Pine Needles and Christmas Feels

Well, the Christmas season has now well and truly arrived in the Pendle-ing Household. The presents are piled up in the dressing room in respective family bundles, waiting patiently to be wrapped by TMM, who will be doing the wrapping in it’s entirety this year. After the Great Wrapping Disaster of 2016, there is no damn way I’m going to struggle through some of those weirdly shaped parcels when TMM can wrap a hexagonal box perfectly. We had the team around on Sunday night and spent the evening doing beautiful four part harmonies along to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (possibly one of my all time favourite musicals whilst simultaneously being one of the most horrific stories – do not kidnaps your girlfriends kids!) and White Christmas (only a few tears this year – definite personal growth). There’s been mulled beverages and festive nibbles all over the place and we’ve not even started preparing for the main meal yet. This year we’re having Mother come up and spend a few days with us and it feels a little like some kind of rite of passage. This will be the first time we’ve ever hosted Christmas and whilst it is only my mum (and I’m pretty sure she’s not expecting top dollar) it’s still quite exciting.

We purchased and set the trees up on Sunday as well (I say trees as we’ve treated ourselves to two this year). There are absolutely no other decorations anywhere else in the house so I’m safe in the knowledge that double tree-age can’t be classed as overkill. I am a firm advocate of the inherent soullessness of the fake Christmas tree. I understand that they don’t make as much mess/are easier to work with/cost effective, but nothing beats the scent of tree sap and the stab of pine needles in your feet on Christmas morning. Fraser the Norwegian fir is standing proudly in the living room, bedecked with delightfully tasteful and artfully vintage baubles from all over the place (mainly Paperchase and the Bodleian shop in Oxford). Annoyingly the living room is one of the most sneakily frustrating shapes ever, and no matter what we did we couldn’t find a way to fit everything efficiently. So rather than having the tree as a nice corner piece, it’s sitting smack bang right in the middle of the room, blocking the view to the TV from most vantage points and making getting to any of the plug sockets, tables or doors a chore. Still, it looks pretty fabulous and I’m willing to struggle for a few weeks for the festive spirit. Stumpy the Chrimble Sproot is last years offering who’s been weathering out 2017 in the garden. TMM dug him up (root ball and all as he kept telling me) and ensconced in a lovely little cement pot in the Cwtch (or Winter Garden as we’ve taken to calling it). He is the wonkiest and most adorably misshapen little twig but he makes us feel like we’re Tom and Barbara from the Good Life in our ability to recycle and it means that we can have a tree in both our main living spaces at no extra cost.

 

Fraser and Chrimble Sproot in all their festive glory.

Buck continues to remain mostly un-arsed about the whole situation. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s lazy, used to our confusing human ways or just a bit odd. Whatever it is though, it means we don’t have to worry about coming home to a tree massacre (though let’s hope I’ve not just tempted fate there).

This feels like the first time we’ve properly “decked the proverbial halls” in forever. Typically we travel a lot over the festive period so I don’t hesitate to pooh-pooh the decorative side of things. It’s never really been a massive event for us either – previous years have included the time that we bought a real tree, went away for about two weeks and let it horrifically die and then shed it’s needles everywhere in some kind of Whomping Willow-esque dirty protest. Or there was that joyful time I mainly spent the whole holiday crying and refusing to do anything except be hateful and grumpy. Considering how hysterical I used to be when I was younger in regards to getting the decorations up, I appear to have now gone to the complete opposite end of the scale. The perks of growing up I suppose.

Still, I do have to say that this year is the first in a long time that I don’t feel awful about the whole prospect of Christmas. I’ve felt interested and engaged in things and actually enjoyed doing them, rather than trying to put everything off and just spend time staring at a blank wall instead. I’ve been writing and reading so much more again, and my Pinterest is full of craft projects that I feel like I’ll actually be able to try. It’s weird, because sometimes I don’t think anything has changed, and then I remember two years ago when I couldn’t even find the energy to do except than cry and it’s a bit of a shock to the system. Things that would have knocked me back for days now only cause glancing blows and stupid things that pushed me over the edge then are just minor irritations now – the repeated playing of Christmas songs 5 days into the month just make me smile wryly rather than go into a complete meltdown. This whole year has in fact felt a little more like living rather than just surviving and it’s such a surprisingly warming feeling.

Somewhat heartbreakingly, I think I can actually pinpoint one of the factors of change. When Mr B passed away in January, I went down to stay with my mother for a few weeks. It was a strange time; hard for painfully obvious reasons and yet it was a bit like a light switch for my personality. Now I hasten to add that my mother did not need looking after or caring for by any means, but she became my focus and all of a sudden it was so easy to forget about myself and my issues. Simply living day by day; cooking, vacuuming, completing paper work and just sitting and having a cup of tea in silent companionship became everything I needed to worry about. The big overarching fears and panics that constantly loomed moved away for a while. They were still there, but they weren’t the only things on my mind.

Now, I look back and I can’t help but feel a little angry at myself that it took something so huge to help me overcome some of my problems. It’s selfish and narcissistic without complaint, but it is what it is and I hope that Mr B would be happy in knowledge that he still helps me now as much as he did when he was here.

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The more I think on it, the more it seems that perhaps I am one of those people who, very much like Mr B, is suited to being robustly busy more than not (which seems to go against all my natural inclinations). I know I’ve always enjoyed those annoying repetitive tasks that bore others endlessly, but it looks like the constant gentle beavering away at something is what is needed to keep my brain quiet and my mentalness at bay. I mean, there are still plenty of points of personal contention. I continue to have a foul temper and a ridiculously short fuse (but I think that’s a more of a personality fault than anything else). I rely far too heavily on others and I still can’t drive/exercise/understand taxes, but at least I’m self aware. I feel like I’m getting closer to the idea that I’m co-existing with my issues rather than allowing them to over-rule me, and if that’s not a Christmas miracle, I don’t know what is.

