Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Out With The Old, In With The New

As the end of 2008 becomes imminent, I am consciously thinking about new starts. What do I want to shed, what do I want to invite in and nurture in my life?

Big changes are afoot - both material changes and more subtle ones. I have finally filed for divorce - although I knew this was the action I would ultimately take, I didn't want to rush into it without sitting with the idea for a while first. It felt important to let the notion sink in, to initiate things from a place of groundedness and centredness. I have finally arrived at that place, and the wheels have been set in motion.

The kitchen at Halfway Up A Hill is at last being renovated - after eight and a half years of making do with the grotty badly fitted kitchen that was here when we arrived. Of course the reason for this sudden progress is so that the house will be more saleable when that time comes. But in the meantime I will relish having a halfway decent kitchen. Who knows - I may even become keener on cooking!

And I am getting a new car.

It's farewell to my faithful old Escort - sadly becoming too expensive to keep patching up - and hello to my new Suzuki Alto, which I will be getting in just over a week's time. This is a smaller car with correspondingly lower costs (cheaper tax, lower petrol consumption, and hopefully less running repairs). I am sad to see the Escort go, I have had it since 2001 and it has always been very reliable, starting first time every time even if it has been standing out in the cold rain for a week.

How strange that all this is coming at once. All of these things have been in the pipeline for a while, but somehow it feels like gears are changing, things are falling into place and I am accelerating into 2009.

Last year I wished fervently for 2008 to be an improvement on 2007, which I described as feeling like a constant uphill struggle. Strangely enough, although 2008 has also turned out to have contained more than its fair share of doom, gloom and disaster for me and my loved ones, somehow I feel that a corner has been turned, and life whilst not exactly a bed of roses is certainly not an uphill struggle.

This evening as I went out to shut away the chickens and geese, a beautiful sliver of new moon was gleaming in the sky. I kissed my hand to her, and wished for a bright future.

May we all have a bright and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Things I Have Learned This Year

As the end of the year is fast approaching, I thought it may be wise to look back and take stock of what I have learned this year - which includes, amongst other things:

  1. I really love knitting.

  2. I can make a great risotto - except when I am trying to impress friends who are round for dinner, when it magically morphs into bland stodge.

  3. Sometimes life is weirder than a soap opera.

  4. I enjoy planning seasonal rituals.

  5. True friends rally round in times of crisis - and sometimes you don't realise what a true friend someone is until then.

  6. I may be the only woman in the world who can't stand Sex and the City.

  7. Waterproof mascara is worth its weight in gold.

  8. I can wire a plug.

  9. How to play Chinese Chequers.

  10. Goslings grow really fast!

  11. Bruce Springsteen is just as wonderful live as I always imagined he was.
  12. The weather is completely unpredictable.
  13. Chocolate Tiffin could well be the most delicious foodstuff on the planet.
  14. Things are never so good they can't turn bad.
  15. Things are never so bad they can't get worse.
  16. Things are never so bad they can't get better.

What have you learned this year?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

I Live in a Beautiful Place

Last night as I drove down dark country lanes on my way home from a planning meeting for next week's Winter Solstice ritual, the moon rose, huge, yellow, serene. So beautiful I had to sing to Her as I drove.

This morning, the land was again white with frost and gold with early sunlight. Every surface was edged with tiny twinkling ice crystals. The sky was blue, with clouds as soft and white as angel wings.

I live in a beautiful place. When we first moved here, I wondered if I would become immune to the beautiful views, if familiarity would breed if not contempt then perhaps indifference. But that has not happened at all. I am still often halted in my tracks by the beauty that surrounds me here, Halfway up a Hill.

Yet the moon would be just as beautiful viewed from an inner city window, the frost just as magical. Even the most uninspiring ingredients such as motor oil and a muddy puddle can combine to produce glorious swirling rainbows.

I live in a beautiful place - but then again, we all do.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

One Sweet Blog Award

And my final blog catch-up...

Thank you so much to Lee at Solstice Dreamer for nominating me for this award. I'm late picking up on it but hugely grateful!

I have to list seven things in a number of different categories.

