2009: The Review

Following on from my posts at the end of 2008 and 2007, here's my review of the year that was... It's been a pretty busy one! I'll mix in some photos from the year too, in a typically sporadic fashion...

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?
Moved to London. Fell in love. And was a bridesmaid. Good times!

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions and will you make more for next year?
I just keep on working, really! Biggest wishes were to find a new job and see more of my boyfriend - I think I've aced those two, at the very least!

Greeting Christy at Aberdeen Airport, August 2009

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Lots of bloggy friends had babies (I'm especially attached to the beautiful Harper, Abigail and Raven, who I love to read about!), Eli & Carlos greeted the gorgeous Esperanza, Marc and Cath welcomed Joseph, Tracy and Andrew had little Olivia, and Erin welcomed beautiful Mia. Quite a few babies then!

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

5. What countries did you visit?
England, Scotland, USA.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
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...

(I'm going to keep this answer from last year, and just say "ditto"!)

With Sam, at Maria's wedding, August 2009

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Whatever day in February it was that I first arrived at my new school to interview. I fell in love with the school! Also, 24/10/09 - getting to bridesmaid for Jenna and Chris was an utter joy! I love them so much!

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. And getting my job.

With the beautiful Heidi, Jenna's other bridesmaid, October 2009. We'd met moments before! :-)

9. What was your biggest failure?
Losing 15 pounds...then putting twelve of them back on. Major healthkick in 2010 during the run up to 30!

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

With Sheli and Amanda at Loverpool, May 2009

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Rather geekily, my iPhone!

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

Girly night with Ems, Hannah, Siobhán and Yellow Man, February 2009

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
No-one, really. All of the people around me are pretty much awesome, most of the time!

14. Where did most of your money go?
After rent and bills, most of my money has been spent on travel, gifts, stamps and phone calls.

The beautiful bride and her ladies (l-r) Heidi, Jenna, me, Kirsty (Jenna's mummy), October 2009

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Moving to London. Planning. Bridesmaiding. My job.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Any of the songs from Florence and The Machine, Kate Miller-Heidke, or Taylor Swift's albums, really. The soundtrack to my commute!

Lopping a foot off of my hair for charity, April 2009

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

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Watching movies and working out.

The tall and the small (Dan, Rich, Andy Boom, Mum White and me), June 2009

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Staying up late on school nights - always a foolish move! Do it a lot less now I live in the land of the 6 am wake up call though, I have to say!

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent Christmas cosied up at home with my badger.

Sillest bridesmaid ever? With Jenna and Heidi, October 2009

21. Did you meet/date anyone special in 2009?
I'd already met him (in 2008). This is the year I fell in love with him.

Having cocktails and Shiner at the Skytower in Dallas, Matthew and I, October 2009

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

24. What was your favourite TV program?
America's Next Top Model (more or less the only show I watched every week it was on), Come Dine With Me, and 30 Rock.

I love my goofy girlies! With Siobhán and Hannah, February 2009

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 loved Stephen Fry's America, and Churched by Matthew Paul Turner, and The State of Africa by Martin Meredith, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, and Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, and many other books I can't think of right now! I'm so glad I've got back into reading!

Running Man! Dancing with Steph and Naomi, December 2009

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Kate Miller-Heidke. And Taylor Swift.

28. What did you want and get?
More time with my boy. And kisses.

On a pedalo (PEDALO! Woo!) with my darling Jenna, July 2009

29. What did you want and not get?
I really can't think. I've been infintely blessed.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
I can't think of one - I'm so busy watching ones from a way back that I tend to miss the current. I did enjoy The Hangover though - kept me guessing!

Going for the cheesiest guest award at Rich's 30th, June 2009

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was twenty-nine. I worked and was spoilt by my classes and colleagues. Then I went to the pub to enough a joint 124th birthday with three of my best girls. A great birthday.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A house that was slightly less temperamental! I love it, but it has its strops!

Having a tonne of fun in London with Christy, August 2009

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Pretty, comfortable, and with shiny where available.

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

Jessika and I, on the day I sold her. Party on, little buddy! August 2009

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?

The fact that we are going to have little to no choice when the election is called. A uniquely depressing state of affairs.

As if further evidence was needed that I'm a little loopy. And fond of purple. With Lou, February 2009

37. I have only just noticed that there is no 37....hmmmm....

38. Who was the best new person you met?
I've been lucky enough to meet many, many cool new people!

Relaxing with my lovely boy at my 'housewarming picnic', July 2009

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
Only you can set your agenda, so live with love and kindness, baby.

With some gorgeous girlies (l-r Amanda, Emily, Jo and I), Loverpool, May 2009

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"The one thing, the one thing, the one thing I know,

The one thing I know to be true,

I'll never, I'll never, wherever I go,

I'll never finish loving you"

(soppy, but true ;))

So there you have it! 2009 is winding down, and tomorrow it will be a new decade. So all that remains is for me to wish you all a very happy New Year! I hope your Hogmanay celebrations go well, and wish you all the very best for the year to come - here's to 2010!

