2016 in review

January

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I kicked off January with a glow-stick dance party with my amazing Americans. It was lush to have a holiday over New Year (and I’m doing it again this year! 9 days to go until I see my tribe)

I also rediscovered my love for journalling and writing in January. I had a rough time as we went through Ofsted right after I got back from my holiday and I found that getting it out on to paper was helpful in processing it all.

February

I spent a lot of time ‘nesting’ in February; lots of self-care was needed after Ofsted! One weekend of half term Heather and I went to “Sent” which is a 20s conference held by our group of churches, Relational Mission. We travelled up to Norwich for the weekend and even though I had a cold and felt awful we had a great time. February ended with a weekend of fun with my mum; she came to stay and we went to watch The Railway Children at the Kings Cross Theatre in London as her belated Birthday or Christmas present. I liked February.

March

 

I was crafty in March – I learned to crochet and made my first blanket for my friend Rosie’s little boy who was born at the end of the month. I also made about 50 paper pompoms for a church ladies’ event and after the event was done I did a mad drive down to Devon to be part of Rebecca’s baby shower. Little nephew arrived about 8 weeks later…

April

 

We went on a family holiday (minus Rebecca and Simeon) to Tuscany, Italy. Lots of walking, stunning views, relaxing with a book… bliss.

May

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I fell in love with this beautiful boy…

June

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A pretty good month…although I don’t recall much significant, apart from turning 27 and being surprising gracious about it?! 27 still feels old but I’m getting used to it

July

I took a little trip to see family in Devon, and stayed at my sister’s to maximise cuddles with my love. It was a heatwave in July and I loved it! Also this month I was very brave and started to lead a small bible study group with some friends. We enjoyed the course so much we are starting another in January 2017

August

 

Of course I had an amazing time with My Americans. It was scorching hot in the States too and we spent a lot of time outdoors, floating down the river or enjoying the deck. I went a little wild and got my first (and only) tattoo, something I had always sworn would never happen! But it did, and I genuinely like and love my little ‘heart and crucifix’ reminder of Jesus’ love.

August was also the month that my brother and Alice got married – I flew back from the US on the Friday and the wedding was on Saturday, so I am impressed with how “with it” I appear to be in the photos!

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September

 

I got stuck into family ancestry discovery – something I plan to blog about soon – and loved finding out about all my long-dead ancestors and their lives. I also enjoyed the beautiful Autumn weather near my office, and started reading at bedtime again, to try and combat insomnia. It seems to have been quite effective which I am truly pleased about

October

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October was awful and I am glad it’s behind me now. This picture sums the whole thing up.

November

I was away from home a lot in November – firstly for my nephew’s dedication ceremony in Plymouth, and then the following weekend at my friends’ house in Banbury. We had such an enjoyable girls’ weekend with lots of laughing, catching up on lives, and drinking tea (and Starbucks)

December

This has been December so far… wrapping up hundreds (and I mean that literally) of gifts which my church donated to the women & children living in the local refuge this Christmas. I got to choose and buy all the gifts, and then spent approximately sixteen million hours wrapping everything. I loved it and they were so pleased to receive them!

December has also been parties galore – 3 just for work!! By the time Christmas day actually comes around I’ll have eaten 5 Christmas meals.

At the time of blogging, I have half a week of work days left (but a whole weeks’ worth of work to do, figures!) before going home to Devon for Christmas weekend – then on 27th I’m flying off to Oregon again and spending New Year and the first 9 days of 2017 with my favourites in the world.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017

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Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014

Today is the first day of 2014. A new year; an exciting year. 

2013 hasn’t been the easiest year of my life – my family has dealt with cancer, and other illness, and I’ve faced challenges left,  right and centre in my personal and professional life.

But despite the seemingly negative things that happened last year (which feels strange to write as 2014 is only 22 hours old) there were many more positive and wonderful things that happened which made 2013 a pretty great year overall…

Such as, 

 

 

– I got to visit my amazing friends in America during the Spring,  and spent 2 whole weeks playing games with their children,  reading scripture and having great talks with them

 

 

– I moved into my own house; something which scared me a lot at first that has turned out to be a brilliant decision.  My house is beautiful, and peaceful,  and a real sanctuary after busy times at work. I love entertaining here and having my family stay at Christmas made this Christmas the sweetest we’ve had in many years

 

 

– my sister beat cancer!

