Monday, 29 December 2014

52 Lists / Fifty Two

This week: List the things you loved and loathed in 2014 and the things that excite you about 2015

(Let's get the loathed out the way first!)
Not So Lovely Stuff
Getting really poorly with flu and pneumonia and ending up in hospital - not fun one bit
My hair falling out after my illness and wondering when it would stop
Having another lower respiratory infection just before Christmas
Hardly seeing/talking to my godchildren and friends this year
Saying final goodbyes to much loved family
The long list of stuff I meant to do and never got round to doing
The lack of books read (For the first time I could probably count the number of books I read on one hand)
Piling on lots of weight in the spring and summer
Few blog posts with pictures and interesting stuff

Very Lovely Stuff
The gorgeous Milly moving in with Mum and Dad
Lots of sofa snuggles with Andy and Brina
Seeing my 2013-14 class my great progress and settle well into life in Reception
Completing my first year as a teacher with an excellent end-of-year report from my Mentor
Receiving my first completely Outstanding lesson grading in the Autumn Term
A fantastic holiday in Scotland and the Lake District
Attending Ladies Finals Day at Wimbledon
Watching Andy Murray play at the ATP finals
Completing my Instagram 365Me Project
Winning an iPad Mini in a raffle
Getting my crafting bug back
Laughing with colleagues at school
Our Burns' Night Dinner in January
Saturday Afternoon Tea trips with Gemma
Our May Bank Holiday visit to the Cotswolds
Buying my first bike and cycling on Saturday morning trips to the butcher
Frosty mornings
Sunny summer days
The Paddington Bear film
Cutting back wasted time on Facebook
Losing one stone in the autumn
My postcard gallery around my desk at school
Belle & Boo making me smile
Receiving lovely long emails from family and friends
My hair growing back
Nicki & Gianni's wedding
Lots of lovely visits to Grey's Court
Keeping this List Project going throughout the entire year

Eagerly Anticipating in 2015
Working out future plans with Andy - house, job and family
Relaxing into teaching and not spending all my working days stressed and fretting
Putting time aside to be quiet and read some books, do some crafting
Lose another 3/4 stone, tone up and get fit
More tennis trips
More bike riding
Camping in the North East and Yorkshire and wherever else we end up
Completing another Instagram project (undecided what to call it yet)
Growing my hair - the bob's been lovely but long locks will be attempting a comeback in 2015
Spending more time with godchildren and friends
More afternoon teas
Lots of telephone calls, emails and letters to friends and family
Updating this blog more frequently and more imaginatively

What did you love and loathe in 2014?
What are you getting excited about in 2015?

Thanks for reading this list project with me throughout the year. 
I hope that it's not been too dull and given you a little insight into my little world. 

I have just enjoyed looking back at posts throughout the year and seeing how my ideas and mood has changed over 2014. It's been a good year, not the best but not the worst. It's involved lots of hard work and sweat but fewer tears than I would have imagined. It's had plenty of highs and lows, seen lots of lovely things and heard lots of coughing and laughing. 

Thank you 2014 - you've been a challenging pleasure! 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

52 Lists / Fifty One

This Week: List some magical Christmas Day memories

Waking up to a new bedroom on Christmas morning
When I was 10 we moved house and it took a fair while to get everything sorted. For Christmas Mum and Dad decorated my room and had bought new furniture, bed linen and blinds. I went to sleep on Christmas Eve in their bed but woke up in my new bedroom on Christmas Morning. It was a wonderful surprise.

Dancing around to The Snowman
I vividly remember dancing around my Aunty and Uncle's dining table with my slightly older boy cousin to the beautiful music of The Snowman. It's a warm memory that I remember ever year and always brings back lovely reminiscences about my uncle who passed away when I was 8.

Helping with the pigs-in-blankets
I have really clear memories of helping Mum to make the pigs-in-blankets on Christmas Morning when I was about 5 or 6. I was wearing my pyjamas still and it was dark outside. The radio was playing festive songs and it was a lovely start to the day.

Our first Christmas at home
In 2008 Andy and I celebrated our first Christmas together in our flat. We spent the day at Mum and Dad's but it was lovely to wake up in our own home and open our stockings together. It was the year we started our own Christmas traditions.

