No Rest for the Wicked or Seasonally Challenged

Well hasn’t this just been a busy old month? Apparently the extra week in January has allowed me to cram as much stuff as I possibly can in without realising it, and I can firmly say having a delayed payday really drags the whole thing out. I don’t think we’re quite at the ‘eating beans for every meal’ stage just yet, but I am definitely ready for this month’s wage packet. Admittedly, we probably haven’t helped ourselves purchasing not only a new Dyson but also a new sofa (the most grown up things ever). However, although it is outgoings that we could have maybe done without, I am pretty positive about them because not only did we get everything on sale (and cheaper than we thought to boot) but I was hella grown up and asked pertinent and sensible adult questions because I am a Boss. Even TMM was impressed with my polite but no nonsense attitude. I’m not actually too sure how long that will last when I actually have to be home to let the delivery men bring the sofa in, but as Woo pointed out, I won’t actually be expected to do anything other than open the door and stay out of their way, so hopefully everything will be fine.

I have fallen pretty lucky though, and really shouldn’t be complaining about the apparent millieum length of January. Due to some jammy holiday accrual, I managed to wangle a week off right in the middle (Mother’s birthday – it’s now tradition that we go and stay with her for week) as well as a couple of spare days here and there that are still to look forward to over the coming months.

The holiday itself came hot off the tail of the works conference down in “that Lundun”, which I have to say was probably the best one yet. Working for a global company does mean that you get some perks – one of which is they basically pay for you to go and have a big party to celebrate how everything’s gone in the previous year. Despite working there for nearly 5 years, this is only actually my third conference as I deemed myself to be far too anxious and mental for the first two. The company have really upped their game this time round though and I’m glad I went. Approx 2000 people converged on Battersea Power Station (sans the flying pigs) in their best frocks and suits for a bang up meal and as much free wine/beer as they could handle. Our office travelled down on Thursday, split over the office supplied coach (which was free so my obvious first choice) and the personally supplied train (which you had to pay for so wasn’t even considered), and those of us travelling on style on the coach enjoyed some good old fashioned games of eye spy and a sing a long. We arrived at our hotel at about 3.30ish and bundled up to our room, believing we had plenty of time for prinks and prep. (Spoilers, we had slightly less time than anticipated and barely made it through by the skin of our teeth).

We scrubbed up pretty well though!

Still, we made it to the venue with plenty of time to spare and stocked up nicely on the free bellinis whilst gawping at the pretty awesome scenery. There isn’t really much more to tell from the night itself; we were all very well behaved. There was lots of dancing, a few selfies with Radio 1’s Greg James and everyone commented repeatedly on how much they liked the meal. We were even back at the hotel at a decent time, though we did order dominoes and didn’t actually go to bed until 2.30am (I shared a room with two of my team and we ended up tucked up in two pushed together single beds singing Three Little Bears). The journey back was a tad more subdued, but nobody threw up or cried which I’m taking as a win, and after finishing in the office I was able to go home, nap hard and pack for the week in Wales.

God we are cute

Sadly Mother’s house is still somewhat in disarray, and much to my chagrin she is proving resistant to my idea that we sign her up to DIY SOS. I am convinced that between the freezing internal temperatures (I don’t care what she says, 13 degrees inside is not balmy), exposed floors and lack of a functional shower in the house, we could have Nick Knowles knocking at the door in no time, but she remains unconvinced. We were going through various fancy home magazines and dog earring the corners of everything we like though, so it’s a definite step in the right direction.

However, we still had a splendid time (as we always do) and it might even be for the best that it’s so cold, because if her house was warm I really would have no reason to ever leave it again. We were very helpful whilst we were there though (or so I like to think), and got involved in all kinds of tasks. We blitzed the workshop like absolute demons and managed to not only arrange everything better, we got rid of about 3 bin bags of rubbish, a couple of charity bags, found some jumpers we’d all forgotten we had, and thankfully didn’t find any rodent corpses hidden behind any of the racks. I did however sneeze very dramatically all over the place and got terribly snotty, once again proving that I am deathly allergic to cleaning. We also made some great progress with Mother’s build up of Christmas decorations (considering she hasn’t been able to decorate for about 3 years, she’s got an excessive amount), and in style of Netflix’s very own Maria Kondo (“but does it spark joy?”) managed to downsize to only 4 small cases and 1 big one box.

Mother and I also spent the afternoon making a Christmas Bauble Wreath (read – Mother did and I just sat next to her making helpful suggestions and smashing bits of bauble up happily), and I am definitely classing this as my first craft installment because I have literally fallen at the first hurdle on that front and am already behind on my craft blog schedule. TMM managed to get through about 3 books so he was in his element and once again it was very clearly indicated to us that we are definitely made for the leisurely lifestyle of retirement in the country. We didn’t hold up quite as well on leaving this time as perhaps we have before; I cried whilst Mother was making us packed lunches, she cried when I hugged her, we all went to the shop to get some final bits and then bawled unashamedly in the car park for a while before setting off. I managed to pull myself together by Aberystwyth though and by the time we got home I’d only teared up twice more so that’s good.

There’s still plenty to do though and I’ve got lots to look forward too; I’ve had letters from both the dentist and opticians demanding my presence (oh joy, oh rapture), TMM’s sister is fit to burst with a new little one and we’ve got a holiday to Greece to meet up with some old friends to plan (don’t worry, there will definitely be a post on that later because I am actually the worst person in the world at planning a holiday and will have lots of hilarious anxiety ridden anecdotes to share). I even managed to finish a jigsaw that has been sat on our table for OVER A YEAR last night which I’m seeing as a very positive omen for the year ahead. We’ve made it through Blue Monday and it’s all downhill to summer now; things can only get better from here.

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Viva la Pluto!

