The Year in Books | Jan 2017

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This year, I’m joining Laura from Circle of Pines again for her excellent reading project The Year in Books (#theyearinbooks). It’s a kind of reading group but instead of everyone reading the same book at the same time, you aim to read at least one book a month. You can then tell others about it via your blog, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter using #theyearinbooks. And once a month you can join a friendly bunch of fellow bibliophiles chatting about books on the Twitter chat that Laura hosts. There’s no pressure and no judging and you’ll probably have a TBR pile for your TBR pile!

For January, Milk and Honey by @rupikaur_ was my choice to kickstart the new year. It was brilliant and brutal, honest and open. If you like poetry, do give it a go, I read it in one sitting.

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Five under £5 for January 2016

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I really enjoyed linking up with the lovely Julia and her Five under £5 last month and was really pleased when she decided to make the link-up an ongoing feature.  I’ve been thinking about the things I wanted to include for January for a couple of weeks, but typical me I’ve left it all last minute to take the photos, blog and link up so I find myself doing the blogging equivalent of last minute cramming for an exam (must try harder!).

So I have my five but please excuse the dodgy photography and the hurried (probably typo-riddled) post.

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I’ll start off with the fabulous Hello Kitty earrings which were a steal because they were reduced to £1.50 at Toys r Us. I think they must have been in the Claire’s Accessories concession but I was on a mission trying to buy pressies for some of the smaller relatives in the family and didn’t have enough time to check. They are just so darn cute and although I was a huge tomboy I loved Hello Kitty as a girl so I treated myself to these.

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As is usually the case at the beginning of a new year I have good intentions of clearing out old stuff, sorting and tidying. These intentions often fall by the wayside but I’m hoping at least some of them will stick this year. These sweet apple-shaped washing up scourers are so lovely, they make washing up a little bit easier and they were 99p for a pack of 4 from the 99p Shop. I also stocked up on my fabulous BB cream from Superdrug. At £6.99 I realise it’s over the £5 limit but I try to buy it when it’s in the BOGOF offer so it works out at about £3.50, which is a bargain and so much cheaper than the big brands. Not only that but it is lovely, it makes my skin seem smoother, less blemished and I don’t need to fiddle around with foundation (which is great because my makeup routine has to last less than 3 minutes with my two tasmanian devils running about the house!). And the best thing is, it’s paraben free which is important to me.

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I bought the tiny dinosaur rubbers, 75p for my dino-mad elder son and the A5, hard back, kraft notebook was £1.75, both from Wilko. The notebook is a desperate attempt to try and get organised!

And that’s my  for January 2016. Next month I think I’ll need to try and include something for my Husb and my younger son so they don’t feel left out!

Thanks so much Julia for letting me join in xx

Five under £5 for December

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I love a bargain, I really do. I’ve often wondered if it’s a trait that is innate in us Asians, I know my Ma is pretty good at haggling and sniffing out a bargain. Perhaps there’s a gene for it and some of us have it and some of us don’t. Well, whatever the reason, when I saw that Julia from Rainbeaubelle was doing a link up for her Five under £5 posts I got more than a little bit excited and so here are my Five under £5 for December.

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Safari animal figures from B&M, £2.99 for a tub of 48 animals. Snr Son is going to be 6 in a couple of weeks so the obligatory bouncy castle party at the local leisure centre has been booked. Next year he might want something a bit different so I figured we should go for the easy option while we can (Husb and I are exhausted thanks to Jnr Son’s night-time partying). These animals are perfect to pop into party bags, they’re well made, our boys love playing with them and at that price we can pop a few in each bag.

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Christmas tree wrapping paper, £2.00 from Sainsburys, also included in their 3 for 2 offer. I couldn’t help but include some Christmassy items in my five. I spent a good eight years of my working life in retail marketing and we would start reviewing the Christmas campaign just gone and planning for the next one in February so by the time December came I was sick of it! I have to say it sucked the joy of Christmas out of me. But I haven’t worked in retail for some time now and I actually get excited about Christmas, which is lucky because now I have two boys and it wouldn’t do to have the Grinch for a Mama!  I’m a sucker for silver, and I particularly love the simplicity of this paper – silver mini christmas trees on snowy white paper. Perfect for those pressies under the tree.

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This hot chocolate glass from Homebase was originally £2.99 but is now £1.50 and I got a set of four. I share a love of mulled wine and Baileys coffees (and handbags!) with my Step-Mother-in-Law and it’s part of our Christmas gift to her. I searched far and wide for glasses that weren’t too top heavy and had lost hope of finding what I had in mind. I was thrilled to find these as they are so much prettier than the others I had found, so it doesn’t look like I’ve just stolen them from Costa!

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Willie’s Cacao Milk of the Gods chocolate £1.90 from Waitrose. One of my old friends from university has just had her first baby so I thought I’d put a little care package together for her. The first few months are so exhausting (and at times terrifying!) and it can be really tough. Of course, all the gifts for the baby are welcome and appreciated but it’s nice to be reminded that you’re doing a great job. I’ve popped some little treats in the box to remind my friend to be kind to herself and to take a break when she can. Teas, hot chocolate, some nice smellys and this divine chocolate. It’s so delicious and I admit I have just a small addiction to it.

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Fox lavender bag £1.50 The Original Factory Shop. I bought one of these sweet foxes for my AutumnTimeSurpriseProject partner and I loved it so much I went and treated myself to one, it does also double up as a decoration for the tree. Well, sometimes you just have to treat yourself don’t you?!

So that’s my Five under £5 for December, I’ve really enjoyed taking part so thank you Julia for organising it x

How ’bout me enjoying the moment for once

I used to hide the fact that I suffer from depression because, quite simply, I was ashamed. I thought my loved ones would see me as broken or different or worse still, mad. I became quite the expert at hiding it because I feared the GP would force me to go on medication that I would become dependent on.

I used all sorts of methods to keep people from finding out the truth; misdirection, feigned illness and at times even subterfuge. It was utterly exhausting and once in a while, when life felt a little fractured and I’d had a few too many drinks, I’d let my guard down and some of the darkness would seep out. When that happened my poor unsuspecting friends would have to peel me off the floor and help me home while I sobbed about something or another. The next day I would frantically make excuses for the episode – stress at work or love life issues. Whatever. Anything but the admit the truth.

Over the years I’ve come to realise that depression really isn’t a dirty word. It’s an illness and it’s nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. These days I talk to my friends and family about it more openly and honestly and I’ve managed so far, with the help of my GP and an excellent counsellor, to keep the black dog at bay without needing to go on medication. This is a personal choice because I know myself well enough to know that, for me, it would be a bad idea. For some people it is a necessity and only you and your GP can decide what the best course of treatment is for you and your situation.

But this year has been particularly tough for me for various reasons and I’ve felt myself slipping again. I feel as though I’ve had more instances of depression this year than any other time, but despite knowing I needed help I kept putting it off and trying to hide it mostly because we’ve moved and I have a new GP  and I was scared. But when I looked at my boys’ faces I realised that I didn’t want their lasting memories of me to be that I was always sad. And I certainly didn’t want them to think that they had anything to do with that. So I bit the bullet and to my happy surprise my new GP listened and reassured and I feel much better for talking to him.

I now have a bit of a plan of how to get myself back on track. I’m going to try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and although I’ve always relied on writing as a therapy, I’ve decided to also try mindfulness and gratitude. Now trying to get ten, quiet minutes to myself in the morning with two boys under the age of six haring around the house is nigh on impossible, but I have high hopes! I’ve also started yoga again…baby steps, it’s all about the baby steps!

As for the gratitude I’ve realised that it really is a powerful thing. It can help to kick start a positive frame of mind and that is something I need help with at times. Last week on Pause for Thought on Chris Evans’ Radio 2 show I heard a wonderful quote, ‘wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life’, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

So, every day I’m going to try and note one thing I’m grateful for. And so to start; I’m really grateful for friends. I’m always grateful for my old friends but right now I’m particularly grateful for new friends who listen to you, drink copious amounts of coffee (and sometimes wine!) with you and who make you feel like less of a plonker at the school gates!

Do you keep a gratitude journal? Do you do it every day? Do you find it helps you and if so how?

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The parcel arrived it was the gift that keeps giving

Earlier in the year I was a teeny bit disappointed with myself because I’d missed out on the #SummerTimeSurpriseProject.

If you haven’t already heard of it, it’s a project about spreading kindness and celebrating connections and is the brainchild of one of my favourite bloggers Capture by Lucy. Quite simply, you are paired up with another person and you send each other a parcel of gifts (with a guide maximum cost of £5). Everyone aims to send their parcels so that they arrive in time to open on the same day.

Luckily my pouty pout was short-lived as I realised that Lucy had already decided to run another SurpriseProject in the Autumn.

This time I managed to sign up in time and have to say I really enjoyed thinking about the things I could include. I thought about the sorts of things that might put a smile on my partner’s face. I squirrelled away little gifts whenever I came across them. And last week I took my time to wrap these tiny treasures and I posted my parcel. It felt so lovely.

This year has been a particularly difficult one for me for many different reasons. But it has also taught me that despite everything that is happening in the world, and in our own lives, there is still an abundance of kindness out there. For me this project really embraces the idea that you can pass on a kindness, even to someone you’ve never met. Best of all it makes me think about other ways I can be kind and how I can pass those thoughts on to my two boys.

If you’d like to get involved there’s a WinterTimeSurpriseProject planned so make sure you bookmark SurpriseProject and you can be part of something special.

My #AutumnTimeSurpriseProject for my partner
My #AutumnTimeSurpriseProject for my partner

Is it in you to be honest

‘Mama, your neck looks old’
‘I’m sorry what?’
‘Your neck Mama. It looks, y’know, old and I know something that can help make that better…’

I didn’t hear the rest of what Snr Son was gibbering about, this so-called cure for an old neck (what am I, a turkey?) because it was a cold, grey, miserable morning. And as usual, I was rushing about trying to get both sons and myself ready for the nursery/school drop off and then psyche myself up for the comute to work.

My friends and family know that I am most definitely NOT a morning person. I have never had that morning spark, that get up and go, that eagerness to start the day that some people have. You definitely could not (and would not) use the word pep to describe me in the mornings. And to add insult to injury, I am pretty much permanently sleep-deprived thanks to Jnr Son’s night-time antics so suffice it to say that my mood is not the best in the mornings. So my usual response to something like this would probably have been a short, sharp reprimand for being rude and unkind.

But I looked at that face and I realised he wasn’t being unkind, he was just saying what he saw. You see, Snr Son is a few weeks away from 6 so hasn’t quite learnt the finer points of discretion or empathy so I knew I couldn’t blame him for speaking honestly.

Even though my feelings were hurt and even though I wanted to bark at him for being so mean, I took a breath and told him calmly that I am getting older so parts of me will start to look older. And I also told him that sometimes people don’t like to hear that they are looking old.

It’s a tricky stage of childhood this one. I believe it’s (Husb and) my job as parents to teach our boys how to be kind, thoughtful and honest. This is particularly important at the moment as Snr Son has recently discovered lying and is starting to test the boundaries. So while we have to teach him that he has to try and be honest, we also have to teach him empathy and sometimes, being empathetic means not always saying the truth out aloud. If I ask you ‘do I look old’, then by all means tell me the truth, but if I haven’t asked you, don’t offer this information up to me!

It’s a tricky concept for a five year old (one that some adults still haven’t mastered) – always tell the truth when you’re asked but if you’re not asked then don’t point out the truth because it can be hurtful. It’s even trickier to try and instill this as a rule to live by and the last thing we want is for Snr Son to stop being honest, to start lying. But we’ll keep trying our best.

And now that I’ve had a whole day to think about it, I need to get home and ask him what this wonder cure is. And maybe, just maybe, I can make my millions from it!

IMAGE source: letslassothemoon.com

Just blog!

I have been dragging my feet a bit. Well okay, a lot.

I really, reeeeaaallly want to blog regularly again. But I keep sabotaging myself when I see how amazing blogs are these days. Back when I blogged prolifically I was used to just gibbering away in the hope that somebody out there in the big, bad world felt the same way I did. I didn’t have to worry about revealing my name or whether my blog looked just so, or if I had an excellent social media strategy. I just wrote because I felt like it.

A few months ago, thanks to the power of social media, I reconnected with an old-school blogger pal of mine. Unlike me, she has continued to blog, established a successful career and has pretty much become a doyen of the blogging world. I was sharing my concerns with her and she said something pretty powerful….

It’s given me a bit of a lift and now I just need to give myself a kick up the bum and start writing again in earnest. Wish me luck!