The One With Christmas

Christmas has been strange this year. My father is in South Africa right now which left my mom, my sister, my sister’s cat and myself to celebrate by ourselves.

I finished up work for the year on the 20th, and on the 21st I spent a lazy day in my flat doing far less chores than I should have. The next day I went into town to meet my mom, who I had managed to persuade to come visit me to help me clean up the flat for the new year, and keep me company on the drive back to my parents house. My mom and I spent several hours shopping, then went back to the flat to clean and organise. Sunday, more cleaning and organising before a (thankfully) uneventful drive back. There were a lot of cars on the road but fortunately no traffic and we made good time. (I still can’t quite get used to motorway driving, feel nervy and on edge, so my mom was welcome company.) We needed a few more food items for Christmas, so we stopped at the supermarket on the way, which maybe we shouldn’t have done as it was heaving with people. We ended up queuing down the aisle for a till. It can’t be much fun to be working in retail at this time of year.

Once we had our items we could finish our journey home. The next day was lazy, spent waiting for my sister (and cat) to arrive. Finally, Christmas day itself was much better than expected. We opened presents, then my mom made lunch and I made dessert. My mom put in a lot of effort to get everything right; my dad usually does the cooking on Christmas day. Lunch was delicious and overly filling, as it should be, and we had to squeeze pudding into our pudding stomaches, which is also how it should be. (I successfully made an apple crumble, a simple but effective dessert.) After lunch we all just relaxed and boxing day was much the same. I have not left the house, have been living in my pajamas, and have eaten far too much chocolate and biscuits. Am still doing so, if I’m honest. It’s been nice. There has been minimal arguing and we even spent some time playing games with each other without it ending in bloodshed. My dad meanwhile has had a great Christmas with his mom and siblings. I feel happy that he managed to do that, and happy with how Christmas turned out here, but I did miss him and I worry he will worry that we had a better Christmas without him.

My dad comes home tonight and we will have a mini Christmas again, giving him his presents and receiving ours from our family. I’m excited to see him.

The days are somewhat blending into each other, time ceasing to matter so much when you have nothing to do and nowhere to go, but I am faintly aware that the end of the year is approaching and with it, the return to work. I am not sure how I feel about either. This year has been terrible, with my anxiety still awful and the added bonus of the return of my depression. A lot has been happening this year, especially in work, and it’s been tough. I know that the new year is no magic switch, but I wish for a 360 change. One moment everything bad, but then suddenly! The year changes to 2019 and everything is better. There is also a big part of me that wants to stay frozen where I am, in my parents house, being looked after by my mom, living in my pajamas, not leaving the house and having no responsibilities. I know this is childish.

I hope you all had a pleasant Christmas if you celebrate, or a pleasant winter break otherwise.

PS. I renewed my domain for another two years today. I was contemplating not, but I still like my little blog and am willing to see how far I’ll take it (I am definitely past the “10 years blogging” mark, so basically myself and my blog are a bit of a dinosaur by this point. Oh well. This has always been my random little corner of the internet and that is how it shall continue on.)

The One Where I Continue to Fail at Not Spending

I’ve been hibernating inside all day because the weather is just vile right now – icy cold and spitting with rain. I have spent most of the day in bed under a huge pile of blankets with the heating on, trying to stay warm. And I have been reading. Pretty much finished an entire book today. It’s been a long time since that happened, I just don’t read like I used to, and I often find myself picking things up and putting things down again. But I started the Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson the other week and I am completely immersed in it. They are slightly odd books and a little improbable, but clever and interesting and with a dark sense of humour.

(I will add though that I did do some good deep cleaning today, in preparation for the new year. I started in on my living room, and in particular I took all the books from my bookshelves and dusted said bookshelves and rearranged all my books as well as the pictures, art and knick knacks I have. (I’m not one for minimalism. Bring on the knick knacks.) But anyway – I remembered working in the bookshop, hours spent rearranging books, how peaceful and enjoyable it was. There was nothing better than those days when the shelves were half empty and we had a huge chunk of books to go out and it was down to me to bring them down and set them out. I can happily spend hours sorting books – making sure they are in the right order, alphabetically, making sure all the spines align, that the shelves are balanced out, spreading the books evenly across the entire set of shelves instead of cramming them in on one shelf and leaving others with hollow spaces. I almost felt a little annoyed seeing customers come and mess up my alignment, my spacing, put books back wherever instead of in the exactly right alphabetic position (ma before mc there is a difference) anyway. I had some chill music playing and my Christmas lights on and afterwards I felt so very relaxed. If only I had a constant input of new stock to be sorting and shelving. I sometimes miss volunteering at the bookshop. )

I realised I never posted my November spending recap , even though I did write it. So I thought I’d post it now. I’m not sure anyone wants to read these or why I am still writing them, I guess I’m trying to hold myself accountable.