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An update on "The List"

Two and a half years ago (and half a world away, it seems), I wrote this post. A list of ambitions, desires, hopes - the things I wanted to do, needed to try, hoped to happen over the next five years of my little life. And it's been a while since I updated, so I thought I'd fill you in on how it's going. I just sorted the list into five columns - the things I've done....the things that are ongoing....the things I'm hoping to do in 2010....the things I'm leaving until 2011/2012....and lastly, the things I've decided against. Just as some new ambitions have entered the fray, so some others have become less of a priority. The last two categories I'll post on another time. So without further ado, here's how the land lies - these are the things I've done, the ongoing things, and the goals for 2010!

The things I've DONE!

I would like to register myself with a doctor; I would like to register myself with a dentist; I would like to sing a solo in front of a BIG crowd; I would like to see at least two dozen gigs; I would like to go on the London Eye at night, and look out over the city; I would like to fall in love, really and truly and without any bs; I would like to learn how to apply liquid eyeliner; I would like to try abseiling; I would like to learn how to drive; I would like to visit Toronto; and Montreal; and Madrid; I would like to be featured on a CD (singer / handclaps / lyricist / whatever!) (I'm cheating slightly and counting our 'WHS Staff Band' CD here! I'd love to do something more professional too); I would like to have really long hair (past elbows); and pretty short hair; I would like to sort out my finances (they may never be gorgeous, or particularly impressive, but sorted they are); I would like to join ebay; I would like to visit the Houses of Parliament; I would like to have at least one thousand pounds saved for rainy days (one of the best things I've done. I love that feeling of safety, even when a bill that's surprising arrives); I would like to see an opera; I would like to be a bridesmaid (I swear, I want a teeshirt that says "I *heart* bridesmaiding. Too fun!); I would like to learn how to knit (and man, am I bad at it!); I would like to beat Peter in a game of badminton; I would like to get organised (just ask my class ;)).

Ongoing things
(I'm working on all of these, albeit at a snail's pace!)

I would like to take this blog to over 1,000 posts (I'm in the 570s); I would like to read the favourite books of all my friends (35% done!); I would like to write letters to all my heroes (I've written some, but to be fair, will this one ever finish?); I would like to watch all of the AFIs top 100 films (rather neatly 40/100 done - am determined to get at least 30 done this year! I could say 50-ish if I counted all the ones I've seen most of, but I want the whole experience!); I would like to learn about art;

I would like to raise some money for charity each year for the next five years.

The goals for 2010

I would like to register with an optician (I'm going to try and do this during my April holiday).

I would like to be able to make good pancakes (I could...and then I forgot! I'm going to work on this through the first few months of the year).

I would like to get back up to swimming 50 lengths in one go (I'm going to work up to achieving this by August).

I would like to try golf (Lou, can we go golfing in March, please?).

I would like to start playing flute again (I have found my flute. That's a major help! I'm going to try and have it fixed ready to get playing in May).

I would like to go ice skating (Londonites - who fancies some ice skating in January? I promise you I will be atrocious!).

I would like to drop another two dress sizes (when I typed this in 2007 I was a size 18-20, dreaming of size 16. Now I'm aiming for a size 14. This is a big goal for 2010!).

I would like to visit Amsterdam (Hannah and I are buying tickets to Amsterdam as belated birthday gifts to one another. I'm thinking July).

I would like to visit Rome (I would love to take Matthew to Rome!!).

I would like to read the whole Bible (I now have one of those 'Bible in a Year' books. I'm looking forward to diving in!).

I would like to attend a film premiere (I have no idea how to achieve this. But I'll don my thinking cap!).

I would like to design and produce a teeshirt (even if it's just for me and my girl Mlle Wilson!).

I would like to get into kite flying – loads of people have told me how fab it is! (I'm thinking autumn, up on Primrose Hill).

I would like to learn how to play a half-decent game of tennis (I'm going to treat myself to lessons in June).

I would like to act onstage again (like the film premiere, this one needs some planning!).

I would like to do work experience at a radio station (I'm going to mail some letters over Easter to try and secure a couple of days).

I would like to write a children’s book….even if it’s just for my class (Summer Holiday project - I'm going to make myself sit down and write for 2/3 hours a day, and see what I come up with!).

I would like to learn how to make crème brulee (thanks to Jenna's kind gift, this should be a doodle....or maybe not! ;)).

I would like to have a review published (if all else fails, on amazon!).

I would like to climb Scafell Pike (I'm planning this for the May half-term, just after Loverpool. Anyone else fancy it?).

I would like to climb Ben Nevis (hey Sian, Peter - sibling excursion 2010? Would anyone else like to join us?).

So that's how the list is going, and what I'm hoping to do in the next 12 months. What with that and RAoK365, it's going to be a fun and busy year!

What are your ambitions for next year, friends?

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The last few days of the year...

Isn't that kind of hard to believe?

2009 is almost done, and the noughties are nearly through. I'm not sure about this whole "end of a decade" malarkey though, I must say. Maybe it's because we can all remember the end of a millennium, but the end of a decade barely registered with me until I turned on the TV and saw a presenter getting very! excited! about! it!

But then I thought about it properly, and it's been a heck of a decade though really, hasn't it? Whether I look at it from a global perspective or a national one, in the lives of my friends and family, or at what's happened to me personally.

In the noughties I...

Made some of my best friends.

Was betrayed or let down or sold out by a few people (none of whom I know now, praise heaven).

