Reason, Season, or Lifetime…

People come into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime – but can we always tell which one? Why do certain people come into our lives? How can we make sure we have the right people in our circle?

I love meeting new people, making friends, and keeping and maintaining friendships. However, we can’t just keep expanding our social circle; the bigger circles get, the less manageable they are. If you are standing in a massive, wide circle, you can’t make eye contact with everyone – some people are too far away. A large circle is fragile and prone to breaking away. And do we even need it anyway? A smaller circle is tighter, more protective of you: it can wrap around you like a hug.

The trick is deciding who makes it into this special group circle.  With time being so precious in our busy, modern lives, we have to prioritise. We have no control over the people we meet of course, but we have the ability to make the effort for those we want to keep in our lives.  Common analogy, but friendship is like a plant: we water daily, feed it, trim off the horrible bits – but the plant still has to respond to this. The other person has to do their bit too – or nothing will grow. A friendship cannot survive without input on both sides. Or any kind of relationship for that matter.

I have lost some friendships and relationships with family members over the last few years. I can firmly and confidently say this is not down to me not making an effort. To start with anyway – I will make effort, until the other person doesn’t. Some of these relationships have naturally drifted apart because of changes in lives. Some have ended because they were toxic. Some people have left my life because they did something unforgivable. It’s all part of life. But one thing I have learnt – I will get in touch with people, arrange to see people, message people- –  but only for so long. If it doesn’t get returned, I back off.

Additionally, I used to get a bit upset if I couldn’t connect with someone; if we didn’t get along. I have struggled throughout life with this – if someone doesn’t like me. But I’m learning to accept that it is absolutely fine: not everyone is meant to get on. You can’t be friends with everyone (a constant mantra to myself!) You can be the reddest, juiciest apple – but some people will prefer oranges. Of course, this means the circle that I do have is all the more valuable.

So why would people come into our life for a reason? I think sometimes we meet people to teach us something. Alternatively, we are meant to teach them something. We all meet people who we dislike too – and this is again a reason. We learn something about ourselves and relationships, and we can all move on.

Furthermore, a season can be any length of time throughout our lives: childhood, University, work etc. Some people will join mid-season and can completely enrich our lives for a Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter. They may move on  – and you will too – but they were an important part of that section of your life.

I became friendly and thoroughly enjoyed the company of a lot of people throughout the planning of my sister’s wedding.  ‘Sentimental me’ feels a little sad that I won’t see these people as often now – they are my sister’s friends or brother-in-law’s family. My husband jokes that we barely have time to see the people we already want to – but does that stop me trying to continue some of these friendships? Equally, I have some fantastic, fun colleagues at the moment  – a lot are leaving in the Summer (how it tends to happen when you work in a school, sadly) and again, I can’t imagine not seeing them again.  Not always realistic, but some of the “season” people can be upgraded to the “lifetime” circle. It’s all what’s meant to be – with effort on both parts too of course 😉

Finally, it kind of goes without saying, but those who make it to the “lifetime” circle are the ones who evolve with you, help you to become the person you need to be (and vice versa), and are there for the full journey: from seed to full growth.

Your life needs people from all these three categories though – just make sure you don’t let the really special ones go: invite them into your circle – and if they are truly special, they won’t want to leave it.

XSXS

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Are You Successful?

What makes a person a success? Why does society view success in such a limited way? What is the key to true success?

This blog topic has needed more research and a longer thought-process than most. Partly, to understand the notion of what people think success is; partly to find a way to write about people’s real-life situations in a way that highlights various examples of success. This blog post is not belittling anyone’s success or life choices, just in case you do recognise a real-life example. I’m just exploring the many options that there are to success.

Imagine a successful person. What do you envisage? You would not be alone if you pictured someone in a smart, formal business-suit rushing to catch a plane, in order to complete an important job role in their busy and high-flying career. Society teaches us to think about success in this way: career, wealth and travel. If you manage those, you are successful to the world, apparently. And in many cases, this is true. But let’s open that brief case and delve a little deeper to what makes a person truly successful at life.

I’ve noticed the term “successful” be thrown around my various family and friendship groups lately – a bit like a pass-the-parcel. People are keen to pass this term “success” on to other people, but are so reluctant to keep it to apply to themselves. When, really, we all want to open that pass-the-parcel: we all want to be successful. One example at a party recently, was a comment “she’s the most successful out of all of us,” the reason being that the girl in question was a few years younger than the rest of us, and had climbed the career ladder quite high for a tender adult age. And good for her! She clearly wanted to achieve that job role and job satisfaction by that age and has accomplished it. But when did success become just about your career or job?

Many people believe that success is the key to happiness. You need to achieve great things – get that job; bring home the money; buy the house. This helps to be happy.  But what if I said happiness is the key to success? This is what I firmly believe and I will explain why… If you are truly happy with your “lot in life” whatever that may. If you have learnt from your mistakes; got a job that makes you happy; stood by your decisions and you are truly happy as a result, then I think you’re pretty damn successful.

My Dad is another example (I hope he won’t mind me mentioning him here). As he nears retirement age, he occasionally complains that he wishes he had learnt a trade, worked for himself or simply attained more of a career. Now my Dad has always worked hard  – a true grafter. He has worked his whole life, bringing home money to support his wife and two daughters. He has now paid his mortgage off and he and my Mum can now enjoy holidays whenever they like. More importantly, he was able to be a loving, dedicated husband and father who has been around for us all. If he had learnt a trade would he be any happier? Would his family? Maybe he’s have slightly more job satisfaction , but longer hours and more stress perhaps. I think my Dad’s successful at life  – and I hope he will read this when he has his next moan!

A lot of my friends have achieved jobs and moved to various big cities – or countries – as a result. They have flown the nest and gone off to be successful in the “big city”. If that is what they choose to do and want to do, then that is fabulous. What I find interesting is that a few of them have confided that they feel they couldn’t return to our small home town, as they would feel unsuccessful as a result. To me, if you are unhappy in the big city earning the big bucks (and I am by no measure, saying they are) and you want to get a different job and return closer to friends and family – and are happy as  a result of that, then that’s true success to me. It’s not about returning with your tail between your legs, it’s about making the decision to be true to yourself and doing it. Experience things and learn from it. Again, I am not assuming that people can’t be happy in addition to a high flying job in a strange city – I know not everyone is like me 😉 I’m pointing out that it’s also a success to admit that you would rather have something else in life.

Society may view me as unsuccessful. I have a below average salary that doesn’t reflect my age or education, and I still live in my small, non-eventful hometown. However, I think I am successful. There, I’ve caught the pass-the-parcel and happy to admit that I think this. I have a job that I adore and gives me job satisfaction every day (most days!) and that has led me to have small business of my own on the side. I live in my hometown because, you know what? I like it here. It’s home. And in addition to my English degree, university taught me something more important: I am a home bird. I like to live within walking distance from my friends and family. I love to travel and go on holiday, BUT my town and roots are important to me – more important than any job or any amounts of money.

Other people may view success differently and I think that’s the point. We need to define what success means to us and put it into practice. If we are doing what makes us happy in this short life, then we are making a success of it.

XSXS

 

Everyone has baggage…

Do the things we carry with us make us who we are? Do they define us? Can physical baggage change how we feel emotionally?

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I’ve just returned from one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on: a trip to Malta for my friends’ wedding. The joy didn’t arrive on the plane with us, however. Neither did my luggage! But let’s just rewind some hours previous to this…

The journey to the airport was the most stressful I’ve ever encountered. We’d already spent hours (it seemed!) discussing a suitable departure time from home, in order to get to the airport in time. I already felt I was carrying a lot of tension as baggage – as well as my large holdall. We went quite early in the end, especially since the online check-in had said there wasn’t enough seats on the plane for our party of 8 to check-in. “It’ll just be that the website’s down!” we exclaimed. “All will be fine,” we repeated, as the British do when there is no cup of tea to soothe the situation.

Additionally to this, the 2 hour drive to the airport took 4 hours due to an accident on the motorway. We had little time to check in when we finally arrived – we were the last ones. The earlier check-in warning was correct – 2 of our party had to go on a different flight. So already, we’d lost some of our friend baggage.  A quick diversion to Brussels and 400 Euros payment sweetened this for them though! My husband and I checked in our baggage – if only I’d known that my bag wasn’t going to Malta any time soon.