 9 weeks after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, during which she had a life-threatening operation and radio-iodine therapy, we were told there’s no cancer left! She is doing so well and I am so thankful to God for sustaining us through this. We had a cancer-free Christmas and Abigail is getting back to her old self.  She even has modelling work lined up for this month! 

 

– I got promoted at work…twice! Back in April I was made Senior Social Worker in our Agency,  and following our Ofsted inspection in October I have been enrolled on a management course so I can begin working as Deputy Fostering Manager!  I am excited and a bit daunted by this new challenge. My course is a Level 5 NVQ in Leadership and Management of Health and Social Care Services (Children and Youth Services) We hope that I’ll have completed the course by the end of this year. 

 

– my sister Rebecca got married to Simeon in June, and he is a delightful brother-in-law 🙂 they have 2 terms left at University and then they’ll be moving down to Plymouth again

 

…and that’s only a few of the brilliant things that have happened this year.

 

Dear 2013…

You have been a good year,  and I thank God for the blessings – the fun, laughter,  happiness and love. I’m also thankful for the challenges; the difficult bits, because in those times I have been able to rely on God to keep hold of me and comfort me. 

 

Thank you,  2013, for being lovely. I pray 2014 is full of wonderful things too

 

-x-

Catching up…

Well hello there. Long time no see. My fault I know, sorry!!

After I had the flu I had a lot of work to catch up with, and it took quite a while. I only had a week between feeling better and going home, which was lovely in many ways because even though I was better I still got tired quite easily so knowing that I had 10 days off was comforting. However, while I was sick I missed several meetings and lots of things happened with ‘my’ kids so it wasn’t the easy-going week that I would have liked.

But I made it! Hooray! We finished work a little early on Friday, to exchange Secret Santa gifts and have drinks/nibbles at the office, and then the girls and I moved on to a local pub. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive about it, because yes we talk while we are at work but the conversation is still kept to a minimum (after all, we are there to work not chat…though we do that a fair amount) I was worried that we would not have much to talk about and would end up just awkwardly discussing work for an hour and then all slope of home. It wasn’t like that at all! In fact, I had to push back my evening plans with Rosie because we were having such a fun time. I’ve suggested we do it every few months because it was so nice to socialise with them, not talking about work.

After saying goodbye & Merry Christmas, I went to Rosie’s and had dinner (she had saved it for me, what a love) and chats until our voices were hoarse and I realised that I hadn’t actually packed everything I needed for my time at home!

I was quite impressed with the drive home…even though it was dismal and rainy, there wasn’t that much traffic and I made it in 5 1/2 hours (I drove slower because of the rain). I was expecting it to look like this:

Congested M25 Motorway at Junction 14, Greater London, England, United Kingdom. Image shot 2009. Exact date unknown.

And so I was home, for 6 days. It’s the shortest “Christmas holiday” that I’ve had, but on the whole it was nice. Christmas Day was really chilled – we slept in til about 9, then opened stocking presents (from “Santa”) and had breakfast – pain au chocolat and brioche, yum. I went to church and my mum put the turkey in, and when I got back I took over the cooking. It’s the second year I’ve done the dinner and it was so much fun. I honestly really enjoyed it. My mum’s best friend and her mum came to join us for lunch and the afternoon. We opened presents from Mum before lunch, and presents from each other after lunch but before dessert. Since lunch was epic, we didn’t actually eat dessert until 5pm! And then we had supper at 7, watched the Christmas soaps, Call the Midwife and Downton (which I just summarised for my friend Maddy and I still cannot believe the ending) and went to bed.

It was probably the most “grown-up” Christmas we have had (we never leave presents that late!!) but it was really nice. I have to say though, it did feel like Christmas ended quickly – like we only had the one day. I can’t really remember what we did on Boxing Day, but I don’t think it was anything extraordinary. It was chilled, and quiet, I guess. There was lots of rain – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-20830618

There are loads of floods in Devon and Cornwall right now, and the rain just keeps coming! I think we had one fully dry day, the rest of the time it was heavy showers, very windy and not really very nice. It’s hard to be joyful when it’s so dismal outside. When I was driving down, I got about 2 miles from our village and the country lanes all had little streams running down them…then I came to a dip in the road and the water was (not a word of a lie) 1.5 ft deep. There was a minibus in front of me and it drove through (stupidly) and the water was above the tyres. Not a chance, buster – I thought it was a stupid risk to take, especially after I had been so cautious on the motorways, so I turned around in the lane and went another way round, only to have two of the other lanes blocked due to flooding. In the end I had to go right back to the main roads and figure it out that way!

