2011: The Review

This review is becoming something of a yearly tradition....you can find the reviews for 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 by clicking through! It's always nice to take stock at the end of a year and see what's happened over the last 12 months.

This year has been a funny one. While I continued more or less on my normal Claire even keel, and there have been some lovely moments (trips away to Edinburgh and Mogan and Amsterdam, lots of girldates, fun etc.), in all honesty I've often felt a little low, worn out, and sad. I now know that a lot of this was down to illness and migraines, but I hope in 2012 I can look after myself a little better and have a happier year. I am so grateful to be ending the year feeling stronger and happier and hope this positivity will spread out and permeate the whole of 2012. I want to get back to being that smiley girl in the 2010 post! So 2011 will have to be the real year...hopefully the review of 2012 will be fabulous! Lots to celebrate this year, but plenty to learn from and grow from too.

I also feel I should also say that as ever I am aware that I am a very lucky girl, and please believe me when I say I am so grateful for my life, my job, my health, my friends, my family, my boyfriend, my home....especially in such tumultuous times. It's just that this year has been an odd one and I don't feel like glossing over the fact that I've found it harder than usual. I hope this all makes sense and I don't come over like an ungracious wretch.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?

I walked a marathon, and raised/helped to raise a lot of money for charities. Both of these were amazing positives in the year.

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions and will you make more for next year?

Meh....I did okay with them, but next year I am going to kick my NYA's* butts!

*NYA = New years' ambitions. More on these very soon :)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yep. Woo, babies!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thank heavens.

5. What countries did you visit?

Scotland, Holland, and Spain (the Canary Islands).

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

Better self-esteem, more confidence, and bags of my usual Thornley positivity and energy!

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Cannot recall a day that sticks out. There have been some lovely weddings and some great girldates though!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Probably completing the Moonwalk.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Hard to call.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Migraines, tummy bugs, chest infections, but nothing more serious, thank heavens. Still left me feeling a bit wrecked however, and I'm so grateful that I seem to have turned a corner in the last week and a bit!

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Probably the book The Hunger Games. Such a brilliant read.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

My lovely boys on our away days. They were so good!

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

My own, at times.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Rent! Ah, London.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Christmas, as ever!

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?

Either Gaga:

Or Glee!

Hip to the core, that's me.

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

Still happy, but could be happier (but ready to work on this), exactly the same size (albeit having lost over a stone and put it back on), a little richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Exercising, reading, spending time with friends.

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

Worrying being ill, watching bad TV.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Quietly at home with the lovely Matthew.

21. Did you meet/date anyone special in 2011?

Matthew and I celebrated 3 years together in September.

No 22 or 23...hmmm!

24. What was your favourite TV program?

Pan Am, How I Met Your Mother, Downton Abbey.

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?

Both The Hunger Games and A Game of Thrones were delicious, and Learn Me Good and its sequel Learn Me Gooder made me laugh and laugh!

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I haven't listened to enough new music to call this one! Must fix this in 2012.

28. What did you want and get?

I'm a lucky girl. I have many things....

29. What did you want and not get?

...but there are a few things I'd like.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?

Bridesmaids was magnificent. I went to see it twice at the movies!

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 31 and spent the day volunteering before heading home for fish and chips and falling into bed by ten. As I said, I've been pretty run down!

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Feeling more like me, and less disconnected.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Is 'whatever' a concept? I've continued in my normal comfy and pretty clothing vibe - lots of M&S. Debenhams and Boden.

34. What kept you sane?

The people I love. And this blog, in all honesty (thank you as ever for reading, commenting etc.).

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

George Clooney, David Tennant, and Dave Grohl.

(no change again!)

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

How on earth we fix things...

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

38. Who was the best new person you met?

My lovely new class of badgers. They are awesomesauce!

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

Be brave.

Oh, and know that sometimes friends grow apart....but the keepers are worth the effort of keeping up with, no matter the distance or the changes in lifestyle! I really am so blessed to have my best girlies.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"There's nothin' wrong with lovin' who you are
She said, 'cause He made you perfect, babe
So hold your head up, girl and you you'll go far
Listen to me when I say

I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way, born this way"

Gaga for the win.

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A fishy tale....

As one of his Christmas gifts I took Matthew to the Sealife Aquarium here in London. We had a good time spotting lots of different species and managed not to get too caught up in the post-Christmas crowds. It was pretty good fun, and it was cool to see so many beautiful creatures up close. I even managed to remember to take some pictures (are you proud? ;)).

These little guys would follow along the side of the glass (keeping well out of the way of the bigger fish!).


These rainforest fish were really big and sparkly.

This seahorse was beautiful, and unfurled himself so I could snap a picture of his pretty profile!


