Tuesday, 29 December 2009

My 2009

There remains but only a few days of this year. I have spent the past few days reflecting on the year behind me, and what a year it has been! Every year I try to create some sort of summary of the year behind me, putting everything in perspective, in the correct compartment in my head, ready for whatever is to come! Well...this year I have more to report than ever before; it has been a year of changes, mostly good, and I am leaving the year in almost the opposite frame of mind to how I entered it.

So, please allow me to indulge as I head back over the past 12 months and pick out the most important parts!

What happened in 2009?

- I fell in love

The unfolding of our relationship was the most exciting, romantic and passionate thing I have ever known, and our growing together is the warmest, most magical and most revealing thing I have ever known. I am excited for what is to come in 2010, for more adventures and more normal things becoming not normal when they are shared with someone else. This thing that I thought only existed in stories does actually happen in real life. If I had always known that, things would have been very different in the past, and I'm so glad I didn't know it!

- I graduated

After four years of hard studying, a lot of fun, late nights, early mornings, getting fat, getting thin, living abroad, not leaving the house for days, making friends, arguing, writing and writing, reading and reading, talking French in my sleep...finally, I graduated with a 2:1 as Catherine BA (hons) in French and German (Language and Linguistics). Graduation itself was such a lovely lovely day, maybe the most special day I have ever had, and, despite the bitterness of not quite getting that first that I so wanted, I felt incredibly proud of myself. Still, my student days didn't end there, as I now struggle through the first half of my MA. I wasn't done with learning then, and I'm not quite done now. Nearly.

- I had my hair cut off

From this

To this*

I always wanted to, and finally I had the courage to go for it. To anyone else thinking of doing something outrageous with a view to feeling new, liberated, whatever; I say go for it! I loved my hair long, but it will grow back, and I currently love it short. I can't loose :-)

- I walked to the Lake District

"Aaaah 86 miles is nothing" I thought. Man, I was wrong. Genuinely, this was the only time ever in my life that I have doubted myself. At one point, by the M6 as we were crossing over into Cumbria, I actually thought I couldn't do it. This was scary. Really terrifying. But I did do it, proving that even the things that seem impossible can be done. Daniel kept saying it, and I agree; 20% physical strength, 80% mental strength (the ratio kept changing as we moved along the route...). If the mind is strong enough, the body will follow. The biggest achievement of my life; bigger than A levels and degree all in one, bigger (just) than music exams.

I really learned a lot this year, both about myself and about things in general. Probably my eyes were opened widest on Christmas Day, when I saw exactly how strong it is possible for people to be. My family have achieved something incredible this year; I was lucky enough to not be in the middle of such a difficult time, I was only an onlooker, trying my best to do what I could from afar. But they, unable to escape the worst of life's offerings, pulled together and stayed upright and didn't moan or complain or give in. If they cried, they did it when no one else was looking. They make me see how I complain too much sometimes. It isn't necessary to wear troubles on your sleeve.

I leave 2009 massively in love, immersed in academia, and with exciting plans for the future. I have some idea of what I want from my career, a proper direction to follow. I'm also quite afraid of what is ahead; I am no longer complacent about what I have, maybe too aware that the things we love can dissappear all too quickly. The only thing to do about that is to celebrate the moment and the people in it.

I haven't made any resolutions; really I just want to stay healthy, climb some mountains, enjoy my MA, spend time with friends, run a half marathon. And finish knitting my scarf and reading my book! If I haven't done these last two things by this time next year then I promise to give them both up as a bad job ;-)

*Woah I look like my Dad in this photo!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Christmas at Home

As I had already predicted, it has not been the easiest of Christmasses. I have been bogged down with assignments, carrying the stress of them with me at all times. There has also been some sort of gloomy relief hanging over my family, as it has been a difficult year for everyone, where at times the idea of celebrating Christmas didn't seem likely. But we are here, celebrating, eating, laughing together. As wonderful as that is (and none of us wanted anything more come Christmas Day), it left some unnerving sense of general uncertainty, for everyone. Who knows what 2010 will bring? Probably best not to know.

Anyway, on to more positive, festive thoughts!

We had some real cause for celebration, and celebrate we did!

My Auntie iced us a gorgeous Christmas cake...

On Christmas Eve I created Monique, the festively fabulous snow lady. She has lost some weight since this photo was taken, and is now looking quite sunken. The joy of being so fabulous is shortlived, when you are under so much pressure.

In the evening we visited some family friends for the annual Christmas shindig. This involves a lot of laughing, singing, eating, and mostly drinking, to secure a nasty headache for Christmas morning.

Then, Christmas Day came, awoken, of course, with a banging head. The odd thing about Christmas at home these days is that my parents get up first! They are not woken up at some nasty time with us jumping on the bed. In fact, I had to wake my grumpy brother up at 9:30 - probably a record! We had a tasty breakfast of berries, yoghurt and homemade bread, and then hit the presents. I am spoiled every single year, no matter how much I try to convince my parents that I am too old for so many things! However, the nature of my gifts has become rather grown up:

Thermal vest and long johns for chilly adventuring
A block of knives
A hand blender
A book on how to knit
Yoghurt coated gooseberries
Sparkly wine
2 BAGS of chocolate pennies (Father Christmas brings us some every year, but I've never had 2 bags before!)

Later on, my auntie and uncle and cousins came over for dinner. I think I was eating for 6 hours solidly. We discussed drugs and feminism and illness and health, my hate of Jeremy Clarkson, atheism, and alsorts of relevant festive issues.

Later, we delved in to the Christmas Cheese Box; a box of wierd and wonderful cheeses ordered for us by my Canadian auntie every year. Teamed with oatcakes, honey and port, it is one of my favourite parts of the season! Naturally, the night's sleep to follow is always interesting.

