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…

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Birds, Beasts and Unexpected Relatives

Devon Blog

Gosh, it’s been a while since we’ve been here, hasn’t it? I am a whole two weeks behind on blogging (the shame), but to be honest I’m surprised this hasn’t happened more regularly. My track record for keeping at something isn’t that great – especially when it’s self-imposed/self-motivated. However, The Neens has expressed her displeasure at my lack of blogging, and what The Neens wants goes, so I’m back on the blogging horse. It is good though, because the two weeks off has given me a little bit of material to go off and I return to you with the good wholesome quality content you like to see.

I was actually off work last week (lucky me) for the Great Pendlebury Expedition of 2018. TMM’s Mum was celebrating her birthday, and it was sneakily decided that we would take her on a surprise holiday as a family. Everything was pretty much decided early in the year and all that was left to do was to get her down there none the wiser. TMM’s dad cleverly managed to whisk her away, promising her a week of calm in Devon, and we even went to visit her the night before to take her a present and wish her a pre-emptive happy birthday aka we bald faced lied to her face which brought me out in panicked sweats. It went off without a hitch though, and Saturday morning saw 8 adults, 3 teeny tots, 3 dogs and 4 cars full of suitcases haring it down the motorway. It was supposedly planned that our journeys would be staggered so that TMM’s Mum wouldn’t know what was going on, but as always with the best laid plans of mice and men, I think it was only by the skin of our teeth that we avoided bumping into them,

The main body of the convoy met at Gloucester services at sparrow fart in the morning (TMM got me up and in the car by about 6am and let me tell you, I was grouchy). We got to the services about half an hour before anyone else and had a nice little breakfast and a wander round the absolutely beautiful farm shop (everything in their is glorious and outrageously expensive, so of course we bought tons). Just as we were finishing up, TMM’s sister arrived with her husband, little one, sizable baby bump and 2 dogs and then by the time they’d got themselves sorted, TMM’s brother, wife and 2 little ones had arrived and we all had a quick catch up before heading off again.

We did our best Italian Job impression down the motorway (TMM got a bit overexcited and was referred to as a “boy racer” more than once – especially hilarious considering it has previously been stated he is a grandma driver) and pulled up at the allocated meeting point of the beach car park with time to spare. Whilst everyone bundled up, a pair of binoculars were handed round and we scrutinised every unsuspecting couple on the beach below. What I had imagined would be a short jaunt to the bay and then a slow motion run into ach other’s arms actually turned out to be a bit of a Monty Python sketch when it turned out the beach was a lot longer than anticipated and en masse we approached numerous people who turned out not to be the droids we were looking for. There was even a mild concern someone was going to report us for just stalking random people. Eventually though, the collies were released and hared up the shoreline to our prize. As we slowly made our way along, dragging children who were far more interested in digging, TMM’s Mum realised who we were and boke down into fits of totes emosh tears. This in turn made me tear up a little (this woman beat breast cancer with nary a tear shed, yet was clearly affected by her family) and then there was a mass hugging session and a lot high pitched chattering.

The week itself was full of delightful beach walks (though I do have to admit to being a grump because boy was it cold), board games and a lightening speed trip to Exeter in which TMM and I somehow managed to spend about £100 in ten minutes. I do have to admit to struggling slightly with the early mornings (the bedrooms were all on the bottom floor and the living area directly above them, and tiny children appear to have the body mass index of Indian elephants), and proved myself to be the laziest person there by getting up after every one else every single day. To be honest though, nobody else really had a choice because they had children, but still.

It became very clear as well that I have very much of a Victorian mind set when it comes to children – they are lovely to see but when they cry it makes my butt clench. Now don’t get me wrong, I love those little critters to bits; their giggles sound like angel choirs, their tiny grabby hands make my insides warm and freshly washed adorably curly baby hair could probably solve all of life’s woes, but my God, when they cry! It’s like the siren for the end of days – just the most heartbreakingly devastated wail that vibrates down to the bone. I mean, honestly, what have they even got to cry about? They don’t have to work, they are actively encouraged to take naps and they can literally shit themselves and somebody will clean it up. (As pointed out to me, you don’t know true parenting until you’ve cheered at someone else pooping). I’d give my left arm to be in their tiny and sensibly velcroed shoes. This holiday has made it abundantly clear though that I am meant to one of life’s cool aunts. I will swan into their lives, dispensing timely wisdom and an unhealthy amount of sugary goods, and once they are over excited and hoped up on e-numbers, I will give them back and return to my blessedly silent cats and long lie ins.

edna.png

We watched The Incredible 2 whilst away and it was abundantly clear to all that I am Edna; charmed by children but best kept separate from them. Also, tell me that isn’t me in my Velma costume.

Instead, I am on the noble and valiant quest of trying to convince TMM that we need a bearded dragon. The lady who had put us up in one of her beautiful barn conversions also had an absolute menagerie and invited guests to help with the morning feeding round. We descended on the first morning at 10am sharp to help feed her 4 alpacas, 2 donkeys, 1 fully grown cune cune pig (called Tom) 3 piglets, 2 geese, 10 guinea pigs, 1 rabbit, 7000 brightly coloured birds and a multitude of chickens, ducks and turkeys (called Nigella and Paxo). We were followed on our rounds by a rather loud-mouthed guinea fowl and also got to have a stroke of a bearded dragon called Fluffy and tortoise called Shelley. I was understandably overwhelmed with animal fuelled joy and should really be applauded for not elbowing the children out of the way more regularly. After narrowing it down though (alpacas and donkeys being too big for out current abode), I’ve decided a reptile is my only available avenue. (I have previously tried for bees, pygmy goats and birds, but TMM has sensibly pointed out that living in rented accommodation with a cat is not really the best environment for any of those). I have helpfully been pricing up costs and allocating sections of our house for the dragon, much to TMM’s chagrin, and am hoping to have a new member of little family early in the new year.

Overall, I think it can be classed as a success though, and I do hope TMM’s mother enjoyed herself as much as she deserved to. Now that’s done though, it’s all about the downhill scramble to Christmas, so prepare for some festively panicked ramblings over the next few weeks…

Save the Planet. Period

Planet Blog

I am glad to report things are looking a little rosier this week, dear Readers. I’m still tired and a tad weepy and horribly flued up, but it’s definitely looking a little brighter on the horizon. Part of this, I am overjoyed to say, is due to the in-pouring of supportive messages and kind words I received. These posts are never written with the expectation of response, but it just goes to show the calibre of my friends and family who are able and willing to reach out and provide a spot of sunshine in an otherwise dreary time. (True, I did cry at all of them but they were happy tears, which was a very welcome change to the standard depression crying I’d been doing the rest of the time).

I like to think my self-imposed personal-care regime (which sounds a lot filthier than it should) has played a part in this uplift in mood too. Admittedly, it is early days and one cannot expect to give ones life to change completely because one ate a little more and self-bullied a little less, but it’s rewarding to know I can actually take an element of control over myself when I am feeling so down. Given how I’ve previously dealt with similar dips, this feels like a pretty grown up response.

Now I can’t deny that I have gone from eating barely anything at work to demolishing eleventy billion packets of crisps and twixes a day, but we’ve been cooking super healthy teas so I like to think it’s balancing out. I have also developed a cold and am working on the proviso that I’ll fight off the virus with carbs. My surprisingly robust immune system is doing it’s job though, and the cold that has affected other people for weeks is already showing signs of fading. There was a rather dramatic and unnecessary event at the weekend which found me being so surprised and overwhelmed by a violent cough that I was caused to vomit and meant that, having no other means in which to catch it, I had to sacrifice half a brew before TMM could rush to my aid with a bowl (before leaving swiftly to gag in the hallway). We were all a tad disgusted and upset with that situation, but thankfully there have been no re-occurrences and I fully expect to be mostly recovered by the coming weekend. (You’ll also all be glad to know, I’m sure, that the chunder-brew was immediately and swiftly disposed of and a new chunk free cuppa was made to take it’s place).

I have been thinking a lot about caring recently. Focusing my attentions on things that made me feel better has lead me to realise I thrive on doing things that I know are good for others. I am trying to be a lot more aware of the world around me, and I’m keen on discovering ways of making the best of myself and what I can give. It’s important, especially in the current climate (both political and actual) to be aware of your impact and the differences you can make to your life that will help look after yourself and those you care about long after you’re gone. (I sound well hippy here, don’t I?). Basically what I’m saying is I’m trying to be more ecologically sufficient and I’m now going to talk about all the ways I’m being a greeny goody-two shoes. In the form of a list. Because I love lists. Soz.

Ways in Which Ebear is Single-Handily Saving the World and Being Very Modest About It Too, Amen.

Jumping on the Straw Bandwagon. I am sure you’ve all heard about the MASSIVE DANGERS single use straws (and cotton buds) pose to our very existence and the steps taken by various governmental bodies and big corporations to slow down the inevitable straw uprising and their subsequent world domination. We have had our attitudes to these plastic devils completely altered by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough, beloved by everyone in the entire world except my friend Em who is clearly a spy sent by the straws (and cotton buds), and I for one am glad. It is such a simple change to make, but the effect it could have is almost overwhelming. It has also led to a great in-depth discussion about how companies like MacDonalds should provide reusable and travel friendly cups, like Starbucks, and could provide discounts on meals every time they’re used. (This occurred whilst driving cross country and trying desperately to navigate windy roads with flimsy cups sloshing with ice cubes). Down with straws I say, and hello to a better world.

Bamboo isn’t just for Pandas. Speaking of the devilry of plastic, toothbrushes are also proven to be monstrous harbingers of doom. Videos all over social media have shown the truly shocking amounts of discarded plastic toothbrushes that have built up over time; mountains of brightly coloured and barely rotted stalks greedily filling up landfills. It’s scary to think that the toothbrush you had as a child will outlive you. To this end, I have forsaken the standard implement in favour of a bamboo one; proving myself to not only an angel but also bang on trend. Bio-degradable, healthy and stylish, they really are this season’s must have. Also, they make adorable little plant identification labels once they’re done cleaning your peggies.

