Sunday, 25 October 2015

Supporting a Cause: A Christmas Shoe Box

A few years ago I was searching for ways I could spread a little joy around the festive season and remembered the fun I had filling a shoebox when I was younger, whether it was through school or Brownies I can't quite remember. I am not sure if there are other organisations that also pack and send shoeboxes but I have given mine through Operation Christmas Child.


Operation Christmas Child is part of Samaritans Purse International Relief UK and is a Christian organisation. I do not practice any religion but I like to participate in giving a child a gift at Christmas. I think that it's something easy and fun to do but something that can have such a big impact. It doesn't even have to cost very much, yet will remain just as precious to a child.

All you need is a medium sized shoebox, I like to wrap mine in some Christmas paper, £3 donation towards the shipping costs and some goodies. The website provides a guide of what items to pack into your shoebox. This is the third year that I have sent a shoebox and it has become a lovely thing that my nan and I do together.


This afternoon I treated myself to a new pair of slippers and asked the lady at the till if there were any spare shoeboxes I could have. The lovely lady very kindly went out the back to check and brought one out. We then went off to Poundland to fill it.

When filling your shoebox you are asked to choose who you are aiming the box at, girl or boy and an age range. As you will be able to see from my photos, I have previously bought for younger children, this year I decided to buy for an older girl in the 12-14 age group. Now I need to make sure it is wrapped, paid for and dropped off at a collection point by the 18th of November.

Have you ever sent a Christmas shoebox, what sorts of things have you put in yours?

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Meeting a Milestone: Graduation

I begin to write as I am getting into bed. I don't want to wipe off my make up and the day with it. I don't want to go to sleep and begin a new day tomorrow. I don't want today to end. Today is the day graduated, an achievement I always wanted to accomplish but was not sure that I would.

I graduated on Tuesday. The excitement had been building in the run up to the day itself, receiving tickets, shopping for new outfits and party planning. The day really began when I stepped out of the shower at 10.30 and started to get ready. I had bought my outfit from River Island a few weeks before, the high waisted leather skirt and black top. I was a little worried that I may get a bit chilly throughout the day as it is now autumn so the Sunday before I happened to buy a slouchy green jumper from H&M which I thought would go really well to slip on before and after the ceremony. I finished my outfit off with a gold necklace my friends bought me for my birthday, although you couldn't really see it with my gown on, and an old pair of black shoe boots.

My parents and sister arrived at mine just before midday. We drove to the quayside for an al fresco lunch. My parents and I tucked into chicken, bacon and pesto wraps and my sister a bacon sarnie. I was extremely lucky with the weather, it was a bright, sunny and reasonably warm day for this time of year. We sat looking out at the water and boats in the marina, beautiful. My sister also gave me a small wrapped box. Peeling away the paper revealed a box labelled Class of 2015 and inside the cutest charm for my bracelet!

After lunch we headed to the Town Hall for the ceremony. I made plans to meet my friend outside, we greeted each other with smiles filled with excitement and nerves and headed inside to collect our hired cap and gown. We were dressed and guided through to have our official photographs taken. After all of this there was still some time to take some photo's outside with friends and family before the ceremony began at 3pm.

The ceremony began with a formal procession of the university faculty members dressed in their ceremonial outfits. There was then some short speeches and the introduction of the honourary fellow, Maureen Reynel MBE. Maureen founded and continues to run a local charity, FIND, supporting homeless individuals and those living on a low income. The charity is well known for providing food parcels but also offers other types of emergency aid such as; household and nursery items.

Having worked alongside Maureen in the summer of 2013, I found her presence and speech very meaningful and moving. She spoke about her work but also the responsibility we have to consider the lives of others and our contribution to society. That we should be mindful of our judgements of others, we cannot know what has led them down that particular path and there is no reason why we should not treat everyone with respect.

Maureen has achieved a lot in her lifetime, although perhaps not in a way that others would judge as so. Her achievement has been based in helping others through fostering and her charity work. Maureen is someone I admire and aspire to be like, her caring nature, motivation, dedication and passion.

Graduates were then asked stand, row by row and line up by the stage, wait for their name to called, walk across the stage and receive their degree. This is the part of the ceremony I have been dreading and was extremely nervous about. I am not someone who likes to be up on stage or pulled out from a crowd. I was also very anxious about walking across the stage without tripping in my heels.

I managed the walk without tripping! After the walk my nervousness dissolved and I was free to enjoy the rest of the day. When the ceremony concluded the graduates were asked to file out onto the front steps of the Town Hall for our official class photo. Walking out through the wide open doors I saw the rest of my family ready and waiting. My parents and sister had guest tickets so were present during the ceremony.

Seeing the faces of my family members light up filled me with happiness and pride. The day was made special for me by the presence of my family. Without them it would not have been the same. I am aware how lucky I am that so many family members could make my special day and for that I am grateful.

After a few more photographs we headed to a local restaurant for a family meal and cake!

Have you graduated?
How did you celebrate?
If you haven't reached graduation yet, keep going it's worth all the hard work and it's never too late!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Making The Effort: Promises to Myself

This week has been a tough one. Usually making the effort to maintain relationships with family and friends is something I am quite good at. Making the effort to do things that will enhance my wellbeing is an area of weakness. The impact of this has been very clear this week. I have felt tired and run down and have had  sore throat and head cold that has not only made me feel pretty rubbish and sorry for myself it has also had an impact on my enthusiasm and communication with my friends. I have sometimes left messages unanswered for days and have retreated into myself. I feel that I have allowed myself to slip into a viscous cycle of being unhealthy, feeling lethargic and needing to rest. I then don't feel as though I have the energy to do the healthy things that will help me to feel better.

Image from Pinterest
Lets start small. I do not think that I can change how much time I spend at work, as things need to get done. I did make myself a promise when I started that if I needed to work late, it would only be on a certain day so that it was contained. This has not happened, often I find I am still at my desk at 6pm, sometimes I will get home and think 'oh I'll just write and send that email', or 'I'll just write up that visit'.

Promise 1: to leave work on time at 5.30 between 3-4 times a week

Sometimes I get home and feel the need to reflect on the day or a visit. I often use my reflective log as a therapeutic tool, to write down and sort through my worries. It can also aid my development by thinking about how I could do differently in the future and how I could move forward with an issue. This I feel is a positive use of my time, although preferably there would be enough time to do this at the end of my work day before arriving home.

Sometimes my reflective log helps but I still can't completely switch off from work, thinking about things I haven't managed to complete that day and my ever expanding to do list for the next day.

Promise 2: to listen to a short mindfulness meditation video as soon as possible after arriving home or after some reflection and be grateful (write a gratitude list)

Healthy eating and nutrition is another area where I lack considerably. Again, I started to do a regular weekly food shop and planned my meals for the week, meat, veg and pasta. This was not only for my evening meals but my packed lunches as well. The main reason why I slip up with my food shopping and meal preparation is due to leaving work late and wanting time to relax instead of doing chores.

Promise 3: take daily multi-vitamins, do a weekly meal plan and food shop

Using my time effectively is important when there isn't much of it spare. During the 30 minutes or so that my dinner is cooking I can study; read articles or books that relating to my job or listen to inspiring and informative podcasts or TED talks. I could also use this time to exercise, I have a cross trainer residing in my spare bedroom, a dusty workout dvd or a wide range of videos I can access through YouTube. I have no good excuses not to do something.

Promise 4: to use my time wisely; read, listen, exercise

Promise 5: do something fun once in a while

One a day to day basis I enjoy some time to slob on the sofa and watch crime dramas having cuddles with my two cats and reading before bed. In recent weeks a friend and I have also been trying our very best to get to a local Zumba class on a Tuesday evening (if work permits). Sometimes I actually enjoy the class more if we have missed a week because I generally forget how much fun a class can be. The music is often upbeat and energetic and going with a friend allows me to feel comfortable to let go and have some fun.

While browsing Pinterest for some images to accompany this post I came across a self care 30 day challenge. I love this idea and am going to incorporate some of the ideas suggested alongside my own promises for 30 days and see how I feel at the end of it. The hashtag associated with the challenge is #loveyourself

How do you practice self care and self love?
If you want to join me or have taken part in the 30 day challenge before I would really like to know how you found it

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Dilemma: How do I do it all?

I managed to catch a glimpse of a blogger chat, I think it was during the week but could have been the week before, about the types of posts people enjoy reading. One of my favourites is lifestyle posts sharing exercise routines, clean living and TED talks. These posts inspire me to live better, healthier. I definitely think this is something I need to work harder on, especially in the area I have decided to work with its high rate of burnout.

I am currently working on my home/work balance because currently it is pretty unbalanced, with me spending too much time at work, thinking or worrying about it. There are a number of reasons for this; I am reasonably new to the role (coming up to 4 months already!), I am still learning and finding my feet, although my workload is protected it still feels pretty busy with deadlines that need to met and the biggest issues of them all are that I always want to do well and make a good impression as well as being a worrier. Being a worrier does not help when it comes to leaving work at work at the end of every day. In recent weeks, I have also struggled to leave work at work over the weekend which has meant that I haven't really given myself any time off to unwind and relax.

I have been thinking about things that could improve the quality of my home life;

  • eating healthy meals 
  • exercise 
  • mindfulness and meditation
  • doing things I enjoy (watching tv, reading, drinking coffee, taking photographs, blog reading and writing, going to the cinema, volunteering)
  • having time to myself 
  • spending time with friends and family 
  • keeping my home clean and tidy 
  • working on diy projects (at the moment my stairs and upstairs landing
This is the bit I have yet to figure out, how do I do it all? 

I am usually quite an organised person and like everything to be planned. But I have found that as I need to be so organised while at work (well I try my best to be) that I now feel that I need some unplanned time in my home life. I don't want a to do list when I get home, it seems that this even applies to things that I like doing as well as those I'm not as keen on such as cleaning. 

Image from Pinterest
I would be grateful for any ideas on how I can create a healthier work/home life balance 

Sunday, 4 October 2015


I have seen quite a lot of posts about the arrival of Autumn. There is something I love about each of the seasons however, I do not think any are as pretty as this one. I often visit people as part of my job and to get to many of them I drive along roads that wind in and around a forest. This time of year the leaves on the trees are turning, or have turned, from green to the beautiful warm colours of a burning fire, yellows, oranges and reds. 

Other signs that Autumn has arrived 

The duvet is back on my bed and the blankets that are thrown over the arms of my sofa have been used to snuggle up in 

Candles are lit quite often in my house but I love darker evenings when you can see their glow 

There is now a Starbucks in my local cinema, I went with a friend Friday nigh to see Miss You Already (so sad!) and love the themed take away cups. 

I have been stocking up on pies and soups on my weekly food shops 

Other reasons I love Autumn 

Chunky scarves 

Thick, cosy jumpers 

Being able to hibernate in the evenings and weekends 

Firework displays 

I can continue to enjoy flavoured coffee, do I risk trying the Spiced Pumpkin latte? I don't want to purchase a coffee and then be disappointed because I don't like it. 

I have also decided to start a new diy project, re-decorating my stairs and landing. The time of year means that it isn't too hot and not too cold to make some changes. Yesterday I ripped up my old carpet and now have to sand the wooden floor and hopefully re-paint it. 

Images from Pinterest