Sofa So Good

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So we made a table this week (also a new blog title box).

Not too shabby is it?

It’s really not a secret that we enjoy a nice bit of DIY here and there and have a lot of willingness, if not quite as much ability, but we’re pretty proud of this one. For less that £20 (the cost of a piece of dowel and a mitre block), we managed to wrangle together a nice little lamp table for down by the arm chair; bringing not only light but a touch of homemade class to the surrounding area. Or something like that anyway.

We have gone a bit interior design crazy recently; I’m blaming our binges of Queer Eye, Pinterest home improvement boards and a promoter on Instagram who has purchased the most beautiful Victorian house somewhere down south and is doing it up live via her story feed. Renting means we are somewhat constricted in regards to making any grand changes (new walls and new floors are a no-no, much to my chagrin), but we’ve been upgrading our furniture and rearranging everything with truly gay abandon.

Our new sofa was delivered last week, coinciding nicely with a few days that I had taken off to use up the remainder of my holiday allowance. Admittedly, I could have arranged it slightly better, and there was some serious couch Tetris required when it dawned on us that the new sofa was coming on Thursday but the old one wasn’t being picked up until Friday. Still, it went better than could be expected and my slight and irrational fear that the sofa delivery men were all going to be serial killers was pleasingly unfounded. Both sets of men were in and out in less time than it took to complete a Stevie Wonder song (though all made a point of complimenting my blues and soul playlist which was nice) and the guys who delivered the new one even had little shower cap like booties to protect our carpets from their shoes. By lunch time on Friday, everything was settled (Bucky was pleased – he’d been pacing the hallway in a most perturbed fashion for two days) and I was even able to put back a couple of the shelving units I’d been painting in between bonding with delivery men.

I am actually quite proud of myself for those few days off. I painted, I did as much laundry as humanly possible and folded all the dry clothes like a full on grown up. We did get rid of an appalling amount of clothes the other weekend in an attempt to downsize by a wardrobe; I don’t even understand how we ended up with so much. We were harsh though and said goodbye to about 5 millions big bags worth stuff that has now gone to charity, and TMM dismantled an old rickety Ikea wardrobe with glee. We do now have a lovely system (shirts, cardigans and dresses in the wardrobe, pants and socks in wardrobe boxes and t-shirts, trousers and jumpers in the chest of drawers. We have one drawer completely dedicated to knitwear and it’s possibly the most pleasing thing my 90 year old heart has ever seen.

This is me upon our MOUNTAIN of clothes

Admittedly, I did also spend a lot of time lay about watching White Collar (a great series, especially if one is contemplating a life of crime in the art world which I often am) and only cried once which I think is high point for my mental state. We even treated ourselves to a showing of Much Ado About Nothing at the local theatre (our excuse is that it is a present to each other for our upcoming anniversary) on Friday night, so I’m classing the whole period as a success.

We’re not doing too badly in the living room though, and I think we’re actually starting to get something we like (after 5 years of being there). TMM has created a new book nook in the corner and put together a new mantle display, in order to best present our new plant obsession. They were supposed to be spread around the house, but I feel like they’ve gotten attached to each other now, so we’re going to have to get new ones for the bathroom. What a shame. Nothing’s died yet though, and I’ve been following Monty Don’s clear guidelines of watering once a week and misting regularly. I even have a little watering can and old fashioned perfume bottle full of water and plant food.

Here we have ZeeZee (in book corner) and then Diefenbaker, Spikey McGee and Peacious Lilious enjoying a little misting on the mantle.

The urge to make the table took TMM somewhat by surprise I think though, and I was powerless to resist his eager charm. He’s been moving light sources around like a madman; every time I come in there’s a lamp in a new place and after deciding the little lamp he’d put together himself (god he’s clever) he told me resolutely that we needed a table to put it on. He rescued the rusting paella dish from the greenhouse where it was to be repurposed as a bird feeder (sorry birds) and after a quick trip to Homebase, he was raring to go. There was much pontificating about “measuring twice, cutting once” because we are well aware of our inability to be patient and plan things through properly, and we ended up 3 slightly wonky legs (we are hopeless). I was in charge of decoration (TMM does not have the steady hand required for a good paint job) and proceeded to do the very thing I shout at TMM for constantly – slap the paint on whilst still dressed in my civilian clothes. I managed to remain unsplattered though, and even did a fancy bit of striping work with some masking tape (Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen eat your heart out – and yes I know how dated that reference is). Admittedly it’s probably not quite up to Ikea standards, but it’s fit for purpose and kept us out of trouble for an evening so I’m taking it as a win.