So…does anybody else get panicked by the amount of stuff they don’t know? Is there anyone else who gets that sense of panicked dread at the thought of never being able to fully grasp all there is to the universe and life as we know it? Is everyone secretly and constantly living in fear of the huge black hole of unknowingness that sits in the centre of our beings?

Just me?

It turns out that, much to nobody’s surprise, I am a massive nerd and love learning things. Now don’t get me wrong, I hated school as much as the next person, and I am in no way interested in useful or sensible information
like the mathematical principles behind algebra or politics. Instead my fancy lies in the completely irrelevant and useless. If it’s something that will help you get a point in an obscure pub quiz, I want it; if it’s something important like how to do my job, my brain is mostly unarsed.

Basically what I’m saying is that I like to hoard impractical and often pointless facts like a squirrel hoarding winter nuts. I tuck them away smugly and then bring them out in conversation to wow people with my seemingly endless general knowledge. It’s odd though, because I can’t say I active control what is retained and what’s discarded. For example, I can never ever remember what cilantro is (coriander for those of you who don’t know – I had to google) even though I really want to, but I can consistently regale the banana fact without hesitation (you all know the one #GrosMichalvsCavendish). Who knows what the stringent selection trials these poor facts have to endure to be adopted by my brain, or the apparently frivolous categorisation process that means they get to stay in there.

It seems though that the thoughts I have are reminiscent of Wikipedia tunnelling. You know when you look for something innocent like how hot air balloons were invented on a passing whim and then 5 hours later find yourself sat in the dark reading about some horrible serial murderer from America in the 1970s? Without even realising, Wikipedia has taken you on an endless rabbit hole adventure of weird knowledge that you didn’t even think you were interested in (this happens every single time). I feel my brain is very much tuned the same way; it will suggest something innocuous and then before you know it, I’m deep in an existential crisis about how much information I’ll never know and desperately googling some inane fact about elbows..

Tuesday night was a prime and perfect crystallisation of this. Unsuspectingly, we’d gone o bed, happily looking forward to a nice early night. Tucked up in our warm marshmallowy duvet, I’d turned to TMM and asked casually “do you know what ducks eat?” It was a question that had popped up in the last half an hour at work and obviously been rattling round in my brain pan, just waiting for an opportunity to present itself.

TMM hummed and hawed for a moment, and then shuffled up to have a quick look on his phone. After a moment of furious researching, he
knowledgeably informed me that it depends on the duck categorisation (diving or dabbling) and it typically varies between grass, insects or small fishies. This seemed acceptable and he put his phone down to snuggle in just as I piped up “did you know hippopotamus translates as sea pony?” He side eyed me curiously. “Or something like that. I know it’s not sea pig which is what it should be.” There was a moment of silence and then TMM shuffled up again to grab his phone. “River horse” he declared triumphantly and I nodded sagely. “I knew it was something like that”.

From there, we spent an engaging couple of minutes having the standard Greek vs Latin debate regard the pluralisation of animals (always solved when someone shouts out Octopodes proudly), before delving deep into a favourite topic of mine – Megafauna. “Do you think that hippos were giant during the Pleistocene era like sloths?”

I am lowkey obsessed with giant sloths and fascinated with the thought of ginormous animals just living their best lives. Look at this veritable super group of massive animals – image stolen from http://www.lifegate.com

TMM sallied forth with a valid point that maybe hippos were in fact smaller, and then dropped a scientific bombshell which I really think should have come with more warning.

“Isn’t it the case though if things evolve to be bigger, it takes 100s of years, where as if you evolve downwards it can happen almost within a few generations?”

(My eyes went wide here people. Admittedly, since then we can find no evidence to either verify or deny this claim, but I had a great time googling and have decided to make it my mission to find out the truth once and for all. It did however allow me to discover the fact that no other animal has a chin, which is just fantastic. And yes, I can sense everyone else’s whelms being very much under.)

“Do you reckon there are pygmy whales then? Like, the size of a cat or something?”

Spoiler, there is such a thing as a Pygmy Right Whale, but it’s still pretty massive. The world’s smallest whale is a dwarf sperm whale which still reaches up to 9 feet, which dashed my dream of having a tiny pet whale in a tank in the living room.

This though, of course, lead onto the etymology and definition of pygmy, especially compared to dwarfism (because where else would it lead?). Turns out that, very very basically, a dwarf animal is likely to be an isolated case of a-typical sizing, where as a pygmy is part of a specific category of small animal (such as pygmy goats).

By this point we were both practically asleep and TMM proceeded to gently smother me when I sleepily tried to engage him in conversation regarding the stupidities of the English language- “like why do we gave so many words for so many random and odd things but read and read are the same? And why is it boot and foot? It should be foot and but!” (Admittedly, this section doesn’t transfer over to the written side of things so well, but you get the idea).

This whole exchange is but a glimpse into the convoluted and wild ride that I like to mentally travel (often dragging a mildly confused but game TMM). I mean, who has time to try and learn how taxes work when there’s things like this to be thought about? I think people are stating to realise though, and last night I was given the task of looking into planet density by my colleague, which then devolved into a heated picture spam battle over the planetary status of Pluto.

Tumblr knows the struggle

Now, I know this has been a bit of a bijoux offering this week, but I really have been very busy, very tired and under strict instructions not to talk about Christmas. Poor Woo is of a similarly un-festive mindset as myself and although willing to speak about it in person, she resents being forced to edit blog posts on it, which I can understand. (We did have our annual Christmas craft day on Sunday, which was a lot more successful that the great craft and cheese debacle of Christmas 2016 where we ate our own body weight in dairy and cried over origami, It was really the final straw though and now we’re going to ignore it until the last minute.)

