Monday, 30 December 2019

Gone In A Flash

Well, Christmas has been and gone in a flash. We had a nice few days up in Yorkshire.  The cottage was great.  Tiny, but super well equipped.  Not that we spent all that much time in it this time around, as we were only staying 4 nights and most of our time was spent visiting family or shopping for our Christmas dinner.

Christmas Eve was very relaxing.  After having done the food shopping (with a small amount of CS shopping snuck in for light relief) we headed back to the cottage and I spent the afternoon watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and My Fair Lady.  I used to love watching old musicals when I was younger, so this was bliss for me, whilst OH went out on a cycle ride in the surrounding countryside.

Christmas Eve evening was spent at OH's sister's house, playing games, chatting, drinking, etc.

It was just the 3 of us in our cottage for Christmas dinner.  Just how we like it really. We kept it very simple.  Just a chicken and some pigs in blankets with hasselback potatoes and vegetables, followed by Christmas pudding, of course.

Later, after a dog walk, we joined everyone at OH's parent's house where his sister, her husband and their kids were spending Christmas day.  We could have joined them for lunch, but decided it was too much work for OH's mum, who is already coping with OH's dad, who is currently immobile.

What followed was the usual present opening routine, a couple of face time calls from family members in other parts of the globe and then gradually everyone went their own way. A nice day though. LB went back to her cousin's house to stay over and hang out.

On Boxing Day, OH was back on his bike, and I had a leisurely morning, tidying up the cottage to get ready to go back to London, as this was our last full day in Yorkshire, picking up LB and then heading over to meet OH at his parents'. We then all went to the pub to meet my sister and her family and had some lunch whilst there. I hadn't actually seen her since last Christmas, which is unusual, so it was good to catch up, as a lot of things had been happening in her life.  Not all good.

We spent part of our final evening at OH's parents' and then headed back to the cottage to start packing up, ready to go back to London.  We had to set off at 7.30 am, as I was due at work for 1pm after the 4 hour journey. I was bang on time for work, which was a miracle really and spent the rest of the day there.  It was quiet, but we took more than the same time the previous year.

I've spent the last 3 days at work, and today is my first day back at home getting on top of jobs.  I headed out to my Zumba class first which was good and was able to catch up with a friend after her  visit to her family over Christmas, followed by doing some food shopping to see us through the next week.

This afternoon, I've been doing my banking.  I hadn't looked at my finances for two weeks and I knew it was out of control, as I had a purse full of receipts from last minute Christmas shopping, sandwiches bought on the hoof, etc. It was predictably depressing, as it is apt to be at this time of year, but I've only myself to blame. As I'm typing this, I also still haven't unpacked from our trip. That is next on my list.

I'm back at work tomorrow, but only working a few hours, as New Year's Eve is not a busy shopping day in Central London. I'm feeling a bit ambivalent about work again, as certain peoples' actions over the Christmas period have left me feeling a bit put upon. I'm not going to let it spoil my New Year though, it's not worth it. I'm planning to book some leave mid January and they can all just get on with it, without me. I definitely need a break, as I haven't booked any time off since going to Australia in July. I think it's definitely my turn.

I hope you've all had a lovely Christmas and are looking forward to 2020.  I most definitely am, as 2019 hasn't been the best of years in many ways, due to some things that I haven't really talked about here and some things that I have. It could have been a lot worse though, so I'm grateful that it wasn't.

I look forward to continuing to read your blogs in the coming year.

Happy New Year and may 2020 be a good one.

Friday, 20 December 2019

Christmas Catchup

It's been a busy week with one thing and another, as I expect it has been for most people. It seems busier this year for some reason, not sure why, probably because LB has been very busy with her school production and I've been a bit more sociable this year.