Pass the phone
Growing up I spent most Christmases in the company of grandparents, great-aunts and uncles - just as I think Christmas should be - and on Christmas evening we always used to telephone my grandparents siblings around the country to wish them a Merry Christmas. This was in the days before speaker phones and so we passed the phone around and had the same conversation again and again. It was also before cordless phones so we must have had to swap chairs as well!

There are so many more wonderful memories I could add to this but there's just not enough time at this busy point in the year. I'm hoping more magical memories will be made this year.

What are your most magical Christmas memories?

Saturday, 13 December 2014

52 Lists / Fifty

This week: List your favourite Christmas carols, music and songs

I cannot underestimate how much I love Christmas music. Over the years I have acquired so many Christmas CDs. We've always had an unwritten rule to not listen to any music before the start of December, so I look forward to getting them all out on the morning of the 1st December and trying to play them all at some point during Advent and the holiday period. 

It's really hard to put together a shortlist of my favourites as there are far too many but this year I put together a CD of some of my favourites for my friend Shannon @ Toolson Family. I chose tracks that I thought were very British and she might not have heard before (she's lives in Washington State in America and I'm pretty sure that dear old Shaky hasn't reached there yet!), so I've decided that these are the songs I will share with you today. 

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen – Traditional Carol
There's something about this carol that evokes the spirit of a traditional Victorian Christmas and all things Dickens.

Dancing Day – Traditional, performed by Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band
I love some folky music at Christmas, perfect for our pie and ale night between Christmas and New Year when we put aside fancy food and bubbly for traditional grub. I love Maddy Prior's voice, for some reason I think she must be just like Clarrie Grundy from The Archers!

Here We Come A Wassailing – Traditional, performed by Kate Rusby
Rocking Carol – Traditional, performed by Kate Rusby
Kate Rusby has a beautiful voice and has such an extensive knowledge about the history of the tradition of the carol and carolling in Yorkshire. I would love to see her perform at Christmas but have her live video of Christmas songs and this and her seasonal CDs is brilliant for listening to when getting the house ready.

Gaudete – Traditional, performed by Steeleye Span
More folky music but I love this one particularly as it's one of Andy's favourites.

Coventry Carol – Traditional
This is beautiful and so calming. There are so many different versions of it but I love Sixteen's recording as the voices are so clear and bright.

Fantasia On Christmas Carols – Traditional, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Wassail Song – Traditional, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Life at home with Mum and Dad would not be the same without the music of Vaughan Williams. He was one of our nation's most important people with regards to preserving old carols and his arrangements are beautiful. These are both uplifting and calming. 

Bethlehem Down –  Peter Warlock
This is a beautiful piece of music, so minimal in volume and yet so powerful. I have sung this in concerts a couple of times and every time I enjoy it.

A Spotless Rose – Herbert Howells
I've listened to this 20th century piece for many years but it is only in the last year or so that I have really listened to it carefully and have sought out more pieces by Herbert Howells. I love to run myself a bath with festive bubbles and listen to this whilst I soak by candlelight. Peace!

In the Bleak Midwinter – Music by Harold Edwin Darkes
The version by Harold Darkes reminds me of the desolate English countryside in winter. I can see a beautiful country church and a snowy landscape. Whilst the words by Christina Rosetti are so gentle and innocent. It's the perfect carol for this cold, dark time of year.

Shepherd’s Farewell – Hector Berlioz performed by The Pavao Quartet
This piece by Berlioz is always sung at church on the last Sunday of Christmas just before the decorations are taken down. For me it signals the end of the festive period and the joys of Epiphany and Candlemas to come. This version is performed by my lovely friend Jenny Sacha and her string quartet.

Nativity Carol - John Rutter, performed by Clare College, Cambridge
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without some John Rutter. He has written some beautiful modern carols that are not only great to listen to but fantastic to sing.

The Power Of Love – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Something from my childhood in the 80s, that is beautiful and yet so cold. It always reminds Andy and I of an American store manager we had at Daisy & Tom who wouldn't allow this to be played at Christmas as she didn't think it was a seasonal song. I just hope she cringed at her comments when John Lewis used Gabrielle Aplin's version a few years ago. 