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The Chronicles of Molly, Volume 3. The Return to Village Fair

Today’s post comes to you, rather differently than normal, from the front seat of the car after an aborted jaunt to Lyme Park. We’ve treated ourselves to a long weekend and as a last hurrah of freedom, we thought we’d go for a nice walk in nature. As it turns out, it probably would have been best if we just hadn’t bothered. After realising one of my wellies had a hole in it, yet another flashing check engine light alert, and a fit of hysteria based on the cold/the fact I’m not a Lady from the early 1900s with a huge house, masses of money and a line of attractive RAF officers in my wake, we decided it was probably best to start for home. I am in fact writing this section with my socks off, blowers on full blast and in aghast at a man who’s just run past in short shorts.

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Here lies Eleanor’s sock. May it be forever fondly remembered and dry before she has to get out of the car and try and hop anywhere.

We’ve actually had a rather early start (in my opinion) because it was becoming increasingly clear that we couldn’t actually do anything in good conscious without giving the house a good cleaning. We’ve gotten rather lax these last few days and the kitchen was starting to resemble a bombsite. TMM was terribly rude and completely disregarded my suggested plan (which focused around me staying in bed and napping whilst he fixed everything. He would then return to me where upon I would say in my most surprised tone “oh gosh, you tidied everything without me? What a shock, you should have woken me!” and then we would laugh like some 1950’s advert) and so I was ceremonially turfed out of bed before 10am. Shock horror. We have had a terribly good weekend though, including the best nerd!gig ever, a large selection of tasty cocktails and a nice wander round around the Manchester Christmas Markets.

Let’s be honest though, the reason you’re all hear is to find out how Village Fair-ageddon went with Molly. Honestly I can say things turned out better than expected, but that’s not really saying much considering how cringe worthy the last one was. It was thankfully over within two hours, but I still had to have a sizable drink and a nap in a darkened room to recover.

The event itself was 2pm-4pm and we’d planned to leave ours just before 2 and run the dog out before we went. Turns out though that Molly wasn’t down with that and she rang TMM at 1.49pm to remind us that the fair was starting in ten minutes and in order to make sure we didn’t miss a single second she would be waiting by the front gate for us. Bear in mind, her front gate is actually quite a distance from her door and involves at least three steps and a lot of slippery pavement, so this was quite a threat. Usually she doesn’t even make it to the first step by herself, but for the Fair she was willing to throw herself outside of her comfort zone with gay abandon.

By the time we got there (within five minutes), she’d struggled down that path under her own steam and was hanging onto the gate for dear life, bent double and weighted down by three huge leather handbags and a rather fetching cloche hat. Thankfully she was wrapped up in a bright red woollen coat (avoiding any concern of pneumonia) and looking for all the world like a little crunched up garden gnome. Now, due to her inability to walk any distances, we actually have to drive her the length of three detached houses from her gate to the village hall at the end of the lane. TMM typically drops us off and goes to park the car back outside her house (as the carpark at the hall itself fits four small cars at a push) and I chaperone her initial entrance. This time though, we’d barley made it past the first house before we had to turn back because she had gotten herself in a tizzy and was convinced she’d left her blue handbag in the house. Rather than let her escape the car and try and tackle the hunt for it, I went back to the house and bravely fought off Benji who was hysterically hyperactive and basically tried to climb me like a tree. I searched high and low for the missing bag, forced to shove Benji off the couch, my leg, the chair and anywhere I was actually trying to look on numerous occasions. I managed to find one handbag (the brown one she typically takes shopping) but the blue one was nowhere to be found. I rang TMM to query this and heard her chunnering away in the background whilst TMM tried to explain my dilemma. Taking the bag I’d found back to the car to double check it wasn’t the one she wanted, it turned out that she already had the blue handbag, safely tucked inside one of the other ones as it had been all along.

Gate

The seemingly endless walk from the gate to Molly’s front door. I imagine it was a little like a scene from “Everest” for her trying to make it up here.

We all pile back in to the car and thankfully make it the 100 feet to the village hall without any other distractions. TMM deposits us by the front door and executes a picture perfect turn to get back out whilst I gently shepherd Molly up the ramp and into the hall itself. She shuffles through the little coat room ante chamber and takes a good minute to stand smack back in the middle of the doorway. I’m still unsure if this was to allow her to properly evaluate the layout and formulate her plan of attack, or in order to give everyone already there a chance to bask in her arrival – local celebrity that she is. Before we even make it to the first table (cakes) she’s been hugged by three people who’ve all loudly introduced themselves and who, I’m pretty sure, she remembered none of. By the time we make it to the stall itself TMM has thankfully returned and we manage to divest her of all the bags so she can at least lift herself up enough to look over the table edge. It’s something we’ve got down to a fine art by this point – trying to wrangle all the bags, pay the correct amount (with no change because all she ever seems to have is notes) and keep an eye on the wily old girl before she brandishes her stick threateningly at someone and falls over. Considering she can barely walk normally, she can get a right turn of pace on when she sees someone she wants to shout at.

Before we’ve even finished getting ourselves past the first table, she’s got us cramming the biggest of the leather bags with a whole plate of flapjacks, a bag of chocolate fridge cake and a bundle of mince pies for us (she asks us what we want at every single table, and gets quite offended if we don’t manage to distract her quickly enough). Canned goods is next and Wendy, bless her heart, tries to shepherd Molly along and encourage her to not spend all of her money on tins of salmon. Alas, it is to no avail and we leave this one with tuna, peas and two chocolate oranges.