Lush Living. I love Lush. I love the overwhelming aroma of hippies that hits you as soon as you cross the threshold, I love the garishly bright packaging and I love the perfectly formed bath bomb triangles on every available surface. I also love their eco-friendly attitude and their commitment to making the world a better place and am more than happy to buy into their philosophies. One change we’ve made (poor TMM had no choice in this one) is to use their shampoo bars and body soaps in place of standard bottled lotions and potions, and let me tell you – it’s pretty great. We bought a smaller than palm sized shampoo bar about 2 months ago (“Honey, I Washed My Hair” – honey, wild orange and bergamot – scientifically proven to be delicious) and we’ve still got about half of it left. It lathers beautifully, smells divine and has meant we’ve saved space (no more bottles cluttering up the bath), money (1 payment of £6 vs countless payments of £1.99 per bottle), and a little bit of the planet. We’ve changed to bar soaps too, typically purchased from the old lady section of the bathroom aisle at your local supermarket, and the “dropped the soap in the shower” jokes alone have been worth it.

It’s a bit bloody better than pads. For those of you with delicate sensibilities, or a complete lack of understanding of the female anatomy, this section might cause a slight widening of the eyes. Period pants are my newest investment and addition to the world-saving handbook, and so far they seem to be going pretty well. I have an intense dislike of all the faffing about that comes with my special monthly gift, especially the truly ridiculous amount of both money and packaging that’s wasted every damn time it comes around. Whilst you might think there is a multitude of options available out there, no matter what you always seems to end up walking a little like John Wayne and feeling immensely uncomfortably at least 1 day out of 5. Enter stage right – the specialised period friendly knicker. After spending yet another afternoon ruing the day I was ever born a woman and having to gingerly sort out my undercarriage when it seemed that once again the devil had tried to escape from my womb in as messy a ways as is possible, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give these bad boys a try. The website gayly declared promises of “moisture wicking!”, “no unshapely bulges!” and “odor-free!”, and whilst I was skeptical, I was also willing. It is with a light heart that I am pleased to announce that the website was fair in all it’s claims. Whilst when they first arrived I did raise an eyebrow at the somewhat padded nature of the butt area, I was pleased to realise they fit perfectly, were just as comfy as my other knickers and allowed for no leakage whatsoever! True, they are possibly not for the faint hearted as some light hand rinsing is required before they go in the laundry, but considering I’d being having to do just as much fannying (pun most definitely intended) about with pads, tampons or mooncups, I have to say these rate top of my chosen lady time companions so far. Saving money and the planet, one menstrual cycle at a time.

Soap Corner, being it’s adorable and eco friendly self

And so, I bring to a close the gospel of world friendliness according to Ebear. In all honesty, I am fully aware that I am not the bee all and end all of being ecologically friendly (I still shop at Primark and take showers that are outrageously long), but I’m trying and that’s got to count for something. I am open to all suggestions though, so if you have any ideas for changes to my general day to day living that will allow me to make the world that tiny bit healthier, you just let me know.

Misery: Seeking Company for Long Walks and Getting Caught in the Rain

Blog Misery

It’s gonna start off as a bit of a shit one this week, folks. For those of you who are feeling resolutely cheerful and would like to remain so, or those who are already feeling fragile and would prefer not to be nudged over the edge, you may be excused.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post focused around my mental state, and to be honest that’s been quite a good thing really. It’s much easier to talk and write and think about other things when you’re healthy and happy. Sadness only seems to breed more sadness; and along with that comes a general lethargy, a general unwillingness to do anything other than spiral downwards and the ability to only talk about how bad you feel with an unhealthily narcissistic intensity. I’ve been Sad (with a capital S) for about 2 weeks on and off now and it’s been a right old muddle of all of the above.

This time of year always heralds a general ennui and underlying feelings of melancholy for me. The change in the weather; the encroaching dark nights, the sharp winds that get in down your coat collar, the rain that seems to find it’s way under your umbrella and through your hood to dribble down the back of your neck – I truly hate it. Now don’t get me wrong,  because I love the Instagram side of Autumn just as much as the next millennial. Long walks in piles of russet coloured leaves and long sleeved thick woollen jumpers wrapped around steaming mugs of hot chocolate; that I some good shit, but it’s hardly an every day occurrence is it? The all over greyness and malaise finds me ebbing lower and lower, hunching further in to myself in a paltry effort to hibernate and hide from it all.

Unfortunately though, this turn in the seasons coincided rather succinctly with a whole miasma of other things; a perfect storm of unique and ultimately bullshit events all coming together to screw me over. Whilst each one might have been okay on their own, having all of them at once has succeeded in just tipping me over the edge.

Sadly a few weeks ago I lost something very precious. Although it was completely accidental and there was no blame to attribute, it threw me. It was something rather minor in the grand scheme of things; not expensive or useful, but it was something I’d taken completely for granted and it’s loss rippled outwards in seismic waves of despondency, affecting TMM quite strongly as well. Stupidly it left us struggling to sleep, and as most of us know, the night is dark and full of terrors. Lying in the dark without distraction meant I found myself falling back into old and particularly unhelpful habits. Hurtful, insidious thoughts started slithering in, picking on things that I’d been successfully ignoring or hadn’t realised were even affecting me. All the dark and nasty fears that are normally boxed away start clambering out of the mental woodwork and it becomes so much harder to push them away.

