living on…





this week

I had the best cafe breakfast EVER – avocado mashed with feta and mint on sourdough toast with a poached egg on top, at Tomato Cafe:

I DIDN’T buy these things from the op-shop:

Horse fire-guard. I love these gothy horses…but I don’t have a fire that needs guarding…

Gorgeous Magnolia plate….but $25?? C’mon, op-shops, please stop that grandiose pricing:

I’m loving taking photographs of stuff in op-shops, instead of buying them! I get to ‘keep’ the discovery…without the loss of cash or the clutter. I think a big part of the joy of op-shopping for me is just spotting cool old stuff, so snapping a picture is often thrill enough.

I did buy this wonderful handknitted deer jersey, though:

I pulled all my Penguin Classics from their various hiding places and put them in a pile. Just because. Some are originals and some are recent reproductions.

I worked a lot on my journal project – I have a (self-imposed) deadline for this because I want to enter it into a competition, so the pace is picking up a bit:

& just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean salads can’t be pretty – winter greens, parsley, radish and calendula petal salad from my garden:

As well as that, my oldest son turned 12, which feels like one of those significant ages because next birthday means the teenage stage begins…causing me all kinds of nostalgia/melancholia/emotional-wrenching…..and also some cake-making and happy birthday party throwing.

Hope you have a good, warm, inspiring week. X

art will eat itself

I am working on two writing projects at the moment (around the day job, the kids, the endless house-keeping and cooking)…..(‘oh to be a writer, a real writer!’ to quote Katherine Mansfield.)

One is my next collection of poems and the other is less simple – a project involving over a decade of journals. I am scanning a whole lot of journal pages from 1999-2012…it will be a very visual book. This project is tricky – I haven’t quite found my way with it yet. It’s like it isn’t sure what it wants to be….I don’t want it to be a ‘how to’ about journaling, because I don’t find those books especially helpful myself…plus I don’t think I have much to add to that canon….however it may have elements of that. I am writing some prose pieces to sit amongst the scanned journal pages, but I’m not sure they are right in tone. It’s like I am putting together a book that is almost devouring itself – like the OUROBOROS. I’m both sharing parts of my journals and yet critiquing them and journaling and the creative process all at once.  It’s all very messy and more than a little scary, however I’m going to keep chipping away at it and trust that as I work the shape of the book will become clear. Basically, I am trying to write the sort of book I would be excited to find in a bookshop….full of images, honesty, ruminations on creative process, thoughtful mess.

In the meantime, I take comfort from writers who have gone before me.

‘Any writer who knows what he is doing isn’t doing very much.’

-Nelson Algren


‘The furtherest out you can go is the best place to be.’

-Stanley Elkin’

inspiration books

I get a lot of magazines passed my way from family and as I read them I snip out anything which catches my eye and fill blank journals with pictures. I’m a very visual person and this practice inspires everything from poetry to life habits to cooking to gardening to craft to how I set up my house! (It’s like old-school Pinterest, right? Ha!)

It doesn’t have to be something I would DO, or WEAR, or necessarily WANT, though…it’s more just about the visual inspiration. I don’t think about it too much – if my eye hovers over it for more than a couple of seconds, I cut it out.

I’ve been doing versions of this as long as I can remember. I’ve thrown a lot of these book out, too – because of course my tastes and predilictions change over time and it isn’t like there is anything much of me in them – so I feel relaxed about chucking them if they no longer serve their purpose, which is to inspire me!

Here are some pages from my 2010 inspiration book:


the things you keep which are not yours

A little more on stuff…

…I just read THIS BOOK. In it, the author Corinne Grant explores the roots of her hoarding habits. I found this description of her intertia around organising her possessions interesting:

‘The fear of doing something I might later regret overruled any desire to throw something out. If I threw out an old placemat, I might all of a sudden find myself completely unmoored from my past. If I threw out a cardigan my mother had given me for my twenty-third birthday, I might destroy the family bond that held us to each other. We don’t call our possessions our ‘belongings’ for nothing and … it felt like my belongings were the only things holding me together.’

I understand her attachment to the thing which links you to the person it represents. I utterly understand it. I understand wanting to keep a thing out of some misguided sense of respect for the person who gave it to you. In the past, I’ve hung on to gifts for years, thinking I was honouring the friend who gave it to me, only to have, in one case, him mock the very object and when I protested that he had given it to me in the first place, he responded: ‘God, did I? For god’s sake get rid of it. It’s hideous.’

Once Corinne Grant begins to declutter and sort out her life, she catches the decluttering bug and becomes addicted to her new fixation, spending a whole winter going through her stuff:

‘I was an archaeologist excavating my own life, determined to dig myself out of the rubble.’

