Thursday, 31 December 2020

Monthly Photo Challenge | Christmas

I decided on 'Christmas' as the theme for December's photo challenge and then made it hard for myself when I didn't put any decorations out! These were the best I could do and were all taken on Christmas Day ...

A pile of gifts waiting to be opened

Reflections of Christmas lights - part of my gift from H

The Queen's speech, essential viewing on Christmas Day

Reflections again, this time around some of the greetings cards

It wouldn't be Christmas without a tin of Quality Street!

The decorations at the end of the Close

I should have taken a video of this house - there were virtual snowflakes falling down from the roof.


The challenge is to take photos on the set theme; the photos must be taken during the month (no archive photos), a minimum of five photos but no upper limit, and there will be a new theme every month. The theme for January is 'the letter B'. Have fun! 

You are quite welcome to join me in this challenge if you'd like to ... the more the merrier! 

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

All About ... The Year in Review - 2020

I wasn't sure whether to write a review this year as life has been so different, but I suppose that's all the more reason to record the strange times that were 2020, the year of coronavirus. 

What did you do in 2020 that you've never done before? I think that has to be living during a pandemic and enduring two lockdowns! I also started learning Italian.

Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions and will you make more for next year?  I don't set the traditional resolutions, preferring to set myself challenges and specific goals. I didn't achieve all that I'd hoped to but mostly because of circumstances rather than a lack of effort on my part. This was supposed to be the year I travelled and had three trips planned and paid for but they were all cancelled during the first lockdown period, and other plans didn't get off the ground because premises were closed due to the restrictions in place. Yes, I've already made a start on setting more goals and challenges for 2021, all with the assumption that restrictions due to the coronavirus will continue throughout the year in some form or other so I am planning a series of monthly challenges that will enable me to focus on specific aspects of my lifestyle changes.

Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes! Baby P, my friend's first granddaughter was born in January. Baby R, my youngest nephew's first child was born in September and is just like his Dad. Baby S, a friend's newest granddaughter was born in November. 

Did anyone close to you die? Sadly, yes. My Auntie Eileen died at the end of August, just one month away from her 99th birthday.

What countries did you visit? None! I rarely left my home and the longest journey this year was the twelve miles to Bath before the pandemic reared its ugly head! 

What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020? I usually answer this question by saying that I haven't lacked anything during the year but this time it's different. I'd love to be able to hug the people I care about, cuddle the babies, and just have the freedom to go wherever I want to without worrying about the risks to life.

What date from 2020 will remain etched in your memory and why? March 23rd, when the first lockdown was announced in the UK.

What was your biggest achievement of the year? Coping with all the fears and uncertainties of the pandemic and not sinking into deep depression. I did have a couple of blips but was able to turn them around and have been successful at keeping myself emotionally stable.

What was your biggest failure? I suppose it's that I didn't complete the decluttering but that was mostly due to factors outside of my control, all to do with the pandemic. As I'm sure many people did, I didn't expect the first lockdown to last as long as it did and I missed a few opportunities to complete the decluttering during that time. 

Did you suffer illness or injury? I've been lucky this year with no major health issues, which is just as well as it's even more difficult than usual to get to see a doctor. The main issues this year have been knee pain, joint pains, migraines and nosebleeds but luckily no new concerns. 

What was the best thing you bought?  Books, puzzle books, jigsaws, online theatre tickets ... all things to keep me entertained during lockdown.

Where did most of your money go? On the garden - bulbs, plants, pots, obelisk, and of course, paying the gardener!

What did you get really, really, really excited about? I can't think of anything but then, it hasn't really been the year for getting excited. 

Compared to this time last year are you:
  • Happier or sadder? about the same
  • Thinner or fatter? about the same
  • Richer or poorer? slightly richer as I'm not spending as much on entertainment

What do you wish you’d done more of? I've tried to focus on what I have been able to do this year rather than what I couldn't do. I've missed seeing family and friends face to face.

What do you wish you’d done less of? I can't think of anything. I wish this year had been different so I suppose the answer could be that I wish I'd spent less time on my own.

How did you spend Christmas? I spent the day at home on my own. I'd planned for this and had a lovely day with plenty of treats I'd bought for the occasion.

Did you fall in love in 2020? No.

What was your favourite TV show? I don't have a particular favourite but enjoy watching QI, Would I Lie To You, House of Games, Only Connect, and Tipping Point. I've also been watching repeats of Midsomer Murders and Lewis.

What was the best book you read? Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher and The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

What was your greatest musical discovery of 2020? This continues to be the community choir. From March the weekly practices have been online via Zoom so not quite the same as meeting in person but still an opportunity to sing and enjoy a huge variety of musical styles.

