The Magic of Creativity

ELIZABETH GILBERT – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner – continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself.”

I actually bought this book for a friend, as part of a KK present in 2015. She LOVED it, having viewed Gilbert’s TED talks online, and eagerly took it all in, before kindly offering to lend it to me.

I’d had no intention of reading it. I didn’t know much about Gilbert, I hadn’t seen her online TED talks, and I hadn’t even read Eat, Pray, Love. I know. Am I even a woman?

Yet, when I read Big Magic, I felt like this book was truly meant for me.

That story in itself is one kind of Big Magic there. 😉

This is a book for all creative souls, and don’t be mistaken for thinking that you are NOT one of them, or cannot be creative in any form. Creativity doesn’t just appear to artists, writers, actors and musicians: it is there in the kitchen, at the needle and thread. It is in your garden, on the running track, and out in the wilderness. Creativity comes in an endless amount of arenas, in fact, it is EVERYWHERE, and the purpose of this book is Gilbert setting out to help you find that Big Magic of yours, whatever that may be – and giving you the purpose and courage to just go for it.

“All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life – collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.

It’s a strange line of work, admittedly.

I cannot think of a better way to pass my days.”

Gilbert puts forward the case that a creative life, is the only life to live. And I have to agree, as a fellow writer (I am declaring myself, as she says you must) this book was like “yep, yep, yep” for me. But you don’t need to be a writer to enjoy this book, or find a sense of kinship in the stories she puts forward. It is an entertaining read, very easy to follow and hard to put down, and her conversational style lets you flip page after page after page quite easily. Her examples and self-rules are appropriate for all creative endeavours, and she basically thinks you should just do what you want to do, no matter what.

“Begin anywhere. Preferably right now.”

Creativity, and the act of fulfilling what it is you love to do, is the reward in itself. Putting the pressure on your creativity, whatever it may be, to pave your way through life and pay your bills, is a huge and unfortunate act, and a horrible burden for your creativity to endure. The act of doing what it is you love is the reward itself, and Gilbert said it best, when she spoke about a time of her life when she was not being published:

“The rewards had to come from the joy of puzzling out the work itself, and from the private awareness I held that I had chosen a devotional path and I was being true to it. If someday I got lucky enough to be paid for my work, that would be great, but in the meantime, money could always come from other places.”

She also told the story of a friend of hers who had returned to figure skating in her 40s – after giving up on the sport when she was younger, realising she wasn’t going to be winning any medals. However she loved the sport, and would get up a few hours before work to figure skate to her hearts content.

The story is a realistic one too, in that her friend did not quit her job or sign on with an Olympic coach after rediscovering her dream – the creative living is in the fact itself, that is the reward, and no ‘awards’ are needed.

Because, you can pursue your dream and live to your hearts purpose, living out the days of your life with joy, as Gilbert puts it:

“Anyhow, what else are you going to do with your time here on earth – not make things? Not do interesting stuff? Not follow your love and your curiosity?”

Otherwise, she offers up this juicy dare:

“There is always that alternative, after all. You have free will. If creative living becomes too difficult or too unrewarding for you, you can stop whenever you want.”

Ha! Not a fat chance in hell. I’m in this for the long haul… are you? 😉

But I’m scared! you cry out. Gilbert covers that too. She paints a picture of fear as boring. Something I had never considered before, but when she explains that humans and animals are all afraid of the unknown, and that that in itself is nothing extraordinary or special… well then that fear becomes very boring. The object of fear most likely differs between human/animal, sure… but it is still fear. So same same, so unoriginal, just another “mass-produced item.”

We all need fear to survive, it’s human nature, it’s a survival tactic. But creatively speaking, we do not need it in that arena. It is mute, unnecessary.

She says how Harper Lee did not write for decades after writing To Kill a Mockingbird, because she was scared of how she would out-do its success! Fear kept her from writing, when writing in itself is the reward. Imagine if she had only forged through her fear and written on, what do you think she could have produced? We will never know.

Rather than waiting for your genius to hit… you must head out there and get onto your passion, because guess what? Your genius is waiting for YOU.

“There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud.”

And no matter what you do, there will always be that one person. That one, measly person, (1, if you are lucky), who finds fault in what you do. You cannot be in charge or control what other people think of you, and Gilbert says it is none of your business anyway. Let them have their own passionate opinions about you, just as you have your own passionate opinions about them. The only thing you are in charge of, is creating your own work. That’s it. It’s the only sane way to live.

And what to do, if someone is really, truly, attacking your work and everything about you? Gilbert sums it up absolutely perfectly.

“Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art.

Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

She swears. I fucking love the gal.

“Your art not only doesn’t have to be original, in other words; it also doesn’t have to be important.”

I hear you sister. When I decided that in order to become a writer, I had to embody writing as something I did in EVERY day of my life (years later and I’m still posting regular content on SmikG and carcrashgratitude) I wasn’t concerned with how it was going to heal the world. I had, and still have an expression that needed to come out, I wanted to share my views with the world, on writing, on coffee, on Motherhood, on whatever the hell shit me or made me so inexplicably grateful that day, and I never really asked myself ‘is this really important?’ To some, probably no. To me, it is what I love to do, and so if it makes me happy, if it means I can express myself as I wish and get a great sense of fulfilment in doing so, in just being me…

Well then, why the hell not?

I think what she is trying to say, is don’t get caught up in the whys and hows, worried that what you are doing is not going to save somebody else’s life. Creativity is an important part of everyone’s existence whether they realise it or not, and the world needs humour, insight, honesty and flair to keep them going on going.

And though you may think it has all been said, or done before… maybe it has, but not with your unique take on it. Only you can say it, or do it, as YOU can.

You have to do whatever it is that is within you, because of YOU. Because you have something that has to be said. To be expressed. No one else has this, just you.

“You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome.”

She offers up some fabulous bits of advice, some of which I carry close to me as I write, or just generally as I go about life… firstly, no one else cares. Not in the vindictive sense – but a freeing way of thinking about your life, and doing what you want to do, is to remove yourself from the idea that people are so concerned about everything you are doing – chances are they probably don’t think of you as much as what you think. They are too busy building up their own lives and doing their own thing, they don’t have time to stop and ponder hard about what your next move will be, and how it will affect them. So just worry about yourself.

