Thursday, 31 December 2015

The New Year

Reflections on 2015

Two thousand and fifteen feels like it has been a stressful year, I feel stressed and unable to relax and I'm not too sure why. Yes I have a lot of responsibility in my new job but that it what I have spent the last three years at university working towards. Sometimes I wonder if it is the right job for me but I continue to stick with it because I do not like to give up and it has only been six months. My contract is only for twelve months so we will see what happens and where I go in July 2016.

Aside from the negativity around my job (which apart from the stress and perhaps anxiety, I mostly enjoy when I'm there doing it), two thousand and fifteen has been a pretty good year.

The moments I am most proud of are; actually planning and going on my solo road trip in June and graduating from university.

The things I am most grateful for are; the health of my family and friends, being asked by a close friend to be one of her bridesmaids, the opportunity to go to and graduate from university and getting a job straight out of university.

Looking ahead to 2016

Since Christmas my thoughts have wandered ahead to the New Year and my wishes for two thousand and sixteen. I already have a few things to look forward to; a family holiday for my Sisters 21st birthday in April and my friends wedding in July. There is also the possibility of me finding a new job, which I could consider as an exciting opportunity (instead of feeling extremely nervous about - a bit of positive thinking!).

I do not usually make New Year's resolutions because I rarely see them through. So this New Year I have three wishes; to be happy, to be healthy and to tick some things off my 30 before 30 list which I wrote here.

Image from Pinterest

What were your favourite moments from 2015 and do you have any wishes for 2016?

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Twelve Days of Christmas

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, here is my Twelve Days of Christmas (with a few more squeezed in)

Image from Pinterest
1. Back in late October I began to think about my Christmas shoebox. The items were bought, my shoebox wrapped and delivered by the 18th of November. I have written more about it here.

2. In November I began recording and watching the tv Christmas films. I love that many of them are about the Christmas spirit, family and giving to others.

3. I began my Christmas shopping on the 28th of November. I took a leisurely walk into town and spent the day browsing the shops for items that stood out as being just right for my family and friends. Buying gifts for my loved ones is one of my favourite parts of Christmas.

4. On the second of December a documentary series started on Channel 5 called Homeless at Christmas which I recorded and have watched two episodes so far. The second was about loneliness during the festive season and included; single parents who don't have, or share their children, elderly and young people who have left care (care leavers).

5. The first weekend of December I decided to write Christmas cards. I don't send many, this year I sent them to my family as I knew that we were not going to all be together on Christmas Day. I also asked if they wanted to donate items to the food bank again this year. The message I sent them in my cards went like this;

This Christmas we will have love in our hearts,
and food in our belly.
We will be surrounded by friends and family.
I ask that you spare a thought,
For those who are not as fortunate.

6. On Saturday the 5th of December, my friend and I took his niece out for the day. She is a lovely little girl who is growing up so fast. We took her out for lunch and Frankie and Benny's and then drove to Lavenham Christmas Market. We often take her to Frankie and Benny's because of the children's menu and the activity packs they give out to entertain whilst they wait for their food. At the Christmas market, there were beautiful lights strung along buildings and the scent of mulled wine in the air. The market stalls themselves I found quite disappointing, there was not much of a variety of items on sale to browse and choose from and I didn't feel they were all very Christmassy. In the end we queued up to see Father Christmas, went on a carrousel ride and drove back to mine for hot chocolate, some nibbles and to snuggle up and watch The Grinch. Earlier in the day, before my friend arrived at mine, I posted a little package to the little girl I sponsor through SOS Children's Villages. Once a year I send her a little letter about my year, a Christmas card and a small gift, often a headband or something similar.

7. Saturday the 12th of December I took Nan Christmas shopping and then went out for a meal with my friends, which I talked about here.

8. Sunday the 13th of December was my first shift at the Winter Night Shelter this year. The first shift was vey quiet, not one guest turned up. However, I also volunteered at the afternoon shift yesterday, Boxing Day, and possibly because there were no other services open due to it being the holidays, it was a little busier. The afternoon shift provides drinks and nibbles, yesterday there was a tin of Roses, some cake and cheesy snacks. Usually there is soup and rolls. We spent time talking with the guests and playing games such as Draughts, Scrabble and card games.

9. Saturday the 19th of December I went to the cinema with my Mum to watch Christmas with the Coopers whilst sipping a festive toffee nut latte from Starbucks. I think this film has become one of my favourites, I loved it! I then spent the evening wrapping Christmas presents while watching Love Actually and sipping mulled wine.

10. Sunday 20th of December my family and I went to Snape Maltings to listen and sing along to a show of Christmas songs. The concert hall and stage was beautifully decorated with a huge Christmas tree, visual effects and lighting. The show featured different choirs that have links to Aldeburgh Music. Grandad had a great time singing along whenever he recognised the song, not necessarily when it was the audiences turn to sing along.

11. My last day at work before having some time off over Christmas was Wednesday the 23rd of December. Driving home from my last visit I could finally put work in a box, breathe and begin to relax. Christmas Eve I spent with my Mum and Grandad. Mum was preparing the house for Christmas Day and I was baking some festive cupcakes for my Sister. I was invited to a friends in the evening where we chatted, drank some mulled wine and watch a few films.

I woke up Christmas morning at my house, just me and the cats. I opened the two presents I had waiting, fed the cats with a few added treats and packed my overnight bag. Before heading to my parents, I went to visit an elderly neighbour for a cup of coffee. My neighbour has no family that live nearby and I have called in on Christmas day for the last two or three years as well as other times during the year. I arrived at my parents house about half 11 and sipped a snowball cocktail while I waited for my Sister to return from her boyfriends. We then spent time, taking it in turns to open our gifts. My parents then went to pick up my Nan and we spent the rest of the day sat around the kitchen table eating, talking and playing quiz games.

I decided to sleep at my parents' home so I could wake up there on Boxing Day morning. My sister and her boyfriend came over for brunch, I then got dressed and headed out to do my shift at the Night Shelter. I returned to my parents' afterwards and we sat down to watch one of the films I had bought them before heading home to spend some time with my cats and sleep in my own bed. In case you were wondering I did pop home over the two days so my cats were not left starving, they just didn't se that much of me.

12. Tomorrow my family will get together, this time with my aunts and uncles. We will sit around the table and eat, laugh and enjoy each others company. I will also collect the food that they have kindly collected to donate to the local food bank.  

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and I would love to hear all about it

Sunday, 20 December 2015

A Christmas Countdown

I didn't write a post last week, purposely because it would have been an outpouring of my frustrations. My work life balance, which was something I felt needed to change, has not. Perhaps in the few weeks leading up to last weekend it had gotten worse. I really notice the difference in the way I feel when I've not eaten healthily and recently I have not prioritised food shopping and cooking balanced meals. This along with having trouble switching off at night and sleeping led me to feel as if I was walking around in a haze, functioning on auto pilot without much thought. I was exhausted. Not good at any time of the year but definitely not how I want to be feeling in the run up to Christmas, a season I usually look forward to, one that fills me with excitement.

Last Saturday I took my Nan into town to do a bit of Christmas shopping. As with doing our shop for the Christmas shoebox, going out Christmas shopping has become something we do together. It gives Nan and I some time together and also allows her to pick some gifts for the family instead of giving money because she does not always feel confident going out alone. Our first stop was of course Greggs for some coffee and cake.

After our afternoon shopping I dropped Nan at home and headed to my friends for the evening. It has become a tradition for the three of us to go out to dinner instead of swapping gifts at Christmas. We decided to go to a local Indian restaurant. This was for two reasons, it tastes yummy and is really good value for money. We always leave stuffed and satisfied. Earlier in the afternoon I was telling Nan about our dinner plans and began to feel a little guilty, knowing my Nan really enjoys a curry. I ended up offering to order, collect and deliver a take away for her which she really appreciated and hopefully enjoyed.

We headed back to my friends and we made ourselves comfortable on her bed. It reminded me of when we lived with our parents and used to do the same in each others bedrooms when we used to meet up. The conversation turned to my love life, or lack of it and continued with discussions about online dating. We had some fun and laughs composing a profile and considering possible matches. However, the next day things did not seem quite so funny. Usually being single doesn't really bother me, I have had been busy with university, friends and family and been quite content on my own. Perhaps it is the time of year and the number of festive films that feature love, romance, relationships and happy endings.

Image from Pinterest
Last Sunday was my first shift this year at the Winter Night Shelter. It is organised in partnership with local churches and opens its doors from December through to March, the coldest months of the year. The night shelter has previously had three shifts; the morning, evening and night shift. This year they have decided to offer an extra Sunday afternoon shift and some additional afternoon shifts over the festive period. Due to work commitments this year I have volunteered to help out during the Sunday afternoon shifts once a fortnight. I was careful not to take on too much as I can sometimes struggle balancing work and my life outside of it. I turned up at the hosting church ready for my shift to begin at 1.30 and stayed until 4.30. In that time not one guest turned up. On the one hand that could be really positive, that they feel they do not need to come to the shelter because they have other places to go, I know that the library is a popular place due to it being warm, having free books to read and the internet to surf. However, what is not offered at the library is food and drinks free of charge. On the other hand, I am now a little hesitant to possibly give up time with my family on Boxing Day to help out at the shelter. I struggle with my negativity around this and wonder if I am being too selfish and focused on my own needs and wants rather than those of others. Perhaps, there is a little of my Nan's need to feel needed in me.

This week I have attempted to be kinder to myself, I have made a real effort to leave work on time, although there were a few late visits that needed to be made. I made a more conscious effort to have one hot meal a day, even if Thursday it was a jacket potato with cheese and baked beans. I felt better by Friday but I think having supervision with my supervisor and arranging to use my TOIL (time off in lieu) on Christmas Eve helped quite a lot. Now I have five days off to look forward to!

Image from Google

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Christmas Tag 2015

1. What are your favourite thing about this time of year?

Scented candles
Festive flavoured coffee

2. What's your favourite festive drink?

Costa's toffee nut latte
A cinnamon latte
A snowball cocktail

3. What are your favourite Christmas songs?

Do They Know It's Christmas, Band Aid
Merry Christmas Everyone, Shakin Stevens

4. What is your favourite Christmas movie

Miracle on 34th Street. Love to watch this on Christmas Eve or the weekend before Christmas with my family accompanied by some festive nibbles. Unfortunately, some family members are voting for a different film this year.

5. What are your favourite Christmas dishes?

Christmas Turkey dinner
My Dad's homemade yule log

6. Giving or receiving gifts?

Both. I love hitting the bustling streets in the run up to Christmas, to see the decorations and browse the shelves for those perfect presents. I like giving at Christmas but I don't like to give for the sake of it, I like to give meaningful, thoughtful gifts.

I also like receive thoughtful gifts from friends and family, definitely, thoughtful over expensive. Gifts I often receive are little things that others know that I wouldn't buy for myself, a few little treats for myself.

7. What does Christmas mean to you?

I really like the term Christmas Spirit. To me is means spending time with friends and family as well as thinking of and giving to those less fortunate than myself. I like to treat my family with gifts and others through charitable work.

8. When was your most meaningful Christmas?

When my family put Christmas on hold for a day two years running so I could work on Christmas Day and then celebrate Christmas as a family on Boxing Day.

9. What are your Christmas traditions?

I shared my Christmas traditions in my previous post if you want to take another look

10. What are your New Years resolutions?

To tick some things off my 30 Before 30 list here

Images from Pinterest

Please share your answers, I would love to hear about your Christmases