Walking In the Air (The Snowman) – Howard Blake, performed by Aled Jones
I grew up loving The Snowman. It really means Christmas for any chid of the 80s and this brings back memories of dancing around the dining room at my Uncle's house aged about 4 or 5. My dear Uncle passed away when I was only 8 and I have so few memories of him but this makes me remember him and is an ongoing connection to him. It gives me goosebumps and brings a tear to my eye every year.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid (Original version, 1984)
You cannot beat the original! When I hear the first few bars of this on the radio I know that Christmas is just around the corner. It has so many of my favourite performers on it and I play the game every year of trying to remember who sings what line.

In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield
This is our 'dancing round the kitchen' song. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it. Brilliant!

Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
This is the epitome of a British Christmas in the 20th century - a perfect snapshot of working-class festive experiences. And you cannot help but sing along!

Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens
Another 80s tune (were the best Christmas songs written in the 70s and 80s?) that I just love dancing to and singing along with. If I was on the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special I would just have to Quickstep to this!

Other favourites...
The Nutcracker - Tchaikovsky (especially the Waltz of the Snowflakes and the Pas de Deux)
A Carol Symphony - Victor Hely-Hutchinson (Dad's favourite and memories of the BBC's The Box of Delights)
A Ceremony of Carols - Benjamin Brittain (through my chest infection I've missed out seeing this at St Paul's Cathedral this year - so disappointed, it's the perfect start to the holidays!)
Last Christmas - Wham
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland
Sleigh Ride - Ella Fitzgerald

I could go on forever and still be writing this list at Christmas 2015!
I hope this has been an interesting list of my reasons behind my favourite Christmas music.

What are your favourite festive tunes and why?

Sunday, 7 December 2014

52 Lists / Forty Nine

This week: List the things that make you feel all Christmassy

Twinkly Lights
I love seeing all the fairy lights twinkling on windows and trees in people's houses and shops. It makes the journey home so much more exciting. Then I reach my house and see our own lights and it makes me so happy to be at home. I just want to rush inside and get all cosy.

Special Decorations
I get so excited about the moment the decorations come out, making the house look beautiful and bringing back memories of past Christmases, special holidays and lovely people.

Sweet Spicy Scents
 I can't get enough of the smells of Christmas: mulled wine, cloves, cinnamon, mixed spice, Christmas tree. It awakens the senses in the mid-winter.

Christmas Radio Times
I'll be the first to grab the highlighter pen and have the pick of the programmes every Christmas.

Joyful Tunes
I have too many Christmas CDs and playlists. I love a bit of everything from Brass Bands to Corelli, choirs to Slade. I try to resist listening to anything until the start of December but from thereon I can't get enough.

Festive Greetings
I love receiving post but Christmas but with the continued tradition of Christmas Cards it means that there is so much more personal post and lovely things to open. I look forward to getting home and seeing a pile of cards on the doormat and waiting for Andy and the moment in the evening when we stop to light the Advent Candle, open the Advent Calendar windows and open and admire our cards together.

Children's Excitement
I get such pleasure out of my Nursery class' excited anticipation for everything that comes with Christmas, especially Father Christmas! Year on year it is just thrilling to listen to them saying how good they have been and hear what they hope to receive. Christmas Play rehearsals can be challenging at times but it is always a lovely event.

Festive London
I've always thought that London comes most alive in autumn and winter and in recent years it has looked spectacular at Christmas. From shop displays to Christmas lights and the big tree in Trafalgar Square; from present buying to festive get-togethers, London is magical at this time of year. It puts on a great show that is not to be missed!

Christmas Traditions
I'm a traditionalist family-girl at heart and this is most apparent at Christmas. I look forward to doing the same things with Andy, Mum and Dad at this time of year. We must go to Columbia Road and enjoy the flower market, pick-up the final bits of shopping on Christmas Eve and have a delicious lunch together, guess who is going to stuff themselves so full with food at Christmas Dinner so they are awarded the china pig and go to see a show during Christmas week. I like traditions so much that I seem to devise new ones every year. This year we have a Kindness Elf visiting!

That Warm Fuzzy Feeling
Most of all about Christmas, I love that warm fuzzy feeling that just happens at this time of year. Once you get all the panic out the way, the world becomes a happier place. There are lots of good-news stories on TV and in the newspapers, people donate more to charity and are more friendly towards each other, leaving each shop with a cheerful 'Merry Christmas'.

As the closing line of the Nursery Christmas Play goes: "It really is a special time of year."

What excites you most about Christmas?

Sunday, 30 November 2014

52 Lists / Forty Eight

This week: List your favourite flowers

They are so simple and yet so cheery.

Picture source
Lily of the Valley
My Grandma was called Lily and was from a mining village in the South Wales valleys, 
so these always remind me of her.

Picture source
They arrive at the point in the year when you need some sunshine.
They are sunshine on a stem.

Picture source
I love traditional roses, mostly in pinks, purples and creams.
Sweet Avalanche reminds me of our wedding as it was in my bouquet and used in all the arrangements. Aw!

Picture source
I have five plants in my little garden. 
If I could I'd have a garden full of them, they're so beautiful.

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For their scent alone.

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Just lovely.

Picture source

What flower fills your heart with joy?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

So cute!

The strangest thing happened this week.

We held the first of two Parents' Evenings at school and after her meeting a parent whose child is currently in another keyworker group (I'm the teacher overall but I have two Early Years practitioners who work with two of the keyworker groups and I work with the third. We rotate termly so we get to know all children and it helps me to plan and assess them more effectively) came back into the classroom and over to my desk to say "I wanted to tell you that you're a very cute lady". She's a very kind person herself so I was rather flattered but thought it was the strangest comment.

Is being cute a good thing? For me it has slightly negative connotations for adults. Do I look cute, is it what I think or what I do? Hmm.

Then this morning my husband pondered out loud  (after I'd been singing aloud about how cosy the cat was asleep on her chair): "I don't understand how you can be so clever and good at school and yet your head is full of so much fluff?"

Oh dear!

Despite being 32, having a 1st class degree and having the important responsibility of teaching 78 little people, I suppose my head is often full of fluff.

Why? I can give you so many answers but this is what candy floss is filling my head this week.

Picture source - Belle and Boo website

I have become besotted with Belle and Boo images, particularly there cosy Christmas ones. I seem to have recently acquired lots more postcards that I have blu-tacked around my desk. I think it's something to do with having the exact same hair-do as Belle, complete with sticky out bits at the back.

I am so excited about the new Paddington movie and will be hopefully watch it on Friday. I haven't ever been to see a film on the first day and there I am getting all excited about a children's film.

I am getting ridiculously excited about Christmas and got so dizzy when I walked past the local hairdressers and saw snowflakes and fairy lights in the window.

I saved a slice of marshmallow cake all week to share with Andy. We finally indulged on Friday night with a mug of hot milk with more marshmallows on top.

It is not a good list is it.

I fear that I'm like a dog owner who is slowly turning into their dog. I'm turning into the three year olds I teach. I hope that being on the same wavelength as a three year old means that it makes me a wonderful teacher but I'm not so sure. It's worrying!

So I confess,
My name is Joanna and I am cute.

Monday, 17 November 2014

52 Lists / Forty Seven

This week: List who (dead or alive) you would invite to an imaginary dinner party

Camilla Parker Bowles
I think she would be jolly and could share all sorts of secrets

Miranda Hart
To provide the humour.

Clare Balding
I just think she'd be lovely and provide some brilliant sporting anecdotes

Nancy Mitford
So that I can discover what she was really like, find out if she was like any of the spectacular characters in her novels and probe a little further about her fascinating family.

Mary Berry (or Delia Smith if M.B. was otherwise engaged)
She could give me a few handy cookery tips.

Audrey Hepburn
She was just charming and I'd wonder at her elegance.

My Mum
Just because she's my Mum and she's a lovely dining companion.

Anton Du Beke
As a dancing partner for all the ladies after the meal.

If the food could be cooked by Mrs Patmore,
we be waited on by Mr Carson, 
the location be an ornate dining room in a vast country house
then I would be more than happy.