The next hurdle is the jam table which I really do think might be the bane of my life. I get rather peeved about this particular section as the two who staff it see Molly and her purse coming a mile off and can’t help but rub their hands together. Unlike Wendy who is loathed to take money from her, these two are more than happy to encourage Molly to take seven (7) jars of jam and chutney, knowing full well she’s still got cupboards full of the stuff at home. One man pauses just behind me and asks in a low whisper if she plans on leaving any jars for anyone else and I tell him that he really is best getting in there quickly before she her second round. We load down the bags with jars and TMM pays whilst I try and stop Molly barging her way through to the Tombola table. I am still surprised there wasn’t a throw down here the way she kept shoving at the old gent in front of us. I’m unsure if she doesn’t understand the etiquette of waiting your turn or if she’s just decided she’s too old to be arsed waiting around for others. I manage to distract her long enough for the man to get his prize and move on and then we all have to have a go at taking a ticket and trying our luck. Thankfully we won (she gets incredibly fractious if we leave a table without something) though the prize of a multipack of cereal boxes did leave her rather baffled.

Eventually we make it out of there and guide her past the book/calendar section without too much fuss. (She loves, LOVES, a calendar. There are at least four on the go every time we go round and rarely do any of them show the right date). We take a brief respite with the man who sells cards (hand drawn scenes from Keele – very lovely) though there is a slightly bit of confusion when Molly tries to buy some for herself and some for us at the same time we’re trying to buy some for ourselves and there’s cash flying all over the place. Molly gets bored of this and moves onwards swiftly to the decorations table and I sacrifice TMM to settling up and hunker down to discuss the merits of Christmas Crackers with her. Annoyingly I cant help but talk to her like she’s a child sometimes which must come across as horribly patronising, but I can’t seem stop myself. Either she doesn’t care or just thinks I’m a complete dick, but regardless we get along all right. We barter for a while over the crackers and end up purchasing a box of six small ones (rather than the 12 she was initially dazzled by). I’m pretty sure the crackers from last year are still under the stairs, but what the hell.

Haul

The sum total of our haul from this year. Thank God.

The next table is that one that every good village hall fair has – the random shite table. This keeps her entertained for a good 10 minutes and I only make it away without a cuddly toy, glittery butterfly candles or fake crystal flower vases by the skin of my teeth. We also bump into Gladys (cheery neighbour form across the street) and have a quick chat whilst Molly picks up every item on the table and tries to work out if it would do Benji for a Christmas present. Spoiler – Benji is a dog and is not interested in wooden puzzles or bath soap, so that debate ended with limited results.

Finally we encourage Molly to give it up as a lost cause and take a seat at one of the tiny cramped tables and have a warm drink. TMM ushers her down whilst Gladys and I sort out tea and cakes and eventually we’re all seated and able to take a breather. It doesn’t take long though and before I know it Molly’s got her grumpy face. This happens every year without fail, because it works her up terribly that doesn’t recognise half the people who’ve turned out and this starts her on the standard rant. She thinks it’s shameful how the local Keele people don’t take the time to come and patronise these things, and they should all be given a kick up the backside with a pair of winklepickers (her punishment of choice). She’s seemingly unaware that the reason she doesn’t recognise anyone is that most of the locals she’s thinking about are dead, but we haven’t the heart to tell her that, so we all just nod along and Gladys and I share a pointed look over a tea cake.

Before long though, various old ladies in aprons come by to fuss over her and my face starts to ache from smiling at each one of them whilst Molly introduces us all like we haven’t met before (we have). There’s a complete flurry of excitement when Jean from down the lane appears (her husband recently passed away and poor TMM had to have an excruciating phone call with her because Molly wanted to know how he’d died approx. 2 days after it had happened). Jean has brought along her two sisters though (Hilary and Valerie) which brightens everything up no end and they all chatter on happily as old ladies do. Eventually things start to wind down and the sisters leave whilst TMM goes to fetch the chariot. I gently lever Molly out of her chair and we make three or four pit stops on our way to the door (which, I would like to point out, is less that 5 feet away from our starting position) in which time Gladys has done a runner and TMM has come looking for us because we weren’t where we were supposed to be. There is a slight highlight though – as we’re leaving TMM overhears an old doctor gentleman (who I think I might have been hopelessly in love with in his youth) tell his wife that he nearly complimented me on my nice green hat before he realised it was hair and how embarrassing would that of been. I kind of wish he had to be honest.

We finally manage to get her to the door and there is one heart stopping moment where she stops and does one final sweep of the room and I am terrified she’s spotted the vicar who’s sat at the other end. Molly has what I can only describe as “serious beef” with him and I don’t think I’m strong enough to try and stall any thinly veiled insults about his weight at this point. Previous meetings between the two of them have included such classics as “do you think he’s might be pregnant? It looks like twins” and “if I popped him with a pin I bet he’d go off like a balloon”. Apparently he’s promised to go round and see her and still hasn’t made an appearance (I wonder why) and the vendetta is brewing. Thankfully though, her eyes gloss over him and I whisk her out of the door and into the car before she can do anything. We make it back to the house just in time for a heavy hail storm and it’s like a scene from Noah’s Ark trying to get her back into the house with all of her bags whilst trying to keep Benji from killing either of them in his excitement. Eventually though, we drop her off into her arm chair, help her go through all her purchases and make our escape before it gets too dark.

Overall, we’ve definitely had worse, but I am immensely grateful that we don’t have to do it again until next year.

Second Rule of Cwtch Club – No Shoes in the Cwtch. Or dirty paws. (Looking at you here Bucky)

