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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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.

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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.

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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.