Things I Liked in December

Last month, I tried doing a ‘links I like’ post. It was fun, but I’ve decided to expand the monthly round up from just links on the internet to any – books, movies, tv shows, etc. So here’s a list of what I enjoyed in December. It doesn’t cover everything, but the ones that stood out to me. What have you liked this month?
Let’s start with Christmas.

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This Dog Ate A Whole Turkey

This article went from funny to hilarious with this one line: “The Barrett family, from Prestwick, say they’re putting her on a New Year diet.”

Carols

My church put on a carols service where we sang Christmas songs about Jesus and rejoiced that he is the light in the darkness. The link above takes you to a photo story of my church family celebrating together.

Doctor Who Christmas Special

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It’s been a whole year since we’ve seen the time-traveling Time Lord in new adventures. But he came back for the Christmas Special and he’ll be back in 2017 for more new episodes.

I really liked this episode. Part of it was just that I have missed the Doctor, but it was genuinely pretty well written and entertaining. It was much more emotionally ‘light’ than the last few Christmas Specials, which was a relief to be honest. I’m hoping these character return in future episodes…

Other things…

Scotland Summer Isles For Sale

Did you know you can just BUY an ISLAND? The whole island is available for only $2.3 million (roughly the cost of a Manhattan condo). Don’t have the money? The island is also available as three separate lots – my favourite is the north end, which has three houses, a cafe and a post office, for $850 000. You should buy the island, and invite me for Scottish holidays.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

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Good news: all eight episodes of season one of this show are available on Netflix. You should go watch it right now. It is amazing – funny and quirky and clever and full of heart and hilarity.

If you like Doctor Who, Sherlock, Jessica Jones, or just really well written scripts and rounded out characters, watch it. Watch it watch it watch it.

 

 

Quiet – From Matilda the Musical

I saw Matilda the Musical earlier in the month. Overall it was a funny and moving retelling of this childhood classic. The best part was definitely the soundtrack though, and I’ve been listening to ‘Quiet’ over and over again.


The Psychology of House Sitting

I found this analyse about why we organize our homes and kitchens they way we do really really interesting. Also slightly terrifying.

Design Your Dream Life Workbook

As I’ve mentioned before, I love Nina Kardia’s work and writing – all of it. This workbook is for anyone who needs to take some time to think about where their life is headed and what they want from it – especially if you are feeling stuck or that you’ve gotten lost on the wrong track.

An Illuminated New Year’s Guide

This is another workbook, from another blogger I adore. Allie’s workbook focuses around reflecting on 2016 and planning for 2017, in a way that embraces our hopes, dreams, and inevitable failings as well. I found it really helpful to work through.

Finally, a video of this dog who was raised alongside rabbits. Enjoy.

Just Because It’s Christmas

At Christmas, things are meant to mean more. Just because it’s Christmas.

Simple, ordinary things become filled with significance. We look for the joy and the wonder in everything. We look for special moments in every moment.

That’s a lot of pressure for one day of the year to carry.

It’s a time of year with a lot of pressure for a lot of people to carry.

At Christmas we can feel the most broken. Just because it’s Christmas.

The pressure for it to be joyous and wonderful can stop us from experiencing any joy or wonder.

Christmas can mean spending hours alone, without even work or other regular routines to pass the time.

Christmas can mean spending hours in the company of people that push you right out of your comfort zone.

Christmas can mean being reminded of things and people lost, opportunities missed and relationships broken.

But Christmas can be more.

Even if your family doesn’t have Christmas traditions, even if your family is far from you this year, even if you are dreading the thought of everything to do with this season of joy, Christmas can be more.

Christmas can be a reminder, not of our hurt and brokenness, but of the one who heals.

It can be a reminder of the day when God himself stepped into the world. When the Creator of the world became a small baby, born as a person. Fully God and fully human.

Christmas is the day when God acted on his promise to send a Saviour. This is the moment when God said ‘enough!’ It is the moment he intervened, and set in motion his plan of salvation, to bring everything that is wrong with the world right again.

So it’s okay that there’s mess and pain at Christmas. When we are broken and hurting, it should remind us why we needed Jesus, the one who fixes us and puts things right. The one who mends relationships. The one who gives us meaning and purpose, and who is never far from our side.

So this Christmas, I am trying to remember the one who came into the world, as a vulnerable child. Who lived a life filled with joys and pains as you and I do, and follow the will of his Heavenly Father, all the way to a hill, to a cross, to a shameful death.

I am going to remember Jesus, amidst the craziness and the hype. I am going to remember that Jesus didn’t come for any of this, but he came for you and me.

 

Top Cafes of 2016

This is just a fun post, that’s probably only relevant to those of you that read my blog that a) like coffee and b) live on the Brisbane South-side. 

I love coffee. I love drinking coffee, I love making coffee. I’m currently experimenting with the best ways to make at-home cold coffee for the relentless heat of a Brisbane summer (coffee ice cubes have changed my life).

So, just for fun, here’s a list (in no particular order) of the cafes I have most frequented in 2016. My opinions are purely based on my preferences and what is convenient for me, so if your favourites differ from my list, don’t take it personally! None of these links are sponsored. I just really like coffee.