Well, we’re still massively in the swing of repurposing the spare room and I have to say our winter project is coming along rather swimmingly. The daybed is in situ now; pride of place with its to size mattress cushions, soft cream jersey bedding (because I am now so bourgeois that I will only accept jersey bed sheets to touch my skin) and adorable tartan blanket. All we’re waiting on is a scatter cushion or two (which TMM is against because he says he’ll just throw them off anyway, but I feel it would just complete the look). I’ve still got some GIANT wool waiting to be used, so I might try and whip up a sneaky little cushion cover one night this week whilst he’s not looking. We also managed to finish the TV cabinet which was slightly trickier that anticipated. We had to buy new brown paint to cover the water damage from last weekend, then new cream paint to do the inside sections because I felt brown all over was a bit too heavy, and then we had to move the whole painting operation into the kitchen because it kept threatening to rain. This obviously  meant that trying to do ANYTHING became immediately a million times harder to do, as our kitchen is somewhat reminiscent of ship’s galley – NARROW. Indeed, whilst we do seem to have an excess of rooms in our little house, every last one of them (except the uneasily cold/dark living room) is tiny. Making sweet and sour for lunch was a very delicate operation and somewhat suggestive of a circus gymnastic act. Bucky found the whole thing hilarious and pretended to rub again the wet corners of the cabinet repeatedly just to watch us freak out. Still, by Sunday evening, it was dry enough to move upstairs and is now happily in place. We’ve stocked it adorably with a couple of our favourite books and some thematic knickknacks and the lap top is sitting comfortable on top with the speakers. I’m still a little unsure of the overall colour (because why be content with a project when you can always be slightly unsure of your choices) but I’m think a little rug/a couple of doilies/an artful placing of frames will help distract and it will blend pleasingly into the rest of the room.

Don’t worry, I have plans to hide the wires and TMM has designs on an old camera to fill the gap next to his Le Carre.

TMM also spent Saturday spontaneously making a bench, which I have to say was rather splendid of him. He looks manly and yet adorable in his specifically work related overalls and I find it very pleasing to see a man wearing the correct outfit for the job at hand (rather than wearing his nice clothes and then looking at me sheepishly when there’s paint splatters and holes everywhere).  There was a slight injury involving a nail and a couple of moments of deep breathing and hammer clenching when some bits didn’t quite match up, but all in all it looks very swell – especially considering he had no plan and proceed to mainly freehand everything like an absolute maverick. The really good thing is that it’s handy enough that it can be either extra seating for when we have guests (because for some reasons we seem to think we’re overwhelmed with visitors even though we both hate people), a little coffee table for down the side of the couch, a handy new cat sear (because Bucky cannot let new furniture go un-sat on, god forbid) and got rid of the spare pallet in a functional yet stylish way. We’re getting rather good at this up-cycling malarkey, and it’s only a matter of time before we try something really adventurous like a 7 foot bookshelf or a garden swing.

        

Such grace, such magnificence. Such simplistic rustic beauty. The bench is alright too 😉

Now that those bits are sorted, the majority of the work is done. (I’ve been forced to admit that my original plan was perhaps a little ambitious and trying to shoehorn a coffee table in there as well might be slightly impossible. Instead, I’m thinking a couple of little upturned baskets on either side will do for drinks holders and not take away from the already limited leg space). All that’s left now is the all important trinket placement and minor decoration. We’ve got lamps in nearly every corner (and a clever mirror placement) to make sure the room is cosy yet still visible and we treated ourselves to some little fairy light purely because we could. (Idea for Fairy Light Place Linda – perhaps round the curtain pole rather than the shelf?) There’s a couple of casual Buddhas scattered around the place (because we do seem to have a multitude of Buddhas) and Hamish the Stag Head is safely stuck on the wall keeping a watchful eye on things.

We’ve also got a couple of small fake succulents because I am ALL OVER that particular band wagon. They’ve gone in the adorable mini Ikea greenhouse on the window sill that until very recently held a large number of fake toy lizards (unsure as to why if I’m honest) along with a tiny stone owl and couple of tea cups because why not? I am hoping to get some more of varying sizes (again, all fake because I can’t take the commitment to keeping a plant alive and the inevitable heartbreak that follows when it dies horrifically) and I’ve got BIG plans from some fake trailing ivy I’ve ordered off Amazon.

It looks a little like a kind of stylish Swedish nativity scene but there we go.

My main concern however is the inbuilt shelf. Initially, this held great potential for me and I was overwhelmed with the ideas of what I could do with it. However, now it’s come time for something to actually be done, I am really struggling. To actually do anything that looks good. Annoyingly, it’s just a little too deep to hold the frames I’d put aside to go on it, but I feel awkward bringing them to the front and leaving all that space behind them. I have spent far too much time researching ideas, but things that work well in Pinterest don’t seem to transfer over will into my actual life. It becomes clearer every day that whilst I am very creative, I actually have very little originality. Give me something that needs redoing or all the pieces of a pattern and you’ll get excellence. Ask me to do something of my own merit and I will struggle – plagued with self doubt and critical thoughts. Now this doesn’t bode particularly well for the Cwtch shelf or further interior designing endeavours, but if you need criminal forgery, I could definitely be your girl. Still, all is not lost and there I am hopeful we’ll figure out the right amount of shelf to tat ratio. As a final touch, we’ve also got a selection of vintage travel postcards that we’re hoping to stick up in clusters around the room (because we honestly can’t stick to one theme if our lives depended on it) which will hopefully “bring it all together” or whatever it is the say on Grand Designs.

Overall, it’s been a success and whilst we’ve spent slightly more than initially planned (what we didn’t spend on furniture we’re definitely going to waste on all the little bits and bobs) I am terribly proud of what we achieved. Especially with the dark nights and the Christmas stress, it’s the perfect little space to hide away and do nothing but watch scandi-noir thrillers and drink Baileys (which is basically all we do now). I am beginning to panic slightly about the number of social events on the horizon (one thing I definitely am not about) but at least I’ve got somewhere to retire too when it all gets too much.

Anyhoo, I must now be off to enjoy said Cwtch, but stay tuned for next week as I’m hoping to have another hilarious blog post for you. It’s the Christmas Village Faye or “Marche de Noel” this weekend and Molly’s got a hankering to go (even though she doesn’t understand the name and thinks it’s strange, foreign and unnecessary). No doubt there will be politically incorrect insults abound; the vicar will get called fat at least twice and we’ll all go home with 78 jars of home jam. Oh joy oh rapture.

