“Calming the mind is yoga. Not just standing on the head.” Swami Satchidananda
This week, despite the heat in Manchester, I’ve done quite a bit of gardening in the evenings, when most of our North facing garden is in the shade. I notice my mood is better if I’ve spent time outdoors, especially pottering around and watering the plants. I’ve rationalised my plants into bigger pots, pushed together so that I can water everything I need to and bigger pots retain the moisture. It’s also the first summer I’ve watered shrubs in the garden. It takes me about half an hour to water the pots (with a watering can and water from the water butts). We have had so little rain here – and the temperatures have been in the high 20s for a couple of months. Also, I’ve put succulents, sedums and drought tolerant plants in my hanging baskets. Gardening helps me be mindful – as does yoga.
7 August 2018 – posy of sweetpeas, lavender and dianthus – with The Book of You and a Be present yoga print
How yoga helps my mind, body and spirit
I’ve been practising yoga, on and off, for about 12 years, starting completely by accident. A friend of mine had a pal who was learning to be an Iyengar yoga teacher so needed people to practise with. It was right next to work, straight after work so it seemed a good thing to do. It changed my life.
When I was younger I had poor spacial awareness and was always tripping over, which lead to some hilarious incidents including my Steve (my former partner) pulling me out of a peat bog as I’d sunk up to my knees and was slowly falling face forward into the bog. Another time I went flying, just as a busload of tourists came round the corner in very rural Ireland. I was always collecting bruises from bumping into things.
It’s a long time ago, but the first things I noticed doing yoga was that it helped me stretch (especially my hamstrings), helped calm my brain as I was concentrating on breathing and the position of my limbs. I learnt to do corpse pose (Shavasana) not ‘banana’ pose as my first Yoga teacher Jacky named it. Yoga isn’t a quick fix – it took me about 6 weeks to see the real benefit. I carried on with Jacky’s classes and then John Aplin for years until my work pattern changed.
To Dwell is to Garden – Martin Heidegger, (1889-1976) German philosopher
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Physicist and Nobel Prize winner for General Theory of Relativity
With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment – Nhat Hanh (1926 – he’s 91!), Buddhist Monk
For me, Gardening is mindful, being in the moment. It doesn’t have to be me ‘doing’ things, it’s about the scents, the rustle of leaves, the birds, the hum of lawn movers in the distance. For me, when I’m in the garden, I’m in the moment – I find watering, deadheading and weeding relaxing – and planting too. For me, it’s about peace and recharging.
About my garden
It’s small, it’s rubbly soil and north facing; the neighbours have huge conifers, which make it even shadier at the end of the garden.
I love it – our small, sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the world
I’m content in the garden.
Before I bought my house – Summer 2009
In high summer 2016… some of the conifers on the right have gone now – but those on the left are even bigger 🙁
My garden is a work in progress – like me. I’m 51 – I definitely feel I’m in a new chapter with My Chap (my new husband) holding my hand, metaphorically too. To be fair, he does all the digging and heavy work as I have osteoarthritis. It’s a team effort in the garden.
and there’s always time to eat and relax.
Many pots planted (and watered), and always Yoda – any season… Yoda (and Star Wars have appeared many times on this blog).
I love lavender too – it figured very heavily at our wedding in September 2017 (it was our ‘confetti’ too) I have about 20 different plants around the front garden which gets sun all day.
Lavender and a cabbage white butterfly
Many crocuses and violas too. Always something for the birds too.
It’s not all purple flowers though – there’s lots of colour around the garden. Orange and yellow life my mood in Spring. I love tulips too.
Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. Luther Burbank, American Botanist
Meanwhile, you’ll find me in the garden, drinking Earl Grey or a Pimms… you’re welcome to join us if you’re in the area 😉
What do you do that’s mindful?
Originally, I wrote about what my garden means for me for the April competition at Cottonopolis Women’s Institute. We were asked to suggest our mindful activities, there was a vast range including knitting/crochet, sewing, baking, art or drawing, listening to music, and a few people like me loved walking or being in the great outdoors.
Our speaker in April was Deb Connor – an all-round star who led some mindfulness exercises and stretches. She’s a trained mindfulness teacher, an acupuncturist and is a vegan too.