Let me know your favourite cafes of 2016 and what you like about – I’m always interested in the different priorities people have for where they spend their time, money and coffee consumption!

Blacksmith Specialty Coffee

Coffee? Quality. Atmosphere? Perfect for either chatting with a friend or reading a book over your coffee. Service? Friendly and helpful. Location? Near main roads but on a backstreet so there’s usually parking. Currently there is a lot of construction happening in the street but I can easily forgive that. Blacksmith, without playing favourites, is basically everything I want in a cafe. If only it was in walking distance from my house…

John Mills Himself

This is my coffee go-to in the CBD. It’s tuck away down a flight of stairs and along an alleyway – meaning those who frequent it do so deliberately. It’s well worth the search – possibly some of the best coffee I have ever tasted.

Black Sheep Coffee

I’ve literally being going to this cafe weekly for a while now – it’s situated in an old warehouse, but still manages to feel welcoming and cosy. Also dog friendly. Does excellent iced lattes (that are actually a cold version of a latte, rather than a concoction of coffee and ice cream).

Deedot Coffee House

Deedot has just renovated and I love their new look and shadier seating area. Consistently good coffee and food, Deedot deserves it’s overflowing popularity, but this unfortunately often makes it difficult to get a table. Deedot is much more the place I head when I am getting breakfast/brunch/lunch with someone and don’t mind some crowds, rather than just a good coffee and quiet work-space.

Black Lab Coffee

Black Lab is different to all the other cafes on my list as it only does takeaway coffee, and has a very limited seating area. This isn’t so much a go-and-read-and-write cafe for me as a let’s-walk-the-dog-and-find-some-caffeine cafe. It is extremely dog friendly though, and even has a resident black lab who is referred to as ‘boss.’

Esher St Cafe and Deli

Esher St has a beautiful big seating area out the back which is perfect for getting a project done while consuming a flat white. The coffee is good quality, and it’s technically within walking distance of my house. It’s also next door to my hairdresser’s, but that’s really only relevant to me (shout out to Affinity Hair for being friendly and awesome and convincing me to get a fringe this year).

So thanks to all the cafes on this list for keeping me caffeinated and sane in 2016. Have a Merry Christmas and I’ll see you soon (very soon) in 2017!

What I’m Learning About Ethical Fashion

Two months ago I started a capsule wardrobe, which you can read about here. My goal was to keep the selection of clothes and shoes I wore for three months to 35 items.

Well, now I’m reporting back on what I have learnt from this experience. I’ve previously read and thought a bit about ethical fashion but during this fashion fast from our consumer habits of fast fashion I did more research about the true costs of cheap clothing.

I’m a student on a budget, so previously I have been all about the cheap deals. A t-shirt for $5? Yes please. Nice dress for $20? Winner. But the reality is, it takes more than $5 (or should) to make a t-shirt. If I wasn’t paying the full cost of the materials, labor and shipping involved in the production of my clothes, it meant someone else was paying that cost instead.

Often, it’s the most vulnerable people who are paying that cost. The underpaid cotton pickers. The workers forced into working for a wage so low it’s essentially slavery. I know this. I knew this when I was buying mass produced cheap clothes, yet I still bought the $10 jeans.

The ugly truth is that I didn’t and don’t, particularly want to pay more for the clothes I wear. I wanted ethical fashion at an unethical price. I cared, but not enough to change my habits and to let it hurt me where it counts – my bank balance. Paying more for clothes meant less money for other things. Less outings with friends. Less coffees to assist my assignment writing. Less of the other things I like to waste my money on.

So why fight this battle? Why make this moral dilemma the hill to die on?

It’s true that there are a lot of problems in this world. Most days, it feels hard to know which battles to fight. Which causes are most worthy of my attention?

So I could give up. I could say that one person will never make a difference, and so it doesn’t matter how I spend my money and what clothes I buy. But the reality is that I would still be funding the greed of this companies and allowing workers to be taken advantage of. I would still be giving my hard earned money to a cycle of poverty I am morally opposed to.

So I am trying to make better choices. Partly because I want to change the system, but also partly because I need to be able to sleep at night, and I can’t square my conscience with being a part of this system of exploitation. I am trying to buy from stores with good ethical ratings, even if it means spending a bit more. I am trying to buy less clothing overall – because my capsule wardrobe experiment showed me that I don’t need anywhere near as many clothes as I might have thought I did.

Trying to buy clothing ethically? This guide is very helpful. The Baptist Church of Australia puts out an updated guide every year, and on page six of the 2016 guide, they have rated a number of popular brands in Australia by categories such as policies, knowing your suppliers, auditing and supplier relationships and worker empowerment.

 

10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Clear Your Head

Sometimes, it’s just all too much. Your house is a mess. Your head is overflowing. You have emails and messages awaiting replies. You have a to do list that goes for days. You haven’t even managed to write a to do list, but you know it will go for days.

Sometimes, when you feel like this, it’s tempting to do nothing. Or rather, do nothing that actually helps. You go watch tv or read or explore the internet, but that anxious feeling persists. You get stuck in the stress and don’t know where to start.