On Boxing Day we go for an annual family adventure. This is ALWAYS an ordeal; known to leave us hanging from cliffs by our finger nails, climbing up waterfalls, you name it. Action Dad knows no limits! This year my brother chose the route; something flat to match my Mum's hip troubles. It would have been an easy 12 mile jaunt, no real hills, decent paths, nice scenery.


We were trudging through knee-deep snow, unable to see 3 metres ahead of us, for 12 miles. This causes some aches the following day, I can assure you. It was cold. I was soaking wet and starving. Marmalade sandwiches helped, but it was too cold to stop and eat. Arguments, tears, numb toes - all part of the fun!

Anyway, one of the main reasons that we do these things: the comfort to follow. French cinnamon hot chocolate, broccoli soup, jacket potatoes and a film by the fire; we forgot the trials behind us and squished up in comfort.

As far as Christmases go, it certainly wasn't a bad one!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas Come Early

Owing to our homes being at opposite ends of the country, Daniel and I celebrated our own Christmas Day on Sunday, here in York, before we go our seperate North/Southbound ways today/tomorrow. It was my dream Christmas, the one that never actually materializes at home with my family! There was no TV, no one fell asleep (though we both came close), we played board games and our conversation and manners were quite acceptable during our feast! A much-needed fresh take on Christmas!

What a feast we prepared! Maybe the most well-timed big meal known to any kitchen anywhere!

This involved:

- My special cranberry nut roast
- Honey roast parsnips
- Roast potatoes
- Mustard mashed potato
- Fried leeks
- Carrots and broccolli
- Gravy
- Cranberry sauce
- Stuffing

We shook down the first course with a delighted mini rave after the announcement of the Christmas number one - awesome!!

And then Christmas pud and custard, to ensure great discomfort for the rest of the evening.

Of course, there were presents!

Here is my collection of treats!

We got eachother the same card - oops!

We rounded off the afternoon lethargically with board games accompanied by chocolates and tea. A perfect Christmas Day - if the next one is half as good, it will make for a lot of fun. I can't wait to get home and see my family now, where it is warm and I don't need to leave my dressing gown all day if I so choose!

Have a lovely time everyone!!

Saturday, 19 December 2009


It's cold outside!

I love waking up to this...

Shortly followed by this...

My first real snowball fight, I think!

And what better excuse for a festive afternoon tea?

There is nothing better than coming in from the cold on a wintery night!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Simple Pleasures

It has been a long time since my last update! I have been busy busy busy, working on assignments and such things, and the time is flying past! Christmas will come and go in no time, I am sure, and we will be standing there, in the year 2010, with a whole new year ahead of us, and yet another year behind us. It always suprises me how soon Christmas comes around again; each year I am aware when it suddenly pops up as if from nowhere, reminding me that slowly I am getting older and wiser, and one day soon I might feel like a grown up.

Something that always worries me about "getting old" is that I might stop admiring the world the way I like to do now, and that my eyes will change, and the world might appear a little duller, a little less exciting, and not as fresh as it does today. This sentiment stems from real people I know, many many many of them, who just don't notice how wonderful the most simple things can be. My Mum looks at me in bemusement when I show her a photo I took of the inside of a vegetable. I hope joy brought on by vegetables' innards never fades!

And so, some simple things that I love...

- Running

Yesterday I went for an early run, while the moon was still up. Most of the world was still, cold, frosty. In the hour that I was out, I witnessed the world waking up, heading to work or school, walking the dog, buying the newspaper. And then of course, returning, showering, indulging in a warm bowl of porridge and a huge mug of tea.

- This city where I live

I fall in love with York at least once a week. The more I know it, the more I love it. It's not so far from where I've been forever, but I'm happy here and not restless. The quiet of the ancient buildings and the hurried city centre. Then all the secret corners unknown to tourists, the little escapes and all the room for adventure!

- Mugs of different colours and shapes

And tea pots, too! I love a good mug! Enough said! (And the stuff you put in them, too, of course!)

- Untouched space

The countryside, when untouched both physically and by sound, produces something in me that I can't get any other way. That moment on a long walk when you can see and hear nothing of mankind is to me the most precious thing on earth. Mmm I love a country walk - preferably with a great picnic and muddy boots!

And when I get home...

- Soup

Every Sunday I make a soup. I am a creature of habit. And I love my habit of chopping and stirring and adding exciting herbs or spices. I love the comfort and warmth that a bowl of soup brings, and the vibrant colours and smells and tastes. After a family walk, we always have soup for tea. Yum yum yum!

The best thing about "simple pleasures" is that, generally, they are shared by everyone. At heart we're all the same, and we all love the same little parts of life, which too often go unmentioned. And I am striving to never stop noticing the colours of the trees in the park, because once that goes it's probably a slippery slope down to life in black and white. Great for old romantic films, but not for every day.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Christmas Giveaways!

Just a quick post to show you these lovely hand-crafted ornaments from The Magical Bean!

I only discovered this blog last week from the Dorset Cereals Little Blog Awards! I would love one of these candy canes to hang on my tree next to my felt decorations! On that note: tonight's plan is Delia's Chritstmas and some crafting - perfect Sunday evening in :-)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Christmas Wishes

All I want for Christmas this year...

- Enough time to finish my book (and maybe start a new one too!)
- Enough energy to train for the York half-marathon
- Opportunities to catch up with family and friends (especially those who are on a flying visit back from Germany!)
- Enough enthusiasm, dedication and concentration to write a great assignment!
- An adventure into the wild
- Some new socks

I've not had the best time over the past few days - things have been getting to me too much! Now it is time to leave that there where it was - there is some celebrating to be done...

But more on that later :-)