I’ve been doing mindfulness for a couple of years now – which combined with over 10 years of yoga has really helped my mental wellbeing. I’ll write about this another time.
Women’s Institute – Cottonopolis WI, Ancoats, Manchester
We have so much fun at WI meetings, in June we made beauty products from lavender, peppermint and coffee skin scrubs.
If you’re local come along…
Let me know in the comments what you do that’s mindful? Do you have a garden? What does it mean to you?
‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la la la la! ‘Tis the season to be jolly‘ Welsh carol dating from 16th century.
In this case it’s spruce but I’m sure you’ll get the idea 😉
Last Sunday, I went to a wreath making course at Ordsall Hall, a couple of miles from where we live. I’d decided earlier in the year to make our door wreath – My Chap usually comes home with a really blingy one from one of his florist pals. So I’d been on the look out for a course… the one at the Hall, you could bring your own greenery too….and it was a good price too.
How to make a wreath
Huge thanks to Kate from the Gardening team at the Hall – she was great. Do have a look at their plans for the garden for 2018. Their 1918-style allotment is back for 2018.
We could take cuttings from our garden so I took rosemary, some cinnamon sticks from the spice cupboard, pine cones we’d picked up from Worsley woods and some extra spruce branches. There were all sorts of things to add, sparkly ribbons, baubles etc, but I decided to keep the wreath fairly minimalist – and emphasise food 😉
There was a ring of moss (on the back) and spruce branches on the ring already which I added to. It’s time-consuming to make this yourself (and hard on the fingers) and we were only there for a couple of hours.
Lay out where you want everything to go first, and think about the layers of decoration – branches first.
It’s exactly the same principle to attach anything to the wreath, wrap the wire tightly around twigs and, and poke the wire through the moss and thread back through tightly and snip off. For the pine cones, wrap around the lowest level of
Group things in odd numbers, as it looks more natural – same in gardening too.
I tried dried chillies but they disintegrated 🙁
Remember to water your wreath carefully, with a jug now and again, otherwise the foliage will fade.
After I took the picture on our front door I added bells on ribbons too.
17 December 2017 – my wreath hanging by the door of the Great Hall, Ordsall Hall
dried moss is available online (be careful about the weight you order).
the ring is metal with an inner ring which contains the damp moss wired in. It’s possible to buy the rings online or at florist’s sundaries companies. They come in all sorts of styles – the Spring wreath has a flat two ring style.
lime twigs (from Ordsall Hall Garden), new growth is bright green and red. Any Cornus (Dogwood) is a good substitute.
cinnamon – wrapped with wire then covered raffia
dried orange slices – tied in threes with wire.
I’ve made a few wreaths before, with willow, on courses up in Rawtenstall and at Lancashire WI, but usually haven’t taken many photos – but I’ll include some of these in future posts.
Cathy who hosts In a Vase on Monday, had a holly door wreath she made on 4 December 2017. Quite a few people who follow the meme have made door wreaths – each one different and beautiful. There are so much foliage options – have you got something you could use.
This week Cathy has hyacinths, honeysuckle and Salvia – Winter Beauties all of them.
Here’s a spring wreath at Denman College In a vase on Monday (not)- Spring wreath – 10 April 2016. It’s a completely different style with straw covering bubblewrap around the ring (and some oasis hiding behind the red roses). Again the decorations are attached with wires.
I think I’ll make some more wreaths in 2018…maybe a different one for each month, as you don’t even have to use flowers… there are rag wreaths too.
Ordsall Hall is a Grade 1 listed, Tudor mansion, in the heart of the city; it’s entirely encircled by houses and businesses (Note: the 1960s tower block and 1990s houses on the right of the picture). It was extensively refurbished a few years ago with a Heritage Lottery Grant. It’s been owned since 1959 by Salford Council who’d used it as a local history museum. Most of my local pals can remember going there on school trips right up to the 1980s. It’s also supposed to be the most haunted building in Salford…there are three ghosts and a webcam.
Originally, the manor would have had a moat, with substantial lands, including farms. The manor house dates from 1175, with the oldest part of the current Hall is from the 15th century. Neighbouring manor houses, were either repurposed in the Industrial Revolution, (some were sold to America) but most were just demolished. There were no planning controls then. It staggers me that Ordsall Hall survived the Industrial Revolution but it certainly helped that it was used a working mens’ club from 1875 which existed in one form or another until 1940. In 1883 the Hall was bought by the Earl Egerton of Tatton, and restored during 1896–98 at a cost of £6,000 (£610,000 in 2017). The Earl set up a seminary from 1898 and a St Cyprian’s Church was built and more servant’s quarters. These were both demolished in the 1960s.
Neighbouring manor houses, were either repurposed in the Industrial Revolution, (some were sold to America) but most were just demolished. There were no planning controls then.
For the gardeners it has a knot garden, an 1918-style allotment, many heritage varieties especially fruit trees.
We visit it fairly often – it’s a really lovely building – it’s open Sun to Thursday throughout the year. It’s free to visit and has a very good tea shop too. You can follow them on:
They run many courses including fabrics, gardening and activities for children. I’ll definitely on a course again.*
Late – it’s never to late to change
‘The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something‘. Antoine de Saint-Exupery – Author of the Little Prince (1900-1944)
Once again I’m late with my contribution to the week’s vases – nearly a week late in fact,as I’ve had a great deal to do this week, preparing for Christmas. It’s going to be very different but I’ll write more tomorrow.
I cannot stress how much I agree with Antoine’s words.
Looking to the future
I’m not a believer, I echo these sentiments, peace and loveto all in 2018:
‘Oh! like a wreath, let Christmas mirth To-day encircle all the earth, And bind the nations with the love That Jesus brought from heaven above’. Maud Lindsay, American Teacher, (1874-1941).
Oh, and remind someone important to you, how much you love them… it’s never too late.
Happy Christmas Eve everyone, though it’s already Christmas Day in Australia…
24 December 2017 – Christmas cheer and a willow angel I made #iamWI
‘The human mind always makes progress, but it is progress in spirals’
Madame De Stael (1766-1817), a woman of letters, at the heart of European romanticism and a leading opponent of Napoleon.
This year has been very tough, I’m not ready to go into details at the moment, but I’m beyond fortunate to have my family and friends around the world, supporting us all – but most of all My Chap whose been my rock since the day we met. I’m SO excited to be marrying him later this year.
My health hasn’t been great, including increased arthritis pain too, contributing to bad sleeping and chronic exhaustion; but I’m working on all sorts of strategies to help me. I am grateful to everyone who supports me, the NHS staff, colleagues, friends and family – I’d be in a pickle without them.
Amongst these tough times, there have been times of happiness, things and people that have made me happy. As part of my mindfulness practise, I’ve been noting them down, more systematically, in my diary.
I’d been thinking for a while that I’d like to start writing a regular post about what I’ve been grateful for and/or what makes me happy. I was inspired by:
Many other bloggers use happiness, gratitude or mindfulness journalling
They’re great ladies – one I’ve known for years in real life too (first in Manchester and now she lives in Worcester) and the other lives around the corner from me – though we’ve not yet met face to face. That’s the Internet for you – hopefully, we’ll meet up soon. They write thought-provoking blogs, touching on wide-ranging topics including feminism, life with a chronic pain condition, running, the outdoors, food, cooking, life in Manchester and the West Midlands – many adventures and plenty of gin 🙂
1. Journals – gratitude, health notes and ‘to do’ lists
7 May 2017 – stigu journal, calm journal and ‘to do today and tomorrow’
I love my Stigu Planner*** (www.sticktostigu.com/); it’s a combination of a diary, notebook and to do lists. They describe it as a rest and zest handbook – there are themes for each month, weekly practise activities – some of them are really funny cartoons. I had a Stigu journal last year too – it’s not too ‘full on’, supporting my wellbeing, without being all about ‘rules’.
The Calm Book – calm the mind, change the world*** is great for suggestions on Nature, Sleep, Travel, Work, Creativity, Relationships, Food (www.calm.com), with affirmations and visualisations (there’s an app too). The daily questions are:
What made you feel calm Today?
What are you grateful For?
What were three highlights of today?
