Acceptance and Accidental Progress: Sharing My 2015

This time last year, Sarah inspired me to find 'a word of the year'. The idea (or the idea as I interpreted it anyway) is to find a word that summaries your intentions for the year; it's a brilliantly simple way to find a focus without signing up to a list of impossible-to-stick-to resolutions.

My word for 2015 was acceptance.

In November 2014 I wrote about giving up on goal setting. I was in the middle of an anxiety pit and, once again, had fallen apart after putting myself under too much pressure. Usually on New Year's Eve at midnight I end up thinking about my how my mental health's been that year and wondering, 'When will I be well again?' Last year, however, I had a mini epiphny. I thought, 'I've had two breakdowns this year, which were awful, but the in-between bits were great. Maybe this is as good as it gets. This might be it and actually that's ok.' I decided there and then that 2015 would be the year I stopped waiting to be 100% well again, accepted myself, and let my life happen. I  treid to stop striving and start living.

As it turned out, acceptance didn't mean the end of progress. Here's what happened in 2015....




I travelled to Greece and Japan. Greece was a lovely, relaxing (cheap) package deal and Japan was, well, a total accident. Pete found out he needed to go to Tokyo for work and, luckily for me, he needed to go during the summer holidays. So, with only a month's notice, we booked and planned a trip to Tokyo. A brilliant thing that came about with absolutely no planning or striving! We also managed some mini adventures, including a trip to Portsmouth, a nght in Cardiff and a weekend in the Forest of Dean to see our lovely friends Fee and Dave tie the knot.



2015 brought acceptance of another kind too. I said yes and we're getting married in March. Woo! After much initial stress we took the pressure off ourselves, said 'fuck that' to the big family wedding and started planning a much more manageable do. More about that in the next couple of weeks!


The biggest change in my life this year has probably been with work. I applied for a couple of jobs at the beginning of the year and didn't get them. I began volunteering for one of the charities and decided to enjoy getting the experience and not push things too hard in terms of the job hunt. I settled into a routine for a new months and accepted the situation as it was. Then I got a phone call asking if I was still interested in a job I applied for in March. I was and, after some waiting, I started my new role in November. I absolutely love it and I still can't quite believe it's actually happened.

My blog hasn't made much progress this year, although I have found lots of lovely new blogs to follow and started taking part in Lousia and Jane's Photo an Hour (when I remember!). I've also been sending more snail mail. Let me know if you want to exchange letters, I'm always up for findig new penpals.

Health-wise this has been my most stable year yet, and I don't think that's a coincidence. I've cut down on my medication and am rounding up therapy. On the whole I think I've managed to avoid putting undue pressure on myself (not easy for me). Not bad for a year where I didn't set out to achieve anything!

So... What's my word of 2016..? I'll let you know at the weekend (just as soon as I've thought of it).

I'm linking up to Lauren's 2015 round up. Go and take a look and comment on the others (if you want to, obviosuly).

Share your 2015 - Belle du Brighton

Happy New Year! I hope your 2015 was wonderful.

12 Lists of Christmas: 3 Crap Presents

Christmas should obviously be all about the gratitude, but sometimes it's funny to reminisce about the crap gifts too. Right? My Gran was Queen of the Terrible Christmas Present, so much so that her 'interesting gifts' were actually referenced in her eulogy.

Unsurprisingly then, all of the terrible Christmas gifts I've received came from her. The worst ones were:

A porcelain dolphin. I hate animals, ornaments and dusting.

A packet of tissues. With four of them missing.

A Christmas musical box. Jesus rotated in his manger when the lid was lifted.

They're the worst ones I can think of! If you can beat these, please tell me.... I need to know!

                                       

My mum wasn't massively impressed with the Poundland DVD she got from my dad. Don't worry, it wasn't her only present, there's no divorce in the cards.


12 Lists of Christmas: My 8 Favourite Bits of Christmas 2015


Spying a Christmas Eve rainbow. Incidentally, was anyone else ever told as a kid that simultaneous rain and sunshine means it's a monkey's birthday? Pete was.


Having a leisurely wake up with A Christmas Carol. It's kind of hard to read it without imagining the muppets and Michael Caine.


Conquering preset mountain.




Hanging out with The Family. It's the first time we've all been together for Christmas Day and it was noice.
  

Seeing what Santa brought me. Yeah, I'm 29, what of it?


 Opening a Lindor that is as big as my, admittedly large, head.


 Eating cold roast potatoes topped with salted caramel sauce. And then eating them again for breakfast on Boxing Day.


Playing Cards Against Humanity for the first time. My Mum won after playing the 'Three dicks at the same time.' card beautifully.

12 Lists of Christmas: 5 of the Best Sitcom Christmas Specials

Once a year the TV geniuses create something that combine my two passions in life: sitcoms and Christmas. Yes, my friends, it's the Christmas Special. Although I do like a good Christmas film, I'm a TV girl at heart and I ruddy bloody love a Christmas special. In no particular order, the best ones are:


The Office Christmas Specials

I know I said this list was 'in no particular order' but clearly it is, because this is the best Christmas special ever. If you want to reminisce but can't be bothered to re-watch the episodes, then I wholeheartedly recommend this Buzzfeed list of the best moments. The music video! The kiss! The 'Finchy f*ck off'!



Peep Show - 'Season's Beatings'

Obviously I had to include a Peep Show in the list, and 'Season's Beatings' is a cracker. It captures family tensions beautifully, and Mark has a rare moment of confidence which, for once, sees him come out pretty much on top. Merry Christ-mark, everyone!



The Royle Family - 'The Queen of Sheba' 

I re-watched this yesterday and it broke me. Hysterical laughter and hysterical tears all within the space of an hour. Touching and hilarious and just perfect.



Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special

I wasn't 100% sure about including this one on the list, because it's a bit hit and miss, but Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon both play a blinder and Nessa's 'Oh, Oh, Oh' never gets old.



US Office - Dwight Christmas

Generally speaking, the quality of the US Office declined pretty sharply in the later series, but Dwight Christmas is definitely a highlight. His performance as 'Belsnickel' appeals totally and utterly to my sense of slightly surreal humour, and it's the only episode in the later series that I've ever wanted to watch more than once. Let's face it, Dwight is awesome.


Right, I'm off to do ALL THE CHRISTMASSY THINGS. Tell me what I've missed off the list, I'm always up for a sitcom recommendation.

12 Lists of Christmas: 6 Ways to Feel Christmassy

I've read a few blog posts recently where people have bemoaned not really feeling very 'Christmassy' yet. As the (admittedly self-proclaimed) Queen of Christmas, I thought I should share some tips.




 Bake a Christmas cake! Hey, it wouldn't be Christmas if I didn't link to my Christmas cake baking post! Baking a Christmas cake has now become a firm tradition for me and the smell really does get me is the Christmas mood. In fairness, it doesn't have to be a Christmas cake, Char's mince pies look amazing!



Pop some Christmas songs on your playlist. Nothing jazzes up a commute like Step Into Christmas.



Mulled wine, yo. 


Eat Christmas dinner. Get some friends over, buy some crackers, put some songs on, put their presents under the tree, make them some dinner (don't worry if you haven't got time for a roast; I made spag bol). I did this last week and it felt like the proper beginning of Christmas.


Give someone a present. Open a new tab and hand over some of that hard-earned cash to charidee. I read The Life You Can Save this year and it really motivated me to give more to charity. Their website is really good for finding out which charities will use your money wisely.


Don't try too hard. Relax. It'll come.*

*IN FOUR SLEEPS' TIME! EEEP!

12 Lists of Christmas: 5 Awesomely Christmassy Blog Posts

The 12 Lists of Christmas are back! Yes, it's 20th December, but better late than never, right?

LET'S DO THIS THING.

I'm going to start this year's lists with a little present for you: Christmas blog posts that you should totally check out.

Now that I've gone veggie, I enjoyed eating vicariously through Sarah's reviews of Christmas burgers *salivates*

Got a friend who's spending Christmas alone? Read Sarah's post about the dos and don'ts. She's a wise lady.

Janet's Christmas gift wrapping is beautiful, cheap and environmentally friendly. What's not to love?!

Beth's list of her favourite Christmas films made me chuckle with recognition. Obviously we are in agreement that Santa Claus: The Movie is the best Christmas film ever.

Becky is killing it with her Christmas posts this year, and this one about her memorable Christmas moments is just lovely.


Hit me up with your Christmas posts please!

[2015: 45] The Week With The... #BEDN

Liz, why haven't you been Blogging Every Day in November? What the hell have you been doing?

Loads of stuff, actually. It was the week with the...


New job! Definitely the biggest new of last week was that I started a new job! Exciting! So many exclamation marks! I'm now working for a mental health charity, so it's incredibly different to my old job (being a Teaching Assistant in a special school). It's very weird being back in a position where I don't really know what I'm doing, but it seems to be going well so far. I'm enjoying it anyway, and I haven't made any terrible mistakes (as far as I'm aware...). More on all that another day.



Lush bath. Having lived in our flat for a year, on Sunday I finally got around to having a bath. That sounds terrible. I have had showers, honestly. Inspired by my friend Kirsty I hit up Lush (via Wilko for a new plug) and then got my relax on.



 Chocolate. ALL the chocolate, in fact. I made brownies in a shameless attempt to ingratiate myself with my new colleagues, and I tucked into the incredible box of Hotel Chocolat goodies I got as part of my leaving present from school. Changing jobs leads to a massive increase in chocolate consumption, apparently.


Pete's 10k (mis)adventure. Yes, it was a 10k. No, it wasn't an obstacle course. But he finished and won the dubious honour of being the muddiest runner! I laughed smugly from the sidelines, but I might have done something idiotic... Last week was also the week with the 10k sign up. In February I'm running my first 10k. SEND HELP. 


What have you been up to? Have you been a better BEDN-er than I have?!

Why I'm Having a Meat-Free Month (and How It's Going) #BEDN


Back in the midst of time, when I wrote my 30 Before 30 goals, I included 'seriously consider vegetarianism'. At the time I had only a vague reasoning behind this, simply that I'd always wondered if it was something I should do. With less than six months to go before the Big Day, the time has come to actually do it.

I'm having a meat-free month.

I'm not an animal person. Although I think I'd struggle to butcher a cow myself (they're MASSIVE) this isn't really about ethics or animal rights. For me this is more about the environmental impact of meat production. I'm really no expert (although I'm going to try and find out more) but my research thus far seems to suggest that raising animals for food leaves a massive carbon footprint, and just doesn't seem like a sustainable way for humans to feed themselves. Cutting down on the amount of meat I eat seems like the logical thing to do.

So why am I giving up meat altogether for a month? I feel like the only way I'm going to know which meat I really want in my diet is to go without all of it and then see what I really miss. Who knows, I might not miss it at all.

Three weeks in to the experiment and it's mostly going well, despite a few mishaps. Twice I managed to forget that I was being a vegetarian because I am clearly an idiot. There were another two occasions where I ate meat out of politeness (basically, we were visiting my fiance's family and I hadn't pre-warned them). I also ended up playing Vol-au-Vent Russian Rputlette (70s-themed party, dark room) but luckily got with the mushroom ones. Phew.

What do I think the outcome will be? I think it'll end up being a 'cut down' rather than 'become a fully-fledged vegetarian' situation. However, I haven't (so far) missed meat as much as I was anticipating, so we'll see...

Right, I'm off to finish watching Cowspiracy and eat an apple.*

If anyone has any suggestions for things I could read/watch about the environmental impact of eating meat/dairy then I'd be very grateful!

*By 'apple', I mean 'a tub of Ben and Jerry's'. You won't make a vegan of me (yet).

Three Positive Things, and the Power of Gratitude #BEDN

Years ago (well, maybe four years ago) I tried to start my own #3PositiveThings Twitter hashtag. As the name suggests, I tweeted three positive things that had happened that day (I was a mess four years ago, so it was a bit of a challenge!). The hashtag didn't catch on, but the concept stayed with me. Taking time to appreciate what you have can really make a difference to your outlook. Even on a Monday. Well, maybe on a Monday; Mondays are still tough no matter how darn grateful you are.

[I was going to include a cheesy Pinterest gratitude quote here but I decided not to. You can thank me later.]

In that spirit, I'm going to try and kick start my Monday by thinking of a few tiny things I've been grateful for over the last couple of days...

Autumn leaves and crisp, cool days (that allow me to wear my favourite new parka).


FOOD! All the food, all the time.
Specifically, Wagamana's chilli squid and what was probably my best lasagne to date.

Living close enough to London to be able to get the train in at the weekends and explore.

Making The Most Wonderful List of the Year (that's what I call my Christmas shopping list- because I'm cool).

I might even start the hastag again. WHO'S WITH ME? 

p.s. If you've only just found my blog via BEDN, I'd like to reassure you that I'm not usually this sickeningly positive. Also, hello!

Something New Every Week [2015: 19-44] #BEDN

First things first, hello fellow-BEDNers! *awkward wave*

Attempting Blog Every Day in May got me out of a blogging rut, so I'm trying again this month. We'll see how it goes! I'm hoping to use to discover some new blogs, even if I don't manage daily posting myself.

