Things I Liked In March

Each month I do a post covering ‘things I liked’ – from articles to videos to tv shows to books to anything in between. This month I also did a special edition called ‘Things I Liked On International Women’s Day.’ But here’s my list of what I liked in March. What have you liked this month?

Austrian Bread Dumplings

I was missing Austria and it’s cooler climate and delicious food, so I decided to learn how to make Austrian bread dumplings (Semmelknödel). This is the recipe I used. It took me some experimenting with how much flour to add, but I eventually got the dumplings to stay together and cook. They’re pretty tasty and go well with soups and stews (or anything else you want to pair them with).

enhanced-29592-1410349187-9.jpg24 Deliciously Simple Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

There are times we don’t want to drink. Or we have friends who don’t drink. Or we need to drive. Whatever the reason, I feel there’s a niche waiting to be filled by delicious and interesting non-alcoholic beverages. Look no further – above is a list of these drinks that are tasty and pretty and don’t involve an alcohol content at all.

Related – Loving People Deeply is doing an series on responsible alcohol usage. Read about consumption here and service here.

Also related – Sarah Bessey wrote a heart stirring and honest piece on why she quit drinking. Read it here.

Keep Cups For Hope Street Cafe

Micah Projects is a Brisbane based community organisation with an unswerving commitment to social justice. Our new social enterprise, Hope Street Café seeks to address the need for flexible, frontline services which provide practical solutions for people with significant barriers to employment. By providing qualified hospitality training and supported employment pathways we can assist people from diverse backgrounds facing challenges for inclusion and economic participation.

This group does a lot of good work. I’ve donated to get my keep cup, which looks great, helps the environment AND goes towards opening the cafe that will help train people to enter the workforce who otherwise might not be able to.

16 useful clues for anyone who wants to understand dogs better

Who doesn’t want to understand dogs better? Useful tips on dog body language and what it means.

Beauty and the Beast

MTP0200_g_p3.000000-.jpgI saw the remake of the Disney classic at a premiere event – with red velvet cupcakes and sparkling wine and roses! – and it was fantastic. I really really enjoyed it. The music, the costumes and the sets were stunning, and there was real character development and backstories included! Even characters like Gaston were more complex and compelling. It made the story richer and deeper. It had the right amount of humor and the jokes were actually funny. There was an appropriate balance between respecting the original material and introducing new material to make the story feel fresh and interesting. Also I want to live in the castle’s library. That’s all.

Belle: Have you really read all of these books? 

Beast: Well, no. I mean, some of them are in Greek.

Duet – Flash/Supergirl

Flash and Supergirl teamed up to provide a musical crossover episode called ‘Duet’ (yes that is a real sentence I just typed) and it’s hilarious and ridiculous and amazing. Here’s a clip of my favourite song from the episode. So many puns!

Proven By Science: Doing These 9 Things Will Make You Happy

A friend showed this to me,and I found it encouraging that the things I could do to bring joy to my life were relatively simple, and most of them I was doing already. Of course, happiness is more complex and layered than an infographic can solve, but it was still very helpful.

Red Pandas

I love these furry little animals so much. Look at it. LOOK AT IT. enhanced-6017-1414532772-31.jpg

Related: Rescue Goat With Anxiety Only Calms Down In Her Duck Costume

British Libary’s Online Books

If you click that link, it will take you to a magical place. The British Library has an online collection of the manuscripts that are too precious to be out on display. The first book that link will show you is the Bedford Book of Hours, a medieval prince’s prayer book. If you click the ‘menu’ option in the bottom left corner, you can browse their whole catalogue. Highlights: Henry VIII’s Psalter (Psalm book) annotated in his own hand, Mozart’s musical diary, the original ‘Alice’s Adventures Underground’ written in Lewis Carrol’s own hand, Jane Austen’s History of England, written at age 13, Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Arundel with his own notes and drawings, seriously, I could go on and on. Please check it out.

Related: Dymocks have released a line of leather bound classic books and they are beautiful and I just want to throw all my money at them. So is this hard cover copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. I just really love books.

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Animals Abound – Part 3 – Cat Cuddle Cafe

Do you have a list of things to do one day? Are you always intending to check out that new cafe/lunch spot/exercise class/whatever it is that interests you? But do you also somehow never get round to doing the things you want to do?