As such, this may be the last time you hear from me until after the big Ho Ho Ho (I will more than likely be far too busy stuffing my face with festive foods and doing some serious family bonding over board games to blog) so I will leave you all with seasonal good tidings and a promise to see you on the other side.

Ho Ho Hungover


So I suffered potentially my first three (3) day long hangover this weekend, at the grand old age of 27, which was a new and I have to say distinctly unpleasant experience.  If this is what getting old is, I would like to say I’ve changed my mind and would like a refund please.

It was my work’s Christmas do on Friday, and after the pleasantly surprisingly success of last year (I literally did nothing except drink and dance to Daniel Bedingfield songs) I was actually quite looking forward to this one. My team had been planning “Prinks” (or pre drinks for the uninitiated), simultaneous party prep and had even compiled a playlist of classic “bangin’ toons” to start the evening off with, and by the time it came round to it we were all pretty excited. 

Looking back now, I’m not really surprised at the turn of events that led to such an awful and distressingly lengthy hangover. Despite all my very careful prior planning (I was going to stick to sensible similar drinks, eat well and have a glass of water and tablets before bed) by the time we actually arrived at Revs, I was already pretty mashed. Skip forward about 8 hours and we ended up slumped in a pile in Pizzarama stuffing our faces with greasy garlic bread. We eventually made it home at about 4am after countless countless cocktails, about 7 thousand shots and 8 hours of hardcore dancing and by the time I actually got through the front door I was basically a dehydrated twig with sore feet (though kudos to my pal Zo for her strong work on her falsie application because my lashes were still fly as f***).

I do have to admit to being rather proud that we’re actually still alive. I can’t actually remember the last time TMM and I made it to that time – TMM automatically clocks out at 10pm and has been found slumped in pub corners snoring gently to himself and I pretty much go from being hyperactively chipper to ready for bed in about 3 minutes flat. We partied hard though and had the accolade of being one of the last stragglers out. TMM also managed to fully endear himself to all of my colleagues (of which I never had any doubt) and made for some great photo opportunities.

We are the epitome of class

With all that being said, the following morning was only to be expected really. Oddly, I woke up feeling rough but nowhere near as awful as one would think. I was even able to drag myself out of bed and to the local shop (admittedly I didn’t look great) for supplies; consisting of Lucozade, a chicken and bacon sandwich and chocolate buttons) whilst TMM huddled under the duvet groaning pathetically. We proceeded to nest and rehydrate for a few hours before peeling ourselves out of our pity party and gingerly making out way to Molly’s to walk the dog. Unfortunately by that point, I was rapidly deteriorating and had to return to bed by 8pm with a headache that was so bad I couldn’t see and lie in the dark with a flannel on my eyes groaning softly.

Sunday was a little better; though I did have a mild breakdown at my inability to open the golden syrup, we managed to tidy up the apparent bomb site we’d created in our drunken states and finish a couple of Christmas presents. Returning to work on Monday, I was pleased to see the rest of my team struggling with the same kind of fugue like daze, wild hair and crazed and exhausted expressions. Thankfully we have mostly recovered now, but we’ve all got high hopes for the company conference in January.

Thinking back on some of our exploits from Friday (including but not limited to our re-enactment of the Dirty Dancing Lift and some of our less classier poses) has lead me down the somewhat shaded lane of other drunken memories. I thought perhaps now might be the perfect interlude to share some previous experiences with you (some of which will feature me in the spot light, but some of which may be about my dad or friend Jbear).

Something that you may or may not be surprised to learn about me is that I didn’t really drink much until I started University. I was a very timid and easily startled child and didn’t really embrace late nights and loud noises in those days. I think I was fully prepared to be very much the same at Uni, but sharing a block with 15 engaging and hilarious strangers pretty much shocked me right out of that. Whilst I didn’t live quite as energetically as some, I definitely started to adopt more of an outgoing lifestyle. Partly I think this was because under my crusty antisocial exterior lies a devilish party girl, but mostly I think it’s because I met Jbear, my American sister from another Mister. Our relationship was forged in one night of stupid memes and we never looked back. In fact, my very first true experience of what can only be classed as a “drunken shambles” centres entirely around her, some chips and a box of mulled wine (yes, you read that correctly). Oddly enough, that was another Christmas party (I’m sensing a theme here); a gathering in my block of all housemates and various hangers on. Jbear and I had adorably matched outfits (weirdly not on purpose, we were just that in-tune) and what started with some festive tunes and giggles rapidly devolved into drinking cheap mulled beverages straight from their shiny silver foil bladders (£5 for about 2 litres) and ended with Jbear throwing up bright purple chips into the downstairs shower room. Due to the unfortunate chunky nature of the vomit and the unnecessarily tiny holes in the plug, I was forced to poke most of the mess in with my bare hands whilst Jbear lay on the floor alternating between laughing hysterically, telling me how much she loved me and sobbing brokenly. Poor Jbear was, quit literally, hanging after that and spent the rest of the weekend on my dad’s couch in his pjs feeling sorry for herself whilst I told anybody who listened how much fun we’d had.

This isn’t even a picture from that weekend (or even the right house) but it is pretty much a perfect representation of how we spent half of our time. Also this was one of the clearest photos – apparently we were incapable of using phone cameras in those days.

Sadly Jbear only stayed for a year, though I am pretty sure we made the best of that. After she returned to the good old US of A, leaving me in the capable hands of TMM, I was forced to go on partying without her (until I went to visit her in Ohio and got so drunk playing beer pong I am surprised she didn’t end up poking my vomit down a plug hole). For the most part though, I was mostly very sensible and drank in moderation, enjoying the highlights of University life without waking up in a bush or making a complete tit out of myself in the union bar. 

