It’s been a cold, cold winter

This is my last happy post of February. Whilst I can’t say January was unhappy (work was certainly less hectic than last year), February has been a lovely month.

My little girl turned 21 and she wanted a day in Brighton. Well in contrast to our beautiful day there in September, it was freezing. Even in my duffle coat, I was shivering but that never puts us off our family days in Brighton; I forced the kids to eat fish and chips on the pier in Brighton in the pouring rain for my birthday one year. We really do have some great memories of the place.

As Kathryn had taken so long opening her presents,( she only had time to eat a very nice panna cotta made by Aaron, her boyfriend), first stop for us all was lunch. We headed to the Lanes (I love this place) and enjoyed tapas in a lovely Spanish restaurant. Certainly warmed us up.

Apart from eating, what can you do in Brighton in the cold. Well you look in all the shops. I found the perfect sauté pan, found my perfect bag (I will share later!), bought my smiley faces biscuit cutters (make me very happy) and bought my frame for challenge number 14 – frame a photograph you have always wanted to. Very successful shopping trip for me.

My kids might be classed as grown ups but I did have trouble dragging them away from the Lego store. In the end, talk of food coaxed them away. Kathryn introduced us to Choccywoccydoodah, a shop that sells hand-made chocolate and cakes. They are located in The Lanes. We made our way up to their Bar Du Chocolat, which is their cafe selling drinks and delicious cakes. We decided to try one of their hot chocolates which was delicious.

Kathryn and Aaron were staying in Brighton for the night so Jordan and I made our way home, and after enjoying a lovely day, we were looking forward to our warm home.

After a happy February, I am looking forward to getting back to business and completing my challenges!

Walk like a man (fly like a bird)

Today is my little boy’s birthday. Well, not so little; Jordan is 24 today. Probably not as excited about his birthday as he used to be but he is still home to celebrate with us.

I did get to spend a lovely Saturday with him last week. For Christmas, he had bought me tickets to see the Jersey Boys so we were off to see that. It had been Jordan’s first week back in London in a new job so he met me at Victoria. He was keen to show me his skills with getting around the city.

The day, February 18th, was glorious which was a big contrast to our previous day out on the 9th February which I will share with you later.

After a lovely lunch in a restaurant we found by exploring down a lane, we walked down Regent Street towards Oxford Street admiring all the big shops. On our way back towards the theatre, Jordan did have to consult google maps so he is not so hot on getting about when cutting through the little lanes. We did pass Carnaby Street which I must go back to.

Jersey Boys first opened in London in 2008 in Prince Edward theatre and moved to Piccadilly Theatre in 2014. The final performance is on 28th March. The 2nd national tour has started so the show is hopefully continuing in our local theatres.

Jordan had bought very good tickets in the stalls although they were right in the middle so we had to climb over everyone who had not had a problem finding their way to the theatre! It did mean that we decided to give interval ice-cream a miss.

Jersey Boys is the story of how the Four Seasons were formed and takes you from their downtown beginnings in New Jersey to finding success with their wonderful voices. We learn that The Four Seasons wasn’t their first name, the line up changed many times and whilst finding fame, the competition was tough.

The show was amazing and the cast was fantastic. I did enjoy learning the story about The Four Seasons and recognised all the songs. Whilst I would have heard the songs through my mum’s old record collection (I am sure she had many), my greatest memory of Frankie Valli was singing the title song of Grease and Beauty School Drop Out. Grease is actually one of my favourite top 10 films so very memorable. With so many shows I would like to see, I am going to be a bit picky about shows I see for the 2nd time. Jersey Boys is one I would go to see again because it was an interesting story with great songs.

Whilst we have a great time, Jordan did miss out on flying. He is learning to fly at moment and it is a hobby which is weather dependent. Unfortunately yesterday was too windy for flying so fingers crossed next week he will be able to fly and perhaps go solo (trying not to think about that).

Thank you so much, Jordan, for my Christmas present and have a great birthday.

Can’t Buy Me Happiness

Monday 13th February was a happy day for me and one that made me appreciate all I have with no money spent.

After a very cold weekend, Monday was glorious. I walk 2 miles to work and sometimes I am faster than the traffic. It was surprisingly quiet on the walk in.

