2016-2017; Another year

Another year is over and we’re all trying to find our feet in 2017. As much as I sometimes see the fuss around ‘New Year’ as a bit pointless, I do like the impression of beginning a new chapter that comes with the change of date – generally speaking, as people we have always found new beginnings and clean slates appealing and a motivation for change  (who starts a new fitness programme on a Thursday?).

I have spent the past week or so drafting a list of my own personal ambitions for 2017. Unfortunately I am currently fighting off a rather persistent illness which has left me quite unable to act on most of them so far,  so I thought I would take the opportunity to look back on 2016 in the meantime instead.

From a global media perspective, 2016 seemed a little cursed. Looking a little closer you home however, I am looking back on 2016 rather fondly. I did lots of fun things, caught up with some old friends, took a couple of holidays, got a new job, made progress on the house and made progress on myself too. As I didn’t really get my act together on the blogging front, I wanted to share some of the highlights with you now.

February – Long Weekend in York

In February I arranged to take Pete to York for his birthday to coincide with both the Jorvik Viking Festival and going to see Týr, a band he is a big fan of but never managed to catch live. I was in the early stages of what would go on to be an epic chest infection and pleurisy but still had a lovely time getting away with Pete and seeing York and all the Viking attractions. Unfortunately the Jorvik Viking Centre itself was closed after being badly flooded at the end of 2015, but the rest of the Viking Festival was really interesting and enjoyable – Pete entered the ‘Best Beard’ Competition and was very pleased to come in 2nd place.

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clockwise from left; Micklegate, Emblem of the City of York, Jorvik Vikings
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clockwise from left; Hnefetavl (Viking Chess), Pete as Dick Turpin, Second Place in Jovik Best Beard Competition

March – Chickens!

Since we moved to Wales in 2013 we have toyed with the idea of getting chickens and in March Pete decided to go for it, built a coop with help from a friend and then bought us four hens from a local farm. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but it’s actually been really enjoyable to keep them. It took a few months before they started laying eggs but we haven’t been short of eggs since.

Since we got the first four hens our flock has now grown to 8 with the addition of a cockerel who we hatched from an egg ourselves, two hens that were a gift from a neighbour and one more hen who we rehomed from a colleague of Pete’s who was having to move away and couldn’t take the hen with him.

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The Original flock
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Chipper – Our very own hatchling. Clockwise from top right; hatching day, one day old and four weeks old
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clockwise from top right; me with Chipper at 4 weeks, Mabel & Beauregard, Chipper at 2 and a half months

March-April – A Hen-do & Wedding

At the end of March I went on my first ever hen-do for my good friend Laura. We had a great day and night out in Oxford, starting with a walking tour, then lunch and drinks, followed by cocktail making, a late night tour of the castle then on for more cocktails all followed up with afternoon tea the following day. It was lovely to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen in ages and to let my hair down a bit!

Although it was a bit of a trek down from Wales to Oxford I returned the following weekend, this time with Pete, to celebrate the wedding days itself!

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Obligatory Hen-do accessories, Cocktail Making, Afternoon Tea

June – Northumberland

In June we went away to Northumberland for a week with my parents and our dogs. We stayed in a lovely cottage near the ‘village’ of Twice Brewed which was within walking distance of part of Hadrian’s Wall. We had (mostly) great weather and spent lots of time out and about and did lots of walking, I clocked more than 100,000 steps on my FitBit and we tired the dogs out thoroughly.

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Playing Shield-Maiden at Homesteads Roman Fort, Alfred owning Hadrian’s Wall, The Sycamore Gap in Hadrian’s Wall near our cottage
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Ruins of Thirlwall Castle, Molly enjoying the sunshine and a sheep outside the garden wall
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Lindisfarn Castle, Cragside, Bamburgh Castle
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Walking along Hadrian’s Wall and a very tired dog

July – Croatia

For the past three years Pete’s research has required him to spend around 3 months every summer living in Croatia and for the first time in 2016 we actually managed to find a mutually convenient time, and the money, for me to go out and see him. So, despite being terrified of flying on my own, I headed out for a week at the end of July which also happened to include my birthday! It was far from a ‘normal’ holiday, but I was expecting that, staying in an old house in the middle of nowhere with no mains anything – water from a tank that needed to be kept topped up, gas from bottles and the only electricity from a car battery in the main living room. I had the best time and it made the summer apart from Pete and Alf so much easier.