Let me introduce a concept. Do the things. Do the things you want to do. Plan for it, and do it – or decide you won’t do it. This isn’t my idea, just to be clear – Nina Kardia, my often quoted inspiration, wrote about this concept – if you want to do a thing one day, just do it. She called it lock it or leave it, saying:

Whenever I caught myself saying, “ohh, we should totally do that one day!” I would stop, pull out my schedule, and try to figure out right away if we could book it in.  Or not.

This has evolved into a principle that me and Mick call ‘lock it or leave it’.  If there’s something you want to do, lock it in right away. And to avoid brain clutter, if you realise that it’s not actually realistic for you to ever do that thing, just forget it.  Delete the promotional email about it or throw away that brochure you’ve had stuck up on your fridge for seven months.  It’s not going to happen.  Just leave it.

20170119_102459I really liked this idea, and decided to put it into practice. So when a friend of mine and my sister and I kept mentioning that we’d like to check out the Cat Cuddle Cafe on the north side of our city, I decided to lock it. I set a time frame – before I went overseas – found a time that worked for the three of us – and locked it in.

It was great. It was such a good morning. We got to the cafe about 15 minutes before our cat cuddle session start, and ordered some drinks. All the drinks had fun names like cattacunio, cat white, piccolo kitty-o, long black cat, hot chococat, etc (you see the pattern, right?)

In the upstairs area there were cat themed board games and books lying around for entertainment. The decor was extremely cat themed, in the kind of way where it’s so over the top it’s adorable.

Then our cat cuddle session started! We went downstairs and into the cat zone (not the actual name, just what I call it in my head). We washed our hands and then slowly started to sit with the cats, seeing which would approach us. Over the next hour we got to pat cats, watch cats play with each other, offer toys and fun things to the cats and even cuddle a few.

My friend, my sister and I are all cat fans. (My sister is more of a dog fan, but she likes cats enough to come to a cat cuddle cafe). Patting cats together was a lot of fun. Rather than just sending each other pictures of cute cats or funny cat memes, we got to see real cats! We got to share the experience with each other and laugh when the cats did the hilarious things (as cats tend to do). Cats are strange, amusing, beautiful, dorky animals. Watching them interact was so interesting, as I only have the one cat and don’t often see cats hanging out together in a group (or to use a cooler term, a #catsquad). It brought out aspects of cats and their functions that I don’t often see.

The cats at the cafe are all up for adoption, and it works really well. If you’re looking for a cat, I’d really recommend doing something like this – you get to see the cat’s personality and temperament, how they react to different people and to different cats.

It was a lot of fun. The hour passed really quickly and saying goodbye to my new fur-friends was a bit sad (mainly for me. They were pretty aloof).

I was so glad I ‘locked’ this experience and actually did the thing I wanted to do. I really enjoyed my morning patting cats and drinking coffee with some friends. Next time there’s something I want to do, I won’t be so slow in getting around to booking it in.

Here. Enjoy some photos from the cat cafe.
20170119_10442420170119_101012

Animals Abound – Part 2 – Animals and Mental Health

As I’ve mentioned before, this series is a bunch of shorter posts covering specific topics related to all things animal.

There’s been a lot of research done exploring the link between pets and improved mental health. This post is a quick overview of how owning an animal friend can be good for anyone. Later I will be writing about how some animals can assist with specific conditions.

Pets can provide companionship. If you feel isolated, especially if you live alone, having another living creature in the house can be reassuring. A pet can be a consistent, accepting, loyal presence in your life. They can help reduce stress by making you slow down and relax at the end of the day by sitting with them and patting them. Speaking of patting, pets fulfil the basic human need to touch – safe physical contact is often more important to wellbeing than we realize. Having a small fluffy thing to sit on your lap can improve your mood and mental health.

Owning a pet can also give you a routine, in regards to feeding, cleaning and exercise. Especially if you struggle to feel motivated, a pet can give you some purpose and responsibility. They also make you exercise (if it’s a dog) by ensuring you walk them or at least run around the backyard with them and a ball. (I also find chasing my cat out of places she shouldn’t be gives me a fair bit of exercise).