It’s scary how easy it is to slip and it’s incredibly unfair, especially considering how difficult it can be to drag yourself back up.

The problem is once you find yourself in a state like that, other things start piling up and situations that don’t register as problems when you’re happy and healthy suddenly become insurmountable barriers. I’ve found myself struggling at work a lot recently; letting things affect me in ways perhaps they wouldn’t have a month a go. As it’s gotten busier and busier I’ve lost the ability to navigate my way though and instead of just getting on with it, I’ve found myself bursting into tears at my desk (which annoys me more than anything so god knows how everyone else felt about it) and getting unaccountably worked up and frustrated about things. Admittedly, there are parts of it that are just shit, but I would like to believe I am better at coping than this usually. I’ve been mean to TMM as well, struggling to rein in my cruel childlike tendencies that always seem to reveal themselves when I’m depressed. It’s as though because I’m hurting, I’ve got this need to make others hurt too; to appreciate my pain through suffering of their own.

However, as dramatic as this all sounds, it’s not as doom and gloom as it could be. In times gone by I would have sunk down, deeper and deeper into this quagmire of self-pitying despair, not recognising or reacting to the problem in favour of just letting it overwhelm me. I would have ignored any helpful advice, spitefully choosing to wallow in my suffering because I thought I was a victim and deserved to be treated as such. In my older, and hopefully more worldly way though, I can decide not to do this. It sounds almost stupidly simple, but as so readily pointed out by the various mental health professionals I’ve seen over the years, I am able to help myself. Recognising this for what it is; as a symptom of an illness rather than some kind of built in flaw, and understanding that whilst it sucks, it is not forever, is something I am able to do. Sure it’s hard and I can quite resolutely affirm that it will not always be a walk in the park, but at least it’s easier than it used to be.

Weirdly enough, Russel Brand actually kick started this for me, which surprised me just as much as I’m sure it surprises you. He popped up on my Instagram feed and typically I would have just ignored him – I have opposing views on him depending on the time of day, phase of the moon and style of his hair, but something caught my attention. He was very simply talking about 5 points of self care; just 5 little suggestions he had for looking after yourself on a daily basis, and something about them chimed in me. The more I watched him speak; talking in a gentle, unassuming manner offering some simple principles about how to look after yourself, the more I felt it resonate and I felt almost bowled over by how obvious it all was. It lead me to wonder a little about what self-care principles I could put in place for myself; what aspects of general living I found myself eschewing or ignoring when I get like this and it was surprisingly easy to pinpoint.

  1. See People. As much as I moan about people and having to speak with others on a general day to day basis, I cannot deny that I am human. There is an innate requirement in us to seek out physical, mental and emotional relationships with others and we thrive off social support. Whilst I might have introvertive tendencies and very much require time on my own to recharge, I often feel better having spent time in someone’s company other than my own. People always seems to have much better advice than I expect, and are a lot more willing to be forgiving and understanding than I give them credit for.
  2. Eat, Regularly. Whenever I am feeling particularly low; my appetite seems to match my mood and it becomes too easy to skip meals altogether. Any grumbling in my stomach becomes mere background noise and sometimes the need for self-punishment is most easily abated by denying myself anything of substance. Being aware enough to stop myself before this thought solidifies, and get up to make a sandwich or a smoothie is something which is painfully simple, but can possibly have one of the most positive effects.
  3. Letting Go. Anger is something that always seems to come hand in hand with my low periods, be it at myself or others. I am an annoyingly proud person who is dangerously prone to spite and it is a combination which makes for bitter thoughts and unnecessary meanness. I still don’t think I’m quite cured enough to be able to let go of this for good, but at least being aware of my irrationality and trying to separate myself goes a long way on the road to betterment.

I get that this week’s post has been a bit of a drag, and I haven’t even got any pictures this week to break it up, but it’s felt good to get it off my chest. Mental health problems are no longer as taboo as they once were, and being able to talk about them so openly and without fear of judgment is a help in and of itself. So I hope I haven’t bummed you out too much and I promise next week I  will talk of nicer things.

 

 

Spring Forward, Falling Back

Blog Autumn

Well, that’s it guys. Summer is over. The most joyous warm weather has departed, leaving us with unnecessary amounts of rain and gradually darkening evenings. No more late nights in the garden with a good book and a beer. No more lying on the floor in patches of golden sunlight like a giant cat. No more light summer dresses, Primark sunglasses and suncream sticky skin. Cue much sighing. Now as I’m sure you’re aware, I am a tad bitter, it can’t be denied. To be quite frank, I’m generally furious with the whole damn situation, but I’m trying to be a grown-up about it (honest). Summer finishes every year and I really am going to have to get over it. It’s not like it’s a surprise.

As such, it appears that I have decided to embrace Autumn. Hard. I’ve weirdly gone into full Kirsty Alsop mode “welcoming autumn into my home” with kitschy style, but combined with my own special branch of sarcasm and swearing.