Secondly, you will fail. But when you do, do not bother with the whys and hows of it – just pick yourself up and move on with the next project. Dwelling will only make things worse. Own it, and just move on.

Which brings me to another great question…

“What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?”

Hmm that puts things in perspective doesn’t it? She offers this up in a different form, rephrased by the writer Mark Manson, who asked “what’s your favourite flavour of shit sandwich?” This sounds absurd, right, but just take a moment to think about it… what are you willing to put up with the most, and what are you so passionate about that you don’t care about the cons of what it is you are trying to do? That my friends, is your flavour of shit sandwich.

How bad do you want ‘it?’ Like Gilbert said when a friend of hers didn’t want to write anymore, because he didn’t like the results (awards) he got from it, leaving her hungrily eyeing off his uneaten shit sandwich! How much, do you want it? It’s a telling question (and answer) indeed.

A terrific idea Gilbert brought forth in this book was the concept of ideas, and them owning us, choosing us to manifest themselves through, rather than us discovering them. They live around us, with the whole purpose of their being to be made material through us, and they will try and catch our attentions through all manner of ways. Sometimes we catch the signs… sometimes we don’t. And when we miss them, they will simply move onto another willing participant.

It certainly explains the phenomenon, of two people in different places having the same idea. Or how you think up a great idea or invention, and then months later it is advertised or on the market, and you say “that could have been me!” Well it could have been, but you didn’t want it bad enough, so the idea left you. Sheesh, harsh there.

Gilbert offered up one story regarding herself, and an idea she had… and then how the idea went away because she had not been focusing on it for a while… only to later learn the exact idea had now been brought into existence by a fellow writer friend of hers!

Why, that sounds like Magic! Big Magic to be precise. I’ll let you read the actual book for the full details, but it is one of those stories that you just can’t get your head around, it’s that terrifically fantastical.

One name for this is multiple discovery, a term used in the scientific field. It is when the same idea appears in two different places at the same time, and a lovely way to explain it is:

“When the time is ripe for certain things, they appear at different places, in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring.”

I have always in some way believed this, and I don’t even know how this thought of mine came to being or where I got it from. But once an idea is out there, it is ripe for the picking!

This made me think, A LOT. I was stressing for a good while over the book I wrote, that had just been hanging around on my laptop waiting for me to do it over, or send it to someone, for ages. Her take on ideas moving around drove me to push on, because I don’t know what I would’ve done if my idea went away from me! I owe my idea, my book, that much!

I have ideas though that have stayed with me for so long, so I don’t know what Gilbert would say about that… my ideas love me? They don’t want to leave me even though I rarely have time for them? I believe with her theory while still feeling it’s unfinished, incomplete, with some work in progress exemptions to it. 😉

Believing in an other-worldly force, like ideas playing with us, is not an overall novel concept… the Romans for example, didn’t believe that people were geniuses. They believed a person HAD a genius, a muse as it were.

Are you responsible for your incredible thoughts, visions, imageries? Or is it your Muse who should really be accepting all praise/blame? Keeps that ego in check doesn’t it?

“I have chosen to believe that a desire to be creative was encoded into my DNA for reasons I will never know, and that creativity will not go away from me unless I forcibly kick it away, or poison it dead.”

I couldn’t agree with her more. Something has always happened to lead me back to writing, and one of the classic examples was one night many many many years ago, when Hubbie asked me what I would do if I had no boundaries, what would be my ultimate vocation, and so the wheels started turning from way back then. I think it’s important for us to go on this creative journey and find what it is that makes us happy, and then go about our lives DOING THAT THING. It IS about the journey, and not the outcome, because at the end of it all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Living a fulfilled and happy life?

I’ll end on the most terrific story.

Many years ago Gilbert’s uncle went to see the writer Richard Ford at a bookstore appearance. During a Q&A, a man in the crowd asked Ford why he was so successful with his writings, when the man himself was the same age as Ford, wrote the same themes as Ford, had a similar background to Ford, and yet still did not have the same success as Ford! He wanted some advice, but asked – please, don’t tell me to persevere, that only makes me feel worse.

Ford replied that he would never tell him to persevere; instead he told him to quit. The crowd was stunned. Ford went on to say that clearly, writing gave him no pleasure, and life was too short to be miserable during it. He told him to find new hobbies, find new things to do “but don’t write anymore, because it’s obviously killing you.”

And then.

“If you happen to discover, after a few years away from writing, that you have found nothing that takes its place in your life – nothing that fascinates you, or moves you, or inspires you to the same degree that writing once did… well then, sir, I’m afraid you will have no choice but to persevere.”

CHILLS CHILLS CHILLS.

You’re welcome.

Please let me know your thoughts on Big Magic in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you 😊

How to get by in life, during corona

From now, until forever more, we will have the phrases –

“During corona.”

“A new normal.”

“Flattening the curve.”

It’s unprecedented. We’ve never been through anything like this before, or at least no one has for a century. As we try to adjust to a new way of living, breathing and being, I thought it might be a good idea to re-jig a list I wrote last year,  and make it all ‘corona friendly.’

A lot of my earlier points I’ve re-posted here again because they still apply… but mostly I just wanted to put together a little how-to of ways to help you get by in this uncertain time, if not just for all of you… but for myself as well.

I might do gratitude in my other blog, but trust me, I need reminders too.

Because appreciation of life amidst difficulty is a continuous work in progress.

Please feel free to add things that make you smile, or help you simply get by, in the comments below. Some of us will be taking things harder, some a bit easier, but it’s important to remember we are all going through this in one way or another, and also to remember, the bigger picture.

If all you are doing is surviving, you’re doing great. Well done.

But if you need a little something else to keep your mind busy and have you looking forward, then read on…

 

Quick fixes

Drink a caffeinated beverage.

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Coffee, black tea, green tea… or just jump to the ‘other’ stuff.

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It’s 4pm somewhere in the world, right?

(Alcohol abuse is not condoned here… because if you can’t party with it you’re doing something wrong!)

Put on some loud music.

