A call from Pope Francis to make chutney

pope francis laughingLast week I made some pear and apple chutney. It turned out ok. I found some basic internet recipes and then just bunged whatever I had into the pot. Sultanas were a good addition but overall I think I used too much vinegar. It was Pope Francis who set me off on this chutney session. I didn’t get a personal phone call but I did feel he was nagging me none the less.

This Pope really seems to get into our lives. From encouraging parents to bring their children to Church, to reminding us not to waste our food, he really gets down to the basics of how to live a good life.

I do try to use all my food wisely by planning meals and using left overs. But I know there are always vegetables I never get around to eating, cheese that I don’t store properly so it goes to waste and left overs in the freezer that I toss out because I’ve forgotten what they were in the first place. So when I saw that bowl of saggy looking pears and apples, which no one was bothering to eat, I knew something had to be done.

Over summer I’ve been reading Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel (thanks to the kind friend who gave it to me.) It’s a beautiful and practical book that encourages everyone to live simply. It talks about the value of home and the value of the home skills.

Simple living is “living a life that’s not complicated by wanting or having too much. It’s being satisfied with enough, whatever that may be. It allows you to discover the significance of home life and how your home can nurture you. It’s a lifestyle that allows you live well on little money, thereby enabling you to build a family and a home that is based on authenticity and love.”

Now isn’t that exciting! But also daunting… the book has some high ideals like making your own soap and knitting your own winter jumpers! Still, as it’s the start of the year I’m inspired to make some small steps.

Living a life of poverty or simplicity isn’t a new idea in the Catholic Church. Saints, Popes and everyday Catholics have been trying to live simple lives for centuries. However Pope Francis’ message really seems to be hitting home at the moment. It’s as though we are hearing an old message again for the first time.

Why does living a simple life seem so inspiring? Why would we be crazy enough to welcome a little poverty into our lives?

I suppose it has to do with our heart. Living simply, not creating unnecessary needs for ourselves, de-clutters our hearts so we can love. Our hearts are free to love people rather than things.

So perhaps it’s part of some plan that for now I don’t have a working oven, our plumbing is a bit hap hazard, we are fighting a battle against an ant invasion and I’m sitting here pregnant during a heat wave. Can’t say I’ve always born it graciously.

It’s a crash course in living simply and de-cluttering my heart. I bet if I told Pope Francis about it all he’d have a good chuckle.

Country Living

Moving for three months to the country seemed a perfect opportunity to blog. However this country experience seemed determined to challenge me at every turn.

My main problem was we had no electricity for quite a while.  The electricity company decided they couldn’t turn on the electricity, they just didn’t seem to be bothered. So we were living with candles and cold water. At night, while my husband was at work, I would sit reading my e-reader by candlelight.

Eventually a friendly electrician took pity on us and we had light.  It was blissful turning on every light in the house and making myself a cup of tea.

This town has a population of 1500.  When I first arrived I looked around in a slight panic. Where were all the people? Was there some event on for the day that had drawn them away? Why were the shops so quiet? Surely 10am should be  a busy time, but even then it seemed like a lazy Saturday afternoon.

I’m finally understanding what it’s like to live in a quiet town. There are no traffic lights, no traffic and no rush. One local shop has a sale on for horse saddles!

It isn’t the quiet or the slow pace that I find difficult. To be honest I love pottering around my little home. Also this town is surrounded by beauty; towering pine trees, creeks, lakes and rolling mountains.

I’ve loved picking fresh blueberries and raspberries and eating them on porridge. I love hanging the washing on the line and finding it dry and smelling sun kissed in half an hour. I love finding mint and rhubarb growing in the garden.

Most of all I love watching my toddler play in a garden. Why did I think I so desperately needed ABCKids to keep her entertained? Here she chases our adopted Labrador, picks the heads off flowers and sits outside to poke at her feet with a blade of grass. All this keeps her blissfully happy. She especially loves the dog, and  sometimes will just laugh for pure joy when she sees her.

I still miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss going out for coffee and rushing here and there. I miss the rush, the traffic and the excitement of Sydney over summer. All this is true. But all that is waiting for me when I come home. For now I’m living in the country.

15 year old Clare McAuley

What would your 15 old self think of your life if they could see you now?

The other day I was sorting through some old cards and letters I’ve received over the years. I stumbled across a letter I had written to myself when I 15. In very bossy language I commanded that the letter was only to be opened when I was 22.

Admittedly I was a rather unusual teenager. At first I thought this letter might be great to put on my blog. After re-reading my scribbles, I realised I’d forgotten in the last five years the content of this odd letter. It was whimsical, personal and in some places very strange. I could never put it online. The letter wears its heart on its sleeve, and I still feel my teenage self still deserves some privacy.

Amongst the dramatic statements I did give myself some good advice. I told myself to go for walks, go to the cricket and re-read Charles Dickens. In particular, I should read Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens.