Here’s a few very quick things you can do to help you feel 100% more in control and to get your head feeling clear and uncluttered. Even though it might look like further procrastination, if I do these things first, when I do sit down to get to work my capacity to focus is increased immensely.

1. Make your bed

Seriously, do it. It will change how you feel instantly. Everything will look tidier and brighter. The world will feel like a friendlier place.

2. Write a to do list 

Just seeing all the tasks ahead in a list can make you feel like you have a handle on things.

3. Anything on your to do list you can do in under 15 minutes, do it now

Then you get to cross things off your list! There’s less to do and you feel like you have accomplished something with your day – because you have!

4. Write down everything in your head

This is different to a to do list – this is just a mind clearing exercise. Write everything down, get it out of your head. Naming your worries can instantly make them less overwhelming and scary. Categorizing the things taking up space in your head can help you start dealing with the clutter.

5. Delete unused apps

Do you have a vague sense of too much stuff, too much clutter? Delete unused apps from your phone. If you’re not sure if you’ll use it again, delete it – you can always reinstall it later. Now you have more space on your phone and less visual clutter on your screen.

6. Clear surfaces

Tidy up all the surfaces – tables, benches, desks – in your house or work space. It doesn’t really matter what you do with the things you clear, though if they end up where they should be or somewhere productive, that’s even better. The goal is to not have visual clutter in your eye line.

7. Go through your photos

Try and get rid of photos taking up storage space on your phone or laptop (or upload them to the internet or a hard-drive if you can’t bear losing them forever). This always relaxes me, mainly because most of camera roll is puppies I have encountered.

8. Sort your inbox

Turn any emails you can’t delete immediately into a to do list item. Delete the rest (or save them to a backup inbox or other safe space).

9. Make some quick decisions

Plan your day quickly – you don’t have to cover all the details, just make some quick decisions so they’re not hanging over you later on. What will you wear? What food are you going to eat? What errands have to be done today and what are you going to leave for later?

10. Spend (at least) 5 minutes outside in the fresh air

Nothing helps me focus more. This may not be as easy for you as it is for me if your climate isn’t the kind of just-step-outside-weather I live in, but it can still be incredibly helpful.

 

What do you do to clear your mind when everything seems overwhelming? I’d love to hear your recommendations and tips!

What Is Bravery?

What does it mean to be brave? What does courage look like? Is it the same as being fearless?

Close your eyes – what images come to mind when you think of being brave?

Are there dragons to battle in your vision? Great daring heroic acts? Are you tough? Strong? Immovable and fearless? Undaunted?

For too long I have thought being brave was about action, not attitude. That if I didn’t conquer foes and climb mountains and do Hard Things, I wasn’t being brave – not really – or doing anything special.

I thought showing weakness, finding things hard or softening my heart towards those who hurt me was the opposite of courage – that it was somehow giving in or giving up. That changing my mind was an act of cowardice. That forgiveness was somehow the easy choice, the fearful person’s way out.

Have courage and be kind. 

Never cruel, never cowardly. 

Two mottos, from two pop culture characters – about as different as can be – Cinderella from the 2015 Cinderella and The Doctor from Doctor Who.

What does kindness have to do with bravery? What does choosing to not be cruel have to do with running away from the Hard Things and being a coward instead?

It’s easy to run. It’s easy to hide. But when we do, someone else always pays the price of our lack of courage. When we dodge the Hard Thing, someone else has to take on what we have avoided.

So instead we do the Hard Thing, we pay the cost. But walking into the fire isn’t the hardest thing life might require of us – those are the moments where we know we require bravery and conviction. It’s the obvious kind of courage. But there’s a deeper kind of bravery, a deeper level of courage, that requires not just our actions to flee from cowardice, but our hearts to be brave as well.

The times in my life that have required the most courage haven’t involved dragons or even particularly daring actions. The things that have required the most of me have involved forgiveness. They have required softening and opening my heart when it would be easier and less brave to harden my heart, to put up barriers and keep everyone out.

Have courage and be kind. 

Never cruel, never cowardly. 

These things take courage because to forgive is to open yourself up to the all the risks of being hurt again. Being kind when you’d rather be cruel, showing weakness when you’d rather look strong, takes all the bravery you have to offer.

But what else can we do, if we are following Jesus? If, like me, you are striving to live your life in a pattern modeled after God’s incredible grace and mercy shown at the cross, what other choice do we have but bravery?

Jesus chose to die on a cross, to look weak, beaten and defeated in front of those who were declared enemies against him and against God. How much courage would it have taken to stand in front of those accusing you, knowing you are innocent, and to say nothing? Knowing it would lead to your death? Why would anyone ever be so recklessly brave?

Of course, we know why Jesus did it. We know his motivations. He died because of his great love for us, to defeat sin, that keeps us apart from God, to reconcile us to him. He died so we could be forgiven, despite everything we have done to hurt and reject him.

When he did all that to save us, what else could we do but be brave and be kind? What else can we do but reject cruelty and run from cowardice?

Have courage and be kind. 

Never cruel, never cowardly.