Posts Tagged ‘Mindfulness’

The centre of the labyrinth, Cathedrale de Notre Dame, Chartres (My photo, May 2014)

The centre of the labyrinth, Cathedrale de Notre Dame, Chartres (My photo, May 2014)

I’m frequently asked, most often by bemused family members, why the Middle Ages? What claim does it have on me? There is no easy answer to that question – I’ve loved the architecture, art, and stories so long that I cannot identify a single moment or monument that began my medievalist life. That said, the labyrinth is one element of medieval life that I cannot resist. Fortunately, many still exist, and the one I know best is at the heart of Chartres Cathedral. I don’t remember if we walked it on our first visit – I was three, perhaps four, and according to my mother, constantly rushing off to look at the Cathedral’s treasures. But it seems likely that it was covered by chairs, as it was on my most recent visit, when I took myself off for a wee holiday round Brittany and Normandy in May of this year, when I took the photo on the left. I was very disappointed at not being able to walk the path of the labyrinth, but it’s just another excuse, were any needed, to visit Chartres and its cathedral again. (more…)


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I’ve just about managed to move forward into the 21st century – the opportunity to revel in Wimbledon without thinking that I should be rushing off to hear conference papers has been decidedly helpful in that regard – following a wonderful week in Leeds at my first ever International Medieval Congress. That said, I now have weeks of blog material for Medieval Mondays, as well as years of research material, just out of that one week. As an introduction to those weeks of blogging, today’s post contains my initial thoughts on the conference and on what I could do to be better prepared for next year’s extravaganza. (more…)

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Old and New Year. Cover-Table Calendar for 1905 - Konstantin Somov

Old and New Year. Cover-Table Calendar for 1905 – Konstantin Somov

#Reverb12 Day 31 – the final day – asks us to

Take a moment to yourself, somewhere quiet.

Take a deep breath, and if you have the time/space/inclination do something that has significance for you e.g. light a candle, brew a put of your favourite tea, play your favourite music, whatever.

I’m in a house full of some of my favourite children who currently watching cartoons, but who occastionally need books read, computer games played, and lavish attention. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a great end to one year, and a wonderful start to the next. Because I have only a small amount of time which I want to myself to finish Reverb12, I will answer Kat’s five questions before getting back to the party. (more…)

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From Momastery

From Momastery

Today’s prompt asks

What was lost in 2012? What do you intend to find in 2013?

Godzilla always feels better for a brisk walk (Image via Monster Mania)

Godzilla always feels better for a brisk walk (Image via Monster Mania)

The short answer is that I lost a lot of time in 2012, time for which I had made significant plans, I’m still working to catch up with my commitments, but the difference now is that I am beginning to find the best way to work in order to meet said commitments, while still managing to have sufficient time to relax, to go out, to see friends and family. In 2013, as I discussed in yesterday’s #Reverb12 post, is about getting more exercise and fresh air – before I go back to fencing and such activities, I have my orders to take a brisk half hour walk every day. But the most important thing that I must find and maintain in 2013 is balance. I just need to find out how to do that. Any suggestions?

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Princess (Source:  Battleoftheplanets.net)

Princess (Source: Battleoftheplanets.net)

1980s pop music has a lot to answer for; fortunately, I know that there is no possible way that I will be the only person of my acquaintance who can still sing/”sing” Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero all the way through. This is in no small part owing to my years spent as a faithful worshipper in the Church of Cheesy Pop (when I was an undergraduate), where such songs were the hymns, but my favourite part of the song is the Greek Chorus of ladies in white. The gender politics are annoying, and were annoying, even when I was eight years old, as Bonnie Tyler’s character didn’t quite fit with my other heroines – She-Ra, Wonderwoman, Princess in G-Force, Annie, Anne Shirley, Jo March and Joey Bettany – at the time. Yet still the song was something of a classic, and it does suit today’s Reverb12 prompt: (more…)

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Plums and pears cooking in brandy and star anise potion (Copyright: Me)

When I started this blog, as I’ve said on many an occasion, it was with the intention of keeping a diary of my research trip to Canada in October last year. Since then, it’s turned into a blog in which I talk about most parts of my life; food is one of the main recurring subjects. Thus Reverb12’s Day 15 prompt is perfect:

What was the most extraordinary dish you sampled in 2012? What made it so magical?

It needn’t be the most extravagant dish, just the one that knocked your socks off with its flavour, texture, aroma, freshness, colour, significance, timing… whatever. Relive the magic and help us savour it with you here.

I wish so much that Dining with Alice had been this year, as it would have been perfect for this post. It was the oddest and most imaginative dining experience of my life thus far; our meal – entirely al fresco, in the grounds of Elsing Hall (Norfolk), as night gradually came down – included dishes such as Mock Turtle Soup, washed down with the fabulously-named Quinine and Bitter Orange Constitutional (served in a small bottle labelled “Drink Me”).

The above feast is really worthy of its own post (I was blogless and fancy free back then), so back to the point – 2012’s good eating. To people who don’t crave sleep, this may seem trivial, but First Sibling and I had a rather wonderful dinner out to celebrate the arrival of my new brass and ivory bed, to mark the end of my six weeks sleeping on a camp bed. We went out locally – having sensibly come home from work and built the bed first. I went on a small bird bender – quail for starter, partridge for main course. Since reading Como Agua para Chocolate several years ago, I have always wanted to try quail in particular. Each chapter of Laura Esquivel’s book begins with a recipe, and one such recipe is quails with a rose-petal sauce. This fascinated me so much that I even did my Methodologies of Translation project for Spanish at University on that same chapter. Back to the Bed Celebration Meal, both the quail and partidge had a lovely rich flavour, and were particularly tender. In 2013, I’m going to have a go at cooking them myself. My second most memorable meal of 2012 was a visit to the Newman Arms Pie Room for a friend’s birthday just a few weeks ago. We had tried to go before, but it was always booked out, so we were most excited. The pies most definitely did not disappoint – the pastry was more voluminous than my own unruly mess of hair (blown considerably out of proportion by the wind), and the pies were probably not much smaller than one’s head. While I had the game pie (wonderful!), the inclusion of savoury suet puddings on the menu gave the meal a most Dickensian feel, and were declared delicious by those who ordered them; I’ll need to get one next time.

Gastronomic plans for 2013 are going to revolve around our very well-stocked freezer, at least initially. Having panicked slightly upon seeing how empty our kitchen cupboards and fridge were three weeks ago or thereabouts, I bought a ridiculous amount of food which it was impossible to finish before the holidays started. Since last weekend then, I have been cooking up an absolute storm: spaghetti bolognese, parsnip soup, ratatouille, stewed rhubarb, stewed apples, and plums and poars poached in brandy (that last being something of an experiment, but initial Official Chef Tasting suggests that it has been a successful one). Since attending the Pre-Raphaelites cocktail party at the William Morris Gallery earlier this week, I have been thinking about how to make an edible version of Isabella’s pot of basil (including skull hidden inside). Essie Fox has very helpfully suggested, via Twitter, that I use a chocolate skull.

Via St Martin's in the Field on Facebook

Via St Martin’s in the Field on Facebook

There are a series of billboards around the fence near St Martin’s in the Fields Church near Trafalgar Square. On them are inscribed the stories of individuals helped by the Vicar’s Relief Fund. One in particular struck me, and hasn’t been far from my mind since I saw it. It is a letter from a woman suffering from severe depression; the fund gave her money to buy a cooker. The image on the left shows her letter where she describes what this has meant to her. This is why food and cooking are so important, even to those who don’t suffer from depression and other such illnesses; food is tangible and solid, while the process of cooking has as its end a visible achievement and product. The ability to thus create something can help someone to focus, can give a person a real sense of purpose.

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By Yumi Sakugawa

By Yumi Sakugawa

Day 14 of Reverb12 looks a bit too complicated for the evening before I get my train home for Christmas holidays, especially when I still have not packed my bag. It’s going to be a long night.

The full prompt is as follows:

Sometimes I spend too long at the end of the year planning for the new year ahead, so something like #reverb12 is so good for me.

This year was so full of change for me and mine that it feels like it wasn’t a “good one”. While I welcome the fresh breeze that change can bring, too much change just leaves me itchy and skittish, the ground loose beneath my feet. Then, when things settle again and the road ahead looks smooth and delightful, I think – what’s next?

But I need to remember to look back at the winding path before I start walking.

My question is: what was the most important thing you learned in 2012?

In complete contrast with the way in which I expect I’m going to be spending my evening, the most important thing I’ve learned this year is to live a slow and relaxed life, not to leave everything to the last minute, not to take on too much, and to know when it’s time to put down whatever tools I’m using – computer, wooden spoon, journal article, pen and post-its, date stamp – and relax. It’s about having a basic routine for daily life, but not a rigid timetable that results in panic when I don’t manage to stick to it minute by minute. It’s about realising that sometimes it’s ok to spend a day doing nothing of significance. It’s about eating and sleeping well, and eating and sleeping enough. As my holidays start, perhaps I should spend tonight following my guidelines as illustrated above, and have a good meal followed by some calm packing of my bag.

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