7 things to do before I die
  1. Watch a tennis match at Wimbledon
  2. See the Rubinoos live
  3. Learn to crochet
  4. Get Herbert to let me stroke him (he now comes in the house to visit but is still too wary to let me get close enough to touch)
  5. Visit the amazing Goddess temples in Malta
  6. Write and publish a book
  7. Plant more trees

7 things I do now

  1. Sing along with the radio
  2. Luxuriate in the bath
  3. Make jam
  4. Blow a kiss to the New Moon when I first see Her
  5. Make my own compost
  6. Make soup
  7. Enjoy Sudoku

7 things I can't do

  1. Play a musical instrument
  2. Tango
  3. Make a souffle
  4. Abide Jeremy Clarkson
  5. Ice skate
  6. Sneeze quietly
  7. Understand cricket

7 things I find attractive in the opposite sex

  1. Kindness
  2. Nice eyes
  3. A sense of humour
  4. Intelligence
  5. A social conscience
  6. A nice smile
  7. Honesty

7 things I say most often

  1. "S***!"
  2. "C'mon girls!" (to the cats)
  3. "Take care!" (when parting from someone or finishing up a telephone call)
  4. A vast selection of expletives other than "s***!" - I am someone who does believe in swearing
  5. "D'you know what I mean?"
  6. "Brilliant!!!!"
  7. "Hiya!"

7 celebs I most admire

  1. Joss Whedon
  2. Bruce Springsteen
  3. Maya Angelou
  4. Stephen Fry
  5. Susan Sarandon
  6. Errr....

7 favourite foods

  1. Prawns
  2. Spaghetti & home made tomato sauce
  3. Cashew Nuts
  4. Moules Mariniere with crusty bread
  5. Chocolate
  6. Hot Bakewell Tart & Cream at the Owl & the Pussycat Tearooms in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire
  7. Lemon tart or my Mum's Lemon Flummery (like a tangy lemon mousse - to die for!)

As I've already done a lot of nominating in the last couple of posts, for this one I'm going to just say I nominate everyone on my 'Family, Friends and Favourites' blog roll, and if you read this and would like to join in - well, consider yourself nominated too!

Tree of Happiness Award

Continuing to play catch up on the blog, I find I have been tagged by the lovely aromatic at Winds of Change, who has awarded me the Tree of Happiness. Thank you!
The rules of the award are:

  • Link to the person who gave the award to you.
  • Post the rules on your blog.
  • List six things that make you happy.
  • Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
  • Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
  • Let the person who awarded you know when your entry is up.

It's always a good exercise to focus on the positives in life, so with no further ado, my six happy-making things are:

  1. Spending time with my loved ones - blood family, chosen family and friends. I am especially looking forward to spending Christmas with my loved ones this year.
  2. Going to Witchcamp! Next year's will be Avalon Spring in late May, a beautiful time of year. We will be working with the Charge of the Goddess back at our old familiar venue, the lovely Earthspirit, near Glastonbury. Can't wait!
  3. Watching my chickens. They are so interesting and so entertaining as they eat and drink and scratch and socialise and explore. And it has been wonderful watching the ex-battery hens blossom and thrive.
  4. Tai Chi. I have mentioned before the positive effect it has on my mood. I've noticed that even if I'm feeling really depressed and sad, my weekly lesson never fails to pick me up. It's strange as I'm really not an exercise lover - I loathed PE at school and spent a great deal of time evading it whenever possible. Later, I went dutifully to aerobics classes but never enjoyed them and always left feeling exhausted - I thought I was immune to the 'exercise high' that others seem to get. But after a Tai Chi class I feel stretched (literally and metaphorically), energetic and positive.
  5. Craft activities. I love getting totally immersed in the creative process, and I especially love recycling something old/broken/tatty/useless into something new and beautiful.
  6. Harvesting food I have grown and making it into a tasty meal for my loved ones. I often say I don't like cooking - by which I really mean cooking and eating alone is not something I find pleasurable, it feels like a chore. And frankly, I get sick of my own cooking. Yet harvesting food I've grown feels like a real achievement, and preparing food for others is a different matter, a pleasure indeed. And when the garden suddenly throws up something unexpected - say a glut of broad beans or courgettes - then by necessity my cooking becomes inventive and suddenly it's fun again!

My six nominations are:
  1. Brett at This Guy's Journey
  2. Boho Mom at Words from a Bohemian Mom
  3. The Awakened Heart - if she has time to do it, having just moved home
  4. Sleepy Kitty at From the Windowsill also sounds very busy, but I hope she'll find time to do it too
  5. Breezy at Breezy Break Blog because she liked the last meme I passed on to her, and she's been quiet of late...
  6. The Kitten's Mother

Monday, 8 December 2008

Green Meme #1

I have been rather remiss in my blogging of late and have a few bits to catch up on! Here is the first - I was tagged for this Green Meme by The Awakened Heart, way back at the beginning of last month (oops).