I think TMM managed to distract me from my post-summer slump early on by colluding with me on a most successful Primark haul. Primark, like Ikea, inhabits two opposing states. It either has everything you could ever possibly want (when you went in with nothing particular in mind and no money in your pockets), or it’s completely bereft of anything decent at all (especially when you go purposely looking to binge). I suggested a visit purely to stock up on some more false nails, because Primark false nails are the actual shiz, and for a £1 its stupid to not embrace them. (Seriously, they are bright, long lasting and the glue could be used to hold NASA’s rockets together – everything a girl who wants nice hands but doesn’t want to commit to full-time real lady nails could need). Anyway, I promised I would just pick up a couple of packets, and maybe a new bra, and we’d be in and out in no time. It’s important to note that TMM really is the perfect shopping companion (which is mostly wasted on me because unless it’s Primark, Ikea or a bookshop, I don’t want to be there) and he simply nodded at my bold statement, offered no argument and fired up the chariot.

It’s at this juncture that I should point out that by the time we actually made to the false nail section, we’d already had to go back for a basket and I’d picked up two jumpers, one skirt, some pumps and a fabulous pair of rust coloured cord trousers. I was wild and untamed and each floor only brought forth new delights for to get my grubby little mitts on. You’ll be glad to know I also treated TMM to a new shirt, but it really paled into insignificance by the time we finally made it to the till. You might be questioning my logic by this point (you weren’t the only one by the time it came to total up the cost) but you have to think of the bigger picture. New jumpers require colder weather, cute skirts can be beautifully paired with thick tights and some little boots and fabulous rust coloured cord trousers really are the style of the autumn season.

Please enjoy this shot of my fabulous nails (which although a little hard to see here, were a glorious combination of metallic red and orange) paired with one of my perfectly coordinating with one of the aforementioned Primark jumpers.

Side note – it is important to note that fabulous though they may be (also completely perfect for a Shaggy from Scooby Doo fancy dress outfit – just saying) cord trousers should probably not be worn in a torrential downpour. On a team outing to see the Weeping Window Poppies at Middleport, I did have to hike them up like a posh lady to make it over puddles without soaking everything up like a sponge.

My outfit choice hasn’t been the only thing I’ve been pimping up in time for the autumn season though. As you may remember from blog posts long past, I have been deeply taken with the idea of year-round wreaths as a constant decoration for ones front door. TMMs sister treated me to my own wreath base for my birthday and its been sitting quietly, patiently waiting for its turn ever since. Well, after a particularly eventful trip to Wilkos (i swear, it’s like I think I’m a Rockefeller or something) which resulted in a new kitchen mop (with fancy inbuilt sprayer) and a surprising amount of cleaning products considering who I am, I thought it time to update my flower collection. Gone is the time for pale pinks and creams, here come the russet reds, butter yellows and …orangey oranges. I brought in the summer wreath, which had done its job rather splendidly and is waiting to be stored away carefully for next year, and settled down in the cwtch with my flowers, some wire cutters and a whole lot of willing. Whilst it became abundantly clear halfway through that I still have some kind of blindness when it comes to flower arranging, I gave it a good go and both TMM and Bucky passed on their approval.

I do think I might add some purple flowers and maybe a little skull or two closer to Halloween, but it looks just as pretty as a peach at the moment.

I’ve been generally crafting all over the place, as one can tell by viewing the complete devastation that is currently our dining table. I’ve been working on a little commission for a school friend for the longest time (apologies to her for my truly awful time management) but there is always vaguely reminiscent feeling of Christmas when the table looks like this. Bucky finds great pleasure in sitting right in the middle on top of the most uncomfortable pile of paints, pencils and or pads he can find whilst trying to drink dirty paint water, so at least he’s embracing it all too.

TMM once again managing to make my chaos look artistic. He’s got a talent.

Finally, I’ve brought autumn quite soundly into our diets as well, soundly rounding out the whole emersiom therapy vibe I’ve got going on. Sourdough has made a welcome return into our lives, as it is the tastiest and most comforting of all the breads. Hearty soups full of goodness and flavour have been mightily enjoyed in very Instagram worthy ways. Cups of tea have been imbibed in a possibly alarming amount whilst cuddled under blankets with books. Most excitingly though, I have been researching pumpkins.

I mean, come on. That could be in a magazine.

No matter what anyone says, pumpkins are one of the mightiest gourds around, and over here in good old Blighty I definitely don’t think we use them to the extent that they deserve. They provide a pleather of possibility and I’ll be damned if I don’t try every bloody one of them. Now most of you will have, at some point, been involved the joys of pumpkin carving – a sport so messy it really should only be attempted by people in crime scene suits, but hardly anyone I talk to ever thinks of doing anything else with them. For shame, I say to those people. The taste sensations that await them if only they were to try strikes me as a sad waste of potential.