The coral reef was so pretty, and the kids who were visiting at the same time as us all went wild. "Nemo! Nemo! NEMO!!!!!"

Guppies and their fry - Matthew used to keep guppies when he was wee so he knew all kinds of fascinating facts!

Rush hour, evidently!

Friendly lobster.

All in all, a fun afternoon out before Matthew headed back to work.

Question du jour: What is your favourite kind of fish or sea creature?

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Things I Like Thursday

As I enjoy doing this list so much each Thursday I have restarted the linky that goes with it (see below). I'd love to know what's making you smile each week!

1. Post Christmas determination.

2. Pondering my New Years' Ambitions.

3. Writing thank you notes for all the kindnesses extended to me during the season of birthday, end of term and Christmas.

4. Feeling so much better after a good long chat about my headaches (which it turns out are migraines!). Now I know what they are it will be so much easier to manage!

5. New term on the horizon....but not yet breaking down the door!

6. Yet more fabulous news on the grapevine. My friends sure like to keep fb and twitter busy! ;)

7. A day and evening of champagne, afternoon tea and chickflicks with the lovely Hannah today.

8. The Boden winter sale...and some birthday money from my parents to spend in it!

9. Planning fun with Eileen, Naomi, Shona....

10. The Downton Abbey Christmas special. Words fail me, so an emoticon will have to do: :D

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"What are you good at, Miss Thornley?"

Ah, the directness of the eight year old. All question, no fluff. I paused and looked at him quizically, and I saw him rethink the query and try it again, like a pilot trying a landing for a second time, all concentration and nerves.

"I mean, what are your talents? What do you do that you love to do and that you are good at? I know you like teaching and I like your lessons, but what else do you do?"


I don't often think about my talents, truth be told.

I spend a great deal of time thinking, worrying, obsessing over what I cannot do (run, sew a hem, wire a plug, are the tip of that particular iceberg, in case you're wondering!), but it's been a good long time since I sat down and focused on what it is I can do. After all, if someone as eternally cool as the divine Maya Angelou can say "I believe that every person is born with talent," it's surely a thing worth pondering. And in this season of contemplation, as the embers of the old year die out ready for the approach of the new, it seems the perfect thing to do.

So (teeny tiny drum roll, please), here are what I think are my talents.

I can make good cupcakes. Sugary and silly and ultimately very homemade looking, but yummy.

I can read stories well (this entry is 4T approved).

I can write interesting newsy letters and make decent care packages.

I can sing, not in a showstopping way, but in a 'hey, she can carry a tune' way.

I have an encyclopedic knowledge of cheesy pop and 1990s/2000s teen movies.

I think I'm a pretty good hostess, in a mumsy sort of way.

I can walk a long way.

I can keep secrets well.

I give good hugs.

I can forgive.

I can make children feel at ease, and I can teach them and listen to them and encourage them.

I can dance the 'Saturday Night' dance with real panache.

So, lovelies, what are your talents? I'd love to find out.

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Pictures that make me smile...20

Big Christmassy-New-Years hugs to you all!

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Our Cosy Christmas

Christmas here in the badger sett was very chilled.

Lots of fun, lots of food, lots of cuddles. Very little stress or dashing about. It was goooood.

I felt thoroughly spoiled and scored load sof lovely gifts - thank you to my lovely family, friends and badger for hooking me up so comprehensively! I tend to be more about the giving than the getting, but was still thrilled to scoop a lovely necklace, my favourite shower stuff, an awesome calendar, books and CDs and a 30 Rock box set. Nice!

Phone calls with family, Downton Abbey, and an amazing midday nap really rounded out the proceedings...

Some photos from our Christmas á deux:

This is the point where we actually went to bed last night...I actually lay awake until almost three! I still get very excited on Christmas Eve!

Early in the morning I dashed into the sitting room to see if Santa and the reindeer had enjoyed their treats. Yep! Who knew that reindeer enjoyed tomatoes?

Santa and friends had left some very exciting looking stockings!

The reason for the season. :-)

Dave the tree twinkled over proceedings.

So many presents! We are a very lucky pair.

Mmmmm, time for a festive cuppa!

Matthew's gift pile!

Best. Giftbag. Ever.

The table all set for breakfast. We ate soooo much yesterday!

Christmas dinner by candlelight. No, I didn't manage to finish it all. Yes, I blooming love sprouts.

A festive G&T!

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and that your Boxing Day is full of fun!

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Merry Christmas!

From our home to yours, warmest wishes for a day and season full of love, laughter, blessings and good things. Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Merry Christmas Eve!

It's Christmas Eve, my favourite day of the year. Dave the tree is all shiny and has lots of exciting packages beneath him. Stockings are hung on the side of the sofa with care....no chimney in our flat! Cupboards are full and we are ready for a fun, chilled Christmas day and post Christmas-day-season...

Wherever you are, I wish you the very happiest of Christmases, full of joy and fun and love. Looking forward to reading all about it on the other side.

To close, here are five snippets from our Christmas Eve playlist....enjoy!

Only at Christmas Time - Sufjan Stevens

Baby, It's Cold Outside - Brian Seltzer and Ann-Magret

'Zat You, Santa Claus - Louis Armstrong

Do They Know It's Christmas - Band Aid

Mary's Boy Child - Harry Connick Jr.

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The Pinterest addiction is strong in this one, no?

From jengrantmorris.blogspot.com

Such a clever idea....old Pringles packs for Christmas cookies. Pinterest people are SMART.

From nedesignbuild.com

A tomato cage festooned with lights. How pretty would this look outside a house?

From talkcraftytome.com

More handmade delights....Christmas 2012 may get a little crafty!

Grinch pills - HA!

From google.com

So cute!

From goodhousekeeping.com

I swear, I could have a board entitled '101 ways to use peppermint sweets/canes to decorate a holiday table'.

From infobarrel.com

If we had a big Christmas, I'd love to do a centrepiece like this :)

From a-personaltouch.blogspot.com

I may do these for my form next year.

From houzz.com

Jaw-droppingly pretty.

From natalieskillercuisine.com

Can you imagine the delicious crunchiness?

From camillaathome.blogspot.com

Love those stars.

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Things I Like Thursday

1. A change in priorities.

2. Getting started on back to school prep (a half hour here, a half hour there...).

3. Turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches.

4. Last week's one good piece of news now unfolding into three wonderful pieces of news for three ladies I love very much...very different good things, but all very welcome too!

5. Long winter's naps.

6. Twinkling lights on the tree and candles burning low.

7. Time to plan and think and read.

8. Shopping for new school clothes.

9. Curling up on the sofa to watch the darts.

10. Long hot showers followed by cosy new pyjamas.

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Quotes of the day

The most wonderful time of the year...

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."

~Norman Vincent Peale

"I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. "

~Charles Dickens

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time."

~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Love came down at Christ
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.

~ Christina Rossetti

"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly."

~Andy Rooney

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Blogoversary :)

Happy birthday, little blog! This time six years ago I wrote this:


My name is Claire.

I am in my twenties and I live in the back of beyond, UK, teaching a bunch of adorable yet demanding seven year olds.

This is my latest blog...and the one I'm going to try and stick with.

This is where I'm going to rant, dream, ramble, discuss, recommend....

You get the picture? Welcome to the Country Mouse Tales.

Now, some things have changed since then....and some are pretty similar. I'm no longer in my twenties, having hit 31 a week or so ago. I no longer live in the back of beyond...in fact it's pretty much the opposite as I now reside in London! I still teach, but the seven-year-olds have been traded in for eight-to-ten-year-old boys (I'm not sure if that's an upgrade or madness!), and I am loving teaching, as ever. And this blog, far from being a new endeavour, is a lovely and vital part of my life.

This blog came before Matthew, London, Join Me, Junior League...and it remains a place I love to come to. I love the whole blog community and the inspiration and support (and wonderful friendships!) I have found through it. I love that the past six years of my life have been documented here, the ups, the downs, the new friendships, the olden and golden friendships, parties, fun, weddings, travel, joy, and falling in love with a man I adore. It's been a great six years, and I love that right here on this little blog I have a record of it all.

Thank you for reading, for the comments and the emails. It's been great....here's to the next six years!

Shoutout to Jenna, who first introduced me to this song!

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(More) Christmassy Pinterest...

Pinterest is such a hive of festive ideas!

From: s22.photobucket.com

I love our simple solo wreath, but if and when we have a house I'd love to do something like this!

From: craftster.org

Note to self: make this for Peter next year!

From: google.com

Love these - professional looking cupcakes are something I must learn to make in the new year!

From: marleyandlockyer.blogspot.com

Salt dough tags for gifts? Genius! This is so on for next year (this year it has been reds, golds, brown paper and ribbons).

From: amysfinerthings.com

Red Cinnamon Popcorn!

From: smashingmagazine.com

So cute! I love kittehs at Christmas.

From: thehappyhousewife.com

Another one for next year! I was saying to Matthew that I really want to pare down the spending on Christmas next year (as lovely as presents are, I think sometimes I splash out a bit too much and that money might be put to better use elsewhere)...some of these gifts are super cute and might just be perfect as little gifties next year. Plus some of them even I could make!

From: blog.worldlabel.com

There are so many great printables out there!

From: make-it-do.com

Stove top pot pourri? How clever!

From: welcomesunshinehome.blogspot.com

I am so buying lanterns next summer for candles in the summer, ornaments come winter!

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