What a year….

What a year it’s been; plenty of good lots of bad & sad and here I am, in December, facing down what’s supposed to be my favorite time of year, hiding under a blanket with my (albeit concerned looking) puppy and a bottle of fruit wine trying to remind myself that I’m an adult… but I can’t really hear myself through my childlike sobs. Yikes.

So I think I need to write all of this down, the good, the bad and the ugly to get some perspective. And then share it with all of you guys. Because heck, if a gal can’t share her deepest and most time consuming thoughts with an internet of strangers, then with whom else? Right? 😉

So, to start off with, I am concerned about the planet as a whole and my absolute inability to do anything about it. I am concerned about the bleak future we’re facing. The refugee crisis, the countless humanitarian crises, harmul hardcore feminism, persistant anti-LGBT laws in areas as advanced as the European Union,  Brexit, Putin in the East, and the West condemned to a minimum of 4 years of Trump; all while we’re doing fuck all about global warming, the inevitable food and water shortage and the epidemic uprising of diseases such as cancer. image1

All of this floats through my brain at one point or another, during almost every waking minute of every waking day. Not all at once mind you, and usually more like the faint buzzing of bees in the background of the garden of my mind, rather than the shredding lawnmower at the front and center of it, but they’re always there and manage to remind me that there’s nothing I can do about them being there. This scares me.

It scares me, because it’s the world I live in, and whenever I may die, whether I have the privilege of dying of old age asleep in my bed, or if a freak accident or illness were to take me sooner, it’s the world I’m leaving behind for generations to come. Maybe I’ll have kids someday. Maybe my brothers will. Some of my inlaws already do, I have two beautiful nephews, and two wonderful goddaughters for whom I want to create a better world. And I don’t know how to. I feel tiny, powerless and insignificant to change anything.

That being said, there are also the mundane pains and sorrows of my every day life, which seem almost childish and selfish to linger upon in the face of such global catastrophe, but I live with them every day. So affect me they do, and face them I must. (If you were wondering, these ones are the lawnmower and his buddies, the leaf blower and weed whacker.)

It’s been a long year. I’m 26 years old, almost 4 years married, have a dog and live in a nice apartment. However, this year has raced by so fast… painfully fast even; and it’s the first time that I’ve understood what my parents meant when they told me as a child to appreciate the time I have because soon it will be racing by.

I feel old. Not in the “god I’m almost 30” kind of way, I hear 30 is supposed to be an amazing age and I’m actually greatly looking forward too it. No, I feel old physically and mentally… wishing there were more hours in the day for me and what I want, rather than spending my precious hours on the futility of the rat race.

The fact that I never got on with kids my age as a child has come back to haunt me as an adult. It turns out I still don’t like most people my age.

Other 20-something year olds take themselves one of two ways: either far too seriously (making me feel aloof and childish for loving board games and video games so much) or they’re all free spirited go getters with no semblance of what a consequence might be, and stay out till obnoxious times of night drinking dizzying amounts of alcohol that make me tap out before they even think the night has even begun. This also means that I’m struggling to make friends.

 

I have several great acquaintances in Belfast, but no one that I could call up whenever to just hang with; not like my besties back home. My husband hasn’t really found anyone like that either. The one or other beer buddy, sure, but not the types of friends you can rely on at a moments notice.

 

We’ve been here almost 3 years, and we’re incredibly lonely. With barely enough time to spend on one another and our family never mind trying to go out and make friends.

That leads me to my professional situation. I’ve found myself stuck in an industry that I don’t much enjoy, with rules, regulations and goals that definitely do not align with my own, but due to my lack of a university education I am lucky to be where I am at all. I am stuck. Good and properly glued down. I come home and I’m exhausted, mentally and emotionally and haven’t the energy to as much as do the dishes…. I’ve even cried myself to sleep more often than I would really like to ever admit.

This leaves my personal life a bit of a shamble… I’m not caring for my home properly, leaving laundry to pile up like small mountain ranges and dishes to run wild in the kitchen, like dirty pasta sauce crusted monsters. That of course has the side effect of my not caring for myself properly either. Think there’s time for the gym? LOL

I did great on Weight Watchers earlier this year, losing almost 20lbs and being well on my way to looking fab, but I felt like shit. That always happens to me by the way… I hate the way I look and feel, so I go on an extreme diet… I’ve lost 20-35 lbs three separate times in my adult life now, just to then crash and burn like an emotional wreck. I end up missing a casual beer, pizza night and popcorn at the movies… being perpetually hungry and “that girl who only eats salad” makes me feel like shit… so then I convince myself that I don’t need to diet at all, and that it’s okay to love myself the way I am and then what happens? I yo-yo right back up and past my original weight… I have never weighed as much as I do right now, and I hate myself for it. Yes I do. I loathe the situation I am in. I just can’t figure this out and I don’t have the time to figure it out any better either!!!

I try my best to be confident and bright, my darling husband always says the one feature he likes about me even better than my eyes and boobs (lol) is my confidence… so I try my damndest not lose that. I’ve spent a fortune on bigger, better fitting clothes, in flattering shapes and colours, have been getting my hair dyed and regularly boost myself with my favorite makeup routine.
But then I see a mirror. Or a photo from a party where I am literally 2 times the size of every other person in the photo with me… and despite my best efforts, and investments, I feel the icy grip of self loathing upon my heart.

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To be honest, I’ve been restricting again lately… not eating during day, to prove to myself that I’m in control, just to then lose the battle with hunger at night and completely overindulge. I can always try again tomorrow, I tell myself. Trust me, it sucks.

All of this, and some other things that I don’t think need to take up more space at present, have lead to me being quite down this Christmas season (don’t even get me started on the fact that I desperately miss my younger brother who moved away with his wife… it’s the first ever Christmas in my life that I am spending without him, and even though he’s a pain in the ass at times, I miss him fiercely and have been very sad about it at all attempted traditions this year. 😦 ) (In the bad metaphor of my mind’s garden, that’s the hole in the corner where once a great tree stood… it’s been moved to another park and now the gap is achingly obvious.)

The tree is up, the candles lit… but it all seems very half hearted. I’ve not decorated the rest of my apartment properly, and I’ve not even bought a single present! Usually I am DONE by now, but I’ve not even started!! I haven’t baked a single minced pie (I’m afraid I’ll have a “snaccident” if I do) and I’ve not even put in the effort to watching a single one of my favorite Xmas movies. 

 

ALL Of THAT being said, I also had some great things happen this year, so now that I have vented some of my biggest heartaches off my chest, I want to share some of the amazing things that happened, that I am truly grateful for and will hopefully get me back in gear in time for Christmas in 2 weeks.

image6I have an amazing husband. He loves and supports me through everything and I think we’ve really found our stride this year. He knows that I’ve been struggling a little, with how untraditional and sometimes “unromantic” we have been (based on the classic template) but, funny story, we found a YouTube video that gave us some serious perspective. I know right?? I’ll share it for you here: https://youtu.be/jltM5qYn25w Let’s just say it showed us that we’re the new kind of romantic, and have our very own way of bonding over things and that’s okay. More than okay, I genuinely believe it’s helped us be the best us we’ve ever been.

We have Riker, our pugalier puppy. He’s a gem and a pain in the ass, but I wouldn’t be without him. He’s my companion on days such as these, when Derek’s at work and I don’t want to be alone. He gets me out of the house and is my snuggle bug. (He also drives my parents crazy and ate the leg off of my new dining room table when we first got him, but hey, no one’s perfect. 😉 )

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We have made our apartment our home. When we first moved in, it felt like a huge hotel room, but just that, a rented space… someone else’s space that we were borrowing. It took almost two years, but now when I come home it’s exactly that – coming home. And I love every awkward little inch of this space. It’s our first family home, Derek, Riker and I, and I love it.

I have a job. I don’t have to be in love with it every day, but I have the good fortune of being employed, and being able to bring home a generous paycheck (for an uneducated hick 😉 ) and I’m grateful for it.
We’re about to go on vacation. Derek’s family invited us to go to Mexico with them for the new year, and it’s going to be glorious. My inlaws are quirky (whose aren’t?) but I love them to bits and can’t wait to see them and spend time with them and see how happy my hubby is when he’s with them. mexico

And I have my family. Through thick and thin, crazy and crazier, madness and insanity. They’re mine. They’re generous, loving, welcoming people, with hearts of gold and sparkling humor. I don’t know what I would be without them, and I’d rather not think about that. 

So that’s it… those are (almost) all the things that are battling in my head for attention right now and also, the long list of reasons why I haven’t blogged in such a long time.

I’ve been battling my demons and didn’t feel like it was genuine to be posting my thoughts on recipes and travel destinations when I wasn’t really feeling it.

Huge shout out to my dear friend Richard who took it upon himself to write to me the other day, asking when I would blog again because he missed reading my posts; I am not sure this lengthy, self centered, sob-story rant is what he had in mind, but hey, his encouragement helped me take the time to sit down and type this and hopefully find my new blogging groove. So thanks buddy.
I hope if find my Christmas spirit, preferably before the end of the season, and I just want to thank you all very much for letting me download and deal with my feelings in such a weird way. It’s oddly therapeutic.

Hopefully I will be back soon, this time with proper happy posts concerning travel, recipes, Disney dissections and of course the occasional rant.

