Orchids? Eek!

My sister has brought us a potted orchid as a house-warming present – eek!

I’ve never in my life looked after plants that need ‘proper’ care and attention to thrive, all my previous green-fingered experience (whether indoors or outdoors) has been with the kind of robust non-needy plants that require minimal intervention year in, year out, and not only survive by themselves but keep coming back all on their own. Independent plants that you need to be really, REALLY negligent to kill off.

Anyway, I’ve read up online ‘how to look after a potted orchid’ and have found some really good advice and tips on watering and light and warmth, so forewarned is forearmed… And I’m really keen to learn whatever new housewifery skills I may be required to get my head around in my new home plus conservatory and garden, so I may as well start now. All I can promise thus far is that I’ll do my very best to look after my new orchid, and see what happens…

We’ve also been given three dormant hyacinth bulbs and some dehydrated compost blocks in a pretty ceramic pot as another house-warming gift – a DIY grow your own kit – so apparently once I’ve reconstituted the compost and planted the bulbs they need to live in the cold garden shed for 10 weeks before coming in to the house… Hmmm… OK… I’ve never grown hyacinths before, either… Double eek!

Two brand-new-to-me indoor plant experiments in one fell swoop seems like a good challenging start to the new year in our new house – I already have a thriving potted basil growing on my kitchen windowsill and two schlumbergera, but I’ve had them before in the past (long ago, but it still counts) and know what I’m doing (there or thereabouts) so I’m not a complete novice to houseplant care…. Famous last words! Hopefully I can succeed in learning how NOT to kill potted orchids and hyacinths too… 🙂

Cee’s Flower of the Day

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Best

Weekly Prompt: Something New

Christmas Tree Decorations

Putting up a proper Christmas tree this year has been a real treat for me. I know it’s just artificial, but it’s still more of a tree than we’ve ever had before! Our fake tree is about 4ft high and is comfortably adorned with the few choice decorations we brought with us from our tiny flat in London, plus a few extra baubles donated by my eldest daughter.

As we used to put out only a few small bits and pieces every year, just to mark the season, our motley crew of Christmas tree people have only ever sat on the sideboard before, so it’s hopefully a real treat for them to be on a tree too! The miniature (empty) Tabasco bottles are a nod to my husband’s Cajun heritage, and actually came from the Tabasco factory at Avery Island, Louisiana, and make a fun home-made addition to our little collection.

So this week’s smile comes courtesy of our wooden jiggly reindeer, our felt gingerbread man, our knitted robin, our eclectic collection of various jingle bells, our Merry Christmas sign, our Tabasco bottles, and our smiley little fairy, taking her place on top of a tree at long last! 🙂

Weekly Smile

Weekly Prompts: Holday Treats

Christmas… Hmmm…

This week’s Weekly Word Prompt: Christmas asks if we prefer to take a traditionalist or a modernistic view of the holiday season. Hmmm… The assumptive close inherent in the question seems to offer that these are the only two available options, and both options also seem to assume that the trappings of Christmas – or the ‘holiday season’ as it’s now known – are inevitable, that this is an enjoyable and inclusive time of year for everyone…

Well, not for me, because I’m just not a Christmassy person at all – at least not Christmas as it stands today. But to be clear I’m not completely a bah-humbug kind of person either – I’m more of a not-too-hot, not-too-cold, lukewarm ‘undecided voter’ about it all. Right now heading towards the end of November I can pretty much take it or leave it, and feel cloaked in a miasma of insipid ‘meh’ instead of sparkling in the glitter-strewn excitement I see shining in so many other people around me.

I’m really not at all a fan of the Western capitalist push to rampant consumerism around Christmas that starts immediately after Halloween. Christmas – ostensibly a Chrisitan festival – no longer seems to be anything to do with religion or religious belief, it’s become instead a manic whirlwind of spending excess money while encouraging little more than a culture of personal greed and profligate waste. It’s no longer about the joy of giving, or community spirit, or helping those in need – it’s no longer simply the thought that counts.

Somewhere along the line quality of sentitment has been trampled underfoot in the triumphant quest for quantity of stuff – how much to spend on each present, how many presents for each person, how many people to buy for, money money money, more more more… Personally I find this socially accepted me-me-me attitude upsetting in the extreme. ‘What are you getting for Christmas?’ is always what’s asked of people, no-one ever asks ‘What are you giving for Christmas?’