Work is something we have to do to earn the money to live. I would actually prefer to be home doing all the things I love to do but needs must, and I don’t actually mind it really. A few more holidays might be good though. The walk home was pretty amazing though. It was such a contrast to Friday which was freezing. It made me look forward to the summer.

I have to point out that I’m not one of those people who hate winter. I get a bit grumpy if I have to take the car to work because it’s raining but let’s face it, that can happen in June too. A dark, winter’s evening when all of the family are in is okay in my books. The sunshine on Monday did make me happy though and it did make the afternoon a bit longer enabling me to go out on a run. Exercise does release those endorphins that make you feel so good. Walking back to the house, I felt as if I was in a warm country when dusk falls. There were lots of people walking dogs. Winter was forgotten for a while.

The evening was spent with one of my favourite activities, baking. I had bought some happy faces biscuit cutters and decided to try jammy dodgers. Biscuits isn’t something I specialise in but I was keen to give them a try. As mad as it sounds, I got quite excited when pressing the shapes out. I was even more excited when I had put the layers together with butter cream and jam.


I went to bed feeling very happy and to make it even better, the bed had freshly laundered bedding on. Bliss.

I will share some of my happy days in February in the next week with contrasts in the weather.

Declutterbug!

A new Saturday routine for me has emerged and one that I am hoping I can keep up with. I spend two hours clearing an area in the house.

As previously mentioned in my lessons in life post, I read 50 New Year Resolutions book for my January read and decided to clear the clutter.

Cleaning is not a favourite job of mine and also I am very much a hoarder. I find throwing away things very painful but I am determined to keep to the plan. Six weeks on and I have made good progress.

Week 1

This was the best achieved decluttering I have done to date and the one that has helped my daily routines so much – my dressing table and drawers. My table holds my skincare, make up, jewellery, savings jar, make up mirror etc. It was a complete mess. I had a beautiful tray for my birthday which I had wanted to put my skincare in but I had so much. I managed to sort out everything essential and items I did not use daily were stored in another place. My drawers were sorted and underwear and old t-shirts were thrown out. I now have three drawers which make finding things easier. My morning and evening routines are now a pleasure; if I am late for work, it is due to me dithering rather than I can’t find my socks!

Skincare tray with framed photo of my dad now being displayed

Week 2

The bathroom cupboard. Not so easy because it didn’t just involve my stuff. There was lots of bags of rubbish from this job. Why do they make expiry dates on medical products so hard to read. Chris did help with this particular task by laying some vinyl on the floor of the cupboard. Whilst I would say the cupboard is still work in progress, I have managed to make it a lot more efficient and it is a cupboard that I am quite happy to open now. Again it makes life a lot easier.

Week 3

Two bottom cupboards in kitchen. First under attack was the cupboard that everything fell out of. I think the majority of us have these. I keep the plastic containers in here plus my food processor bits; it was a bit of a nightmare when trying to find things. Before completing I sorted the one we use for cereals. It was dreadful the amount of stale cereal we had. Clearing that cupboard gave me space for excess items from the first cupboard. These cupboards are still very much work in progress but again so much easier. Storing things are easier now I can actually find things.

Week 4

Decided that the last week of month would be dedicated to clearing the many bags of paperwork out. This is a job that needs doing but one I avoid. I have to confess I didn’t do very well with this job. I didn’t have any enthusiasm at all and it was all a bit of paper shuffling. I did end up with three bags of shredding so it was a start. I am going to continue making this my final Saturday of the month job and hopefully will make more progress.

Week 5

My wardrobe. I was dreading this and having failed with the the paperwork, I didn’t hold much hope for this. After delaying the start, I did achieve a lot. I found clothes I thought I had lost, discovered shoes I could actually wear and threw some things away. Lovely wardrobe now which had a bit of space for me to put new clothing in (honestly I needed them to go with the clothes I found!).

Week 6

Hall/meter cupboard – the one you have to apologise to the people reading your meters for. This was more a tidy and reorganise than a major task as Chris had done a good job of decluttering. It was still a very satisfying job.

