TAKING EACH STEP AT A TIME

This time last year things were really tough. I’d ridden out a rough 2017 both personally and professionally, and thought I was at the beginning of a period of growth. I knew I would need to make a major move in the next 6 months but believed I had myself set up to transition that period smoothly. Turns out life has a funny sense of humour…

Fast forward to the present day: I’ve just returned from a short vacation and couldn’t be happier to be home. Every morning I wake up here I am reminded of how much difference a year makes, of the importance of sticking to the plan, of the promise of patience and persistence, and the power of love to get us through any and everything. It sounds horribly corny but it’s true. This past year has been a massive personal experiment in trusting the process and of not giving up in the face of adversity, and you know what? It works. Even when it feels like it can’t possibly work out in the end, when the steps feel too big to take on, and every single path appears to lie in ruin, just keep taking one step at a time.

I have scaled my desires to my means, I strive for simplicity, and every day is a battle against the should-be’s/should-have’s/should-do’s. Yet, when I look at what I am, have, and do, I see that everything is exactly as it should be. Paying the rent feels a lot less like a burden without feeling like we have to do a ton of other things as well, and that’s the crux of the matter.

We live in a world that tells us we need to have more and do more, yet “more” is an illusory quantity that is impossible to attain. It is precisely because we can never reach it that we continue to chase it. And the more we chase more the deeper we internalise the message that we are inadequate (which is why we must strive for more), so that no matter how much we have and do we still feel inadequate. More precisely, we have allowed ourselves to believe that we are so inadequate that we do not deserve to be satisfied. And the truth is the opposite.

If we let go of the distractions to have/do/be more, it becomes easier to get to where we need to be. I swear, this shit keeps us so tied to ideas of being anything “more” than we are that we lose sight of what we really need. It is time to stop wanting more because we are enough. Exactly as we are, with everything we have, even if it’s not very much…

7 EASY SUNDAY NIGHT RITUALS

One of the things that has really helped my transition into the world of 9-5 has been to ease myself out of the weekend. I try to get into a weekday frame of mind on a Sunday evening so that the week doesn’t take me by surprise.

Moving out of wellness and hospitality management, my schedule has switched up a lot. I used to be all about working on evenings and weekends, whether teaching kids swimming lessons or closing a restaurant, and now I work weekday daytimes. It’s a big difference! I’ve had to adapt my habits, not just in going to bed and waking up earlier, but also in preparing for work and planning my mealtimes. My days are weighted towards getting to work earlier and having more time after I’m done, so I have to prepare more on the nights before.

After six weeks on my job, I’ve realised Sundays are the secret to my week. So here are 7 things I do on a Sunday night to set myself up for success:

  1. Laundry!: We basically do one wash of black clothing, one wash of other colours, and one linen wash each week, throughout the week. This means that Sunday is the last day in the week to do that final wash before the week ahead. We usually do our linens at the weekend. Even though we live in a small apartment, we hang our laundry up on wire racks and put a regular electric fan on oscillate mode to air them. This has the best side effect of humidifying the air in our warm, dry apartment and makes the plants really happy!
  2. Write everything down: During the weekends when I’m working on my own projects, I think of other things I need to (or want to!) work on. Articles, blog posts, graphics, etc. I find it really useful to make a note of these on a Sunday so my week begins with a clearer mind.
  3. Decide my weekly wardrobe: I don’t have a lot of clothes. You can call it a capsule wardrobe if you want to, but it’s just not a lot of clothes! I mix and match my tops, pants, and shoes slightly differently each week, so I do most of this on a Sunday night for the entire week.
  4. Manicure: I keep my nails short and painted with gel-style drugstore polish, so just need to replace my polish once a week. It’s nothing fancy but it makes me feel more put together and on top of my life. It’s the little things…
  5. Have a really good, thorough shower: I generally don’t have a high-maintenance routine so sometimes I need to give myself a reason to take a long shower, wash my hair, and shave. It’s not a lot but it always feels like such a luxury. Check out 7 Uses for Coconut Oil here.
  6. Read!: I believe in wonder. I love to disappear into a book for an hour or so on a Sunday night. It really helps me open my mind to further possibilities in preparation for the week ahead.
  7. Lunch prep: I use big glass jars to take my lunches to work each day and base them around a grain, a protein, and veggies. I cook the grains in a batch on Sunday, chop the veggies, and divide it all across the jars. I can add the proteins throughout the week. Look out for a post on my favourite jar lunches at some point!

What do you do on your Sunday nights to get ready for the week ahead? Do you have any ideas for me to streamline my process?

7 USES FOR COCONUT OIL

This year I’ve started to review my habits and see what I can become more aware of, road-test solutions to, and ultimately improve upon:

  • In January, it was clothing and I’ve really pared down my wardrobe as a result (it’s still a work in progress, and I expect it to be for a while longer as I figure out how much I can live without and still feel fly, but once I have a balance struck, I’m looking forward to sharing).
  • February was cleaning products – we are basically in Month 2 of our homemade cleaning products road-test and have some clear leaders of the pack (so, more of that in a couple more months when their longer-term efficacy has been established).
  • March is a sequel to that, focusing on the bathroom, so some more simple cleaning products, but also some simple bath and beauty experiments.

