Five in nature

PROD-10↑↑ Penguin Bloom – The odd little bird that saved a family 96b79192c2c210660cd7edc6ee41a5128f6a3122_1200↑↑ Into the Woods is a beautiful exhibition of altered landscape photography, by Ellie Davies. It is on now at the Crane Kalman Gallery if you're nearby and would like a closer look

DSC_0028↑↑ Stunning oak-leaf pendant! On my Christmas list

13-7↑↑ This house in Brooklyn is proof that you can have a beautiful garden in the city... even if you don't have any land

cloud-lamp-small-detail-circu-magical-furniture-02↑↑ Bring the sky inside. Light and music. It's like the enchanted ceiling in Hogwarts

Capturing the castle

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Carbisdale Castle north of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands is for sale for offers over 1.5 million (Australian) dollars. Three-bedroom houses sell for more than that where I live!

Shall we all pool our resources and buy it together? There will be plenty of room for all of us: the castle sits on 16 acres and has a ballroom, grand hall, minstrel's gallery, billiard room, dining room, drawing room, library, and 40 bedrooms.

It was used as a youth hostel for many decades and had some water damage during a particularly severe winter a couple of years back so it needs a bit of TLC, but we are not afraid of a little bit of hard work, are we?

Pruning the Internet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Ms. Shlain: ...I love what you just said about character in terms of the internet evolving, that we proactively can evolve the internet and infuse it with character strengths. That is really a framework to think about a healthy evolution of the internet, instead of throwing your hands up and saying this thing is out of our control, and it’s doing all these things. We — just as we’re raising a child, we need to shepherd this to its maturity, and infuse it with our own sense of character.

Ms. Tippett: Right. You talk about how a child’s brain and our brains are always pruning as we get older, and that what we pay attention to gets stronger, and what you pay attention to less gets pruned out.

Ms. Shlain: Yeah.

Ms. Tippett: And I think you’ve also suggested that, like the human brain, those of us who are adults now have lived through this thing, this phenomenon, landing in the middle of our lives, and in the middle of society, and really turning everything inside out in ways that are still playing out. But you’ve said there’s this possibility that once it has just proliferated, that it might begin to prune. But again, as you’re saying, it’s up to us what direction that takes.

Ms. Shlain: Absolutely. I think that’s incredibly empowering, too, if you think of it that way. And it’s exciting, if you think, wow, we’re at this point in human evolution and our civilization where you have this tool that’s creating a nervous system for the whole world, and we can shape it. And we can prune it. And we can strengthen things that are important, and weaken things that are not as important — or not good for society.

There’s so much — going back to the character, there’s so much science, neuroscience and social science, that’s backing up what we believed to be true. And what was so exciting to me about learning about Seligman and Peterson’s work, that they looked at character, virtues, and strengths all throughout cultures in history.

*                     *                     *

This is part of a conversation between broadcaster and author Krista Tippett, and filmmaker and author Tiffany Shlain, on the On Being podcast in March this year.

I loved how their conversation completely reframed the "digital is awesome" versus "digital is ruining our lives" debate that seems to be going on everywhere right about now.  Shlain is definitely pro-digital: she founded the Webbys (the digital version of the Oscars), for goodness' sake! But she and her family also practice a "tech shabbat," turning off all their devices for one entire day every week.

In this conversation, Shlain and Tippett talk about how the Internet is in its infancy, and about how we are in a position to help it grow in the direction that will turn it into its best self. Parenting. Pruning. And about how empowering that idea can be.

It's an incredibly inspiring and thoughtful conversation. If you feel stuck, like I do, between desire for the connections the Internet brings versus the desire to be more unplugged, I highly recommend a listen!

Why wait?

old First, this memory.

I am seven or eight years old, and my parents' friends Sue and Ian have come to stay. After dinner, we all sit cross-legged on the carpet in the lounge room and sing. Folk music, mostly, from the 60s and 70s, as well as some of their originals. Ian pulls out his guitar, Mum pulls out her flute, everyone sings. Ian is super-cool to me, a bit like Bob Dylan, but Sue’s voice is more like a soprano version of Karen Carpenter: all strong and smooth, with a gently undulating vibrato. As she sings, she bends her head forward and her long blonde hair falls over her shoulder like a single sheet of water. Like an angel.

This is what I think about as I sit on the carpet with them all, listening and admiring and sometimes joining in, and I feel like I have been allowed into something special and mysterious and grown-up. I also think, "I want to be Sue when I grow up.”

They were playing Cat Stevens in my local cafe yesterday morning while I waited for my bagel and coffee. “Too emo” muttered the barista, and switched to something else, but the damage was done. Like osmosis, I had already absorbed the song under my skin and, once there, it made its way into my blood-stream and within a nanosecond had tickled a long-neglected corner of my prefrontal cortex, awakening the memory of this late-night singalong from its decades-long hibernation.

Holding my coffee, I walked back along the footpath in the bitter cold and spitting rain, thinking about friends and music and, because Cat Stevens was still on my mind, I also thought about the Harold & Maude soundtrack. Especially the two songs that Cat Stevens had written just for that movie (this one and this one), which are both about stepping up and being proud of who you are, and embracing your life. Scout loves these songs, and asks to hear them often.

I thought about that scene in which Maude sang “If you want to sing out, sing out” and it made me smile. I started humming to myself as I walked through the rain, which was sweeping sideways by now. My hands were so cold I couldn't feel my fingers around the coffee cup.

I thought, “I want to be Maude when I grow up.”

And just at that moment, in the wind and rain, a woman drove past me on a beat-up old Vespa motor scooter. The woman would have been at least 80 years old, maybe more. She was wearing an ancient helmet that looked like one of those WWII aviator helmets, and was squinting against the icy rain that must surely have been piercing her cheeks like needles. Across her face was spread an enormous smile of pure joy.

And I thought, "Why wait?"

Image credit: Ismael Nieto, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons

Yarn blooms

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Fleur Lyon of The Folk Maker creates lasting posies out of yarn and found twigs, often with tiny gum-nuts still attached, and they are absolutely beautiful.

I discovered her Instagram feed only yesterday, and now I can't look away. Definitely wish-listing a posy of yarn blooms in neutral tones to sit above my hearth this winter!

All images from Fleur Lyon's Instagram feed, @thefolkmaker


Brown paper packages tied up with string (or: 5 mail subscriptions to boost your creativity)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWho doesn't love a surprise present in the mail?

I’m a big fan of mail subscriptions, and have been known to sign up to more than a few of them over the years. For most, you pay a flat rate, and receive a themed gift in the mail every month (or week, or whatever you’ve signed up for).

Is this something you might like, too? In case it is, here are five subscription boxes to boost your creativity, or that of your children, that I think you might enjoy:


1. Busy Bee Stationery busy-beeWhat's in the box: a curated selection of stationery, generally between five and 10 items. The creators say "We choose items that inspire creativity and help you with your everyday note-taking, planning, journaling and letter writing." Each box is developed around a theme, season, or specific creative project.

Cost: $39.90 Find out more:


2. Bookwormz bookwormzWhat's in the box: newly-released books for children, selected by former editor Lizzy Fowler, accompanied by a creative gift designed to spark the imagination, a parent-card, and a colouring competition. The boxes are designed to foster a life-long love of reading by channeling the excitement of receiving a gift into the joy of discovering new books.

Cost: $34.99 plus postage Find out more:


3. Pairings Box pairings-boxWhat’s in the box: three gourmet recipe cards, one or two premium ingredients to go with the food, a seven-inch vinyl record with music from rising artists to match the mood of the food, and a download code for a full playlist.

Cost: $25 plus postage Find out more:


4. Little Passports little-passports-smallWhat’s in the box: depending on the age-group you select, a first month’s subscription box includes a suitcase, a “passport,” wall-sized wall map, welcome letters from “pen-pals” (characters created by Little Passports), and activity sheets. Boxes in subsequent months feature new themes, such as countries, animals or music etc, and include items such as letters from the pen-pals, souvenirs, activity sheets, stickers, adventures and photographs.

Cost: starting at $11.95 Find out more:


5. Goodie Box blank-goodsWhat’s in the box: creative, craft and stationery supplies such as gift wrapping, paper craft, DIY projects, and a poster with ideas and inspiration on how to use the contents of the box.

Cost: $35 plus postage Find out more:

Dreams + links

ab70b250 I spent last night dreaming about a tree change. I don't know what's gotten into me because I really love where I live. I mean, I really love it. And I know that I would get bored in the country. I've lived it before so it's not like I have rose-coloured glasses on.

And yet, I spent the entire night browsing real estate websites instead of working, looking for country homes in the high country. Somewhere where the seasons are REAL seasons, where it snows in winter. Somewhere with space for the children to run and play and grow. Room for a piano. An office for me. A downsized, slowed-down life in which we could see Mr B every day, and each of us would have the financial and emotional freedom to pursue the things we love, not just the bills we need to pay!

I sent a link to one of the homes to Mr B, who was at a work function, telling him "I want to move here." He wrote back "Are you on drugs?" because, well, he knows me. "Let's give it a go," I said.

But then I thought about the schools we wanted the children to attend, and there was nothing like those schools in the escape destinations I was exploring on my computer. And I started to think of all the other things we wanted to do for them and the opportunities we wanted them to have, and I began weighing the pros and cons of life for City Mouse Bulgers and Country Mouse Bulgers up against each other, and it all became dizzyingly confusing.

So instead I closed the computer and opened a bottle of cheap plonk and watched TV while I waited for Mr B to come home from yet another work function, and decided life here wasn't all that bad, really.

In the meantime, revisiting something I used to do every Friday, here are five of my favourite things of late, for your hump-day viewing and reading pleasure.

* Tiny tree-houses in pot-plants

* "Instead of sharing another selfie, I shared all my books with the world."

* Shakespearean quotes on stamps

* The day the plants took over New York

* Build your own street library!


Image credits: photo by Thomas Verbruggen, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons

We will remember them

613c2071 “There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man's life to know them the little that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.”

~ Ernest Hemingway

(Image credit: Jake Melara, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons)