Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Book of Tea: Kakuzo Okakura

I read this as part of my participation in the Japanese Literature Challenge, and really enjoyed it. As mentioned in the clip above, this was published at the turn of the 20th century, but regardless of its age, it was still relevant in today's times. I just wanted to share some quotes...

"Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. In China, in the eighth century, it entered the realm of poetry as one of the polite amusements. The fifteenth century saw Japan ennoble it into a religion of aestheticism—Teaism......a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence."

"It is in the Japanese tea ceremony that we see the culmination of tea-ideals. Our successful resistance of the Mongol invasion in 1281 had enabled us to carry on the Sung movement so disastrously cut off in China itself through the nomadic inroad. Tea with us became more than an idealisation of the form of drinking; it is a religion of the art of life. The beverage grew to be an excuse for the worship of purity and refinement, a sacred function at which the host and guest joined to produce for that occasion the utmost beatitude of the mundane."

"A special contribution of Zen to Eastern thought was its recognition of the mundane as of equal importance with the spiritual. It held that in the great relation of things there was no distinction of small and great, an atom possessing equal possibilities with the universe. The seeker for perfection must discover in his own life the reflection of the inner light."

The whole ideal of Teaism is a result of this Zen conception of greatness in the smallest incidents of life. Taoism furnished the basis for aesthetic ideals, Zennism made them practical.

"The Taoist and Zen conception of perfection, however, was different. The dynamic nature of their philosophy laid more stress upon the process through which perfection was sought than upon perfection itself. True beauty could be discovered only by one who mentally completed the incomplete. The virility of life and art lay in its possibilities for growth. In the tea-room it is left for each guest in imagination to complete the total effect in relation to himself. Since Zennism has become the prevailing mode of thought, the art of the extreme Orient has purposefully avoided the symmetrical as expressing not only completion, but repetition"

"Thus they sought to regulate their daily life by the high standard of refinement which obtained in the tea-room. In all circumstances serenity of mind should be maintained, and conversation should be conducted as never to mar the harmony of the surroundings. The cut and color of the dress, the poise of the body, and the manner of walking could all be made expressions of artistic personality"

I really enjoyed this book, and also found links to free audio editions. Its 7 chapters focus on different elements of the art of tea, including schools of tea, Taoism & Zennism, the tea room, art, flowers & the tea masters. If you're interested in tea, rituals, and Japanese culture I recommend it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Spy : Review

Paulo coelho has written a plethora of great books. I've read enough of them to feel confident that picking up one of his books would be rewarding. I have enjoyed Coelho's spiritual and story lines. Brida stands out as one of my favourite "youth hostel" find. (That's a book you swap when your in a hostel)

Sadly, this one didn't join my list of good reads... Ally commented in my last post, that this disappointed her so much. Still I persisted... and now I can join Ally. This is a disappointment for the Coelho fan. Now I'm tempted to find another Coelho book to restore my faith. Any ideas?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Summer Reading Plans

Yeh! It now feels like summer is really here. I've finished the first of four years in my Masters, and the Frangipani is blooming... thats a true sign of summer.. 

So, with no study on my mind, I have found my summertime reading (very ambitious for me)... along with these hard copies, Ive also got some on my Kindle, including 

I'm still committed to the Japanese Literature Challenge, and have already posted on my intentions for that here. I plan to read those books as well.... maybe a little ambitious... 

Ambitious or not, I'm certainly looking forward to the summer. I also have set myself the goal of getting to the beach or lake each week. I live 2km from the sea and 4 km from the lake, but year after year, I am embarrassed to say how little I get to the water. This summer I cant ride my bike or do long walks as I would like to, so swimming & kyaking will be my new thing. Im looking forward to those mini adventures. 

And of course, there's my gardening hopes. I'll post more on the garden soon. Recently I've found it a source of joy & strength to me, a place of solace and rejuvenation, and my gift. 

Comming soon...  book review of "the book of tea" by Okakura Kakuz┼Ź (February 14, 1862 – September 2, 1913) for the Japanese Literature Challenge. 
Newcastles working harbour

Monday, November 21, 2016

Time to prepare for exams

Last weekend I gave myself a brain break and went for a walk along my beach and went kyaking on my lake.  Had a lovely time..