First Rule of Cwtch Club – Nobody enter Cwtch Club (except me. And maybe TMM)

I feel I’ve made a bit of a faux par this month – celebrating my ability to keep a blog going for a whole year and then not actually writing a post the very next week. Annoyingly, I seemed to be lacking in inspiration and motivation, though that really isn’t a valid excuse for a writer. The joy of writing is that if you write enough chaff, you will eventually find some wheat and then it’s just a matter of culling the crap. But alas, I had no go last Tuesday and consequently the world remained blogless. Still, I am returned now with plenty of content so we’ll just chalk up last week’s failings to experience and carry on regardless.

This week (or should I say last week), TMM and I started a new project – partly due to necessity and partly because I really think with do life better when we’ve got something to focus on. We’re very lucky to have a spare room at home, though before people start thinking it’s because we live in a mansion, I’d like to point out that it’s because we actually live in a normal house with a multitude of tiny rooms. We have a “dressing room” purely because we can’t fit anything other than a bed in the main bedroom, and the spare room is less of an extra bedroom (which I can attest to quite strongly after having to cram everything we owned in it for the first 8 months of living in the house) and more of a store room with a window.  However, I do not mean to sound ungrateful and the variety of odd sized living spaces does mean I get to spread my craft around liberally rather than having to try and bulk it all in one specific place.

Anyway, for most of this year, the spare room has housed a ratty old mattress covered in cat fur , a rather upsetting amount of cobwebs and a couple of sewing machines. Mainly we have just pulled the door to and tried to ignore it, because why fix a problem when you can hide it? But no more, I cry! After minimal debate and maximum enthusiasm, we’ve decided we’re going to repurpose it into the “Hygge Cwtch” (basic translation – cosy cubbyhole) – because why jump on just one multicultural décor based bandwagon when you could jump on two? As winter is coming in and consequently our heating bill is about to rocket dramatically (I don’t do well in the cold), we’ve come to the conclusion that moving our evenings to a smaller, cosier, warmer and easier-to-light room is really the only (and most eco firnedly) option. We’re going to use the spare room as a mini living room and the downstairs as somewhere to eat and entertain – at least that’s what we’re aiming for…

Before doing anything sensible though, like drawing up a list of costings, proper requirements or measurements, I obviously created a new Pinterest board and pinned crucial items such as fake plants and pleasing colour schemes (cream/pale grey/latte for anyone who’s interested). I also spent FAR too long drawing up plans of how I wanted the room to look – all of which are completely null and void because how big I think to room is and how big the room actually is differ wildly. Still I had a lot of fun pretending to be Alan Titchmarsh from GroundForce.

plan

Please enjoy my professional and highly accurate diagram

Now, as we have stupidly decided we’re going to take on this new, not insignificantly sized project a month before Christmas when we have no money, time or daylight, we’re working to quite a restricted timeline. Our outside activities (including but not limited to furious sanding and painting) which would have happily been done after work in the summer now can only be completed in a 4 hour window on the weekend between bouts of rain and darkness. Regardless of that though, I feel we’ve achieved quite a lot this weekend and am terribly proud of us. Considering we only decided what we were planning to do at the beginning of the month, the day bed (which was the biggest concern) is already practically finished. TMM deftly managed to liberate three full sized pallets from his place of work, and I spent Saturday happily wrapped in every jumper I own, sanding away to my heart’s content. I was forced to take a Wilko’s break to pick up some new paint, purely because TMM says that sanding for two hours straight is detrimental to my health (spoil sport), but before the daylight faded we had two smooth and painted pallets drying up against the wall.

TMM hard at work priming like a pro and me doing my best bank robber impression – protect eyes, nose and mouth. Remember Kids – Health and safety is paramount when doing DIY!

We have also repurposed one of the hideous mini MDF bookshelves from downstairs to be the new TV stand (with bonus room for adorable trinkets) though that wasn’t dealt with quite as successfully. We sanded, primed and tried to paint one coat, but due to unnecessary rainfall and unfortunate placement of protective tarpaulin, most of the paint was removed and some slight water damage was suffered. Still, nothing was irrevocably harmed and the item in question is currently chilling by the backdoor, recovering from the experience and providing endless amusement to the cat. In the meantime, TMM has masses of fun hacking the old mattress into usable chunks with a breadknife and we’ve now got spare clumps of foam all over the place waiting to go to the tip. Hopefully, weather permitting on Saturday, I’ll be able to repaint and finish the new TV stand whilst TMM gets rid of all the excess crap and then on Sunday we’ll be able to start putting things in place and focusing on the little bits (which is clearly my favourite part). I’ve already added two fake trailing ivy plants and a couple of succulents to my amazon basket, and TMM has a lovely paper mache stag head in cream in bronze that he’s itching to hang in pride of place above the telly. (It allows him to live out his taxidermy dreams without me actually having to have stuffed animals all over the place – ignoring the Squirrel Guardians of Doom that sit on the mantelpiece downstairs giving me evils). I’m quite proud of us too, because the two main pieces of furniture have cost us a grand total of £27.97 (wood stain, paint and bedding), which means I can spend at least another £20 on accoutrements from IKEA and not feel too bad about it. I’ve already got my eye on a SUPER soft blanket and a fox shaped light in a bell jar which will go perfectly.

cwtch

Here we can see a mostly completed day bed – minus super soft cotton sheets, a dismembered mattress and an artfully placed stag head. Not bad for a day’s work!

Overall, by December, the Cwtch should be fully stocked, operational and ready to enjoy during the final stress fuelled push towards Christmas. Which is good, because I feel like I need an encouraging boost at this stage. The Christmas Present Tracker isn’t filling up with successful green boxes as quickly as I’d hoped and I’m having to fight off the rising tide of panic that’s approaching. Though, we’ve got two days off in November (well TMM has 3 but whatever) and as I said to TMM, Christmas is going to get DONE son. I want to go into December with only wrapping, labels and little sweet bundles left on the to-do list – Positive Mental Attitude people! At least I’m coping better than I was two weeks ago, when I was all for cancelling the whole season and spending the festive weekend in bed sulking massively. The older I get (and the more people move around) that harder I find Christmas. I mostly blame work (if I didn’t have to work at all, I could happily spend weeks travelling around leisurely and bestowing gifts happily), but mainly I think I’m just slowly transforming into the Grinch. Still, if I can achieve a new room under budget and within two weeks, I can definitely beat Christmas. 