Who would you invite to your imaginary dinner party?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

52 Lists / Forty Six

This week: List where you would go if you had a time machine

London in the late 1920s
I'd love a day as a lady in London in the 1920s. I'd go shopping in all the best places, stop off for afternoon tea, go to the theatre in the evening followed by dinner at The Ritz and some Charleston dancing in the Cafe Royale.

Millenium Eve 1999
I'd quite like to go back to 31st December 1999 and be with exactly the same people (Mum, Dad, my Auntie, Uncle and 10 year old cousin), in exactly the same place (watching the fireworks in London). We didn't do anything fancy - ate a pizza in a very 'interesting' restaurant in Shepherds Market before heading down towards the river. When we got home in the middle of the night, we stayed up until America had seen in the new year. It was a magical feeling: I was greeting the dawn of the new millennium aged 17, on the threshold of adulthood and the start of a new beginning. 

The Franco-British Exhibition at White City in 1908
I live just a stone's throw from White City and would wander around the amazing gardens and enjoy the beautiful white marble buildings. I remember a few of the buildings in situ until they were demolished for the Westfield development and I've always been curious to know what my local area would have been like a century ago. I think I might just have to go off location a bit and take a walk to see my house - it would have been considered a new-build back then!

Victorian England
I would love to see London in Dickens time, observing both the richness and poverty. Hopefully I could do something to help the most needy. Maybe I could help out some of my Rogers, Coldrake, Dawson, Stephens or Doran ancestors?

Andy Murray winning Wimbledon
I'd love to go back to 2013 and be on Centre Court. I'd love to relive the special moment.

The building of Stonehenge
This neolithic wonder has fascinated me for years and I wouldn't mind seeing how it was built. Did they really pull the rocks all the way from Wales?

The Euston Hotel, London - 1930
My Grandpa was one of the first English head waiters in London and one of the first cocktail waiters when American Bars started to open in the city. I would like to be a guest at The Euston Hotel where he worked and where he met my Grandma who was a maid. It would be super to see him at work as a young man in such an exciting position. He was in his seventies and eighties when I knew him but he had never forgotten what good service was all about, and loved to visit restaurants to see waiting done properly.

What place and time would you be transported to if you stumbled across a time machine?

52 Lists / Forty Five

This week: List your favourite sweet treats
(Can you tell that I'm starting to get desperate for list ideas?)

Rich Tea biscuits
Perfect for dunking.

The chocolate variety not the bird. Memories of childhood.

Any day. Any time. With anything.

Whipped cream and sprinkles 
On hot chocolate.

Rhubarb Crumble
Preferably with custard.

Hokey Pokey Ice Cream
Otherwise known as honeycomb weaved  through vanilla ice cream.

Stemmed ginger cookies
I love the warmth in every bite.

Rhubarb and Custard sweets
Can you see a theme developing?

Christmas Cake
I just love everything about it: the brandy-soaked fruits, the marzipan, the crunchy royal icing. Mmm!

Ice-Cold Strawberry Milk
Usually hurriedly made out of a tub of Nesquik.

Percy Pigs
Because I'm a child at heart.

Charbonnel & Walker Champagne Truffles
My choice of chocolate. The type that you savour one at a time and not just troff.
(Oh, and I love Rose and Violet Creams in the same way. Just call me Grandma)

Any biscuits, pastries, cakes or puddings with cinnamon and spices
Those Christmassy flavours are about my favourite thing ever - to eat or smell.

Jaffa Cakes
Are they are cake or a biscuit? Whatever - they are delicious.

It wasn't too hard to write this list, even though I would say that I don't have a sweet tooth and the fact that we can have biscuits, chocolates and sweets in the house for months and not touch them. We even still have an Easter Egg waiting to be eaten!

What are your favourite sweet treats?

Sunday, 2 November 2014

52 Lists / Forty Four

This week: List the things you are still desperate to do in your hometown

It cannot be denied that if you live in a big city like London there is so much to see and not enough time to do it in. Despite living here my entire life and experiencing so many of the wonderful things the city has to offer, there are still lots of big and little sights that I have never or not properly seen and there are so many special events that I would love to go to but never actually get to. Here are a few of things that I think that I've missed out on not doing so far.

Watch the sun rise over the Thames 
(and that means somewhere grand like Westminster Bridge not Chiswick on my way into work)

Spend an evening enjoying Vivaldi by Candlelight at St Martin's In The Fields

Visit the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum
(without accompanying a party of school children)

Write to my MP and ask to visit St Stephen's Tower (Big Ben's tower)
- apparently this is who you need to get permission from

See a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre

Visit the National Gallery and not just wander around finding my favourite paintings

Climb to the top of Tower Bridge

Visit Smithfield Market early in the morning

See London from the top of The Shard at night

Ride a Boris Bike through London's parks

Dine at The Dorchester and have cocktails at Claridges

Explore Primrose Hill and admire the view over the city

What do you most want to experience in your hometown?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Falling Out Of Love With Social Media

Picture Source
In the summer of 2007, shortly after I had joined this wondrous new thing called Facebook, I had friends over for dinner and clearly remember us wondering how long this fascinating new form of communication would last. It was amazing that you could keep in touch with your friends at the click of a button without spending any money and at any time of day. This was when you added friends by the day, raced to post your Christmas/holiday/friend's wedding photos, poking was the done thing and your name always had to be follow by 'is'.

FB was a lovely thing and for several years I enjoyed watching the changes in family and friends' lives (and some random acquaintances as well) as they married, had children and I was happy to be part of these changes by commenting, liking and tagging.

Then Twitter arrived. How innovative it was to make statement to the world in just 140 characters! It provided a new insight into celebrities' lives and if Her Majesty was tweeting then I was missing out if I wasn't joining in. So I set up a Twitter account and would spend silly amounts of time pondering how to say something important and amusing within the word limit.

Not long after that I discovered Instagram: creating a statement in an image, sometimes carefully constructed, sometimes just a click in the moment. I grew to love editing apps and started my own Project365 to document 2014 in pictures. I even learnt how to do hashtags. Instagram seemed a beautiful thing, full of prettiness with minimal effort.

As I write this, I'm reminded that this isn't the first time I've fallen out of love with social media. I've had periods before where it's made me worry that my life isn't full of enough exotic holidays, new clothes and evenings out. As life has evolved I've had routine declutters of friends, unfriending long gone work colleagues and acquaintances and for a month I trialled living without Facebook. I've done the same with Twitter, clearing out celebrities whom I'd added when their was profile high and teaching organisations that filled my mind with guilt that I'm not working every minute of the day. But I kept thinking I wouldn't bother deleting accounts as it will probably come to a natural end sooner or later, recently I've realised that they are here to stay.

In September it dawned on me how social media had taken over my life. Whenever I was out and about, at work during my lunchbreak, waiting for someone/something to happen or even visiting my Mum and Dad, I was attached to my phone or iPad finding out what was going on in people's lives. Yes, I was being nosy about people I did and didn't know and getting frustrated if the signal or WIFI was poor. I no longer people watched or saw the world go by from a window; I didn't just sit and read; I tapped and swiped hours away. When I sat down and thought about it, I realised that life was being taken up with these meaningless moments and it was time for me to firmly take action.

I chatted to Mr P and my lovely colleague and threw my ideas around: Could I live without it completely? Would I be sad to miss out on the special moments in other peoples' lives? Would being virtually friendless make me a loner in real life too? I think deep inside I had already made up my mind but it was good to talk it through with others who had mixed feelings about the usefulness of such things.

So I started by positing my last Tweet and clicked 'goodbye' to Twitter. It was the easiest thing to delete first as I had realised that I never had time to actual read the feed and didn't really ever use it to stay in touch with others. Have I missed it in the week since I deleted my account? No, not really. Actually no, not in the slightest - it has actually made me feel good that I don't feel guilty about not looking at it. (Although I'm now annoyed that I can't delete the little Twitter button from this blog - grrr!)

Facebook has been slightly trickier to eradicate as I started to think about all the family members it had brought me closer to. You know, those people you send Christmas Cards to but have no idea what they're actually doing because you'd never think to pick up the phone and talk to them. It's made conversations at parties easier because you don't have to start from the point when you last saw them a year ago and you can actually talk to those (male) cousins who you never would have spoken to because they still had you in their mind as an awkward, geeky teenager.

Going cold turkey was never going to happen, so I decided that if I wasn't going to abandon FB I needed to make it more compact and manageable. I started by removing it from my mobile which stopped the constant checking to see if something important happened and only discovering that someone had put a chicken in the oven for their tea. I had a spring-clean of friends, leaving only people I had actual contact with or those who I would like to stay in contact with by sorting them using the statement: "I would stop in Oxford Street and cross the road to talk to you if I saw you." There were some people who I decided I'd probably not recognise, some whom I would be too shy to speak to and others where I'd struggle to find anything worthwhile to say beyond 'hello'. These were the ones who were unfriended. It hs left me with list of 101 friends who are mostly much loved family or people I genuinely value as true friends.

I also made FB less time-consuming by deleting the majority of 'likes'. You know shops, TV programmes and organisations who sent constant updates which I skipped through and never properly read. I realised that I was no longer actually reading any websites in detail but got all my information by skimming these, especially true of all the teaching ideas pages. So I bookmarked the things I was really interested in and vowed to look at a proper website once in a while. So far so good; it's made FB quicker and easier to digest and meant that I actually look at and use ideas from other teachers rather than thinking I'd go back and have a proper look at another time.

I'm keeping Instagram as it's something I really do value having. In the same way as keeping a blog it's more of a creative experience. I like selecting and refining images as it helps me to reflect on what's happened and what has got me excited. It's made me see the beauty and joy in every day and if there is no beauty or joy then there's no pressure to post. I check my feed as and when I like but won't feel guilty if life moves on and I've not seen every minute of it.

And as for Blogger, well I'm certainly still here. As always feeling guilty about not posting often enough and having picture-minimal posts but deciding to just keep at it. Not worrying what others think or what the viewer count is but using it as a voice for me. A diary of my little life that is public and one that I would not keep if it was just for me. I love the connections I've made with other Bloggers that have strengthened as they've moved to Instagram and the little community of like-minded people who I genuinely think I'd like like to sit down and have a cup of tea with.

I'm sure my relationship with social media will continue to evolve and change with fads that come and go but now I feel in control and not socially obliged to be part of it 24:7. I will use it for the good things, like seeing pictures of our friends' newborn baby last night, and make more time for having a life, enjoying real experiences in the moment without having to jump to writing a witty line about what I'm doing or where I am.

Oh, and I will ever feel important or grown up enough to sign up to LinkedIn. That will just not ever happen!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

52 Lists / Forty Three

Hello again, it's been a while. I've just been caught up in the usual craziness of a first half term: home visits, getting to know children and trying to settle them, copying with new discoveries about their behaviour, needs and interests and carrying out baseline assessments for all 78 of them. Nevermind, we have now reached half term break (having survived the longest teaching half term of the year) and it is a chance to pause, rest and prepare for the next half term's adventures - as well as having lots of me-time fun!

I do hope that whatever you've been doing these past few weeks, you've been keeping well and enjoying the glories of autumn. In England the beautiful, mild weather has been delightful; it's made it a stunning autumn thus far.

You may have noticed that there has been no 52 Lists for a good few weeks. This has not been due to  my own tardiness but because since the middle of September I've sadly not received any further emails from Emma at Made In Hunters and despite having emailed her to see if she is ok, I've not heard a thing.

Whilst I was busy with school work this was no bad thing but I do miss the routine of thinking about and putting a list together each week. I've decided to make up my own things to list about until the end of the year (not long now really!) and as 2015 I've decided to start a new list project which I'm very excited about.

For the new year, I plan to write a post each week about my favourite pieces of music. Music is such a big part of my life and I enjoyed writing a couple of posts about secret songs in the summer. As my musical tastes are ecclectic I think it will be a real mish mash of classical and more modern styles. I'm very excited about doing it as I think it will reflect not only who I am but how what I listen to adapts to weather, seasons and celebrations throughout the year.

But that's enough of plans for 2015 - back to 2014!

This week: List what you plan to do to make this Christmas a good one!