Please enjoy this step by step photo montage of the table making process. It looks terribly professional, doesn’t it?

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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…

Another Dead, Another Dollar

Death Blog

So I have been thinking a lot about my “dream job” recently. This happens on a semi-regular basis; the typical adult day dream of what you’d be doing if you could, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life (spoiler – I ain’t got a clue) and as such it’s been a little more at the forefront of my mind. It’s important to understand that being a grown up is pretty sucky overall, and considering you spend about 75% of your time working, it is really the best course of action to find a job/career that is actually good for you.

Now it’s all very well and good being rational and thinking about saving money and sensible career options, but I think there surely must be more to life that the daily 9-5 grind. I’ve heard horror stories of people who worked every god given day of their lives, saving up for a dream retirement and ended up dying a week after they finished. Can you think of anything more soul destroying? Working so hard for so long and then it all just being a waste? It doesn’t bear even thinking about. Still, I know it’s hard, and that talking about “living in the moment” and Carpe-Diem-ing all over the place is fine for some people, but there are those of us that can’t; because they don’t know how, because they’re scared, because they haven’t got the freedom. For the silently complaining majority, working is literally a means to an end and “living for the weekend” is more than a cheesy saying, it’s a way of life.

There’s a fine line that needs to be navigated for most of us; the perfect balance of submitting to the necessities of the world (earning enough money to live) and actually enjoying the way you do it. I’m pretty sure that there’s only a tiny fraction of people who actually love their jobs, but the rest of us need to at least find something that doesn’t make us cry every night and dread getting out of bed every morning.

My job teeters on this line, sometimes tipping further one way then the other. I really like the people I work with but the role itself can be either here nor there. I sort of accidentally fell into it and whilst it could obviously be worse and it succeeds in keeping the wolves from the door, it’s a long stretch from what I’d hoped for when I was little tot dreaming of my future. Before further education, I’d been lucky enough to never need a job. I’d tried (Somewhat lacksidasically) to find one, but I barely did anything and as such didn’t really need the funds. However, leaving University left me with an acute terror of needing to find a job immediately or face certain death and dishonour on my family. Working part time at a pub whilst studying was fine, but it wasn’t really feasible for a couple looking to set off on their own into the big wide world. TMM managed to find a job at the local mill (which makes us sound like right hillbillies) quite quickly and I was left to spend a few weeks milling about in our cramped little room above the pub feeling sorry for myself and eating left over cold pasta. Not one to be kept down though (read – having encouraging friends and family who guided me in the right direction), I contacted a couple of employment agencies and within a few days was signed up for a temp job working as a recruitment consultant for a healthcare company. Now, not to sugar coat it, but I hated that job quite passionately. I made some lovely friends and had some good times, but the job itself was gash and completely unsuited to me. Still, I spent a year there (what else was I going to do) and got what I could out of it. After that ended though, it was easier to fall into a similar role again and again and today still finds me working in recruitment (though thankfully in a role more back office based than customer facing). It’s not what I would have picked for myself when I was younger though, and I still don’t think it’s really where my passions lie.

To be honest though, the jobs I would class as right for myself are a tad…odd. I’ve been pretty set in my ways and since school, I have only ever really wanted to be one (or more) of three things.

  1. A librarian from the 1950s
  2. A famous author
  3. A mortuary assistant

Specific and somewhat niche, you can see why I have maybe struggled to find myself in these career options yet. The first choice, the librarian, is possibly the most accessible to me (though I have tried on numerous occasions to get a job in a library to little or no response) but I fear that my imagings of what working in a library is like would not be anything like what working in a library actually is, hence the caveat. I want towering wooden bookshelves; leather bound books nestled safely in amongst each other in a soothing smell of must; cabinets labelled in neat hand writing housing thousands of neatly arranged reference cards and women with sensible skirts, smart buns and piznez. Basically I want to work in the Bodleian or the Hogwarts Library. The trouble is, I think the libraries of today are a lot more multimedia based, computerised and sadly nowhere near as prevalent as they once were. That is not to say I would not jump at the chance to get myself in there (a library is a library no matter what, and if I have to bring my own reference cards I will), because no matter how the job evolves or what systems are used to manage it, it is and always will be “a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life” and that is what I am all about.

For those of you who know nothing about Isaac Asimov, I strongly suggest you go out there and educate yourselves.