Learned how to stick up for myself.

Was hurt more than I'd ever understood I could be. And come out the other side.

Gained a dress size or two!

Earned a degree...

...and a PGCE.

Found my vocation. Got my first proper job.

Grew up.

Realised how blessed I was.

Was confirmed, and became a committed Christian.

Flew transatlantic for the first time.

Started this blog!

Visited Paris, Madrid, Toronto, Montreal, Washington DC, Chapel Hill, Dallas, Houston, Niagara Falls, Nashville, and Lloret Del Mar!

Learned to drive and passed my driving test.

Lived in Aberdeen, Luxembourg, Durham, Forres, Evenley and London.

Stayed in a big hotel for the first time.

Cried at lots of weddings. And was a bridesmaid for the first time! :-)

Became a Joinee. And went to loads of Join Meets. And made still more ace friends.

Greeted so many beautiful little people as my friends started settling down.

Got my second job.

Bought a car. And sold a car.

Fell in love with a man I adore (and who's sat next to me on the train, reading as I write this on my iPhone!).

Learned to be happy.

Made mistakes, apologised, cried, laughed, smiled, loved...

Wow, when you look at it that way....quite a busy little decade! :D. How were your noughties?

Review of 09 coming up soon, as are my review if this years 'New Year's Ambitions' and the setting of some new ones! I hope everyone is having a lovely time betwixt Christmas and New Year's!

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I *heart* Christmas

Happy Boxing Day, all! I hope you had a lovely, lovely Christmas. Here in Leyton we had a relaxed and fabulous celebration. The first Christmas I've spent with Matthew, and a really special one. A Christmas full of joy and cuddles and champagne and snuggling up under a blanket on the couch and so many lovely gifts (thank you, lovelies!). And a shiny tree, and a giant Christmas meal, and watching Claire and Matthew friendly TV ('Dog The Bounty Hunter' and 'Father Ted', anyone?), and mince pies and port and twittering / texting / phone calling with loved ones to share messages of love, joy, and silly.

A blessed, relaxing, and replenishing day.


And now we are getting ready to head up to Matthew's parents (7 hour coach journey - oh my!), where he will get spoiled rotten by his mum and dad! Lucky boy. :-) And we will go for walks and have big sleeps (the beds up there are redonkulously comfy!) and read and plan and relax. And then back down to London for New Year's.

And then I need to get some work done! But until then, more r and r, I guess!

How was your Christmas, friends?

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An unexpected Christmas

Our tree and presents, earlier this evening

So, originally Matthew and I were heading up to my parents this evening, to spend Christmas in deepest darkest loveliest Forres.

However, some very wintry weather ensued, and the conclusion reached through many phone calls, lots of doublechecks, and endless refreshing of websites was that we would not fly north this evening, but rather stay here in London. We decided this last night.

Cue us conjuring Christmas in a day. Luckily I had stocked up, so a quick run to (the hellishly busy) Asda helped us top up the supplies. Also luckily, Matthew and I had been working on Fakemas presents for ages (we were going to have a Fakemas celebration next week) so we had some gifts already. And we both grabbed extra things last night and today.

So now we are getting ready for our first Christmas together, and it really is just the two of us. We have a tree, and champagne, and gifts, and a cosy house. It's not bad at all by all accounts. As sad as I will be to miss out on a family Christmas (Sian, Peter and I have Christmassed together for 24 or 22 years each!), I am quite looking forward to a chilled and happy day with my boy.

He's even said I can watch Dr Who on the big TV. :D

So as we prepare to enjoy our unexpected Christmas, I just wanted to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas. May your day be blessed and relaxed and fun, and full of all the beauty and joy you deserve. I look forward to hearing all about your celebrations in the days to come.

But for now, I am off to celebrate Christmas, starting in about five minutes with a bottle of champagne and some board games with my boy. Glorious times. :-)

Big love and warmest wishes to you all! Merry Christmas!

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(Belated) Happy birthday, little blog!

(One day late, because my iPhone couldn't connect properly on the train. And I was away all weekend)

Anyways, happy birthday, little blog! When I started you four years ago, I had no idea that I'd still be blogging now. The girl who struggled to keep a journal for more than a few weeks (I have countless notebooks in my room at home, filled dutifully with noted from Januarys or Septembers, which then peter out after a month, tops) seems finally to have found her outlet.

Here's to the next four!


Another lovely weekend away with Matthew - this time up to Newcastle. Snow and wine and meals and football and the longest sleep I have had in a long time (11 hours!). It's good to be on winter vacation.

Today, lots of housewifery approaches. We are having friends over for drinks and snacks tomorrow evening (where exactly we are going to put them, I'm not sure! Our house is pretty small! Ah well, it'll be cosy), so I need to tidy up the house, and make some cakes and stuff for that too.


Lots of review posts coming up over the next few days - 2009 has been a busy year! A year of changing jobs, moving homes, and falling in love. And now 2010 is just around the corner. I for one cannot wait to see what is around the corner for me and my friends. And all my blog buddies, of course!


It's Christmas on Friday. Who else is excited?


Right, time to get dressed, go do battle with the post office and the store, and then hit the chores. Have a lovely Monday, all!