Back in January I wrote a gloomy post about how disappointed I was with Christmas that had just gone. It was a bit of a tail-between-my-legs episode about how it was nice but how I didn't feel it was filled with as much delight and magic as other years. Boo hoo!

Now with the clocks going back (I'm using the 'extra' hour to write this post) and Christmas themed  catalogues arriving on my doorstep on a daily basis, my thoughts really do have a festive focus once more.

I'm trying to 'keep calm and get things done' this year, trying to find a good pace to achieve things I must do and enjoy the things I want to, finding a festive balance and not feeling guilty about the things that don't happen.

Here's the start of my Enjoy Christmas Action Plan!

Getting things done on my weekly to-do list
This week: Buy Christmas Cards, check address book, print labels, plan wrapping, bake cakes.
(I have already bought my cards - Andy and I made our annual visit to St Paul's Church in Covent Garden and bought some Cards For Good Causes AND my Dad kindly picked up all the cake and pudding ingredients when he was out shopping on Friday so I'm all prepared to make my cakes this week)

Don't hold onto all the random Christmas catalogues
In previous years I have hoarded all the Christmas catalogues that I've received through the post, picked up whilst shopping or found stuffed into magazines. This year I'm looking at them as they arrive, keeping what I want and recycling the rest. There's no point holding onto paper that I'm never going to look at again and then chuck it out the week before Christmas when I'm tidying the house. Hotel Chocolat and NOTHS have already been dispatched to be repurposed into loo rolls. 

Make time for me in the holidays
I finish school on Friday 19th December this which gives me a nice few days before Christmas to enjoy the build-up festivities, something which I struggled to last year. I will definitely be spending a half day in the West End doing my last bits of special shopping, enjoying all the beautiful seasonal sights and listening to festive musics on my iPod. There will be a Starbucks red-cup thrown in and hopefully some peace found at Evensong at St Paul's Cathedral for good measure!

Go home for Christmas
We have already discussed where we will be for Christmas Day this year and I've asked to go home to Mum and Dad's this year. It's not really a big deal as it involves no travelling or overnight stays (they live 2 streets away) and we would all be together at our house or theirs anyway but this year I wanted to be back 'at home' for the big day. To be honest they have more space in their living room to sit and enjoy the evening and the past two years it has been a bit of a squeeze in ours. It will also be the first Christmas with Milly who will no doubt provide lots of feline entertainment!

Buy the tree a week earlier
Last year I waited until school had broken up for the holidays before going to buy our tree because I wanted it to feel like the holidays but actually it just felt a bit late and in the last week of term as things were winding down, I wanted nothing more than to come home and sit under some fairy lights. This year, we'll buy the tree and get it up in the middle of December and be able to properly enjoy coming home to it for a good few weeks. I don't think we gained anything from buying it later anyway - I've never known a tree drop so many pine needles anyway!

Don't buy too many festive magazines (and be swept away in how perfect it should be)
So I've already bought my Ideal Home Christmas special and the Country Living December issue has arrived but this year I plan to buy no more. I've decided to save my money and just browse on Pinterest and magpie ideas from blogs and Instagram (and sneak a look at Mum's Good Housekeeping), rather than buy magazines which I struggle to find the time to read, have a huff about how articles are recycled year-on-year and feel disillusioned that my house doesn't look like as perfect as the photographs of Jemima and Rupert's Cotswold farmhouse that were probably taken during a heatwave in July. It is just not worth it!

Don't get swept away with buying (or wishing for) to many presents for Mr P
I'm known for starting off sensibly with my present purchasing and in the fortnight before the big day getting swept away with buying every novelty item on offer. There is no way that Andy's life will ever be enhanced by a Roman Legionnaire Rubber Duck and I don't want to spend a week at the start of January once again trying to find homes for all these frivolities, our home is just not big enough. I, in turn, have said the one thing that what I wish for this Christmas and I'm just hoping it will come true. (Might have to drop heavy hints for a few more weeks though!)

Well, that's made a start on being pragmatic about Christmas 2014. Just writing things down and putting it out there helps to make my thoughts and doings clearer. 

Have you got a strategy for 'doing Christmas' or do you just take it in your stride?