The second option is I think the aspirations of everyone with a note pad and a head full of imaginations, but the trouble is most of us either don’t have the staying power or the ability to cope well with criticism and rejection. Personally, I find myself with thousands of ideas but just not the ability to flesh them out fully. I become too bogged down in the minutia of finding the perfect simile or conversational exchange and lose interest before the first chapter is out. My notes are filled with countless unfinished stories that I return to now and again, but never at a rate that will end up with the intended J.K.Rowling levels of popularity. Considering this was my dad’s third chance at a fortune (the 1st being his great monetary success and the 2nd being my sister’s – neither of which have come to fruition yet) I think he might need to start buying a lottery ticket.

The final choice has been a firm favourite ever since I fell in love with the imagined funeral director who I used to pass every day on the way to school. (Side note – the man himself was not imaginary, he and his snazzy briefcase were very real. However I have no idea what his chosen profession actually was or if his briefcase housed the secrets of the dead – I imagine it more likely he was just a very smart accountant). I found him fascinating though, and the life I made up for him, dealing with those who were not so alive, was pretty awesome.

I remember telling one of my teachers that I’d be interested in working in a funeral home during one of our short lived “Career Options” meetings at high school and I still remember the look of horrified disbelief on her face. I was quite surprised at the fervent opposition, especially considering it is possibly one of the most viable and sustainable options (never going to run out of work, are you?) and kept my ideas to myself after that. The dream never really went away though.

We actually own two copies of this book due to an unfortunate selection of incidents last Christmas involving some cover staining and a gravy disaster. However, it does mean we can take a cool picture so it’s not all bad.

I’m currently reading “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty, a lady who works in the industry though, and it has done absolutely nothing to dissuade me. It’s a viscerally real, deceptively funny and surprisingly affectionate view behind the curtain of cremation and has pushed me to think about it in ways I never have before.

People have a very odd relationship with death and reading this book has made me aware of how far society (especially Western civilisation) has come from its rituals and belief systems surrounding the dearly departed. Death is so far removed from us now, and so hidden; we don’t want anything to do with the vessel that housed the person we knew. Indeed there is a commercialisation surrounding it, in our attempts to make it more palatable, death has become just another business. Some of the descriptions in the book; the things that are done to the bodies to make them “acceptable” for family viewings is almost unbelievable. I’ve already told TMM that when I die, he is to either just look upon my remains for what they are or remember me as I was. I’ve spent enough time making myself acceptable for other people, like hell am I gonna do it in death.

But one of my favourite quotes – “Someone must take care of these corpses, who have become useless at caring for themselves” really stuck with me and felt quite timely in this, my time of annual frustrations over my need to care for others but inability to do so. I want desperately to support homeless people, but I still struggle making eye contact with people I know, never mind strangers living on the street. I want to help the legions of abandoned old folk who are living alone and share in their rich histories, but can’t seem to hold a serious conversation to save my life without coming across horribly patronisingly. The thought of children suffering horrifies and shames me, but the idea of working with them terrifies me beyond compare. The dead though, they don’t actually need that much in the grand scheme of things. Someone to prepare them, someone to take care of what remains, someone to stand by as they vanish into the ground or the crematorium. It’s strange because by that point, I’m sure they really don’t care what happens, but I like to think that when I’m gone, there will be someone there to look after me one last time. They won’t know me and they probably won’t remember me, but they’ll make sure I shuffle off this mortal coil with whatever dignity remains and I find that comforting.

It might be morbid but it’s necessary and honestly? I can’t think of a dream job more worthwhile.

You’ve Got to Be Crafty to Be Kind

Knit Blog

It’s getting cold out there folks. Regardless of what the weather people keep trying to tell me, whilst wearing the plastic smiles of secret hostage victims on their faces, it is not going to be an Indian summer. Summer is dead and gone and the other morning TMM told me it was dark at 7am and I had to have a little weep. Winter is Coming, and I have already started to bring out the Bear. That coat (a most glorious fake fur beastie that makes me look like some kind of Russian oligarch) has got me through a lot of hard times and it’s been waiting patiently by the door, biding it’s time in the limelight.