Work has been okay, but we haven't had our interns for the last week as they left the week before, so volunteer numbers were down and I've had to really dig in and try to get most of the clothing we needed in the shop myself. We have had some corporate volunteers for a couple of days this week which was a major help, so we were very fortunate there. Really, I'm just hanging on at this point, waiting for the Christmas holidays.  I've still  got a day and a half to work, namely Saturday morning and Sunday and then I'm finished for Christmas.

OH and I did our yearly last minute shopping trip on Monday night to the local mall. LB couldn't join us this year, as she was busy at rehearsals for Chicago. We set off at around 6ish and spent a couple of hours getting the last few bits we needed to get.  It wasn't too busy. I also bought LB a new coat as she didn't really have one for the cold weather and she's been very grateful for it this week, when she's been travelling to and from rehearsals and performances.

I managed to catch a last minute meal with a couple of friends at our favourite restaurant on Wednesday night, which was good. We always take our own wine and pay corkage, which helps with the cost. It's always nice to catch up before we all go our different ways at Christmas and more so this year as one of my friends is having a knee replacement operation in January and I won't see her again before that, so I was glad that I was able to leave work a couple of hours early and join them.

Yesterday, we had tickets to watch LB and her college friends perform their production of Chicago.  She's done 5 performances this week, so we've hardly seen her. We had tickets for the final performance last night and it was really good.  We set off early and had a meal in a pub before heading over to the college, which was nice too. Afterwards, the cast all headed to someone's house for a wrap party, so LB was home very late and will probably be in bed most of today.  It hasn't helped that she's had a cold all week and is pretty hoarse, but she soldiered on and did really well. She's working in the pub all weekend, so today I guess she'll need some serious downtime.

I have lots of last minute things I need to do today.  Number one on the agenda is to finish wrapping all of the presents.  I want them all wrapped and ready to go for when we travel north on Monday and then I want to start packing everything else that we'll need as I'll be at work all weekend, save Saturday afternoon and evening.

I am waiting for one last parcel to arrive and we have a new mattress for LB being delivered this morning, so one of us needs to stay close to home to accept delivery. I also need to do some ironing today, before clothes packing and I still haven't started sewing the dog's quilt, which I might try to find time for today.  The weather is awful and so wet, so I'm happy not to go anywhere.  I don't know if I'll even get the dog out in it today, as she hates rain.

The Christmas exodus from London seems to have started in earnest.  I saw quite a few people packed up and on the move yesterday, whilst on the dog walk, but I think it's expected to be very busy with people leaving today.  I'm happy not to be leaving London until Monday, as hopefully we'll miss most of the traffic.

This will probably be my last post before Christmas, so I'll take the opportunity to wish everyone a Wonderful Festive Season. I hope you enjoy time with your families, and I look forward to reading your posts in the coming year.


Thursday, 12 December 2019

Working Week Over

My working week is now over for this week. As I'm like a car running on fumes and can't wait for some time off away from the shop, I arranged with my Manager not to work my half day this week but to work three full days next week instead when we have far fewer volunteers. As a consequence, I now have another long weekend to get caught up at home.

I made a start on the quilt for our dog the other evening by cutting out all the fabric pieces.  I've done them in a brick like shape for ease and don't have to back them with paper, as I intend to sew them together using the sewing machine for speed.  I might try to do that in the next couple of days.

I also picked up an old table runner quilt made from very small hexagons of scrap fabric.  I think I got bored with making this and put it aside, but I've cut out enough small hexagons to finish it now, so I'm going to try to complete that project too over the Christmas holidays or in the New Year. I also still have to finish my larger grey hexagon quilt, which just needs half a dozen pieces attaching before I can fill and back it.

I also have a very nice jigsaw to do over the holidays, that I bought at a local CS a few weeks ago. It's a cute vintage inspired jigsaw that I'm looking forward to doing. Here's a picture.

House wise, I still need to clean the kitchen and bathrooms and quickly run the vacuum around the areas I cleaned the other week and the house will be done.  I also need to write and post my Christmas cards, complete my present wrapping and buy just a few more small items and then I should be done with that too.

Yesterday at work I had fun going through all the donated greetings cards, as we had a few boxes/bags of them. I managed to match most of them up with envelopes, so they can now be sold and I put all of the Christmas ones in the shop.  A very satisfying job, as they had all just been shoved on the top shelf and had sat there for months. At least now we have a chance of selling them.

Donations have really tailed off at the moment, so we are just about on top of most of the work in the stockroom, making it much less pressured at the moment. We're just ticking over until Christmas.  Next week, we'll have a last big push and then I'll be glad to get a short break of four days out of London to recover from all the rushing around and Christmas mania. Just 4 shifts to go and counting.

One of our volunteers treated us to a lovely hamper this week, so we've been eating some very nice biscuits and other treats.  He's such a sweetie.

I'm thinking of taking a week off in January around LB's birthday, as she wants to go to the theatre to see Waitress. I've got quite a bit of leave to take, as I haven't taken any since Australia in July. I'm looking forward to a full week of not thinking about work.

Today, I've been doing a small top up shop and I inadvertently popped into a local CS that is closing down and had 50% off everything.  A CS Haul is coming up, as I bagged some great clothing items and some Xmas presents too.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Christmas Lead In

It's been quite a busy and sociable lead in to Christmas for me this year, which makes a change.  Mainly on account of work and dancing. I seem to have been out for several nights in a row this last week and it feels good to stay home now and just chill.

Last weekend, I had five consecutive days off work from Thursday to Monday, so I decided, as mentioned in a previous post, to do some cleaning around the house.  I started with our bedroom, which hadn't got cleaned last time around, so it was pretty dusty. I then proceeded down the stairs to the living and dining room, giving them a good clean through, in readiness to get the tree and decorations up.

I have to admit that I don't really enjoy putting the tree up.  I know I should, but it takes quite an effort to attach all the branches (it's artificial) and then decorate it. I would almost be happy to not bother and just put some twigs in a jar and decorate them, but I'll keep on doing it for a few more years and then maybe reconsider. I was happy once it was done and it does make the living room feel cosy with all the lights.  I haven't put the chocolates on yet, because they disappear too fast.  Maybe the week before Christmas for those.

Having done this job, I felt free to enjoy the social activities of the week. On Wednesday I was at my dance class and we stopped off for drink in a local wine/cocktail bar afterwards.  I wasn't too impressed with the pricing, £27 for 3 drinks and mine was only a bottled lager. It wasn't my turn to pay this week, but I felt bad for my fellow dancer who, all credit to him, took it in his stride, bless him.

Thursday, was the day of our work Christmas meal and we were going to a Turkish restaurant in Bloomsbury, Central London, which we went to a couple of years ago.  There were about 17 of us in the end, which was a good number and the food and service were great. I think we all had a good night.

I wasn't working on Friday and had arranged with a dancing friend to attend a beginners social dance on Friday night, which was exciting.  We'd never been before but decided to give it a go before Christmas. The way it works, is that there is a lesson at the beginning of the night for an hour, followed by a few hours of social dancing to practice your steps.

I took most of the day to get ready, as I got LB to do a wet set and put my hair in rollers to see how it turned out.  I then had to walk the dog in them, which was a bit embarrassing. I should have thought that one through. I really liked the results of the rollers, my hair was so curly and I could style it much better. I just put one side back in a comb and arranged the other side in a 40's style.

I was hoping to wear a new 40's style dress I had ordered on eBay, which was a great price, brand new and just £13, but unfortunately it had been taken in by next door and they weren't around to retrieve it, so I had to make do with my navy floral blouse and a black wrap style skirt I bought in a CS last week for £5.  I paired them with black ankle boots for comfort and ease when dancing and they seemed to work well for the evening. I know that I should really post pictures of myself wearing my vintage outfits, but in all honesty, I'm not really that confident in my appearance to do that on a public internet platform.

Anyway, I had to be out of the house by 3pm, as I had a Mammogram booked at Bart's Hospital at 4pm, so I jumped on the bus and just got there in time and then decided to stay in town and meet my friend later at 7pm when the event began.

I haven't been to Bart's for many years, since I started my nurse training there in the mid 90's.  It is a lovely old hospital and the area around there is so interesting. Here's a picture of the view from the window of the Breast Screening clinic.  So pretty.

When I got out from my appointment, I rekindled old memories wandering around the streets of the city and slowly made my way over to Liverpool Street, where I was meeting my friend.  I decided to treat myself to supper in Leon's restaurant in Liverpool Street station and before long it was time to go dancing.

The event took place in a lovely big ballroom and the lesson at the beginning was attended by at least 60-100  people.  We were taught some basic Lindy Hop steps and rotated around partners for the hour to practice them.  It was quite challenging to be honest and by the end of the hour, my mind and focus had completely gone and I was making all sorts of mistakes. 

Anyway, after the lesson, you are free to dance with whomever you want for the next few hours. There was a bar with very reasonably priced drinks, hand fans on the tables in case you felt hot and needed to cool off (very thoughtful) and two teachers who stayed all night to help you if you needed it.  All for the great price of £10 for the evening. (£8 if you pay online beforehand).  I thought it was super good value for a night out and great fun. You don't need any experience, as they keep it quite basic and there's lots of repetition.  You could just go for the lesson and then go home if you wanted to and it would still be good value.  I'd definitely go again. They hold one event per month for beginners and various other events in different parts of London for more experienced dancers too.

Being a total beginner at Lindy Hop, and not feeling very confident, my friend and I chose to dance together that evening, until we felt we'd got to grips with the steps.  I'd chosen to learn the leader role and my friend learned the follower role, so we were able to dance and practice together, not very sociable of us, but hopefully next time, we'll feel more confident.  We then practiced quite a bit, but also did a bit of solo dancing to the music, which people probably thought a bit odd, but I really enjoyed doing the solo dancing, it's good to get the opportunity to put steps together that you've learned and improvise to the music. To be honest, I don't care too much what others think of me anyway.

There was a performance by a Swing Patrol dance troupe during the evening which was good and a small solo routine that most people took part in, but most of the evening was Lindy Hop partner dancing. By 10pm, we were feeling pretty exhausted, had had enough for our first event and decided to go home. It was a good experience though and not half as scary as you think when you actually just do it.  You can go alone or with friends, as for the lesson it doesn't matter. It's pretty friendly. I'm glad we did it anyway.  There's also a good mix of men/women, ages, sizes, etc. too, which is reassuring, (although slightly more women than men!).

So, it was a pretty interesting week and just for your benefit, here's a picture of the dress I was going to wear but didn't.

It's from Lindy Bop and fits slightly loosely, which I prefer, as it was a larger size than I would normally buy, but the brand I find come up slightly small in my experience of ordering from them directly and I didn't want it to feel tight.  I really like it, as it is slightly oriental in style, modest, lined, comfortable to wear (which is important for dancing) and very flattering, even on a larger figure. I'm looking forward to wearing it, probably on Christmas Day initially.

I hope that you are all having an enjoyable lead in to Christmas.  I have one more dance class this week, a trip to watch LB acting in her college production of Chicago and a possible meet up with some friends at a restaurant next week and then that is my pre-Christmas festivities done.  We may venture into Central London one day to see the windows in the large stores and do a bit of last minute shopping, but otherwise that will be it for this year.

Yesterday afternoon, I began wrapping presents, as they all have to be done and packed ready for us to travel up to Yorkshire in a couple of weeks. I left half a dozen or so, because I got fed up, but they shouldn't take long to do when I next feel the urge. I should start on my Christmas cards too really. I'm also need to start work on a patchwork quilt for the dog's basket. I have lots of doggie fabric that I want to use. Not sure if I'll get it done in time, but am hoping to.