For example, I switched to coconut oil for a lot of things a few years ago, such as moisturiser and make up remover, but I still buy commercial toothpaste and deodorant. So, this month is a deeper exploration of DIY in the bathroom, where I hope to both save money and the environment, and also make a switch to products that are more predictable in their effects on my body as well as reducing my dependence on the chemical industry.

I think this is the overarching theme for me this year, to simplify to a point where it makes sense for my life as I’m living it. I’ve stripped back a lot of my choices and activities, which is a direct result of having had less financial freedom in the past year due to (yet another) Transatlantic move and setting up a new life in a new city in a new country. It’s been worth it in so many ways, and being able to reassess what is important has been a big part of that.

I understand that I’m in a process of growing just like everyone else, so I will change my priorities as I evolve in my understanding of my place in time and space. What I feel now is that I really want to keep my life as simple as possible: spend less time going to stores to buy all the various things I “need”, spend more time in the home that I share with my love, and spend less of the money I earn through my job so that we can enjoy the finer things in life (like travelling to see family).

So here’s what I’m currently using coconut oil for:

7 USES FOR COCONUT OIL:

  1. a. Make-up remover: Melt a small amount of coconut oil between your palms and massage into make up while doing your best impression of The Joker (“why so serious?”). Wipe clean with a warm, damp washcloth. This removes the sweat-proof eye make-up I wear to teach Zumba classes! b. Cleanser: Exactly the same as the make-up remover, massage into the skin to lift out oil-based dirt. Wipe clean with a warm, damp washcloth. If necessary, moisturise 🙂
  2. a. Moisturiser: Smooth a small amount of melted coconut oil into your face within 30 seconds of drying after a shower and let it absorb. This locks in the moisture from your shower. You can wipe off excess if you need to. b. After-sun: Do this all over your body right after a shower to lock in moisture and keep your skin from drying out (better still, use sunscreen – I’m in the middle of testing a DIY one so I’ll report back once it’s sunny again and I can really put it to the test).
  3. Oil pulling: Grab a finger-full of coconut oil and pop it in your mouth. Chew it to break it apart and help melt it (if it’s warm and your oil has melted you can just scoop out a tablespoon of it and skip the chewing step). Swirl the melted oil around your mouth, paying attention to the gumline and the gaps between teeth. Once you feel it’s really runny and difficult not to swallow, it’s time to spit it out.
  4. Hair conditioner: Rub a small amount of coconut oil between the palms, and then run your hands through the ends of your hair to lightly coat it. If you use too much for your hair texture, the oil will clump together and you have just committed yourself to a deep condition…
  5. Deep conditioner for hair: I don’t actually use any products in my hair besides coconut oil – I use it to control my frizz, lay my edges, moisturise my scalp, deep-condition, everything. I don’t use shampoo, soap, or detergent on it, so the deep condition is actually part of my cleaning process. I oil it in the morning and then wear a headwrap all day, rinse it with hot water in the evening and then let it breathe overnight. If it’s still a bit oily the next day I repeat the headwrap and rinse. It’s always soft and bouncy the next day with its natural wave preserved.
  6. Sugar scrub: Mix together half a teaspoon of coconut oil and half a teaspoon of brown sugar to create a scrubby paste. Using gentle circular motions, massage into lips and elbows and anywhere else that needs a little TLC before wiping off with a warm, damp washcloth. I love this for lips at this time of year when they’re shedding their winter coats.
  7. a. Cuticle repair: Massage a small amount of coconut oil into cuticles to keep them pushed back, and improve blood circulation to your nail beds. b. Tattoo brightener: I love to rub a bit of coconut oil into my tats to moisturise the top layers of skin and reduce any of the ashiness that makes my tats look a bit faded.

I have a pretty lo-fi life so, in reality, the only other products I’m using in my bathroom are toothpaste and deodorant. I’ve found a lot of information on the internet about DIY deodorants and toothpaste, but haven’t settled on a formula I love just yet. I’m trying a few of them before I decide which one I’m going to celebrate!

Do you have a favourite bathroom DIY or use for coconut oil? Anything else you’d like to share with me on this topic? Feel free to comment!

EASY STEPS TO SPRING CLEANING YOUR LIFE

So it’s that time of year when we all feel ready for new starts – what one thing would you love to change about your life right now? What’s standing in the way of that change? What if you could take small steps towards it, what would they look like? All change is hard; humans are creatures of habit and the immense weight of our evolutionary journey is so effective at crushing any efforts to break them. After all, it’s habits and patterns that have led to our survival.

So, anytime you feel like change is hard, take heart: if it was easy you probably wouldn’t be here today 🙂 Our modern life is testimony to the prevailing winds of habit, with systems and structures that serve to reinforce the status quo and preserve our continuity. Hack them all!