I don’t think I will ever enjoy cleaning but I do think that the decluttering has been very good for me. I am slowly learning to throw things away and it certainly made my life easier. Here are some tips to keep up with resolutions:

  1. Set aside a time to do the task and have a plan if you need to reschedule.
  2.  Set a realistic amount of time to do it. For me, two hours a week is perfect. It is enough to do a job and short enough for me to feel it is not a chore.
  3. Be firm about what you want to achieve. On week 3, Chris suggested some other cupboards that needed a sort out. I very politely explained that this week was for two cupboards only.
  4. Remember that everything is work in progress. I plan to go back to all the areas to decluttering again and possible improve. My hope that it will be an easier job.
  5. Don’t be put off if you don’t achieve something one week. It can be hard to accept but you certainly haven’t failed by not achieving one week.
  6. Make sure you resolution is achievable and one that you will benefit from yourself. Don’t make the resolution to please others.

I would recommend the 50 New Year Resolution book. It isn’t just about the boring resolutions; there are so many different ideas including reading books of a different genre. Hopefully share more progress later.

She’s just a girl, she’s on fire

Happy 21st birthday to you, Kathryn, my beautiful daughter.

First of all, I must apologise for the title of this blog post; I know that this song isn’t a particular favourite but reading the meaning of the words sums up you. It is about new beginnings and to be on fire is about finding your inner strength and to take control of who you are. This is the bit I like the most:

To live your passion and shine your light unabashedly!!

As you start each stage of your life; different schools, college, university, career etc, you adapt to these circumstances but you have remained the same passionate girl who tries hard to achieve the best she can be. Coming last will not be an option for you.

As you reach 21, I can look back and remember my baby Kathryn and remember all the lovely memories. Even as a baby, you were keen to be first with a very loud scream. I think you just loved to be cuddled.

You were two when we first went to the pantomime after a visit to Santa on the Watercress Line. You were dressed in a deep red coat with a beret and an older gentleman remarked how pretty you looked. You did look amazing. That day started your love of theatre, nice clothes although wearing a coat doesn’t seem to come into the equation and being able to be bought drinks from pensioners!

A little after that, we took you on a plane for the first time. On landing, you covered your head with your favourite blanky! Blankies were your comforter and went everywhere with you.

When you started school, it was strange how you could spell so well. The other children would try to challenge you with finding a word that you might not be able to spell but I don’t think they succeeded. On to junior school, and the headmistress often said you were “quietly confident”. That perfectly summed you up and you did manage to surprise everyone by coming second in your first cross country. That wasn’t good enough for you though and first place was yours the following year.

School and college became harder but you did rise to the challenge and succeeded in gaining your place at University. The last few years have flown by and you will soon be entering the workplace. You will take that in your stride too.

The competitive Kathryn is amusing to watch especially the victims. Why is it the male species even think they should voice their opinions that they are the better in certain sports so you will never beat them. They are often taken down a peg or two by you!

You have always made lots of friends and as you are kind, generous and loyal, you have kept them. Can prove a bit of a problem when you return home and try to fit in seeing everyone. As well as dedication to your friends, I must not forget your love for McFly.

Whilst parents would love to take most of the credit for how their children “turn out”, we do have to accept that our children make their own choices and that whilst we can guide them, we have to allow them be the wonderful people they are. Can I ask for credit for two things; your love of reading which can also be shared with the lovely lady from the library who read to you in story time. I do miss our bedtime reads. The other is you being able to make the best Victoria sponges for your friends’ birthdays. Baking with you, Jordan and even your friends was a lovely experience.

Kathryn baking

Watching you grow up has been wonderful; you are an inspiration to me even with the challenges!

 

Have a wonderful 21st birthday in one of our favourite places.

This Girl Can, Can

This is the t-shirt I wore to do my 10 mile Great South Run challenge. I had planned on buying a new t-shirt but as this was my favourite exercise t-shirt, I decided not to change it.

I actually bought two of the t-shirts from Marks and Spencer’s when they were reduced in price (and even then they were not cheap!). They were part of a campaign to get more women active. I didn’t know much about it but liked the words and thought it suited me. I was somewhat surprised, shocked,dismayed and all sorts of other things to read a recent article on the BBC news site that the campaign returns. Okay, nothing shocking with that I know but what I hadn’t realised is the previous campaign was aimed at females between 14-40 to start, or restart a sporting activity. Now the campaign was widening the age to include women in their 50 and 60s. It came as quite a shock to realise that I was in that age bracket!

