Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Green Space

This week I have been thinking a lot about silence. I have been silent from the blog for a long time, but partly that is because I'm struggling to find silence in my life. There is little to be found in the city, yes, but even within the walls of my own house, where for me there is no place to run or hide from the noise of a young and active family. Even with the pair of ear protectors I bought (you know, the kind that jackhammer operators wear), it’s difficult to filter out the sounds of the household, the fact that Billy has been an ambulance siren nearly constantly for the past month, the tinkling notes of Grade 1 piano, and the intermittent drone of Radio 3. It is like living in a beehive, one where I am not the queen.

I came across this statement from David Ogilvy, founder of the ad agency of the same name, which highlights my problem: “Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you."

When you freelance, as I do, and you love your family, as I do, and you work at home, as I do, how do you get anything done without free and easy access to the unconscious? Moreover, with the constant presence of a phone that contains 100% of my audio library, even the long walks and quiet interludes have their own backdrop of music or comedy podcasts, to help to pass the time. Speaking for myself I feel I have got out of the habit of silence in those interstitial times between here and there. My mind is stuffed brimful with information, too much sometimes to keep it all in place, but it’s the quietude to gain its access that I lack. How do you find a quiet place for yourself, within yourself, to have a good think? Or is that the plight of the modern helicopter parent, to no longer have two thoughts to rub together? I'm eager to hear suggestions, especially if you are a frazzled, working mother like myself, how you find a room of your own that is not the kitchen?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Mortgage as Big as the Ritz

Oh my goodness, it's a dream come true... The Hamptons mansion where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote part of The Great Gatsby is up for sale.

Coldwell Banker lists the manor home on Long Island at just over US$3.8m. The 5,000-square-foot (464sqm) Mediterranean style home, built in 1918, has seven bedrooms and six bathrooms. It has a music room perfect for playing the Charleston and boasts several fireplaces.

Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, lived in the home between 1922 and 1924. The elegant "Gold Coast" region of Long Island supplied the inspiration for his Great American Novel.

I'm imagineering all the fun we could have there. Are you?

via The Guardian

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Hours

It has been a week of comings and goings, of projects started and others finished, of the front door always slamming and mail arriving with new opportunities, and letters from old friends. While it's a good idea to sit back and have a cup of tea, sometimes the most important thing is to simply buckle down and do the work. I saw this Ira Glass quote on a different website this week, but it's so good it's worth repeating. If you're feeling like you're banging your head against the wall today, take some inspiration from Ira and pick up your pencil!

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 

 —Ira Glass

*Image from here

Thursday, March 5, 2015

40-Day Challenge: 40 Days of Make Do and Mend

Billy with the little bread roll he made (although not in that kitchen)
If you read my previous post you will remember that I set myself a Lenten challenge of not spending any money (except on groceries). And just over two weeks in, it has been harder than I thought. A sunny morning trip to a road filled with shops and time to kill was pure torture. If I hadn't forced myself not to spend money, I could easily have come home with two pairs of cute spring shoes, a new lipstick, a darling little blouse and a bunch of ranunculus. I didn't realize what an impulse shopper I am until I had consciously stopped buying; so to keep track of what I saved I've been writing down every item I wanted to buy but didn't. So far--remember, this is within two weeks-- I have saved a grand total of £408.23 ($623.75).


Granted, a huge amount of that bill is on all the stuff I wanted to buy for the garden-- and to be honest, some of that probably will get bought at some point-- and also the shoes I spotted would be perfect for work, but more than half of that amount is just nonsense I saw and thought would change my life (hello, bb cream), which because I didn't buy it, I know that it won't. One of the things on that list includes a household item that broke after the first use, which we were able to to exchange at Amazon since it was still within the product warranty (although well outside of the Amazon returns policy--you must always ask!). Given the amount of hassle involved in trying to connect with a human being at Amazon, on any other day I probably would have just bought a second one.

One huge DIY money-saver has been baking bread, even though bread technically falls into the remit of groceries. Billy and I have made two loaves of bread, which were fun afternoon projects as well as being good for the soul, and saved a ton of money at the same time because a 5-lb bag of flour costs £1.95, whereas a loaf of sourdough at the bakery costs £2.75.

This project is about a fixed period in time, but I hope ultimately to be playing a long game and be more thoughtful about how I choose to spend my money. Bringing my lunch to work has been a bit more trouble (planning has never been my strongest skill), but has saved me £24.50 so far, so, worth it. The stuff I didn't buy for the garden includes vegetable seeds, which need to get started pretty soon, so maybe that non-purchase hasn't been worth it in the end.

Anyway, we're not even halfway through, so I'll keep you updated around Easter.

Are you giving anything up for Lent? How are things going? Does your soul feel cleaner? Do tell.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

40-Day Challenge: Do Without Stuff

I know it is boring to talk about what you are giving up for Lent, because it becomes nothing about the altruism and all about the ego and that's neither very holy nor actually, very polite. Except I wanted to tell you what I am giving up for Lent because I also thought it would be an interesting challenge coming off the back of my success on the Whole 30 again in January (did I tell you how much I enjoyed the Whole 30? I liked it so much I did it twice!). So given that I've got roughly six weeks, I'm planning to give Make Do and Mend a real go.

So the rules for my experiment are to stop buying anything except groceries: that means no new clothes, no new makeup, and absolutely positively no clicking "buy it now" on cheeky little Amazon sprees (a nasty habit my Prime membership has enabled me to indulge these past few years). I'm going to make do with what I have and remake it, re-read it, re-do it. If there is anything I really, really want, I will have to wait until after Easter to buy it. This will allow me to, what? Learn to live without stuff, think more carefully about making purchases (is this something I really need, or am I just buying it to fill a gap in my day), and most importantly, save money on things like takeaway coffees or bought lunches that I could very easily bring from home. I'm expecting this to be especially hard at a time of year when the garden requires attention and could benefit from new plants...but I know I've got perennials that self-seeded from last year, and a whole crate of un-used seeds from previous planting projects, so I'm going to sow those and see how they do. I know it's going to be the start of a hungry month. Wish me luck!

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