New Years Ambitions

I don't really believe in conventional new years resolutions really. So often they are about the negative, the unattainable, the restrictive (I WILL NOT eat chocolate....I will halve in size...I will never ever gossip). So I prefer to use the season of Hogmanay as a time for reflection and celebration, and a time to focus on what I would like to achieve in 2009. I always think of a wee bundle of things also, because if you achieve six out of ten, at the end of the year you think "Woo! Go me!", whereas one thing out of one not being attained can really sting.

So here are my New Years Ambitions for the year 2009:

1. I would like to learn if the phrase "New Years Ambitions" needs an apostrophe or not! Actually, I'd like to learn more about grammar, full stop (so to speak!). I've got some books on this I intend to read. English specialist that I allegedly am and lover of words, my grammar is all intuition, no theory. I'd like to remedy this.

2. I would like to sleep more. I get this awful guilt if I sleep too much, and often stay up late as a result. But the fact of the matter is, I function better on 6-8 hours a night. Yay for an ambition that should be fun to fulfill...

3. I want to write more and sing more and take more photos. I intend to keep my blog going, and I have a beautiful new notebook from Jamanda that I intend to fill with poems (it has been too long). I want to keep singing -it really it my joy. And I'm loving taking snaps, amateur that I am. I really want to make sure that I keep my creative stuff going - I also want to get back into collaging and start scrapbooking. And I want to write many, many letters.

4. I want to carry on getting healthier. 5 a day, exercise 3 times a week, cut the booze down, continue to avoid those foods that give me sore tummy, a little less caffiene. Nothing crazy, just the things I know help me to be my best. 2008 saw some big improvements...bring on 2009!

5. I am going to get organised. I have too much stuff, and I need to let go of a lot of it. Also, if some changes I hoping for take place, it would be a heck of a lot easier to do if I spend the winter and spring getting organised. I'll never be super organised...but I'd like to be more organised!

6. I want to continue the trend that wound straight through 2008 - spending lots of time with awesome people, doing lots of catching up in person, on the phone, by letter, by email, by text, via blogs, facebook, whatever.... I am lucky enough to be blessed by the brilliant people I have around me, and I intend to spend as much time with them as I can.

7. I want to learn more - to question more - to think more. What's Obama's stance on Israel? How do you do long division? What is a sub-prime mortgage? Where's Angola? What do the different churches think about homosexuality? I'm aware that sometimes life whips by...I'd like to learn more this year.

8. I am going to the dentist.

9. I want to read some of the books I've been recommended. I would like to finish watching my seven season West Wing DVD boxset. I want to watch more movies... I love to watch films, but I don't watch anything like as many as I used to.

10. I would like to continue to learn / to make up more recipes. Nom nom nom.

11. I want to keep doing my RAoKs, and helping people, and making people smile, and being as good a Joinee as I can be.

12. I want to continue being positive and happy as much as possible. I am truly grateful for my ability to count my blessings - I have a life full of fun and smiles and cuddles, a life full of adventures and potential and chances, and I'm just trying to enjoy it all. I hope that when challenges arise, as they will, I can continue to stay true to myself and my beliefs and my sunniness. As I said to friends yesterday - faith, or indeed optimism or happiness, is nothing if it cannot stand being tested. I've lived that this year, and I hope I can again next year, to the best of my ability :-).

So there we go. Some I'll achieve....some I might not. But aiming high is never a bad thing, right?

So friends - what are your New Years Ambitions?


PS In case I don't post again this year - HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I truly hope 2009 is a year full of love, laughter, wonder & joy for you all!
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Photos from a jolly December....

Because a picture can tell a thousand words...

A selection of pictures from a silly, funfilled, and packed December.

Goldy and I at K6, getting ready to bid up a storm on the auction.

Gossip Boy and I hit the Singstar at my fake birthday party.

Steeeeeve, Spanner and I walk about London RAoKing at K6.

Kate Boo and I at K6 - what are we plotting?

The GPB at the start of the RAoK march.

Christmas Day sunshine.

Minimus at Christmas dinner.

Midimus as we took her dog for a Christmas Day stroll.

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2008 – the review...

Apologies for another break in blogging – after the end of term, I then did a 990 mile 5 day roadtrip home, which was amazing but also offline. And then it was Christmas mania. How was your Christmas? Hope it was great fun! Mine involved lots of fun with friends, family, etc., so no chance to write. I will blog more about my visiting frenzy soon, but today the post is my look back review – my 2007 review can be found somewhere if you fancy a look back. But now, to the matter in hand. What a year it has been – here are the vital summarising...

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
Oh, difficult call. On the whole I’d say I’ve just been braver and more positive and willing to take risks – whether it’s chatting to a stranger or trying a new food or having a mini-adventure, I’ve just been a lot less afraid and a lot more upbeat this year. This is a good thing.

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions and will you make more for next year?
I kind of had ongoing ones from the list of doom....and I kind of fulfilled them, too.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Morag and Scott welcomed the gorgeous Alexis, and Fiona and Seb welcomed to beautiful Bryony Boo. My babytacular life continues apace!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thank heavens.

5. What countries did you visit?
England, Scotland, Wales (I have done a lot of whizzing about the British Isles in my wee car!), and Spain.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
I’ve been so very blessed this year. I would hope to keep on this trajectory, in all its messy, fulfilling, silly, awesome wonder, if at all possible. Oh, and a *little* more time for naps is never a bad thing...

7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I honestly can’t think of one. It’s more like an album of photographs in my mind – every time I flip through I stop at another snapshot that reminds me of a lovely time.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Spending lots of time with the people I care about, and getting straight in my head what matters to me.

9. What was your biggest failure?
On occasion, getting too stressed about work.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing major, no.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I’d say any gift or card that made someone smile. Oh, and my cute wee laptop!

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My wonderful friends. Again.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
No-one, really. Sure, people can vex from time to time, but no-one’s ever been even close to appalling or depressing me!

14. Where did most of your money go?
After rent and bills, most of my money has gone on travelling round to see friends and loved ones and attend Join Meets. It’s been tight at times, but money very well spent. Oh, and I buy more stamps than can ever be healthy!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Being a Joinee. Silliness. Friends. A lovely boy. Driving. And circus boys.

16. What song will always remind you of 2007?
It’s been more of an albums year – Elbow, MGMT, Vampire Weekend, Frank Turner...

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: Happier or sadder? Thinner or fatter? Richer or poorer?
Happier, a little thinner, and a little richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I’ve done lots of fun stuff...but there’s always room for more. Oh, and I’d love to get back into blogging regularly.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Having tummyaches!

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I arrived home today, for five days of family, friends, food, fun...and napping.

21. Did you meet/date anyone special in 2008?
Yes. Yes I did.

23. How many one-night stands?
Not a one.

24. What was your favourite TV program?
QI and / or Never Mind The Buzzcocks.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I don’t believe in hate.

26. What was the best book you read?
I honestly can’t recall. How scary is that?

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

28. What did you want and get?
More kisses.

29. What did you want and not get?
A job in a city. Life conspired a little on this.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
Probably WallE.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
28. Worked 8 am – 10 pm.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Free cheese for all.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?
Whatever catches my eye. Oh, and comfortable!

34. What kept you sane?
My gorgeous friends! (no change!)

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
George Clooney, David Tennant, and Dave Grohl.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Obama, baby.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
I’ve met too many to even start – it has been a year of making new friends and cementing older friendships. Brilliant!

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
Be kind and make people smile, the rest will be OK.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I don’t think I have a song that could do it justice. It’s been a mental, magical, magnificent year. Here’s to 2009!

To come soon - a blog about Christmas, some photos, and the 2008 awards. Oh, and the visiting update. I really DO need to get back into blogging!

Love, as always,
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Christmas meme

It’s about that time...let’s break out the Christmas meme!

1.What do you really want for Christmas but you know nobody will get it for you?

Last year I put “an iPod”. I have one of those now :). This year I’d really like a cosy dressing gown (perfect for cold winter evenings and mornings) and cuddles (I should get them, they’ll just be a bitty delayed) and time with the people I care about (WIN! I have loads of that coming up in the next few weeks!)

2.What do you not want for Christmas but you know that somebody will get it for you?

Unless any of my friends decide to get me marmite or a Paris Hilton biography, we’re fine. I’m pretty easy to buy for I think – I like shiny stuff, fun stuff, food stuff, wine, books, movies....

3.When do you open your gifts (Christmas Eve or Christmas morning)?

Christmas morning, around 9ish. I may have bucks fizz again, because that was genius last year!

4.Do you prefer gifts wrapped or in gift bags?

Wrapped, pleased. I LOVE unwrapping presents!

5.Did you regift anything this year?

I don’t tend to, but many of the chocs and the wine I’ve been gifted will be shared with friends and family!

6.What’s your favourite Christmas movie?

Where to start? 'It's A Wonderful Life', ‘Love, Actually’, ‘Die Hard’, ‘Elf’ and 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' all do it for me.

7.What’s your favourite Christmas TV special?

Father Ted & Doctor Who! And on DVD I love the West Wing Christmas eps!

8.Do you like egg nog?

I have never tried it! Is that wrong?

9.Real tree or fake tree, which do you prefer?

As it’s just me and I travel a lot over the holiday, fake. I LOVE real trees though.

10.Would you actually use one of those fireplace DVDs if you don’t have a fireplace?

Hahaha, no. On my tiny 14 inch TV it would look uber-tragic!

11.Are you sick of Christmas music yet?

No, I love the stuff. I have hours and hours of it on my computer!

12.Are you getting up early to wait in line to do some Boxing Day shopping?

Not this year I think – I have plans for a long lie, a long walk, and then ,hopefully, a long evening in the pub with friends :).

13.When was the last time you sat on Santa’s lap?

I actually can’t recall!

Christmas is well and truly on its way :)!


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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

Well here we are folks, on the very brink of the season of peace and goodwill. I am super excited (as is my wont) and enjoying my favourite month thoroughly!

The last week of term flew by, a blur of giggles and stresses and carols and my birthday and crackers and gifts. The children had a grand old time and I was very proud of them all. But some what relieved to actually wave them out the door last Friday, I must confess. I love them to pieces and we've had a cracking term, but it was definitely time to relax and catch some zzzzzzzzzzzzs.

The weekend was lovely. The boy came up on Friday and we had a lovely cosy meal in the local, and a Saturday of basically mooching around being lazy before getting the train back to London. Then we went to my gorgeous friend Emily's for festive drinks and food (venison *and* red cabbage? Nom nom nom!), which was very grown up and fabulous, all at the same time. Sunday was a fry up and chat with Siobhan, Hebba and Dan, and wandering around the city in a quest for coffee. And on Sunday night, the lovely Katie Boo and Jase threw me a FakeBirthday get-together - just five of us chilling, drinking champagne, eating nibbles and playing singstar. Aceness embodied!

The rest of the week so far has been full of goodness - buying gifts, writing cards, drinking tea, carol singing around the village, wrapping gifts, queueing in the post office and planning the roadtrip home (I leave here Dec 19th. I get to my parents on Dec 24th!).

How has your December been so far?

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Fitter. Happier. More productive.

Life continues to be busy, I must say. It's a blur at the moment, but I'm happier than I've been in a good long while. And I was pretty darn happy to begin with...

I'm working hard and playing harder. I'm getting to spend time with people I care about, and am being utterly spoiled in the sheer volume of smiles, giggled, chats, hugs, kisses and high fives I'm getting.

Again, I count my blessings.

Take the last few days, for example. I finished work at seven on Friday, then whizzed down to London. An evening of tea and chat with the lovely Siobhan, and then we were joined by the GPB and HRHKOTG, and Steve and Anna and Craig. We just sat around eating toast and drinking squash and chatting. Blissful. Then Siobhan and I lay in bed just chatting and talking before falling alseep listening to a mix CD. It was like being a teenager again!

Saturday was Anna's 21st, so after early rising and showers we had champagne for breakfast before heading off to Karmageddon - the biggest Join Meet of the year*. Hugging and giving out sweeties and helping people and dancing and smiling and spending time with awesome folk. Then to the pub to raise money and drink wine and meet new people and catch up with other people and surprise people and laugh and chat and hug and congratulate each other on smug club membership and pose for photos and just have a top, top evening.

Sunday morning was all about cuddles and tea. I love cuddles and tea. Then tea and gingerbread men in Covent Garden with Mlle Wilson and Alex. And then the boy and I just had the nicest time, going for Chinese, walking round the city, and generally having a lovely time. Then today was crazy with work. But isn't work that much easier to handle with the Christmas break firmly on the horizon?

Brilliant. I'm off to write a few more Christmas cards.


*pics to follow once I've checked I can nick them!
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Making time...

It has been a crazy few weeks, and time has just been so very, very squished. Add a general run-downess and a tummy bug to the mix, and you have a Claire who was in bed for much of the weekend! Feeling better now, but also mighty grateful the end of term and a good old break is on the horizon.

I'm also now fighting to make time for the things that get sidelined when I'm too busy...time to read stories and catch up on the news and listen to the radio and watch documentaries and TV shows that inspire (these are few and far between, I grant you, but they do exist - I'm talking 'The West Wing' and 'QI' more than 'American Idol' or 'I'm a Celebrity...'!). Time to actually talk to people, time to listen to people - whether it's in person, or online or on the phone. Time to look after myself - I haven't been to the doctors in over a year (am fixing that later this month), a dentist for almost five (am fixing this next month), an opticians for even longer (ditto)... Time to sleep and rest (I am fighting this one straight away - I am back to 7 or 8 hours sleep a night. It's a wise economy on my part, I must say. If I'm well rested, I'm far more able to deal with life in general). Time to work out and stretch and dance. Time to sing and move and laugh and write. And blog!

Here's to making time. I'm off to watch another ep of The West Wing before bed!

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On thankfulness.....

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

On this day of being grateful, I am all too aware how blessed I am and how thankful I have cause to be...

I am thankful for a million tiny kindnesses which give my life a real sense of purpose and worth...

I am thankful for family and friends, both near and far...

I am thankful for learning, and teaching, and growing...

I am thankful for smiles and hugs and high fives, for injokes and letters and packages...

I am thankful for books and blogs and music and films...

I am thankful for food to eat and things to drink, a warm bed to sleep in at night...

I am thankful for the children I get to teach and guide each day...

I am thankful for my health, and my dreams, and my freedom (how blessed to live in a time and place where I get to choose who I want to be, and what I want to be!)...

I am thankful for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next...

I am thankful for songs to sing and kisses to come and night skies full of stars and plans of awesomeness...

I am thankful for past sorrows now forgotten, and future pleasures hoped for...

I am thankful for my ability to count my blessings...

What are you thankful for, friends?

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Singalong Sunday, November 23rd.

1. The Winner Takes It All - Abba.

Oh man. I love this song, in all its melodramatic, OTT, girl-after-a-bottle-of-white-wine-sadness, beautiful glory. It's one of those great Abba songs that always gives me the goosebumps, and I just love how they make such an operatic song and dance about the end of the affair. Metaphor tastic!

So here I am on a Sunday evening, quickly typing a blog entry before hitting the hay. These last two months life has really been getting in the way of blogging (happens to us all, right? ;)), but I am trying to post two or three times a week. I'm trying to keep up with other peoples blogs too...I like the blogosphere too much to ignore it for long!

2. Sorry or Please - Kings of Convenience.

If you haven't heard of KoC, please check them out. They are like Ikea, another Swedish export - quirky, original, accesible, and great fun too!

So yes, life has been busy. Work is hectic as ever and keeping me well and truly on my toes. And then there are the weekends... This weekend was a school exeat, so we left at lunchtime on Friday. I chose to go on a trip with Year 8 for the afternoon - we all headed down to the National Theatre to see the production of 'War Horse' that's in rep in the Olivier.

3. Vital Signs - Frank Turner.

To use a quote from the immortal GPB, I less than three Frank Turner. Such an awesome singer-songwriter. And a lovely bloke to boot.

So, Friday. We got to the National and got to go on a really cool behind-the-scenes tour - we saw all around backstage and also got to see some of the props and puppets that are used in 'War Horse'. Then we settled down for the show. Which was amazing - poetic, inventive, moving. 'War Horse' is adapted from Michael Morpurgo's book, which I hadn't read beforehand. Added even more suspense to proceedings...

4. Miracle - Paramore.

Hmmmm. I don't mind Paramore, but I'm not evangelical about them either. I got this album after a tipoff, and I don't hate it...I just don't love it either. Hmmmmm.

So the show was great, and then I waved the kids off and headed across town on the tube to meet Mattheiu and some of his colleagues for drinks. Good chat, lovely new folk, and just enough silliness. Then chilling, which is only ever a good thing.

5. Because The Night - Patti Smith.

POWER BALLAD! Hee. This is one of the songs I *love* to sing when I'm driving. Genius.

Saturday morning, up and out and rushing for the Bristol train. Made it with, literally, a minute to spare. Just under two hours later I was in the beautiful South-West, meeting the ever gorgeous Mlle Wilson. Tea and possibly nuclear rum cake while watching 'Flight of the Conchords', and lots of catching up in person.

6. Make You Feel My Love - Adele.

Oh, sigh. I love this song. It totally appeals to my soppy girly side.

After a couple of hours Mlle Wilson and I were joined by her friend Steph, who she'd met back when she trained as a teacher. Steph's a bundle of fun, and we all had a blast chatting and bantering and generally being silly. As night fell and the clock moved on we headed to town, and had a delicious dinner in Cafe Rouge (Bavette steak and creme brulee = Om nom nom). And then we headed to the Colston Hall for the main entertainment.

7. Man In The Mirror - Michael Jackson.

Do you remember when Michael Jackson man good music? This is a tune! And the key change is golden.

Because last night we went to see one of my favourite comics, Dylan Moran, in standup. he was everything I expected - funny, witty, sweary... A brilliant, brilliant gig and great company to share it with - Mlle Wilson and Steph, Mlle 's boyfriend and some of his friends. Great gig, then red wine and post show chat in a nice bar. Then home for hot milk. :-)

8. You Were Made For Me - Sam Cooke.

Oh, how I love Sam Cooke. One of the best vocalists I've ever listened to... Just sublime.

Then I had an awesome nights rest, before another three hour chat with Mlle Wilson, sitting in our PJs, drinking tea. Mlle Wilson and I call and text and email and msn and write....but there's something so cool about actually seeing someone and spending time with them, don't you think?

9. Hiphopatamus Versus Rhymenocerous - Flight of The Conchords.

Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve. Oh man, how I adore FotC - youtube their songs 'Bowie', 'Business Time', or 'Robots' if you fancy a giggle!

Then trains and trains to get home, on a cold and bitter November day. It's definitely the part of November now when I kind of just want it to be December already...

10. Santa Baby - Kylie Minogue

Hee. Lord bless the shuffle function. I've just ripped a bunch of Christmas stuff onto my laptop ready for the festive season....this is just the tip of the iceberg, trust me :-).

So, a busy old weekend. And now, a busy old week to come. So I am off to bed - I feel a decent sleep is in order before another crazy school week!

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Treat sized...

Life is busy and hectic right now. Lots of good stuff happening, lots of stressful stuff happening, lots of interesting stuff happening, lots of silly stuff happening... And as ever, I thought I could do with making myself a little list of the things that make me smile and the blessings I want to count right now. Always good for the soul!

Here goes!

Smiling like a dolphin.

Forres for Christmas and options for New Years.

My job, in all its exhausting, draining, manic glory.

Join Me, and the wonderful, crazy, inspiring people I have met through it.

Christmas plans and preparations (now a mere 5 weeks away!).

Helping people.

Ghetto flat.

Weekends of loveliness past and to come.

Being appreciated.

Long hot baths reading books and listening to the radio.

Really small pieces of cake.

My cosy warm bed at the end of the day.

Cuddles and kisses around the corner.

Playing the 'freestyle!' game with my Year 8 girlies.

Mix CDs.

Really limey Corona.


And you guys, of course.

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Countryside silliness...

I just had the nicest weekend in the country with a bunch of awesome folk (hence the lack of posting!). Fun and silliness and catching up and hugs and chatting and chilling. Aceness, really....

Here are a few pics of a lovely weekend - more words soon!

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"Happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life."

In my classroom, on one of the walls, I have dozens of quotes, quotes that I like, or inspire me, or make me think. Most of these quotes are about kindness, happiness, or wisdom. This may tie in with my personal belief that if you can pull off being kind *and* clever *and* make others happy, you are onto a good thing! So there are quotes from Buddha, passages from the Bible, writings from Roosevelt and Keller.... A real mishmash.

My title quote is up there too and it's something I've been thinking about this evening. It's attributed to a guy called Burton Hills, who I couldn't find anywhere online. So if I've done a Sarah Palin and inadvertently name checked a white supremacist or similar, I humbly apologise and hope you can forgive me. The guy's not even on wikipedia!

So that quote, "happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life", is certainly a quote which I have personally taken on board. For much of my life, I lived in a 'now' I didn't like. I didn't really deal with the present, and the past was a dark and dingy room, inhabited by mess and disarray, haunted by spectres and ghosts and all too real monsters. So I took refuge in the hope of the future, in dreams, in aspirations...

As coping mechanisms go, it's a pretty tame one, but it's still not the best way to live your life. Looking forward to stuff is a great and powerful thing (as I type I'm looking forward to Bonfire Cottage, K:VI, cuddles, the end of term, Christmas, and Dylan Moran. For starters!) but they are not all there is. They are not stopping me enjoying the here and now. Back then, I wanted to get to the next thing. I lived for things to come - that party, that event, that hurdle to leap over. When I got my degree...I'd be happy! When I lost ten more pounds.... I'd be happy! When that guy called.... I'd be happy!

And do you know what? It didn't really work out. No one thing was going to fix me and let me be happy. Because happiness is not a destination. It's a method of life. It's certainly a huge part of how I live now.

I'd say now, that I'm a genuinely happy person. That doesn't mean I face every moment with an inane grin (just this evening I hit a brief low for example - stress, some mean-spiritedness from others, and some worries piled up), but it does mean that my 'mode' is one of being happy. And that's just how I operate now.

I didn't change overnight...but a change happened. It took several years, but it happened. I think this happiness and joy had always been there, but a lot of the darkness and tough times had just buried it somewhat, like rocks on top of gemstones. But now, I like being happy. I like finding solutions instead of problems. I like believing in people. I like counting blessings. I like being grateful. I like telling people how amazing they are. Because I know many, many amazing people.

I also like bed. And that is what it is time for now.

Hope your week is going well!

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Singalong Saturday, November 8th

Oh yes. It's back. Those of you who been visiting my wee scrawlings for a while may recall the singalong posts - traditionally me rambling for a post (on a Saturday or a Sunday, for maximum alliterative title fun) while telling you all what songs I'm listening to as I write. For a muso like me, it's a fun way to write (music's one of my favourite prompts), and at a time where there's been so much change (little earthquakes everywhere) for me a familiar format seemed inviting. Let's go.

1) Ain't No Rest For The Wicked - Cage The Elephant.

I love this song. Proper dirty rock, with a killer hook and lots of attitude. I think this would make an ace stripper song. You know, if that was your bag.

Well "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" seems like an apt place to start. Life is busy and whirlwindy at the moment, but more in a good way than a bad way. I feel a little like I'm living in a snowglobe that someone's up ended - pretty things flying everywhere! The busy-ness of school, times with friends and people that make me smile, books and music and films, and the light of Christmas shining at the end of the Michalemas term....

2) I Close My Eyes and Count To Ten - Dusty Springfield.

I love Dusty...but only discovered this song a few months back. "We were strangers a moment ago / with a few dreams but nothing to show / The world was a place / with a frown on it's face / and tomorrow was just I don't know." Just beautiful lyrics, and in one of the toughest song arrangements I have tried to learn in a long while.

Claire's Christmas prep is continuing apace. Yes, I know it's early, but during the six weeks of this half-term, I know that I have to grab moments whenever I can - an hour here, 15 minutes there - in order to get everything sorted. Otherwise it's mid-December by the time school is done and I'm sat there with no cards sent, no presents bought, and a huge amount of stuff to do. I'm trying to be prepared!

3) Caring Is Creepy - The Shins.

The Shins are one of those bands I don't really have an opinion on, I must say. They're pretty good, but I don't really get the whole Zach-Braff-Natalie-Portman-Garden-State-best-ban-evah! thing. I mean, this song is good, but I don't think it's actually going to chnage my way of life. Am I wrong?

Ah, 'Father Ted'. I was watching it again earlier. I do love a bit of it, it's one of the shows I'm quietly devoted to. Along with The West Wing. I treated myself to the 7 season set of TWW earlier this week (only 50 pounds from amazon, bargain fans!). Can't wait to get my politics on.

4) What A Difference A Day Made - Jamie Cullum.

Yes. I own some jazz hobbit. What of it? He's good for dinner parties!

Speaking of politics, what about Barack Obama? Just an inspirational day for the world, a beautiful moment in history (and now the work begins!). My kids were very excited. I ahve to say I was hugely excited by the turnouts. It's truly wonderful to see people motivated to get involved and use their voice. I just hope that now we can see a new era of hope and confidence - given the challenges we're all facing rigth now, those traits will come in handy!

5) On's On - Missy Elliot

Wow, rap / hiphop. I used to listen to lots of this sort of stuff, but now it's the exception, rather than the rule. I still appreciate the cleverness of the lyrics, but it's not really my kind of thing as much anymore.

You guys, I'm so tired. I can't even think straight. I'm going to post these ramblings and come back and do songs 6 - 10 tomorrow. Here, it's definitely time for bed!

Sweet dreams!

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Love what you do.

Today, as I was packing up my things to leave work after another long day at school, I got to thinking about my job, and my school, and all the little quirky things I love about it. Like anyone, there are things I can do without in my field of work (excess paperwork, early Saturday mornings and anything involving cleaning up wee or vom spring immediately to mind...), but on the whole I can say I love what I do.

I'm uniquely priveleged to do a job that I have a vocation for, and I know that. Every day when I wake up, even if I think "Man, I'm tired..." or "HOW IS IT 6 AM???" or even if I feel like just hiding under my awesome comfy duvet, I never think baldly, "I don't want to go to work". Sure, I'd rather be dancing or singing or napping some days, but generally I'm happy to get up and go into school.

I love my little classroom, with its primary colours and occasional chaos and beanbags and bright brash pictures done in felt tip, dedicated to "My favrit teecher". I love the kids at our school - they are truly a delightful bunch. When I came for interview one of the things that really impressed me was the kids - they are confident, friendly creatures, and the environment we teach and nurture them in encourages this, I think. We encourage them to try and think and dream. And keep their shirts tucked in and their hair neat, of course.

I like that no two days are the same. I like the range of roles I'm expected to assume in the average day, and the skills and knowledge I'm expected to display and draw upon. For example today I had to be (in no particular order):

A teacher, a nurse, a politician, a PA, a community organiser, an IT specialist, a maid, a nanny, a hairdresser, a diplomat, a secretary, a journalist, a public speaker, a dancer, a football specialist, a singer, a reader of stories (the voices required therein surely making me an actress of sorts), a postman, a handyman, a referee, a cleaner, a treasurer, an accountant, a PR specialist, a counsellor, a listening ear, a fundraiser and many other things that escape my notice on a sleepy Thursday evening as I recollect.

I like the little moments - the stories and hugs and conversations on the drive. The little phrases that kids pick up, the mythology of school (Don't wake the dragon who lives in the cupboard upstairs when we go to get the laptops!). I like that I do something that makes a difference, however small that difference may be. I love seeing my kids happy and safe and inspired.

So while there are other jobs I'd like to try, other challenges I'd like to face, for now I'm happy to simply love what I do.

Wishing you good things.

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God Bless America.

So it's finally here. The big day. A time for hope, a time for confidence, a time for change - a regime change, some would argue. As many of my friends and family go and vote for the next POTUS, I'm thinking of them and praying and hoping that the candidate chosen ushers in a new era for the USA. And if that man turns out to be half the President that President Bartlet was in the first two seasons of 'The West Wing', I will be a happy happy Claire (haha, way to set the bar high! Early years Jed Bartlet was the man. I've just spent a good half hour youtubing old clips from the show and recalling how awesome Martin Sheen's portrayal of a flawed but amazing President was).

Some of my friends will be voting McCain. Others will be voting Obama. I'll be hoping and praying that the choice they make will be the right one for the USA, and the world.

I'm inspired also to see the lines and queues to vote - the real enthusiasm that this election seems to have stirred. I hope that when our next general election here rolls around we can see people equal willing to use their vote and have their say.

I sign off a hopeful woman....I wonder what my next post will have to reflect upon?

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Literary Sisters....

It will come as little surprise to most of you that I love to read. If and when I have a spare evening, or a long journey, or even a quick ten minutes in the bath, I am often in the company of a good book. I love to escape to a brand new place, to be taken far away. My favourite books are a mismash of happy books, sad books, "cool" books, woefully uncool books, but there are many I can turn to again and again - books like Join Me, High Fidelity, Yes Man, Love Is A Mixtape, and the three books that inspired this post.

The three books I'm talking about contain a bevvy of female characters who I love and cherish, in whom I see glimpses of myself and the girls around me, who have characteristics I admire or covet or try to avoid, in a few cases! They are books I have read a lot, discussed a lot, and thought about a lot. They are also all books I own film adaptations or television dramas of.

The first of these books is Little Women. Oh man, how I love this book. The story of the four March girls and their family is one I've loved since girlhood, and one I go back to again and again. I can't wait to share this book with the wee folk I know once they are out of nappies. Growing up, I was definitely a Jo - an impetuous bookworm, a tomboy, not a girly girl, but as I entered my twenties, I realised I was becoming less of a Jo and more of a Meg. Yes, Meg. Steady, dependable, kind, sweet Meg is now the character I empathise with the most in Little Women. With adults' eyes I can still appreciate the humour and loyalty and bravery of Jo, but I've grown into a new appreciation of Meg. She's clever and brave in her own way, but her priorities and motivations are different. Not for Meg huge adventures or bright rages. Her joys are friends and family and helping people and kindness. And as simplistic and plain as they may be, I have to admit, those are my joys too. The younger March girls and Marmee are also great characters, and I've thought to myself before now ("Oh, that girl's a bit of an Amy", or "Shades of Jo, there!"). Marmee in particular I find an inspiration - if and when I have a family, I pray my offspring view me with even one-tenth of the love and respect shown to that character.

Book number two is a book I came very late to, in the scheme of things, but it's one I've blogged on before. Pride and Prejudice. I first read this in my early twenties, and just fell in love with Austen's style and the five Bennett girls (as someone who has always desired a big family herself, I also love the "brood" dynamic in this book). Kind, sweet, beautiful Jane; headstrong, clever, pretty Elizabeth; bookish, plain, worthy Mary; silly, easily led, secondary Kitty; and deceitful, proud, ridiculous Lydia. Everyone wants to be Elizabeth, right? Katie Boo thinks I'm Lizzie (cheers hon!). That quiz I did back in February seemed to think I was Jane. And I've certainly felt like Kitty before! I think Jane is very like Meg in Little Women, a girly girl, kind and sweet and loyal. And I think there are elements of that in my character, but I'm a little too hotheaded and sarcastic at times to be a true Jane. There are also parts of Lizzie in me, I can see - I'm honest and loyal to my friends and heaven knows I do like a walk! But again these are characters I love and know and can see in the people around me, along with various others of the cast (one of my make friends is *such* a Mr Bingley!). I love the affinity I have with this book. Sitting down to read it is like a cup of tea and a chat with a good friend - good for the soul!

The third book is the one I'm currently reading (I was asked to reread it for my reading challenge. Actually, all three of the books I'm chatting about today made the cut) and it is a looooooooooooooong book. 1006 pages, to be precise. Oh yeah, I'm talking about Gone With The Wind. GWTW is a flawed book in many ways, but it's also dramatic and ambitious and if you're willing to go with it, pretty darn awesome. And I LOVE the two central characters, Scarlett and Melanie. I first read this book in my early twenties, and oh, how I wanted to be a Scarlett. She's brave and beautiful and ruthless and just...ace. But as I reread it, I find my aspirations have changed. Now I want to be like Melanie. Melly with her loyalty and kindness and good manners and warmth and hospitality. I always got that Melly was a "good" character, but now she's the one I think I'd like to be like. Sure, it would be great to be Scarlett O'Hara, belle of the county, but I think I'd rather be Melanie. A bit like Marmee in Little Women, when I read about Melanie I see a few things I have and lots of values I share and many, many things to aspire to.

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Jane, Lizzie, Mary, Kitty, Lydia, Scarlett & Melanie. My literary sisters. there are other books I've read with characters I know well (Anne of Green Gables; Sense and Sensibility; Bridget Jones' Diary; The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) but it's the characters of Little Women, Pride & Prejudice and Gone With The Wind which call to me over and over, time and again. They are more than characters or friends...they are my literary sisters.

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Oh the weather outside is frightful....

You guys, it is cold here. Not continental cold, I'll grant you, but quite cold enough. As I type it's 2 degrees outside, with fat lazy snowflakes floating down before softly melting to naught on the wet floor (when it was warmer earlier we had rain, so it's unlikely this snow will "stick". Nothing to stick to, really). It feels colder though....I dashed out to the car earlier and literally had to do the frozen prance to get feeling back into my fingers and toes....

This may explain why I'm blogging sat in front of a heater. Wrapped in a blanket.


I used to be much better with the cold, but years of living in the south have softened me. My family are always amused by how cold I get now - I often come down to breakfast when I'm home for Christmas break wearing PJs, sweatpants, a sweater, scarf, and socks on my feet (and sometimes my hands too...). Thank heavens none of them are morning people, or there would be several incriminating photos floating around by now....

Winter's still a magical time....just a tad inconvenient at times!

After the rush of last week, this is the more chilled week. I've been cleaning and scrapbooking and reading, cooking and exercising and calling people. I've almost finished the Christmas spreadsheet, and this morning I bought a tonne of gifts. Later in the week I'll buy more gifts, and wrap and cards too. I like to get it sorted before the insanity of the six weeks at school leading up to the Christmas holidays. School itself will be crazy, but then there's all the other stuff....singing things, comedy in Bristol, Bonfire Cottage, Karmageddon..... I will be a busy bee!

So join me in raising a mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows, naturally...) to cosy nights in on cold nights out.... If I only had someone to cuddle with right now, this scene would be *perfect*!

Snuggle on, friends.


PS Christy, thank you for the mittens. I think they will come in handy this year!
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So I have returned from a lovely girly holiday in Spain with the gorgeous Katie Boo. All-inclusive hilarity! That guy! Kareoke! In-jokes! Silliness! Wedding chat! Medieval feasts where you get to eat chicken with your hands! Mad skillz! Flamenco! Castles! Top Trumps! Brian Blessed!

And then I had a lovely weekend in London where I got to hang out with Mattheiu, chilling and watching South Park and chatting about out uni adventures; share insulting and hilarious conversation with the comedy double act that is (are?) Dave and Asiz; and then have a proper girly lunch with Vixie and Kaz today, full of chat and catching up. And the wonder that is Stealth Snail....

All in all, a TOP first week to the half-term break. The second week's far more chilled, loaded as it is with chores and work and jobs around the house and stuff to prep for school and reports to write and books to balance and Christmas prep to do and phone calls to make, but it should be fun and/or productive. And then a visit at the weekend, and Bryony Boo's christening on Sunday. Bring on the banter! And in the meantime, here are some of my favourite pics from Spain (once Katie Boo's uploaded hers, I shall be back for round two... :-)).

Have a wonderful week, all!

Katie Boo hits the rose wine at Luton.Oh, how I love a goofy in-flight pose!

Kareoke smilieness!

Kate breaking out her Brian Blessed impression. She is *so* good at it!

Re-enacting our favourite part of the Ryanair safety routine. In a sombrero. Oh yes.Jase (Katie Boo's fiance) came to pick her up from Luton. MASSIVE boyfriend / fiance / husband / partner points for him. Love this couple - they are utter poppets!

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Why so quiet, Claire?

In short?

A lovely weekend with Siobhan, going to see Mattheiu's lovely new house (and meet the man-legend that is Dave), and various bits and bobs.

Oh, and the fact I am leaving for Spain. Right now. With Kate Boo. For three days of fun in the sun (OK, not scorching sun, but still warmer and nicer than autumnal Britain!). Photos and tales to follow, methinks! Last minute holday-a-go-go!

More soon. I hope you all have a lovely week!

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Mmmmmm, meme.

It's late. It's the start of half-term break.

School wrapped up at 1 o'clock this afternoon...after the usual hellos and goodbyes, I headed a couple of towns across to have a girly lunch with colleagues and a romp round the shops (nowt that tempting...which is quite convenient, given the credit crunch!). Then home by six and into PJs, telly and music, net stuff, a big long phone call with HRH (good luck with the uber-neds, sir!). And then I thought I should blog....and as I haven't done a meme in ages, I thought I'd break one out...they always end up somewhere I wasn't expecting.

Pour yourself a glass of wine (I know I have...) or a refreshing cup of tea, and enjoy the rambling...

1) Is the last person you kissed mad at you?
If he is he has a very strange way of showing it (he's generally a poppet!).

2) Is your hair up?
Nope. The curls are as wild and free as ever! My hair = the mental.

3) Do you still talk to the person who hurt you the most?
Two people pretty much destroyed me. One of them I just never think of any more (seriously. He's just gone). The other I forgave entirely, and they are still in my life in a big way. I chose to forgive, move on and live in that situation :-).

4) Are you an argumentative person?
Not hugely, but I can and do have my moments.
I have quite a hot temper when it comes down to it!

5) Is your phone right beside you?
Yep! I'm being highly entertained by random Friday night texts (Cardiff! Camden! New jobs! Visits!)

6) Will this weekend be a good one?
I hope so. It's going to be very lowkey, but there are some lovely things sprinkled into it :-).

7) What jewelry do you wear all the time?
None. I even gave up wearing a watch this year, after smashing my watch in the floor in the change rooms in the gym.

8) Have you ever had a difficult relationship?
I would say no, actually, if we're talking romantic relationships. This may, however, have something to do with my slight commitment phobia which took over my early to mid's really hard to have a difficult relationship when you're choosing not to have a relationship at all.

9) Have you ever driven in the ghetto to buy drugs?
Hahahaha, NO. Seriously, have you met me?

10) Can you read other people's expressions?
Most of the time, yes.

11) Have you ever hugged someone named Joe?
Probably. I hug an awful lot! (bring on Karmageddon, Joinee friends!)

12) When was the last time something bothered you?
Earlier today and earlier this week - someone is being a bit of an ass and just being lazy and a bit horrid. I'm not too impressed, but it'll pass. I'm fairly chilled, most of the time!

13) What/whose bothering you?
See above :-).

14) Are your ears gauged?
Am I supposed to know what that means? I'm sure I did at one point, but my brain is tired (it's twenty past eleven here!).

15) Have you ever stayed in a hotel?
A few times. Didn't for many years. Love to now. Am *such* a geek about it!

16) Do you miss someone?

17) How did you feel when you woke up today?
Just plain tired!

18) Have you ever driven without a license?
I don't know....don't think so.

19) How long does it take for you to fall asleep at night?
Unless I'm really stressed, not too long at all. I love my sleep, I'm a good sleeper, and I nod off fast. I generally wake up smiling too - I genuinely love my bed.

20) Have you ever had a best friend who was the opposite sex?

21) Have you ever kissed just a friend?
If you kiss them, surely they've passed over the friend line?

22) When was the last time you shot a dirty look at someone?
Properly? Let me think....oh I know - early hours of Sunday morning, on the London nightbus. A woman was being tres rude. I really get annoyed by nightbuses!

23) Are you happy right now?
Yes. I am. Life is knackering right now...but there are several things that just make me :-).

25) When is your birthday?
December 10th.

Cards, flowers, diamonds to the usual address, please ;-).

26) Where did you buy the shirt you're wearing now?
I'm waering some really repulsive pyjamas. They are three dress sizes too big and pink plaid. Other people never need to see these. But MAN are they comfy!

27, 28, 29?

30) Are you a forgiving person?
I would say yes. Sometimes I have to work on it, but yes.

31) Ever kissed someone who smokes?

32) When you shut off your alarm clock, do you tend to fall back asleep?
Sometimes. Dangerous ground though!

35) Did anything weird happen in the past 3 days?
My life is a lovely train of weird. All the time.

36) Your number one tells you they're pregnant, you say?
Congratulations! (Heheh, this question totally doesn't make sense on a blog!).

37) Do you want someone you can't have?
Not any more.

38) What is the biggest secret you know about your 2nd top friend?
Like I would tell!

39) If you could change your eye color, what would it be?
I'm good, thanks.

40) Last person you told a secret to?
Probably one of the usual suspects...

41) Do you listen to your friends when they tell you that a guy/girl is bad for you?
I trust my friends, so yes. Lately they've been telling me lots of good stuff though, which is fab to hear!

42) What do you usually do right when you wake up?
Smile and stretch.

44) Have you told anybody you loved them today?

45) Any plans for tomorrow?
Morning of sleeping in and chores. Early afternoon of schooliness. Evening of girl chat, dinner and wine with Siobhan.


46) What's a fact about the last person who had their arms around you?
They are a bit lovely. But kind of terrible at packing, I am learning.

47) What do you hear right now?
Snow Patrol on 'Later With Jools Holland'.

It's late Friday night, and I have no Saturday school tomorrow.

Have a great weekend, lovelies!

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Because age is just a number...

Isn't it funny how many ages you can feel in a day, let alone a week?

When I'm at work I feel grown up and responsible, I know people rely on me, and children depend on me. I'm organised and hardworking and all that good stuff. In other areas of life, I feel a completely different age, if not a different person. When I'm on the phone with Siobhan, or on msn with Christy or Lou, or drinking wine and singing showtunes with Hannah, I feel like I've regressed ten years and I'm seventeen again. When I sing properly, I feel a million ages all at once, young but old, strange but familiar. When I'm goofing around with Mlle Wilson I feel young and silly and foolish, a teenager again, full of chat and hope and giggles and sweeping statements.
When I'm cuddling Bryony Boo, her four month old face painted with a smile, big beautiful eyes taking in the world, I feel old. Her newness is intoxicating! When I'm curled up chatting with the boy I like, I feel young and vunerable and safe. All at once. When I blog sometimes I feel old and wise (even though I'm not wise), looking back on the years past, dreaming of the years to come, remembering faces and feelings and friends. When I look around my flat at the books and postcards and piles and disarray I feel like a student again (this feeling is further compounded when I choose to fish a teabag out using a fork, rather than washing up a spoon!). When I do a decent workout I feel young somehow, feeling as my body changes, growing stronger as the months pass. When I curl up to go to bed I feel like a child again, the smell of lotion and the coolness of the pillow lulling me off into the immortality of dreams...

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What I don't do...

Oh yeah, I'm breaking out the 'd' word... Fear not, I'm still your usual happy-go-lucky, slightly scatty, definitely slightly off-kilter Claire, but these are my thinky thoughts for the day...

I don't believe that work should be boring.

I don't trash talk people I like.

I don't eat white/refined flour anymore, because it makes me poorly sick. Just call me Wholegrain Girl!

I don't know what sushi tastes like. I've never tried.

I don't know enough about grammar, considering I have half a degree in English!

I don't sleep enough at the moment, which is a shame, because I love to sleep!

I don't like living so far from home. But I'm making a home of my own.

I don't go to church enough.

I don't remember my dreams (for the most part). Not in a depressing, woe is me fashion, but in an actual "I don't remember" way. I remember maybe six dreams a year. Tops.

I don't steal.

I don't understand racism at all. It came up in a PSHE class mith my kiddos, and none of us could really explain / understand it!

I don't like people who are unkind to children (come to think of it, I don't like people who are unkind or mean, full stop. But when it's towards kids, I genuinely get annoyed!).

I don't go to the doctor or the dentist enough.

I don't burp (I can't, actually).

I don't really have a handle on where I'm going. Yet.

I don't reveal huge aspects of myself to many people in my life.

I don't have time to blog at the mo. But I'm endeavouring to make time!

Have an AWESOME weekend, lovelies!

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Sunday Stoppage

This evening, for the first time in a good long time, I actually stopped for a few hours. I ignored the phone, left the dishes by the sink, forgot the marking for now, and actually stopped. It's not something I do enough. And now I feel replenished and just more ready for the challenges to come - the things I want to do, the things I have to do, the things I need to do, the things I'm hoping to do.

Recently life has felt a little like squuueeeeeezzzzzing into a pair of jeans that are just a little too small. You know they'll fit, but you've just got the breathe in that extra half an inch to get them on. There are new things I'm making space for, and other things refusing to budge to make room. So I'm having to be creative with my timing. All good though, there are many things in my life which are giving me cause to pause, smile, and count a blessing. I am grateful for busy-ness and new discombobulating things.

Who knows, in a few posts time, perhaps I'll even have time to write about some of them... :-)

Have a great week, all.

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The smell of woodfires burning. The mist that gathers in the garden on early mornings, hanging like some half-forgotten spirit around the boughs and bushes. Digging out welly boots and taking long walks to go puddle-jumping. Looking out at a grey and rainy day and choosing to stay in instead, watching old films and reruns. Trees becoming bare and skeletal, leaves turning, then crispening, then floating down. Blackberries fresh from the bush, fingers stained with juice, tongue alive with taste. Sturdy meals- toast, soup, steaming jacket potatoes, stews, piles of root vegetables - warming, comforting, filling. Kicking leaves. Frost on the window pane. Darker evenings littered with stars. Birds flying south or returning for the winter. Looking out scarves and jumpers and hideous yet cosy pyjamas. Lying in bed read, listening to an autumn shower thundering on the roof above. Long hot baths, and emerging warm and safe and softly scented. Snuggling in bed with wine and chocolate, cosy and warm and glowing. Sleeping longer, thinking deeper.

Remembrances of a summer well spent, and hopes for a longed-for winter, all enjoyed in a season I adore.

I love autumn. :-)

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A busy Claire.... a happy Claire. Apparently.

So yes, life is whizzing by, a mess of stuff and things and people and fun and stresses and thoughts and moments. But it really is better to be busy than not busy. And half-term is in sight, and with it then chance, if not to drop everything, at least the chance to pull the car off the motorway and visit the service station for a comfort break!

I'm working hard and enjoying it. This is my fourth year teaching, but there's still plenty to learn, plenty to change, plenty to hone, plenty to mess up and go back to the drawing board on! One thing I do love though is how well I know the school and the people in it. I know the stories and the chat and I have my own little niche there. And I love the kids to pieces - I love sitting with them in tea and being silly....I love getting postcards for my class and getting them interested in geography....I love being asked if the Year 7 'cool boys' can interview me for the magazine (apparently they think I'll know some gossip?)... I love encouraging kids to stretch themselves....I love feeling like I'm helping, in whatever small way I can....I love getting love notes on my desk....I love high-fives and in-jokes and being part of a team. The late nights and being so exhausted I oversleep...less so!

My friends continue to be awesome, and I'm loving that every weekend is bringing new adventures - parties, conversations, walking around London in the sunshine, cuddles, party games, and sitting on the train, listening to my mp3 player. The same end to every trip. A cafe mocha with skim milk, chilled indie guitar music, and the inner city of London giving way to the suburbs, then the rolling rural hills of home.

So the weeks are worktastic, and the weekends are funtastic. Sprinkle on top working out, singing, phone calls, emails, band practice, reading, letters...and you have a busy Claire. You have a happy Claire. And you have a very tired Claire.

Time for bed here :-)

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Little smiles and giggles....

Again, this week, I've been reminded of how little things can make you smile or giggle, and just raise you mood. I love looking for these little moments (indeed, I probably post on this theme oooh, once a month or so?), they are like little gems stitched into the fabric of life. Life can oftentimes be busy, and hard work, and frantic...I find comfort in finding these little moments and relishing them.

This week these have included:

* Amazing myself by giving an informed opinion on football. Yes, you read that right, I gave an informed opinion on football.

* One of my ex-tutees coming up to see me yesterday with one of his gorgeous new black labrador puppies, just so I could have a snuggle with the little creature. Cute, cute, cute! And the puppy gave me a licky kiss on the nose!

* Someone's opinion on me being genuinely surprising, and a bit lovely.

* Watching the 'Sex and the City' movie last night, and enjoying it once more. And feeling blessed that I too have a great bunch of women to call on when I need them, and who call on me when they need me. I love my boys, but I also cherish the wonderful friendships I have with my girls.

* Realising the half-term break is in a month. Time to sleep, visit and write.

* The song 'Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!' by Abba. It is so very very cheesey, you can practically smell the Stilton. But oh my life, it is the BEST for dancing around your room to!

* Babysitting being fun as ever. Good chat, chocolate pancakes, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and extra monies (woo! Time for some new Converse!).

* Singing, singing, singing. Although I'm pretty scared that I seem to be lining up 'Defying Gravity' (the main bit kicks in after a minute or so of dialogue) as a potential audition song. That song is *tough* (especially the last bit!)!

* The blogs of my friends. I love reading all about what people are up to. I never really expected my blogging experience to grow into what it has, but I love it. I've been lucky enough to meet five fellow bloggers, and I'm friends with others in real life, and I exchange notes and emails with others. I love how this amazing thing and these great writers touch my life.

* Being a squirrel in lunch, and a hedgehog in my English class. And continuing to smile like a dolphin.

* Hugs, kisses, and kindness.

* Loveliness happening to people I love - weddings approaching, love deepening, plans being made, choices being right, babies hopefully coming home (praying so hard for that one!).

* Cups of tea, snuggled in bed, reading a good book (this week I finished 'The New Europe' by Michael Palin, which was amazingly insightful; and I'm about fifty pages into 'The Memory Keeper's Daughter' which is hypnotic).

* Long hot baths and long hot showers. The latter of which I'm off to have - time to go have a fun Saturday! :-)

Have a lovely weekend!

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Oh man. I am running out of words to describe this phase I'm in. It's like a switch has been flipped somewhere, and I'm feeling stronger and happier and braver than I have in a long long time. It's like the things I've been wanting to move beyond and past and through are just crumbling into nothing. And I'm emerging, like a creature from a chrysalis.

There are still stresses and strains and worries. There are still regrets and misdeeds and nightmares...but my focus is not on them. I feel like I'm on the edge of something as yet intangible, a new and exciting phase. I feel like I'm up on a high board, about to dive in, and do you know what? I'm not scared. I'm excited.

(I've been off school with a cold and stomach bug these past two days, and even that hasn't dented this optimism and excitement. It has made me sleep an awful lot though!)

There are so many things I want to do. I want to sing, and learn more about singing. I want to write. I want to take photos. I want to spend time by the sea. I want to learn how to run (I bet you didn't see that one coming!). I want to travel. I want to visit new places. I want to smile and laugh and chat with my friends. I want to drink wine and eat fruit and bake cakes. I want people to think of me and smile. I want to stay up way too late and be silly. I want to be part of my friends' childrens' lives, a surrogate aunty to help and spoil them. I want to kiss boys, or even better, spend time with a boy I'd like to carry on kissing over and again. I want to watch films and read books. I want to learn more about politics and volunteer and give something back. I want to study - maybe photography, maybe cookery, maybe a whole different degree. I want to get rid of loads of my stuff - this nesting phase is drawing to a close. I want to fall in love and enjoy the fear and the mess and the wonder. I want to trust that I have the talent and skills and gusto to succeed. I want to take risks and heal and help and be unafraid. I want to build a home. I want to take chances and push myself.

Maybe I'll do some of these things. Maybe I'll do none of these things. Maybe I'll do all of these things. I don't know. But I'm loving how inspired I'm feeling right now.

See what headcolds do to my thinking?

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