After check-in, I normally get that first sigh of relief – you are physically free of luggage and just have yourselves to worry about. Not this time though. We sped to security and, although our friends got through swiftly with ease, we were ages. Firstly, I got “beeped” by the metal detectors and had to have this body scan thing. I also had to wait for my turn, due to a teenage girl having a sobbing fit. Seriously could we not catch a break? She was crying because she thought she was going to get arrested I think. Don’t wear the shiny necklace and bomb shaped shoes then love!  (Okay the shoes are a joke – and I also have no idea why I get beeped every time. I must have metal in my blood or something!) I finally walked out and realised hubby was still not done. Why you ask? Oh he’d forgotten that you can’t put liquids into your hand luggage. Even though a few moments before I’d said to him “Does my Vaseline need a plastic bag you think – is it a liquid?” This still didn’t prompt him to remember that his whole toiletry bag was in his bag. Honestly, men!

So a little lighter of baggage once again (toothpaste, sun cream and after-sun to be precise) we went to the gate. No duty free shopping today, ironically the one time we’d needed to buy sun lotion too! We rushed to the gate and our friends exclaimed that my row had been called  – so off I went to board the plane. Checking in late also meant I had to sit alone, but I think I needed it. 3 hour flight + a book + a glass of wine and some Pringles = a much more relaxed Sammy. The tension had parachuted away.

Once at baggage retrieval, I was now truly ready to start the holiday. There had only been about 200 people on the flight, so the luggage whirred around the conveyor belt quickly – people grabbing, pulling and sliding their belongings off. Then nothing. No more bags. I knew, with the theme of the trip so far that mine hadn’t made it. Turns out, it was still in Heathrow and it would be with me the next morning.

Being an organised individual, I had a bikini, two pairs of pants and a pull-on beach dress in my hand luggage. (Oh and my husband and I didn’t mix our clothes up, because we were staying in different apartments: girls and boys.) Yet, I had no deodorant, toothbrush or anything to go out in that evening. I felt a little sad – and then I felt guilt. Why did I have the right to feel sad about material objects? Some people had nothing. Yes, we were also two of our party down, but we were all alive and well. This trip was only 4 days  long and I couldn’t afford to waste one by being depressed about by lack of clothing and toiletries. My new outfit to try on was one of freedom and invigoration. Plus I didn’t have to lug my bag into the taxi or up to our 5th floor apartment! Silver linings and all that.

I’ve never thought of myself as materialistic and I also believe certain things happen to try us and test us. It was freeing to think I literally had what was on my back (and the couple of items I mentioned above). I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon at the beach – everyone has the same baggage there don’t they? Bikini, towel and some sun lotion (borrowed by a friend!) and you’re set. I must  admit I had a little wobble just before we got ready to go out though. Reception said they didn’t have a toothbrush to give me and I didn’t have any of my essentials to get ready with: make-up, perfume, body lotion, jewelry etc. For the first time since University, I felt homesick. It was the same feeling – a yearning for home comforts. Like I said above, I am not materialistic as such. I don’t particularly have expensive brands of these things –  and I was hugely grateful for everything my friends lent me/gave me – but those things are what make you “you”. We went out, had fun and cocktails – I looked alright I had to admit, my beach dress and bra combo along with borrowed jeweled flat shoes, a friend having done my make-up, a borrowed necklace and my travel bag as a handbag – but I felt like a slightly different version of “me”. I truly appreciated friendship in that hour we got ready though. As I say, I feel it was a test and it has definitely made me appreciate things that we take for granted.

The next morning at 8am, I got straight up, bunged the same beach dress on and inquired about my case. They had said at the airport that it would arrive in Malta at 1am.  The man on reception said that with his 30 years’ experience, he had noticed that the airline normally lie about the arrival and it would more likely be that evening. I was done at playing Lord of the Flies by this point and just wanted my stuff. So, another day out in the same shorts and top and bikini. Maybe, I’d lose friends too, due to my growing stench! We also joked that I could have photos taken in various spots in the same outfit. Furthermore, I was starting to worry that I’d be going to my friends’ wedding in my beach dress at this rate!

After breakfast, we returned to the room for money so that I could go out and buy a tooth brush, some pants and my sanity… when I almost tripped over a case. First thoughts of messy, untidy room-mates popped in my mind – then I recognized the white (well not so white any more – this is also the same case that I left in Newquay 5 years ago! It has had more adventures than me!) splashed with multi-coloured patterns. My case was here! Ridiculously, we all cheered! Because it was so much earlier and unexpected, it made it even more special! I had a sudden urge to get changed every hour  – just to make each and every item of clothing truly appreciated and valued! All after brushing my teeth of course 😉

So, I think we all have baggage. We all have “stuff” that make us who we are. Whether it is clothes and shoes; mobile phones; ipads; books; cuddly toys. They aren’t what’s important of course and they don’t make life more meaningful. My holiday was still fantastic with the stressful start. But they do help us to be who we are; survive the day-to-day; be the best version of ourselves. But I do recommend going without for a bit, to make you truly appreciate them. It is true that you don’t really appreciate something until it’s gone.

I rest my case 😉 …

XSXS

 

Return of the blogger…

It’s a Saturday evening. I’m home alone…a cosy night in with myself, whilst my hubby is at a mate’s house having a lads’ night watching the footy. I love being alone at times, but there’s still that nagging feeling that it is wrong and a little sad to have no plans on a Saturday night. Part of me feels I should make plans, go and visit family or arrange to venture out and do something…anything. But there really is no need.

Firstly, Saturday is just another day like any other. My girl mates happen to be free tomorrow eve and are coming for dinner then. Plus, next Saturday I’m out for dinner with my other group of lovely girl mates. Any day is a great opportunity to connect with yourself and have some much needed “me” time.

Secondly, I think I really needed some time alone to discover the real me again. It has been a bit crazy lately. We have put our house up for sale, been viewing every suitable house in the area, whilst dealing with all the admin stuff that accompanys it.  This is in addition to my full time job, plus tutoring kids loads with the exam season starting. Additionally, there has been a lot of family issues going on and I tend to live with a daily guilt that I’m not doing enough; not seeing certain family members enough. It’s so easy to get lost in the jungle of daily life.

So I’m on my own. What do I do? I watch a drama on catch-up that I missed during my demanding week. Cooked myself a delicious curry that I particularly like. I drink my favourite wine and watch a film that I’ve watched dozens of time and still love. I shamelessly play a computer game that normally swallows up far too much of my previous time. I look up Pinterest ideas and find myself sucked into feminist posts and tattoo ideas and Buddhist quotes. Then, I remember “writing” and how I have done so little lately. The feeling of content creeps back and I have that much craved for thirst to write…in addition to the thirst for wine! Getting thoughts down soothes me and resets me. Hence, this blog.

Return of the blogger…

xsxs

 

Introverted Extrovert this Christmas

Society tries to categorise people into two personality types: extroverts and introverts. Extroverts, apparently, are loud, sociable creatures. Whereas, introverts are the shy, meek and mild ones. But then you have hobbies and interests, in addition to personality, that also determine which category. Do you like being quiet? Reading a good book? Enjoy chatting with a few select like-minded friends? Yes? You are considered to be an introvert. If sky-diving, quad-biking and skiing are more your bag, then you’re in the world of extroverts.

I’ve always been fascinated by these concepts of “introvert” and “extrovert” and was reminded of them by my latest Psychologies magazine. The article in question named ‘I’m dreaming of a quiet Xmas’ was telling extroverts to be aware of their introverted friends and relatives, who may be affected by too much socialising and extroverted focused events. Too much stimulation can overwhelm a quiet, introvert. I do understand this and it makes sense. But as someone with some introverted tendencies myself, I do not want extroverts to feel they have to behave differently around me. But being aware is always a useful thing, I guess. I found a previous quiz more helpful as it delved a little deeper. It looked at four different areas we fall into to identify our personality type. This is more realistic. But the focus on introverts struggling with the festive period bugged me a little. Firstly, Christmas isn’t all about partying. But just as much about having quite time by the Christmas tree with a great book or Christmas film. Winter nights of open fires, cosy cushions and carols – surely that is an introvert’s dream? I know it is for me. There is plenty going on at Christmas to satisfy all personality types.