It’s proving very difficult to reign my bad spending habits in.

So.

Things I spent money on in November:

– Food – supermarkets, fast food and takeout. Starbucks. Only had takeout once though – trying to resist! Also didn’t have my food box this month – thinking of cancelling it to streamline this category more. Let’s still avoid talking about my love of chicken mcnuggets and chocolate when stressed and/or hormonal.
– Plastic plant pots and trays. Wanted to propagate my schefflera plant. These weren’t expensive.
– Christmas Presents. These really added up, but I’ve done most of my Xmas shopping now so finances can breathe a bit in December.
– Two new work skirts. My current work skirt, that I wear everyday, has a giant irreparable hole so I needed a new one. I had a voucher for a particular shop so went there, saw two skirts I liked, couldn’t decide between them, and so got both in the end. These will get a lot of wear though. And because of my voucher I got some money off.
– A cushion. As in a couch cushion. It was very on sale so I got it. It is awesome and I’m so glad I could get it on sale, as I really wanted it, but the full price was too much for what it is.
– Audible Membership. But no books! ‘Shopped’ my bookshelf instead.
– DIY thing. I needed some plastic spacers.
– Floor cleaner.
– Rent and Bills.
– Car – Petrol.
– Two DVDs and a CD. Desperately wanted the new VIX live DVD and to watch The Sinner. Pretty expensive though :(
– Makeup I don’t need (oops). I put in a big Revolution order on a whim. This is my one “I was feeling emotional….” purchase and although I’m pleased it’s just one, I’m still annoyed with myself about it. Not necessary!
– Skincare and makeup actually need / had been thinking about for some time. Needed a replacement for my cleanser which had run out, wanted to try out the Missha glow me range and the Etude House double lasting serum foundation. These makeup items had been on my mind for a while, and I do use base items a lot so I give myself a pass on these.
– A new skirt and trainers. This wasn’t impulsive but it wasn’t really necessary either :/
– Doctor and Therapy appointments and medication

I tried super hard last month to a) avoid impulsive shopping, b) think through my purchases “do I need this, or do I want it?” And c) say no to myself. Sometimes I was more successful than others. I think I’m allowed some things I just “want” rather than need, but not everything. I am further trying to identify why I want things, and if I will genuinely use it and love it. Versus: I want this because I’m feeling sad…. I get emotional, I get bored, I’ve been Christmas shopping so I’ve been on websites which are advertising amazing sales and limited edition Christmas sets and it’s been hard. Especially the bit about the sales. This is a terrible time of year to try and restrict spending. Still, I only had one really impulsive purchase and another which was a bit questionable. I’m still spending too much on food, which sucks, because to address that would mean addressing my complicated disordered eating habits. :/

Some other things I have noticed last month: this one was very weird, but I realized I tend to be very weak when it comes to cotton clothing. As I’ve mentioned before I can’t wear most synthetic materials and my wardrobe is primarily cotton. I realized last month that sometimes I want to buy things just because they are cotton and I’m worried I’ll never have the chance to buy that item again in cotton. Which is crazy as there are only a few items where this worry would have a genuine basis (see: my work skirts. Another reason I got them both was because they were both cotton and finding nice thick cotton work appropriate skirts can be hard) Still, I have a whole wardrobe full of cotton so clearly, the situation is not so dire. Recognising this behaviour was embarrassing but also really great – I sent back one top I’d bought because I realized I was hoarding it for this reason (“it’s such a soft cotton I best hang on to it!”) and stopped myself from buying some others. It felt good to recognise this and stop myself from giving into it. I’m going to keep this in mind now when I’m shopping “am I buying this because I genuinely need it, genuinely want and love it and will use it, or just because I feel “I might as well because it’s cotton”?”

Another thing I do sometimes, especially with Amazon purchases, is pay more for fast delivery. Not only is this worse for the environment but it’s not necessary! I need to learn to wait for my items.

Finally I am a sucker for limited edition and sales. I need to remember that something being limited edition or on sale is not a reason in itself to buy it! For the cushion, I wanted it originally so it being on sale was just a bonus. For my Revolution order, I found myself impulsively buying things in the sale, cos I was emotional and sifting through the site out of boredom. There is a difference right?

I have been trying to do better in December but my progress both right now and last month are proving…. extremely slow. This is quite hard.

The one with all the birds

Kites! First one is definitely a Red Kite, and the ones in the gallery are probably Black Kite(s). I can’t figure out the differences >_<

It’s my birthday today! Of course today has just been a normal working day, but I celebrated with my family over the weekend. I’ve been seeing a lot of birds of prey lately – I get red kites that fly over my apartment and around the local area. They are amazing to watch, but of course always so high up in the sky so that I can never see them up close, or appearing when I’m driving and thus unable to watch. So I requested for my birthday that we had a family trip to see some kites :) As luck would have it, there is a Bird of Prey center near where my parents live so, together with my sister, thats where we went. It turned out to be amazing – they had loads of different birds, the birds were well looked after and happy and the whole place had been put together nicely, with a cute little tuck shop, beds of flowers around the enclosures and friendly (and knowledgeable!) staff. We had a general look at the birds then there was a meet and greet where we could pet a ferret and a tiny owl <3 the highlight was then definitely watching them excercise the birds i.e a flying show!

Tiny Owl and some of the other birds. All I know is that No1 in the gallery is probably a Peregrine Falcon, and No2 is definitely a Kestrel.

They brought out a bald eagle, an owl, a raven, a secretary bird, a stork, two vultures and about twelve kites. Twelve! All at once! It was incredible. Hard to take in, but incredible to see them up so close. One flew right over my head! Seeing them up close in their enclosures and then in the flying show was really special. They are truly beautiful , elegant creatures. The other birds were also amazing – the secretary bird showed us how it kills snake using a fake snake which was hilarious (think of the way cats start viciously beating their toys with their back feet then return to cutely playing as if nothing happened), the raven was young and clumsy, and all of them riveting to watch. The keepers told us all their stories and their names which was really interesting too (and I loved their names – like Sharon the bald eagle, Scooby the raven, lady the secretary bird haha )

(Did you know Ravens have the intelligence of a 5 year old child? Isn’t that amazing? Scooby could fly off whenever he wants, but he knows he has the easy life at the center, so he willingly stays.)

Kite, Stork x2, Bald Eagle x2, Secretary bird inspecting the snake

Afterwards we gathered at a local ice cream farm for something delicious and cold then went back to chill at my parents house, sitting in the garden to soak up the beautiful summer weather.

The next day my sister couldn’t join in as she was busy :( but I went with my parents to a local National Trust property to eat cake (my mom very quietly sang me happy birthday before I tucked in haha) and look around the gardens. It was really pretty and sunny.

Then I just had to pack and slog home. Thankfully everyone was watching the football so my journey was quiet and uneventful.


As for turning a year older? Being 26? I honestly don’t feel at all different from last year….I don’t think I’ve really changed at all this past year. :/ It is a little scary how close I am now (and how quickly I am moving towards) the big 30 though.

Fear

Cotton Grass on the moors, Shutlingsloe from the distance, a resevoir, and sheep.
This lovely, sunny bank holiday weekend I am stuck at home recovering from a particularly annoying cold. So I thought I would share photos from last weekend; I went home to see my parents, and my father and I went for a walk on Sunday to Shutlingsloe, in the Peak District, and a nearby forest. As I had a bus to catch home in the afternoon, we made our walk a very early one – starting at around 9am in the morning. We first climbed Shutlingsloe, taking advantage of how quiet it was in the early morning, and how cool it still was. There were flowers out even on the moors- sloeberry bushes beginning to form their fruits, and rogue daisies, and fluffy cotton grass. I picked a stalk of those, running my fingers through the soft flower. We ascended and it was still up there, for once, and we sat and snacked as we gazed out onto the countryside and the hazy profiles of Cheshire and Greater Manchester in the distance. We then descended and went for a long meander, country roads, bare and gloomy pine forests, and then a grove of sycamore trees where, to our surprise, a huge amount of bluebells were carpeting the forest floor. It was stunning. We continued walking, exploring more mixed forests and another pine forest, and were quite tired by the end, as the sun got stronger and stronger, but it was very refreshing, and very pretty out there.

Bluebells. *_*
We have done that walk, or a walk like it, Shutlingsloe and the surrounding area, so many times now, so familiar now, there’s probably an entry on this blog with photos like this, but it’s still one of our favourites , and there is something to be said for the familiar. Even that can surprise sometimes, such as with the unexpected swath of bluebells. I was sorting through some old files the other day and stumbled upon a video of my father, my sister and I climbing Shutlingsloe several years ago, I was still small and chatting away to nobody, my sister was a teenager, whiny and annoyed, and my poor father meanwhile was just trying to film some scenery. It was snowing. And it surprised me to see us out in that weather, to see myself so confidently striding through the snow , ascending and descending what surely must have been a slippery path, surely, without concern. It’s amazing how fearless we are as children, and I wonder when fear and worry begins to set in? When do we become aware of danger? I wouldn’t go out on a walk like that in the snow now; I’d be scared of slipping and hurting myself, of getting stranded in freezing conditions. Younger me clearly wasn’t so concerned – even in simple trainers, she was happy to just walk. I guess that’s ultimately all there is to it, but it’s our minds that get in the way as we get older.

I recently went to see a new therapist and we were talking about my history and she asked me when it began – my anxiety- and I wonder too. It feels like it’s always been there, but when I look at pictures and videos of myself when I was younger I’m so bold and outspoken that clearly there was a time I was not? I must have just taken growing up a little too hard, or something. It’s puzzling how different I am as a child and as an adult. Something must have gone very wrong somewhere along the way.

Stack of fresh cut pine logs – my father and I counted the rings of the bigger ones and estimated them to between 50-60 years old. Forest scenery, an old road, and a small abandoned house in the forest. Someone had gone to the effort of researching the owner of that house, printing out and laminating a small information sheet and laying it at the base of the house. Very interesting.
Anyway, to go back to the topic of therapy – I decided to go private this time, sick of NHS waiting lists and the inflexibility of treatment options, and it’s very expensive, possibly too expensive to be feasible in the long run, but very thought provoking. I hope this time I can get a handle on my anxiety. Life is still not going well. I am grateful for the good moments – for forests full of bluebells and my family, and an hour with a therapist (an impartial voice) who understands. Life did not go the way I expected after graduating, and being an adult is hard.


I wish I could go out and explore this weekend – to another forest, another moor, to the seaside. It’s so nice to get out and breathe in some fresh air when your brain is all anxious and unhappy. Alas, stupid cold. I’m going to have to waste this weekend. :(

I still can’t take good pictures of my fish. Whether in daylight or at night time, there are a) too many reflections to deal with and b) they never stop moving. Honestly don’t know how other people do it.

Spent the majority of today setting up my youngest Bettas new tank. He was in an undersized 12L so I knew he needed to be rehomed in a 20L+ at some point, like my other Betta, but for cost and laziness reasons I have been putting it off. Well, I figured a long weekend is the perfect time to move him over.

I bought the tank last weekend, bought the gravel after work on Friday, and I thought I was all set up. I soaked some spare wood I had yesterday, and then today I began to put the tank together. Only to realise I didn’t have enough gravel. At 3.45pm on a Sunday. Sunday trading laws in the UK mean most shops close 4:00pm-5:00pm. So, thank everything I have a car. I rushed out to the pet shop and got there half an hour before it closed, picked up gravel and a background, because why order from Amazon if I’m already at the pet shop and they have them, and then tried to rush back but got stuck in traffic and yeah. It was a bit stressful. But gravel acquired I could carry on. I took my fish out his tank and placed him in a bucket (with a brief interlude where I held up to my other Betta to see what would happen. My other Betta caught on quickly and began to flare and display. Unfortunately the Betta I was moving was a bit frantic after being caught so didn’t realise what was going on. Note- I only showed them to each other very briefly, probably 30s to a minute! I wasn’t being cruel about my curiosity…) (Note 2 I don’t move my bettas using a net due to their long fins. I scoop them up in a jug instead! So my little betta was in a jug with some water when I was showing him to my other betta…)

Then I disassembled his tank and began to combine the old with the new. I had to use some of the old gravel, because I needed, well, the waste caught up in it (the gravel/tank base is an important part of the biological filter) but it didn’t match the new color scheme, hence why I needed lots of new gravel. So I used just a tiny bit of the old gravel and then covered it up with the new gravel. I planted the fake plants, and then moved the tank into position before adding the wood, filter, heater and beginning to fill it up with a combo of new water and the water from the old tank. (I also moved half the old filter media to the new filter – old gravel, old water and old filter media should mean the tank doesn’t cycle again and the biological filter should be in place from the get go!)

Finally, the fish could go in. But of course he was wise to my tricks and it took me ages to catch him again (fish are so quick!) I got him in the new tank eventually. There’s no baffle on the filter in the new tank yet which he definitely doesn’t like, but I think he has been enjoying exploring his new space? Mostly he seems a bit confused by it all. I hope I didn’t stress him out too much with the whole thing :/ he wasn’t in the bucket long and I tried to keep all the various waters he was experiencing at similar temperatures…. It would be a shame for him to get sick when he is finally in a proper sized tank….