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While watching Babe yesterday (and having a bit of a weep), I was reminded of a beautiful piece of music that I tend to listen to every Christmas, but which I hadn't made time for yet. Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine never fails to move me. To stir me. To remind me of the fragile, beautiful, transitory yet permanent wonderfulness that surrounds us. If you have a spare six minutes, you are in for a treat.

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PS In other news, I am now on Christmas break! I have a hamper full of goodies and a parcelful of free time to tuck into! :-)

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What made me cry today...

....in a good way.

Good heavens, I had forgotten what an awesome movie Babe is! I had a little weep at the end. I always do! Watched it with the boys, who all loved it too!

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A lesson in lonely

Do you ever have one of those days / evenings / events where you feel like you've stepped in a time machine, back to a sadder, more lonely place?

I did yesterday.

I went to an event (which was beautifully organised and executed and I think everyone else there had a lovely, lovely time) and I sat there at dinner, surrounded by people, feeling utterly, totally alone.

And not in a good way.

I mean, I like being alone, when there's a sense of volition and choice to it. I like time to think, or relax, or read, or pray, or just be. But in amongst a crowd? That's not alone, that's lonely. I tried and tried to get involved with the conversations around me (and I think anyone who's every spent more than five minutes with me will find the fact that I couldn't rather astonishing. Not for nothing was one of my childhood nicknames Little Miss Chatterbox), but after a few block outs, I just gave up. At one point I sat there on the corner of the table, not talking to a soul, for a good half hour.

And I thought back to other times where I've felt that left out. Back when I was at boarding school and the popular girls would choose someone to shun at breakfast that week. When I first arrived at Forres and felt so clumsy and new and odd...everyone seemed to know each other so well. At a social event I went to earlier this year where a bunch of people decided to leave me standing all alone rather than invite me to join their table. The feeling always passes, but isn't it a little soul-destroying, feeling you're on the outside?

So I left, earlier even than I was planning to, and managed to get out of the restaurant before the tears came. Tears of frustration, and sadness, and with a healthy whack of self-pity mixed in.

And then I went Claire on it. Because I realise the reason this affected me so much (even at the grand old age of 29) is because it's exceptionally rare that I do feel left out. I am almost constantly surrounded by people who I love, and who love me (faults and all). In my family, and my friends, and Matthew, and the Joinees, and my blog-friends, and my pupils, I have such a wealth of warmth and support, that to feel outside of things is an alien experience.

How lucky am I?

I am so grateful for the lesson that a few hours of loneliness taught me last night. It reminded me anew how blessed I am, and made me thankful once more for the friendship, love, and kindness which is woven into my every day. It made me feel heart sorry for people who don't have the luxury of loneliness being a passing thing - I truly hope that everyone has someone who takes that away for them (or even better, a bunch of people).

And as I arrived home to a big cuddle from my boy, a gift from an old friend, a lovely card from an even older friend, a Christmas card from a new friend and texts and emails from friends various, I said thank you once again. Because for me, this was just a bad evening in what is a very good, and fortunate, and blessed life.

I love when I learn things.

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A Christmas Meme

My lovely friend Jess emailed me this meme, and as I was feeling Christmassy, I thought I would give it a whirl....do feel free to pinch it if you like it!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Oh, both, please! My stationery addiction becomes even more pronounced at this time of year, so any excuse to break out the ribbons, tags and paper is a grand one!

2. Real tree or Artificial? I have the same cheapo fake one I bought four years ago. It's ghettotacular, and I love it!

3. When do you put up the tree? November 25th, put up to a soundtrack of Christmas songs, drinking mulled wine and eating mince pies.

4. When do you take the tree down? By January 6th. First of all, it's tradition. Second of all, it's usually about when I go back to school.

5. Do you like eggnog? Never tried it, but I do love an eggnog latte! And Jenna had some amazing looking eggnog pancakes at IHOP!

6. Favorite (or most memorable) gift received as a child? My Raleigh Bluebird bike!

7. Hardest person to buy for? My mum and dad are a nightmare to buy for! But I think I've got it sorted this year!

8. Easiest person/s to buy for? Possibly Matthew (he's such fun to spoil), and also my girlfriends, and wee folk. I love buying presents!

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Not yet. My marmee has a beautiful one though!

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail if at all possible - I'm a little behind this year though! I also try to check in by email too, it's a lovely time of year to catch up with folk!

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I honestly don't recall!

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Muppets Christmas Carol! I just shared it with my class - it's such a great movie!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? If I see nice things earlier in the year I'll pick them up, other than that it's probably from October.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Not in a regift way, although I have passed on things I can't or don't use to friends or siblings (par example things I don't eat or drink, earrings I can't wear (ears not pierced), or books and suchlike which are duplicates).

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce sandwiches. Nom nom nom!

1 6. What do you want for Christmas? Good things for all those people I love and care about, and time with friends, family, and Matthew badger, please.

17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night, Once In Royal David's City, Christmas Wrapping, Fairytale of New York, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and many others...

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Traveling in order to stay at home!

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Dasher, Donner, Blitzen, Prancer, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Vixen, Rudolph. That's nine, right? OK, I deleted Jess's answers ahead of this but I still got them all...that's my primary tecahing skillz for you!