Secondly, where as I obtain many introvert characteristics, I also have many extrovert features to my personality. The categories are too black and white – it needs to be more of a scale. I like to read silently; sit and reflect; take a relaxing bath. These things all stimulate me and make me happy. However, loud, alcohol-fuelled gatherings in busy, lively bars and crazy parties also stimulate me and make me happy. I’ll talk to anyone: large groups, strangers, acquaintances – plus act the fool in front of any of these! I am confident, sociable and loud (bordering on silly and annoying when I’ve had a few…) which I am aware on not usual introvert qualities, but more extrovert. Some could argue that it is the best of both worlds:  I go out and party and then have quiet time at home. Both can make me equally content.

I do have typical introvert moments when I feel over-stimulated. Sometimes, music can be on and it suddenly feels too loud and unbearable. It has to go off straight away for me to feel calm again. I also hate going out on Christmas Eve (which my very obviously “extrovert” husband cannot understand. I always have hated going out on Christmas Eve, so it isn’t an age thing. I don’t like being pushed and shoved in a busy pub and then having the punishment of a Christmas Day hangover. (Midnight Mass is also a ruled-out option… see https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/midnight-madness/)  I’m not boring – I love going out – just not on Christmas Eve. I like a quiet, chilled night sitting under my beautifully decorated tree and intricately wrapped presents, whilst  watching a Christmas film  and getting into the spirit (yes a little Baileys or vodka too!) in my own way. I look forward to crazy, excitement of Christmas Day, whilst relishing the contrast and magic of Christmas Eve.

So, I like to think of myself as an Introverted Extrovert. But after doing some more research on the subject. This included yet another personality quiz and its verdict was to place me exactly half way between an extrovert and an introvert and the new, coined term for this is Ambivert.   Makes sense, but I think I prefer my term of Introverted Extrovert , or I can switch to Extroverted Introvert, depending how far down the scale I feel I am that day!

You may start to think about whether you are an extrovert or an introvert by this point. What makes you happy; what makes you tick. You’ll find you’re a mixture in some way, I’m sure. It is definitely a scale, I think, like I said above. And we’re all on it at different points. Even though, I stated above that my husband is clearly an extrovert (He loves rowing, snowboarding, quad-biking, paintballing – whereas I love reading, writing, swimming and shopping.) But, he also enjoys quiet activities – normally computer related: design, websites, games etc. Yet, we both adore going out with friends and family; going away for the weekend (yet activities we do when we are there are usually up for debate!); fancy meals out with alcohol; entertaining large groups of friends of family. Also, my hubby isn’t as socially confident as I am – especially with strangers. He can’t do small-talk or chat easily with people unless he knows them well. Maybe a gender related reason here too, I’ll agree, but we both carry introvert and extrovert qualities.

No matter where on this scale you come, make sure you do some of what makes you happy this Christmas. Whether that involves busy, festive crowds or some alone time, do not feel guilty about doing what you need to do to be happy. We all deserve it.

 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Riding into the sunset of my twenties…

I completed another item off my ’30 things before 30′ list. I went pony trekking! Those of you who don’t know me very well, do not realise what a great achievement that is… During my (almost) 30 years on this planet, I’ve barely been able to climb over a fence or gate – let alone climb on a horse, stay on it for an hour and then manage to get off! (Well it took 4 people and a lot of heave ho to get me off… and there is video evidence, so there is one friend who I have to be very nice to in fear of this video ending up on social media 😉 )

So I rode through the forest with the greatest of ease, my hair blowing in the wind whilst the horse’s mane swished from side to side….
OK, maybe not. In reality, I climbed up a plastic step, managed to get myself balanced on Skye – who was the loveliest, calmest horse , I’ve met (even though, to be fair, that isn’t many!) She started stepping towards the edge of the field straight away. I was moving! Argh! Turns out, whereas I was the one who could have easily pooed my pants, it was Skye who wanted to unload her waste… ahem! She has a regular spot and always does a poo before a trek apparently. I liked her organisation and preparation immediately!

Our lovely, calm ride didn’t extend to the rest of the group. The rest of my few friends were fine; the Japanese students from the local Grammar school were not. We were told that they’d been attending every week. At this point I thought, “Great, I’m bottom of the class!” But as they set off on the trek, a new horse from the field reared up at one of the horses carrying a Japanese student. His horse jumped up in reaction, consequently knocking him off! And another student next to him! I was horrified then, but there was no going back!

One thing that made me laugh in the trek, was how the instructors referred to us by the horses names. I heard one say to the other “have you been through trotting with Skye yet?” I was thinking, ” I’m pretty sure Skye knows how… It’s me who doesn’t and I don’t think I want to!” Skye was more interested in eating plants to be honest, but did have a little trot when encouraged verbally by the instructors. I then had no choice but to bounce and “trot” along too!

As I said, Skye took her gentle time. She completely backed off at one point and the instructor asked her why. She’d not seen what I’d seen: the horse in front doing a fart! Honesty, the tail wafted up and everything! That’s why Skye backed off and I didn’t blame her for a second!

I enjoyed my trek. The clippoty clop motion, the gorgeous autumnal leaves (the ones Skye didn’t eat!) and fresh air. We even saw a deer.. though I must admit my only thought there was “Oi Bambi, don’t scare the horses!” Yes, it was a great experience. Not sure I’ll become a regular rider or anything, it even go on a horse who makes it past the “trot” phase in all honesty. But I’m glad I did it.

I admire the outdoorsy people who bound about on these horses; no care in the world ; covered in mud. On the other hand, I screamed when we slightly brushed into a tree it fence. I guess I’ll always be happier tucked up with a book…or at the cinema alone 😉

But I’m a trot further to my 30s 🙂

XSXS

Learning like an intern

Recently, I’ve been ploughing my way through a hugely varied list named “30 things before 30″… And since the big 3-0 birthday is now a month away, there are still quite a few to tick off. I started the list, not because I think 30 is the age we can stop achieving our goals, but because I like to set myself challenges and I think we all, no matter what age, need to keep learning.

Now my list includes things like learning to knit, riding a roller coaster and eating caviar. I may have to admit defeat on some of these! And that’s okay. It’s my list of challenges and I’ve still learnt things about myself along the way. Like the fact that a certain Alton Towers accident has put me off even further… and what would I gain from doing this? I’m not an adrenaline junkie, so probably not much. But I could lose a limb!  I’ll also never make a knitter – after numerous attempts, I still can’t even ” cast on “. And caviar seems out of my reach to try… maybe I don’t go to the right places? I’ll add that one to my 40 list 😉

But I have been on a gondala, become a Mrs, cooked new meals from scratch, ordered a meal in Italian, baked an edible cake, done something amazing for charity, been tobogganing, had something waxed, read all of Jane Austen’s novels (almost!)… and horse riding is booked in for next weekend 🙂

Today’s challenge was to go to the cinema alone. I just feel it is important to go out on your own and have ” me” time. Today, I’ll admit was a little forced because I knew it was on the list. But in the future, if there is a film I want to see and nobody else wants to go, I’ll go alone. It felt invigorating to just turn up, buy your ticket, sit where you want… eat lots of chocolate and drink tea in my case. The only moment I felt awkward was when I had a little cry…. at the film, not because I was alone 😉 It also turns out we all need others, when you have toilet paper stuck to your boot in the toilets… Thank you to the lady who pointed that out to me!

‘The Intern’ was the perfect film to see alone. Completely coincidental too (I wanted to see Macbeth, but it wasn’t showing today). I love Anne Hathaway (still a bit of a Shakespeare link!) and Robert De Niro and it seemed like my kind of film. It was; it was brilliant.

I won’t give the plot away, but De Niro plays a 70 year old Intern. That was the first reason I loved it. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can always take on a new challenge and learn new things. Naturally, it takes on the idea that he ends up teaching Hathaway’s character more than she teaches him.

Bringing us to the second reason I loved it. Hathaway plays a highly successful owner of an online fashion company. Trying to be the woman who has it all: a great business with happy staff; a loving marriage and family; a beautiful and functioning home. I love the themes of feminism, love and family relationships. How we’re all learning all the time. Within our relationships, in our work and learning to have the life we want.

So I will keep doing my challenges and happily be considered an Intern. 🙂 And I definitely will have another solo cinema trip. ‘Suffragette’ next maybe. But to fit with the tone of that film, maybe a group is more appropriate? 🙂

 Xsxs

It’ll be alright on the Wedding Day…

Bride Blogger Part 8

I’ve been absent from the Blogging world for a while. Wedmin, wedmin, wedmin! For those of you who aren’t all-consumed with wedding lingo, “Wedmin” is a very cleverly coined compound word for wedding admin, but you could probably figure that out 😉 I do wonder what I did with my time B.E (as in Before Engagement) – what did I do with those precious moments that are now spent making table confetti? Or cutting out inserts for the invitations? Or finding photographs to decorate the venue? Writing poems for nupitals? And when I get a break, I read wedding magazines in the bath!

Overall, it’s been an exciting time and I do enjoy all of the planning. We’ve had a few stressful things happen though that I’d thought I’d share with you fellow-brides or anyone else who wants a giggle:

Way back before Christmas, my Mum and I went to the florist to book flowers plus a glittery curtain back-drop for our venue. A glittery curtain? If you’d said to me years ago that we’d be forking out a small fortune to hire a glittery curtain for our wedding, I’d have laughed so hard, I would’ve spat wine in your face. But we have a massive window behind the top table in the venue room and it boasts a not so romantic looking view of the car-park. So, we need something to cover it. This one we wanted had been used at our venue loads and we thought “bugger it,” it saves anyone spending hours making something that may not look half as good. This is what weddings do to you – you spend on things you never thought you would want or need, but it is all about choosing what to spend your money on. Anyway, I digress. We went  to book this and with crossed fingers asked if the coveted curtain was available on our wedding day. She looked and said;

“Oh it’s already booked that day. At the Riverside hotel with a royal blue colour scheme!”

“What? But OUR wedding is on that date at that venue with that colour scheme!”

Wedding planning does make you a tad crazy. So after this had sunk in, I started to ponder if I had actually already booked it without remembering! But this booking had someone else’s name and they’d already picked flowers and paid their £50 deposit. I’m crazy, but not that crazy and think that even in my mad Wedmin mode, I would still remember giving a false name, choosing flowers and parting with 50 quid! So by this point, I couldn’t give a flying flip about the curtain, but was worried about our venue being double-booked! But a quick phone-call by our helpful florist solved the puzzle. It turns out this other couple had got engaged, gone straight into planning mode and ordered flowers and the curtain, paid the deposit before even booking a venue. They then hadn’t got as far as that because they broke up in the meanwhile. So the venue is ours; the curtain is ours (well for the day) and they are out £50 and don’t even have each other 😦 Sad –  but a lesson can be learnt. Don’t go booking and paying for things straight away before you even have a venue! You could break up…. or just give other future brides like myself, a heart attack!

Speaking of the venue, we still love it and are still very excited. It has caused us some stress also, however. Since booking our special day, they are now on their 3rd manager! Is it me and my incessant bridal questioning that has scared them off? Surprisingly, no! The first manager went on long-term sick – and I know this can’t be helped, but I was very disappointed because I felt like in addition to investing in the venue, we had invested in him also. I clung onto the hope he would be back in the New Year. He did get better but then left the hotel. We had dealt with a relief  manager in the meanwhile and then next time we had visited, there was another one. I know this shouldn’t matter. Our wedding will be great (the mantra I repeat with every single, piece of confetti I make!) but I just feel we have to keep going back to step one, telling the new manager everything!

Another annoying thing to bring us to the current wedding planning week, is the invitation making. I had this idealised idea that we would have a lovely evening printing off our invites to our nuptials. After the first click, the printer decided to chew up our envelopes. One by one. Turns out, in addition to our 80 guests, the printer wanted feeding too! So fingers crossed, we get those sorted this weekend! Things will go wrong, but as I say, I always get a story out of it!

As they say, it’ll be alright on the Wedding night day!

Keep posted for some Hen Do stories!

XSXS

Goodness, Actually

‘There is no such thing as a self-less good deed,’ said Joey on Friends. All good deeds are selfish because they make us feel good he believes- but so what? We need more of people feeling good. If you do a good deed and you make someone happy, it does in fact, make you happy in return – you can then spread this joy when you tell others about it. Which is what this blog post is all about.

Since starting my blog, I have done ‘A good, the bad, the ugly’ themed post at Christmas time to highlight how Christmas kind of exaggerates feelings. (links below) There are so many acts of kindness that seem even more generous during the festive period, yet people doing stupid things and selfish things becomes even worse at Christmas too.

This year – I want to forget negative stories. Not in a ‘head in the sand’ kind of way. There is no avoiding it really, especially with all the awful stories in the news. But for this post, it is going to be simple full of goodness. I’ve had a year of extreme high and lows and now, as the year draws to a close, I want to focus on the positive. And there is a lot of it in the world, even if we forget sometimes.

I was inspired when I watched Love Actually recently. Yes, its a bit cheesy (and no it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it 😉 ) but it does highlight all kinds of  ‘love’ in the world – in a variety of contexts. It ignores hate and all the bad in the world. And we need more of this… people need to focus on love and happiness. And goodness. There is always Goodness, actually 😉

As far as good deeds go, I think I have done my fair share so far this season. I was driving home from work one day and saw an elderly woman go flying – as in fallen over, not zooming in the sky!  She had another elderly woman with her, who couldn’t seem to help her up. I pulled over and attempted to help her up. When I couldn’t physically manage it, I ran for help and a man and myself helped her to her feet. She was very grateful, but insisted she was OK to walk home, after I’d offered to drive her home.

I also try to what I can for the elderly people I know. I’ve visited quite a few neighbours and friends at care homes or their houses – sometimes just a quick chat and some company is the best Christmas present they can have. I didn’t buy my friend Donald anything this year – I tend to find my gifts still wrapped in his room afterwards! So this year, I have just promised to take him out to Morrisons for lunch in the new year. He loves the place and will love that much more than a fancy box of biscuits.

Additionally, instead of giving out Christmas cards to colleagues this year, I have donated a bag of food to Hope charity food bank, which a colleague kindly organises, and also a donation of money to the charity Crisis to help the homeless this Christmas. Here are the links if you fancy doing the same:

http://www.hopecentrederby.co.uk/

http://community.crisis.org.uk/press?utm_source=insert&utm_medium=print&utm_campaign=menu

But lots of people do lovely things all the time, often unrecognised. I’m just going to blurt them all out into one big bubble of happiness – enjoy!

My friend lost her purse in town whilst shopping. Busy, festive time – she never expected to get it back. Luckily, she had no money in it and promptly cancelled her cards. She posted on Facebook and people shared it. A couple of days later, the purse had been posted through her letter box 🙂 Either the wonder or Facebook had helped this or good old-fashioned reading of the drivers licence  – but still, either way, highlighting that their are some decent people out there.

A similar story  – my Mother-in-law-to-be’s friend lost her handbag and it got handed in – fab ending once again Plus, my Mother-in-law-to-be went to a cash point recently and forgot to take her money. A lady behind her shouted after her to collect the money!

An ex-colleague of mine told me this next story via Facebook. She said that she noticed one day that her gate hinge had gone rusty and broke. The next day, she went out to the shops in order to buy a new hinge and noticed that her gate now boasted a brand-new, shiny hinge. It turns out her neighbour had done it for her – without being asked, or without want of any recognition.

Another story I read on Facebook was a lovely one (you see Facebook can be used for positivity spreading!) and made me feel very warm inside – and no, that wasn’t the wine 😉 A youth club went round to local elderly people giving them Christmas hampers. This is pure goodness in itself – but it gets better. They became very upset and disturbed by the condition one old man was living in: poor décor, messy, cold and a lack of carpets. They are now planning to do lots of activities to fund-raise money to carpet the man’s house 🙂 Wonderful.

A friend at work told me about a 26-year-old man (I think she said he was on TV about it) who chose to do a good deed every day for a year. He has managed all of the year so far and still keeping to it every single day. He does things like helping strangers when they are struggling with something, paying for someone’s lunch, doing chores for the elderly and unable. What an inspiration!  – Here’s the link if you want to read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2874858/Luke-Cameron-does-good-deed-day-12-months-people-hate-it.html

Another young lad, who is a true inspiration, is Matthew Humphreys. he completed to Rickshaw challenge this year for Children in Need. I worked with him a few years ago, which is a complete honour. It was my mate, plus then, another fantastic ex-colleague who had the daily delights of working with him one-to-one – and what an amazing job they have done to help to shape the person he has become (along with all other friends and family of course!)  With a physical disability, he found it harder than anyone else – and god knows it is a challenge anyway! I went to see him at my old school for  an awards’ ceremony last week. he also had speech difficulties, but had prepared a speech and was an absolute star of the show. It really does make you humble. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2PkXCX63SZ1YMJ37j3xX9jS/matthew – for more info.

Please continue these stories in the comments below. There are many more to be told – in fact there are probably many more that I know, but have forgotten (especially if told to me after having wine! haha) Spread the joy. After watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time this Christmas, it made me realise what a profound effect each and every individual can have on another’s life. We all have a role to play and there is reason we are here.

Do what you can to help others – it will make them happy and yourself in return 🙂 To end on a quote:

‘Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.’ – but remember goodness is for life, not just for Christmas 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone – have one full of goodness!

XSXS

https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/christmas-the-generous-the-silly-and-the-damn-right-disgusting/

https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/christmas-the-good-the-bad-the-funny-and-the-damn-right-inhumane/

Dangerous Gravy

Picture this: I’m on a fast, moving train after visiting a friend from Uni; I’m checking my phone for messages every ten minutes – whilst, in between, reading a novel on my E-reader device; I have a take-away cup of Mocha; people are talking on phones; working on laptops; a Special Needs child is shouting ‘Dangerous gravy’ over and over….. is this a snapshot of crazy, modern life?

The Special Needs lad kind of made my day. He was shouting and rambling away and no one batted an eye lid. I know there are exceptions to this  – but on this train, no one cared. There was acceptance. That is one thing I love about modern life – everything is out in the open, we can do what we want – and live the life we choose. (mostly!) This is definitely true in comparison to the other time period I was thinking about on the train. You see, I was reading about the Jane Austen world. Not one of her books, or a book about her – but a modern author’s depiction of ‘what happens next’ in Pride and Prejudice.* So, this is a modern author delving into the 1800s . Some of you may groan at this idea – but it is actually very good. No, her style isn’t exactly like Austen’s, how could it be? I love the fact that that didn’t put her off writing the story she wanted to.

With the lad shouting ‘Dangerous gravy’, I started thinking of the term ‘gravy train’. Whether it was being on a train or just how my mind works I don’t know! I started thinking about how we are all on this ‘gravy train’ of life. In all honesty, I always thought the term was a synonym of the term ‘rat race’ – meaning crazy, modern life journey. That kind of idea. I’ve just looked it up, however, and it means ‘a cushy job or time’ – saying that someone can get a lot of money from very little effort. This still kind of fits with the ideas I wanted to discuss though.

Hilariously, when I told my Mum about the lad on the train, she simply said Ahh maybe he was recently burnt by hot gravy!’ That is much more realistic! How come I never think so literally?!

I’ve always joked that I belong to the 1800s – or even possibly a little earlier, like the Tudor Courts perhaps. I’d love the simple life of walking everywhere, not worrying about technology – you know, a lovely day of sewing, writing, reading and playing the piano (I’m very musical and creative with a needle in this daydream!) All I’d have to worry about is finding a husband and keeping my family happy (assuming I was in a higher class – again this is what I imagine! hehe) I wouldn’t have the day-to-day craziness like I do in Modern life – but would I be any happier?

I’d have to do what my father told me to. I wouldn’t be able to go out alone without a chaperone. I would have to get married, or be seen as some ort of leper by society. I wouldn’t even be able to blummin dance at a party without being asked by a man! All these things I get cross about now, yet I am still drawn to this time period and the idea of living in it!

In contrast, what I love about modern life is the idea of the unexpected and its freedom. Like the train freeze-frame above: totally random! In modern society, we can hop on a train or plane and go anywhere. We see people from all walks of life and have so, so many opportunities and experiences. In Jane Austen land, I’d get married and live in some big house somewhere and perhaps hardly see the rest of my family   – as it would take days to travel to them! People must have been happy then and fulfilled – but they didn’t know any different. I think the ‘dangerous’ thing here – is to compare. We need to embrace our life – as crazy as it – and appreciate the opportunities and things we get to do. I don’t have to attend a ball on Saturday night to fit into society’s ideals. I can sit in my PJs and watch X Factor; go out for dinner; pop to Paris (if money allowed!): we have the freedom to do as we choose.

As for  the lad on the train, I have no idea why he shouted ‘Dangerous Gravy’. Maybe my Mum was right – or maybe he was mourning Linda Bellingham? Bisto is being mentioned a lot lately in her honour! I just think in terms of having it ‘cushy’ and being on a gravy train, we all can really. Yes, of course we still have to work hard to attain things – but modern life has made so many things much easier for us. Life can be as simple or easy as we make it – whatever time period we live in.

Anyone else really fancy gravy now? 😉

XSXS

Georgiana Darcy’s Diary: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice continued (Pride and Prejudice Chronicles Book 1) by Anna Elliot. There are a few in the series I think.

Hunt for the perfect wedding dress – and bridal shop!

Bride Blogger Part 6

Well, I have started trying dresses on for the big day! It is now less than a year away until I become a Mrs, so figured I should get trying on some dresses. I’ve seen it on TV where future brides try on lovely, intricate dresses surrounded by a teary, enthusiastic audience – all helped along by the most helpful, friendly member of staff, oh and the glass of champagne! Now, I live in Swad, I wasn’t expecting the champagne, but I did envisage a wonderful human-being who just wants to find a bride her perfect dress. A woman whose career was a calling not just a way to pay the bills. My standard was high.

My first shopping trip was Monday with my Maid of Honour/sister and bridesmaid/best friend. My hope for the perfect dress soon began to plummet, as the first two bridal shops we went to were closed! It seems Mondays are a popular day for Bridal shops to be closed – they have a busy Saturday and take Sunday and Monday as their weekend. Doh. But, after lunch, there was a little ray of hope. A shop that was actually in our little town called Alison Evans Bridalwear. We made an appointment over the phone and spent about an hour there. Thank you to all of you who recommended that we try there. It was brilliant and the perfect first shop to try. There were racks of gorgeous dresses to choose from and some excellent advice to accessorise the experience. I was advised to try about six dresses on to get an idea of style without overwhelming myself – and my poor bridesmaids! We were allowed to take some photographs too and I did fall in love with one dress (yet wasn’t sure about the back – so it was not the ONE!) Other little highlights of this great shop – were mirrors facing to get an all round look of the gowns, weddings shoes to be borrowed and worn and absolutely no pressure to buy. In fact, she gave me the details of the designer and model number of the dress and suggested I tried other shops to see what I thought. When you want something, set it free. And this is good business I think – because after visiting a few more places this week, I really want to return to this great shop and give them my business. So I’ll be back with the Mums in tow next time!

On the Wednesday, I went to Lincoln with my Mum. I didn’t particularly want to buy a dress from somewhere that far away, but I thought trying a few on couldn’t do any harm. And, besides, I now had lots of bridal optimism and thought I may see the ONE and just have to get it! The experience in the shop couldn’t have been more different! I was ushered into the changing room straight away. I began to wander out again whilst chatting to the woman – assuming that I was to come and look at the dresses and select a few – but NO! I was told I needed to be in the changing room and to take my clothes off. It turns out, I wasn’t to choose which dresses to try on, Miss Control-Freak was going to do that! 4 dresses got pushed onto me quickly within a twenty minute period. My mum was not allowed to take photos. I was told that if I wanted straps that would cut my choice down by 80% and as for not wanting a V neck with lace, I might as well give up now! She was very bossy about the fact that I needed to decide which style I wanted. How dare I like straight down lace ones as well as full skirted satin ones?! I quickly found out that her so called statistics and opinions were down to the fact that she didn’t really have what I wanted. She also said the word ‘appreciate’ about a million times – about the same as her dress costs – ‘You’ll appreciate that it is a busy time.’  ‘You’ll appreciate that we only stock certain sizes.’ What I do appreciate is not being treated like a moron. So, off I went to find my lacy dress with straps elsewhere!