Creepin’ It Real for One Whole Year

I’m a little late in posting today, but I’m sure you’ll let me off. Halloween is a busy time of year for everyone (read: nutters who love to dress up) and the tidying up and facial cleaning can take a while.
Before we get into the dark and twisted details of my All Hallows’ Eve (get ready for some blow by blow accounts and a really unhealthy amount of pictures) I’d like to take a minute to wish you all Happy 1 Year Blogiversary! As of last Wednesday, my blog is officially one year old and I would like to be the first to congratulate you all for sticking with me. It’s been a semi regular and somewhat bumpy ride, but we’ve done it together and that’s what counts. If I were one of those excitable and committed types, I’d be offering the first 5 people who comment some kind of reward as a little bonus, but as it’s me you’re mainly going to get what you get every week – a like on your comment and a little internal squee.

On to the main event now though – Welcome to Halloween Time!

Sadly, we don’t have any team plans this year (I’ve been assured it’s because we’re all poor and in the middle of moving/decorating or other such life tasks, and NOT because we’re all too grown up and sensible for themed fancy dress parties) so I’m a little put out in that regard, but I’ve not let it hold me back too much.

This weekend TMM’s sister invited us to the newly created yearly tradition of The Pendlebury Pumpkin Party, which went down a storm. We got to traverse a maize maze to pick our own pumpkins (I got two because I couldn’t help myself), carve our competition entries and then enjoy a home made stew and dumplings. Baby Thea looked spectacular in her pumpkin outfit and inveigled her way into the pumpkin parade very sneakily. I think Jenbob was slightly miffed that Papa Pendlebury won with his Brain Sick pumpkin (though it turned out that he’d already been practicing in the week prior – never let it be said they’re not a competitive family), but he wore his homemade Pumpkin Garland of Champions with pride which did have us in hysterics. I’d give the whole day a solid 5 stars and am going to start researching ideas for next year now.

The Pumpkin Parade

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Trick Or Treat Yo’Self


Pendleburys’ on the prowl

Tonight, in true anti social and British fashion, we’ve retreated upstairs and turned the light off so as not to attract any unwanted trick or treaters. It’s not that I’m against the practice necessarily, more that I resent giving away my hard earned sweets to unknown “youths”.

Instead, I’ve overcompensated on my lack of party plans and seasonal spirit by going a bit hysterical at work.

Thankfully, I work in an office that, whilst not being my dream career, are willing to have a bit of a laugh and let me dress up occasionally. Admittedly however, I do think we may have gone slightly overboard this time round. Initially nobody really seemed to be very motivated by the idea of dressing desks and I was prepared to let the holiday pass by. However, after some pointed comments by the higher ups, there started the low mumbling of ideas and teams started to huddle sneakily in corners discussing themes. By the end of the week, complete Halloween chaos reigned and things were getting competitive. We spent 3 days cutting out hundred of bats to paper the walls with and buried everything in mountains of cobwebs. I gave myself numerous paper cuts making a full size terrifying tree and haunted house silhouette for the window and we even printed out hilariously witty and personalised grave stones to go on our laptops. Admittedly, when it was revealed that we LOST the best dressed desk competition, I very nearly flipped my chair in an uncontrollable rage and had to be calmed with a kinder bueno and the whispered promise that our desk was loved by all. My delicate and easily bruised artistic temperament cannot take such affronts, but I’m coming to terms with it now. As someone said, ours was so good it was beyond any trivial award, so I’m letting this one slide.

LOOK! Just look at the craftsmanship that’s gone into that

As well as desk decoration, I have once again been maddeningly enthralled by the opportunity to dress up myself. As per EVERY time I have a fancy dress engagement, I have to spend at least a week prior furiously pinteresting ideas and watching how to videos on YouTube. This is then typically followed by a week of panicking because I can’t find/make the exact item/prop I want that would complete my idea and then at least 2 nights in front of the mirror trialling out various options and inevitably having at least two breakdowns. Considering that I only usually end up wearing the costume for 6 hours at the most, it could be considered slight overkill. This time has been no different. I started with 4 ideas (cracked doll, sugar skull, Cheshire Cat, pop art), narrowed it down to 2 (doll and pop art) decided I’d go for a completely different one altogether (fish hooked mermaid) bought all the stuff for that and then had a complete meltdown at the length of my hair and ended up being a bleeding mime instead. Whatcha’ gonna do?


TMM dealt with the whole event very calmly as he does, and only had to talk me through one weeping fit (personal growth!) which is good. He is probably very secretly pleased that it’s all over now and he doesn’t have to listen to me stomping about in the bathroom muttering furiously to myself and avoiding fake blood scabs stuck on every surface. I however, am a little sad that I’ve got to put away the face paint and FX make up for another year. It might have been challenging getting there, but the outcome wasn’t so bad.
And so, we turn the page on Halloween for another year and prepare to batten down the hatches and hunker through the complete Christmas chaos that is about to be unleashed. When one festive season finishes, another prepares to panic you blind…

One Small Step for a Craft Potato…

Avid readers of my blog (and indeed pretty much anyone who actually knows me) will be very much aware of what a big fan I am of “chillaxing’”. In fact, this very weekend I chilled to the max and it was excellent. TMM was out for most of the day on Saturday, getting Hans von Manshaft MOT’ed (he passed, hurray!) and meeting up with old friends and left me to my own devices. I did intend to do a lot of cleaning and real person stuff, like laundry and taxes. In reality I read LOTS and ate my own body weight in pancakes, which possibly did not quite achieve all that I had hoped. This really isn’t to be unexpected though. Partly this is because I love to take a casual relaxation day, and my god am I lazy. My life is made up of 50% slobbing and 50% complaining about not being able to slob. (This isn’t to say I am not plagued by anxiety fuelled guilt trips worrying about all the things I should be doing, but I’ve come to realise that if the book is good, the bed is comfy and the chocolate snacks are plentiful, you can really block out those negative thoughts for a while).

