Nourishment

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I do believe that it is when things are alright, or maybe even when things are more than alright, that we recognise a kind of hunger: a need for something we can't identify.

I call it the gap. An emptiness. A space inside us we do not know how to nourish.

I'm feeling it again. We are old friends, the gap and I, and all too often I circumnavigate her and hope that life, the everyday, will find away to nourish her. But it is rarely so, and all too often the gap requires a shift in thinking. A determination to change. A commitment to the routines and rituals that will fulfill me again. 

When the gap comes I experience the world differently. I am more alert to danger. To worrying about the fox in the garden roaring at my son. The odd smell of cigarette smoke lingering in my bedroom last night, though nobody here has ever smoked.  

When the gap comes for a while I try to fill it with things I know are bad for me. With doorstop sandwiches of white bread and cheese. With an extra glass of wine. TV that appalls me. The picking of a fight. Or like last night, numerous fights with almost everyone. Screeching while they stare in astonishment as I spill myself all over the house, and they (the men) look at each other bewildered and reassure themselves with mutterings about female hormones.

While it might be true that hormones are a-raging, it isn't their merry monthly dance that causes the gap. No. The gap arrives without bidding. She has no timetable and she is as pervasive and unwelcome as the common cold. 

In my wiser moments, when the gap has been nourished for a while -hungry monster that she is - I recognise what she is for. I see that she is needling for change. She is the chasm, motivation causes, to push us forward again. The gap exists to remind us that resting on even the loveliest of laurels will not serve us and that we risk the kind of static life we have long abhorred, if we will not seek to nourish our very soul.

For me nourishment means making plans. Taking baby steps towards new goals. Banishing bad habits over and over again, (for they turn up like bad pennies and offer sanctuary from the gap). Picking up the routines that sustain me. And sitting with myself. Not filling up my head with games and magazines and apps, but sitting without a phone or tablet in my hand. Sitting in silence without fearing what I might hear deep inside.

Nourishment then isn't food. Or noise. Or words. Or even a hug from someone who cares from us. Nourishment requires acknowledgement of the gap and observance of that which our soul knows and is trying so very hard to tell us. It means nodding our heads when the truth about our current circumstances surfaces and above all else it means taking decisive action to remedy all that ails us.

 Today that means getting my finances in order so money worries do not derail me. It means banishing all the food I have acquired recently in an effort to fill the gap. Sitting in meditation with my candle lit. Sipping soothing tea. Fixing myself without merely sticking a plaster over the gap. 

 It means acknowledging that I want a home of my own. Throwing myself whole-heartedly into learning everything I can about the courses I am taking. Focusing on the next four years and working out exactly what has to be done if I am to change the direction I am currently heading in and committing to, and no longer resisting the hardships that achieving those dreams will require.

I think I have been self-indulgent. The gap says nourish me now, Nourish me with what matters, Not with what you want, but with what you really need. The gap says, you have never been happier, so now is the time to chase your dreams. And you see, she might be a bossy cow, but I do believe the gap knows of what she speaks.

How then will you begin to truly nourish yourself? 

Livaio - The Answer to Your PDF Woes...

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So you know how the world, his wife and her Mother-In-Law's dog will bless you with a a little PDF something these days, if you are kind enough to pay with your email address? And you know how excited you feel, full of hope and resolution and then you download it to your computer and your computer eats it and that's the end of that? 

Well no more.

You see last night I was helping a lady who had lost all the Brocante downloads I have ever sent her and then I opened a new browser window, perused Livaio, found just what I wanted to read with my cup of hot chocolate and sat there feeling smug. Oh yes. Smug I was.

You see in my relentless selfishness I have long forgot to mention that PDF's do not have to disappear into the virtual paper graveyard in your computer, they can instead be guarded, gathered and filed in to sensible time-based folders right here in your browser and you never need to do anything other than open a browser window and there you have it: every download you have ever requested... 

Really? Yup really. It's easy, organised and best of all, until your completely lose your mind and start collecting every download on fly-fishing you can find,  just because you can, it is absolutely free. Once you have signed up, using Livaio is a simple matter: you simply click on a download button and Livaio takes over and opens the PDF in a new window for you, popping it into intelligent folders you can re-arrange and re-name, and allowing you to highlight pertinent information and find what you need in a jiffy...

Best of all, you could even pour yourself a rhubarb gin and tonic and spend a happy hour uploading all those PDF's lurking in your computer files, so that never again do you have to drive yourself in sane in search of that long lost missive on fifty ways to mash an avocado.

Anyways... I just thought you should know. Life feels better when its organised doesn't it?

You are welcome. Have a lovely day.

Sleepy Lotion

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It is not often that I discover something I rather insist every tired lady on the planet hops out and treats herself to, but after buying in to all the online hype surrounding Lush Sleepy Lotion, and rushing out to try it for myself, I have decided I have happened upon the elixir of good sleep and would be neglecting in my duty to you, if I did not suggest you do the same.

Sleep has always been the most elusive of Mistresses for me, for a number of reasons too myriad to go in to (but oh so well-documented among these pages as over the years I have been so very prone to boring you with all the details of my sleep issues haven't I??), and I do believe I have tried every lotion, potion, ritual and app around in an effort to knock myself out for more than an hour at a time, though nothing other than a lot of red wine has truly helped and a person cannot rely on the medicinal power of wine each and every evening without turning in to a real old trollop now can she? 