Now its time to study..

I'll be back refreshed (and relieved) in a few weeks...

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Use edges & value the marginal

This is the image on my calendar this month, and I just love it.. its inspirational, encouraging and beautiful.

This month, I noticed Christmas was around the corner, that the first year of the Masters degree I'm doing will be over soon, and my garden is working well, but needs a seasonal adjustment as Summer is looming in. I also noticed I'm a bit tired, and I'm looking forward to my break at Christmas.

The message on the Month is "Use the edges and value the margins", and it speaks of potential & transformational use of space. The image is from Tokyo, showing how to fit a garden into the inner city Japanese front yard. It also depicts a gift station, where one can leave gifts for the neighborhood.

This image captures many valuable and meaningful elements for me; there's a bike for commuting, trees for shape, shade and fruit, a little temple, paths and all in close proximity to the residence.

Earlier today I was listening to a podcast (chat10looks3) and Leigh and Annabel were talking about the rewards of gardening vs cooking. I smiled to myself, as theres no question for me which one wins, but Leigh was reflecting on the slow rewards of garden vs cooking, and the high failure rate in gardening. Yet still, many more women will say gardening brings them more joy than cooking.

As I've been reflecting on just how close Christmas is, and how much I need time out, and I've noticed that I've been using the edges and valuing the margins - of my time. I've been popping out to the garden in the evenings (longer days now) after work, and I've been using gardening as my study breaks, and using train time (on my long commute days) to be visit gardens I admire through Instagram and online... using every non thinking, non studying minute to research gardening and find inspiration.

How are you going in the lead up to the end of the year? Need to use your edges better?

I think I'm going to see if I can set up a gift table in my front yard for a week or two in January with some produce and plants... I'd like to do that. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Ravel's Bolero and other classics

Tonight we're going to a classical music dinner party, invited to bring our favourite piece of classical music. This is my partners..... Should be a great night.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Seasons of Stories

With thanks to Dolce Bellezza who recommended this opportunity, I'm enjoying short stories again...

Short stories are delivered to my inbox during the week. If I cant finish one, I get a catch up link too.. check it out here.

Have fun reading with us...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Yesterday I treated myself to a lazy morning, coffee and breakfast out, reading, podcasting and blogging.... no uni study  in sight. So today's thoughts have come together because....
I read
  • Karen's post on favourite podcasts
  • A chapter of the book "walking towards ourselves: Indian Women tell their stories
  • Other exciting blogs with many good book reviews
I listened to
  • Lee Sales and Annabel Crab, chat10looks3
  • Elizabeth Gilbert's, Big Magic, interviews with Amy Purdy, and Penelope (episode 206)
So, here's what has come of all that thinking. I am a creative being, and I love to create. One of my favorite things to create is food from the garden, and I like to cook,  and at different times of my life I've played music, crocheted, made mosaics, re purposed furniture, made paper & candles. All of these things have been part of me expressing myself. I recently heard some thing powerful. It was  from a writer, who's mission in life was to speak the truth. She said at the root of her work was a very strong desire and motivation to be seen. This resonated with me. The reason to create things is in some part motivated by contributing to the world around me, and being seen. 

I think we are all creative but some of us struggle to let it out.  We all have some thing to contribute and some purpose to be seen, noticed for.

In reading the stories from Indian women, I loved the story "square peg in a round hole". The author spoke about her choice not to live as was expected of her in India. She's a single woman who smokes, drinks, parties, writes, and appears to have sorted out who she wants to be in a  place where there are rules about who you can be. She's confident in her self, despite the threats of violence, rejection and condemnation. They way she lives her life is true to herself, but it cant be easy. It must be hard most days.

The interview with Penelope and Amy on Big Magic captured my attention because Penelope, a dancer by profession and at heart, has the desire to create a dance for herself to celebrate her 60th birthday. Its a beautiful ambition. But she she struggles with capturing her life moments and experiences. To help her work through the Elizabeth, the interviewer,  connects her to Amy who has a powerful dancing story too. Amy lost both her legs due to a virus, yet went on to compete in snowboarding and on dancing with the stars. Through Amy's story, Penelope was encouraged to think not only of the hard things in life as markers of her story, but of the fun and lighter side.