I found this sentence very poignant – possibly the most poignant thing I’ve read around decluttering. Doesn’t this one sentence get to the heart of what decluttering is all about? A sense of having lost oneself? A feeling the the way to find oneself again lies in dealing with belongings and trying to establish what they say about you?

As you know if you read my blog regularly, I spent the summer decluttering my house. It wasn’t that bad to start with – I’m no crazy cat-lady who can’t throw out an empty can or an old newspaper, but I was starting to feel like the cupboards and shelves were bulging and that I was hanging on to a lot of stuff for the wrong reasons – like nostalgia, ‘it might be useful one day’ and my need to be surrounded in creative materials.

I was very thorough and heaps of stuff went – to friends who would actually use it, to opshops, into our garage sale (and I still have a large pile of stuff to be listed on trademe – which I should probably be doing now instead of writing this….). I got rid of clothes I had emotional attachments to but no longer wore, I got rid of my record collection, I got rid of piles of art materials, books I knew I’d never get around to reading, unwanted gifts…I think I did really, really well. However…

there remain two stumbling blocks:

-family ‘heirlooms’ – things which have been passed down to me which used to belong to my grandparents, or great-grandparents – these items range from the useful (a gorgeous green jug that was my maternal grandmother’s, which I love and use most weeks to put flowers in) to the space-taking and useless (a musty fox fur coat, my grandmother’s debutante satin gloves – which don’t fit me, because she had tiny hands) to the precious (cameo rings, war medals) to the sublime (beautiful gilt-edged, leather-bound 140 year old family Bible) to the ridiculous (a small old cardboard box full of my grandfather’s pen nibs. He was a draughtsman and took great pride in his pens. The nibs are completely rusty and useless. The whole artefact is useless and not particularly beautiful. It is my favourite reminder of him, and I love it.) I also have my great-grandmother’s mantle clock. It is large! The key is long lost so I can’t wind it up, making it useless. I can’t throw it out. My great grandmother was not a wealthy woman. She didn’t have much. I feel, tangibly, if irrationally, that throwing out that mantle clock – the only thing of hers I have – would be like throwing HER out.

I don’t know what I think about the presence of these items in my life. Some of it makes sense (the green jug: beautiful, useful, translates to a contemporary setting) some not (the ridiculous attachment to a musty old box of rusting pen nibs, keeping old satin gloves which don’t fit me, worn to a ball by a grandmother I never met.)

The things I love the most from my ancestors are usually quirky things, rather than precious things. I hear from those who knew her that my grandmother loved to tell fortunes, read tea-leaves and cards, so for this reason, I love her tea-leaf-reading cup. It’s one of my favourite possessions. (That’s it above – I always have it on my mantlepiece.)

My grandfather went to India during World War 2 – I love the little wooden deities he bought back from India (below.) These speak to me of adventure and fear and being miles from home, and of thinking of those at home at the point of purchasing these little souvenirs – they speak to me of his war experience much more than his actual war artefacts: his medals and papers.

Ah, family heirlooms! The threads of attachment weaving down through generations…

The other area with decluttering where I have hit a wall, is with my writing papers.

I have writing papers – early drafts, submissions, correspondence, publications, course materials etc etc – dating back as far as high school. They start with my high-school poetry books and the punk ‘zine I wrote as a teenager and then they chart my progress as a writer from there….

All in all, including my journals, it comes to about five big boxes of stuff.

Is this a lot?

Why am I so very attached to it?

Is there any point in keeping it?

If I let it go, what does that mean for all those years of learning and struggle? While I am the sum of those parts – the writer who sits here today – does getting rid of the tangible evidence of my struggles, and travails and triumphs and experiments diminish them?

Does it diminish me?

I don’t know. I really don’t.

I feel very close to being able to let it all go – to be able to throw it all on our next bonfire – but should I? What should I keep, if any of it?

How much ‘rubble’ in the archeology of a life is too much?


Here are some things which have happened lately….

I have been doing a bit of lounging beside creeks and rivers while the boys throw stones:

I got to visit the country getaway of some friends, which I think is what heaven looks like in my mind (i.e. a ramshackle country cottage full of charming objets d’art with a porch with a grape vine and a big rambling garden and huge trees and total privacy, with a large fruit orchard beside it and fields as far as the eye can see….yes PLEASE!) :

Made a ridiculous blue cake in the shape of a vehicle:

Received a gift of a giant lemon from Emma (yes, that is a standard sized coffee cup.):

We finally got the chickens I blogged about back HERE. They are completely charming and lovely:

& I had the best cupcake of 2011. It was at a work function. So often commerically made cupcakes are dry and disappointing – but this one was divine. Vanilla-tasting, soft and the icing was buttery and delicious: