Indoor Plants & Mental Health

My love affair with indoor plants began slowly, about two years ago. The small space we were living in at the time was utilitarian out of necessity but its drabness was driving me a little batty. I wanted something pretty & decided a couple of house plants would be perfect. I bought a Dracena Marginata and another plant that had no nursery label. I thought it was a Philodendron; I recently discovered its actually a Syngonium Podophyllum or Syngonium White Butterfly. Within weeks my White Butterfly had exploded in growth, going from a small plant with only a few leaves to a plant double in size. Some days it felt like she was growing whilst I watched her, so quick was her growth. Her stunning leaves resemble an elongated heart shape with pale green or white veins which I guess is where the name White Butterfly comes from. 

I’ve found bright indirect light suits her most, although I’ve seen suggestions that she will also cope with lower light situations. Wikipedia advises that the White Butterfly is a native to semi-tropical countries such as Brazil, Ecuador & Mexico. I wonder if her growth would be even faster if she was placed in a bathroom? Perhaps I should put one of my propagations in my ensuite, to compare with growth in a non humid space? Oh yes, I’m propagating my White Butterfly. Her growth is so much that I’ve found propagation is a nice way to control it. Propagation is very easy, simply cut off growth near a node, place it in water & wait a while for roots to grow. The growth will depend on the temperature; I took cuttings from my mother plant a week & a half ago & they’re already developing roots. Pretty soon I’ll have another five plants to add to my collection.

So Kim, I hear you saying, what exactly does this have to do with helping your mental health? And more importantly how can owning plants help my mental health? Well, it’s simple really. My plants make me happy. In a world that currently feels like its gone crazy I’ll take simple happiness whenever I can get it. I check my plants every day. I check them to see if they need a water, to make sure that there hasn’t been an influx of bugs since I last looked at the plant but also to check plant growth. It’s so exciting to watch a new leaf push its way out of a plant, going from a tiny green thing to a fully formed pale coloured leaf, eventually becoming a hardened fully grown leaf. Sometimes I grab my camera to photograph a leaf but mostly I just watch them in awe. Plant life is a little bit magical & I love having that in my life. A couple of times when I’ve been anxious I’ve gone looking at my plants, because I know doing that will ease the anxiety a little. 

I haven’t yet dived into the psychology behind the actual scientific studies that look at the mental health benefits of plant ownership, but I will. And if it’s ok with you I’ll share it in a future post. For now, trust me when I say plants will help improve your mental health. If you don’t already own house plants, treat yourself to one or two. And you’re allowed to blame me if you find yourself addicted 🙂

So I Made A Zine

The idea came to me this past Saturday evening to put together a mini zine containing short quotes about anxiety. I woke up Sunday morning & started working on it.

I made the decision to make several copies by hand & I’ll photocopy the best one to make several more copies. Towards the end of the day I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into, bored as I was with the repetitiveness of writing out the same thing eight times. If I make a second issue I won’t create it this way; instead I’ll make one version & make mutiliple copies of it.

But for the sake of the exercise, of wanting to create a zine & have more than one copy of it, making eight individual copies by hand was the way to go.

Initially I thought I would make it full of drawings to go alongside the words but as I began I didn’t feel like that would suit this project. Instead as you can see from the photos, I’ve kept this zine word heavy with only a sprinkle of hearts & weird scribbled flower that I love to draw as a doodle.

Why quotes about anxiety? Well, the subject felt right to me. You know I’m living with it. Loved ones have it. And I want to talk about anxiety as much as possible to help reduce the stigma of anxiety. I hope this little zine will contribute to this, in its’ own small way.

If you’d like to buy a copy, I am selling it for $5 plus postage. Send me an email expressing your interest & we can go from there.

Food, Glorious Food

I am a passionate believer in making & eating quality food. I think good food is one of life’s most important things.

One of my favourite things in life is to prepare & serve food to share with others. It could be something as simple as a couple of homemade biscuits & coffee or an elaborate meal that requires hours of preparation; it matters little to me what it is because I love it all.

When it comes to the preparation of food I am both a follower of recipes & a creator of them. Well, I suppose I’m technically not creating recipes because I’m not taking note of measurements but I’m certainly using combinations of foods that I know work together & that I like together & repeating a particular dish multiple times.

I thought I’d share with you today links to some of the recipes that I return to. Note that many of these are sweet treats, cause that’s the mood I’m in as I write this post 🙂

First up is a link to make soda bread. This is incredibly easy to make & is really tasty. I treat myself to freshly baked soda bread as a delicious lunch. Usually I’ll bake it on a Saturday, have more either for breakfast or lunch on Sunday then freeze the remaining bread. I like the flexibility of this recipe. You can use whatever dried fruits & nuts that you’ve got in the pantry. I don’t use store bought buttermilk. Instead I add a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar to the milk at least ten minutes prior to needing it. Purists will probably be horrified but if I was to buy buttermilk I wouldn’t be baking soda bread as often as I do 🙂

Slices of freshly cut soda bread

As we are a family of two, a lot of recipes I return to frequently are small batch. This saves excess food going to waste & has the added benefit of us not eating the same biscuits or sweets day in & day out 🙂

My most small batch visted website is Dessert For Two. A food blog by Christina Lane, it’s full of fabulous food. Over time Christine has added to her repertoire, expanding from desserts to covering main meals, gluten free options & more. Every recipe I’ve made is delicious; I don’t think you could go wrong with any of Christine’s recipes. Her raspberry brownie recipe is a must, although I’ll confess to only using raspberries once when making it. I usually use strawberries, blueberries or if I have none then I omit the fruit completely.

I love chocolate chip biscuits so I’m often making them. I’ve yet to find the perfect recipe, although I’ve found a couple that come close. One of them is by Sally of Sally’s Baking Addition. This particular recipe makes one giant chocolate chip biscuit (or cookie, as Sally calls it. Because she’s American, & American’s cookies are us Australian’s biscuits) however I usually prefer to make it as three smaller biscuits. Two for my husband & I to enjoy whilst they are still warm & the third to be eaten by me the next day.

I like brownies a lot, so here’s another recipe for them. This one isn’t a small batch recipe, but thats ok. Sometimes its ok to eat brownie every day for a week 🙂 Or to make & share with loved ones. This recipe, by Broma Bakery uses red wine. This sounds indulgent, & it is. If you like brownies, give them a try. If. you like red wine, then you must try these. Enjoy them with coffee or red wine if you dare.

Turning away from desserts, another love of mine is risotto. I make beetroot risotto a lot when beetroot is in season. The recipe I use was pulled from the pages of a magazine many years ago so I’m not sure how I’d go about sharing it here. Sometime last year, after buying more pumpkin than needed I searched online for a pumpkin risotto recipe. I found this one by ReceipeTin Eats. It has entered my list of recipes to return to. It’s easy to make & is delicious is I’m absolutely recommending it to you.

My list of go to recipes is quite large, so I think I’ll write another post about this in the near future. In the meantime, let me know if you make any of these recipes & how they go for you. I love hearing your thoughts.

Art Journal Fun

I’ve been fascinated by art journals for a while. They show up in my social media feed & some of the artists I’ve interviewed for Art Supply Posse keep them or specialise in them. But I was hesitant to start my own. My style of art isn’t the same as that of the artists I admire & the quality of my work isn’t as good as others. I was comparing myself to these artists & I was convinced that my perceived shortfalls was a good reason to not keep an art journal.

My art journal, awaiting the addition of an origami crane

Thank goodness I came to my senses! I finally woke up to the nonsense I was telling myself & realised that I could make an art journal be exactly what I need it to be.

I had been using a Midori Travellers Notebook as a daily todo list & calendar hybrid. It suited me for a couple of years but by the end of 2019 I’d become bored by this setup. I like the size, the feel of the stunning paper & it’s portability. Enough reasons to turn this daily boring thing into an art journal that only a few weeks in I can say I’m already proud of.

To make it work best for me I utilise two pages at a time, which are given over to a week. Instead of listing out days & dates, as I had been doing, I’m now writing the start date & end date of the week followed by the particular month. Year isn’t included as it’s noted when a new notebook is started.

Because I love fountain pen ink (& also as a convenient excuse to buy/try more ink) I’m washing ink over the pages as a background. I’ve created about 20 backgrounds so far, allowing each double set of pages to dry completely before moving to the next set. Thats the only criteria I’ve set myself for the journals’ contents, although I recognise this might change in the future. From there I am adding art to the pages as I see fit.

Sometimes I’m making art directly onto the page, other times I’m making art elsewhere & pasting it in. It really depends on what I feel like doing when I decide to art. My daily breakfast art practice continues so some mornings whatever I make will end up in the journal. Other times I’ll fold an origami crane or make a small piece of fountain pen ink art, pasting it into the journal afterwards. It all depends on my mood.