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Queen’s 1985 Live Aid performance is strongly recommended (going by my own personal pick-me-up experiences with that song) but really, anything that will get the blood pumping, your fingers tapping, and your feet dancing along.

Music is sweet, and so necessary for the soul.

Look in the mirror and laugh at yourself.

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Even if you force a laugh, you will end up doubling over with real laughter over how stupid you look when you’re fake laughing.

Or else, smile really hard. Try not to burst out laughing. No really, TRY.

Was that pimple always there?

I never noticed those lines.

I really need a brow pluck.

All valid thoughts that may arise, but trust me it’s a very awareness-producing exercise. Hell at the very least, you will suddenly know yourself more intimately than you did before.

Go through old photos.

This is bound to make you feel better instantly. What a mind-trip this can be, going back to years and years ago. Go to your memory bank of choice… physical photo album or digital device.

And if you find you don’t have a collection of properly stored photos, well that may just be a nice little project you can do… being productive, clearing and sorting memories from your life, while filling up the current space with pictures of yourself and loved ones.

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Lovely.

Take 3 slow breaths.

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Do it now. Can you feel that? Your heartbeat slowing?

Good.

 

Self-care

Meditate.

Sit in silence and try to quiet your mind.

Or let it wander. See where it leads you.

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Don’t get worked up over what pops up – just observe.

Do some yoga.

Stretch it out.

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And if you think having littlies makes it impossible to do yoga, think again. There’s a tribe called Cosmic Kids Yoga, and they have hundreds of themed yoga videos for kids, ranging from popular movies like Frozen and Spiderman, all the way to movement based off the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

More info at this link here, or find them on YouTube.

Write it out.

Having spent my whole life writing it out, I can tell you the therapeutic benefits of getting things out on paper are enormous. You don’t have to be Shakespeare… sure many are sprucing their motivations of starting the next great novel, but all you need to do is BLAH it out.

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Just set yourself a timer, and write for 5 minutes straight. No breaks. No stopping. Whatever comes into your head, get it out in front of you.

You will be amazed at some of the crap random shitty unusual scary enlightening thoughts that suddenly purge themselves from you.

If you want, burn it at the end. Or keep it as a little time capsule of your own experience of surviving this corona experience.

Yes you heard me. SURVIVING.

Go for a walk.

Or a bike ride. This is about the only one we can do now. This one is so free, and so easy. We may be limited in our social movements, but the fact that we can connect with nature so freely, so easily, just by putting on some sneakers and throwing on a jacket… just do it.

This will save us all.

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Look out the window.

Dream. Just imagine… stuff. Ideas. Wishes. Hopes.

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Make a post-corona list.

While you’re dreaming, make yourself one of these. Me and baby girl have started one of these lists verbally, and often we refer to it when we’re struggling in the day to day.

Write, or just plan all the things you want to do when this isolation is over.

Watch how excited you get!

Some on my list for example…

Have coffee in a café.

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Walk on the beach.

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Give my parents and sister a big hug.

♥♥♥

Have a massive shopping day.

Invite everyone to our post-corona party. !!!!!!!!!!

I know we’re not there yet, but thinking about it gives me so much hope.

Sit in your yard.

Sit under a tree. Or on your balcony. Lounge about on the porch.

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If you’re limited for space, just open the window when you’re dreaming on the point above.

Take a nap.

If time allows you (and let’s face it, certain family members too) there is no time like the present to get some extra shut eye.

Because when the world starts up again, you ain’t gonna wanna sleep much.

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Drink loads of water.

I shouldn’t really need to say this, but sadly so many of us forget the bare basics to keep our bodies functioning at optimal level, and this happens more often than not when we are stressed, or going through sudden change.

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Get a funky water bottle (order online through your favourite shopping site) and at least you’ll be motivated to bring bottle to lips throughout the day with something looking so cool.

Read a book.

Oh yes. Hell yes. Do it. Read them ALL. No explanation needed here.

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We don’t need any excuses to escape to a magical place away from our current realities.

Take a bath.

Hell to the yeah! Baths are sooo not just for kids. Once you hit adult-age, they become a necessity, to help replenish, restore and reenergise.

All you need to do is turn on the faucet, maybe light a candle, and if you’re feeling for it, pour yourself a glass of wine too…

And lock the damn door. You need YOU time.

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Ideas to keep us sane.

Do some online shopping.

There is no time like the present to buy things online, in turn supporting some local and small businesses while you’re doing so. And the rush you get from clicking “add to cart…” ooh. Gets me all heady. 😉

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Watch something you love.

This is so easy. Whether it’s an old tv show, a long-time favourite movie, or some comedian on youtube. There’s nothing like a feel-good watch to lift the mood.

I love watching comedians online… one of my faves, the hilariously ethnic and blatantly honest, Sooshi Mango.

HA HA HA!

Talk to someone.

With technology so prevalent in our society, this one is so easy for us all. Call, zoom, even drive by someone’s house and yell across the yard to them (on your way to ‘essential’ shopping of course)… and just hearing someone else’s voice, will be an instant mood lifter.

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(Keeping 1.5 metres distance of course 😉 )

Pat a pet.

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That’s my furry Mister F. 😉

This is easy if you have one, but if you don’t?

You can virtually add an animal into your house. Just type one into Google, (eg. lion) and when the animal shows up click on the ‘View in 3D’ button.

Then click ‘View in your space.’

Find the ‘ground/floor’ in your phone and arrange accordingly…

And voila! Animal appears in your room! (As close as you might get to patting a real lion too!)

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Sure you won’t be patting anything, but you sure as hell will be entertained seeing a zoo of animals pop up through your phone, in your kitchen!

Engage your mind with puzzles and games.

I bet no one thought jigsaw puzzles were going to rock in our technologically advanced 2020, and yet hear we are, chasing down 1000 pieces online and spending big bucks on the last Disney ones we can source…

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Whether it’s a puzzle, a sudoku riddle, a crossword, or anything else that gets your mind ticking, it’s going to keep you engaged and thinking, and that is something we should never stop doing, isolation or not.

Or colour in. If you have those mindfulness pictures, great, if you don’t, print any old diagram off the net.