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Me & Pete, My accommodation, The meadow next to the house
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Radio Tracking, Croatian Lunch and a baby Salamander
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Plitvice Lakes 
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Clockwise from left; Lake, Birthday wine and epic food

September – Wedding Weekend

Just after Pete returned from Croatia in September we had a mission of a weekend attending two weddings nearly 300 miles apart. It was important to us to be able to attend both so we didn’t mind making the effort to get to both. It was a lovely weekend with great weather on both days and two lovely (and very different) ceremonies. It was strange that having had very few friends get married we had 3 this year, that combined with 2 babies in our close friendship group probably suggests we’ve got to ‘that stage’ in life (not planning on following suit ourselves mind!).

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Wedding Number 1 – tipis in a field in Yorkshire
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Wedding Number 2 – Pete as an Usher at a Church Wedding in Hampshire

Well that’s ended up being quite a lot longer than I expected, but enjoyable for me to look back at all the pictures we’ve taken over the past year. It’s not that nothing good has happened since September, but I thought I’d better reel myself in before this becomes even more of a mammoth post than it is already!

I’ve been saying this for a fair while now, but I really do hope to get back into blogging properly so hopefully this will just be the first of many 2017 posts!

For now I’ll leave you and say Thank You to everyone who made my 2016 so great, and to everyone who might still be reading this.

Happy New Year,

Love

Betty

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What goes up….

As those of you who follow me on Instageam might have noticed, in the early part of this week I was feeling pretty good about myself. Some good weather, a few new clothes and feeling like I might actually be beginning to shed some excess weight combined to leave me feeling distinctly selfie-worthy.


Unfortunately that good feeling didn’t last long enough to see me through the weekend.

Whilst prolonged periods of feeling really good are still quite rare for me its been quite a while since ive experienced such a stark downturn in my mood.

A combination of lots of small niggles and too much time on my own to think and dwell seem to be to blame.

Top of my list of bring-me-downs are definitely my weight and my (lack of) friends.

After some great success shedding the pounds in the later parts of 2015, the xmas/new year period followed by a succession of illnesses saw me put most of that back on and I’ve struggled to get back on track ever since. I’m not gaining weight, but I really feel like I’m making a big effort both in controlling what I eat and in exercising but without seeing and significant change on either the scales or the tape measure. It’s very disheartening and I really have to fight to stop my disappointment from giving way to serious comfort eating and just giving up altogether. As I sit here writing I can feel the extra rolls round my middle stuck to me and it makes me feel sick and disgusting. It’s actually very distressing, which should be enough to get me off my fat ass to do something about it, but nothing I do seems to make any difference.

I’ve also been feeling quite lonely and uncared for recently (I would like to point out that this isn’t fully universal and I know some people do care, but these moods do tend to make me focus on the worst case). I’ve never been good at making friends,  even when I was a kid. These days I’m too insular and paranoid to easily open up to people and I work on the assumption that people who don’t already know me aren’t going to be able to understand meandering that anything they do find out about me is only going to put them off anyway. I also live around 300 miles away from anyone I would have considered to already be a close friend and time and distance have definitely taken their toll on those relationships – evidenced by the fact that most of them can’t be bothered to even make the effort to meet me half way between us. I want nothing more than to be a good friend, but I clearly fail as I can’t even get one person to respond to a cry for human contact on Facebook – i actually wonder if anyone sees my statusses anymore or if everyone has just blocked me and my moaning from their news feed. It’s a very sad state of affairs that leaves me feeling hopeless, pointless and on the verge of a big tearfilled meltdown.