I'm loving the way podcasts can encourage and inspire me. Lee and Anabel have this lovely chat about all things read, listened to, watched & baked.. as I listen to them I am reminded of the lighter side of life. They laugh at themselves and others in a respectful way. I envy that.. but then again, on reflection, I see elements of that in my life.

Do the hard things in life define you or your story, or can you see how the lighter things in life are part of your story? Can you laugh at yourself? How do you manage to create a life that's genuine and honouring of your true being? Could you benefit from hearing other peoples stories?

It's timely for me to think about how I define myself and how I feel about my last year. I am hoping to introduce a new storyline - one that doesn't focus so much on the hard and annoying (and the pain) - to one that see's the light and soft as valuable moments of definition and meaning. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Buying Hope

Celebrating hope.... 

I had great hopes this morning of visiting our local artisans markets. I like the atmosphere, the sense of being part of a community, and I love looking at the beautiful creations of our local artists. I had hopes this morning to start the Christmas shopping, and to find that perfect item to add to my new office. My hopes were dashed when I arrived at the park to find no markets... a quick look at my Instagram and I discovered the markets were postponed due to weather...   changed plans - now sitting in cafe. 

And reflecting on a great little poscast I listened to while I was on my trainer earlier. Buying Hope... it was about the things we buy with hope of transformative change. It started by talking about how book sales were on the decline, and the whole world on books was experiencing massive change. However, apparently we are still buying cookbooks! Why? The presenter posses the theory that we buy cookbooks out of hope. One day I'll bake the best cake, surprise my family with an amazing life changing meal, concur that best curry ... its all hope. 

 We all do this, we buy things that we hope will change our lives or the lives of others around us. The podcast went on... cookbooks, stationary, exercise machines, diet books, fishing gear, gardening tools or books, craft supplies, magazines, .... the list is endless... I laughed at the callers who collected de-cluttering books or muffin trays in the hope that one day......

But I have had my own hopes dash just this morning. I was hoping to start my Christmas shopping early this year... I was hoping to have a transformative change just by buying things at the markets this morning... I was hoping to transform my office into the most professional.....

What are the things you buy that are attached to hope? 

One of my things - Teapots! One of the things of my past was the hope that the right teapot would offer me a sense of identity as a woman, a host, an artist, refined and warm, patient, constant, elegant and beautiful. I collected many teapots.... all having a different characteristics ... what did I learn from this period of my life? I'm more complex than one teapot... I am many. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My favourite month - September

The garden is flowering, 
the bees are happy, 
the birds are digging grubs in the compost bin, 

and it's time to cook banana bread!  

Saturday, September 3, 2016

New Faces

I try not to take things for granted, and I try  to appreciate what I have. These past few months I have been more aware of the need to appreciate my life each day. This sunset was one of the precious moments I've had in the last week. An impromptu invite to my friends place on the lake, which lead to a fun night with some lovely guys and a chance to take in the moment.

I'm slowly coming to terms with my new 'face' (or my changing body), or more to the point learning to negotiate it differently, and instead of denying reality, I've been trying to find my new Balance. It's about not overdoing the physical activity (at least until I have more medical advice). I have loved being able to be very hard working and active, but now I'm resting a little more. So, maybe reading more..

I've recently finished Helen Garner's book of short essays, "Everywhere I Look". This was a gift from a colleague who said he thought I'd enjoy her writing. He was right. As I slowly moved through this collection, each essay had something I could relate to. I particularly loved the chapter when Helen was describing one of her favourite authors, Janet Malcom. The piece was titled 'the rapture of firsthand encounters'. I loved this statement:
She will not be read lazily. She assumes intelligence and expects you to work, to pace along with her. Her writing turns you into a better reader. There is no temptation to skim: its texture is too rich, too worldly, too surprising...

On the theme of new faces... I've been loving the Australian ABCs new short shows called "you can't ask that'. They are issues based shows that aim to demystify disadvantaged or minority groups. If you can find it online, I highly recommend it. Its been really fun, informative and personal.

I've also welcomed this new face into my life. I've  recently started a new role at work, which saw me moving into a private office. After cleansing the office of some bad vibes, and rearranging for my own work preferences, I did something I've never done before.... I bought a large piece of art. I love it....