Doing something you haven’t done for so long, is great for the mind and soul.

And if all that doesn’t tickle your fancy… how’s about going back to your childhood?

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Boardgames. Jenga, jenga, jenga…!

Gardening.

You don’t even need to go to Bunnings for supplies.

Start in your yard. Observe. Pick. Weed. Look around and respond accordingly.

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Listen to nature, she’ll point you in the right direction.

 

Get the creative juices pumping. Start a new project. The options are ENDLESS. 

Write a novel.

There are online courses just waiting for you, and I should know. A great starting point is the Australian Writers Centre.

https://www.writerscentre.com.au/

Draw a picture.

Take a sketch pad, or start with templates online. There is a world of creativity out there, but click the link below if you need some initial inspiration.

https://trailofcolors.com/

Scrapbooking.

As I mentioned earlier you can organise your photos during this time of iso, and there is no more creative way to do that than by scrapbooking. You can order items online from Kaisercraft or Riot, both places I have used in my own scrapbooking, and where I have accounts with both. (P.S. it’s free!)

https://www.kaisercraft.com.au/

https://riotstores.com.au/

Experiment with new recipes.

This is a great one. I’ve recently started following Jamie Oliver and Marion Grasby on facebook… Chinese egg drop soup anyone? 3 minute tomato pasta sauce? All these and more I will be making soon!

Drooool.

Leah Itsines is another local gal I follow, and her meals are easy, delicious and so easy to source ingredients for (as well as being great for meal prepping – winning!)

Type in their names on facebook, insta or YouTube to start getting food inspiration ASAP.

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Start an exercise routine. 

You don’t have to tell me you can’t hit the gym. ‘Cause you know what I’m gonna say.

Go online peeps.

Sam Wood and Rachael Finch are just two of the people I follow on insta, and there you can find video links as well as where to sign up to become members and receive further workout benefits.

It’s never been an easier time to be in isolation. We can do this, while still doing almost everything else that we want to from the comfort of our homes.

Home renos.

Uneven door? Need to fix a handle?

Having a house that you tended to yourself, will be the most satisfying thing once all of this is over.

And then you’ll be able to call your friends over for post–corona drinks, and to observe your fancy house handy work too. 😉

Purge purge purge.

If you think clearing things from your life is not a creative pursuit, think again.

The intense therapeutic benefits that come from removing old, useless, redundant items from your life, and bringing in room for new, or just giving you air to breathe, well –

It can bring a new lease on life.

Start small, always start small. A drawer, a stash of papers. Don’t think of the big picture here. When it comes to cleaning, clearing or tidying, it’s best to always zoom in on a small task that you can achieve, because looking at the entire wardrobe that needs clearing and sorting, well you’re gonna be putting that task off for months, if not years to come.

But start with the right corner of that top shelf? That is do-able. That you might be able to knock off in 15-30 minutes.

And then when you get that down, watch how motivated you are to clear the left hand side of the top shelf.

And so on and so forth.

Then, just reap the mental benefits of all that SPACE.

Learn a new/old instrument.

Alright, buying an instrument at this time might be a little tough, but if there’s one laying around your house (most people have one they’ve deserted at some point) a really inexpensive way to tinker with the thing is to look up YouTube videos. Yes, YouTube! (I may need to rename this post The YouTube guide to getting through iso…)

A world of possibilities!

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Make something.

Make a jumper or a scarf, a beanie even, for that first day in Winter (that’s most likely for us in Australia isn’t it?) where we’ll be allowed out of our homes to go do WHATEVER, WHEREVER we choose.

Pick a bright colour. Look up some knitting templates online. Here I found some for you.

https://www.allfreeknitting.com/

If you have no idea where to start, well guess what…

That ‘y’ word again. YouTube!

They have ‘how to’ videos when you have absolutely no idea where to start. (Of course they do).

So, get to it. Hell they look so good, I might just crochet me some rainbow fingerless gloves too.

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Finally, remember to keep things in perspective. At our core we are made up of atoms. Energy, air, and yet in human form all we see is hard matter. Think of all those who have come before us. Think of the future generations who will follow. Imagine the Universe. Imagine God. Just imagine Mother Nature if that is what you please.

And then see yourself as this tiny little invisible dot on the world map that is living an existence in amongst all of the shared past, present and future histories of anyone who has ever passed a breath.

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Sure, you matter. We all do. But how much do your problems hold weight? All the little trivialities of our life, what has become of our day-to-day… it is hard. But how much will it matter tomorrow, next week, next year, or in 20 years?

If it still holds you down, speak to a professional. (This you can do online too).

But if your problems suddenly seem pointless and irrelevant…

Take a deep breath and put up the music.

Every day is a chance to start again.

Let’s get through this together.

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When you lack hope for the New Year

I call myself a glass half-full gal.

Lately though, I haven’t really been feeling it.

Sure I run a whole gratitude blog where I post daily items of gratitude…

But I’m feeling like a bit of a fake.

Because I realised some time ago, that I wasn’t really feeling the whole ‘new year new decade new me’ business.

I wasn’t excited.

I wasn’t happy

I wasn’t even hopeful.

That realisation stunned me. Hope is one of those vital things I hold onto, the thing that keeps me going amidst troubling times and difficult days.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not depressed or anything. I just think I’ve hoped for things before and been disappointed time and time again… and with my life in a current state of limbo…

Well, how could I be hopeful, when I didn’t know what to hope for? What to expect?

Why would I hope for anything when firstly I didn’t know what to hope for, and secondly I didn’t want to be bitterly disappointed?

I was saddened by this fact. How could I, the glass half-full gratitude girl, have fallen off the appreciation train, and wasn’t even looking forward to 2020?

So I set up a little project. Away from the public eyes of the world wide web, I started to do my own brand of gratitude, counting things to make me happy… in the privacy of my home.

Just for me, myself and I.

Call it a meditation. I lie down in bed at night and form an inventory of the day that has passed… and in my counting I find, things that I don’t tell anyone about, but things that I’m grateful for.

I’ve been doing it for less than a week now. But I’ve been making progress, and already I feel happier.

I feel more hopeful.

I am feeling more grateful again 🙂

What is the point of me telling you all this you might ask?