It’s so beautiful with wonderful illustrations and pictures; I can’t write in the book – I tend to write in my Stigu journal instead.
For well over a year, I’ve been making a note of my arthritis and pain symptoms, as participant in Cloudy with a Chance of Pain, (www.cloudywithachanceofpain.com); it’s a citizen science project run by the University of Manchester investigating if there’s a connection between weather conditions and chronic pain. For me, warm, dry weather definitely helps my arthritis pain; I’ve been tracking it with an app as part of the project. I’m looking forward to reading the wider results.
Also, I’ve been doing daily mindfulness practise for a couple of years now, and reflecting on what I’m grateful for each day – so I’ve decided to be a bit more organised about writing them down, so I can look back in the future, as my situation improves.
I’m grateful for all these things these things, and yoga too.
2. The Garden (and Gardening)
7 May 2017 – been replanting sedums for My Chap – mud under the fingers as usual.
I managed to get out in the garden every day this week, sometimes it was for only half an hour to water the plants. It’s been v windy and dry here. We’ve managed to sort out, cut back and clear alot of the ‘dead wood’ from the winter. We’ve planted some shrubs too. Ive written before how my garden is my solace; I know I ‘need’ to spend as much time as I can outside – even if it’s just drinking tea in the garden – when I’m too exhausted to do anything more. I’ve been planning which flowers to cut for next week’s In a Vase on Monday too.
Cathy hosts the meme over at Rambling in the Garden – here’s her summary. Each post will have links to people (and their vases) contributing from all around the world.
3. Afternoon Tea with a pal
7 May 2017 – Afternoon tea at Vintage Ambience, Monton, Salford
I spent a lovely afternoon with my friend, and her beautiful baby girl, we talked about life, the universe and everything – wedding planning too. I met her at Cottonopolis Women’s Institute (www.cottonopoliswi.com) She’s wise and kind, much more crafty than me, and makes great cakes too. The afternoon tea at Vintage Ambience*** in Monton was top notch (www.vintageambiance.co.uk)
4. Smoked Salmon Salad
7 May 2017 – smoked salmon salad in the garden
It was a bank holiday weekend here in the UK, and, the weather was lovely, so we had lunch in the garden every day. My Chap is a great cook and makes a great salad – this one had lovely heritage tomatoes too. My Chap and I talked about what veg we might grow in the garden this year; cherry tomatoes haven’t grown well these last few years, we don’t have a greenhouse, so I don’t think this helps.
The smoked salmon reminded me of all the men in my life who’ve loved it. My Uncle Fred introduced me to it when I was about 18 months old. He, my Aunt, and my Dad grew up in Hackney in East London before, and during, Second World War with many Jewish neighbours so it was a staple food for them. My love of cooking comes from them, I feel their influence and love every day, even though they’ve all passed on a good few years ago.
5. Wedding Planning
7 May 2017 – wedding countdown website
We’ve been trundling on with our plans – we’ve spoken to our friend about invitations, I’ve met my dress designers, bridesmaids dresses are on track and we are meeting our florist soon too. Our photographer is great too and every time we go to our venue, we love it even more, they make the luscious cake too. Ours is going to be an unconventional wedding – just the way we want it. My Chap is doing so much of the arrangements as I’m under the weather, it’s a team effort – Roll on September 🙂
The quote from Madam De Stael, was in my Stigu Journal, reading about her reminded me, we must persist. As Stigu notes elsewhere, life moves in spirals, only you can decide in which direction. I’m moving in the right direction… Slowly but getting there.
What have you been grateful for this week?
I’ve mentioned activities on Friday 28 April to Thursday 4th May 2017 ***Please note: I paid full price for both journals and afternoon tea, I wasn’t asked to write a positive review.
I won’t ever forget 2015 – the most physically and mentally demanding year of my life – it all changed in late April when my friend died. I have so many good memories from our adventures together over 25 years – we remained friends to the end. I’m glad he and my Chap were good pals too.
All that happened last year stretched my resilence to its limit, but I’ve come through the other side. It’s reminded me to stick to my principles, take care of myself and that there’s always a way forward, even if it’s tiny steps. Counselling, mindfulness, tai chi, yoga, and walking in the great outdoors, espccially time in my garden, have all helped me top up my resilence. My Chap, my family, and my friends all helped too. It’s a long and complicated journey to recovery but I’ll get there.