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Japenese Literature Challenge 10

Dolce Bellezza is hosting the 10th Japanese Literature Challenge, 2016
As regular followers know, this is the one challenge I always do, second to Paris in July of course! I love setting my personal challenges and achieving them - in this challenge - the sky's the limit, but it's up to me to decide how much I can do, and what genres I want to follow. This year, the challenge I set myself is not too onerous, but hopefully achievable in my current life....

I am having some success with reading short stories at the moment, so I've chosen "New Japanese Voices: the best contemporary fiction from Japan" edited by Helen Mitsios. The collection includes works by Haruki Murakami, Masahiko Shimada & Banana Yoshimoto, and the little spiel says 'relfecting the diversity and tensions within one of the worlds most fascinating cultures, and presenting some surprising innovation, this is an indispensable volume for anyone interested in Japan and its writers'. Needless to say, I'm intrigued and ready to go!

Hoping I will get some time to read a novel, I've selected one in a series I have read some of. Malice by Keigo Higashino (reported to be Japan's Stieg Larsson).
My third choice, most likely to be a Christmas break read, is The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.

I've read others from Yoko and recall enjoying them for her ability to describe the relationships.
Here's a little para about her 
Yoko Ogawa is the author of The Diving Pool, The Housekeeper and the Professor, and Hotel Iris. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope. Since 1988 she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, and has won every major Japanese literary award. Her novel The Housekeeper and the Professor has been adapted into a film, The Professor’s Beloved Equation. She lives in Ashiya, Japan, with her husband and son. [MacMillan]
Here's my review from the Japanese Literature Challenge 8, when I read works from these two authors.

This Challenge is nice and long - open to January 2017. I look forward also to reading the reviews of my fellow challengers.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

When I'm not who I thought I was...

This little monk is always with me in the garden
I met a women last night who was introduced to me as a 'blogger'. So, needless to say, I also introduced myself as a blogger. The first thing she asked me was 'really, what do you blog about?'.... I was stopped in my tracks. What do I blog about?

My response finally came out... My blog is called Thyme for Tea - that's Thyme, as in the herb, and Tea, as in the comforting warm drink one enjoys at a leisurely pace on the weekends.... and I usually do that in my garden. My blog, is therefore, a place when I ponder the things I think about in my garden....'
it might be the end of winter, but there's a feel of spring in the air

This morning, I have some time for some in depth reflection. And I'm thinking about why I'm feeling upset (and unusually inert) that I'm not who I thought I was..... 

Recently, through work, I participated in a 360 leadership assessment. This is a form of personality assessment that invites contributions from your staff, your peers, your managers and others (360 degrees). You answer the survey questions about yourself, and they answer the same questions about you. Then the results are communicated back to you. In this instance, the focus of the survey was agility, innovation, collaboration, and performance.

On review of the results with my coach, it became blatantly obvious that my 360 assessors (peers, manager, staff and friends) and I, have matching views about me. This means that what I know about myself, the people around me can see this too. This is a wonderful trait to have. I'm pretty proud of that. I'm self aware, and my friends can see how I reflect those things that are important to me. My coach reported that my results were very impressive, and that the assessment has found only a handful of aspects of leadership that I could be working on.

Basically, the 360 leadership assessment has told me that I know who I am in the leadership space, and that my colleagues perceive that about me also. I am who I thought I was......
I never tire of admiring the symetry & hues of Kale
So why am I not who I thought I was? Well, it's about pain. For most of this year I have been experiencing hip pain which has very much dampened my joy of mornings, my cycling aspirations of riding 150kms a week, and training for a 200km in a day ride.... The pain has led me to miss boot camp classes, and to huddle up with a hot wheetbag instead of taking the dog for a walk... It's not as bad is it all seems - I'm probably exaggerating because I miss all of these things in my life. And I have found my new activity, swimming, to be meditative and soothing.

I'm still undergoing tests and consults, but the bottom line is, I'm not who I thought I was  - physically. I thoughts I was still young, I thought I would be climbing mountains and taking on cycling marathons for another 20 years yet..... I thought I could train for the next level of challenge - but I'm not that person.
Nasturtiums share the joy of crisp fresh days

So for now.... Thyme for Tea - my blogging haven - is a reminder for me to keep on finding the joy I can get from drinking warm tea, and the energy I get from growing my own food, the pleasure I get from cooking, and the healing touch of the sun I can find in the garden.