On Friday – really getting the Craig David 7 Days song vibe now? ‘I found a dream bridal shop on Monday, took a break on Tuesday, got bossed around on Wednesday, another break on Thursday……….Well on Friday, I was insulted in another shop!

I took the Mums this time to another local bridal shop. I won’t name and shame, but if anyone does want to know more details then message me for warnings! We went in and the woman asked me what size dresses I had been trying on. I said a mixture really- some had been too big and held against me and some only partly fastened because they were too small, as I was only looking at style at the moment. I also said that I was a size 14 in normal clothing though. Now, if she was experienced at her job, she should have suggested that I try a size above or a mixture of sizes as they all vary. But, no, we picked out about 8 size 14 dresses and then she began to struggle to get the first one on me. She said, ‘Are you sure you’ve been trying on 14s?’ Well, I did say, no but that was my usual size! The next gem that followed and stood out as much as the ones on the dresses was,

‘Is losing a few pounds on the cards?’

 

Now, luckily I am not sensitive about these things. I’m happy with my weight – but she doesn’t know that. For all she knew, I could have spent the first 6 months of my engagement losing a few stone. I may lose a little before the wedding, but that is none of her business. I said through gritted teeth, ‘It may be.’ I think she then knew that she had pissed me off, as she back- tracked and said ‘Well I only said that because of this dress. If you were to lose a few pounds, this would fit perfectly.’ Well, I’m not buying a dress to then worry that I have to shrink to fit into it. I tried on other 14s and some fit, some didn’t. Some 16s – some fit and some didn’t. I tried on a 18 and it was too small. Wedding dress sizes are crazy – you think she would have known that in her line of work? She was just generally unhappy and unfriendly and I don’t get it. These people are around pretty dresses and happy people all day – if you don’t like making wedding dreams come true, then don’t do it! On the plus side (excuse the pun!), my mother-in-law to be got her outfit! She said she almost didn’t want to give her business, but I said she had found the right outfit and would be spiting herself if she didn’t get it.

So the hunt for the ideal dress is still on – but I’ve found the shop that I want to return to. (And 2 I will never set foot in again!)

Keep Calm and Carry on all you brides out there!

XSXS

A Fine Life

I have just read an article in Psychologies magazine that has inspired me to write this. I love it when that happens – when I read something and feel I have something to add. The article was about being ‘fine’. They always say that if a woman ever says she is ‘fine’ then the husband or partner is in trouble – as ‘fine’ can be a mask to hide true, inner feelings.

The article suggested that it is better to be honest when people ask if you are okay  – tell them you are feeling rubbish/down/depressed etc. I guess it depends on the person that has asked you and the situation. I studied spoken communication at university for my dissertation – and it does seem that certain phrases are asked out of politeness or to invite a deeper, more meaningful conversation. Women are always said to be a more ‘polite’ conversationalist and I found that from my research. That is politeness translates as being cooperative, formal and inviting. Women like to include others into conversations and a simple,

‘How are you?’

‘I’m fine thanks, how are you?’

can do this. It did always amuse when I studied gender differences because a male conversation of:

‘Pint?’

‘Sure!’

can so exactly the same thing! So if this ‘politeness’ is more about being honest and straight to the point, then males may have it down to a tea (or a beer!) But let’s stick with this idea of being ‘fine’ – and within both genders. The article suggested ‘fine’ to be an acronym, which I thought was quite clever. Because even if we say are fine, we are really feeling a mash-up of feelings – and you could argue that we all are, all the time.

 

F *cked up

Insecure

Neurotic

Emotional

 

Is it better to be honest and say ‘Actually, I’m feeling kind of emotional’? Like I said above, it does depend on who it is and where you are. I would want a friend or family member to tell me what they were really feeling – even if it wasn’t a convenient time or location in fact. Sometimes, though, you just want small-talk though and keeps people at that ‘acquaintance’ level – and we all need those.

Lately, I’ve had a couple of neighbours confide truths to me. I didn’t ask for it or particularly invite it  – well I didn’t think I did anyway! One neighbour on Monday, confided that she had cancer and her latest check-up was yesterday. I only went outside to get my sunglasses from my car so that I could read in the sun. Irony alert – that by the time we had finished talking, the sun had gone in! I liked the fact that she spoke to me about it though, really. I feel I know her better. If she had said she was ‘fine’ and then I heard her health news from someone else, I would have felt that I wasn’t a person she could tell. The downside is, it has now gone a few notches up from general neighbour chat and I must remember to ask her how her check-up went. The pressure is on to not feel like a bad neighbour.

Another neighbour, a few weeks previous, confided in me about his wife leaving him for another man. Again, I was just  getting out of my car  – I think I had just come from work. We had the small talk about ‘glad the day was over and I could relax now’ etc. It somehow got onto the fact that he now lived alone and his wife had left him. This may have been a time when I wished he had just said he was ‘fine’ – as I didn’t really  know what to say! I mean what do you say? ‘There are plenty more fish in the sea!’  or ‘Maybe she will come back’? Awkward. But, maybe it made him feel better to tell someone and he was sick of saying that he was just ‘fine’.

It’s okay to not be fine. I always say that talking about things is human nature and we need to do it. We are social creatures and sometimes a chat – whether it be to a close friend or stranger – is all we need.

XSXS

 

A Short Life Short Story

Hi guys – no wedding stuff to talk about lately, so I will share with you a short story I have just started working on. See what you think:

Narrow streets, lined with grey and brown cobbles, swept around the white, smart-looking wooden buildings. Flashes of colour blurred past as people tended to their business. Purples going into the grocers. Orange going towards the lake. Greens walking hand in hand talking. Blue walking into the local news agents. That’s all they were to her. A blurry, rainbow getting in the way of her view. The dull cobbles and the greying sky were a much better view. Still. Honest. Constant. The cobbles never moved, abandoned you or let you down. The sky was always there no matter what had happened. The flashes of colour were fickle. Just as your eyes began to feast on them, they were gone. Just like her self-respect.

Yes, living in a grey world matched her mood. She had become a spectator of life lately. Watching it happen through her window. They say eyes are windows to the soul, yet hers were firmly shut. Her soul was a prisoner of her body; her body a hostage of her mind. Trapped wasn’t the word. She had everything at her exposure: money in the bank; physical beauty (whatever that was worth); freedom to do what she wanted; a sociable personality – so she was told, when she actually went out into the colourful world. But it was all tainted like a summer’s day with a looming, dark storm cloud over it.

She used to be happy. At times, optimistic and jubilant too.  But that was all before. Because one thing she didn’t have: her health. Well, she had a limited amount of poor health left. It reminded her of when you play a computer game and your life bar is slowly, slowly going down. She needed some sort of ‘life’ or bonus points to help it go back up again. But this was the real world – and hers was drained of colour and hope.

                                                    *****

When people realise they have a limited amount of time left on earth, they do one of two things: give up or live life to the fullest that it can be. I chose a magical, third option. Knowing I only have 12 months to live has given me a purpose. It has given me a voice. It has given me reason to do things I should have done a long time ago. No, not go to friggin Disneyland or to finally try sky-diving. Or to visit all those beautiful, exotic, faraway pieces of heaven. No. I was even willing to give up my place in the actual heaven, if it so exists. I was going to use my time left on this planet to make things right. I was going to make a list of everyone who had wronged me and make things even. We all like a balanced world, don’t we?

It is only a first-draft of the first part, but I’m enjoying toying with this idea of revenge and a limited time left. And also writing as a villain is interesting and a little different for me! Any comments are welcome. Thanks.

xsxs

Buy your Cake and Eat it!

Cake
1.)

cake2
2.)

cake 3
3.)

Bride Blogger Part 5

 

Hi brides-to-be, bloggers, readers and any other wedding goers! The wedding prep has died down a little, as with over a year to go still, there isn’t a lot to do in the present. We have the venue and the registrar. So the WHERE and the WHO bits of our wedding are taken care of – what else could you need? A lot it seems. One of those things being a cake. Cakes are used as part of a lot of English celebrations – and it seems at a wedding, not only is it a tasty treat for your guests, but it has to be a fantastic, wowing centre piece!

The wedding cake is traditionally cut by the bride and groom and eaten by the guests at the wedding reception. I have many memories of taking pieces home though – as you are usually full up of yummy wedding food. And with the price of the Wedding Breakfast food and evening food, people best be full!!!

I’ve also read that wedding cake used to be broken over/thrown at the bride as a symbol of fertility. Wasting a few hundred pound cake by throwing it about is like throwing money down a drain: who could ever afford a child?! Crazy ideas – again to me, it could be eaten not thrown about like a ball. Plus it could get on my lovely dress!

Wedding cakes are supposed to signify good luck and happiness for the happy couple and the guests. To me, it is important it is one thing: delicious! It  is a cake after all! No matter how pretty or magnificent it is, if it tastes horrible, there will be some disappointed guests.  And it isn’t good luck if you choke on some hard, dry sponge! So, yes I want it look good but it is equally important that it tastes good – and I feel I should be able to get both of these at a non-ridiculous price! Honestly, some of them can cost £1000 or more – for sponge! Crazy industry! I know, I know – you’re paying for their time and labour – but still. I was thinking a nice, simple one that fits with the colour scheme – with maybe a funny cake-topper on the top (funnily enough!) of maybe me reading/ Kenny rowing! Haha. Even though, that hasn’t stopped me looking at more elaborate ones:

1.) The first pic is hilarious and would be very fitting for our clumsiness! Love it! I imagine a lot of effort would have to go into that though.

2.) The one on the left is really cool. Pictures printed around each side of the couple. Kenny has an idea to get photos on a supermarket cake as a cheaper way of doing it! Mmmm…. will see about that!

3.) I’m not sure we would need this many layers, but I love how each one tells a story of the love between the couple! Love the colours too.

So, there are some cake ideas – will need to look at lots more and do plenty of testing I imagine too 😉 Any tips or ideas – please comment below!

XSXS

 

Dating to dates, dates, dates!

Bride Blogger Part 4:

wedding

It has occurred to me that wedding preparation involves a lot of dates. And we get to that point from all those dates during dating 😉

Of course, there is the date of the proposal – which we have nailed: 3rd January 2014 – in the future this will become another date to celebrate our life together, in addition to the date we actually got together: 21st January 2005 🙂

We have the wedding date sorted too now – and even the registrar is booked, giving us that oh so valuable time of marriage too. It was a right faff getting the registrar sorted – we couldn’t get in touch with them via person or phone due to our jobs. So we emailed them. They then replied with ‘please phone us to discuss further.’ Erm, what’s the point of having an email address then?! So far, people in this wedding industry are amazing me – either in terms of excitement and enthusiasm, or like that example: incompetence (or just far too much laid-backness for my liking!) I don’t want to get all ‘But’s it our wedding!’ on anyone just yet but it may be on the horizon!  My fiancé emailed another registrar to actually book it (we had to let one county know – where we live – and actually book for the one we are getting married in.) He attached a  delivery thing to it, so that he knew when they had read it. He received it, but 9 hours later they still hadn’t replied! It’s all sorted now, but from that to the cost of £400 to just actually get married, I started to wonder if we should just have a big party without the legal bit 😉 haha. I would have still had the dress and bridesmaids, naturally!

Another date that got set in shiny stone this week is my hen do date! Next May – whoop! A year to wait, but I am very proud and pleased with my sister (aka Maid of Honour) and best mate (aka bridesmaid) for being so organised and excited about it all!

Bridal Fairs are other dates that are filling my diary still – looking forward to going to one in May to actually seriously start looking at dresses. Taking Mum and Mum-in-law to be to that one. It made me laugh at a fair recently, a plus sized wedding dress company tried to convince me to use them. They start at size 16. I said I was a 14, but they then stated that wedding dresses come small, so I would their 16. Mmm – will see about that. Can’t knock their sales techniques though!

With all these dates in crazy wedding plan world, it’s important to return to the traditional ‘date’ and make sure you spend quality time together. So, that you still make it to that oh so important wedding date! 🙂

Keep enjoying planning future brides!

XSXS

Grandad

Grandad

It’s been all talk of weddings and funerals lately. My grandad passed away last week – it was expected and I know it was a blessing in the long run for him. But, with all those positive thoughts that try and drag you through these situations – it will always be sad.

We had the funeral today and my Gran asked me to write a poem. It has a funny tone – because it should be a celebration of life, but mainly because if it was too soppy and emotional, I wouldn’t have made my through the reading of it!

See what you think:

Grandad

Grandad, you’ll really be missed,

for all your knowledge and chattering,

but for me, I’m mostly upset,

‘cos you were the only one who thought I could sing!

 

A voice like an angel you said,

clearly lost your hearing-aid that day,

but it’s always been a family joke,

just like the jigsaw pieces that ‘lost their way’.

 

Yes, you always loved those puzzles,

all those pieces for you to manoeuvre,

then when it came to that last piece we’d hear:

‘Peg, you’ve sucked it up the hoover!’

 

You also loved to be in the garden,

doing the lawns and pottering in the sheds,

whilst us kids played on the grass, trying not to,

get our balls in the flower beds!

 

Always keen on numbers, you were,

Lottery ones, you were keen to remember,

You may not have won big, yet always knew,

important family dates: January to December.

 

And you always made to time to relax,

Looking at photographs; sitting in your chair,

whilst eating a dark, chocolate Bounty,

and hiding a few in your bedroom upstairs!

 

Those times Gran sang, ‘Bring your sweet lips a little closer…’,

As you both enjoyed a ‘sneaky’ drink or two,

The rest of the family singing and laughing,

And trying to keep up with you!

 

We’ll always remember your funny ways, Grandad,

And they will make us smile for years and years,

It will feel like you are still with us,

So, after today, no need for any sad tears.

 

All that needs saying really.

XSXS

Women You Should Know

A side step from the wedding stuff for a moment, and a look into some info on women we should know but most likely don’t. It’s International Women’s Day today and a chance to celebrate being a woman, acknowledge how far women and feminism has come, and to research all those women – who should be famous, but because they are women from history, we just don’t know about them. Or enough about them.

Yes, we know Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud and Galileo – and the list goes on. In fact, I just googled ‘100 Scientists to Shape the World’ and there was one woman who I had heard of. ONE! Marie Curie. Well, we need to get to know the other women who did amazing things. This is in no disrespect to the fantastic things the above men did. It isn’t to compete. It isn’t to show women are better. It is to uncover history. It did happen. Men did amazing things, yet so did women. We should know about both.

So, without further ado – and with thanks to the Women’s Rights Page that I follow, let me introduce you:

WOMEN

  • Maris Mitchell was an astronomer in the 19th Century and discovered a comet. I never knew this. The comet was named after her as ‘Miss Mitchell’s Comet.’ I find this interesting that it needed the title ‘Miss’ – anything named after a man doesn’t tend to need the title ‘Mr’, but maybe I’m reading too much into it 😉

  • Emmy Noether was an influential mathematician – again in the 19th Century, who was known for her contribution to algebra and theoretical physics. Go her!

  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell was an astrophysicist and discovered the first radio pulsars. I don’t know what these are, but she sounds clever 😉

  • Valentina Tereshkova – still alive today – was the first woman in space, (the fifth Russian cosmonaut)to go into the Earth’s orbit when her spaceship Vostok VI was launched from Moscow.

  • Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin was a British-American astronomer and astrophysicist, who proposed in her Ph.D. thesis an explanation for the composition of stars in terms of the relative abundances of hydrogen and helium. Wow!

  • Lise Meitner was a physicist who worked on nuclear physics and radioactivity.

  • Caroline Hershel  – an amazing astronomer, who worked alongside her brother Sir William Hershel for both of their careers. High five for also managing a working sibling relationship!

  • Rita Levi-Montalcini: A neurologist  who was a Nobel prizewinning Jewish scientist. She carried out her cell growth research while hiding from the fascists during the second world war.

You see, with my background, I have always been fascinated with women like Jane Austen, The Brontes, George Elliot (Mary Ann Evans) who were trying to write in a male dominated world – writing with pseudonyms in some cases to just get noticed. But, I haven’t considered the Science field before. The above women have all succeeded in Science (arguably an even more male-dominated field).

Their history is there in black and white: we just need to read it and share it 🙂

Happy International Women’s Day!

XSXS

A Fayre Wedding (and more venues!)