What did you want and get? I wanted to get the garden sorted out and, after an initial blip, I've found a good gardener and should see the benefit of all her hard work throughout 2021. Some of the spring bulbs are peeping through already!

What did you want and not get? I wanted to travel but it simply wasn't possible this year. By the time the holidays were cancelled by the various companies I was already resigned to it and knew that I wouldn't be travelling anywhere.

What was your favourite film this year?  I have two - Hidden Figures, and Les Choristes, ... and all the Harry Potter films of course!

What did you do on your birthday? I spent the day alone but filled with phone calls with, and doorstep visits from, 
friends and family. In the evening I ordered an Indian takeaway delivery and watched Emilia online.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Hugs with family and friends and cuddles with the new babies.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020? Non existent! I didn't make much effort as there was nobody here to see me, although I do admit to perfecting the Zoom Outfit, i.e. smart top half as it's visible on camera, and anything goes on the bottom half as it can't be seen!

What kept you sane? By focusing on what I could do rather than all the restrictions in place, plus the ongoing support of friends and family.

What political issue stirred you the most? The coronavirus pandemic, and the American Presidential Election

Who did you miss? It will always be Ced.  

Who was the best new person you met? It hasn't really been the year for meeting new people. However, I have 'met' new people online as I started following a few new to me blogs - I won't mention names in case I forget anyone!

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020. This year, horrendous as it has been, has given me the opportunity to realise what is important - and that boils down to a reminder, because on some level I already knew this, that it's the people that are the most important thing in my life.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. "
If life seems jolly rotten, there's something you've forgotten and that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing" - Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life!

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Tuesday 4 - Happy New Year

The Tuesday 4 questions are all about celebrating the New Year.


1Despite the weirdness of this past year, was it still a good year for you anyway or not? On reflection, yes, it has been a good year. I'm used to living alone, have no financial or job related worries so haven't had to deal with too many of the issues that severely affected a lot of people due to the restrictions imposed by the government in attempting to control the virus. All of my plans to travel were obviously cancelled but on the plus side I have kept in touch with family and friends via Zoom, and in many ways those bonds feel stronger. We've reached the end of the year with only one death  in the family (from age, not the virus) and new babies to add to our numbers and, in the big scheme of things, that's all that matters.

2. How will you spend New Years Eve? At home alone but will probably join in a Zoom meet at some time during the evening. I don't particularly enjoy New Year's Eve as I get older so doubt I will even bother to stay up to see the new year in.

3. What do you do on New Year's Day? Is football part of the agenda? Definitely no football! I'm not a big sports fan at all. I was supposed to be going on a treasure hunt but it's been cancelled because the couple organising it live in a tier 3 area. It'll depend on the weather, but I'd like to get out for some fresh air at some point during the day.

4. It's a Scottish tradition to kiss at midnight.  Do you keep that tradition? Does everyone get a kiss if you do? No, it's just me here and I don't always bother to stay up and see the new year in.

Many thanks to Annie for organising this.

Monday, 28 December 2020

2021 Reading Challenge


I signed up to the Diversify Your Reading Challenge (DYRC) in 2020 but, although I started well, I didn't complete it. Midway through the year I switched over to reading articles and extracts from genealogy publications so I'd like 2021 to be the year I get back to reading novels again. I've found the DVRC list for 2021 and will be attempting the challenge again, aiming to read a minim of 52 books during the year, so a book a week. Only one book each month will be in the nominated genre for that month.

source

I received some book tokens at Christmas so have a goodly sum to spend on some new books and I pre-ordered the new Richard Osman book last month. I've decided that that will be my limit for buying new books in 2021 as I have more than enough in the bookcase and on the Kindle to last me the entire year and longer, and I know my sister will continue to pass her books on to me as well. There is also the library where I'd like to get back to borrowing some books every month - it's a valuable resource and if we don't use it, we'll lose it. I don't know what the lending arrangements for tier 2 restrictions are though, so will need to investigate.

I've looked at what I currently have available at home and have chosen possibilities for the first three months:


Sunday, 27 December 2020

Weekly Reflections

 Reasons to be cheerful ...

  • chatting with friends
  • enjoying doorstep visits from family and friends
  • having a lovely Christmas, on my own but very much included in group online meets
  • receiving a thoughtful gift from Lauren and the words in the card telling me important I am in her and her sister's lives
  • enjoying Christmas chocolates!
  • reading, and loving, my book choice for this year's Jolobokaflod - Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
  • cooking up some tasty meals to use up all the (planned) leftovers
  • enjoying some of the Christmas TV offerings 
  • rewatching Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert for the umpteenth time

I am grateful ...
  • for the thoughtfulness of friends and family
  • for the communications from the GP  surgery providing information and reassurance about the Covid vaccinations
  • online ordering and delivery of essential medications
  • crossword compilers and puzzle makers

Lifestyle Changes
  • Knee Strengthening (every day): achieved
  • Exercise: it's been a bit hit and miss .... something called Christmas got in the way!!
  • Practicing self-compassion: achieved

Saturday, 26 December 2020

Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day everyone!

Yesterday was about as perfect as it could be given the coronavirus restrictions in place. To start with, I had no hassle at all from my neighbour. I could feel myself getting anxious towards 1pm, her stated meal time, but there was no sign of her at all, thank goodness. Once I'd dealt with all the texts from friends and family wanting an update on the neighbour issue, I got on with cooking my own meal while I listened to Classic FMs 'The Nation's Favourite Carol' - it's O Holy Night again if you're interested. Then I listened to the Queen's Speech, after which I switched the TV off and carried on reading - I am loving Winter Solstice.

Family and friends went the extra mile this year and I received some very thoughtful cards and gifts. The one from Lauren (my friend's daughter) made me cry, but in a good way. She gave me a framed photo of the two of us together at her graduation and in the card wrote about how important I am to her and her sisters and how we'll celebrate together when the UK has conquered the virus. There were also unexpected doorstep visits from friends, too cold to talk for long but extremely cheering to see them.

I read for the rest of the day. My '1st Day of Christmas' gift was to sign up for the Disney Plus subscription so I can catch up with a few films I'd like to watch but I decided to wait until I've finished this book before paying out the money.

Today I have roast lamb for lunch, a real treat which I am so looking forward to. I doubt I will go out and I definitely have no desire to go into town - I have this awful feeling that the Boxing Day Sales will mean lots of overcrowding and lack of social distancing. I'll finish my book - I have about a third of the book left to read - and then this evening Sky Arts (the freebie channel on Freeview TV) is showing the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert followed by Miss Saigon.

Friday, 25 December 2020

Merry Christmas

 


Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas xx

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Christmas Eve

I should be decorating my home today but I've decided not to bother. I moved some of the boxes into the living room yesterday and started looking through to decide which decorations to use but it stirred up emotions I could do without being to the fore this year. I'd chosen the majority of the decorations with Ced so every box is full of memories and this is one time in the year when I miss him more, if that's possible. I think it's time to get some new ones, more suited to my current home and available space ... a task to add to the 2021 to-do list!

On to today! No housework now until next year - I love saying that! It's all about celebrating until Twelfth Night and then real life can intrude again. The only thing I'd like to do today is to prep the vegetables for tomorrow but, as I'm only cooking for myself, there's not that much to do so it won't matter if I don't get round to it.

The high spots of the day will be watching 'It's A Wonderful Life' this afternoon, followed by 'Carols from King's, after which the TV will be switched off and my own version of Jolobokaflod can start. I have quite a few books to choose from but think I have settled on Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, an older book I've never read but I have enjoyed some of her other work so I'm looking forward to losing myself in the pages.

I won't go to Midnight Mass in person but there are options on TV and radio if I can't find the recorded service offered by the local church.

I've scheduled some posts for the days between Christmas and New Year but may be slower than usual in responding to any comments and in visiting other blogs. I'll end by wishing you all a Merry Christmas, however you choose to celebrate the day. 

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Wednesday

I'm waiting in for the egg man this morning so it's as good a time as any to do the last bits of housework before the big day. I'll also get the ham cooked as well ... this was a substitution on my last delivery and it's double the size I ordered at no extra cost. I fancy having ham for my Christmas Eve meal so cooking it today will give me time to slice it up and freeze the extras.

I finished all my doorstep deliveries yesterday but am still expecting flying visits from friend Julie and a couple of my sister's children. I had a surprise visit from David, the young man from the youth band who I've written umpteen references for over the last few years. He starts his new job in January so popped round with a thank you gift for me, which was completely unexpected but very much appreciated. I enjoyed catching up with his news and it was good to see him again and to see how he excited he was about this new job.

The forecast is for rain on and off all day so it's unlikely I will get out for a walk, but it's one possibility for this afternoon should the weather decide to play nicely. Today's Advent task is to 'breathe and relax' and the card details a five minute breathing exercise that I'm familiar with and do regularly anyway. I've sorted out some (very simple) Christmas carols piano music so do want to play through those this afternoon. I doubt I'll do much more as it will do me good to relax after the upset at the weekend with the neighbour ... she seems to have given up bothering me, fingers crossed, so that's good news.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Tuesday 4 - A Merry Little Christmas

This week the Tuesday 4 questions are all about celebrating Christmas.

1. Do you have a favorite Christmas carol and if so is there a particular version you especially like? Hmm, it's difficult to choose just one! I love both Silent Night and O Holy Night but if I have to choose, then it is O Holy Night. But then if I'm singing one with a descant it will have to be Hark the Herald Angels Sing as that has the best descant ever! If I'm playing then I'd have to choose See Amid the Winter Snow as I love the harmonies in my part. 

As for whether there's a particular version ... the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge singing any of these carols will get my vote.

2.Do you have a special dinner for the holidays? What foods are included? I have the traditional roast turkey dinner with all the usual vegetables and gravy - this year it's roast potatoes and parsnips, carrots, cauliflower, sprouts, runner beans and something else, but I can't think what it is! I don't bother with bread sauce or cranberries when I'm cooking just for myself, but will have sage and onion stuffing and pigs in blankets. Now I'm on my own I don't bother with Christmas pudding. I always find it too rich and filling after the main course so prefer to go without. 

3.Holiday movies ... which do you like to watch? The 'must watch' ones for me are It's A Wonderful Life, Scrooge - A Christmas Carol (the B/W Alasdair Sim version) and A Muppet's Christmas Carol. 

4. What traditions do you continue to keep year after year for the holidays? I only celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas. Decorating is for Christmas Eve, not before - in previous years my great nieces and nephews have spent the afternoon decorating the tree for me but that's not possible this time. I will also continue with a fairly new to me Christmas Eve tradition, which is my own version of the Icelandic tradition of Jolobokaflod - I buy myself a new book and spend the evening reading. I have one gift to open on each of the twelve days - three each of something I want, something I need, something to wear and something to read - I obviously know what I bought for this but I don't know which gift will be opened on any particular day.

I listen to the Nation's Favourite Carol on Christmas Day while I cook and eat my meal. This year there are plans for Zoom meetups as well to replace the face to face meets. 

One tradition that will definitely happen is our most important celebration. Christmas Day also happens to be my great niece, Little Miss C,'s birthday and there are plans to meet in the local park, socially distanced in individual family groups, to sing Happy Birthday to her. 

Many thanks to Annie for organising this.

Monday, 21 December 2020

Me on Monday

Me on Monday is ...

... feeling more upbeat after an upsetting Sunday. My neighbour again! This time she put a note through my door pretending she wasn't sure whether I was expecting a meal from her on Christmas Day. I cried ... tears of frustration that there didn't seem to be a way of stopping her. Anyway, this time I responded in writing, quite a stern letter, confirming that, as she well knew, I had declined her offer and considered her behaviour to be bullying, ending with a request that she leave me alone from now on. I wasn't confident that it would work but I felt better after I'd put my feelings in writing. She responded in writing later last night, apologised for upsetting me and tried to say that she was just making sure I knew I will have to sort out my own meal on Christmas Day - all nonsense, but I do feel more hopeful that this is the end of it. Sometimes, calling a bully out on their behaviour actually works!

... resisting the urge to eat all the Christmas goodies! I received my food delivery yesterday; there were lots of substitutions this time but all were acceptable and I have plenty of meal choices and treats for the festive days.

... looking forward to the virtual choir concert tonight. We've been asked to wear red and black, which is the dress code for our normal concerts in church, and we have to have something festive to wear as well. I can't find my Santa hat and don't have anything else appropriate so will make something out of tinsel today. 

... feeling frustrated by the changes to the Christmas arrangements in the UK. I'm not affected by the additional restrictions but some of my friends are and it's heartbreaking for them.

... looking ahead to next year and thinking about what I want to do and achieve during the year. So far I've only thought about the easy bits, so I have almost certainly decided on a definite maybe for my One Little Word for 2021! I've settled on a reading challenge, and have a short list of goals that I'll be able to do no matter what coronavirus restrictions are in place at any given time. I'll write about them in more detail over the next few weeks.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Weekly Reflections

 Reasons to be cheerful ...

  • enjoying a home baked Afternoon Tea and watching Christmas films
  • there were no problems with my car so it passed the MOT at the first attempt
  • receiving a Christmas card from an old school friend who I'd lost touch with many years ago
  • seeing the Christmas lights
  • chatting with friends
  • hearing the news that my sister and her husband completed their house move and are now settling into their new home
  • noticing signs of growth in the garden ... some of the bulbs are peeping through rather earlier than expected but exciting nonetheless
  • a doorstep visit from Julie, Lauren and Baby P to drop off my Christmas present. P was awake and smiling ... she's gorgeous!

I am grateful ...
  • for the home-garage-home service provided by T at no extra cost to me
  • that all my family and friends have reached the end of this dreadful year in good health
  • for the signs that life goes on ... new growth in the garden, house moves, the seasonal weather, and the comfort to be found in our traditions and celebrations

Lifestyle Changes
  • Knee Strengthening (every day): achieved
  • Exercise: achieved 
  • Practicing self-compassion: achieved. I started off attempting to list three things I'd done well at the end of every day but changed to doing it straight after breakfast the following day. I don't find this easy so it takes rather more effort and inward looking than I want to do at the end of the day when I'm wanting to slow down and prepare for sleep. 

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Saturday

Yesterday turned out to be a bit of a 'nothing to report' sort of day. I didn't feel unwell but something wasn't right and I ended up doing very little apart from feeding myself and ignoring my troublesome neighbour. It seems that she hasn't given up yet from the number of times she rang the doorbell but I didn't feel up to a repeat of the previous episode and, as I wasn't dressed, chose to ignore the door. It probably would have been better to speak to her and get it over and done with, but knowing what she has been saying about me to others I didn't feel up to it ... just the fact that she was wanting to speak to me, left me feeling completely unsettled but I will answer next time she tries. 

I don't have any 'must do' things today so will just see what takes my fancy ... most likely reading, piano, and letter writing. Julie and Lauren should be calling round later this afternoon for a doorstep chat and they will have Baby P with them so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she will be awake this time - the last few times she's been asleep so she obviously finds travelling by car very relaxing! They already have my gifts to them so this flying visit is to let me have their gift to me.

This evening I am hoping to walk round to see the Christmas lights ... not the public displays but the external lights on private houses. I'm always amazed at the effort some people make and there are some brilliant displays to be seen. 

Later I'll watch The Shows Must Go On choice for this week, which is Kinky Boots. I've seen this show before so I know I'll enjoy it.

Friday, 18 December 2020

WPSH - First Photos

I always feel better once I've made a start on the hunt! Here are my first attempts ...

No 7 | an opening - the door into the living room



No 15 | Something with legs - two of the Carlton Walking Ware egg cups


No 16 | a face - my Green Man ornament


Alt A | in pieces - a jigsaw puzzle waiting patiently to be finished!



Here's the complete list for anyone who may be interested. 

  1.  set of three
  2. Round and round
  3. Peek inside
  4. Glass
  5. A treasured item
  6. Horizontal
  7. An opening
  8. A sign of the times
  9. Weather conditions
  10. Work in progress
  11. Measures
  12. In the distance
  13. Something beginning with C
  14. One of many
  15. Something with legs
  16. A face
  17. Comfort food
  18. Something you do every day
  19. Something yellow
  20. Marking time

Alt A. In pieces

Alt B. Textured

Alt C. Black and white 

It's not too late to join in as the hunt for photos continues until March 31st 2021. It's all about having fun so if you can't find a photo for every prompt on the list that's fine, but every photo must be taken by yourself during the period December 1st 2020 to March 31st 2021. I will add a linky during the first week in January so we can see how everyone is getting on.  

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Thursday

Yesterday was perfect. In the end I only watched three films, partly due to spending a lot of time chatting to my friend on the phone, but also because three films in one day was enough!

Today, there's no housework to do and the diary is empty so I have to decide how I'll be keeping myself occupied. It's supposed to be fine today so if that proves to be the case, plan A is to look for some photos for the WPSH. If I can't summon up the enthusiasm for that, then plan B is to choose a new book and enjoy some time reading.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Wednesday

It's pouring down. I will be dodging the raindrops to bring the wheelie bin in but that'll be my only outdoors time today, because ...

... it's Christmas Film Fest Day. This starts with a morning session making mini quiches, veggie sausage rolls, cheese scones and cheese straws, most of which will go in the freezer to be used over the holiday period. I'll keep enough out for this afternoon as I'm treating myself to a savoury Afternoon Tea while watching Last Christmas, which I saw at the cinema last year and want to watch again, and Love Actually.  Later this evening I'll order an Indian meal to be delivered and will settle down to watch The Holiday (recommended by Joy) and Nativityboth of which are on Netflix.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Tuesday

The good news is that my car sailed through the MOT so that's over and done with for another year. They also did a winter check so I'm all set for whatever the winter weather throws at us as well!

My sister's moved into her new home yesterday. The horrendous rain didn't help but they got everything stacked in the finished rooms so that the workmen were able to continue in the rest. I don't think there's much more to do that requires the workmen in the house as my brother in law and nephews will be able to take over and get it finished now.

At the choir practice last night M announced that she had, admittedly at very short notice, arranged a venue for the entire choir to meet up and sing Christmas carols together on Sunday. It will be outside, everyone must distance from others properly and there is no need to wear masks - I was uneasy about the 'no masks' part but excited about seeing everyone in person but then she announced the time and it's the same time that my supermarket delivery is due so I can't go. It's not possible to change the delivery time so I'm disappointed to miss the opportunity to sing with everyone, but it solves the 'no masks' dilemma. 

Today's Advent task is something I already do, which is 'manage your goals'. It's asking that you focus on identifying just three tasks every day to create your to-do list and give every task your full attention until it is completed. This approach is supposed to reduced stress, increase productivity and eliminate the need to rush because there is so many things on the to-do list. It says you can add more once you've finished the daily list but I'm not convinced on this one - if I only did three things a day, I'd never get it all done! This morning I'm carrying on clearing some of the bitty tasks from the Big To-do List.

I'm hoping to be meeting J for a socially distanced walk this afternoon. We made a tentative arrangement but it'll depend on the weather, her work commitments, and how painful my knee is. As I write this my knee is bearable, it's not raining, so it's down to whether J can take a break. If not, I will use the exercise bike instead.

Monday, 14 December 2020

Me on Monday

Me on Monday is ...

... finally feeling Christmassy after watching some Christmas films over the last few days. I discovered 'Arthur Christmas' last year, rewatched it this year and still enjoyed it. I found the musical 'Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey' on Netflix, but it was a bit disappointing so I doubt it will make the annual must see films list and neither will 'The Grinch', which I forced myself to watch to the end!  I enjoyed 'The Christmas Chronicles' a few days ago, and 'The Christmas Chronicles 2' yesterday, both of which have made the list.

... staying at home today as it's MOT day. T will collect my car at 10 am and bring it back this afternoon, complete with new certificate. I'm not anticipating that it'll need any work to pass the test but he is going to do a winter service for me while he has the car. As I won't have transport I'll get the housework done and out of the way, which won't take long because ...

... I'm ahead of schedule with this week's household chores. Over the weekend I did all the washing and ironing,  washed the floors, and started on the bathrooms. Today I just need to finish off in the bathrooms, hoover the carpets, and  clean in the kitchen. 

... completing today's Advent task which is to 'get into the spirit' and get in touch with my own sense of Christmas cheer. I'm part way there already through watching the films and all the Christmas music, etc. but with this task the focus is on smiling and being aware of moments where there are opportunities to laugh. Yesterday's task was to 'challenge your beliefs', which asked that you be aware of moments when you express a strong opinion and then to review that opinion later to consider the other side of the argument.

... planning a few things to do during the rest of the week so I can get them ticked off the Big To-do list before the end if the year. It's all bitty tasks but it'll be good to have them done and out of the way.

... looking forward to choir tonight. It's our final practice before our virtual Christmas concert next week. 

... hoping that moving-in day runs smoothly for my sister and her husband. They've been renting while they improved their new home and last time I spoke to her it seem that the work wasn't quite finished, but today is moving day no matter what!

... meal planning to use up odds and ends from the freezer before the next delivery on the 20th. There will have to be some creative meals as I have a couple of UFO* packs to use up.

* UFO = unidentified freezer object! 

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Weekly Reflections

 Reasons to be cheerful ...

  • enjoying time spent out of the house; only a drive around and a quick shopping trip but the change of scene makes all the difference
  • chatting with family and friends
  • finally overcoming something I was stuck on in the Italian grammar course
  • deciding to go ahead and make the last few changes I've been thinking of doing around the house, starting in January
  • reading through the Christmas Radio Times and TV Times magazines and finding plenty of programmes and films to look forward to watching
  • attending an online carol service and receiving an invitation to join in with a local one 
  • realising that the daily practice of mindfulness through the Advent calendar tasks is having a positive impact on my mood
  • receiving the final package for my 'Twelve Days of Christmas' gifts (to myself) 
  • that the coronavirus vaccination has started in the UK, offering real hope for the future 
  • watching Christmas films 

I am grateful ...
  • for good friends 
  • a safe home and (mostly) supportive neighbours
  • to be in a position where I have not been negatively affected financially by the pandemic

Lifestyle Changes
  • Knee Strengthening (every day): achieved
  • Exercise: achieved on four days but failed on the others because of lazyitis!
  • End of Day Routines: this is the last time I will include these in my weekly review. I'm confident that I have re-established the routines as I want them to be. 

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Saturday

Ever the optimist I sacrificed sleep for several attempts at seeing the aurora borealis last night but no luck. It's not impossible to see the lights this far south because they have been visible in Bath a couple of times in the last few years but there was complete cloud cover with an expectation of fog so it wasn't likely. Worth a try though!

Yesterday's Advent task was interesting. It was to do with practicing self-compassion and the associated task was, at the end of the day, to write down three things that I'd done well during the day (e.g. eaten a healthy meal, supported a friend in some way, completed a chore) with the aim to consider things from a positive point of view. I didn't find it as easy to do as I thought I would but do think it is something I'd benefit from doing regularly as, to quote the calendar "it helps to promote a happier and healthier mindset". Today's task is going to be enjoyed! It's to 'enjoy a hot drink', applying complete attention to every step of the experience. I make time to enjoy a hot drink regularly but not with the level of attention from the start of making the drink to the very last sip that this task is asking for. 

Today there's nothing in the diary and all I'm sure of is that there will be naps ... see the first paragraph for the reason! Apart from that it'll be a slow, quiet day most likely reading or watching TV.

Friday, 11 December 2020

Friday

It was too busy to be wandering around town yesterday so I got up early and was on my way to Tesco by 6am today. I bought the TV magazines, the main reason for the trip, and added a few other things I fancied - mushrooms, spring onions, bread rolls, and the Puzzler magazine - and am now waiting for my breakfast to finish cooking. I'll order the colour changing lights online and will probably do the same for a Christmas jumper.

So I'm all cosy at home and am looking ahead to a day of pottering. I don't have anything particular in mind that must be done but there are plenty of odd jobs that I can do - filing, tidying in the playroom, refill the printer ink reservoirs, sort out some photos to frame, to name a few things. 

But first it's the knee exercises and then I must clean out the microwave. Once that's done it'll be time to read the TV magazines from cover to cover and only when that's done will I start the pottering!

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Thursday

Today's Advent task is the 'use your nose' and enjoy the smells you associate with Christmas so, with absolutely no sense of smell, it's not something I can do. I will repeat yesterday's 'give myself a break' because I enjoyed that. I did some crossword puzzles for about an hour yesterday and today will work on a new to me piano piece (still to be chosen).

Today's household task is to dust and hoover the downstairs rooms, which I will do as soon as I've had my breakfast (porridge topped with spiced apples and sultanas), and there is a load of washing to do as well, plus prepare the vegetables for tonight's meal (pork loin chop, potatoes, runner beans, and sprouts). 

After lunch I am hoping to get in to town. I need to get some cash for the egg deliveries, want to have a look at some colour changing lights in Wilko, and ... the best bit ... buy the Christmas Radio Times and the Christmas TV Times. I always get both because I like the puzzles and competitions. I may also pop into Sainsbury's to see if they have any suitable Christmas jumpers in my size. I did look online and saw a lovely Harry Potter Christmas jumper which was just perfect but when I started clicking the buttons to order one I realised it was for children and the largest size was to fit 8 - 10 year olds! Of course, all of this depends on how busy it is in town but it should be quieter in that gap between the end of lunch breaks and the end of the school day. 

That's about it for today. I'll enjoy a pleasant time looking through the TV magazines, speak to my sister at some stage, and then choose a film to watch on Netflix. The egg man will deliver tonight and then it's a bubble bath and early to bed.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Wednesday

My sister is busy packing for her house move and came across some old family photos which were duly delivered to me last night. I have the task of trying to put names to faces, and then to add the images to the family tree. Luckily I like a challenge!

Yesterday's Advent task was to 'be attentive to others', making eye contact and really listening to what the person is saying. I attempted this during the Zoom catchup with J but ... it needs practice, I think, although online when you can't really see or hear the other person as well as when face to face maybe isn't the best time to try this out! Today's task is to 'give myself a break'! It's all about forgetting Christmas preparations for a while and losing myself in some Me Time! I think I'll excel at this one. 😊 

Some 'me time' is just what I need after the last week following a incident with a neighbour which has upset me, and which I don't think is over yet. A few days ago I answered the door to a neighbour who I know slightly, have occasionally passed the time of day with, but we've never had a proper conversation. She asked me if I was going out or was expecting visitors on Christmas Day and when I answered 'no' to both questions she said that she was going to bring a Christmas meal over to me on Christmas Day. Now I have no issues with the principle (although I'd prefer to be asked rather than told) and I like to hear that people are caring for each other in this way but, and it is a huge but, I have food allergies so it is not that simple for me. From her description this meal will include foods I cannot eat at all and other foods cooked in a way that will make me ill so it's a definite no. I thanked her for her generosity, explained about the allergies and said I'd have to decline her offer, at which point her attitude changed completely. No more Mrs Nice but very manipulative, dismissive of food allergies, and verging on aggression and bullying. I don't want to accept food which will just have to be thrown away let alone consider the consequences for me if I eat the wrong foods, but it seems that I am not allowed to say no to her! I eventually managed to end the conversation - her parting shot was that she will still be bringing over a meal! - and realised that I was physically shaking. Her change of attitude and the speed at which it changed actually scared me and I've been ill at ease since it happened. I'm hoping she will have calmed down once she's had time to think about it and will accept my answer so that there won't be a repeat, but I'm not too hopeful ... watch this space!

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Tuesday 4 - Gifts

This week's 'Tuesday 4' is all about gifts.

1. Whether it's Christmas, Chanukah or a birthday party nice gifts can be hard to pick out. Is there a safe go to gift you think will fit anyone?  I now only give gifts to the under 18s in my family and they prefer to receive vouchers or cash. I don't like that it requires no thought on my part, but it is what they want and certainly makes gifting much easier ... just not as much fun! 

2. Is wrapping a gift a necessary part of the excitement of giving and receiving? Yes, I think the wrapping plays an important role in the gift giving process. It was something I loved doing and now miss.

3. What gifts given to you did you love the most? Memories from my childhood include the year we were given our own bicycles and spent most of Christmas Day outside riding up and down the street. As an adult, the gift that stands out was an Olympus SLR camera from Ced. I think he was fed up with me borrowing his! 

4. In the O. Henry book The Gift of the Magi, a man sells his pocket watch to buy some beautiful hair  combs  for his wife's long hair  but she has sold her hair to buy him a platinum pocket watch chain.

Have you ever saved long and hard to buy someone a special gift? Would you be okay with a holiday that  didn't include gifts? Would friends and family understand? Yes, my family would understand. We no longer exchange gifts between adults in the family, a decision reached by the majority though my own preference was to continue exchanging gifts. I still exchange gifts with some friends and with others I join in with  Secret Santa type of gift giving.

I've never had to save to buy a gift (apart from the usual monthly budgeting) but used to put in a lot of thought and effort to buy the 'perfect' gift for Ced (my late partner).

Many thanks to Annie for organising this.

Monday, 7 December 2020

Christmas Plans

Today's the day I start my Christmas celebrations. In previous years, every day in December up to Christmas Eve has always been filled with carol playing, carol singing, concerts, etc., but it's not possible to celebrate in the same way this year. For starters, brass playing is still not permitted so there's no carol playing and there are no community carol singing events or in person concerts either, so I've had to have a rethink. It was a bit of a no brainer to work out that I can still do most of the things I'd normally do, just in a different way. 

Around this time in the month I'd be phoning and speaking to a group of friends who live too far away to meet in person. We all know each other and usually it's individual phone calls but this year we're all meeting online via Zoom later this morning. This is the first of my online Christmas celebrations with friends ... today is the only day the people in this group could all agree on! There are other Christmas Zoom meets arranged for other days to look forward to.

There's bound to be online concerts I can watch and in addition, I've decided that this will be the year I watch some of the Christmas films I haven't seen yet. So at some stage during the month I will be watching Elf, The Grinch, Home Alone, and Nativity for the first time and will be rewatching for the umpteenth time A Christmas Carol (the Alasdair Sims version), Polar Express, A Wonderful Life, and The Muppets Christmas Carol. I feel quite excited just writing the titles!

Musically, Carols from Kings will be on TV and there will be several compilations of the Christmas No1 pop videos to choose from. There is also the choir Christmas virtual concert when we'll sing through all the songs we've been learning, and I have sorted out a couple of carol books to do some playing (flute, brass, or piano) any time I feel like it. I'm looking forward to this as well ... I'm starting on flute later on today!

The other biggie is the Christmas lights. I usually drive round to see the town lighting displays but the lighting ceremonies for each town were shown live over the weekend and I watched online. I also like to see the houses known for their outside decorations so will be doing that at some point during the month. A new event for this year is The Winter Wanderland where families have decorated their window(s) creating a trail around the town. Some have been featured on the town Facebook page and are brilliant, so I will be wandering round to look at some of those as well.

That's not all of my plans but enough for now. Yesterday's Advent calendar task was to do a Random Act of Kindness, which I hope to do on Wednesday. I can't tell you what I'm doing as the instruction is that it must be anonymous. Today's task is to 'Exercise Mindfulness Gratitude' and is something to do over the next few days by writing a daily list of things I'm grateful for. I do this daily though I don't usually write it down, but the card states that writing it down instead of just thinking about it will sharpen my focus on the appreciation I feel.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Weekly Reflections

 Reasons to be cheerful ...

  • completing several tasks which move me another step closer to completing the decluttering
  • chats with friends
  • a supermarket delivery with the ingredients to try some new recipes, and ...
  • ... booking another delivery for the weekend before Christmas, meaning fresh bread, fruit and veg without needing to rely on family to shop for me
  • Christmas cards arriving in the post, plus a couple of belated birthday cards
  • one of my favourite folk artists has released a CD of his Christmas concert, recorded live, so I will still be able to enjoy it this year

I am grateful ...
  • for prescription medications
  • for central heating and a warm home

Lifestyle Changes
  • Knee Strengthening (every day): achieved
  • Exercise: it's been a bit hit and miss this week following a migraine on Wednesday
  • End of Day Routines: the routine took a bit of a hit following the migraine on Wednesday but by Friday was back to the plan