Onto the new things... One of my 30 Before 30 goals is to 'do something new every week'. I think I've pretty much managed that, but I've been terrible at posting about it (the last one was in May!). Here's my best attempt at catching up:

19: Cried about the results of a general election. They were not happy tears.

20: Worked in an office (as a volunteer for a mental health charity). Yes, I made it to 29 without ever working a day in an office!

 21: Had dinner at The Tudor Barn in Eltham.

22: Visited the super-Instagrammable flower 'shop' at Doniford Farm Park.

23: Introduced Pete to my lovely Norwegian friend Marta (and met her new man).

24: Saw Blur and Fleetwood Mac (at the Isle of Wight Festival). Also the first time I've been sick in a bush but that wasn't a highlight.

25: Had a journey home from a festival that included sunbathing on the beach!

 26: Said goodbye my Grandma.

27: Visited a project run by the charity I volunteer for.

28: Saw The Mentalists at the theatre.

29: Met our friends' new baby, Benjamin.

30: Went to Kos!


32: Went on a long-haul flight.... TO TOKYO!

33: Visited Nikko in Japan.

34: Made peanut butter brownies (and ate them on Pete's birthday).

35: Went to Dreamland in Margate.

36: Ate at Hood in  Streatham. This was essentially a posh Egg McMuffin (that's a good thing).
 
37: Went to On Blackheath (the most middle class festival EVER). Elbow and The Manics were ace.

38: Not sure if I did anything new! I suck!

39: Had takeaway from The Spice Merchant in Watchet (and viewed lots of wedding venues in Taunton!).

40: Stayed at Jenna's new house in Bristol.

41: Saw the new Macbeth film.

42: Went to a 70s-themed house warming (in appropriate attire).

43: Performed the shark song in front of EVERYONE (but more on that another time...).

44: Went to the Natural History Museum.

What's new with you?*

*SEE WHAT I DID THERE?

Weekend Wanderlust: Nikko, Japan

As soon as I'd booked my trip to Tokyo I knew that I wanted to take a day trip outside of the city. After all, it's pretty unlikely that I'll be back in Japan any time soon. I looked at going to Kyoto (Memoirs of a Geisha! Bullet train!) but it turns out that there's a reason Japanese trains are so amazing: they're expensive. Kyoto was out.

Onto Plan B: Nikko. Guidebook/internet recommended, (more) affordable, two hours from Tokyo, natural beauty, more historical shizzle than you can shake a stick at. Sorted.


I really enjoyed the train journey (on the way I upgraded to a faster/slightly fancier train because I'm fancy). It was brilliant to look out of the window and see suburban/rural Japan whizz past me. It was weird to see a couple enjoying a nice cold beer with their bento boxes at 7.30am.


First I jumped on a bus (well, after queueing for a long time) up the mountain and came to Kegon Falls. 


I'm pretty sure it's the first time I've seen a massive (and it was massive) waterfall IRL, and it awed me. It was literally awesome.





I then walked down the road to Lake Chuzenji. There was something so brilliantly surreal about seeing hilariously kitsch swan boats being pedalled across such a naturally beautiful lake. Yet another moment where I thought, 'I bloody love Japan!'







After getting my fill of natural beauty, I got the coach back down the (scarily twisty) mountain and went to check out the human-made stuff. There are loads of shrines and temples in Nikko, but these photos are from the Tosho-gu shrine. It's super-significant historically, but I'm not going to lie to you- my knowledge of said history is pretty non-existent. That's one of the disadvantages of travelling in a relatively non-Westernised country... Not much detailed information in English (that's my excise anyway!). Have some pictures instead...






The Shinkyo Bridge. The internet tells me that it's 'one of Japan's three finest bridges'.

I know I've been a bit blase about the history and stuff, but it really was an amazing day. I feel so privelidged to have been able to spend a day outside of Tokyo and experience another side (or sides) of Japan.


The boring bits:
I bought the Tobu Railways All Nikko Pass which covered my train and bus travel all day. The internet told me I had to order this four days in advance, although they sold me one in person two days before. So even if you're forgetful like me it might still be worth a try. 
Getting around by bus was fairly easy, although the I had to wait a while for my bus from the station when I arrived, because they filled up quickly. I think they stopped at the JR station first, so it would probably be worth walking down there to guarantee getting a seat.
You could easily fill two days with everything that the area has to offer! One was fine but I was pretty tired the next day!

It's so weird looking back at these photos, it already feels like an age ago... Take me back. Please.

PS This is the first Weekend Wanderlust post I've written for aaaaages, but you can find the others here if you fancy taking a look!