In one place I tell my future self to stay friends with certain people. My choice of people was in places a little puzzling. The first three are still some of my closest friends. However later in the list I included someone who I’m sure at the time I really disliked. From memory she a bit of a bully. Dear 15 year old self, what was that all about?

Half way through the letter I write:

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt its don’t be a flattering fool – be honest with yourself. Always smile and think, why should little things ruin your day? Love people and don’t judge. Never think you know someone. Don’t classify humans.

Don’t grow out of the Narnia series.

Good advice there Miss 15 year old Clare McAuley.

At the end I demand a return letter. So here’s a little of what I’d say.

Dear 15 year old me,

I like the advice you gave me. Sometimes even you have a sensible streak. Try and listen to it.

Never be afraid. Don’t be afraid if I guy doesn’t like you – they are never worth your tears. Don’t be afraid of bullies – they still exist after school, just appearing in all sorts of disguises. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong or to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to do the things your love, even if they are horribly uncool. You’ll love murder mysteries, reading anything from tge 19th century, cooking cheesecakes, dancing in pubs, playing tetris and singing anything from a musical. The sooner you face up to this the better.

You’ll even love teaching. I know – bit of a shock that one. Life is surprising and when you say yes to the adventure wonderful things can happen. (Yep you’re still full of dramatic statements.)

And I absolutely agree that you should never grow out of the Narnia series.

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Being Brave

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My brother is in Berlin at the moment. He shared this photograph which he saw at the Topography of Terror museum.

The man circled is August Landmesser.

I wonder how he must have felt when he didn’t raise his arm. Despite his act of courage, I doubt he felt very brave in the moment. What would those standing next to him have thought? They might have been envious of his integrity and wished to have his strength. Or they might have thought him a fool.

I’m grateful for seeing this photo.

Definition of Marriage

The other day my English students were trying to define irony. It’s a tricky one.

We hear a lot about marriage these days and the right of everyone to get married.

Is this ironic?

Because on the other hand, so many couples say they don’t see any value in marriage. It’s just a piece of paper, an outdated institution or a big party where you wear a white dress.

Marriage can mean very different things to different people. Sometimes I’m talking about marriage to a friend and I realise that we are speaking of two dissimilar concepts. It’s like eating a dish of fried rice and comparing it to risotto. Similar but not the same.

I’m been trying to work out how I would define marriage.

For me it’s a commitment, made in public, to love my husband for the rest of his life. As a Christian I also believe this commitment is made before God who will help me live up to this mighty big promise.

I will choose to love my husband in bad and good times. A marriage is not just about romance although I’ll work on keeping that there. Marriage is about friendship. Hopefully the greatest friendship you will ever have in your life.

Since having a baby I’ve realised how important our marriage is for children.
A happy, stable marriage is probably one of the best things I can give my child.

So marriage is about creating a family. Marriage is about creating a home.

Lastly I think marriage is about service. Being married helps me to give myself to others.

Not that a single person doesn’t have the chance to be selfless. However I’d argue that marriage (and kids) throw you in the deep end.

So that’s my definition of marriage.

What’s yours?

To blog or not to blog…

writing

My poor blog has been neglected for far too long. I’ve blamed it on all sorts of things.

It could be my that my baby has morphed into a toddler.  Or perhaps it’s the onslaught of school work I need to get through at the moment. I’ve even blamed it on James Herriot. I’ve found that a comforting chapter of his novels sends me off very nicely to sleep every night. Not that they are boring. It’s just that they are warm, cosy, funny and there is no real overarching plot to keep me reading too long.

However, the most truthful answer is I’d reached blog overload. There are so many voices out there on the net. So much chatting, criticising, pondering, gossiping, boasting, sharing and commenting.

Some voices I love. You can stumble across some truly wise and witty writing.

Some make me despair of human intelligence. Some voices make me long for silence.

Despite my fleeting retreat, I’m going to launch my voice again into the great babble. I started this blog because every English teacher should – in theory – write. I want my students to write so I have to set an example.

I also started this blog to write about the things I love;  books, food, movies and family.

Am I a mummy blogger? I love being a mum but my interests, I hope, spread  beyond the realm of nappies.

I want to join the voices of mums who are forging a unique way into motherhood. Mums who are open to life, whether its convenient or not. I’m no “boutique” Mum. I’m joining the Mums who take on the joys and sufferings of having children with their  hearts ready to have their life turned upside down.

And for this reason I’m still going to blog.

Friday Poetry: Love and Friendship

In her poem, Bronte rejects love which is like “the silly rose”. She seems to suggest that friendship, in times of suffering as in winter, will offer greater comfort.

Personally I think love and friendship are best when they go together. Without friendship, as in a true sharing of minds, hearts, laughter and suffering, love would lack substance or endurance. As Bronte says, it would be silly.

Love and Friendship

Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most constantly?
The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who will call the wild-briar fair?
Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly’s sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He may still leave thy garland green.

Emily Bronte

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