This was before the beer pong game even started

Unfortunately I do have to say mostly, as there is one particular scenario which does not fit the criteria of sensible moderation. There is, in fact, one specific night that I’m pretty sure still brings TMM out in panicked hives. Let me set you the scene – it’s the height of summer, there is a beach theme party at the union and I’ve got a fabulous flowery dress. The sun in shining, the birds are singing and I am annoyed because I have to work until 7pm, despite my best attempts to swap shifts. Whilst this might not seem like the most tragic situation in hindsight, I was practically inconsolable at missing out on valuable prinks time with my friends and in my infinitely flawed wisdom, thought it would be best to catch up in the shortest amount of time possible once my shift had finished. To that end, I proceeded to down a couple of unnecessarily strong shots before we made our way to the party. It is possibly pertinent to point out at this point that we stopped off at a friend’s block on campus to pick up some other people (and do a few more shots in my case). For reasons that I couldn’t fathom at the time, half of them seemed to be sober and not eager enough to catch up to my level and after an hour or so of chatter and games, it was decided that a few of us should go onto the union alone as a kind of exploration party and the rest would join us later. 

Check out those classy digs. Little did I know how my evening was going to end…

Fast forward about an hour to 10 o’clock and I am starting to regret my choices. Some dancing, some candy floss and, shockingly, some more shots had started to curdle internally and I was forced to make my way to the nearest available bathroom. It was here that I was found by my friend, who told me later through hysterical laughter that I had taken my shoes and glasses off and put them neatly to one side before curling round the toilet to have a quiet chunder. She managed to convince me to let go of my death grip of the porcelain and deposited me with TMM, who took one look and decided that it was home time. It was as he was guiding (read: carrying) me out that we bumped into the rest of our party who were literally just coming in. Shamefacedly, he led me back across campus, where I had to stop and cry loudly at least three times because I was, for some unknown reason, terrified one of my lecturers would see me and be disappointed (a goody two shoes even in that state). TMM was very sympathetic and continued to chivvy me on, finally managing to drag me up the fire escape and into our room. It was at this stage I made the signal and he artfully slide a bowl into my outstretched arms and held my hair back as some more of the shots v. candy floss cocktail made its exit. That night, he somehow managed to be the most supportive and iron stomached boyfriend the world has ever seen; emptying the bucket on numerous occasions between stroking my head, telling me he loved me and making sure I drank as much water as possible. Eventually I passed out, star-fishing so completely that he was forced to retire to the couch and it was there he stayed until early the following morning when he got up to go and play a rugby match in front of his parents whilst I lay in my shame pit, begging friends to bring bananas, ice lollies and sympathy (I got the bananas and ice lollies, I definitely did not get the sympathy). How I managed to keep him for a further 8 years is completely beyond me, but boy am I grateful. 

Thankfully since then, I only need one hand to count the times I’ve got outrageously drunk, and most of them have involved a theme party (which we all know is a weakness of mine) or being on a yoga retreat holiday in Fuerta Ventura and making complete tits of ourselves at a beach front bar, happily plied by a bar owner who clearly thought we were hilarious and was eager to get us to try some of his homemade concoctions. 

We were classic Brits on Tour here. Shameless.

Whilst I am mildly ashamed of my ability to be such an outrageously royal lush, I do like to think that I have carried on the family tradition of being completely hilarious whilst drunk. I come from a line of legends, who have done such things as coming home so drunk they couldn’t remember going to sleep, but woke up face down, fully clothed (including sun glasses and bag) minus only their shoes, which were later found in the hallway with the laces cut all the way down the middle to make for easy escape, or being so hungover out and about that the only way they could manage the unfortunate egress of the previous night’s indulgences was by throwing up into a spare nappy (not used) belonging to their toddler. 

We might not do it often, but when we do, by God we do it hilariously. 




Mele Kalikicraftmus

I mean, I know I said all that last week about not being big into Christmas and all, but I do have to admit to getting a bit carried away this weekend. Since we’re having Mother, Robin and her boyf over to ours for the festive period (possibly the first time we’ve actually properly hosted for more than 1 person and for more than 1 evening), we decided it might actually be the time to make some effort. Previous years have seen us either not really making much effort (we always aim to have a tiny Christmas sprout) or not bothering to decorate at all. I think when you’re out living as a real life grown up but without children, the sparkle can dull a little bit and it’s a lot easier to see only the trials and tribulations (and almighty costs) instead of the joy and excitement. When you’re inviting other people though, it could possibly be considered a tad rude to force them to not celebrate the season just because you can’t be arsed with the stress. To that end, TMM and I have decided we’re going to go for it. Now, we’re not going wild, though this is mainly because we already have so much stuff and I literally do not have the time, energy on inclination to move all of my normal tat to replace it with Xmas tat. Also because I know that if I Go For It (note the use of capitalisation) and it doesn’t look like something out of Country Living December Edition (which is obviously won’t) I will lose all hope and try and bin everything. Instead, we will just go at about 65%, which will still allow us to be 50% more festive than previous years but won’t end in a stroppy ceremonial Christmas bonfire.

We have obviously (as per last week’s post) already been adopting new seasonal traditions (book flood anyone?), but we’ve also been reverting to some god old fashioned ones, which leads me nicely into our first adventure of the weekend. No matter how non-Christmassy we’re feeling, we do always agree that if a tree is to be purchased, it must be real. Previous years have found us with teeny weeny little shrubs from local garden centres (or occasional Tesco) propped up on cabinets and weighed down awkwardly by our 5 oversized baubles. This year however, TMM decided that it was time for us to go big (not childhood big, where all Christmas trees appear to be about 30 ft. tall and as wide as Santa’s waistline) but of a grown up height. He rearranged the living room to make room and dug out the flyer offering £5 off from the local Christmas Tree Farm and everything was gung ho until we realised that whilst our house and dreams were big enough to accommodate a 6 ft. tree, the new car was not. I was fully prepared to give up and go back to the little league, but TMM was not to be deterred. “I’ll just carry it!” he says, with a hearty attitude and somewhat manic look in his eye.