At the age of 50, I am quite active. I am lucky to be able to walk to work, weather dependant, as it is only 2 miles away. I will often exercise to a DVD, go to Zumba and try to run 5k once a week (okay not so good in January). I have also been a bit obsessed with my Fitbit challenges and aim to win them. Having a bit of a rest this week as exhausted!

This girl can campaign has three targets for this year:

1 Tackling fear of judgement

I can relate to this but there are ways to overcome it. My Zumba class instructor, Lana, was a dancer and is very fit. I went along with my friend, Karen to her dance class in the beginning and it has always attracted a very mixed age group. Karen and I had tried lots of exercise classes but this is the longest we have stuck to it. Dancing doesn’t come naturally to me but the classes were fun and we both have made some great friends. When Lana became pregnant, she gave up the dance class but carried on with the very popular Zumba classes so we joined that. Again not natural at moving my bottom and stuff but it is fun. Even after 5 years, I will still opt to hide and dread it if Lana comes over to advise on a movement even though she will be helping. I think it is a fear of being looked at but really I should reap the benefits of knowledge and not be so self-conscious.

https://www.facebook.com/Yourtimetodance/videos/1211531648896476/

 

I have heard people say that they can’t go to a class because they will be bigger than everyone else, that everyone will be slinky in Lycra and, if they go, they can’t get the moves. There are all sizes in our class and it doesn’t matter if you are big or slender, you can still move and have fun. We wear legging from Asda and any sort of t-shirt. Slogans are my favourite. As for the dance moves, if I can get there (it has taken me a long time) anyone can. If you are a newbie, you have to give yourself a chance.

I have a challenge to take up swimming on some level. Now I learnt how to swim at around 9 with Karen. She won’t mind me sharing this information with you but we both swim like meerkats. We don’t like being out of our depth and certainly don’t like being splashed. I have been trying to pluck up the courage to go to our local swimming pool. After doing some research, I have found a local private pool where I can go to using the pool on my own or with friends. Even the reviews are by people with the same fears as me so it has to be tried. It will be more expensive than the local swimming pool but I am willing to pay. I think this will be a This Girl Can moment!

2 Keeping participants from giving up sport.

This is a tough one. Since January I have been doing Hip Hop Abs DVD six days a week. The last couple of days I haven’t had the energy and I think that I have put myself through too much. I also stopped enjoying it. What you have to do is find something you enjoy doing, make time for it (don’t feel guilty for doing it – the right exercise and programme does really make you happy and fitter) and, if you feel happier doing it with someone else, find the right person so you can both encourage each other.

It is difficult to find the enthusiasm to keep going sometimes especially if you are tired and it is dark and cold. Karen and I would go to Zumba twice a week. We used to text each other in the morning and ask if the other was okay for Zumba. They don’t sound negative words but what they really mean is if you are don’t want to, I will breathe a sigh of relief and eat chocolate whilst sat in my pyjamas watching the soaps.  Last year, I became more positive with my texts. They would read “I will see you tonight for Zumba”. If Karen said she wasn’t able to go, I could have the chocolate without the guilt! We are actually both comfortable to go to the class on our own really. As Karen has a course to do on one of our normal days, we tend to only go one of the nights. Due to me feeling exhausted from walking and the DVDs, I have gone back to my first line of questions but I am pleased to say I have been once a week since the beginning of January. See, we girls can!

3 Widening the age demographic to include women in their 50s and 60s

I have just cringed again; this is me. I have the t-shirt, I wear it often and I can do it so anyone can do it. I know lots of lovely ladies in this age group who do it. They come to Zumba and are so fit. I regularly see ladies walking or running in this age group. I do think there are a lot of my age group who are taking part in regular exercise although I think that if a few more are encouraged by this campaign then it will be a huge benefit. The site has some great ideas on so go on there and find something. Karen wants us to give archery a go!

Remember, All girls can!

Another song in another show

One of my favourite pastimes is going to see a show. I certainly went a lot in 2016; 2017 looks as if there might even be more.