The other reason is that whilst TMM isn’t around, I have the sneaking suspicion that I forgot how to human. I’m mildly concerned that I’m not actually a person at all, but instead am a soft squishy marshmallow in disguise and I’ve gotten lost in the real world with TMM as my carer/guide. I really feel this should concern me, but mainly it means that when left unsupervised, I just dance manically around the house in my pjs to early 00s soft rock like I’m Cameron Diaz in basically every film she’s in.

Ultimately though, it meant not much was actually done on Saturday but I was in a rather cheery mood when TMM returned.

Buck equally understands the necessity of doing nothing. We were very calm together.

It’s at this juncture that an issues arises though. Although I revel in my laziness (I really am just too good at doing nothing), it does mean I spend a lot of time lying on the floor looking at the ceiling and being conflicted about my complete lack of motivation to do anything. A rather disproportionate chunk of my life is spent being disappointed at the fact that I am not the Xena: Warrior Princess I want to be and nowhere near enough time is actually spent doing something to change it. I like to blame most of this on my anxiety but it’s a cop out really. I want to learn kickboxing SO BADLY, but nobody can actually help me do anything about it until I make the effort and sulking about how difficult I find it isn’t going to win me any shiny big kickboxing trophies.  (Though, if there is some gentle yet serious martial arts guru wants to take me under their muscly wing and teach me mad self-protection skills whilst ignoring my horribly awkward attempts at conversation and not making me interact with any other person, that would be grand. Basically I want Vin Diesel to adopt me.) It harks back to my un-resolution idea though – small yet positive steps. I spend a so much time rehashing the same thing over again, but little actions towards a bigger goal are better than no actions at all. It’s a bit pathetic in some respects, but in others it actually means I can aim to achieve something without stressing out or having to give up my fantastical lazing abilities.

To that end,  I made TMM spend £40 in Lesbian Craft on Sunday in preparation for Christmas (though admittedly the decoupage festive stag head was a luxury we didn’t necessarily need, but by god we wanted it). *Side note – Lesbian Craft is the affectionate nickname we gave to Hobby Craft a few years a go. There was a period where we went there quite regularly, and it was always filled with happy looking lesbian couples in their mid 40s looking for projects. TMM and I fit right in).

Let me explain my thought process for you here. Christmas is 20% magic and 406% preparation. Now, the festive season doesn’t hold quite as much magic for me as it used to (what with family being spread far and wide and me being enough of a grown up to actually try and get people useful presents rather than adorable yet completely awful craft projects). This means that in order to fully squeeze all the joy I can from the season, I have to avoid all the pitfalls and stress inducing panics by making sure that I am ready when it comes around.

It started when someone at work mentioned how she had already started preparing her kids presents (using my Amazon Prime I might add) and although I initially mocked her, the more I thought about her levels of preparation, the more I realised this could assist me. Small steps now lead to more boxes full of wrapped presents before the decorations are even out in the shops and less hours spent traipsing round the Boots 3 for 2 sale in the first week of December with baskets full of gifts nobody wants.

To that end, I’ve start the annual Charismas Present Spread Sheet for 2017, listing every person who needs a present and what ideas I have for them. There’s a colour scheme (white for nothing or a possible idea, yellow for half done (e.g. ordered/partly made), green for complete, and blue for wrapped) though I’ve taken off the costing column this time around, because that upsets me and means I spend far too much time scrabbling through receipts and calculating things instead of enjoying the nature of just giving.

My hope is that, if I can aim to have half the presents finished by November, there won’t be the annual panic induced crying fest and hysterical over buying of tat. Instead, there will be a sedate pacing of spending and wrapping (which will all be done by TMM, because I’m sure we all remember last year’s wrapping fiasco), and by the time it actually comes around to December, it will just be the finishing touches that need to be sorted. I also want to try and make a lot of presents this year (ignoring the bit before where I mentioned about how I’m trying to be helpful and not just provide people with useless craft tat), because I A) enjoy craft and get a bit upset sometimes when it’s not for a purpose, B) want to try and get rid of some of the craft stock piles I’ve built up over the years (again, let’s ignore the bit where I made TMM spend £40 in Hobby Craft) and C) am desperately trying to save money because if I want to be a real boy with a house and a husband of my very own, I’m going to need to tone down the reckless spending a bit and aim to save my wages instead.

Once again, I seem to have waffled upon the theme of self-improvement – you’d think I’d stop talking about it and actually do something, wouldn’t you…

 

Less of a Do-er, More of a Don’t-er

Well hello there dearest readers.

I must apologies for being lax in posting recently, but as usual I went on holiday and promptly shirked all responsibilities like a big old butterfly bursting free from a cocoon. However, I am now back and will be updating as per the schedule, though I can’t say I am too happy about being back in the real world. I mostly spent Monday trying desperately to stop my head thumping on my desk and letting tiny screeches of devastation escape. I basically sounded like a deflating balloon and definitely didn’t look much better. I should have realised that the morning wasn’t really getting off to an auspicious start when The Man Muffin discovered a mutilated and bloody rib cage/spleen combo on the cream carpet of the bedroom at about 6.30am. We’re rapidly coming to the conclusion that Buckycat believes that when we go away for days at a time, it’s because we’re having to scavenge for food. In attempt to help us, he brings in various rodents in numerous stages of death/decay so that we may snack on them and he doesn’t have to worry about us abandoning him again. The gesture, whilst heart-warming in it’s conception, is getting a bit tiring in it’s physicality. Spending the Monday morning I am due back into work sat on the floor in my pants scrubbing at sizable blood splatter whilst raging at the fact my holiday is over is not really what I’m looking for in life.