And Reader? Carry it he did.

Decked in our new gear (Primark jumper and new expedition coat that turns me into a member of East 17, we set off on Sunday mid morning. Now the walk from our house to the next village along typically takes me about 40 minutes (though usually because I am trudging grumpily and muttering under my breath about stupid public transport), but I do have to admit that it wasn’t quite as bad as normal with TMM’s positive attitude. Making it to the farm in record time, we turned up the drive and were met by two high viz wearing youths who smiled at us with bemused smiles, obviously concerned that we hadn’t realised we’d forgotten our car. Undeterred, we skipped merrily into the fields and started manhandling tress with gay abandon. Not being too arsed by the general look of the thing, we made our selection within about 2 minutes and TMM dragged it over to the netting machines. Much to my chagrin (and despite my offer of a whole £5 if he threw himself through it head first, which alongside being in a carwash with the windows down is one of my all time big dreams), TMM refused to net himself and instead focused on getting the tree trussed up. I think he mightily impressed one of the workers who basically just stood aside and let him do his thing with a cheery “you should get a job here”, and he had it paid for (with discount) and over his shoulder in the blink of an eye. As we departed, one of the youths from the gate broke out into a cheery smile when he realised what we intended, wishing us a very Merry Christmas and 100% convinced that we weren’t going to make it. TMM is a true hero amongst men though, and in less than 2 hours after setting out we’d made it back to base camp with only one stop to delayer. I documented the whole thing hilariously on Instagram, partly to distract myself from my own burden of the coats (which were also very heavy thank you very much) but mostly to show the world what an absolute legend he is. Nearly every car that drove past heralded either a smile or a face of disbelief and I actually think we might be village famous now #lifegoals

Side note – I would also like to point out that I did try to help, but it was decided very quickly by all parties that I was more of a hindrance than not (I ended up looking a lot like Grandpa in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; one finger on the tree and a big cheesy grin).

Once we were home (again, can I point out how it took us less than 2 hours to travel that far with baggage) it only took a few minutes of furious sawing and a quick vac (of both the pine needles on the floor and the ones that had coated TMM’s back) to get it settled. By the afternoon, it was most gloriously bedecked in all of our oversized baubles (I don’t know why we don’t buy normal sized ones), including the Oxford globe, the York bell jar and our little wooden cut outs from Prague. I am quite proud with the classic and understated approach we’ve taken to it, and TMM is happy we haven’t used tinsel (which he believes is the devil’s work). As of the time this was written, it is still upright (if leaning slightly to the left) and Bucky has remained mostly unarsed by it, except as somewhere to hide whilst he decapitates and devours the mouse population of the village (such lovely presents to find).

Whist we doing the tree however, it was pretty clear that we really don’t have enough decorations for anywhere else in the house. Our minimalist approach has left us with one box of random bits and bobs and a couple of stockings and that’s about it. Somewhat reluctant to go out and spend money on crappy plastic ones, TMM suggested we have a go at making our own. I’m all into my pom poms and origami at the moment, which gave us some ideas, and a quick google suggested salt dough could be the way forward. Now salt dough is a staple from my childhood and for anyone who’s never done IT, you’re really missing out. Super cheap and easy to make, non toxic (quite important considering how much I insisted on eating when younger), and very simple to decorate; it’s the perfect idea to keep kids and craft adults happy. All you need is 2 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of salt and enough water to bind it together and hey presto; you’ve got your dough. What more can you want? TMM suggested we make some nice little pendants using some stamps that we had, and after a slight hiccup (I couldn’t find the stamps and was fully prepared to cancel Christmas as a whole until TMM found them hiding under the couch), we were set to go. It was surprisingly easy and within the hour, we have enough bits for four garlands spelling Merry Christmas in various languages (points if you can identify them), a couple of festive animals and a big gay pendant with our initials because we are in love and also ADORABLE. 3 hours in the oven on a low heat and they were baked to perfection and we’ve been gradually tying them up as and when we’ve had time. I’ve also decided some pom pom bunting couldn’t hurt and I’m just waiting for a free evening to get a couple knocked out in seasonal colours, and I’m hoping to make some little paper trees and cranes this weekend whilst TMM finishes off the wrapping.

All in all, I don’t really think I can keep claiming the title of Grinch this year. With our early start on present shopping and decorative preparations, we’re pretty much fully immersed. All that’s left is a rendition of Santa Drives a Pickup Truck (my most fave xmas song) and a night in with White Christmas and Muppets Christmas Carol. Is this what being a functional and prepared adult in December feels like? Apparently it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

12 Days of Tradition

12 Trads Blog

IT’S COMING PEOPLE! CHRISTMAS IS ON IT’S WAY! I don’t want to panic you or appear overly dramatic, but it cannot be denied. Halloween is over and done with, Bonfire Night is a distant memory and people are gearing up for the Big Ho Ho Ho. Shops are filling up with suspiciously smug customers who have already made a dent in their gift lists, fairy lights are popping up like festive moles all over the bloody place and I have already seen one child walking to school in a Santa hat. People are starting to get excited and there is a whiff of festivity in the air.

Honestly, I can’t say I’m enjoying to that much. I am one of those grouchy grinches who repeatedly insists that there are only 12 days of Christmas and not one of them is in November. I’ve already spent countless hours wordlessly screaming into the black void of Christmas music and I’ve had to haggle hard with some work colleagues to keep the festive radio station playing to a minimum (we’ve compromised on an hour a day until December 1st, though this has already been ignored and Tuesday was a whole day of Mariah Carey and Wizzard). I have also categorically refused to even touch the wrapping this year, but thankfully TMM has take my childish refusal with good grace and tackled the ever growing pile with a positive attitude and a healthy amount of recycled brown packaging paper. I have deigned to come from my lofty heights to make a couple of pompoms for decoration, but that’s it.