I’m glad I had this change in mindset. I do deserve to have an art journal. And so do you. If you’ve ever wanted to give one a try, I say go for it. Consider this me giving you permission to keep one. If you do, let me know how it works out for you. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Dog Walking For The Soul

My husband David walking our dogs last Monday

Stumbling out of bed, I wonder ‘how can it already be morning?’

As I move through our home I notice the sun isn’t awake. Hints of mauve & pink in the sky hint at what’s to come.

I dress in autopilot, unaware of temperature or weather conditions.

Stepping outside I can barely make out the stairs leading from the verandah to the back yard.
‘Are we really doing this?’ It seems we are.

Zena & Cadel sir, patiently impatient, desperate to begin their morning walk yet knowing that it cannot begin until their leads are on.

I marvel at how awake & present they are & envy them a little.

As we walk I feel the fog of sleep slowly lifting. I may not have boundless energy like they do but I’m beginning to feel alive.

The chatter from a pair of small grass parrots is drowned out by a flock of galahs flying overhead. Their screech pierces the air & im surprised to not hear the sound of something shattering as they pass.

When we’re done, when I’m sitting inside eating breakfast, I feel gratitude for these two dogs. They are teaching me to be in the moment, even if that moment is too early in the morning for my liking. I’m honoured to have them in my life & hope to continue learning from them every day we have together.

Birthdays Are My Favourite Days

Of all the days worthy of an occasion, birthdays are my favourite. The love and joy I have because I know you is amplified on your birthday. You were born, you’re still alive and I know you & want to celebrate with you. Sometimes birthdays afford me the chance to have my camera in hand & capture some of those birthday moments, such as in the two photos above. Neither of these photos scream birthday – there’s no cake or presents in sight – yet for me they encapsulate the birthday of my nephew Eli. Hats worn to protect delicate skin from the harsh Australian sun & inquisitive looks on faces.
On my own birthday I like to celebrate by eating my favourite foods & embarking on a photography session of some sort. Ideally the people I love would be involved somehow during the day. After all, I cannot possibly eat an entire birthday cake on my own 😉

Yes, I Celebrate My Dogs Birthdays

Zena, as captured on her birthday

Yesterday was Zena’s 11th birthday. Zena is the eldest of my two dogs. It almost feels impossible that she is already 11 years old. I remember vividly the day we met her, as if it happened only moments ago. Even then as a small eight week old puppy she was full of sass. We took with us our dog Zeus to meet her because we wanted to make sure that the two of them would get along. Meeting a fully grown adult male Rottweilor did not phase Zena. She ran to him at full pace, her chest out and tail up, daring him not to be impressed by her tiny presence. There was no fear; instead she was curious and determined to follow him everywhere. She was already aware of her place in the world & expected everyone – animal or human – to be impressed by her.

In the ensuring years Zena has become a crucial part of my life. In recent years she has become incredibly in tune with my mental state; it was because of her actions that I realised I needed to seek help for my anxiety. I became aware that Zena was anxious every time I was anxious; or actually she would become anxious before my anxiety hit. She was aware that I was becoming anxious before I was & at the time I wasn’t aware that she was trying to calm me but I wasn’t recognising her cues. As she became more anxious as my daily anxiety grew I decided I had to do something about my mental health, in the hope that improving my mental health would improve hers. Thankfully as my anxiety treatments began to work my improvements were reflected in Zena. She hasn’t lost her ability to recognise an anxiety or panic attack before I do however now I recognise her cues and act on them. I allow her to calm me if needed or simply to shadow me as she makes sure that I’m going to be ok.

Despite the positive impact Zena has in my life (and also Cadel, my second, younger dog) I have always felt uncomfortable publicly recognising the importance of my dogs. I’ve often felt ashamed that I am the owner of dogs, or to put it in popular parlance, a dog mum. Almost everyone I know, particularly those of my age or older, are mothers or fathers of children. You know, humans. They’ve done what society expects and what people have done for millennia which, at its core is to reproduce in order to maintain the existence of humans on Earth. For reasons I’m not yet ready to share here, having children was not and is not for me. But having pets, especially dogs? Well of course I had to. My life would be bereft without them.

So now, I’m willing to own my reality. I am a dog owner. No I’m not going to call myself a dog mother. I honestly hate the description although I’m happy for others to refer to themselves as that if it truely makes them happy. And in that owning of reality I will happily confess to celebrating my dogs birthdays. I haven’t actually made a birthday cake or cupcake for either Zena or Cadel yet, but its on my to do list for a future birthday. Instead I give them some kind of food treat (which they both get because you can’t spoil one dog without spoiling the other!). For Zena’s birthday I shared my souvlaki with them. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it all so Zena & Cadel got to enjoy my leftovers. They were thrilled to eat something different and tasty and I was thrilled not to throw away food.