As you can see I’m in a bit of a bad way right now. Now the big problem is that, even after all the therapy I’ve had, I just never know how to lift myself out of these descents. I’ve tried distracting myself with various activities, but I lack the enthusiasm and motivation to do anything,  which results in a spiral of frustration and guilt. I’m also really bad at the whole cognitive behavioural approach, I can’t write out reasons why the things I’m feeling aren’t true because I wholeheartedly believe that I am fat and unlikely to ever lose weight and that most of the friends I’ve ever had don’t give a damn and I’ll never be able to make good friends again.

Even writing this blog has been difficult with the constant second guessing and self censoring – I’m quite convinced no one will want to read this, but I’m equally convinced that no one does, so in the end I’ve drawn the conclusion that it doesn’t matter.
Here’s to doing better tomorrow

Betty

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A night at the movies: Suicide Squad

I had been quite excited about the release of Suicide Squad. Although I wasn’t super familiar with most of the characters I am generally a big fan of DC and have really enjoyed a lot of the recent TV adaptations like Gotham and Arrow. Whilst the trailers and hype prior to release seemed promising, I was aware of the bad reviews before I went to see it, so I didn’t exactly have high hopes.

Unfortunately it really wasn’t that good. It wasn’t utterly terrible,  I was still entertained, but it just didn’t quite live up to expectations of its potential.

My first impression was that it was a serious case of style over substance – as a series of stills and short bio the characters look interesting, but the movie never really got chance to develop them beyond that – a consequence of trying to introduce so many ‘new’ characters whilst also trying to have a background story to follow. It was clear that some members of the squad really were just there as place fillers, with only Harley,  Deadshot and, to a lesser extent, El Diablo getting anything like any background. To be honest, I think Will Smith’s Deadshot actually stole the show for me as the best character in terms of performance and development.

Harley is a whole other issue that I don’t think I can fully get into here without it becoming a fully fledged essay on women and comicbooks. I’ll try and keep it brief by saying that there was so much potential to take the character and do great things, and that opportunity was thoroughly wasted and sold down the river in a pair of sequined hotpants. The more I think about it, the more I hate those shorts and everything represent.

I won’t say much about the storyline partly to avoid spoilers and partly because there wasn’t much of a storyline to comment on. The first half was a whirlwind introduction that built up to the ‘big problem’ at break neck speed – a serious case of ‘well, that escalated quickly’. In the second half, a good chunk of the time I genuinely didn’t even know what the purpose of the mission was. 

Oh yeah, and The Joker, whose appearances were about as random and as frequent as that. Shame, I was looking forward to Jared Leto’s interpretation.

On the whole, it was a nice evening out, but I’m very glad we got the tickets on 2 for 1. And I did get ice cream 😁

Hope you’re all doing well. I’m off for an early night to try and help me get through the rest of the week without crying!

Love

Betty

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Back to Basics

I didn’t start a blog to write about stuff and products. I started a blog to encourage me to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldy – no wait, that’s wrong – to seek out new experiences and to record them to serve as a reminder to myself that, even in my darkest times, things aren’t always completely shit.

Somewhere along the way I forgot that and started becoming too much like so many other bloggers out there – I don’t mean any disrespect by that, there are loads of great bloggers producing great content, a lot of it about stuff and products, and that’s fine if that’s what they want to do – but if I know one thing about myself it’s that I don’t want to just be like everyone else.

I really miss blogging. Especially as I now live so far from so many of my friends and I increasingly loathe Facebook as a means of social interaction. So, let’s give this another go and see where it takes us…..

Love

Betty

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Does It Bring You Joy? A Personal Philosophy

I have suffered a lot with issues surrounding depression and anxiety. I have regularly caused myself (and, I’m sure, those around me) much distress and upset as a result of various bouts of paranoia, agoraphobia, feelings of obligation, fomo (fear of missing out – note, agoraphobia with fomo is a *great* combo), being overly concerned with what other people think……the list goes on, and none of it (obviously) made me happy. Granted, for a long time I don’t think I even knew what would make me happy, but these things certainly weren’t it.