Look how cute these are. Though be aware, this is just a fraction. The whole left hand side of the living room is lost to the Present Pile now.

It is unavoidable though, and no matter how much I bury my head in the snow, the undeniable seasonal cheer is seeping in. Various Christmas adverts insist on thrusting themselves into my eye line despite the fact I never actually watch live TV anymore, and I’ve witnessed the Kevin the Carrot hysteria second hand. Apparently Aldi were forced to put a limit of no more than two carrot families per person (though god knows why anybody wants that many stuffed felt carrots, as they will undoubtedly end up in a cupboard or under the bed within two months before making their way forlornly to various charity shops/bins before this decade is out). I do have to admit to possibly encouraging the craze and agreeing to make a baby carrot toy for one of the girls at work, which in itself was a challenge. Never having crocheted before I feel maybe a carrot was a tad ambitious, but after 1 broken crochet hook, countless swear words and some near misses with tears of frustration, I was able to gift him as promised and apparently he is now much loved. To be honest I think he looks a little like he’s screaming, but as long as she’s happy with him, it’s all gravy.

It’s not a great photo, but I still can’t help but think he looks like a carrot version of The Scream. As long as someone loves him though.

It’s coming up to the time of festive traditions though, as people start to talk about their Christmas routines and everyone starts to fall into the same old patterns of preparing for the big day. We had the ultimate pleasure of taking Molly to the local Christmas Fair (one of my favourite events) and boy am I glad we don’t have to do that again for a few months. She tutted her way round the stalls complaining loudly about the lack of local people (despite the fact that it was the busiest I’d ever seen it), pushed in front of various other elderly people without any regard for social convention (though thankfully in her excitement she missed the Tombolo which really is more trouble than it’s worth) and spent a truly repulsive amount of money at the jam stall. She evilly eyed up the woman with the golden charity bucket, who despite being there every damn year is apparently a complete stranger (Molly insisted on repeatedly saying to her “I don’t know who you are”) and griped about the coffee being stone cold (but refused to let us get her a fresh cup). By the time we got her back to her house, both of the other couples that look after her had turned up (a fortuitous event that has never before happened). We all had to have photos and the she got completely overwhelmed and just shouted at everyone until we all went home. A truly festive afternoon.

I have heard of some rather more positive seasonal traditions though, which I think would be much nicer to adhere to (no offence to the local Christmas Fair, obvs). There are a lot of European and Scandinavian practices that have popped on my Facebook feed over the last few years that I would love to adopt. This year, a lot of people have been pointing me towards an Icelandic tradition that is part of a season called Jolabokflod (Jólabókaflóð) which roughly translates to “The Christmas Book Flood”. Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country and sells most of its books between September and November in preparation for the upcoming holiday. This has led to people exchanging books as presents on Christmas Eve and spending the rest of the night snuggled up reading them and snacking on festive foods. Obviously this speaks to me on a rather emotional level and TMM has already made the executive decision to appropriate this idea this year (I can’t say I’m too upset).

I’ve also seen articles relating to a movement in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where people purchase new coats and leave them tied around lamp posts and packed safely on benches for homeless people with notes tied to them that say “I am not lost! If you are stuck out in the cold, please take me to keep warm”. Austrians also like to help, and apparently buy extra Christmas trees to leave outside their houses to ensure the local wildlife has a nice festively themed haven. If these don’t warm your heart, I don’t know what will.

Denmark and Norway have given us Hygge, a massively on trend movement that thrives well in the wintery season. All about comfort and relaxation, it’s there to help away fight away the winter blues and seasonal low moods. It’s all about the aesthetic; including lots of heart shapes decorations (which will please my mum no end) earthy colours and natural textures – bringing in some much needed greenery inside for the holidays. If you’re looking for a cosy little Christmas, you don’t need much more than a little bit of Jolabokflod and Hygge (which sounds like a great law firm).

The last one I’ve seen recently which I thought was cute is a Nordic folklore about the Nisse/Tomte, which in very rudimentary terms is basically a Christmas goblin. Originating in pre-Christian times, it is a spirit that looks like a little gnome or gonk and is often linked specifically to a family or clan, thought to be of the farmer who originally cleared the land to live on. Believed to possibly be derived from Norse niðsi which translates “dear little relative”, they live in the homestead and act as a guardian. They will look after the family and animals and protect from misfortune, but are short tempered and easily offended – they will steal stuff or kill life stock and basically they will eff shiz up if you don’t treat them properly. However, over time their legends have evolved and they are now widely linked to Christmas. Their purpose and appearance has been heavily influenced by the commercialised ideas of Father Christmas and they now visit houses to deliver gifts to worthy souls. I like the notion of a little house spirit keeping an eye on things and enjoying the festivities as much as the next romantic.

Not to be a lefty snowflake (though I suppose it is the season after all) but I would like as much European influence this Christmas as possible. It’s a time for celebration and coming together (I feel the urge to burst into song) and with everything that’s going on elsewhere, I think it’s important to share our histories and traditions before they’re lost. And let’s face it, anything that keeps me in the mood has got to be worth it.

Welcome to 2018 – In with the old, in with the new and in with all the bits in between

What Ho Readers!

How are we all after the festive season? Stuffed full of good food and good cheer? Overjoyed at the gift haul? Back in work with pained grimace and gloomy face? I woke up this morning to a rather dramatic nose bleed (I think it was my brain rebelling at the pressure of having to be a real person again rather than a Christmas blob) and spent a good ten minutes wailing quietly into my pillow.

