Thursday, 31 January 2013

January review and February plans.

January is over, how have I done?

Home and garden: I have the parlour to complete decorating, this has been proceeding at a snails pace as I really haven't had any enthusiasm. It does need finishing so this needs to move up my priority list. I have made a start with de-cluttering drawers and cupboards throughout the house, so far there has not been much to get rid of but many things have now found their correct home.

Health & Fitness: I did very well initially with walking three days a week but illness with my young boys meant that I had a few late nights and quickly fell out of this habit. There is more daylight in the mornings so I hope to continue but my priority is going to be on my diet and to get some of these pounds shifted.

Celebrations: I'm feeling pretty good here. We started the new year well and I have simple plans for Candlemas.

Arts & Crafts: I managed to tick off a couple of practical projects this month. I also had fun playing with making candles and invested some time researching this hobby.

Self learning: A definite success here. I have really enjoyed my keyboard practice. Not much progress yet, more relearning what I used to be able to do. But this has been fun and I credit being able to keep up my practice with having the instrument easily accessible.

Wellbeing: I have progressed far even in this short time of just one month. I am generally feeling happier and have had few despondent days. I believe that the meditation has helped though I am sure that longer days have also played their part.

Goals for February?

Home & garden, Wellbeing: Work in the garden at least 3 days a week
Health & Fitness: Plan healthy meals and cut out the rubbish
Celebrations: Enjoy Candlemas & Valentines
Arts & Crafts: Complete one unfinished project, start and finish one new project
Self learning: Continue with keyboard practice

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Long term goals

Since investigating Candlemas the idea of well planned goals has been ticking over in my mind. All those new years resolutions that I've made over the years really haven't helped me towards my goals. Because resolutions, without the work, don't add up to much. I've dreamed of being able to do many things over the years, even worked towards some for a while, but overall I've made very little progress.

I wish that I could:

Play the piano - I'm not worried about being an expert but I do enjoy piano music and would love to shift my skill level on from Grade 1.
Play the guitar - I'm actually wondering if this is a dream I should let go of. I can play chords, I was even pretty good at arpeggio for a while but am now sorely out of practice. I really don't know if I'm interested in doing all the practice needed to recover where I was let alone get any better!

Speak a foreign language - I've dipped into both French and Spanish in the past, I did German at school but have never revisited that particular language so far. I am currently interested in Welsh but in order to pursue this I need to set up a base where I can settle for a few minutes each day, I genuinely feel that I don't have the space for this at the moment.

Be slim - It's been many years since I've worn a size 12, I want to rediscover how good this feels.
Run a marathon - I would like to achieve this just once. I don't want to become a regular long distance runner as I'm not convinced that putting that much stress on your body on a regular basis is a good idea but I would like to complete just one marathon.
Touch my toes - I'm not even going to admit how long it's been since I could touch my toes with straight legs. I've never been very flexible, even as a child when I did gymnastics, but the older I get the more important I realise flexibility is.

Having written this list I'm slightly surprised at how short it is. There are other skills I've wanted over the years but they are generally related to fitness one way or the other. It is really uplifting reading through this, it is all very achievable. Not over night though!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Quick liner for the Log basket

Calico liner for log basket
My most recent project has been a very practical one for the house - a lining for our log basket. I love log baskets, they are great for keeping logs contained but are not so good for the splinters of wood that fall through the gaps. Fed up of the daily vacuuming I came up with a solution and, armed with the knowledge that the local fabric shop currently have a 20 per cent sale, I purchased 2 metres of Calico and quickly sewed up this liner. Perhaps a little too quickly as I forgot to wash the fabric first! Washed, and a little shrunk, it is the perfect size with no need to add elastic around the top. One more to make for the second basket and I'll be done.

A great quick 'n' dirty sewing task. I like these!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Spreading myself too thinly

I'm trying to put myself first more often. I'm trying to do things just for me. I'm trying to focus on what I want. This isn't working, my children are falling through the gaps. I want them to be happy too.

I'm still doing all the important stuff but through trying to wedge in time for me I'm doing less fun stuff with my children and virtually nothing with my partner. I need to redress this balance.

More to think on.

Friday, 25 January 2013


I want to be more seasonal and part of this is to introduce more festivals into our family life. Candlemas is on the horizon so I thought to take a look at this celebration.

Candlemas is on the 2nd of February, there is also Imbolc with which it collides/derives from depending on your point of view; and not to forget St Brigid's day on the 1st Feb. There are many on-line references but this one particularly resonated with me from 'School of the Seasons'. For a festival to be worthwhile it has to be about something that everyone of us in the family can relate to, I don't think that the Christian custom of blessing candles will do. To me the themes of purification and planning ring out.

What could work for us?

Purification: spring cleaning. It's not yet spring but the longer hours of daylight means that I'm yearning to get outdoors but the weather is still pretty bad. This is the perfect opportunity to deep clean the house ready for spring. Certainly I am feeling the need for this at the moment probably due to a combination of both cabin fever and wanting to simplify things after the overabundance of Christmas.

Planning/pledges: What a minefield this could be! The web page mentioned above suggests sitting around a fire discussing hopes for the year and turning these into concrete plans, perhaps noting them in a journal. I like this approach, removed from the overly optimistic New Years resolutions into a more down to earth achievable goal format. From a practical point of view this is a great time for planning the garden, especially the vegetable patch. Seeds make a great symbol for this festival.

The actual celebration: I don't know. Probably just a nice meal with candles and lots of seed based goodies. We will see.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


Meditation candle
Meditation is something that I have occasionally played with over the years, always wanted to do more of but somehow haven't. On my journey of rediscovery meditation would be a good tool to have.

Back in the days when I used to regularly walk there was little need for meditation, I had both the time and space to ponder whilst pounding the pavements. When my children were babies the time that I spent breast feeding them also gave me time to think within. Now they are noisy lads without volume controls I don't seem to have any space left in my head for me. But the advantage of them being older is that I can shut them out of my bedroom with the warning of no interruptions apart from emergencies. So far this has worked.

My intention was to meditate daily but this just isn't happening however I am managing 3 days a week. Sometimes I use a birthday candle to focus on, it is very satisfying if I am settled enough to wait out the whole burn. I would like to try a guided meditation at some point but this is suiting me for now.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


wonky candles
I love candles. Before we had children there were a lot of candles in our home but they were all swooped up with the onset of babies. As a child who has caused a house fire by playing with matches I am well aware of just how tempting these are.

Candles are coming back into our lives. Through out winter we have a woodburning stove, in summer evenings we like to have the glow of candles. But I hate waste so they all get recycled into new ones.

I usually use moulds, though other people would probably describe them as yogurt pots. Today I decided to give dipping a go. Using a tall thin tin I had fun creating these wonky candles. These candles rarely come out smooth but today they were made even more bobbly by me dipping them in water after being in the wax and not shaking them properly. They are probably the ugliest I have yet to make but I like them :-)

The bug has bitten me again so I now have three candle making books on order from the library inspired by the candles I found here, aren't they pretty?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

January mission

I have my usual new year wish list, and right at the top is wanting to lose weight. However, wanting doesn't mean that it happens. This year instead of diving into the new year starvation diet I've decided to wait until spring before cutting back. I have several reasons for this:
  • When I'm cold I feel hungry (it's winter at the moment)
  • I find it hard to stay motivated when the days are short
  • I'm still surrounded by left over Christmas temptations - I cannot afford to bin food
  • I don't want to spread myself too thin (weight loss requires perseverance)
  • I don't feel ready
I have successfully lost weight twice before. By successful I mean that the weight stayed off for several years and this was because I made lifestyle changes that I could maintain. The first time I was in my early twenties and had put on weight due to working in an office. The biggest change I made here was that I started to walk home from work, about 4 miles. This also helped me mentally as I was able to de-stress on my way and got home feeling refreshed and ready to do stuff rather than collapse on the sofa. My weight would fluctuate (I'm never going to be slim) but I felt healthy.

I put on a large amount of weight after having my first baby. This was eventually lost through walking, again. I walked everywhere, my pushchair went through 5 sets of wheels during this period! Things ground to a halt with my second baby which coincided with my first having to walk alongside us. Suddenly my 4-5 mile treks weren't very practical with a 3yr old walking too.

I have tried running in the past, and enjoyed it, but personally I feel that walking is what succeeds for me, but this takes up a lot of time. Building this into my life at the moment is hard especially as I don't want to be dragging my boys along with me. I like walking on my own, I don't like dealing with whining especially on a cold wet morning when I'd rather be staying in the house too.

My January mission is to get up early in the mornings 3 days a week to go for a short walk before my partner heads off to work. The walk is short because I don't enjoy being out in the dark. As the days get longer I anticipate being out for longer, I'm quite looking forward to it. But dieting is on the back burner until I feel stronger in myself.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Christmas de-brief

Our nine foot tree in a seven foot room!
I love Christmas. It helps to drag me through the dark of winter slush and dampness. I look forward to my children's excitement and anticipation, I enjoy the preparation and the fantasy of the perfect Christmas. Of course, we don't get the perfect Christmas but that's okay, I still enjoy planning for it.

However, this year was a bit different. Much got lost in my manic desire to decorate both my bedroom and our parlour for Christmas. This target was not quite achieved but was good enough to host a spectacular Christmas tree. The day was very pleasant, I had made the decision to have our main meal in the evening and this was a great idea. Instead of having that post lunch bloat we were able to enjoy the day though the weather meant walking was out of the question. Our TV was banned (though many programmes were recorded) to ensure that it remained a family day, not a staring at the box day.

How would I like to improve on it next year?
The day was maybe slightly too sensible, my boys are getting older so perhaps I no longer need to keep things quite so simple.
I forgot about dressing the table!!! The table did get dressed but this, a task I usually enjoy planning, was just chucked together at the last moment. Not something that bothers the blokes in the house but it did bother me.
See more people. I didn't feel like tramping all over the country to visit family but with hindsight I wish that we had done.
Charades. These were on the crackers and was a surprise hit so I may purchase some idea cards.

I think that this is a post I'm going to have to return to as I get more ideas :-)

Monday, 7 January 2013

Parlour redecoration

Parlour as it was.
Christmas is over so, reluctantly, I must return to my diy. I love creating a makeover but decoration in this house seems to go on forever as literally everything has to be cleaned and repainted.

Our front parlour had been left untouched for the last 3 years, ever since we first moved into this house. It has only been used by us for storage and as a dumping ground. The walls were appalling with dirty, wrinkled wall paper and the plaster beneath was not great. There was an ugly fire surround and several holes in the wall. And it stank. Now, thanks to a mammoth effort prior to Christmas, the bulk of the work has been completed, even the smell has gone (it appears to have been held in the wallpaper). All that is left, excluding furniture, is to gloss the shelves and give the walls a final coat of paint.

Unfortunately I don't have much time to dedicate to this project so my intention is to spend about half an hour a day working in there to finish it off. This can be ever so frustrating at times when it's so near to being complete but as much of the work is applying layers of gloss there is no way to sensibly rush the job, I certainly don't want to be starting over again!

The photo, above, really does not do justice to how the room was. The carpet was removed on the day we moved in it was so disgustingly filthy. I don't seem to have an image of the old orange wallpaper that was on the back wall, or of the marks and holes for all the shelving that must have wrapped around this room. To be honest, I am disappointed in this picture as it actually doesn't look too bad!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Re-discovering music: keyboard

Time for practice
So much to study but so little time.

I have such a long list of things I would like to do but instead of applying the scattergun approach and not getting anywhere I have decided to focus on one skill. This month it is playing the keyboard.

As a child I always had access to an out of tune piano and self taught myself to play. Lessons were never an option and I never progressed beyond grade 1 (does it count as being self-taught if I'm still at this lowly level?) but I had fun. As an adult music has been pushed so far to the side lines that I usually only have a go about once a year, before Christmas, with an easy carol book. And each year I get frustrated with how my minimal ability is deteriorating.

However, I do enjoy playing music so my goal, for the month of January, is to practice on the keyboard at least 5 times a week. No limit on time, 5 minutes is enough on a busy day though I will try for half an hour on average.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Green Yarn

Mixed green yarn
I love spinning. It makes me feel very grounded and settled (gardening does the same thing for me once I've got on my winter warmers). I'm not a great spinner but I do okay with my 70's ashford  wheel. The dodgy photo above shows my latest yarn made from a mixed bag of green felting wool, the colours graduate from dark to light. The photo really doesn't do it justice. I don't know what I'm going to make from this but it won't be clothing as the wool is too itchy so possible a bag. For now it will go into my yarn box as a finished project.

I usually find the repetitive motion of spinning very therapeutical but on this occasion not so much. I have spun with felting wool before and didn't enjoy it so decided to pass the whole lot on to a friend (I've tried felting and it doesn't grab me and, let's be honest, I don't need yet another craft with all it's accumulated junk). But something my partner said challenged me to give it another go and this is the result, I'm quite chuffed with it considering how awkward the short strands of wool were. Even better, I no longer have this bag of dyed felting wool taunting me. Success!