It’s many things.

Firstly, even positive, glass half-full people suffer from doubt and insecurity. Don’t be fooled into thinking the rose-coloured glasses through which they present their life makes them perfect… far from it.

Secondly. You can start any day you want to make your life better. You just have to decide when you want it to be better.

Third. You don’t even have to wait for a new year, a new decade… You can start any day, any second.

Life is waiting for you now, and if you keep putting personal growth and learning off, you may forever be putting your life off.

I’ve always said, you don’t need to wait for a new year. Be assured that whatever resolutions you’ve made yourself for the new year… if you find you can’t stick to them longer than a month, week or day…

You can always start again. Whenever you want.

Because every moment is a chance to try again.

Happy New Whatever-You-Want-It-To-Be.

😉

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Photo by Jared Erondu on Unsplash

The difficult pursuit of Happiness

How do inspirational quotes make you feel? Happy? Elated? Like you can take on the world?

Our modern world is consumed with the notion of happiness – obtaining it, being it, and revelling in it. Often the pursuit of it however, becomes a journey littered with insecurity, frustration, and disappointment.

That is because of this very real and true fact: a full, adventurous and passionate life, will also undoubtedly come with its fair share of trouble and difficulty, challenge and sadness. In many cases, equal to any experiences of ‘happiness.’

We spend so much of our time trying to be happy, that this can often make us more depressed. Suppressing our normal day-to-day feelings and ignoring the root of our dis-ease, can cause us more harm than good, delaying the emotions that will inevitably surface at a later point in time.

I am not saying that trying to be of an optimistic disposition is a quality you shouldn’t try to adhere to and live by. It is certainly a better headspace to be in, and learning to be happy in a very consumeristic world riddled with technological issues and social media problems, old-age tests of character and identity involving family and friends, petty fights, injustices of race and class and sexual orientation and gender… well, finding a simple thing to be grateful for, such as something beautiful your daughter said to you, it can be the one thing that saves you in an otherwise upsetting and disappointing day.

I keep an online gratitude blog. Not to promote my profile, send a false image of myself out into the world, or even to pretend all is right in my life. It is not.

And even though I practice gratitude every day, I am by no means exceptionally skilled or a master of my craft. In the words of Dicky Fox in one of my most favourite of movies, Jerry Maguire…

“I’ve failed as much as I’ve succeeded.”

On that note, back to inspiring quotes. I love to read them, see them, put them up on my walls… hell, I even have a daily calendar that gives me a new quote to ponder every day.

Sometimes they speak to me, and other times they don’t. Today’s one jumped out at me in a very real way:

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And then later on social media, I saw another that triggered some sad tags of my heart.

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Translated from Croatian, it reads

“Don’t give up if it’s hard. Give up if it’s not important.”

Both of these quotes, though uplifting, have a certain degree of realism and ‘life is scary’ knocked into them, enough to keep you humble, yet also lift your head towards the clouds and give you Hope.

Well then, how do those quotes compare to this more positive one?

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How did you feel reading each? Did you feel better reading the cheerier, latter quote? Or did the ones with a real sense of everyday life grab you more? Is it purely based upon experiences and life circumstance, or do you think we are bound to feel better about ourselves when reading a more realistic quote, as opposed to a super-happy one that we feel forced to be like? Something that we are meant to aspire to, even if on that particular day, we may be better off just staring off into the sunset with sadness in our eyes?

Something to consider.

Oh, and because I can…

And that my friends, is a quote that makes me feel GREAT.

Lovely Lyrics #3

There’s been a song on the radio, that has been generously overplayed for the last several months.

It’s Bebe Rexha’s (featuring Florida Georgia Line) Meant To Be

There is nothing like a song you find irritating being played on every commercial radio station you turn to. It wakes you in the morning. You turn on your car and bang! there it is. It even starts to get featured on TV. There is just no escape.

But then, something happened a little while ago. Hubbie and I had unitedly been annoyed by the repetitive song, but then all of a sudden, he came home liking it.

Why, I never. I was appalled. We were joined in this common dislike together! He couldn’t do this to me! I was in the kitchen one day, making dinner, having to listen to this song he had put on, when suddenly, I heard a line. A line that really spoke to me:

“No need to go nowhere fast

Let’s enjoy right here where we at.”

Woah. You know how sometimes you hear something and it just speaks to your unspoken question, so succinctly? You hear these phrases all the time though. About being present. Not forcing things. Allowing the Universe to do what it has to do, in its own time.

But it’s not just the message. It’s also the delivery, and how it is expressed. Because remember, we all hear and respond to things differently.

Those words spoke to me particularly, and now, I even don’t mind the song. Why? Because those two lines present the happiness inherent in the present, the everyday… the whole reason I do my gratitude blog… finding reasons to appreciate the every day, no matter how small they are. It is about looking in on what is happening, rather than stewing on the past, or worrying about what will come.

Don’t worry about what is around the corner. Don’t rush. Take it slow, and enjoy NOW.

Breathe.

And then, the whole summary of the song is presented in the chorus lines.

You can’t force the future. Your best bet is to, in the words of one of baby girl’s favourite Disney movie lines “Let It Go.”

Let it go, focus on enjoying the beautiful present, and I can almost guarantee, in most cases when you DO do this, the thing you have been wanting and waiting for will come to you.

And if not, well then there is something even better lined up for you.

So, in that case…

“If it’s meant to be, it’ll be, it’ll be,

Baby just let it be…”

 

What is the deal with February anyway?

What is it, with a date? Or even, a time of year?

I came to realise months ago that there was some peculiar, truly funny business concerning a certain month, and in particular often, a number.

The offending number was 27.

And the all-encompassing offensive month was February.

Specifically, February 27.

Because you see, on that date, a few things happened. Well, this year one BIG thing happened, but then it reminded me of other like things, and soon I was scratching my head and looking up at the planets and asking ‘what the?’

Was it a cyclical phase? Were the planets aligned a certain way the same time each year, making certain life-changing events happen? Was it coincidence (of which I don’t believe anything of…)

Chance? Hmmm…. nah.

Let me divulge.