The rules are quite simple:

1. Link to Green Meme Bloggers

2. Link to whoever tagged you

3. Include meme number

4. Include these guidelines in your post

5. Answer questions

6. Tag 3 other green bloggers.

Green Meme #1:

1. Name two motivations for being green
My first motivation is my love for the Earth - I'm not sure if loving the Earth made me a Pagan or if being a Pagan makes me love the Earth. But either way, love Her I do, and that is motivation enough to be green.
Secondly, I can't bear waste, so re-using, repairing, recycling, re-vamping etc is just part of my nature.

2. Name 2 eco-unfriendly items you refuse to give up

The cats, and books/magazines.

3. Are you at peace with, or do you feel guilty about no.2?
Guilty. But not too guilty.

4. What are you willing to change but feel unable to/stuck with/unsure how to go about it?
I want to change my car to a more economical, eco-friendly model, but I know absolutely nothing about cars and I'm worried I'm going to choose wrongly and end up with a lemon!
In my wildest dreams I think about selling Halfway Up a Hill and building an eco-house, but it seems like a daunting project in terms of money, time, and lack of expertise on my part.

5. Do you know your carbon footprint for your home? If so, is it larger/smaller than your national average?
I'm not sure what it is, but I calculated it about a year ago using one of those on-line calculators, and it was definitely below the national average.

6.What's eco-frustrating and/or eco-fantastic about where you live?
Living out in the countryside I tend to use the car a lot more than I'd like, which is frustrating.
But living somewhere I can breathe clean air, and grow my own fruit & veg and keep chickens is wonderful.

7. Do you eat local/organic/vegetarian/forage/grow you own?
Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. But not necessarily all at the same time, and not necessarily consistently. I try to buy local and/or organic food, but sometimes there is an inevitable trade-off between ethics and price. Or sometimes the organic stuff has been flown in from half-way across the world. In those instances I tend to prioritise local - or at least UK-produced - above organic.
When I signed up to the River Cottage 'Chicken Out!' campaign I promised myself that from now on I'd only eat free range chicken, and I've been pretty good at sticking to my guns. To compensate for the additional cost, I now eat chicken less often, with more vegetarian food between times.
I had been vegetarian for over ten years, up until a couple of years ago when I started craving meat and decided my body was telling me something. So I have eaten meat for the last couple of years - and now I'm not really wanting it so much any more, so I'll probably go back to being properly vegetarian in the near future.
I love foraging for wild foods - fungi, berries, wild garlic, crab apples, rose hips, sorrel etc.
And of course I grow my own veggies and fruit - although the last couple of poor summers/poor harvests have been a vivid example of how difficult life could be if I relied totally on my own efforts for food.

8. What do you personally find the most challenging in being green?
The feeling that it's an up-hill struggle to convince the rest of the world that it's most desirable, yet really not hard to change to a greener lifestyle.
And not letting despair at the size of the problems facing us take over and push me into apathy.

9. Do you have a green confession?
When we first moved to Wales, T built me a 'green washing machine' - basically an old hot water cylinder with the top cut off. A heating element heated the water, but all the swooshing and washing and rinsing of clothes was done by hand, and I also had a mangle to squeeze the water out of the clothes instead of a spin-drier. I did all our laundry like that for over three years, but in the end I caved in and we bought a conventional washing machine.
The problem with the Moonroot-powered version was that doing the laundry took so darned long. Doing the laundry just for the two of us took one full day a week. If we had kids to wash for too, I'm sure I'd have been begging for a conventional washing machine within weeks!

10. Do you have the support of family and/or friends?
Yes, by and large. Many of them clearly think I'm a bit of a crank, but I try not to be preachy and they are supportive in turn - albeit sometimes in a bemused way. And occasionally I get asked for advice or someone proudly tells me they've started composting their kitchen waste or changed over to low-energy light bulbs and I feel like I might just be having a positive influence!

I now tag Lee at Solstice Dreamer, Leanne at Somerset Seasons, and Willow at Contemplating Change.

Frost Photos

Sunday's frosty morning was all white and gold in the slanting early light...