CHILL ON FOOD

Probably the biggest change we can make is to what we fuel our bodies with. And because it’s so closely linked with our survival, it’s the hardest change to make. Sure, whittling down your wardrobe is tough when you’re in love with your clothes and the freedom they give you to express yourself… but changing the fundamental nutrients your body is using for its functions, growth, and repair each day?

We are so physically, emotionally, and psychologically conditioned by the food we eat that it becomes really tough to break the habits we’ve already formed. That’s why the best way to succeed with dietary changes is to make small changes that we can sustain. My favourite example is to add some veggies into things we’re already eating, and starting with the things we already know we like. I really like condiments on my food. I’m the hot sauce diva of the world, and will habitually ask for hot sauce or mayo wherever I eat. The problem is a lot of these sauces contain refined sugars and modified starches, not to mention flavourings and preservatives that really aren’t good for us to eat regularly. So, I’ve recently had success in reducing them since I started making my own quick pickles by slicing up veggies and dropping them into a jar of sweet and salty vinegar in my fridge. I can use them as an a condiment instead of mayo or ranch, and use pickled chillis instead of hot sauce. I know that that pickling leaches a lot of the nutrients out of my veggies, but the benefits out way the costs as they perk up salads and other nutritious meals without adding in more processed condiments.

Start with something small that you’ll experience every day. Make simple yet regular change to begin with, just watch how over time the changes get easier and grow in size and number. You’ll surprise yourself.

CHILL ON EXPECTATIONS

As much as respect the move to zero-waste, I also see that we live in a wider social context and there’s not much we can do about the waste levels produced in commercial industries, so personal waste is only part of the problem. I think these movements are overwhelmingly positive in the awareness they propagate, and I’m definitely not criticising them. For me, they’re part of the solution, and I support people’s moves to reduce their environmental impact, along with growing consciousness of the ways our choices affect others. There’s a lot we can learn from each other.

But I also know that from experience that if I strive for any absolute goal: veganism/zero waste/capsule wardrobes, that shit puts too much pressure on me and I end up quitting – because positive change shouldn’t be so stressful. At the end of the day, it ain’t that deep. It’s good and right to take responsibility for the planet and for our choices, but absolutism seems so futile in the face of the sheer volume of people sharing this planet. There’s a lot of us making a mess out here, the idea is just to make our mess a bit less each day.

It’s great to have big dreams, and some people find working towards a big idea is the best dream to have, yet it’s also possible to see how that every giant object of the cosmos was forged through seemingly tiny imperceptible events that triggered a chain reaction. So give yourself a break. You mean well, you are working on it. Change takes time, and consistency is the key to all life’s secrets. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll find yourself further towards your goals than you’ve ever been before.

This really is the key to change: small, manageable steps that you can sustain without putting pressure on yourself to attain an absolute.

TOTAL DEEP (SPRING) CLEAN

Since the days have been getting longer again here in the Northern Hemisphere, I’ve been waking up to the strange half-sleep that winter puts me in. Coupled with changing jobs, I’m feeling a real overhaul in my energy and priorities (and have finally found the time to reboot my website).

Having been stumbling around in a semi-slumber, I’ve got into a few bad habits that I’m becoming more aware of. In doing so, I realised that a few others have crept into my daily over the few past years of me living in the US, so this is a great time to reassess those as well. Almost everything I’m working on is an act of simplying or cleaning in some way, whether that’s my body, mind, home, time, or energy. The baby goats I saw earlier today were nature’s own signal that it is time for birth and renewal.

Over the new few weeks I’m going to break down some of the changes, and share the tools that have really helped with this process of total deep cleaning. I’m one of those people who is really reluctant to announce things if they’re not tried and true, so this is a bit of an aftermath post about what I’ve been working on recently (which means this stuff really works for me!). I hope other folks find it useful, too.

UNRAVELING

a selection of completed projects from my Ravelry.com page

If you have followed any of my work over the past few years, you’ll know I’ve drifted from knitter/spinner into publishing knitting patterns, into publishing my poetry. I’m not entirely sure that this is one singular journey, but I do know that where I’m at right now is not in a knitting publishing place. I’m not sure that it ever will be again, so for now I’ve decided to leave the knitting to the professionals and return to the ranks of the amateurs. My patterns that are not third-party-owned are now available here.

Some of my published patterns as seen on Ravelry

Go ahead and enjoy, and let me know how you get on with them!

EVERY ENDING IS A BEGINNING

So I have decided to embrace my complexity and bring all my parts together into one cacophonous whole. Here you will find the devastatingly nerdy, the strangely cool, and the unexpectedly dope facets of me all brought together in a semi-incoherent mish-mash of posts. Expect poetry, knitting, workouts, rambling posts on health and physiology, food, lifestyle, style, books, and booze – along with some travel, plants, coffee, and pop culture. Who said anything about being one-dimensional?

If you arrived here looking for any of my previously separate enterprises, you will find them using the menu above. Dive in and have fun, don’t take anything too seriously (least of all me), and let me know what you find!