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Fluffy little golden angel

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning. This year, however, I'll be opening most of my gifts on January 1st, when Matthew and I will be celebrating Fakemas - I can't take my gifts home to Scotland.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? When double- or triple-bookings occur. My kingdom for some more time!

23. Favorite ornament, theme, or color? Red/green/gold, with a splash of silver or white. I'm a traditional kind of girl.

24. Favorite for Christmas Dinner? Turkey and all the trimmings, please.

25. What do you want to do for Christmas this year? Relax, and eat a lot! Oh, and have snuggles with my boy.

26. Who is most likely to respond to this ? Anyone who would like to!

Right, time to go do something creative with paper chains!

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Now we are 29...

This week has been busy as ever (one day I will shock everyone and start a post with "Oh, it's been so relaxed around here! Nothing doing, really." ;)), not least because on Thursday I celebrated my birthday! Yep, I am now the fabulous age of 29, which many of my co-workers assure me is a cracking age. Maybe I'll pause here for a few years, haha.

Last year's birthday, as I have mentioned before, was not terrifically good. A 14 hour work day and being hundreds of miles away from Matthew, my family, and most of my friends, really made for a day of the blues. This year was oh so very different!

On Wednesday Matthew and I went out for dinner (we did toy with the idea of somewhere classy, but ended up opting for Gourmet Burger Kitchen!), then came home to drink pink champagne! I was then allowed to open my gifts - as ever, I was spoiled rotten by my boy!

On Thursday I awoke to pain au chocolat and coffee (om nom nom), which I made before heading off to school. Where the festivities continued. Oh my boys were so sweet! They'd made me cards and gotten me gifts and were generally far too excited for my birthday. My form are such kind and caring boys! Sure, they are also clever and determined and talented, but I think it's the kind and caring I love the most! All day people were nice to me, and even my trickier English class sang me 'Happy Birthday' when I arrived. Such a fun and silly workday!

After school, a glass of wine with some colleagues, and then I headed into town to meet up with some Joinees for birthday drinks! Four of us (Kate, Cheryl and Anna, and me) all celebrate our birthdays around this time, so we decided to share and have a 124th birthday! An evening of wine and cards and gifts and silly...just the ideal celebration.

And now, I'm 29. And it's nearly Christmas. Exciting, huh?

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Monday Monday

Monday morning always seems to creep up on me. Don’t you find that? One minute you’re zooming through the weekend, and then suddenly it’s bedtime Sunday (always a little later than planned, as the shift from weekend night to weekday night struggles to kick in), and then it’s Monday morning!

The Monday, here, of our penultimate week of term. I can hardly believe I’ve almost done my first term at my ‘new’ school … on the other hand I feel like I’ve been working there forever! Schools have a habit of doing that, I find – they are so all-consuming that you tend to get dragged in fast! But I’m happy – I love my class; my colleagues are a riot, as well as being inspiring and talented teachers; and I love the hours – losing that Saturday morning and the boarding duty has not only improved my quality of life…it’s made me a better teacher, because that’s time I can spend on planning, research, marking, or often just giving my brain a bit of a break.

I’m loving being in London for the run up to Christmas too – pretty lights and busy shops and celebrations left right and centre. I’m looking forward to my birthday drinks later this week (I’m having a 124th birthday as I’m sharing with three other friends!) – after the slightly lonely birthday I had last year (ah, living in the middle of nowhere…) it will be great to be surrounded by friends and my lovely boy instead.

The Christmas prep continues apace – I am so behind on cards (after a flurry of effort to get the international ones out on time!), so am planning to plonk myself down with a mug of mulled wine at least twice this week to get them sorted! Christmas itself should be lovely, time with my family and Matthew’s family, and New Years and Fakemas should be suitably chilled.

How are all your preparations going, lovelies?

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A flying post

December is my favourite month, but each year I am slightly floored by just how busy it can be! As I type I am back from a weekend in Bristol, full of cake and tea and karoeke and doing the running man in celebration for the 30th birthday of the gorgeous Mlle Wilson (love you, chica! Great party!). This in addition to two weekends in Scotland in the preceding weeks. It's been full on!

Work has been busy too, and the boys are all now really, really, REALLY excited about Christmas. As am I. Add to that planning for the travels later this month, and a birthday this week, and it's all a bit frenetic, really!

How are you all doing?

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A new project for 2010...

Taking RAoKing up a notch (I wanted to get back into it with gusto!).

Details here: http://raok365.blogspot.com/

Please join us as we try and bring a little more kindness to the proceedings.

Love to you all as ever - more news soon!

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(and also a day late ;))

I kind of love Thanksgiving, even though here in the UK it passes by pretty much unnoticed. What can I say, having American grandparents makes me feel a kinship with the festival! I also think it's an important time to focus, and truly be thankful for what we have. In my classes this week, my boys and I have been writing about what we are thankful for, and their pieces are so sweet and thoughtful.

As for me...

....I am all too aware that I have about eleventy million things to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for living in the current time, in the place where I live. A time where I'm free to learn and live and worship as I wish to, in a place which is relatively safe, a land of plenty. I'm also so thankful to be living in London - this time a year ago this seemed like an impossible dream!

I am thankful for my health and my passions. I am thankful that every day I wake up and there is always some fun on the horizon, or a challenge to meet, or something to do.

