That balance thing…

A while ago I wrote about finding balance. There was too much going on in my head and too many things I wanted to do, something had to give. Your feedback helped, I prioritised the things that were important to me as well as being ones I could realistically accomplish. My health is important, at 45 and with a family history of bowel and breast cancer I am becoming more aware of what I eat. Although I haven’t gone the whole hog in quitting sugar I have reduced my intake and I’m eating more whole foods rather than reaching for what is convenient. This has been a relatively easy step to take and experimenting with new recipes has been fun, plus it makes me feel better.

I put ‘The Artist’s Way’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ aside for now, although with a restructure looming at work I may need the finance advice more than anything else on my bookshelf. The weekly online photography course with David duChemin has also taken a bit of a back seat but not because I’m not interested, I’m just a little distracted and finding it hard to focus (pardon the pun). What I am doing is following David’s advice from the first week of the course which was to care deeply about your subject or be deeply curious. It wasn’t difficult to think of something that I care deeply about and as a result I have been taking my camera to the shelter each weekend and photographing some of the dogs. In doing this, I am becoming more familiar with my camera and thinking about the result I am seeking rather than just taking aim and shooting. Not all dogs make it easy, there are plenty of missed opportunities, blurry faces and lots of close ups of their nose or chest as they jump up at me while taking the shot.

Art class, like volunteering is a non-negotiable and it is 2-3 hours a week where I can work on my drawing and be with like-minded people. It is therapy and it helps to shift my brain from worrying about the pettiness that can make a working day unbearable to worrying about which shade of blue is needed to make those hills recede into the background. My trolley of art materials is fully loaded and I have finished one surprise pet illustration and have two landscapes on the go with a couple of potential commissions waiting in the wings. Meanwhile Hubby and Bundy make the most of the peace and quiet by sharing the floorspace in front of the television for a weekly dose of rugby league.

Have I found balance? Yes, to some degree but there is still more I want to achieve and I’m hoping that the cooler weather will help. The hot and humid weather really wore me down, zapping my energy and my motivation. Thanks again for the helpful advice. Have a great week!

 

My 11 year old self’s bucket list

This post was inspired by Nathaniel Boyle’s interview with Robert Reid, episode 152 on Nathaniel’s travel podcast, The Travelers. Robert Reid is currently National Geographic’s Digital Nomad and during his interview he talks about travel, why and how people travel, what they’re naturally drawn to and what his bucket list might have looked like as an 11 year old. The interview caused me to ponder the things that would have been on my 11 year old self’s bucket list and whether they have influenced my interests and travel preferences.

tent in the backyardA tent for Christmas! My brother and I set for camping in the backyard.

Sam’s 11 year old self’s bucket list

I wanted to be a vet or a flight attendant, sadly I was not academically suited to being a vet and being a flight attendant required at least one language in the eighties and a more outgoing personality. Although I achieved neither of these career goals, volunteering at a shelter  and working with dogs feeds my soul and provides me with great joy and satisfaction. What I loved about the idea of working as a flight attendant was the travel, seeing and exploring the world. As children my brother and I were always exploring the countryside with friends, on foot or on horse back. When I got a tent for Christmas we camped in the backyard, except for the lack of proper toilet facilities I used to love camping. As an adult travel is still important to me, even though I don’t travel overseas as often as I would like. Taking a day or a weekend to visit local areas of interest, travelling interstate for a long weekend and taking the occasional overseas trip helps to satiate my hunger (just) for travel and adventure.

At school and at home we watched historical dramas and documentaries on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) many of which focused on British history, the unearthing of the ancient ruins of Pompeii and mysterious deaths of explorers. To this day I still love to watch programs that dig deep into the history of Roman and British history. Visiting Europe and the UK in 1999 was my first opportunity to wander the ruins of Pompeii and it was mind blowing. To be standing in a forum that was bustling with activity almost 2000 years ago and look up to see Mt Vesuvius, the volcano that ended it all, was a dream come true. Wandering ancient streets, imagining how people lived and what the cities looked like fascinates me. When I travel, I like to explore and understand what it is I am seeing and experiencing. Hubby loves to sit at a cafe and people watch or wander aimlessly but for me, the excitement is in discovering the places and things that I have seen in art books and documentaries or read about (a long time ago) in history class.

Ancient road of Pompeii
Ancient road of Pompeii

Save the whales! Save our koalas! Save the baby fur seals! They were things I was passionate about as a child and nothing much has changed. My childhood was spent in the country, living on dairy farms, visiting stables, riding my horse Rio through the bush and herding sheep on horseback in New Zealand. I cried every time one of my pets died and watching movies like Lassie Come Home and the Yearling always brought tears to my eyes. Now I choose not to watch those movies, and I will stop to help an animal in distress or seemingly lost. During a recent heatwave I left containers of water out for the birds and wildlife and made sure the bird bath was always full. I don’t understand how our government can ignore the plight of our native wildlife and I cannot support politicians that believe climate change to be a furphy. On my adult bucket list are trips to Antartica, Patagonia and Alaska, I want to stand and stare in awe of those places before they are destroyed and before we lose the beautiful creatures that inhabit that environment. Funnily enough, I am not a vegetarian even though I probably should be given my love for animals of all shapes and sizes.

Art and photography, drawing and taking pictures. I cannot remember a time when I did not want do either. A collapse in confidence saw me take a break in drawing and painting for a couple of years yet the desire still burned within. My sketch books were full of horses and princesses, I loved drawing beautiful things and still do. The photos I took were numerous, my Mum was horrified at paying for a roll of film to be developed only to find that there were umpteen photos of my friend’s kittens. Very few of them were in focus. My camera always goes with me when I travel, capturing colour and light is what appeals to me most and as with my drawing, beautiful subjects always get my attention. Once I am home my photos provide me with an extensive source of inspiration for my art, pastel illustrations of Venice, Tuscany and Sorrento are stacked in my office and this year Scotland will feature as I recreate the memories of my 2016 holiday in Fife and the Highlands.

Sunlight on a foggy morning
Sunlight on a foggy morning

For the most part, I have stayed true to my passions with the exception of my current career path. Whilst I am not working in an area that is related to any of my interests, my job does enable and afford me the luxury of pursuing them in my spare time. Would my 11 year old self be happy with my life choices? For the most part I think yes, but she would probably be disappointed that I don’t go camping anymore.

Wordless Wednesday: Happy

Keep your dog safe at Christmas

Our dogs have always been part of the fun at Christmas, presents from Santa and a special meal on Christmas Day. Everything from a chunky bone to roast chicken or beef, not to mention a few treats such as pigs ears or kangaroo chews. There are however, many ‘people foods’ that dogs shouldn’t be given at Christmas time and if you’ve got a puppy then there are also inedible objects that should be kept out of reach like Christmas tree decorations and pine cones. Below is a handy checklist from PuppySpot and it provides basic advice on how to keep your safe pet although I would add ham or ham bones to the list of things you shouldn’t feed your dog.

Merry Christmas and stay safe!

Holiday Dog Safety Checklist
Holiday Dog Safety Checklist

Out on the farm

The farm road
The farm road

My brother recently bought 100 acres of bushland in the Hunter Valley, he and his partner want to build a house there and raise their beautiful daughter in the country. He refers to the land as ‘the farm’ although it is far from it at this point in time. Much of land cannot be cleared for environmental reasons however this isn’t a huge deal because my brother doesn’t have any plans to raise cattle, sheep or grow crops. Obviously the previous owners have done some work on the property, farm equipment has been left to rust and there is a gate growing out of a tree. The land is in the middle of wine country in the Hunter Valley which aligns nicely with our desire for a winter retreat where we can alternate between visiting vineyards and enjoying local produce while sitting by an open fire.

I had the pleasure of seeing the property a couple of weeks ago and there is plenty of work to be done in order to make the land habitable for a family. Patches of land have been cleared previously providing nice open spaces and views of neighbouring properties, my brother and a mate of his have also spent time tidying up the area where they plan to build their house. Walking through the bush takes me back to my childhood when we used to explore the countryside looking for the perfect swimming hole. On one occasion we made fishing rods out of bamboo and tried our luck in the creek, the fish were much smarter than us. As kids we never really worried about snakes or eels or getting seriously hurt, but I was very wary of coming across a snake whilst walking through the bush on my brother’s property.

Camera in hand I was fascinated by tiny purple flowers, and funny looking nuts on a native tree. My fingers were crossed in the hope that I would come across wildlife of the furry and feathered kind. With a creek running through one end of the property and a dried creek bed at the other we were guaranteed to see something and sure enough we saw a few kangaroos from the car, as well as a goanna and a couple of rabbits. One kangaroo scared the bejeezus out of my when it leapt out of the bush to the left of me and bounded away, madly scrambling to get my camera ready I thankfully secured one shot which made my day. Even as an Australian I still get excited by seeing our native wildlife.

Without rain the bush is looking dry and the grass feels crunchy underfoot. Closer to the creek there is more colour, the water providing sustenance for plants as well as a variety of creatures that we hear but not see as they scamper away and hide. I envy the life that my brother and his family will have, living away from the maddening traffic and being able to look at the window and see sights that we grew up with. I don’t envy the work or the size of the mortgage that it takes to own such a property but I admire my brother for the commitment he has made in following a dream. I hope that one day I have the courage to do the same.

Sunny afternoon in St Andrews Botanic Gardens

One of the many paths that lead through the Botanic Gardens, St Andrews Scotland.
One of the many paths that lead through the Botanic Gardens, St Andrews Scotland.

St Andrews, Scotland is well known for it’s golf course however there is plenty for a visitor to do if they’re not interested in chasing a little white ball around a paddock. There are castle and cathedral ruins overlooking the sea, as well as delightful little cafes and cobblestone streets. After a morning sketching a church and doing a little shopping in the centre of St Andrews we headed out of the centre to the Botanic Gardens for a picnic lunch and a few hours of quiet in the gardens.

The Botanic Gardens aren’t huge however they are full of brilliant coloured blooms in Spring, some of which I had seen before such as Rhododendrons. The sun was shining and local students appeared to be making the most of the warmth, lying on the grass studying or just ‘hanging out’. As a small group we scattered quickly after lunch, each of us going our own way and doing whatever we wanted. I chose not to sit and draw, and instead kept my camera at the ready because there were so many flowers to see and paths to explore. A couple of ducks caught my attention at one stage, the female splashing around in the water while the male seemed more content to strut around the pond. A heron also became the focus of my attention, I stalked him/her all around one pond trying to capture them in flight however I didn’t not have a fast enough shutter speed and most of the action shots are fuzzy. Big fat bumblebees are always a delight to see although the most amusing creatures in the gardens were not alive, they were carvings and sculptures dotted among the trees. The red squirrel sculpture was as close as I got to this endangered creature, I didn’t even see the more common grey squirrel during my time in Scotland.

As I wandered around the gardens I ran into several of my fellow travelling artists, most of them thoroughly enjoying the peaceful surrounds and the opportunity to draw something other than a church or castle. Hopefully the many photographs I took will serve a inspiration for my artwork in the future. In the meantime I hope you enjoy my walk through the garden.