Now its true that I might be slightly over-egging this whole mini autumn harvest festival – there aren’t actually even pumpkins in the shops yet, but I’ve decided I’ve either got to go big or go home, and guess what? I’m already at home, so big is the only option left. If the pumpkins won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed will just have to go to the world food aisle of Sainsbury’s and stack up on suspiciously battered tins of “Pumpkin Puree” shipped from Canada. I’ve been meaning to try this stuff for ages (one of my biggest regrets was not trying pumpkin pie when I went over to America – though boy was the peach pie tasty) and what better time is there than now? After spending a good 7 minutes watching a Buzzfeed Food video on all the possible ways I could make pumpkin based pastries for myself, I decided to give it a go. So this weekend, armed with hormonal rage, wild hair and a hankering for some tasty treats, I went at it. I have to say as well, it went pretty damn well. The recipe was surprisingly simple and easy to make (though I do think the measurements might possibly have been off, as we’ve now made 14 mini pies and I still have about the same amount of mixture again sat chilling in the freezer). A tin of puree, a can of evaporated milk (god I could drink that stuff), 2 eggs, a spoonful of ginger, a pinch or cinnamon, a sprinkling of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of TMM’s finest ground cloves (not a euphemism, just cloves he pestle and mortared by hand) and bobs your uncle, you got your pie mixture. Eating it raw was pretty great (only a little bit though, I’m not a mad salmonella tempting bastard) and the smell was divine. We were mildly concerned about the texture it must be said, but the video promised us we were looking alright. Some banging, rolling and swearing later (TMM wisely left me alone for this section) I had some little doughy bases and I poured in my mixture with all the love and attention of a new mother. 30 minutes later (gas mark 5 for those of you who are interested) and our little pumpkin babies were ready. And let me tell you, those treats are tasty. I don’t really know quite what I was expecting if I’m honest, but I was happily impressed by the results, and can see why they’re such a smash over in the States. I plan to try at least two more of the pumpkin based suggestions before the season is out, and I expect you all to at least attempt the same. You don’t even know what world of culinary wonders awaits you.

Not to toot my own trumpet, but hat is how you make a petite pumpkin pie

And so, with great aplomb, I bring this glorious celebration of autumn to a close. I’m not ready for the rain, or the dark nights or the fast approaching build up to Christmas, but I’m accepting my fate and doing my best to welcome the fall with open arms. Come at me, bro.

Just a Smoothie Operator

Smmothie

The idea for this week’s blog struck me whilst I was lying prostrate and sweaty on the couch after our weekly kettle bell session (more on this below). Recently, TMM and I have been doing our best to act more like bright young things and less like 90 year olds trapped in the bodies of hipsters, and have made certain life choices to try and help. We’ve changed from Radio 4 to Radio 1 (TMM thought the youth music might liven us up a little), agreed to wake up/go to bed respectively at more appropriate times to “make the most of the day” and do some kind of exercise to loosen up our seizing joints. (Seriously, I have never been bothered about getting old, in fact I can’t wait to be a crotchety old lady with crazy hair, giant rouge patches on my cheeks and bags full of cats and knitting, but god when did it get so hard to get out of a chair?!) To this end, we now have a set exercise schedule that has actually lasted more than 2 weeks. (Let’s just ignore all the previous posts I’ve done about aborted exercise routines I have tried, alright?)

Indeed, it’s not the first time we’ve gone on what I would (very loosely) describe as a health kick, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. TMM and I have often had somewhat misplaced fantasies of getting memberships and meeting at the local gym after work for an hour or two of hard cardio. Let me tell you right now, in case you were under any kind of misapprehension about what kind of people we are, this has never and will categorically never happen. There was once even a mention of going to the swimming pool, but seeing as I can’t even float, never mind coordinate myself enough to do laps, and the smell of the chlorine brings TMM out in panicked hives, we shelved that idea pretty sharpish. Sometimes, even as we talk our way through the possibility of it becoming a reality we get a bit disgusted with ourselves and have to change the topic. Now this is not to say we have some deep mistrust or hatred for regular gym bunnies, indeed they are just doing them and it’s great, but it is definitely something we are just not about. We don’t like people, or after school clubs, or enforced fun (mainly I am the one who doesn’t like these things, but TMM defo enjoys his sports outside where he can be free and untamed. He’s like a wild stallion).

I was actually once a gym member (weird right?) and used to go on a semi-regular basis with a lady I worked with for a while whilst at uni . We agreed it was better to go together (safety in numbers) as at least that way we’ve had someone to talk to and provide sorely needed motivation. I think the whole things lasted about 3 months at the most, and mainly I discovered that I enjoyed the rowing machine, hated the treadmill with a passion an just generally wasn’t about having to leave my house to have other people watch me get sweaty. Turns out I am very easily bored as well as tired and running on the spot staring out at a sports field is not my idea of a fun time. Still, I look back fondly at the memories, especially the fact I purchased a specialised sports top (from a specialised sports wear shop) as somewhat of a personal learning curve. I know now that no matter what job I get (or when I win the lottery) I will never have enough money to spend on a gym membership when I could be buying cake.

However, stagnation is not allowed, and TMM has been very encouraging of me actually getting off my butt and moving a little. (Don’t get me wrong, he is also incredibly supportive of my lying in bed all day and eating cereal, but I think he genuinely cares for my health too. He’s a good egg). He enjoys outdoor running, walking, hiking, climbing and pretty much anything that gets him out under the wide open skies. I enjoy indoor sitting, eating, napping and anything that involves me moving as little as humanly possible. Together, we can just about commit to minimal exercise to ensure I don’t die of stroke at 45 and the agreement to do occasional outside walks so TMM get’s to see nature and I get some fresh air.

So over the past couple of weeks we’ve been doing 15 minute kettle bell routines every Tuesday (and the occasional Thursday. Very occasional. Okay, we did it one extra Thursday, but we’re trying!) TMM found the YouTube tutorial a few months ago (done by Joe Wicks, over-excitable health guru extraordinaire) and was doing them on his own, but has since lured me in with the promise of better stamina and arms more like arms instead of wet noodles. I can’t say I’m particularly enjoying it and I have been known to hurl abuse at poor Joe, with his beautiful curly hair, perfectly defined muscles and in my opinion, unnecessarily preppy attitude towards kettlebells (“it’s a great little workout” is it? Is it really Joe!?), but I have stuck with it. We’re about five weeks down the line and I can now lift the kettle bell over my head (hurrah) but still can’t do a burpee (what the ever loving eff are they even about?) so I’m calling it an even draw.

The whole healthy living business has spread outwards too (unlike our waistlines and chiselled abs as TMM pointed out). We definitely eat more like grown ups than we used to – it’s amazing what a full time salary does to your grocery shop. Sometimes I even actively go out of my way to include salad, I mean, what? In fact, most of our meals now include some kind of leafy green shit, which was something I swore as a child would never happen. I was willing to try anything once, but most vegetables were pretty much the devil to me. Now, we’ve got a fruit and veg basket (two actually – one for holding bits and bobs in the house and a sweet little wicker one for picking up fresh un-bagged produce (literally could we be any cuter?)) and we’ve even been growing our own. Admittedly I say this like we’ve gone full Tom and Barbara Goode and sold the TV for a goat, but that is not quite the case. So far we’ve had 3 small bowls of raspberries, 2 medium potatoes, a handful of adorably small tomatoes and we’ve got high hopes for our rhubarb. It’s not really enough to feed the 5000, but I’m still very proud of us.

Look at this bountiful harvest. Have you even seen anything more beautiful and healthy?

This very adult attitude towards the healthy bounty of nature has led quite nicely into a new recognition of the greatness of smoothies. Mother is a great believer in the homemade smoothie, and whenever we go to visit her she’s come up with something new. As she rightly points out, they are perfect if you’re in a rush, too stressed to think about cooking or just need something quick, easy and hearty in one fell swoop. And for someone like me, who is prone to perishing from scurvy at any given moment, it’s an excellent way of cramming 5 (or more) portions of fruit and veg in. We’ve been creating new and increasingly bizarre combinations, but I have to say they’re proving to be rather tasty.

The TMM and Ebert Smoothie Menu
Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Chocolate Nana Ovalteeny; a family classic – banana (2), Ovaltine/hot chocolate powder (some scoops), peanut butter (2 sizable dollops) and milk (enough to make it drinkable rather than chewy).

Lemony Thicket; a silvery summer sensation – banana (2), frozen spinach (1 handful), lemon juice (a dash), kiwi (however many you’ve got lying about), frozen blackberries/blueberries (1 handful) and spirulina powder (which is some kind of green witchy stuff).

screenshot_20180905-223906570193003.png

You’ve got to love a drink that comes out the same colour as your counter top.

A Song of Fire and Iceberg Lettuce; our new warming autumn concoction – strawberries (1 punnet), raspberries (1 handful), watermelon (1 wedge), ginger (1 chunk – unpeeled), iceberg lettuce (half a heart) and added optional passionfruit (2).

Turns out that whilst our joints may be aching and our bodies very unwilling, we’re not doing too badly at this staying healthy malarkey.

I Think, Therefore I Am (Useless)

Vest

So considering I had serious blogging plans for the whole “5 Facts” USP (or “unique selling point” for those of you who haven’t had business meetings involving Wilson, a lot of tea and an underlying quiet desperation to escape the humdrum of normal life and run our own sustainable and completely original company) I’ve done a grand total of 3, and most of them focused on fruit and fungi.

However, whilst assisting (though possibly not actually that helpfully) TMM’s sister and her brood move house this bank holiday (more of this later), I had course to ponder a couple of things about myself, and as such was led to the novel idea of doing a couple of facts all about me. Blogging is, by it’s very nature, a bit of a narcissistic exercise, so you can’t really be surprised we’re here again.

Taking part in Monday’s move really drove home a couple of personal truths that, whilst they have always been lurking beneath the stylish surface I cultivate, shoved themselves somewhat rudely to the forefront of my mind. None of them are particularly startling or world shattering, but it’s always nice to discover something about yourself I think. Every new experience gives you a little more data on who you are and what you’re capable of; and whilst it’s clear that typically my experiences prove that I am about as useful as a chocolate teapot, I enjoy the learning curve.

The first and possibly most relevant fact that revealed itself during the whole experience was that I am definitely more of an ideas girl than an Action Man. This might seem a tad obvious really – I make no excuses for my inability to see things through, but I caught myself more than once thinking “gosh, what I would do if I were moving – what opportunities!” Now let me tell you, no matter what codswallop I thought to myself then, if I were the one moving, it would have gone nowhere near as smoothly as it did for STMM (Sister of The Man Muffin). Watching her and her partner (and the Muffin parents) navigate moving everything they owned into a new house in one day whilst simultaneously shepherding a strong-willed one year old, two dogs and me was like watching Swan Lake. It was graceful, smooth and completely lacking in the usual amount of tears.