I am thankful for Matthew, a man who loves me despite my many flaws and foibles. A man who is clever and kind and handsome and giving, who brings me lemsip when I'm ill, who has a never ending supply of cuddles, and who brightens my every day. There was a time where I'd all but given up on ever finding someone to love who would love me, and I am so thankful that somehow I found my badger.

I am thankful for my family. We may be quirky, and heaven knows we have had some tough times, but I love my family to pieces. I am so thankful for the time we spend together, and for the letters, emails, texts and calls that keep us caught up across the miles.

I am thankful for my friends. I am so very blessed to have a cast of such awesomeness around me, and love the beauty, love and wonderfulness they bring to my life. Few girls can be as lucky as I, surely? :-) My friends give so much joy to me - I can only hope that I am anywhere near as positive an influence in their lives.

I am thankful for my job, and my lovely class of boys. How fortunate to have a job which makes me laugh, stretches me intellectually, makes me think, and keeps me on my toes. I love coming to work (even if I don't always love the 6 am alarm!). I know how lucky I am.

And I am thankful for myriad other things too....I am thankful for cups of coffee, for long cool drinks, for healthy nourishing food. I am thankful for afternoon naps and late night chats and still mornings. I am thankful for books and music and film. I am thankful for daydreams, and time to bake cupcakes, and the month of December. I am thankful for blogging, and new pyjamas, and Stephen Fry. I am thankful for The Daily Show and Christmas and Lego. I am thankful for Sam cat and Dave the tree and tomorrow.

And last, but not least, I am thankful for you guys - anyone who's ever read my blog, or emailed me, or commented. What a wonderful thing, to create this web of friends and bloggers, over continents and oceans.

(Belated) Happy Thanksgiving!

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That kind of sums it up.

The pace of life has ramped up yet another notch, but as ever I am not complaining – time spent with friends and family, plans afoot for the festive season, busy times at school. It’s a bit difficult to make blogging a priority though, so forgive me if my posts are a little scattered – there are points in the next month when I’ll have tons of time, and others where sleep and actual meals are likely to feel like distant strangers!

The last few days have been a case in point. Last Friday was a mental day at school, and then Matthew and I headed over to Hammersmith to watch a gig by Rhod Gilbert, a really bitter and funny Welsh comic. The gig was great, although my tiredness did get the better of me…I fell asleep just into the second act! I think my brain just thought “okay, I’ve had a beer, I’m all cosy, giving Matthew a cuddle and then zzzzz……”. Highly amusing.

Saturday started early, at 5 a.m., with a cab to Luton airport, then a flight to Inverness. Yep, Matthew and I were off for a weekend in the Highlands! We popped into my parents for tea and soup (what a novelty to “pop in”! Being hundreds of miles away often precludes the chance of nipping round for a drink!). Then we donned our gladrags and sped off across the Highlands to Ballater. I don’t know if you’ve ever driven across the Cairngorms, from Forres to Royal Deeside, but it’s thrilling stuff. Matthew had a ball driving up and down big hills and round crazy bends!

We were heading to Ballater for the wedding of my lovely friends, Simon and Nicole. It was an absolutely beautiful wedding, and as is my wont, I had a good old blub! I also had a girly moment of panic which Matthew dealt with brilliantly – I think the fact that the bride had *exactly* the same birthday as me (10/12/80) combined with extreme tiredness to give me a slight “eek-why-am-I-not-married!” crisis! Most unlike me, and luckily easily solved with chat, cuddles, red wine, and ceilidh dancing. Lord, how I love to ceilidh!

Sunday morning, big breakfast, then back up the road to Forres for lunch with the parents, and to chat with my brother Peter too, who popped home for the weekend and was full of tales from Aberdeen. Good stuff – I can’t wait to catch up with them all again at Christmas. Then back to Inverness to fly back. Once we arrived at Gatwick Matthew headed back home to build furniture (he’s such a builder, my boy!), and I waited…

…because my gorgeous friend Shona was due in 90 minutes after me! She’s one of my dearest friends and I’ve been dying to see her, so I was so glad to give her a great big Claire hug! We chatted all the way from Gatwick to Leyton – I think it’s really lucky Matthew wasn’t with us actually, because he would have been bored stiff while we gossiped! Home, pizzas, chat, bed.

Monday I was up and at ‘em, and off to school. Monday is always a blur, because it’s just stuffed with work to do. So I put my head down and got on with it. Because at 5 I headed over to Wembley to check into a hotel with Shona. Because we were going to see Taylor Swift! And it was a brilliant, brilliant gig!

Tuesday was a day of relative rest, work and tv, chores and sleep. And today has been busy and good. But now I have to close, because it’s time to head home and put Dave the Christmas tree up. I’m excited, we have mulled wine and mince pies and Christmas music….

‘Tis the season!

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PS Have you seen Taylor Swift's rap yet? It's immense!
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November Rain...

....has nothing to do with this post. But I just wanted to give you an earworm. Although bizarrely the earworm I have is not 'November Rain', but rather 'Purple Rain'. Love that song.

Anyways, on with the blogging.