I received a phone call on February 27. It was in the afternoon, from an unknown mobile number.

From my bosses, bosses, BOSS.

It was my great grand-daddy of bosses. Immediately, without even being in my industry, well, being a person of any workplace or industry… this was NOT a good sign.

I immediately thought to myself amidst the shock of it all, “some heavy shit is going down.”

I imagined bosses getting sacked.

A huge weather disaster.

A terrorist attack on our work building (I am not even kidding).

But as he began to speak, I started to see where he was headed…

What he said meant major changes NOT just for me, but for me and practically every person I knew and worked with and came into contact with in my daily work operations.

We, and I, were being given notice, of a more than likely redundancy in a years time.

I was in absolute and profound shock. I somehow managed to string some words together and sound somewhat professional talking to this grand-daddy of bosses. He expressed his need to talk to all involved, even if they weren’t at work that day when the news bomb had dropped. It was a hardening business, the industry was changing, and in doing so they were downsizing and moving on over interstate to help themselves, economically speaking.

I remember sitting with baby girl only minutes after the call ended. She kept asking that I play with her dolls. I sat on the floor with her, holding up some barbie doll, it could have been Ana, Elsa, Ariel, hell it could have been all of them for all I know. All I remember though, were the whirling thoughts in my head, the shock, the getting to grips with things. The adjustment. The profound sadness for myself and all of our team.

The acknowledgment, that this good thing, was coming to an end.

It wouldn’t be for another year. They didn’t know when the official move and migration would happen… at this stage, all we had was indicators, and we were given lengthy notice to help us in this massive change of our lives.

And we had known for a while. We knew this was coming. My favourite phrase was “if we’re all still here in 5 years, we’re VERY lucky…”

We weren’t lucky anymore.

And as I sat there, my mind bursting with all of this new information, I remembered something.

Something from that morning. Something that wasn’t shocking. Rather, something that had made me smile.

Because it had been a facebook memory.

You know how facebook reminds you of something you posted years ago, and it will say “on this day X years ago…”

Well I got one of those that morning. I got a “On this day 5 years ago…” and saw with absolute delight that February 27 had been the day I had made my birth announcement on facebook, that I was expecting baby girl. I didn’t share the memory again, instead I opened up the photo, remembered the comments, smiled so hard at the joy expressed from family and friends, and reminisced about a major and truly important milestone of our lives.

From Feb 27 2013. And on that day, Feb 27 2018, I was getting made redundant… soon.

But no, that wasn’t even ALL. Because the previous year, I had walked into the family room with baby girl at the start of the day, and upon opening the blinds, felt it odd I could only hear…

ONE BIRD.

We had two then. We had our trusty and loyal male cockatiel who had been with us for well over a decade. He had been hand-reared by both myself and Hubbie, and had travelled through houses near and far to be with us.

The other one was an Indian ringneck, recently given to us by some family members who could not give the bird the attention it deserved in light of them having had a baby recently.

Then, our cockatiel had been with us for about 15 years – the Indian ringneck, 6 months.

Both males. Yet both so different. The ringneck was cheeky and clever.

A dangerous combination. Because that morning as I decided it was all too weird that I could see one bird from the side view of his cage, yet I could not see the other, I decided to open the back door and take a closer look…

I gasped when I stuck my head out. The cage door was ajar.

The ringneck had escaped!

Feb 27 was whirling in my head. What? A Feb 27 incident from this year, last year, 5 years ago, and that wasn’t even the entire list of everything that had ever happened in February.

2 years ago I had had an accident, literally 20 minutes after jumping in to drive my new car. 20 minutes. My new car. Out of nowhere. This upsetting event was the precursor to my carcrashgratitude site being born.

And then 6 years ago in February, we found out a family member had a terminal illness. The ending wasn’t happy.

I couldn’t believe the insane symmetry of it all as I sat on the carpeted floor alongside baby girl. It was just too much. It couldn’t be a coincidence. Though one event was a happy one, the others were generally upsetting, with another one a shock, but one common theme threaded them all together…

They all indicated CHANGE. Whether the change was good, bad, or just a new adjustment. A learning curve. All these events brought with it major change and adjustment, a different way of coping or looking at life, of trying to deal, and grow in amongst much uncertainty around us.

An illness change – Someone passed away and it gave us an important life lesson in life and death.

A pregnancy change – The most beautiful life change you can get, that equally drives you insane as it does heap rewards on you.

A car accident change – It sent us on a spiral but I started my carcrashgratitude blog, a personal exercise in writing daily and finding gratitude in each day and in everything. 

A bird disappearing change – Some things are just there in your life for quite literally, a season.

And now, seemingly a career change – to be continued…

It must be planetary, there must be something above us making the same wheels turn again and again at the same time of year. I don’t understand it, though I don’t think I am meant to. I think I am just meant to do what I always do.

ADJUST.

And I have. I have had a long time to get used to my new adjustment. My new work change. I haven’t been able to talk about it though, and I don’t know why. Very few people know, and for some reason the words to talk about it can’t seem to find their way out of my mouth…

I think it is because saying it out loud, makes it more real. It means it is actually happening. Sure, it is about the only topic we talk about while at work, but away from work, when it becomes spoken of, well… then it becomes MORE real.

And when it is more real, you know what else will come?

“What are you going to do?”

And that is the clincher. I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I have a million ideas. But I just don’t know where to turn to. And it is this unknowing that has me holding back.

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Roman Bozhko at Unsplash

 

 

 

Winning at the season

Today my daily calender told me this:

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And if you follow my carcrashgratitude blog you may have seen this post, where I posted this pic:

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Baby girl’s Christmas tree.

In baby girl’s bedroom.

Which baby girl decorated herself.

Winning at Christmas AND parenting.

Score 🙂

Girls… we have a LONG way to go yet

(I’d like to forewarn, of my use of the word ‘men.’ I use it in a general all-encompassing sense in this post, however I don’t really mean ALL men, rather to the scum presented below, and those who hold women back from where they need to be in 2017).

Frankly, I’m a little appalled at myself.

This time last year, I wrote a gratitude piece on International Women’s Day. I wrote things like

 

“As women, we need to know our worth and value it, and not continually lay blame on the man, or complain that we are not given fair treatment because of him.