The thing is, in my mind Christmas celebrations can still be pleasurable without relying on extreme financial excess – get together with people you choose to spend time with, or take time out on your own if you’d rather. Decorate your home if you choose to, or don’t if it doesn’t suit. Eat nice food by all means, enjoy a special meal designed to your own taste. Give token gifts if you want, and receive them gratefully. Take pleasure in the simpler things in life, live mindfully in the moment.

And above all, try to remember the real value of Christmas rather than constantly counting the cost…

Busy Doing Nothing

So far I’ve been studiously avoiding this week’s prompt word of ‘busy’… but not because I’ve been ‘too busy’ to write a post about it…

‘Busy’ conjures up for me all the restrictive oughts and shoulds of constant and visible busy-ness prized so highly in our Western capitalist consumerist society, and feelings of shame that by that reckoning I’m not worthy of comment in that regard. It’s not that I don’t do busy – I can (and do) still have periods of extreme busy-ness in my life. But at 55 I also have plenty of prolonged periods of rest and relaxation, those magical spells of mental and physical time out from… well, from all of it really.

I’m tired of having to justify myself to others who respond judgementally to what they consider my lack of involvement in the treadmill of modern life. I mean, I did that for years – for decades – out of necessity. I brought my three kids up as a working single mother, and now they’re all grown up with families of their own I can choose to work part time and be a (rather lazy) housewife the rest of the time. And I don’t see my lack of rushing around in the rat-race as a negative thing – for me, it is a truly positive choice.

The whole ‘work/ life balance’ thing is a bit of a 21st Century theoretical buzz-word just now, but not many people actually consider what that means in practice. The reality of achieving a successful work/ life balance will in all probability look different for everyone – in my experience it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all concept, because people want different things in life. But the important thing is it always has to be about balance. If you always prioritise the importance of work over life regardless of personal circumstance, then where’s the balance in that?

For me, I’m considering the concept of work/ life balance over my entire lifetime – I worked hard to do well at school, leaving at 17 with a good education, then got married at 18 and had my three children before I turned 22. I had a very difficult marriage and got divorced from their dad then worked a combination of part time and full time while bringing them up as best I could. After my children grew up I studied full time for a degree, then worked full time again for the next decade while paying off my student loan. I’m re-married now, and my husband and I have paid off our mortgage so we are embracing a kind of pre-retirement limbo-lifestyle.

People (usually working people, actually) ask me a lot what I do with my time when I’m not at work, as if I’m being somehow over-indulgent and selfish in allowing myself so much ‘free’ time. Well, I do a bit of housework, and a lot of reading, photography, colouring in, walking for leisure, enjoying nature, cooking, watching TV, blogging, thinking… so in a way I do have a busy life, but my style. Busy too enjoying family relationships to an extent that hasn’t been possible in years, invaluable with ageing parents and young grandchildren in the mix.

Honestly, I really like my life this way, quiet and unassuming and relatively easy compared to how it used to be. I don’t need pity from high-flyers for not being a career-minded go-getter like them, that’s just not me and never has been. OK, so I have a good degree under my belt yet I choose to work part time in a local pub – so what? I could go back to working for bigger bucks in central London again with all the stress and responsibility that goes with it, but why the hell would I want to do that? Been there, done that, happily wearing the T-shirt with my jeans every day instead of being all trussed up in ‘smart business dress’.

Roll on retirement, that’s all I can say, then I can legitimately start being busily retired and to hell with having to explain myself to others… and I honestly, genuinely, really truly can’t wait! 🙂

Weekly Prompts: Edit

I usually like to try wherever possible to compose my photographs as correctly as possible, requiring minimal editing, but sometimes I’ll find I have to crop the edges a little, or I’ll want to convert the image to black and white – the above image has had both applied in post-processing. My original has slightly more empty dark space on the right hand side and along the bottom, and even as I took the shot (in colour) I knew I wanted to greyscale the final image to fully emphasise the highlights and shadows.

Other crop-type editing gets done at home whenever I need to straighten out wonky horizons, or cut out random parts of people either coming in or going out on the edges of the shot. And as well as considering the simple starkness of monochrome, other visual changes can include making a negative image which is sometimes very effective whether in colour or in black and white. And at other times I just go completely over the top and apply a digital art filter to an entire image – I find these are truly great fun to play with! 🙂

Weekly Prompts: Edit