In fact, I am rapidly come to the realisation that I am just not meant to be a worker. I just feel like nothing prepared me for this. School and University do not do justice to the amount of time you have to spend in an office when you’re a grown up and childhood does nothing to get you ready for the real world. For example, when you’re younger your parents encourage you to try things you don’t like in an attempt to see if they can wean you on to it – like cucumber. They give you a little bit with tea one night, prompt you to taste it and then promise if you don’t like it you don’t have to try it again for a while. Then a few weeks later they give it another go and this continues sporadically for about a year until it becomes apparent that either you have learned to love the cucumber or that is a relationship that will never flourish and should just be given up on.

Well I’ve tried work for 7 years now and I can categorically and without a shadow a doubt state that I do not like it. At all. Not even a smidge. I resent the early mornings and the having to talk to people all day and being forced to do things that are not craft or cake eating (and therefore unworthy of my time) for a majority of my day. My week off proved to me that I was so much better at life when work didn’t get in the way. I also realised that, surprisingly, I actually saved money whilst being on holiday. Admittedly, part of that is due to the fact TMM drives us everywhere and sorted most things, but I was still quite surprised. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been when practically the first thing I did when I got to work was go on Amazon and buy myself two books as a reward for actually making it to the office. To that end, I really do think it is time that I am allowed to give up. #firstworldproblems

To look back fondly on happier times (you know, that one week where I WASN’T at work) with one of those misty 1940’s screens, I’m already getting a bit emosh that they are over. We spent mornings having leisurely breakfasts in sunny gardens, visiting beaches (called Mwnt – pronounced Munt and making us Beach Munters, trolololol) and National Trust castles, as well as achieving childhood dreams (mine, not Ross’ even though it was technically his birthday holiday).

 This is St. Catherine’s – or Azkaban as I affectionately call it. After seeing it from the bay for years during every holiday to Tenby and never actually being able to get in it, Mother and I had to fight back tears of hysteria and joy when we realised it was now accessible. Starting off as a Napoleon era fortress, it’s transitioned through two world wars as well as being a family home during the 30s and a Zoo in the 70s. They’re hoping to be able to get more funding for it and do more with in the future, which is obviously a perk for us.

We also spent time visiting families (so happy), seeing kittens (SO CUTE), having a sneaky visit to Hay on Wye (so joyous) and collecting presents for TMM wherever we went. Admittedly, I lost major Fiancée points by only realising half way to Wales that I had forgotten my presents for him. This was then compounded when we got home and it became clear I hadn’t actually finished or wrapped them either. Still, after having to banish him to the kitchen for twenty minutes and furiously sorting everything out, I like to think he was happy with the outcome. Though if not, he’s left it a bit late to complain now… In true birthday fashion though, TMM has also treated himself (as should be done) and purchased a brand new super shiny camera (to go along with him super snazzy camera satchel and 400 other camera bits). We have watched all the Master of Photography, bought all of the magazines and I’ve already been told to pose dangerously on rotten logs so he can get his photo jam on. I have to say though, it’s nice to see him so invested in something, and he is a bit of a cutie with all his gear so I’m definitely not complaining.

And here we see a Man Muffin, in his natural habitat. See how he settles himself to take the perfect photo, oblivious to any threat of danger in his quest to take the perfect picture.

I’ve also spent this last week encouraging my book club (I say club, there’s literally just the three of us in a whatsapp group) to read Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch and believe they are now sufficiently hooked enough to read all 6 books (+ 3 graphic novels and 1 free audio book) so that we can gush about them together. Because gush we bloody well will. I thought I was doing very well with this series too; remaining sensibly detached and un-obsessed with it. Guess what? It didn’t last. I think I lulled myself into a false sense of security but the moment I got to the last book I knew it had all been a lie and I am now OB-FREAKIN-SESSED with them. Seriously, I’m trying to reason with myself that it’s not really sensible to just start the whole series again from the beginning, but I’m not sure if I’ll win that fight. I do have to say though, I can’t recommend them enough. One of the main reviews that’s pasted all over the front covers describes the series as “What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the fuzz”. Now whilst this might be a good tag line to draw readers in, I think that barely scratches the surface of what makes these books so darn good. Our hero, Peter Grant, is drawn into a world of magic that (whilst not being out there for everyone to know about) is still pretty established and acts in such a way that makes you think “yep, that’s pretty much what I’d do”. His voice is written in a way that is so accessible and relatable (which has got to be a pretty nifty achievement since the lead character is a 30ish, mixed race male copper, and I am a slightly younger, white female wimp) and treats the subject matter (mostly magic and murder) in exactly the way I want it to be dealt with. His confusion and education aren’t glossed over in a cheesy montage in favour of action-based DRAMA, but instead dealt with in a surprisingly realistic (yet still enjoyable) way. They even  go to some geeky corners of studying the science behind the magic in a way that pleases my inner nerd immensely. It’s not just Peter though; each of the characters are fleshed out and dealt with in a way that proves they aren’t infallible, but just doing what they can. They make decisions that I think I would find myself making in similar situations and regardless of their magic or non-magical status, they are incredibly human in how the deal with things. I mean, it probably also doesn’t hurt that one of the character DCI Thomas Nightingale is a stone cold fox and appeals to me in the kind of way old men coppers always seem to (Hey Lewis).

The thing is thought, Aaronovitch has perfectly managed to make sure that he never once falls into cliché or trope. Every single time a situation seems to be going a certain way, he doesn’t just avoid it, he bloody well blows your expectations out of the water and goes somewhere else entirely. He easily spans various genres, incorporating urban fantasy, magical realism, crime, thriller and comedy in such a seamless way I would really struggle to know where to place in on the library shelf. Considering he manages to do this consistently through each book that I’ve read (plus the graphic novels), I really can’t see myself getting out of this rut anytime soon…Back to the bookshelf!

Rivers

 I mean, come on. Just look at them for Pete’s sake! How these have not been picked up for a TV show yet I will never know.