I’ve tried lots of ways to try and ‘make myself better’ – various medications and therapies, which have had varying effects on my mood, brain chemistry and way of thinking. I am, largely, doing much better with being positive these days than at almost any point in my past, and am learning to retain good things and let the bad stuff go – I’m not perfect, but I’m trying.

Recently I came across the phrase “Does it bring you joy?” and am trying to use it as a bit of a personal philosophy or guiding principle for managing my moods and my behaviour in the hope of getting a more consistent positive outcome.

If you are doing something, anything, or even not doing something, stop and ask yourself “Does it bring me joy?”.

Does it bring you joy

In a very simplistic interpretation – if it isn’t brining you joy, then don’t do it. That’s not exactly a new idea, however it clearly can’t be applied to all situations, there are things we have to do in life that don’t bring us joy and we can’t just avoid them because they don’t in themselves make us happy. So we need to learn to make the best of everything, even the things we don’t want to do – I think in most cases you can find a positive reason to those things that feel more like obligations than choices.

It is for this reason that I see the question in three parts; the process, the outcome and the alternative. Take any situation and now ask yourself – Does the process bring me joy? Does the outcome? Does the alternative(s)? Then weigh up your answers.

(A less fun way of thinking about this is – “Is What I’m Doing Positively Constructive?” – but that’s just not as catchy)

For example – Eating a cake.

The Process of eating a cake does bring me joy, I love cake and could eat nothing but cake. I have a sweet tooth and a huge tendency to comfort eat, so the process of eating the cake releases lots of happy hormones and good feelings.

However.

The Consequence of eating cake, for me and my decidedly average metabolism at least, is getting fat, and that definitely doesn’t bring me joy and I want to avoid this joy-sapping experience.

So.

The Alternative(s) to eating cake could be eating a smaller piece of cake/eating cake less frequently – still getting the joy of the cake but not suffering the lack of joy of gaining weight – or finding an alternative snack that I still enjoy and still brings some joy but without the joyless weight gain again.

 

Example 2 – Paying a Bill

The Process of paying a bill itself isn’t particularly joyful or joyless, but the outcome of having less money is a bit of a joy killer

The Consequence of paying a bill though is that I get to benefit from whatever it is I’m paying for, say it’s electricity – I get light and TV and internet and all sorts of other things that do bring me joy.

The Alternative(s) to paying the bill is not paying the bill, and that means losing all my joy-bringing facilities, so there’s a definitely loss of joy there.

 

Example 3 – Being annoyed with someone else

The Process of being annoyed with someone, say another driver or a colleague who did something you disagree with, is highly unlikely to bring you joy and is most likely going to make you feel stressed and irritable with either no effect on the person you’re annoyed with or just making them annoyed as well.

The Consequence of your annoyance is most likely to be that you feel stressed and unhappy, or you both feel stressed and unhappy – no one involved is going to feel joyful.

The Alternative is either addressing the cause of the annoyance and resolving it, leaving you feeling better or just letting the annoyance go and getting on with finding something that does bring you joy.

As an extension of this, you can also consider how your actions/inactions influence the joy of others – if we can each try to act in ways that not only bring us joy but support the joy of others then everyone should have an easier time of things. Generally I feel that there is too much negativity in the world and not enough mutual support – people are too quick to knock each other down and criticise, and I don’t believe anyone derives any real joy from that.

 

I find the process of breaking down a problem/issue/situation like this holds similarities to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which I have had a lot of experience of, to greater or lesser effect over the years. Largely CBT is concerned with managing anxieties/negative thoughts and feelings by looking for the root cause of a belief or problem and the considering the likelihood of the outcome you fear and then the likelihood of various less fear inducing alternatives, with a view to quelling the knee-jerk anxious reaction or dissipate strongly held negative beliefs.

I know much less about Mindfulness, but what little I do know suggests that this approach also has elements of Mindfulness to it – taking the time to properly think about what you are doing and why, with the aim of increasing the positive personal benefit you gain from it.

Ultimately, I strongly believe that we should all (especially me) try harder to find more happiness in life and to create joy for ourselves whenever possible – even though there are some things that we have to do rather than want to do.

Thanks for stopping by,

Betty

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2016: Reflecting and Resolving

And so another year has ended and a new year has begun.

Those of you who know me, or who have been reading my blog for a while, will know that New Year is one of my least favourite times of year. Of course the turning of the year is meant to be about both reflecting on the past and planning for the future, it is what January is named for – the Roman God Janus, God of endings, beginnings and transitions. My predisposition towards negative interpretations, pessimism and generally feeling inadequate unfortunately mean that, for me, the New Year is associated with a great deal of unhappiness and dwelling on personal deficiencies.

I am trying to do better, but I still ended up in tears on January 1st and feel another bout may be imminent even today.

2015 was a bit of an odd and emotionally turbulent year for me. I struggled to come to terms with turning 30 and the fact that I didn’t even have my boyfriend around to celebrate with me let alone any friends. We also said goodbye to my granddad who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and passed away just three months later. On top of that I’ve had a lot of soul-searching and mixed emotions surrounding my self-image, my personal relationships and the general direction of my life.

2016

As much as I find the actual transition between years emotionally difficult it is still a good opportunity to set out some goals for the future, not resolutions, but ambitions and things to work on or towards.

  1. Buy less, Buy Better
  2. Continue with the weight loss
  3. Continue with the part-time vegetariamism
  4. Read
  5. Decorate at least one room
  6. Take better care of the garden
  7. Improve my Welsh
  8. Increase my savings

I suppose I should have something about trying to be more satisfied with what I have or to have a more optimistic outlook, but I don’t want to set myself up to fail!

I hope you have all had a good Christmas and New Year and that you are feeling more optimistic about it all than I am!

Love

Betty

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Yuletide Greetings

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Indeed, Yuletide greetings to you all.

Today is the day of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, celebrated as the festival of Yule in ancient and modern Pagan traditions. Yule was the traditional mid-Winter festival of ancient Europe, before being adopted and adapted by The Christian Church into the festival of Christmas. Being the shortest day of the year – that is, the shortest period of daylight between sunrise and sunset, obviously every day is always 24 hours long – the festival of Yule is based around the celebration of the sun returning and bringing life back to the world with the (gradual) move out of Winter towards Spring.

Whatever you want to call it – this time of year always makes me want to bake and feed people! So I do like to mark the Solstice with a bit of baking. Of course, the Chocolate Yule Log derives from the tradition of the Yule Log which was an actual wooden log that was burnt to celebrate the Solstice. I didn’t fancy lining myself up for the stress of trying to roll my own Chocolate Yule Log – instead I decided to go down the route of orange, marzipan and cinnamon as ingredients that make me think of warmth and sunshine.

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I used this recipe from Sweet Paul for Norwegian Skillingsboller, that’s Cinnamon Buns, although this recipe has an awesome twist of added marzipan! It takes a bit of time to make as it is a yeasted dough, so you need to leave it to rise, but other than the waiting the recipe is pretty easy. Note: mixing the butter into the dough is very messy!

Mine turned out a bit, haphazard looking – but this isn’t GBBO and I’m not marking myself on presentation or uniformity, it’s all about taste for me.

The finished buns are delicious, I’m going to struggle to restrain myself from eating them all. I did a taste test when they were warm and they were amazing – I’ve also had one cold and it’s still really good, but it might be worth zapping one in the microwave for a few seconds to warm before eating.

I also made these Tangerine and Marzipan Muffins from Olive Magazine. I haven’t tasted one of these yet, I’ve been too busy focussing on the Cinnamon Buns, but they smell really yummy 🙂

UPDATE: I’ve just tried one of thee and they are lovely! Light and orangey and not too sweet, surprisingly! Recommended 😊

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I have a feeling I may take a few steps backwards on my weight-loss over the next week :/

Hope you are all enjoying the festive season, whatever you celebrate and whatever you eat!

Love

Betty