“It’s due to this that we should place further awareness of this important day, in order for those other parts of the world, those ‘cavemen,’ and likewise any unintentionally or not, abiding cavewomen, to catch up, and smell the coffee roasting from the beans that we bought ourselves.”

To read it in its full context you should probably click here. But basically I was saying that  women are sometimes equally to blame as men are for their unfair treatment, because of the way they expect to be treated – they don’t realise their worth, therefore, men will NOT realise their worth.

Excuse me as I bitch-slap myself.

Lucky for me, I am a keen and curious soul, and I LOVE to listen to other people’s points of view. And call it fate, call it opportunity, call it divine intervention trying to tell me something, grabbing hold of me by the wrists and shaking me and yelling “Listen! You have to take this in!”… but lately, I’ve been getting really mad, as I get exposed to a whole bevy of stories and circumstances where women are treated awfully unequally.

Like slaves.

Like nothing.

Like a pile of shit.

So I’m sorry to say, but on this International Women’s Day, we still have an awful long way to go.

Women are still being treated like sex slaves. Domestic violence leads to death for one woman a week. One woman a week. Women are raped, ALL around the world – Eastern and Western cultures do not discriminate. Sexual assault is one of the most undetected crimes, with many women fearing coming forward due to the traumatic process of needing evidence, and having to be strewn through the courts with examination after examination. Offenders get a slap on the wrist, before moving on with their lives, with the victims left to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives, and try to make some sense of it all – only there is NO sense in it all. Side effects of the ordeal are long-term, psychological, physical and affect the entire support network IF there is one, not just the sole victim.

Women are still being paid much less than the opposite sex. Women are underpaid compared to their counterparts, and even though they are often given the advice to be ‘more confident,’ ‘more assertive,’ (like men), it is a double-edged sword, as displaying these career-driven characteristics place them in the unwomanly field – they are not acting in accordance with their sex, and that is a deviation.

What I have come to detest particularly is the victim-blaming: always on behalf of the woman.

The woman sends a naked pic of herself to her boyfriend, and it is HER fault when he later posts it when they break-up.

The woman gets side-lined for a promotion, and it is HER fault, because she was too assertive – too much of a bitch.

The woman gets raped, but it is HER fault, because she was wearing a mini skirt.

The woman gets assaulted, but it’s HER fault yet again, because she was drunk, and really she was asking for it.

Why are the women, ALWAYS to blame? Why is it their fault that men can’t act accordingly? Why is it their responsibility to ensure they will be respected and treated equal, like men are: that is, not discriminated against or assaulted in any way.

How about the MAN is held accountable? I mean, he DID upload that naked pic of her online.

He didn’t promote his female employee, because he was threatened by her assertiveness and drive.

He raped her, because her mini skirt ‘provoked’ him.

He assaulted her, because she didn’t know better, and wouldn’t remember it in the morning anyway.

HOW ARE THESE THINGS OKAY?

In September 2016, Stanford Uni student Brock Turner, walked out of jail after only serving 3 months of jail, where he could have received a maximum of 14 years. It was a severe breach of court justice, and the male judge is now removed from residing over any criminal cases. Brock was found guilty in March on counts of intent to commit rape of an unconscious person, and penetration of an intoxicated and unconscious person.

His father showed the world why his son turned out to be such a weak imbecile and cowardly piece of filth, when he infamously asked for a lenient sentence for his son in a letter, saying a lengthy sentence was a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.

20 minutes of action.

20 minutes of action.

Really. 20 minutes of action. Your son assaulted a woman who was both intoxicated and unconscious. It was sexual assault. Choosing ‘lighter’ words make you sound like the type of scum that needs to be removed from this earth, rather than make anyone submit to your case.

If you want to get really angry, you can read the victim’s full statement that went viral last year, here.

Closer to home, and recently I read the explicitly disturbing story of Tara Brown, who was savagely beaten to death by her ex-partner in 2015. Lionel Patea had dropped off their daughter at school, before chasing her down in his car, running her off the road, and then picking up a hydrant and bashing her repeatedly while she was trapped in the car.

She died due to the extreme injuries she had sustained later in hospital.

And you know what he wrote in a letter to her family? He questioned how a tragedy such as this could have happened.

He had beaten her to death, and yet, he did not understand how he did it. As if it wasn’t his fault. Excusing himself from blame.

These examples are primary ones in the issue of women’s equality, however they are only the beginning of the tip of the cold and stark iceberg that is buried deep beyond sight. The discrimination, the fear, the uncertainty that you are born with when you are born a woman… sure, we can vote. Sure, we can work. Sure, we are treated equally in some workplaces, to some degree.

But we are living in 2017 people. Repeat. 2017.

Sexual assault.

Sexist culture.

Unfair pay.

Discrimination.

Bias.

This is happening to a woman, RIGHT NOW.

It doesn’t feel very forward-thinking and living to me.

Sure, I appreciate the women in my life on this day of ‘Women.’ And sure, I am grateful for their positive role in my life, and how they still to this day continue to shape me with their strength, their courage, their fragility, and their never-say-die attitude.

But I don’t have my head in the sand anymore. I am looking at the bigger picture, rather than just my small circle. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t know how one person can even make a difference.

But together, as women and men respectfully unite, WE CAN.

Education must start in the home. Children must be taught to treat all as equals. Schools must follow suit, and then there must be legislation against the deviants who think themselves above the law and system, and take it upon themselves to ‘show a woman whose boss.’

WE need to show the deviants whose boss.

They are simple sentences, but they are big, HUGE, ideas. They require a lot of reform.

So on this day, the 8th of March, I celebrate one thing in particular:

The women who make things happen, and make positive changes for the better of all future women EVERYWHERE.

Because it is that woman that I also, want to be.

 

 

 

 

Failing at reading

I’d like to show you something:

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Other than not knowing how to screenshot, if you look even closer, you will see that on my Goodreads account, I started reading Sense and Sensibility…

in (shock horror) February of 2015.

2 freaking years ago.

Not even I realised how bad I was until logging in to update my progress.