Today, my goal is to repot, weed, plant and harvest, while I take in the health giving energy I can get from my garden.
potted garlic shares the winter sun with me...
varieties of lettuce bring a variety of colours to the scene

And red spinach stems stand out
my bathtub of sweet potatoes
Grapefruit for morning joy!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Paris in July Wrap Up - 2016

Paris in July 2016 has been a wonderful distraction for me, as I've trudged through the second subject of my MBA, started an executive job in the city, and wadded through some health issues. In the midst of all that, I had a holiday to a french speaking country, enjoyed the beach, and enjoyed a daily dose of Paris in July with many other blogging friends. So, it's time to say thank you.

As is my tradition with Paris in July, I like to offer a bit of a wrap up, or summary of events. Unable to devote too much time to this today, I'm offering an abridged version...

It started here, when I decided I could host the event this year, after much consideration. Then week after week I made sure we had a fresh Mr Linky spot for participants to post their links. Check out these links...
A couple of posts I really liked and appreciated were
    Of course, I cant go without mentioning the help  of Deb Nance, from readerbuzz, who supplied this years buttons, and participants used these, or their own as a way of marking their posts.

    To the best of my ability, I believe we have had 24 participants this year, not as big as previous years, but to be expected. Yet, with the help of Paulita, most of us were connected into 'Dreaming of France' as well.
    Paulita welcomes you to join her throughout the year for her weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France.

    Throughout the event, participants blogged about food, restaurants, trips to France, Museums, Art Galleries, and also books, films and music. There were also a few miscellaneous ones - like pets of Paris.

    While I can't offer a more detailed review, I invite you to use the links in this post to go for a wonder, and see just how we have all enjoyed Paris in July 2016!

    Thank you so much for joining in.

    Saturday, July 30, 2016

    Paris in July - Final week links and wrap ups

    This week, Mel posed the question about French Movies, so I thought I'd share these idea's. I haven't seen any of these yet, but the sydney Classic Film Festival will be showing these next month. Does anyone know any of these classics?  ... all details included here come straight from the Alliance francaise website. 
     Lovers Like Us
    Rappeneau’s Lovers like Us, showcases the dream couple of Catherine Deneuve and Yves Montand amidst the exotic backdrop of Venezuela
    Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau
    Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Yves Montand, 
    Vernon Dobtcheff, Luigi Vannucchi, Tony Roberts, Bobo Lewis
    Date: 1975
    Genre: Comedy, Adventure
    Country: France, Italy
     Viva Maria
    Viva Maria! is a full blown spectacle – farcical, eccentric and undeniably sexy. The femmes encounter combats, love affairs, and other nonsense on this revolutionary ride.
    Director: Louis Malle
    Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, Paulette Dubost, 
    Claudio Brook, Carlos Lopez Moctezuma, Paolo Bendandi
    Comedy, Adventure
    France, Italy

    Breathless was Jean-Luc Godard’s first feature, boldly heralding the arrival of French New Wave (La Nouvelle Vague) in 1960. Cool, raw and existential, this black and white masterwork captures the sheer joie de vivre of young love ­in a style unparalleled at its time.
     Director: Jean-Luc Godard
    Cast: Jean Seberg, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Henri-Jacques Huet, 
    Liliane Dreyfus, Claude Mansard, Van Doude
    Date: 1960
    Genre: Drama, Romance
    Country: France
     Cesar & Rosalie
    Rosalie is the story of Cesar, Rosalie… and David aussi. This love triangle will leave you reflecting on the intricacies of love, freedom and friendship.
    Director: Claude Sautet
    Cast: Romy Schneider, Yves Montand, Sami Frey, 
    Umberto Orsini, Isabelle Huppert, Bernard Le Coq
    Date: 1972
    Country: France, Germany, Italy

     I'll look forward to hearing if anyone has any recommendations for these films!

    Now for our final week of links to Paris in July Posts... and any wrap ups for what has been a fun and fascinating tour of Paris and everything we love about Paris Culture....