To be honest though, work itself hasn’t been that bad (not great, but it could have been worse I suppose), but having to wake up and leave my duvet nest before 10am has been absolutely hellish. It’s been absolutely and most unnecessarily pitch blank both in the morning and when I’ve left work and I am just Not About It. By the time I’ve actually built up any energy, it’s about 11am and when 5.30pm rolls around, I’ve lost it all again. Home time mainly results in me getting in, immediately changing into pyjamas and then sulkily doing a jigsaw until bed time. Any hope of doing anything vaguely constructive or helpful has been swiftly denied and if I’m honest you’re lucky your getting a blog post this week. (Gosh, what a little ray of sunshine I am). Anyway, to this end I have made the  business savvy and hopefully conducive decision to move my regular blog day to Thursday. This will hopefully give me more time to actually write and prepare each update and will give you all something to look forward to before the weekend. Bear with me though, and we’ll see how it goes…

In other and far less depressingly morose news, I am glad to let you all know that Christmas was a roaring success, even with a couple hiccups during the build up. The best (or possibly worst) issue we had was when, during the Great Wrap of 2017, gravy was accidentally spilt onto a beautiful hardback copy of a book we’d bought for my sister’s partner. After much hysteria, gravy dabbing and a narrowly avoided hissy fit (not me for once), we ordered a replacement. This would have been the end of it, but after a few days the new book turned up with a big sticky black mark on the front of it. Obviously I was not okay with this (cue my narrowly avoided hissy fit) and I wrote a sternly worded complaint email (inclusive of pictures because I am nothing if not thorough). There was a bit of back and forth – I didn’t get the vouchers I was angling for, and we finally agreed a new (un-besmirched) copy would be sent directly to the gift receiver. Imagine then my surprise when a day before Christmas a third copy unexpectedly turned up on my doorstep. Poor Jo from Blackwells Customer Service Department was as confused as I was and who knows if yet a forth copy is winding it’s way through the postal system even now. Still, we managed to get the clean copy to wear it needed to be on time and we do now have two spare/slightly sullied copies of the book for our own personal use. If anybody fancies a copy – do let me know.

Apart from that fun little interlude (and the one evening I spent in floods of tears, covered in cello tape and had to be sent to clean the bathroom in disgrace), everything went swimmingly and TMM and I ended up with an almost repulsive amount of presents. TMM even managed to keep nearly all of my presents a surprise (something he has previously been incapable of doing) and went far beyond the self imposed limit we’d given each other. Still, I’ll let him off because he also prepared a truly scrumptious Christmas dinner and has generally been rather fabulous for the whole period. (Admittedly, he was in bad books on Monday night after he burst in on me in the shower and sprayed a bottle of Cava everywhere like a nutter – I nearly died trying to get away without slipping all over the place, but I grudgingly forgave him before bedtime).

 Here’s just a little sample of our presents…Prepare for mention of the others in upcoming instalments

My Mother came up and spent a few days with us too over the holidays and was generally the best house guest we could have asked for. She came with us to visit TMM’s family on Christmas Eve (where she once again proved herself to be the best of all Baby Whisperers), took me on a road trip to see my dad/sister and respective partners, helped me clean the kitchen on the day after Boxing Day. She also spent a good twenty minutes helping me try and catch a vole that Bucky had thoughtfully brought in for us (cleverly named Malvoleio) which was fun for all. She was, in fact, so well behaved that we have deigned to grace her with our presence at her house next week as a reward. Hopefully a week without us will have given her time to recover and she’ll be willing to welcome us with open arms when we rock up at the weekend…

We also kept up the excellent tradition that we started last year of playing Cards Against Humanity with the family. There will still never be a greater pleasure in my life than seeing my Neens say “cheeky bum sex”. We involved my mother this time as well, which went much better than expected. She took to it like a duck to water and I don’t know whether this makes me proud or concerned. Either way, she’s started using it as a weapon against me; there was one particular card that caused much hysteria in the under 30’s but left everyone else looking at each other blankly, and she now likes to whisper it at inopportune moments, safe in the knowledge that she doesn’t know what it means but that it will inevitably cause me to spit out whatever I’m currently drinking. It definitely helped us clear out chests though and I don’t think I was the only one who woke up with rib ache from laughing too hard.

Pepe

Pepe the Cat sits disapprovingly in the pile of burnt cards. This was before he went and sat in the oven, which is a great new pastime of his.

Family once again went above and beyond on the present front and I am now the proud owner of a projector, a raccoon picture (the cutest of all things), a Slytherin sports bra, a microscopic camera (literally all of the close up pictures), a super snuggly blanket and a literal shit ton of other things (too numerous to list but all AMAZING). Two of the best presents we got were books (surprise surprise), including Dawn French’s DIY diary (which I have started with great enthusiasm) and The Almanac by Lia Leendertz; a gorgeous compendium of facts, ideas and seasonal suggestions for the coming year. This month we’re on the lookout for Redwings and TMM is going to get some seed potatoes to plant. It also suggested buying some blood oranges and making marmalade which we bastardised into making orange vodka (sue us) so we’re already feeling quite chipper about our progress.

However, do not take this as a sign that we have gone in for this “New Year, New Me” crap. Remember what we spoke about this time last year, class? January is not the time to be starting this resolation-ary bullsh*t. It’s dark, cold, depressing and I would much rather spend my time wallowing in my left over Christmas chocolate. Any resolutions I do choose to make will come into fruition some time around May when it’s sunnier and I’m able to take criticism and self judgement a little better. Still, I’m will not be too much of a Debbie Downer on any you who are foolhardy enough to start the New Year with serious life changes. If you are ready to start dieting after the Christmas Binge, have dreams of brand new shiny gym memberships or just fancy trying something a bit different, I wish you all the luck in the world from my sulky winter nest.