So this is me, stating to the world that I’m a proud dog owner and I’m never going to not bring it up. Its a major part of my life and I’m happy with this fact.

Oh, one more thing. I’m also a dog owner who runs an Instagram account for her dogs. Yep, I’m one of those! If you’d like to check it out search zenacadel on Instagram. Hopefully you’ll enjoy their page.

When Words Don’t Come

This post was meant to be about something other than what I’m writing here. I’ve been trying to write it for a couple of days; words are failing me right now. I can’t quantify my thoughts. Each time I write something it feels wrong, like the words I’m using aren’t good enough. I don’t know why this is. It may be because my anxiety has been high during the last week. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe I really don’t have anything to say.

So instead of fighting myself in my mind about my inadequacies as a writer, I’m giving up on that post. I’ve saved it in drafts, in case I feel one day like I can find the right words.

Instead, here’s a photo from my recent holiday in St Kilda. I hope you like it because I do.

St Kilda pier

Gratitude For 2019

I’m a big lover of podcasts. I have 25 subscribed podcasts in my feed, most of which update weekly & I pretty much listen to them all each week. Last week I listened to two podcasts, back to back, that made me pause and think about my 2019. The first, Photography Radio, was a discussion from the host about why he picks his favourite 10 photos at the end of each year. He finds the task a good way to see where his photography is taking him and to note changes to his style that he may not have seen whilst actually taking photos.

In the second podcast, called The First Time podcast – the two hosts reflected on their 2019. Their career successes as authors but also books & podcasts they loved reading & listening to in 2019.

Inspired by these podcasts I decided to reflect on my own 2019. I feel like I tend to remember negative things that have happened more frequently than positive things so I thought it would be a great idea to take the time to think about good things from 2019. I’m also attempting to pick my favourite photos from the year, although that’s proving to be difficult. I’d have finished this post on Friday (it’s now Sunday) save for the fact that I’m having trouble picking favourite photos! I’m surprised at how many of the photos I really like. I’m also really happy to see how my photography has improved throughout the year. I can see where I’ve gone wrong, but most importantly I can see my growth.

Sometime during 2019 I became aware that what I want from my photography is to capture moments of everyday beauty. I was already doing this every week, when I was taking photos of my friends at my local Pole Fitness studio or during the times when I’d grab my phone to take some backyard sunset photos. However I wanted more. I felt if I took the time to look, I’d see there were moments of beauty all around.

Instead of writing a paragraph with each photo I’ve written a few words below them. I’d love to know what you think of them but more importantly, do you reflect on your year when it ends? Why or why not?

This is my favourite dog photo taken in 2019. I feel I have captured Zena’s personality perfectly
This photo of Paige was, I think, the first time I felt my quest to photograph my pole friends was starting to come together. It captures the beauty that I see in every class I attend
I spied this dog on Degraves Street in Melbourne, patiently waiting & watching as his owner ate lunch
I took this photo in Melbourne, it evokes the mood of the weather that day

I got to thinking about my highlights from 2019. Moving into our house at years end was the biggest thing to happen all year. It’s been a long process to get to this point & I’m grateful we finally made it.

Reinvigorating this blog is another highlight. I enjoy writing however I’ve long had trouble giving myself permission to write. Part of the work I did with my mentor Naomi Bulger during the year (another highlight for the year) was to work out what I wanted to do with my creativity. I came to the conclusion that writing weekly here was something I wanted to do. It’s great writing practice & I’m surprised how often I think of something that I’d like to share here. I’ve mostly kept to my weekly posting schedule & I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s especially great when someone leaves lovely comments on a post, it makes my day 🙂

I continued interviewing people for the Art Supply Posse podcast. I spoke to a wide range of artists throughout the year, learning a lot about what they do & bringing their story to our listeners. I’ve made friends with a couple of those people & it’s been great getting to know them better & watching their artistic progress.

2019 was also a year of short breaks – weekend trips to Melbourne & to Adelaide, with friends or on my own. I enjoyed the opportunity to move out of my daily routine & do something a little different. These moments were brief but impacted me positively, inspiring bouts of creativity & propelling me further into the year.

I took this with my iPhone, on a weekend trip to Melbourne with Paige. The light was stunning as we walked along St Kilda Pier. I couldn’t resist taking photos

I hope 2020 continues to bring creative inspiration, both for me & also for you.

Another pole fit photo taken during 2019