Especially when you are struggling with life, with motivation and with social interaction, pets can be a lifeline to stability. When human relationships are hard, but you get lonely without them, pets can provide a safe middle ground – a bridge to better, more stable human interactions.

Animals Abound – Part 1 – My Animals and Me

If you know me in real life you will know, without a doubt, that I like animals. Puppies, dogs, kittens, cats. If I see it, I will pat it, I will talk to it, I will point at it from a car and make you look at it.

(At this point, I’d like to both apologize to and say thank you to my friends and family for putting up with this behaviour).

To make use of this obsession, and to think more deeply about animals and the roles they play in my life, in society and in our world, I’m starting a new series of posts called Animals Abound.

To start off, in this post I’m going to introduce you to my own animals; my cat and my dog.

These are my animals.

Leo is a six year old border collie-kelpie cross RSPCA rescue dog. He enjoys being with the people, walks and barking at the dogs that walk in the park behind our house. Leo was adopted by my family at eight weeks old, and promptly stole the heart of every member of the family. He’s not a brave dog or a sociable dog, but he is a good dog – he is loyal and loving and just always want to be a part of things.

Siri is a three year old RSPCA rescue cat. She enjoys sleeping on the deck, stalking the dog and trying to kill birds with her mind. Siri was almost 2 years old when I adopted her, and had spent most of her life waiting at the RSPCA to be chosen. She’s not exactly a friendly cat, but she is entertaining and beautiful and full of life.

20170101_173109                                   20160810_125714

I mentioned in this post on Simplicity that I have a very simple mental health plan: medication, exercise, writing and animals.

Medication keeps my brain balanced. Exercise keeps my body healthy and the endorphins flowing. Writing gives me a release and a chance to get it all out of my head. Animals, my cat and my dog, give me a routine and responsibilities, which keep me sane, as well as making me feel less alone and giving me joy and laughter in the things they do. 

My animals keep me sane. They help me keep things in perspective, with their simple needs and wants. They remind me that I am dependent on God for life, just as they are dependent on me for their next drink of water or meal.

They provide company when I am lonely and help me feel safe when I am home alone or out for a walk. They motivate me to exercise by walking them (Leo) and to keep my room clean for their safety (Siri).

These two weirdos, Leo-pup and Siri-cat, are key parts of my life, giving me routine and stability. More than anything, they give me an emotional connection with another living creature, even when I don’t have to energy or capacity to talk to or interact with other actual humans.

Over the next few posts in this series, I’m going to be talking about animals and their importance in the world. If there’s anything on this subject you’d like me to write about, leave a comment below!

 

Quitting Social Media

I’ve quit social media.

Probably not forever. But for a little while.

Why?

I couldn’t handle it anymore, the relentless cycle of photos and news and updates.

I couldn’t stop myself from checking, for more likes, more comments.

I couldn’t resist reading the comments even when I knew it would make me angry.

I was like a powder-keg, waiting to go off, and social media was so quick to light my fuse.

This isn’t some kind of moral statement; I don’t think social media is evil and wrong.

This is just an acknowledgement of my weakness, my need, my temptation in this season.

To scroll endlessly instead of doing the things I should be.

Of liking an Instagram photo instead of making the effort to talk to someone.

Of using  all the quick and easy social shortcuts that things like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram make so accessible.

I”ve quit social media.

To give my brain a break, to give my heart a break.

To shield myself from the pressure of having to have something worthwhile to upload.

To block myself from the temptation of uploading everything as a cry for human contact.

I’m practicing living in the loneliness of my life, rather than posting a photo to fill the ache.

I’m learning to think my thoughts without the need to share them and see how many likes it can get.

I’m trying to lean into the awkwardness of having nothing to do.

I’m embracing my surroundings, sitting up and paying attention.

I’m trying to not use a device as a crutch for when I want to run and hide.

I’m starting to face and process my emotions rather than distract myself from them.

I’ve quit social media.

I’m breathing easier.

Things I liked on International Women’s Day

You’re getting a special edition of ‘things I liked’ – not tied to a month or a time frame, but a particular day. Lots of people I like wrote good and interesting articles, from all kinds of different perspectives. I might not agree with all the things in all of the articles below, but each have important and valid thoughts and points of view.