I bought tickets as a Christmas present for Chris to see Evita at The Mayflower. It wasn’t on my list of shows I wanted to see but I was sure that he had expressed an interest. My memories of Evita was from watching the film with Madonna and Antonio Banderos. Despite liking both of them, I just didn’t get it. With my new open mind about how things, I was looking forward to seeing the show.

The show is telling the story of Eva Peron, wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron. Eva was played by Emma Hatton who had previously played Elphaba in Wicked, one of my favourite musicals. Gian Marc Schiaretti played Che, who is narrating the story.

Right from the beginning, all the songs started becoming familiar. When Che sang Oh What a Circus, I could hear David Essex singing it. The story is all told in song (not everybody’s cup of tea but I love it). It takes a lot of concentrating but I was mesmerised by it and just when I didn’t think anything could take away the beautiful voice of Emma’s, Another Suitcase in Another Hall is a song sang by Peron’s mistress who has been told to leave by Eva. When performed, if I had seen the show with Kathryn, we would have had one of our moments where we would have looked at each other with crumpled faces, not believing anyone could be so talented. It was so beautiful.

The second half starts with Eva singing the main song, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. It was so powerful as you would have expected from Emma; as Elphaba she would have performed Defying Gravity many times. The second half was just as good as the first and I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I think Chris did too!

My theatre season continues in February with a visit to London. Jordan has bought me tickets to see The Jersey Boys.

Happy singing!

Paperback Writers

One of my challenges is to read Kathryn’s 10 favourite paperbacks in that formula. As my kindle is one of my favourite things, I do find it very hard to read a “proper ” book now. Jordan also decided that he would give me a challenge and bought me two paperbacks for Christmas; the two books written by Harper Lee.  I have read To Kill A Mockingbird on the kindle but it was the free download. I had read a review that something was missing from it so I am going to read it again. Also plan to watch the film as part of my classics too.

I was somewhat bemused at the weekend to discover that despite putting my best efforts in this month to read the paperbacks, I had only read four books from Kathryn’s favourites.

In January, I read I Was Here by Gayle Forman and Looking for Alaska by John Green.  Both books are classed as young adult reads, I have read other books by the same authors before on Kathryn’s recommendations. I found both books very deep and I would like to think that at Kathryn’s age I was reading these sort of books but I wasn’t.  I was reading Shirley Conran’s Lace and Danielle Steele’s books although I did fall in love with Little Woman at this age!

I Was Here is about Cody and Meg who should have been best friends for life except Meg has chosen to take her own life.  Cody is left with many unanswered questions which she needs to find answers  to help her understand the loss she feels by her friend’s tragic death.

The book is beautifully written and I found the author’s notes for her inspiration to write this book both sad and eye opening.

 What can I say about Looking for Alaska?  I have to think about my post about good and bad points of reading a “proper” book.  The back cover of a book outlines what you need to know and although you can find this information out on a kindle, it is a lot easier on an actual book.  On the back of Looking for Alaska it says that the book is “poignant, funny and heartbreaking, this novel will stay with you forever”.  I agree with that statement and thinking about the novel staying with me forever, all the good books that I have read have certainly stayed with me.

The book is about Miles Halter, whose life changes when he goes to boarding school and meets Alaska Young.  My memories of boarding school stories were St Clare’s and Mallory Towers by Enid Blyton.  This is definitely a different type of boarding school story and one that I had to read with my teenage mind rather than my 50 year old  mother’s mind.  The first part of the book is called “Before” and the first chapter is named “One Hundred and Thirty-six Days Before”.  The chapters names follow along the same lines so I was looking forward to getting to one day before.  You reach the next section called “After” and it is very sad.

John Green is a brilliant author.  I had enjoyed reading The Fault in our Stars previously and I did enjoy reading Looking for Alaska very much.

One bad point to add about reading “proper” books compared to my kindle is when I am not sure of the meaning of the word (happens a lot with my reading!), I can click on the word on the kindle and have a definition of the word.  I can’t do that so easily with a book although I can “google” the word on my phone and don’t need a physical dictionary now!

My next paperback is going to be I am Malala, the true story of a girl shot in her own country and was not expected to survive.  Kathryn assures me that it will be quick read which I need if I am going to read her favourite books by June!