moments has become so welcome and rejuvenating. I recently listened to an On Being podcast with Rex Jung which broke down the process of creativity and how the frontal lobe has to quieten down for the sparks of insight and novelty to link together in unexpected ways. This makes so much sense to me. It is so often in the midst of a ‘downward dog’ or ‘crescent lunge’ that I have an epiphany about a post I’m in the middle of, or realise how to finish the piece that had no foreseeable conclusion. Plus, the intentional process of moving my body in the middle of the afternoon when my energy levels are naturally at their lowest, provides me with the rush of endorphins I need to make it through the rest of the day.
5. Chief Inspector Gamache
I’m a newcomer to this series by Louise Penny, but I was lucky enough to score three books from the library this month and I’m loving it. I grew up on Agatha Christie novels, so a good murder mystery is right up my alley, but the way that so many of the characters are continued on throughout the series makes these even more compelling. Penny is a talented writer who deliciously weaves notions of smell and taste throughout every page, so that the already stunning locations around French Canada feel almost tangible.
6. Homegrown Beetroot
Our garden has been a lot slower over winter, but I am sorely wishing that I planted at least double the amount of beetroot. I had initial visions of beetroot chutney, but our discovery of beetroot chips is steadily eroding away our supply. Slicing them very thinly, I sprinkle a little oil and salt onto the discs and bake them until slightly charred. (Un)fortunately the kids think they look too weird and haven’t caught onto the deliciousness yet, and we are not at all devastated at having to finish off their share!
Now, over to you! What is making you smile this Winter? Is there a recipe or ritual that you have discovered recently that is giving you a new vitality and energy? I’d love to hear in the comments below.