I started my blog a year ago today – here’s my first post – much of what I said I’d write about is still just as relevant now:
where we visit – I love history as well as time in the garden
what’s been happening in our lives
cooking and crafting too
my thoughts and dreams for the future
many pictures of the garden, plants, flowers and the veg plot.
And maybe, just maybe, some campervan adventures…(well that didn’t happen – the campervan went on its way in July 2015)
William Ford Gibson coined the team ‘cyberspace’ in 1984 and wrote about the principles that govern how something like the world wide web might operate. Tim Burners Lee ‘invented’ the internet in 1989 (at CERN). Cyberspace has given me so much over the years, I’ve worked with academics, since the early 1990s so I was an ‘early adopter’ of email and the www – I’m fortunate. Most of all the web has given me ways to stay in touch with my friends and make new ones – and I met my Chap on an internet dating site five years ago.
Alot of the time last year, I’ve really struggled to write, which is a bit of an issue when I write for a living. But my blog has helped as I can write about things I love. I’ve found a lovely, friendly and helpful blogging community too – especially all the gardening bloggers. I’m still an amateur gardener compared to most of them but that doesn’t matter.
I’ve joined a few topics which have helped me in the dark times:
In a Vase on a Monday
I’ve really enjoyed contributing to ‘In a Vase on Monday’ hosted by Cathy from ‘Rambling in the Garden‘ which involves picking flowers and plants from your garden or the local area and putting them in a vase. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It is – so do join in.
I love looking at everyones vases, from across the world. It’s given me so many ideas what to plant in my garden too. The flowers and vases have lifted my spirits in the dark times.
Most of all, everyone is so lovely, friendly and supportive. I’m going to try to comment more this year on people’s vases. I’ve appreciated every single comment on my vases, and I hope my vases and flowers have lifted someones mood too.
The #100happydays challenge has helped me look for positive things every day, even when I’m having an exhausting day. My favourite part of the 100happydays challenge was writing about Lisbon – a wonderful city which I know we’ll visit again.
lisbon guide (6/100), fish stew (7/100), tram (8/100), wine at the castle (9/100) #100happydays
Castle de Pena (10/100), don’t panic (11/100), funicular railway (12/100), bed rest (13/100) #100happydays
I’m a bit stuck with my updates from December for #100happydays at the moment – as 7th December was a very, very tough day but I got through it. And frankly, I was glad to see the back of 2015. You can catch up with more of my #100happydays photos here
Life IS better in the Garden
My garden continues to be my solace. I know it, my pals and family, but most of all my wonderful Chap will help me get to where I want to be.
yoda in the snow – Life IS better in the Garden taken 17 January 2016
I think yoda will be making a few more apprearances in 2016 too…
Happy 1st Birthday Cottonopolis Women’s Institute – January 2015
I’m a proud member; I’ve tried so many new things this year, met lots of new pals and had fun too. I’m going to write more about my WI adventures in 2016 too. If you’re local join us… if not have a look for a local group. There are Men’s Sheds too.
#100happydays for 2016 from Coed-y-brenin mountain bike centre
Blogging in 2016… Carry on carrying on
There’s alot of changes ahead at work but I’m going to try to look for opportunities, be positive and try to make a difference – and give everything including my blog, my best efforts – as I continue my recovery. In 2016 my blog will cover:
where we visit – I love history as well as gardening
what’s been happening in our lives – we’ve got a holiday planned in Cornwall in May
more cooking and ‘crap’ crafting too.
my thoughts and dreams for the future – and to be braver!
more pictures of the garden, plants, flowers and the veg plot
This year I promise to write a bit more often, improve my photography skills, answer ALL my blog comments but most of all ‘Have fun blogging
Thank you to everyone who’s read or commented on my blog – I appreciate it more than I can say = I’m still surprised where you all come from.
I hope you’ll all tag along with me – Life’s an adventure – Live it
And I’ll be ‘seizing the day’ this year for definite, once I can find some more energy…
Offically Spring is around the corner (even though the daffodils and crocuses are already flowering)