The cold weather has driven us up into the Cwtch again though, in search of warmth and comfortable reading spots (which is never a bad thing). TMM is like a man possessed and has read about 4 books in the past month. He’s doing a themed Halloween book selection this month and he’s nothing if not persistent when it comes to achieving his goals. His instagram (and our CuriousReads account which has been reactivated with much aplomb) has been awash with excellent filtered pictures and superbly giffed stories detailing all the books we’re working our way through. I’ve been letting the side down a little though; after blitzing through one book in a night, I’ve only managed to read half of my current choice – though not for want of trying. It’s a lovely book and one that’s been on my list for a while (“The Bear and the Nightingale” by Katherine Arden) but I’ve just hardly had the time to pick it up recently. Hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to get a good stomp on though, because TMM has already eagerly lined up my next few choices.

I do find that the chilly weather and dark nights always make me feel like I want to start crafting again too – though I’m not sure if it’s because it speaks to the Victorian lady part of me, or because there’s there ever encroaching subconscious panic that Christmas is on the horizon and I really need to start preparing. I really haven’t done much of anything recently and I do miss it. I always like to keep my hands occupied, and there’s something much healthier about making a pom pom or sewing a piece that just playing solitaire on my phone.

The trouble is I suffer pathetically from an overabundance of “wokeness” and although I desperately yearn to start creating again, I can’t help but focus on the waste. I’ve got so many projects lying scattered around the house; ones that are either finished and have nowhere to go except into drawers, or ones that are half done but need something else purchased in order to be finished. I’m loathed to go out and buy more materials if I know they aren’t going to make it anywhere, and we really are starting to run out of room now to house all my crap.

It all came to a bit of a head on Sunday, and I had a minor existential crisis on Sunday night after watching a Country File Special on how all of our native species were dying out due to our cavalier attitude to Nature and caring for their habitats. TMM came downstairs to find my huddled up on the couch in my onesie with a cup of tea and a right sulk on and had to prise out the reason for my truculent mood. Once I’d farted about on about my general life impotence and feelings of uselessness and unworthiness in the face of helping the world, he very gently suggested I try getting rid of some of the wool by starting a new knitting project. He deftly managed to head off any further arguments about pointlessness by suggesting preparing for Christmas, or looking to charity. He brought down the 3 carrier bags of spare wool, handed me some needles and told me to get to it.

And get to it I did. Once I actually started looking, there are hundreds of websites and organisations out there looking for support. I mean, I know it’s kind of obvious, but I don’t think I realised quite how easy it was. Within 30 minutes, I’d found about 15 different websites who just wanted blankets, scarves, hats or just square patches to support the homeless, hospitals and children. No cost, no commitment – just asking for people with some free time to spend it making some simple pieces that could be used to help. What’s not to love?

I emailed a couple of the websites to check they were still live and interested in receiving items (they were) and I’ve even made myself a little handy note guide on my phone with each organisation’s name, what they’re looking for and where to send it. I’ve narrowed down my top three though (didn’t want to over face myself or promise too much too early) to start supplying.

Knit for Peace (Keeping Britain Warm) want squares (knitted or crocheted) in bright colours to sew together into dressing gowns for people. I love this because a square literally takes no time at all, and involves very minimal skill. It’s perfect for all those scraps of wool that are lying about that you can’t bear to throw away but aren’t big enough for an actual project. Also, their website had a picture of a very snazzy elderly lady in a brightly coloured patchwork dressing gown. She looked like a fabulous version of Elma the Elephant.

4bysix is a street wear branch that has all these awesome projects to help the homeless. Every item they sell is accompanied by an item for a homeless person donated on your behalf. They provide the patterns for what they can accept (I’ve just started a hat in a fetching shade of sea green) and if you contact them they’ll even send you the yarn to use. All you have to give is your time and your skills. Also it’s well trendy, so, y’know.

One that I saw and really loved the idea of was Project Linus UK. It started in America in 1995 and is so called because of Linus from Snoopy who always had his trusty security blanket. Basically, they just want to give vulnerable or sick babies, children and teenagers a “sense of security and comfort” by providing them with their own blankets. As they’ve said in their bio “we cannot reach out to every distressed child, but we can provide them with tangible evidence someone cares” and if that doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, there’s no hope for you.

There are hundreds of thousands of other charities out there; helping families who’ve lost children, pets, even penguins who need jumpers – literally anything you can think of and could want to help. Sure, it’s not saving the world, but it’s doing something for someone and that’s got to be worth it.

~

For those of you interested, these are just a few of the links to the websites mentioned above, but seriously – just google and you’ll find more.

http://www.knitforpeace.org.uk/keep-britain-warm/

https://www.4bysix.com

http://projectlinusuk.org.uk

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/donate/donate-goods (this has some great general patterns of things you can make and ideas of where to send them)

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.

 

 

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.