What IS it about those Crotchety Old Men?!

Happy Nearly Christmas my festive little Sprouts!

Once again I have to apologise (surprise surprise) for being a week behind on blogging (though it was touch and go whether or not I’d get this one posted). Fighting against Christmas colds, hangovers, present prep and the most ridiculous period of busyness at work (WTF? It’s Christmas? Go away!) has left me with very little time to call my own and even less to call blogging specific. Which is just rude really. Still, I am returned for now and will give you one last chapter before the festive season truly kicks in.

I did struggle a lot to think about what to blog this week. I think being so busy with everything else has just turned my brain to mush, rather than giving me inspiration on what to write about.  It’s been complete madness, but I hasten to add; an acceptable kind of madness. The kind that leaves you constantly achieving and with slight levels of hysteria, rather than the type that overwhelms you and makes you sit and stare at a wall for hours on end terrified of how much there is to do and how much you can’t do it.

Admittedly, I shouldn’t really make it sound so bad when it’s poor TMM who’s been in charge of the wrapping extravaganza that’s currently in progress in our living room. We now have practically every present (there are still one or two either in transit or waiting to be put together) and they are scattered in loose family piles all over the floor. I have mainly ensconced myself safely on the couch with a gold pen and the festive labels and left TMM to fight with the temperamental tape dispenser and countless rolls of seemingly sentient paper. He’s done very well over all (there’s only been one minor injury and two small huffs) but there’s still about 20% to go so who knows how the rest of this week could go down.

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The worrying thing is, this is 3 days in and it actually looks much better than it did…

You’ve got to find coping mechanisms from the Christmas Chaos how you can though, and I’ve mainly found respite by going on a reading bender these last couple of weeks. TMM set me onto Jo Nesbo, a Scandinavian crime/thriller writer who he’s been trying to convince me to read for a while (he’s regretting that now I can tell you). Very much in my typical fashion, I started reading with the intention of just finishing one book and seeing how I felt but ended up desperately bingeing the entire series and am now 9 books in and devastatingly obsessed.  Typically I shy away from particularly graphic scandi noir crime thrillers so I’m actually quite surprised how obsessed I’ve become with these. I nearly had palpitations watching Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and we’ve had to limit my viewing of The Tunnel to one episode every few days because I get so panicked about the high levels of peril. These books (based on the Harry Hole series – those of you who’ve been paying attention will have seen the recent film “The Snowman” with Michael Fassbender which is based on a book in the middle of the series) are really no different and have started to get particularly violent – The Leopard (the next one to the Snowman) is particularly gruesome and there’s interviews I’ve read with the author in which he’s stated that even he thinks he might have gone slightly too far. Still, I’ve found them so addictive I’ve been unable to stop. Poor TMM has had to put up with my ranting and mild stresses throughout the last few weeks and has done so graciously, even when I made him buy a second copy of one book so we could read them at the same time, overtook him on the series and spoilered him for character deaths.

This, in fact, is one particular bugbear I have with Mr Nesbo. Like JK Rowling and the writers of Spooks, he belongs to that school of writer who aims for “realism” in his books and thinks you can achieve this by killing of main characters. I would like to set the record straight once and for all – this is not on. Mainly, I choose to read because I am looking for a distraction from real life. I want something that takes me away from my own world and submerges me in another, full of adventure and excitement that I want but am too lazy and awkward to actually aim for. What I do not want is sadness and death of characters that I have become attached to. I especially do not want it to happen MORE THAN THREE TIMES! Seriously, it’s a good job Nesbo isn’t on Twitter otherwise he would have had as a severe and unapologetic diatribe as I could have sufficiently written in 218 characters. I’m not reading for the heartache of reality. I’m reading to escape all that, and if you could stop killing off all my favourite characters in cruel and unusual ways, I’d very much appreciate it!

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Just a little light reading

The main attraction for me though, as I once again am slightly embarrassed to admit, is my love of crotchety old men. I don’t know what is about them but every single time they become one of my favourite characters. Harry Hole is, admittedly, a little young for my typical type (at the fair age of only 48) but his sarcastic outlook, inability to not do the right thing (much to his chagrin) and heavy mental and physical scarring pretty much fit the bill. It’s like my inexplicable but uncontrollable love for Lewis (TV show) all over again. Give me an aged, wrinkly, bitter old copper over a youthful heroic type any day of the week. I’d rather Samuel Vimes than Batman, Robbie Lewis over Peter Parker and pretty much any of the old cast members from any of the Star Treks (in real life or as their characters) than the sexy new young’uns. It’s definitely starting to become a bit of a problem though, and it was only compounded last night when we went to see the new Star Wars (which was excellent) and I spent the whole time being shamelessly in love with grumpy old Luke Skywalker. I mean, Oscar Isaacs is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but why would I fancy his reckless and flippant Poe Dameron when Luke is in the background growling about everything and letting his beard flow magnificently in the wind? It’s not that my fascination is gender specific either. There are some truly excellent female characters in this new addition to the franchise and whilst I love them all, how can I focus on them when you’ve got Leia stomping around slapping people all over the place like a cantankerous little ewok? Those Skywalker siblings are the definition of “great hair, don’t care” and I would happily watch a 3 hour film of them just doing their thing, minus all the dramatic and political plot arcs.

It’s not like it’s a general fancy either. I may be odd but I am particularly in my strangeness. It can’t be just any type of cranky crinkle and just nasty old meanies are no good – I want good intentioned but world weary grouches; grizzled with just a hint of sarcastic charm and preferably a bonus young sidekick they can continually gripe at. I’ve tried to reason it away and diagnose it but there’s just no hope. It might be peculiar but it’s just how I am and if nothing else it surely bodes well for TMM. I mean, if I love him now in the flush of youth, I am going to just adore him when he’s 70.