I knew the second half of November would be busy, but man, it's hitting hard right now. In a good way though - lots of busy things and fun things and silly things in amongst the more difficult and challenging stuff. And the march to Christmas is on in earnest...I got my first card yesterday (thanks, Nicole F!). I mailed my international cards today (I say "I"...I mean "Matthew" - thank you baby!), next week it's international pressies, then UK cards, then UK gifts. Way to fund Royal Mail, right?

I've got an awful lot of my gifts sorted, and many of them wrapped (the shelves of our study are groaning with goodies just waiting for bows to be placed on them once we have a tree they can go under!). Still a few things to but though - mainly for Matthew, the wee folk, and Matthew and my families. Matthew and I will just be exchanging one gift on Christmas, but on January 2nd we'll be having our onw little 'Fakemas' for just us two. This celebration we concocted last year because we were apart for the celebrations...this year we're doing it because as lovely as it will be to celebrate with our families on and around Christmas, it's great to have a little celebration just for us. Only one question - do we have a roast for dinner, or brinner? I am veering towards brinner, I must say.

Next Wednesday, I get to put up my tree (Dave). This year I'm finally going to retire all the tattier baubles I have from my student days and just use the ones I've built up since - I have some beautiful ones now! I add one, two, or three each year - this year I have a lone star of Texas to add, a beautiful red and gold star that Matthew loved, and a merlot bottle ornament (Jenna and I got matching ones to celebrate our red wine fun times!). I love my tree.

Well, much to do as ever. Work is proving a bit butt-kicky this week, and with a dinner, a comedy gig, and a Highland wedding to attend in the next few days, I have plenty to keep me busy! Good times.

Hope your week is proving fabulous!

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Perks of the job...

I make no bones about the fact that I love, lurve, L.O.V.E. my job. Being a teacher fits me to a tee, and I am all too aware how blessed I am to work in a field I enjoy, with (to paraphrase the current teaching adverts) "the most interesting people on the planet." I have such fun each day with my boys, and teaching them is never anything less than a privelege.

It's also a job with many, many perks, so of which you may know about, some of which you may not. Some of which I'll share...

I get asked some really interesting questions each and every day, and I love the challenge of helping my boys make sense of the world. Already today I've had to answer questions on concentration camps, safety helmets, snow, cookies and badgers...and already on the slate for later are the English Civil War, triskaidekaphobia, and the Premier League.

Birthdays (and other festivals) are a big deal. Just today we had one boy doing the birthday dance as we sang to him, and we all had Krispy Kremes to celebrate!

I get to see directly the effects of my work. When someone "gets" how to do a calculation, or writes a story, or spells a word, or remembers an event, I get that wonderful glowy feeling because I helped. I love being able to see directly the effects of what I do. I may not make anything tangible, but I love that I can see differences and changes...

The holidays! One of my colleagues called teaching a Jekyll and Hyde profession last week, and she's entirely correct. During termtime I work hard - late nights, school events, often through weekends when reports are due or deadlines up. Bu then I do get 17 weeks of holiday (roughly half of which I do some work on, but still...it's often work in pyjamas...).

I get to keep learning. Just today a package arrived full of senior maths books for me to work through (my subject knowledge is sound, but I want to *know* everything I knew at 16, solidly and confidently, every time). I make myself go to events and talks so I can go and pass things on to my gang - last night I attended a talk by Salman Rushdie (fascinating!) and now have stories to share with the gang.

And lastly and perhaps most importantly....we have fun. Lots of it! Because learning is fun. And eight-year-old to nine-year-old kids are fun. Whether we're doing algebra, or watching a snippet from the Muppets, or exploring the journeys of Captain James Cook, or discussing anger management, or planning a class party....we are pretty much always having a ball doing so!

Long may it continue, say I!

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My new pyjamas

My new pyjamas are comfy and cosy.

Red flannel plaid trousers, cute red tee.

The kind of pyjamas which make you want to clear your schedule, and make some time for some R&R.

They cry out for hot chocolate, cuddles, chickflicks, sausage sandwiches and re-runs of Scrubs.

Which is why I'm writing this post about them, rather than something deep or funny or insightful.

The siren song of the pyjamas is calling me back to bed, or at the very least, to the couch.

In a world of busy-ness, and work, and Christmas preparation, and marking, and school events, and party planning, and whizz whizz whizz, they demand a lull, and some toast, and a good book.

Roll on 6pm and the end of the day, say I....because I've got a hot date with my new pyjamas when I get home.

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Waffle Monday!

By this point in November, I don't know about you, but my hibernation instinct is kicking in *strong*. As excited as I always am to get to work and have a ball with the Thornleyites, actually getting out of bed becomes a bit of a struggle.

A shuffly, shifty, wiggly, feels-like-there-are-weights-in-my-PJs kind of struggle...

But I made it.


Part of the incentive today was the fact that Matthew and I have decided that today should be (*small drumroll please*) Waffle Monday! For no other reason than we really like waffles. So this morning for breakfast we had sweet waffles with fruit and cream (my mouth is watering just typing that...), and tonight Matthew is making us fish fingers, potato waffles, and beans (haha, that's such a kid's tea! Love it!). Little bits of silly like that make me smile.