It’s taken me over 600 days to finish a book, which though slightly hard to engage with at first, I grew to love, with Austen teasing me throughout about what, and how, certain things were going to play out.

It’s not that I don’t read. I love it, so so much. I wish I had more time for it. But, things happened last year, and though I turned to the book, time and time again, reading chapters here, chapters there, the fact that we had a massive life overhaul, what with Sea changing and all, meant that there were so many other things to take care of, and that still need taking care of… that taking time out to enjoy a very fave pastime of mine, just felt selfish.

This here my friends, is a lesson in failure. Observe the following 2016 reading challenge I participated in last year:

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Have a look at that, really, have a good look at that.

I pledged to read 10 books. Not much I thought. 10 books a year, equated to just under one book a month. That didn’t seem at all impossible, but as mentioned above, Sea change, and all I ended up reading was 2 books.

2 books.

2 books!

And during that time I was about half way through Austen’s book too.

I don’t feel oddly embarrassed. A little ashamed, maybe, because you know, being a Writer and all, and wanting to write for a living, well you feel a bit pathetic when your main bread and butter, the act of reading to help you write – you fail miserably at.

I failed miserably, I know.

I have excuses. I have reasons. Do I need to justify them to anyone? To make people believe that I am a legitimate writer, that I am worthy of the “Writer” title?

No. My online writing presence is enough. I am a busy person. I have a life. And sometimes, things don’t go to plan.

Many times, things don’t go to plan.

It doesn’t mean however, that we shouldn’t plan, or strive towards certain goals.

The lesson here is this.

Firstly, don’t feel bad for taking time out to read, if it is something you love to do – writing-related or not. We should all give ourselves a break now and then, even if it is while waiting in line to pay a bill, on your lunch break at work, or late at night when the house is quiet. For a creative mind, it is necessary.

Second, shit happens. It almost always does. So if your well-tuned ideas and visions don’t turn out the way you’d like – don’t despair. Don’t use it as a reason to give up.

Never use ANY thing as a reason to give up.

Just say “oh well,” and move on. Or my favourite “PLOT TWIST!” and then see what scene the chapter of your life will play out for you next.

I’m already thinking of what I will read next. And I think the well overdue “Girl on a Train” book that I borrowed off Hubbie’s cousin, LAST YEAR, is definitely next in line…

(If you’d like to be Goodreads friends and have an account of your own, my profile name is Smikg…)

 

Hipsters and salads at the Biscuit place

Biscottini
157-159 Main Street Mornington

(Visited and Written pre-Sea change)

We day-tripped it yet again to Mornington one Sunday in March. We arrived right at lunch time, with initial plans for ‘First, Coffee.’ But seeing the time, we re-evaluated and decided to fill our tummies first.

This wasn’t our first visit to Biscottini, or to the Peninsula, which you would know already if you’ve been reading any of my blogs. Although Biscottini is situated in fairly prime position, right in the middle of the strip of shops on Main Street, allowing you to easily people watch from the outdoor seating, or even the tables inside through their big window, it still has a very laid-back, seaside town kind of feel. We decided to sit outside since it was a pleasant day out, and do some people watching ourselves while trying to blend in.

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(Hipster sunnies, courtesy of Hubbie)

At Biscottini you order inside at the counter, beside the counter showcasing all their little cakes and sandwiches. I stepped up there and ordered, besides our lunch, some drinks to get us started.

Moscato and Beer.

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I was surprised with the plentiful quantity of Moscato I received. Despite it being a light wine, it hit me straight in the head and I giggled my way through lunch, which was this:

Grilled haloumi and prawn salad – leafy salad, chilli, zucchini and semi-dried tomato

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While Hubbie had the Caesar salad with chicken – crisp cos lettuce, croutons, parmesan cheese, anchovies and house-made dressing, topped with soft poached egg and crispy pancetta

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And baby girl had the Fish and Chips

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I enjoyed mine, however it was a bit heavy on the dressing. There was loads of rocket, which I love… if you don’t, better luck next time. Only 3 or 4 prawns, so it could have done with a tad more since they were good. And there was plenty of Spanish onion and fetta cheese alongside the sundried tomato thrown in for good measure.

Both mine and Hubbie’s meals made us feel good for ordering them, but after completion we realised there were a lot of things added to compensate for the supposedly light ‘salad’ component. Hubbie’s Caesar salad was a decent portion, yet he found it too hard for him to eat due to the rich aspects, like the dressing. He enjoyed it though, and then we both enjoyed pecking at baby girl’s meal. She of course loved hers, and we were pleasantly surprised that it was of a decent portion too.

Following all of that it was now time for coffee… but we decided to hit foot to pavement, just for the entertainment of moving on.

Food: 7/10. It’s standard café fare, with decent portions. The menu looks quite good too, and I know from experience it’s ever-changing.

Coffee: Not on this occasion, but having had it there many times before (and since) I’d give it a 7.5/10.

Ambience: Outside it was laidback. Inside there is a TV and a large seating area, so if you prefer not to people watch you can just glance outside through the windows when you wish.

People: This is the place you expect to see a few tourists pop in and mingle in amongst the locals sipping their lattes. We’ve been here many times now, and I can just spot the locals with their dogs a mile away (they love their dogs in Mornington).

Staff: Friendly and busy, usually getting down to business.

Price: Really reasonable. We paid $54 for 3 meals and 2 alcoholic drinks. The meals were of decent size, and I was impressed that baby girl’s considerable serve came in at $8, a real bargain when I remember how great it tasted.

Advice: Also from personal experience, I know they don’t have a change table – tsk tsk tsk. So beware! We didn’t place baby girl in a high chair on this occasion, but the chair she sat in had a decent backing, with no gaping holes for her to fall through. That was great, especially with a 2 year-old toddler going on 12.

In a nutshell: We’ve been here many times before and will undoubtedly find ourselves here many more. The food is reliable so you can be assured to find something you’ll enjoy – however on another visit there I noticed their menu had been spiced up a bit, which was interesting. The place doesn’t have any real pizazz for me, but I still like that we can depend on them, and their positioning on the main strip doesn’t remove them from the customers either.

Maybe if I try their biscuits I’ll be sold further???

Biscottini Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato