Tag Archives: creativity

treehousekitchen – a book

I’d finally come to understand what it had been: a yearning for a way out, when actually what I had wanted to find was a way in.
~ Cheryl Strayed

At some point, one of my dreams morphed into fear.

The child who had penned an earnest letter to a publisher overseas, who had felt a secret glow of pride at having her essays published in her school’s book of “model essays” – found herself trembling at the laptop, sitting by the bin … shredding journals by hand.

Once upon a time I saved up my words and felt sure I was destined to be an author. Praise felt like confirmation of what I already knew. Later on I still wrote, but I also loved the relief of discarding records of my truest thoughts. Not caring felt bad, but easier than caring.

Every so often, as I tried to make sense of things I could not articulate, I would try to inspire myself to ‘work on something creative’. Something light … not too close to the hurting parts of my heart.

I thought I would write a cookbook. Easy – it would be about something I enjoyed, but not something that required too much of ‘me’. After all, whenever someone asked me if I had thought of writing a cookbook, the idea would excite me. Whenever I wrote down things to work on, ‘cookbook’ made the list.

I would get excited, write earnestly for a while, filing photos by category to accompany my words. Then difficult emotions would resurface, and inertia. I would write, edit, and sigh in exasperation at my useless, overworked sentences.

Ego … pride … sigh.

I marvelled at the ways of the heart. So pure, yet deceitful, too.

I discovered the crippling power of anxiety, discontent and looking back at the past.

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One afternoon, last week or the week before? – I lay down the weight on my shoulders.

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I clicked my way to Zno (who, by the way, print fabulous photo books and deliver promptly). I found a folder on my computer in which I had stuffed various full-size photos from my blogging adventures / more recent cooking experiments.

I clicked and dragged. Within an afternoon, I had pages of complete layouts. Just images – no words. I showed two friends the online sample.

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Thankfully, Cathy suggested that I could “sprinkle a few words or comments across the pages like chocolate drops on a trifle”. :-)

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So I did. I let go of the desire to impress. I just had fun. I clicked “Save” and ordered five copies.

They arrived on Monday morning this week.

They are by no means complex or impressive works of art, or the most wonderful food book ever published.

But when I flip through the pages, I remember many good moments. And my body feels as light as meringue.

That’s good enough for me.

[UPDATE: you can order one, and receive a bonus with it – click here to find out more!]

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A man, a podcast and meeting Ciaran McMeeken

I have always had a passion for story-telling, creative people and those wonderful books / movies / plays etc that transport you to a whole new magical world. I enjoy good films and music just like most people I know, but until I met my husband, I would never have swum deeper into the world of the creative arts, music, movies – i.e. I would enjoy them when I was there, but I wouldn’t feel a need to read up more about them or listen to commentary around them.

At my first date with Jarred, though, I learned towards the end of our leisurely coffee date that my date (too many dates in this sentence and none are the Medjool sort) was involved with a podcast on entertainment. I was intrigued and secretly glad that I had not known this before we met up, as I would have thought – with great error – that such a man must be superficial and love celebrities and be scarily extroverted and have nothing in common with me. (Okay – I was the shallow judge!)

He asked if I might like to join him at his podcast that afternoon. I looked at his kind face for a few seconds, considering. I got into his car.

Image from Bossfight

As it turns out, it was more than safe – it was great! That day I met his co-host Wal, and a couple of filmmakers who shared their experience and passion in a way that made me reflect on and appreciate films, filmmakers and the creative process more. It was like being backstage, getting to watch a performance from a closer and different vantage point, but better. I was also rather floored by the confidence they all had in front of the camera and mic!

Good surprises come sometimes when you least expect it. I had a lovely evening out with my husband last night, pretending we were in sunny Thailand at happy eatery Kiss Kiss and following up with a cozy coffee-and-slice and Circus Circus, before we headed in to the studio for a podcast session.

I found out that this evening’s guest was singer-songwriter Ciaran McMeeken. Born in Arrowtown and bred in the wild and beautiful South Island of NZ, he was due to launch his self-titled album and debut tour in NZ (both happening today). I was a little sleepy as the night was cold and it was ticking slowly towards my bedtime – but when he arrived and the conversation began, the magic happened. I was a transfixed fly on the wall.

Through lighthearted banter, spontaneous questions and honest answers between them all, I learned a little about Ciaran’s journey, feeling a simultaneous sense of respect and delight. When he sang his beautiful song “Spanish Steps” towards the end, it was like we were at our own private concert. I found myself paddling in memories of home, travels, sunshine, yearnings and writing poetry. (Did you know that one of the best ways you can encourage your own creativity to emerge is to be in the presence of someone who daringly creates and shares his own art?)

For someone who’s sung in front of thousands whilst opening for Ronan Keating, Ciaran was also humble enough to acknowledge the people he’s met who have helped propel him forward. He mentioned a farmer, John, who he once worked alongside. John cut his apprehension down to size (by $18K) with simple, grounded advice and helped him to see that his dream was not as out of reach as he thought. Ciaran left the farm a few days later and as the popular saying goes … the rest is history! (Thanks, John!)

Meeting people, the desire to create and sing, serendipity, home, travel, struggle, goals … the conversation was only around 20 minutes long but touched on many aspects of the creative and human journey (see below). In the end, I was reminded that while luck, budget, kind people, opportunities and things like that play a role in fostering success, it is the decision to step out and say YES that finally makes it all possible.

Personal courage and action have been hugely crucial in bringing Ciaran to this point in his journey and I am positive that for as long as he continues to say YES and express his shining heart, he will enjoy many future successes.

“Like anything, you need a team … you can’t do it by yourself. Like climbing a mountain – you need some sherpas”, said Ciaran. Wise words.

Humble words.

We won’t be surprised when he wins his Grammy.

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P.S. Of course I had to take a ‘we-fie’!

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Tune in to the remarkable Ciaran McMeeken

Hands, flowers, inspiration

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. – Thomas Merton

There is nothing more healing for a weary soul than a true dose of inspiration. I don’t mean a feel-good buzz, groundless “be happy” optimism or pretty things. I mean something that connects you to fun, rest and purpose. Something that recharges your flat batteries. Something that reminds you that it is really a gift to be alive.

I woke up on Saturday morning feeling weary. I had arrived in Singapore just the day before, and I was happy that my aunt had signed herself, my cousin and I up for a treat, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect from a floral arrangement workshop. I like working with my hands in certain things – like cooking (and very occasionally, attempting to ‘garden’) – but I wasn’t sure about flowers. I thought it might be too complex / feminine / romantic for me …

We had a delicious breakfast at Kith before going to Marina Square for the workshop. Walking in to XTRA and seeing their new showroom reminded me of how wonderful it is to have our human senses.

To see, touch, listen to, smell, feel stuff – even furniture – provides an experience that digital platforms will never replace.

I was also reminded that though we get many great deals shopping online, we need to support our retailers where possible if we want to keep having wonderful shops to walk into!

The air was gloriously scented with the perfume of fresh flowers. And when I laid eyes on the workshop space and the tall, graceful blooms and leaves, I felt a little leap of excitement.

Ching (from Triceratops) made us feel at home immediately, with her warm, honest introduction to flowers and the art of floral arrangement. She was generous with her knowledge, and patient and gracious in answering our questions.

As promised in the brochure on this workshop: ‘ideal for beginners’, it was delivered at a great pace for this complete novice. In saying that, I am sure even seasoned florists would gain some insight and inspiration from it.

We learned where to buy materials at a good price, how to prepare and preserve flowers, and how to present them in a beautiful way. Details weren’t glossed over – we learned how to tie ‘the perfect bow’, even with a ribbon that was shiny on one side and not the other.

Ching gave us a few great ideas for delivering maximum impact with minimum effort – e.g. displaying a single sprig of mint fern in a vase. How’s that for easy?

Ching’s ‘demo’ arrangement came together rapidly, seamlessly and beautifully … that’s 16+ years of experience and passion for you ;-)

Before long, it was time for us to get our hands dirty (and perfumed).

It was fascinating to see how everyone else worked on their arrangement. Even people who selected a very similar combination of flowers and leaves put things together in such unique ways.

Though part of the work had been done for us (vase + sponge + bottom layers + water – check!) I realised it had looked WAY easier than it was (for me anyway!)

Fortunately, Ching and her team were on hand to give us lots of help and advice :-)

And we got there in the end.

The biggest takeaways for me personally were the fantastic tips – and the wider principles to apply in life and art: practice, patience, and remaining connected in what you do :-)

Thank you Ching, Triceratops, XTRA and my aunt for this wonderful and uplifting experience.