Thanks all! xx

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So many things…

There are so many things going on at this time of year, that I am not even really sure where to put all these thoughts, feelings and information…

So, in order to clear out my head a little bit, so that I might focus a little better on my work, I would like to share a few updates and thoughts with you, and then get more thorough with it, later this evening. 🙂

1) Derek and I are proud to announce that we have gotten a beautiful new apartment in the heart of Belfast. We can not wait to finally be able to walk to a) work, b) the cinema, c) some pubs, d) restaurants, e) shopping and to finally have the opportunity to socialize with our colleagues after work and start making some new friends.

2) With that in mind, I can not wait to no longer be dependent on the most abusive Public Transport System I have ever come across in my life – Translink NI Railway. (→ more on that one later… maybe after Christmas)

3) I have now gathered information on Christmas Traditions from Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Italy, France, Poland, Australia, Canada and Japan with the help of great friends from around the world, and I think that is plenty to be getting on with for my desired “Christmas around the World” blog post; I am excited to get that underway.

4) Political Correctness around Christmas. Wow. What a pain in the ass; long story short there are a lot of wanna-be pseudo-social “activists” out there, who think that changing “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” and “Christmas Market” to “Winter Market” makes it less offensive, somehow… What Horseshit. The only thing that is offensive is that some jacked-up-on-their-own-uselessness political Assholes with something “to prove”, choose to divide cultures even further rather than joining them. I’m not even a Christian and I’m offended! It’s Christmas, same as it’s Chanukka, Kwanzaa and Winter Solstice.. there is also: Ukrainian Christmas, Orthodox Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter, Canada Day, Independence Day, Oktoberfest, Thanksgiving (→ more on that one later…), Halloween and many more… we don’t change any of those…. Back off of Christmas and the Christmas Tree…. FFS.

5) I also have a lot of festive hairstyles and recipes I would like to share, and am terrified that I am not going to have the time! hahaha

Finally… I feel better now. lol

Well, I am hoping that I can get all of these varying topics covered relatively soon. Does anyone have any ideas for topics to add? Or an opinion on any of those I have mentioned?

Thanks for reading. Take care. xoxo

’tis the (al)most wonderful time of the year…

October…. October… how I love thee October. Leaves

Leaves of red and gold coat the streets, Starbucks is serving PSL’s and the bakeries are filled with the succulent sweet scent  of cinnamon and sultanas, in an imminent promise of Thanksgiving, Winter & Christmas and all of the beauty and joy those things bring.  We have seen the memes, the jokes and jests… there are those who loathe the early onset of Christmas madness and those who cherish the preemptive preparations of the most majestic celebration of the year. If I have to choose one, I will proudly admit that I am part of the latter group, but I am not that far gone as to start hanging my decorations… just yet. 😉

LatteI would like to take some time to explain why I find this particular time of year so magical and why I can not wait to get this show on the road. Now, what needs to be said right away is that I am not religious; as such Christmas has no religious significance to me what so ever, however, I was raised with the mythos of Christmas. (No offence is meant here, this is just how I see things.) I love the legend of the three kings, the heavenly star and the special baby boy, as well as the origin stories of Santa Claus & St. Nicolas, from the tales of the saint to the likeness with Father Odin, of the Norse peoples, who rode a horse drawn sleigh across the sky at the time of the winter solstice to visit his followers on earth…. this is what drives my fascination with Christmas.

At the core of it all, are my sweet and loving parents. They have instilled a love for Christmas in me that is almost insatiable and I sincerely believe that it is focussed on all the right things; togetherness, bringing joy to others, love and good faith for a happy new year.

Mummy & Me daddy

First, my parents always made Christmas about others, even as a child I basked in the fun that my mother had while selecting presents, big and small. To this very day, she chooses every single gift with great care and forethought, from the big ticket-have-been-begging-for-it-all-year kinds of gifts, all the way down to the funny and fluffy pair of socks that represent something significant, that shine in their role as stocking stuffer. She writes her Christmas cards early and sends them so that they reach family in even the most distant corners of the world on time, and always has a token of good spirit for everyone, even if its just a wee tin of her famous mince pies. *drool*

My Dad makes the magic happen. He always picks the most beautiful tree he can find and sets it up with great care and pride. He tells us of Christmas when he was little, as we count our lucky stars for the luxury of having electric lights to put on it, rather than risking real candles. He sets up the traditional nativity scene every year without fail, since this is a tradition he learned from his father, but it’s different every time. With a hand build stable one year, encased in a sparkling miniature night sky another… I think the scene has even been on a beach once… hahahahaha

My First Christmas

Daddy and I under my very first Christmas Tree

We cook together, usually something special every weekend in December, for the German tradition of Advent, and goodness knows there is always enough room for a few extra people at our table. Where others make Christmas an immediate family only kind of affair, my parents go to great lengths to make sure that no one in their circle is alone at Christmas. Whether they are long time family friends who just happen to be alone this year, or new acquaintances who had recently moved into the neighbourhood whose family lives far away, no one should be alone at this very special time of year and so there is always someone extra at our table in December.

(Not to mention we try our very best to go out and do something special for the community we are living in at Christmas… we go to sing at the local homeless shelter and help serve up dinners, or we entertain the elderly at the care home or go to a Children’s hospital and do some carols with the kids and their families.)

Trees

Most noteworthy I find, is that my folks never ever had the “Santa” talk with me; I am 24 years old and I am already looking forward to writing my Santa letter and giving it to my Daddy to burn in the fireplace so that it can get to the North Pole. I think I Ronan Adventmust have been around 8 or 9 years old when I snuck downstairs one winters night to ask my parents something, however when I entered the room (they couldn’t see me from the door) I saw that they were busily wrapping presents. Having always been a lover of surprises (and absolutely hating the thought of upsetting my parents), I quietly snuck back out of the room, unseen. On Christmas morning I noticed that Santa’s wrapping paper looked very much like the paper my parents used, and so I suspected that maybe the kids at school might have been right after all… but the milk had been drunk, and the cookies gobbled right along with the carrots I had left out for Rudolf, and so it happened every year thereafter. The realization never spoiled the magic for me, on the contrary, it just increased the awe that I had for my parents, knowing that no matter how good or bad the year had been, they always pulled off this magnificent kind of magic at Christmas time for my brothers and me, and I couldn’t help but be even more grateful for every single gift, and more appreciative of every single ounce of magic created. Even now. my youngest brother (aged 14) and I, still watch the NORAD Santa Tracker on the Computer, before setting out the milk and cookies and scooting off to bed before Santa reaches our location; in the morning, they will have been enjoyed, with a messy napkin lying next to the empty plate and glass, while hoof prints in the snow leading away from where (obviously) Rudolf had enjoyed his carrots…. although I don’t know how that’s going to play out with there not usually being snow in Ireland… hmmm

The only difference? Now I get up at about 3 am myself, and sneak to the tree where I myself add the presents that Santa has brought for my parents, along with placing all of the family stockings. That is a tradition that I have taken on with joy and great pride. 

sneaky

no peeking!

 

This enthusiasm for the Spirit of Christmas, has caused us to kind of  take it upon ourselves to bring joy to those around us as well, and so we have been honoured to the start off the Christmas Season for many of our friends over the last 10 years, with a tradition that my Dad started in our house called “Feuerzangenbowle”. (<-I’ll just leave that link there for you to explore.) We would focus the first party of the Christmas Season around this beverage/procedure, usually at the end of November or on the first weekend of December, with my Dad brewing the magical brew (which takes quite some time) at the living room table, while all of our A songassembled friends and family would take turns, by the random passing of a Santa-hat, to share either a song, a poem or a tale of Christmas’ gone by of their choosing with the assembled group. There was always laughter, lots of singing and some occasional shared tears. However, the evening was always magical and it really started Christmas on the right note… in the company of the best possible friends and acquaintances with whom you have shared your year, and would like to share the next one with as well. I will probably describe this fantastic event in more detailed in a separate post.

Of course this event wants to be decorated for and generally prepared, which brings me to another lengthy preparation process of the season. There are six people in my household, and so far I have been making annual advent calendars for three of them (my two brothers and my sister in law); if I have the courage I might just attempt to make one for everyone this year…  As you can imagine, this means planing for, purchasing, organizing, individually wrapping and assembling 72 presents before November 30th, in time for the first of December, which would double to 144 if I made one for my parents and hubby as well… Do you think I can make it?

Advent Calendars

This requires time and creativity, but I also want to savour and enjoy the process, which brings me back to the reason for writing this post in the first place…. come October, I can not help but start to get excited, because I finally need to get started on my advent calendars, drafting invitations and planning food for the Feuerzangenbowle, and planing which cards and presents need to be sent where and when… if I don’t ship those things in time, they will not reach my loved ones in Canada, Japan and Australia; can’t have that!

My Tree

Derek & My Tree – We love blue and silver

With so much to do, and so much happiness to look forward to over the next three months, can yo really blame me for getting excited a little early?

I won’t start playing my Xmas music (out loud) until at least November 20th though, I promise. 😉

Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, whenever and with whomever that might be, I hope you have as much fun with it as I do!

Take care. xoxo

p.s.: Here’s a wee video I made about our Christmas preparations away from home for the first time ever, last year. xoxo