My weekend, as well as fireworky, involved a lot of Christmas prep. 42 international cards are written and most of them are stamped, ready to go out late next week. A few others are ready to be slipped in with gifts. Some UK gifts are beuatifully wrapped and ribboned (well, fairly beautifully - I'm improving every year but am still far from Martha!). Many, many, many gifts have been ordered from Amazon - I'm down to the last couple of dozen now. I'm officially excited and enjoying my elf duties.

This week is busy and awesome, but I will be sure to keep you posted. What do you have planned?

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Fizz. Bang. Oooooooh. Shiny.

Fireworks night is one of my favourite parts of autumn.... Hallowe'en I quite like, but the thrills of fireworks night get me every time. Isn't it strange that something that commemorates something so horrid and scary and dark and political has turned into such a festive occasion. Poor Guido Fawkes and his attempt to blow up parliament...

I was lucky enough to go to two fireworks displays this year (which also equals double portions of chilli and mulled wine - yummers!). On Friday Matthew headed up to north west London to meet me and we headed off to the school display. It was really lovely! I really enjoyed seeing all the boys in their play clothes - they looked delightfully off-duty! Lots of giggling and running around and eating candyfloss. Oh, and the kids enjoyed it too!

Last night Matthew was away (ah, football - during the season I do share my beloved a little. With Newcastle and the Spartans!), so I headed solo down to South London for a gathering my friends Ben and Cheryl had put together. A couple of dozen folk gathered to watch the (awesome!) fireworks at Blackheath, and we then headed back to Ben and Cheryl's for chilli, mulled wine, nachos and chat. It was so great to catch up with people and the whole evening was positively laden with comedy! I wound up having a conversation about ducks, hearing about peoples jobs and new jobs, and also managed to fall over completely on the packed train home! Without injuring anyone!

So now it is more or less a clear run to Christmas (I will be teaching about Thanksgiving, but we don't mark it here, naturally). I have bought tonnes of gifts online and they are starting to arrive - I'd better get wrapping soon - the internationals need to be gone in a little while...

How has your weekend been?

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Glitter amongst the grit

So we are back with a bump to the rigmarole of termtime, and as I write I have a to do list that is almost as lone as I am tall. No matter, those of you who know me well know I believe in taking a break in amongst the madness, a little five minutes or more to centre and relax, and these little moments become like pieces of glitter in amongst the grit, like pinprick stars scattered all around me. They feed my soul, revive my spirit, and leave me better armed to be the kind of friend, daughter, sister, girlfriend, teacher, blogger, child of God, Joinee and person I want to be.

Having these moments to stop and stare also help me to just stop and think and be grateful for the other pieces of glitter that fill my life so abundantly, the precious moments, the silly smiles, the simple pleasures, the beautiful things, the happy times. Some recent examples...

A wonderful evening with friends last night, just ideal. Tea and chat and hugs and just loving on one another. When I left work at a quarter to six last night I was beaten, just so very tired, and I really had to rally to jump on the tube and make the busy journey up to Seven Sisters. But when I left at ten I felt revived and replenished in a way so much more than any early night could have hoped to achieve.

Cups of tea, my favourite snack in the world.

Going to my pigeonhole every few days or so and finding another package has arrived, containing a Christmas goodie I'm longing to wrap up for a loved one.

Brinner. Mmmmmm, brinner.

Thursday Communion. Simple, unfussy, private and quite beautiful.

Knowing that on Sunday I have nothing planned but working, napping, and relaxing.

Going to Oxford Street to see the lights go on, then having big chats over glasses of red.

An extra cuddle in the morning.

Walking around John Lewis and seeing so many pretty things to gift. I may go there late and buy some things, along with some pretty paper to wrap them with.

Looking at the calendar and realising this time in 7 weeks it's one of my favourite days of the year...Christmas Eve.

When parents take the time to email or catch me in person and give me some feedback on how I'm doing. I love being part of the school-home team, and I think its incredibly positive for the boys to know there's a link and communication there.

Eating hot chips on a cold November night, using one of those little wooden forks.

A diary full of fun and loveliness.

Fireworks streaming the sky.

Having time to read the blogs of people I care for.

The smell of mulled wine.

I do so love the glitter...

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London-Houston-Dallas-London, Part 2

(time for some photos...more to follow once I've checked I can nick them from Jenna, Heidi, Emma et al.!)

All dressed up and ready to bridesmaid - so glad we were there in plenty of time!

Setting the stage, Chris and Peter await the rest of the party!

Walking down the aisle (I think I was mentally chanting "don't fall...don't fall....don't trip", lol)

Jenna, we're all ready for you!

The happy couple. :-)

This pic really sums up the wedding for me - sweet, funny, intimate - gorgeous.

Mr and Mrs! :D

Nathan and I, ready to hit the keg and the barbeque!

Am I the goofiest bridesmaid ever? Hee.

With the beautiful Jenna and the gorgeous Heidi (with the lovely Emma taking the picture!)

Jenna by the creek. In her gown!

Mmmmmmm, Shiner Bock!

My handsome boy, playing it cool. <3

The uber van! I swear, I felt like a member of the A-Team!

Matthew and I were amused to find a billboard for Newcastle Brown Ale in Dallas. Geordies for the win!

Reunion Tower, Dallas. Really high up, actually!

Mmmmmmmmm....festive holiday pancakes!

Hope you've enjoyed the visuals! Such a fun trip!

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