I was about as helpful as Thea but nowhere near as cute, even if I did look spiffy in my dungers.

If that had been me, I can promise you there would have been at least one box thrown down a staircase in anger, two full blown crying fits and numerous enforced time outs. Whatever floaty-light ideas of finding the perfect place for every single thing in my possession or being able to streamline my life I might have had are, to be frank, complete bollocks. Whilst it’s true that everyone likes a new start; a clean sheet, a fresh slate, the chance to do it right this time; I can quite confidently say that it would never live up to the ideals I had for it. I have such wonderous and exotic ideas, but am completely unable to put them into practice, and if I do, they inevitably end up with me in a strop and TMM having to swoop in and finish them. I am that perfect contradiction of being completely unable to finish a project and yet I am driven insane by lack of resolution. I aim to start so many good things and ultimately end up with none of them. They say (whoever they may be) that it takes 28 go’s at something to turn it into a habit. I say they’ve got an unnatural amount of willpower if they’re able to do anything more than 5 times without giving it up as a bad job and retreating back to the safety of the couch.

Still, there is a bubbling undercurrent of belief that if and when it finally does come time for us to up sticks and find a new nest, I will be prepared. Let’s see shall we?

It also became abundantly clear on Monday that I am possible the most awful co pilot. I suspect poor TMM has known this for a while, but tried to keep quiet about it so as to not harm my feelings. It’s not that anything particularly drastically terrible happened whilst we were going about our business, but there were a couple of points when I was reminded of how truly better for the world it is that I can’t drive. For example, it is a universally known fact that I am geographically challenged and would get lost in a paper bag. Knowing where I am at any given time is always about a 20/80 divide in the negative, and it has often been joked about that if TMM were to just drop me off at the side of the road one day, I would wander for about 2 days without seeing anything I recognise before just dying out of ease. I am completely unable to provide any directional guidance, and have on more than one occasion got us lost by saying “go left” “this left?” “that’s right” and watching bemusedly as TMM turns right. It’s been decided that’s it’s just better for everyone if TMM puts the SatNav on and enjoys a good argument with her rather than putting any kind of pressure on me. However, considering my completely lack of situational awareness and the fact I will typically be reading when in the car rather than paying attention to anything else, I have this bizarre habit of keeping my eyes on the road when feeding the driver. For some unknown and unnecessarily built-in reason, I have this fear that whoever is driving/being fed will take all their attention off what they’re doing to eat the food I am proffering to them and as such I must closely scrutinise the road to ensure we are safe from danger. The trouble is this usually results in me shoving French fries wildly into TMM’s check whilst keeping a weather eye out on the cars ahead, causing him to lose concentration, and being positively counter-intuitive for the whole “road safety” thing I’ve got going on. How we’ve survived this long is a testament to TMM’s ability to adapt.

My final fact for this week is one that came to me whilst I was lying in bed on Monday night. Tired from all my dilly-dallying about and collapsed out like a puppet with cut strings, I glanced down at myself and was struck with the mildly concerning thought that I couldn’t actually remember when I’d put my vest on. Not that I couldn’t remember choosing it in the wardrobe, or the physical act of dressing myself, but the actual starting point of my association with the vest.


Just me, living my vest life.

You see, I have an unhealthy relationships with vests. They are one of the best items of clothing anyone can have and I suggest everyone, regardless of age or gender should own at least five (Primark thin strap ones if we’re looking for recommendations – they are the cat’s meow). Whether you want something light and casual for a summers day or a sensible layer for the darkest depths of winter, they can provide what you need. The trouble is, vests have become such an integral part of my life (my parents are firm advocators of vests too – they know the importance of keeping your kidneys warm at ALL TIMES) I sometimes forget that I’m wearing one. It becomes like a second skin; a soft cotton hug at all points in the day or night. Or day and night. Can you see where I’m going with this? It’s just that if you put on a vest to sleep in, sometimes it’s easier to just keep it on when you get up the next day. (Especially now it’s getting a bit chillier, I will 100% sleep in one and then throw a jumper over it in the morning so I don’t have to have that upsetting experience of exposing my busters to the harsh cold of the early morning.) Sometimes, when you’re slobbing about at the weekend, you might put a vest on Friday night and keep it on for Saturday. And then if you’re only going to bed, what’s the point of taking it off to put another pj top on? Suddenly Sunday rolls around and you’re only nipping to the shop so you just throw a hoodie on over it. Before you know it, 3 weeks has passed and there’s a mild concern that the vest might have actually fused into your skin (PLEASE NOTE – I have never worn a vest for 3 weeks. It’s not that I couldn’t because I definitely would, but I’ve not fallen quite that far. Yet.) I know this is mildly horrifying and definitely something I was supposed to grow out of at University but there’s somethings that are just built in, and in this case, it’s the vest.

There are other things I’ve realised about myself this week, whilst pondering possibly blog points; including but not limited to my disproportionately large amounts of knowledge regarding completely useless things and my firm belief that I could be an Olympic curler, but I think perhaps now it’s time to close. I’ve got projects to start, car journeys to derail and vests to wear.