Fortunately Canterbury seems slightly drier than Devon – at least for now. I had to come back on the 28th because I took over On-Call on the morning of the 29th. I’ve had a few calls but nothing serious. I’m back to work on Wednesday, but have had a lovely few days so far and have lots of fun planned for New Years’ etc before Wednesday comes and I’m going to make the most of my first Canterbury New Year and hopefully will start 2013 on a high!

-x-

Christmas is coming!

It’s finally December!!

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This is my stall from Thursday’s Ladies’ Shopping Event at my church. I had such fun, even though it was an incredibly busy few hours for me. I only had two hours to dash from work to the event, and get all the decorating done before setting up my stall. It was made more manic by the fact that I had planned a really nice decor scheme, but the two Christmas trees that we normally use weren’t there… so I had to change things on the spot. As it was, I didn’t even get to see the overall effect because it took so long that I only had twenty minutes to set up my own stall before we started.

It was a really fun night and I sold lots of my crafty things. I got loads of compliments and was very pleased with it all.

But, as always happens with me – as soon as it was done and we had finished tidying everything away, I started to feel really ill…I went to bed with three hot water bottles as soon as I got home, and woke up feeling like death! Fortunately I had a late-ish start, as I had a meeting to attend, and my student was driving – but I still have no idea how I made it through the day. I went to bed at 7pm and watched movies in bed, then spent most of Saturday morning in bed too.

I felt better after lots of sleep, so when I got a text from a lady in my small group, inviting me to the local Panto, I said yes!

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(You can’t tell from the picture, but it’s Sleeping Beauty. I have no idea why they don’t put the Princess on the picture!!)

I haven’t been to watch a Panto in goodness knows how many years – I think I was about 12? But, I used to be in Panto when I was a teenager. I was in a theatre company called Touchwood, and we did a Panto in the winter and then a summer show. Watching Sleeping Beauty made me realise how much I miss performing.

It was great fun, there were three families from my church who had booked together (one of the Dad’s got called into work unexpectedly, which is how I was invited) and it was so lovely to sit with the little kids and join in with all the audience participation bits. I loved it – shouting and making faces and singing along! Panto makes you a kid again 🙂

The rest of the weekend, I have taken it fairly easy – I’ve done a big Christmas present order online and have planned all sorts of fun. I’m minor-league grumpy with my brother because he’s decided that he’s not coming home at all for Christmas, which I think is a bit rude and selfish, but there you go.

Something that’s cheered me up, though:

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Oh lovely day

Today has been a good day 🙂

It felt like a good day from the minute I woke up, and it really hasn’t disappointed!

I had a little lie-in, then got up for church and for the first time in about two weeks I didn’t have mad panics trying to work out what to wear [I’m not usually that girl but recently none of my clothes have felt right and it takes a proper old drama and tizzy to find any outfit that I’m happy with] and just wore jeans and a top that I felt comfy in. I even felt like my hair looked good – it’s been difficult these past weeks because I’m trying to grow it longer for this but it’s at that awkward place where it doesn’t want to do anything and I end up shoving it in a ponytail or bun – Not so today, I left it down and felt good about it!

I read my Bible whilst eating my breakfast, and I’m at that bit in Numbers where the donkey talks so that’s always a treat! Makes me giggle to imagine it.

After breakfast it was off to church, where I chatted to some lovely folks whilst drinking tea out of my favourite green mug (I have a little contest with a guy from church to see who gets the green mug each week – this week he had left it for me! How sweet) It really is the best mug.

I was serving in creche for the 9am service, and it was the most chilled out time we’ve ever had – 9 little ones between 3 helpers, and the cutest little kiddos. Admittedly there was a LOT of snotty-nose wiping and at one point, one of the other ladies’ had to physically hold my child’s head so I could wipe the gunk off his face…but other than that, we played and we sang and we cuddled and it was just joyous!

Because of serving in the first service, and because I wasn’t at church last week, I decided to stay for the 11 am service to hear the preach. And yay, for getting to worship at both services. It was a great service, a guy called Geoff preached about how we can evangelise to people by just telling them our own testimonies. Very encouraging and I love his preaching style.

After church I meandered around the supermarket (forgetting one of the only things I actually needed, but coming home with a melon…just because) and went to a discount store to buy fairy lights for Thursday’s shopping evening…and then I came home and watched some of the OC whilst I had lunch.

Anyone else remember how good the first season of the OC was? I simply cannot believe that it was on about a decade ago! It makes me feel so grown-up [old] when I think that I was in my early teens when I watched it. But it was oh-so-good, and just hearing the theme tune makes you want to live in Californiaaaaaaaaa

So yeah, lunch and the OC – falling in love with Seth again, and wishing that silly Anna away because oh-my-gosh-he-is-just-meant-for-Summer-even-though-she-doesn’t-like-him-right-now-she-will-soon. Yay for the teenage romance drama!

And then, in the middle of the Ryan-Marissa angst, I had a sudden burst of Need-to-craft-itis and then proceeded to absolutely cover my living room with floor, pins, tape measures, ribbons, cardboard templates and all other kinds of haberdashery paraphenalia [with my Christmas songs in the background, of course] for about 5 hours and I made some very lovely stockings and tree decorations.

In the midst of my sewing I realised it was dinner-time so I put food in the oven…but then got so absorbed in the sewing that I completely forgot about my dinner and it was only when I looked up and the flat was basically a cloud that I realised it had been in there about an hour too long.

Whoops. Mishap of the day. It was all fine though, I opened all the windows and threw away the burned food and started over – making sure I kept an eye on it. Dinner Mark 2 was actually quite tasty!

Once I was done with the sewing and the flat looked as if a bomb made of fabric & ribbon had exploded…I had a tidy up! And watched some TV (Strictly results…I’m sad Victoria went, but she just isn’t as good as the rest of the celebs and it was her turn. I hope Louis goes next week)

And then, need-to-craft-itis hit me again. So I’ve spent the last two hours in my kitchen messing around with melted chocolate. Not gonna tell you what for (in case it doesn’t work out) but right now it all looks so good. And all this to a lovely soundtrack from Colbie Callait, Lady Antebellum, Agnes Obel and Madeline Peroux – courtesy of Spotify.

I’m just hoping all my crafty stuff sells on Thursday because otherwise I will have a bunch of stuff that I have no idea what to do with! But…that’s a worry for another day!

-x-

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

With one month to go…I am SO ready for Christmas! I’ve spent the afternoon listening to Christmas music, wearing Christmas socks – and decorating my flat!!

(yes, I know the pictures are awful and blurry…I’ve got the shakes at the moment for some reason)

Hooray for Christmas movies!!  The book is my favourite Christmas book of all time, it’s so lovely. It’s about a family who have loads of guests (expected and unexpected) on Christmas eve, so they have to have people sleeping in the bath and on mantlepieces … they put the baby in the sink and the five skinny aunts in china dresser. We read it every Christmas, and it always reminds me of when my Mum first read it to be when I was only 9.

I feel like I’ve been getting ready for Christmas since October, because my church is holding a Ladies’ Shopping Event this Thursday (the 5th Annual!) and I have a stall selling little stocking fillers & other crafty gifts. I’ve made cards, cinnamon ornaments, bath bombs, tea-cup candles and glass votives…it all looks very pretty – but I won’t post a picture until after the event.

I’m really looking forward to it – I’ve done stalls twice previously,  and I don’t know whether I prefer being a seller or just a buyer. It’s a lovely atmosphere and it really gets me in the mood for all things Christmas.

Just look at some of the things from my pinterest Christmas board:

Trying to organise family Christmas on the other hand, well – that’s been a little tricky.

I’ve probably said before, but I’m one of 4 children [plus two younger siblings from my dad’s second marriage] Add to that, two of my siblings have partners so we also have to factor in their plans with in-laws etc, and the added fun-fact that my Dad is currently working in Afghanistan so only gets a certain amount of leave and isn’t coming home until 28th December … that makes a LOT of different schedules and priorities to figure out so that we can all spend time together.

Since Christmas 2010, there has only been one weekend where we were all together; Abigail’s 18th Birthday weekend in June this year. I see my sisters more often, but my brother comes home less regularly and he and his girlfriend spent last Christmas in Canterbury, just the two of them.

I think I’ve given up on trying to ensure we are all together – because everyone seems to do what they want anyway! I don’t mean that in a grumpy way [well, maybe a bit] … I just mean that, my brother and sister are both in serious relationships, and my younger sister’s job has fairly anti-social days/hours (she works in the pub across the road and they have a fully-booked restaurant for Christmas day).

I sometimes think I need to loosen my grip on my Ideal Christmas…but at the same time I think, why should I?

It’s a hard compromise, because I really value the time when we are all together and love all our weird little Christmas quirks and traditions – even when all of us together means that you can’t move without tripping over someone, and having to wait over an hour for your turn to shower!

I think I’m a little autistic in the way that I would love to keep our little routines at every Christmas – but at the same time I have to accept that my siblings are in different phases of life, and value different things to me.

I guess I’m just going to try not to stress about it – the more I try to organise things and get a plan together, the less organised and less planned everyone else seems to be… I think they do it on purpose! So it doesn’t help me anyway – I just get very anxious and worried that it will all fall apart because no-one else seems to think that planning is necessary.

Sometimes I wonder how my very “anti-planning”, hippie-fied, “what will be, will be” mother ended up with a stressy type-A daughter like me…

But, for now, I have my Christmas tree, I have my pile of presents and my list of things to buy, and I have a great idea for how to decorate my presents (thank you Pinterest!) and that is enough for me!

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Ideas

I am having a merry old Christmas time right now. Yes, I know that it’s only September 7th, and I know that I blogged about not wanting to wish away my time – but having said all those things…I’m still planning ahead.

Why?

Well. My church has a now-annual Ladies’ Shopping Event at the end of November, where lots of people have stalls selling home-made crafty things – mostly with a Christmas theme. There is live music, free mulled wine and mince pies and a great atmosphere with all the lovely ladies from the church. I love it.

Last year it snuck up on me, so I didn’t have a stall. Rosie and I waitressed and gave out mince pies instead! But this year, I thought I’d make use of all my Pinterest fun and get started early so that I have plenty of good things to sell.

So far my ideas include:

Mix and match crayons – I think these are so cute and I could do blends of the same colour, but different shades (e.g. apple green/sage green/olive green) and package them in rainbow sets

Scent bags – dried Christmassy scents; cinammon, orange, clove and spices…to make the house smell yummy

I think these cards are just SO cute, I love the simplicity. I’d  need masses of buttons, but I found a supplier on eBay!

I made stockings two Christmasses ago, and attached them to ribbon so that they could be strung across the mantelpiece. It was very cute, but they weren’t very substantial and also weren’t able to be used – purely decorative – so I think I’d do proper ones to be used, and line them. I also have some fleece that could go along the top if the fabrics are plain.

Hand warmers!! I was thinking about making some little microwavable heatpacks, but these could be really sweet stocking gifts!

This is my favourite idea, probably – making centrepieces from saltdough; cutting out stars to make a tower! I had the idea in my head and then had to search Pinterest for ages to find a photo as nothing I sketched made sense! I also might make tealight candle holders using just a few layers of stars? I’ve read that glue mixed with epsom salts looks like glitter but classier so I might try that for decoration.

I also have already made some really adorable book bags/gift bags from a lovely bunting patterned fabric.

Now, blogosphere, can I just say that I’m sharing these ideas from my Pinterest board (http://pinterest.com/readiesb/christmas-comes-after-the-olympics/) so none of them can technically be called original – and I’m not really claiming them as my own. But, I will be putting my own slant on them, and I can’t wait to show you at Christmas!

-x-

p.s.  I’m listening to Friday Night is Music Night, on Radio 2 (yes I am so cool) and they are playing White Christmas, and just said it’s only 108 shopping days until Christmas. Morrisons already has Advent Calendars. So I’m not really that far ahead of the game, right?