So I stepped into Lush as a doubting Thomasina, and I walked out doused in Karma perfume (luuuurve) and carrying a little pot full of the promised land. And then I went back to my hotel room and doused myself in the stuff and conked out for almost the entire evening and woke up groggy and astonished and decided it must have been the hocus pocus of the lovely city of York (and 20000 steps walking around it) wot dunnit and went home and called an emergency early night, took my usual mix of magnesium and bedtime tea, then had Ste massage my back with Sleepy lotion and hey ho another good sleep took me away to a world so foreign and oh so blissfully devoid of the turbulent dreams that so often keep wake me up, that for the second night on the run I woke up bewildered and quite muddled about what to do with a body so utterly unused to proper sleep.

And so it has gone on. Each night I pop it on to my chest and arms, or force Ste to massage it in to my back and each night for the most part I sleep a thousand times better than I have done in many a year. 

While I do believe that good sleep for those of us who can't manage it with ease is something of a rolling jigsaw, and that it is quite possible that my preposterous mind will decide that enough is enough and chuck me back in to the land of waking nightmares in the wee small hours, for now sleepy lotion is working like nothing has worked before and I will take whatever blessings life cares to throw at me, how temporary they maybe.

So yes. Get thee to Lush now and help yourself to a pot of sleep. I'm not wild about the scent which I find rather sweet but what matters is that my mind has come to associate that smell with sleep and it works like a rather wonderful off button...

Competitive Housekeeping...

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It started with a comment in my lovely Salon.

Somewhere in the interwebs was a lady who had told the world that she loved Zoflora - a (rather scrumptious) household disinfectant - so much, that she bathed in it. Myself and my members were agog. You would have to be all shades of lunatic to bathe in disinfectant even if the scent of synthetic hyacinth really did float your domestic boat, right? Well apparently not, because this started a case of Zoflora one upmanship, with another lady confessing she got through TEN bottles a week because she used it EVERYWHERE and far too many women than can possibly be normal confessing that they too used it to the same extreme.

I was baffled, Housekeepers, utterly baffled. And then thoroughly astonished by reading in the paper that a lady had ended up gassing herself by mixing up a lethal combo of bleach, Zoflora and another cleaning fluid with hot water in her mop bucket and found herself swooning in hospital and quickly being diagnosed with an absence of common sense.

Then I read in another forum, that another lady had got up at three o'clock in the morning to tidy her fridge because it was the only time she had sufficient peace in which to really go to town on a fridge top-to-bottoming and before I knew it I had fallen down a rabbit hole full of crazy ladies doing crazy housekeeping things, worrying themselves silly about clean floors, waxing lyrical about fifty things to do with a frozen bag of peas, and sharing tips for folding towels that would have put an origami master to shame. 

I hopped around from housekeeping forum to Facebook page, trying to contain my horror, and worrying whether I was contributing to the madness that is women competing with each other to lose their minds in an effort to be cleaner, tidier, more vintage and more organised than the next lady and truthfully I felt a bit ashamed for all of us.

When did this happen? When did we go from sharing the odd tip for making life lovelier, to throwing our heads in to the washing machine along with the 36th load we cannot wait to show off about doing today? When did stain removal start mattering more than the pursuit of the real pleasures? When did we start wasting entire days coming to blows about whether we allow our guests to leave their shoes in when we deign to allow them in to our palaces? When on earth did we start spending more time waffling about window cleaning than we have ever managed, actually doing it? And when, oh when, oh when, oh blooming well when, did we start obsessing about keeping house as if it were an Olympic sport and we were in the running to represent our countries?

Heckity pie, can I be the voice of reason please? Because we are going to lose our minds if we carry on in this rather bizarre vein - talking about housework, rather than doing it or doing it to such a degree we must seem almost certifiable to those who love us. We risk looking trivial. Or a teeny bit demented. We risk missing out on the real joy of creating a home when we are trying to maintain surgically clean floors and we are deceiving ourselves if we believe that taking part in ludicrous, occasionally even vicious arguments about how often we change our tea-towels, makes us superior in any shape or form.

I love homemaking. I love it so much I have made a career out of writing about it. But I have long believed that making a home is very different to keeping a house. That we do not make a home by creating a museum in which those we live with are scared to breathe, nor do we become whole people if all we can think about is the benefits of one dish soap in comparison with another.

It has long been my belief that we create homes as springboards for our souls: places of authentic loveliness that encourage growth, provide sanctity and nourish our children. That home should be as surgically clean as a hospital ward simply doesn't enter my head but oh, how very often I find myself sitting listening to grown, otherwise sensible women worrying about the flotsam and jetsam on their floors when it is clear that it is their mental marbles spilling all over them.

This then is what I want you to know: BrocanteHome is about sanctuary and female creativity. While you will often find me writing about housekeeping, I write it not because I want you to obsess about clean teacups, but because I want to FREE you from the need to keep house all day long, because I believe that once we have the right routines and rituals in place we liberate our minds and find ourselves able to dwell on things other than tonight's dinner and clean linens.

Here at BrocanteHome I want to teach you to enjoy your home, to carve out space for personal growth, intimacy and creativity and to encourage you to develop a personal aesthetic that delights your very soul. I want you to be more than a housewife and a mother. I want you to be more yourself each and every day, to create a life less ordinary, abundant with much more than mops and feather dusters and to understand that when extreme-housekeeping is the only common language between women, we are egging each other on in a game with no reward.

So stop it. Stop gassing yourselves and wrinkling yourself up in disinfectant baths. Stop believing lickably clean toilets matter more than spiritual growth and stop believing that you can define your own worth by asserting your domestic muscle in the most extreme of Facebook housekeeping forums.

Remember, each and every day, that you are worth more than your ability to keep house and that as women, we can support each other in the pursuit of more extraordinary things than fathoming how to shift a stain on anything other than your character.