I don’t have the time to write my own thoughts on International Women’s Day today (in fact, I’m writing this in a break between uni classes). I have assignments to write this week, and I plan to enjoy the privilege I have here in Australia to learn and teach and write, a privilege that should be a right, a right that many girls around the world are denied. But I don’t have the time to write an insightful blog post before. I don’t need to – many other people already have.

The truth is, International Women’s Day is often a hard day for me. Isn’t ironic that a day meant to be for the good and empowerment of women, is a day that causes me a lot of angst? It’s a day when the internet doesn’t feel like a safe or welcoming space. It feels that even drawing attention to the countless issues facing women worldwide is too confronting for many people.

It makes me angry that a day like this is even needed. That again, my gender is an issue, a problem, a crisis to be solved. Then there’s the countless cries of ‘what about International Men’s Day?’ (by the way, it’s November 19th). The protests that women are equal now and there’s no more work to be done. I want us to be able to move away from a focus on our own privileged western experience, and be able to see the wider picture, the ‘international’ aspect of International Women’s Day.

Okay. I’m going to hand over to these articles now, who have lots of helpful things to say about these issues.

Loving People Deeply – Five Things To Love Women You Don’t Know

Short and sweet – practical tips on how to know and do more written by a friend of mine.

Melanie Pennington – I’m a Privileged White Women. But Today Isn’t Just About Me.

Another friend of mine, with a clear insight into how lucky we are in Australia and how not everyone is as privileged (bonus: you can read her awesome blog from last year’s International Women’s Day here).

Creek Road – How might the church #beboldforchange this International Women’s Day?

My pastor wrote this post for my church’s blog. It acknowledges how churches haven’t done enough in the past, and can do more in the future.

Sarah Bessey – A Prayer for International Women’s Day

Sarah Bessey wrote a prayer for the women who read her blog, praying we would know God’s love first of all and that it would make us brave.

 

Want to know more? Don’t pay attention just one day a year. Visit the official site for International Women’s Day and learn how you can take action, all year round.

Liturgy for the Broken Hearted

On Wednesday, I was struggling. I didn’t have the words to cry out to God. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to say the things I needed to express. I know God understands what I am feeling. But not being able to articulate it to him left me trapped in a un-communicative spiritual vacuum. My brain was broken. My heart was hurting. My emotions were on edge and my soul was sore.

Wednesday was also Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. You may have read about my exploration of Advent, and how it has helped me to slow down in a season where we are tempted to be busy and frantic. So now I’m also exploring Lent, and what this spiritual season could look like for me, a mixed-up Protestant with uncertain opinions and a theology based on clinging to Jesus.

Lent takes place in the 40 days leading up to Easter (the time we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection). It’s a period of reflection and sacrifice, in the light of the sacrifice Jesus made at the cross. It mimics the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, praying and fasting.

In my new tradition of vaguely following the church calendar, I went to an Ash Wednesday prayer book church service with some friends. I had almost no emotional energy and still no words to speak to God with. But that was okay. The beautiful thing about liturgy is that you don’t need to find your own words. You only need to repeat the good, faithful truth words of the service along with the congregation.

As we spoke and prayed our way through the liturgy, I was reminded again and again of truths I know, even though I didn’t have the capacity to express them myself. I spoke of the truth that God is sovereign, I acknowledged him as my Lord, I thanked him for the cross. I repeated the glorious truth that I am forgiven, I am accepted, I am loved, despite my brokenness.

In those 45 minutes, we prayed, we thanked God, we took the Lord’s Supper and we were marked with ashes. The physical  mark of the ashes helped me to recentred myself to the reality I live in. I was told to remember that I am dust, and to dust I shall return. The way the Lord’s Supper interacts with taste and smell and the feel of the wood under my hands were tangible things that pulled me out of myself and pointed me to Jesus and the reality of his love.

Liturgy helped me. I didn’t need a chaotic rush of noise and complex ideas. I didn’t have the energy or strength of mind to follow a complicated 30 minute sermon. I didn’t even have the words to express to a small group of people what I was feeling and thinking. I just needed Jesus. I just needed to hear and say the words of Gospel over again. I needed to be reminded that I am part of a larger whole in the church of God.

These are the words that reminded that I am sinner, loved and redeemed by God:

Almighty and merciful God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent;
create in us new and contrite hearts,
so that when we turn to you and confess our sins
we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen.