Category Archives: Heart

Look back to look forward ..


Click to see our joyous 2015

OK. So. I know it’s not the 1st of January but, as the final slice of Christmas cake is eaten here, I feel the new year has at last arrived at our house. Yay! Is it here for you yet? Or are you still awaiting little peops back to school or that first, dragging return to work before you can crack on with your next creation in time?

How glorious to take this lovely, blank, sweet 16 slate and plan yourself a fabulous year? Being sure to carefully avoid the dreaded resolution tag in favour “goal setting”,  2016 can surely be whatever you want it to be .. gotta have a plan, right?

I just love a plan. Always have. Write it down. Stick it on the fridge. It happens in our house.

But before any writing and sticking can be done I needed to spend a little time reviewing where I am at after our changeling 2015 ..

As well as having loads of fun learning to Flipagram, as per above, I found and followed the steps in the fabulous little article I have pasted below on self-evaluation.

Though it is business based I can totally see these simple, quick and powerful insights adapting to everything from home renovation to martial bliss.

And I am now on the hunt for a great big jar .. read on to find out why! 😉


Setting goals is a great way to progress in the upcoming year, however, it is not the first step. The first step in setting goals is evaluating previous efforts.

Evaluations are used to analyze the value or merit of something. Evaluation helps you understand where you have been, and why you are setting these goals for the next year.

Here are some questions to help you evaluate this last year to move on to a more successful 2016:

  • What did I do well this year?
  • What did I not do well this year?
  • What was my greatest accomplishment?
  • What was my greatest disappointment?
  • What new skills have I learned and how have they helped me?
  • Did I achieve my goals for 2015? Why or why not?

Now that you are ready to set some goals for 2016, here are some tips to make sure you are successful:

  • Keep it simple. The more complicated the goal is, the less likely you are to achieve it.
  • Remember your achievements. Have a jar and a stack of papers somewhere you will see them every day, write your accomplishments down, and put them in the jar. Open them when you are feeling discouraged.
  • Measurement is important. Make sure you have a way to measure your progress.
  • Stay positive and be kind to yourself.

An expat advent calendar ..


So, so very excited for our first Christmas on the sunny shores of Aus in over a decade!

Family arriving tomorrow and then a bubbly New Year’s on the north coast will round out hugging all our nearest and dearest in the best possible way. Seems a dream. Fingers crossed our crazy, squeeze it in renovation, will finish tomorrow and the gorgeous tree I personally felled, in 32 degree C heat, can at last be trimmed.

Don’t you love pulling out your decoration boxes?

Little trinkets you can’t wait to see up and out for their annual show sit patiently waiting in tissue paper beds. This year I have both Aus & Saudi collections to merge on the branches. Little life memory boxes so good, in fact, it’s made my house strangely melancholic tonight. Who knew I would pine, more than a little, for the funny rituals that are “making” Christmas in the heart of Arabia?

Rituals built over 12 years of expat living deep in the desert. Rituals that had become oddly comfortable in their awkwardness. The things I “do” are left long behind now. I find myself mourning their loss, even as I order my free-range-organic-boned-and-stuffed turkey. 😉

Maybe it’s missing friends, maybe it’s counting my blessings for the year just gone, or maybe I will just forever have a piece of my heart in Tabuk Garden Village.

Whatever the reason, as I sit here with the present list ticked and surely a truck load of food bought from the brand new supermarket just minutes down the street .. I am missing .. with an ache in my throat .. the usual struggle of cobbling together our Christmas cheer.

Planned and executed over several months, sourcing goodness from a minimum of three countries on multiple overseas trips (not necessarily all our own), cooking for days to create the things that cannot be bought .. Christmas becomes a big deal when you live on an island in a sea of sand far from convenience shopping.

In order to turn this page, chuckle, sniffle and move on I have created my very own advent calendar of the tricky, yet rewardingly epic adventure, of absolutely nailing Christmas in “definitely-not-Dubai-Tabuk” ..

  1. Plan to commence Oct for best results. Accept you will start closer to mid Nov and don’t panic .. yet ..
  2. Online shop from the US and ship via everyone’s best friend, MyUS. Do not plan to buy local .. the Tag Heuer shop has long since closed on the pedestrian mall and Gav already nailed that gift back in 2005.
  3. Begin pestering compound Astra supermarket for turkeys.
  4. Accept compound Astra will not know if turkeys are possible this year but will try. Accept any immediate mitigation of failure with aplomb and understanding and disregard the thing about big chickens being haram (forbidden in Arabic) and maybe banned this year. Relax. Turkeys arrived 11 out of 12 times for me. What could possibly go wrong?
  5. Admire the compound super-sized Christmas decoration and light show. Be sure not to miss the annual 4 foot illuminated candy cane mounted like a hockey stick & the more often than not upside down baby Jesus in the manger (this one does not last, so be quick).
  6. From late Nov start to embed the words of Tabuk Primary School’s latest production into your very being. You can fight this process or embrace it. Whatever. You will end up loving every tune. As school secretary this is your duty, right and honour.
  7. December 1st transform the TPS reception area into Shelley’s Grotto. Enjoy a thrilling release for all the glitz, glam and colourful tack buried in your soul. Make sure to play carols as the teacher’s come to lunch for fear the teachers miss the transformation and forget to compliment its beauty.
  8. December 2nd decorate your home in a refined and restrained, yet equally glam manner. Enjoy the re-gifted, home-made and restored decorations you treat with loving care .. no replacing these babies at the local store. And who would want to?
  9. The Christmas Fare! Lovingly slaved over by a small team of wives for weeks in advance, we, the people of TGV, officially adore this day. Kicked off with a Santa parade and rounded out with your best friends’ band rocking the night. Silly hats, raffles, warm drinks and cakes. Perfect!
  10. Good time to panic now for those last minute deliveries.
  11. Watch, document with copious pics and cry over the annual TPS nativity. Sing along (silently). Note how cute kiddies look dressed as a menagerie of wee comic animals.
  12. Enjoy the TPS staff Christmas party and hope no one packs the turkey hat ..
  13. Yay! It’s time for the pre-Christmas nip to Jordan! Amman Cozmo OMG-it’s-SUPERmarket, Christmas cheer aflowing, shopping and sushi. A family tradition.
    Breathe deep as you enjoy the glorious cultural leap from Waitrose food shopping inside the mall to goats on the road and a Friday mosque traffic jam outside.The beautiful, accepting, blessed balance of Jordan warms my soul just to think of it.
  14. Create scores of hand-made Christmas cards and deliver them to Hussain at the post office for EVERYONE. Don’t worry if you don’t know their villa number, he does!
  15. Visit Hussain in the post office regularly to collect your own scores of Christmas cards.
  16. Create wall art with all these fabulous Christmas cards .. hearts and stars for Christmas cards, people! Where did that tradition go in our absence?
  17. Speaking of cards, now is a good time to alleviate the panic and make some of yours into IOU’s .. even MyUS cannot save you now.
  18. Getting close to the big gig here so dig out your Nigella “how to brine a turkey” info and prepare to brine like your life depends on it.
  19. Defrost your turkey and spare a wee prayer (but do not disappear down a chute of worry) that your turkey has remained frozen until this moment. Inshaala (God willing) it was not part of the huge pile of frozen poultry on the back of a ute left sitting in the sun you spotted a few months ago.
  20. Christmas Eve. Carols, warm spiced drinks and mince pies. Teeny tiny star ones, gone in a mouthful .. mmmm. Love Actually and the occasional brief visit from strolling pram pushers & bubs in Santa suits. Necessary sharing of warm spiced drinks .. obviously.
  21. Christmas Day. Wake early. Gav off to work. Wrap tinsel around a small, though not-so willing, fluffy pusscat for annual pic.
  22. Make calls to home in Aus. Enjoy their excitement from afar. Possibly feeling a little homesick around this time so make sure to dash out for early warm spiced drinks, a cuddle and a chuckle with the girls.
  23. Oven time for that lovingly brined turkey and a table to lay. Might be just us. Might be with friends. Might be with any number of “bachelors” in need of companionship this year. Nobody eats alone on TGV at Christmas. A table shared is a table blessed.
  24. Gav is home .. it’s Christmas!
  25. Eat, drink, thank, be merry.

Smiling now as I reread my list. No sadness. No regret. Just joyously happy to 100% know without doubt ..  Christmas .. like life .. is what you make it. So why not make it great?!

Wishing you all a gloriously happy, peaceful and loving Christmas. May 2016 be filled with only good things as we skip along this adventure we call life.

Love and sunshine, Shelley xx


Filling some blanks ..

46 south Duba, Saudi Arabia

My name is Shelley Phillips and I happily call myself a professional homemaker, cosmic adventurer and smoothie-chugging health nut.

More about the crazy mix of me as time goes on, but for starter’s I wanted to introduce myself a little .. it seems polite. 🙂

As a nomadic Australian, I have lived in Aus for just 3 of the last 23 years. More than a decade exploring the world from Tabuk, northwestern Saudi Arabia, and before that nearly another in the West Country of England as a Fly Navy wife.

As I hopped round the globe with my darling husband Gav, I merrily played at everything from Qantas “hostie” to tea lady; from big budget footwear buyer to Dorset hotel chef in training. Saving the best for last, school secretary at Tabuk Primary School filled my heart with joy. Only recently have I stopped grieving my retirement from Tabuk’s beating heart.

Living in Saudi, we had the thrill & blessing to see a country hidden from most while ticking off a diverse wish list of destinations to melt for. Whether camping in a snowstorm high in the Cordillera Blanca, vomiting for 3 days on a yacht bound for Antarctica, or glitzing it up with the stars in Maldivian heaven, I discovered the chameleon in me is equally at home “5 starring” as unwashed under the stars.


In adventure gaps, our husband and wife team founded . Hatched on a desert road trip to Amman Jordan with a well-earned Corona in hand, we created a not-for-profit fundraising initiative for the heartbreakingly wonderful charity, Facing Africa NOMA. Multi-day endurance racing through the Sahara (eek! twice!) and across the Alps definitely achieved the aim to “hurt” so others would “help”. Surely we have more in the tank there someday before too long?

But for all the rockstar travel and toenail-shedding challenges, it was the long weeks spent in dusty-dirty-definitely-NOT-Dubai Tabuk that I am so, so grateful for.

I am grateful for every failed good food hunt of town. I am grateful for each bulk buy of randomly available Aus lamb. I am grateful for the rare thrill of asparagus, even better looking fresh! I am grateful for every purchase of the world’s most expensive raspberries. I am grateful for every green mouthful my tiny veggie patch gave up. I am grateful for each over-stuffed suitcase of pantry ingredients I ever struggled home. I am grateful for zero places to confidently  dine out within hundreds of kilometres.

I am grateful for all this because it left me a food worshipping fool .. AND far, far less of a knob than I could have been having repeated “holidays of a lifetime” and everything I wanted at home too! And I really don’t want to be a knob, ya know? 🙂

Blenheim Beach, Jervis Bay Australia

So now?

Now, having returned to Australia this year, our roots are being blissfully driven deep into the white sand beaches of the south coast in Jervis Bay.

Now, I work to create this small space in a life split between beachside Aus and country France. I work to fill it with all that I find beautiful, useful, tasty or energetically fabulous.

Living well. Eating clean. Reducing toxins. Cooking from scratch. Being organised. Creating. Running. Swimming. Yoga. Tai chi. Loving. Laughing. Learning. Energy medicine. Essential oils. EFT. Emotional healing. Did I say learning?

And always, always enjoying this journey through our gloriously good life.

I thank you for your visit. I look forward to sharing and sharing and sharing.

For my pleasure, and perhaps yours ..

Much love, Shelley 🙂

Fear and procrastibaking

I began this blog 12 years ago. I began it in my head.

It never made it to paper/screen/the ether. It never made it because I always had something to do first.

I had to finish that book that would tell me how.

I had to start that course that would make me literary perfection.

I had to make sure all my ducks were tidied and, most importantly, I had to ensure I had just finished a huge batch of hot and tasty procrastibaking. Said baking then delivered to a friend for essential cuppa and ensuing taste test. Naturally!

Can you ever have too much procrastibaking, I ask?

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