Bride Blogger Part 3:

Well guys, wedding stuff ahoy! We went to our first wedding fayre a couple of weeks ago. It has been a journey  (faster than a walk down the aisle) since then! The fayre was fun – and also funny in the laughable sense at times. We were shown, you know, all those things that you had no idea that you need. Because you don’t! But they make you feel you do. Like a caricaturist for instance. Just what I have always wanted: cartoon pictures of my guests! He joked that since we hadn’t booked a venue yet, that we could plan the whole wedding around him. Er no. Doves were another thing – doves in a cage. All pretty and calm and then you release then after the ceremony. Nah – bit cheesy for me that. And knowing me, it would be bound to go wrong. I’d release them out of time with the photographer/get pecked/or pooed on (again – worry of that white dress!) haha – so again a no, no, no!

We said yes, yes, yes to some things though. The free cake and cupcake samples, chocolates and pens! Oh and the amount of business cards and leaflets we came back with I could make a dress out of! I found it was easier to just say ‘yes’ (I’m practising for the big day you see!) and take the leaflets and move on. 🙂 Everyone wants you to buy their product or service of course, whereas I just wanted to browse for ideas.

We took my sister and partner with us too, which caused some confusion. At each station they wanted to know who the bride and groom was – I told my sis she should have pretended to be a bride too – and also get the freebies 😉 So that was the main fayre fail.

The best part of the fayre was the venue. It was the one that we had rated highest on the last blog 😉 We were excited to see it again and asked the photographers and other agencies/businesses for tips about the venue. For example a photographer told us one of the hired rooms has a view of the car park – and one of the river. So it is best to have the ceremony in the river view room. Well for my rower fiance it definitely is – others may have a particular interest in cars – or concrete!

We called in on another venue on the way home. This was one that I had my heart set on originally. I loved the website photos, the deal and the surroundings. But we had asked to book a viewing and they had been busy. We decided to call on the off-chance. Like the funeral incident in the last blog, there was another funny story to tell. We walked in on an event – maybe a wedding, but if so, the bride and groom had snuck off 😉 We asked a member of staff if we could make an appointment to come and view properly. She said she was in the middle of phoning an ambulance for a guest! Yet, she still kept talking to us for a few moments!! I said, ‘No way are we getting married there. If someone takes ill on the day, they’ll take ages to ring for bloody help!’ The piano man suggested we write our details down to be passed on. 2 weeks later and we still hadn’t heard anything.

Rating: Inept with emergencies/ not excited for you to book/ poor communication skills? 0/10 for them then!

A week later, we returned to our ‘favourite’ venue for an open eve and a meeting with the manager. The price had seemed right and we were 99% sure before we even went. We just wanted to check a few things: some numbers, room info, food details (we also had our dinner there to sample!) and general costings and info about the day. To cut it short:  we booked it! And the most exciting part:  it is next August! We decided to bring it forward a year (and no, I am not pregnant – as some people have asked!) We just decided we could afford it! I now feel, with it being next year, that I can plan the little things. We started looking into flowers (how expensive are button holes?!) and seat covers (a couple of hundred quid to cover seats?!) I guess this is where the proper fun starts 😉

 

Wedding Quote:

‘Old people at weddings have always poked me and said ‘you’re next!’

So, I started doing the same to them at funerals!’ 😉

Next time: All those little details and first, small steps of planning the big day!

XSXS

 

4 Wedding Venues and a Funeral!

Part 2 of the Bride Blogger posts:

 

We have now attended our first four venues – for a look round and discussion. There has been a lot of great information, advice and sights to see. BUT no canapes or free champagne  – I thought that was one of the pluses of mooching around all these places? Maybe that’s the wedding fayre….. *fingers crossed*

The first venue we turned up to view was a local hotel. We had booked the appointment but we ended up being quite early. So, I suggested we look at our guest list so we had a more accurate idea of numbers before we went in. No one one told us that this was the hardest part?! I’d heard, in fact, that the seating plan is – but surely once you have the number of guests, seating them isn’t an issue? Person + seat = done. 🙂 Yeh, I get the feeling that it isn’t as easy as that either – so look at for a blog in the future on that one!

I thought we could get 50 guests for the day. But once we add up family – close friends of both us  and then our separate close friends, then it’s easily 70. And don’t even get me started on the plus ones 😉 So that was our ‘number’: 70 plus up to 100 for the evening.

The first venue made me laugh – it could only happen to us. It was all set out  beautifully to show it’s full potential as an idyllic venue: as a funeral! Haha. So it was hard to picture our big day there, when it was very sombre and tranquil for the looming funeral wake. It was a nice place though and we got asked questions about colours, ideas and best men/bridesmaids – the woman showed a real interest (to get our money says the cynical side of me!) but I lapped it all up and thought ‘this venue searching is fun!’ This seemed a great option, until a couple of hours later, we got the very detailed, ‘interested’ and expensive quote 😉

Rating: 5/10 ‘Lottery win needed or a hell of a lot of bartering.’

We ended up going to a  local restaurant for lunch ‘The Winery’ 😉  – one of the best in town (for food, but not prices!) as we heard they did weddings there and we could kill two birds with one stone! I love this particular restaurant, and once again, the food was amazing. (Sadly again, no freebies for wedding research! 😉 ) The rooms are all very secluded and segregated  – which is great for eating out – but not so great for a wedding, where you want everyone to see everyone and be in a big, open space.

Rating: 7/10 ‘great food- marquee needed if we choose this one.’

The third place, we were also booked in for. It was at the local brewery centre – wine and beer, are you sensing the theme of these venues? 😉 My fiance, naturally, loved the idea of this one. It had some great potential and lot of different rooms to choose from, including a marquee.

Rating: 8/10 ‘good price, but no nice outside area.’

Lastly, we randomly called at a hotel that I  heard was a good option. We got some info and we were very excited by the deal they do. Not giving too much away to our guests yet 😉

Rating a hush, hush 9/10 – I knocked a point of because it seems a little too good to be true at the minute. Watch this space 😉

Kenny was so excited by the price options that he spent 6 hours at home when we got back, creating a detailed database:  of guests/groups they fall into/ their roles in the wedding and costs/budgets/prices etc.

So, Lucy, I do now have a man heavily involved in the planning! I am pleased overall yes, but there was a point at 9pm (after a full day of wedding stuff) that I had to prize him away from the computer   – as 2 years before the wedding, I just don’t know if our ‘veggie guests want cauliflower tart’ or if we should ‘have a tea and coffee option.’ Haha! It’s going to be a fun 2 years 😉

Not a quote this time, but a question:

‘How do brides- or this bride in particular –

manage all day without spilling on the perfect, white dress?!

White food/drink options?’

This is a serious worry for me!

See you soon wedding planners!

Next: wedding fayres, as we are off to our first one today!

XSXS

From the Little Black book to a Bigger White book….

Those of you whom read regularly will know that my blogs are random. They are to reflect life: random. I write about things that pop up, occur and just happen. Or perhaps topics close to my heart that I have thought about that day. From now on – up to the next couple of years – there is no escaping that the blog posts may get a little more wedding related 😉 So, I’d like to offer myself as a Bride Blogger – for those in mine (and other) wedding parties to share ideas/read of my planning/ laugh at me etc! For those not involved at all, should still get a laugh and a giggle out of my Bridezilla stress. Because you don’t realise how every little damn thing becomes magnified when it comes to wedding prep! I didn’t. (And I’m still only in the first couple of months!)

Yes, I am now a fiancee. I no longer have a little black book (not that I did anyway – you could fit my previous conquests on a napkin! 😉 ) I now have a nice, bright, white A5 wedding planner – because who needs an actual wedding planner in the form or a human, when you have a notebook?! God, I love making lists and that ‘skill’ will finally come to good use! Nothing ever may get ticked off the lists….but still 😉

You don’t realise  – or I didn’t  – how much there is to think about. I always thought, ‘Oh, I’d do it on the cheap and it wouldn’t take long to sort!’ I still think this in theory – and we don’t want a big, fancy affair but we do want lots of people. The joining of family, friends and everyone you care about is the most important thing to me . Unfortunately, this mass of people need feeding and everything! 😉 So, even though we’d love to get married as soon as possible, we seem to need the next two years to save money and sort everything out. So, the planning to me is the first exciting stage. (My fiance may not agree with this!)

After being engaged, the whole world turns into one huge wedding. I notice other people’s engagement rings now, and every place I drive past is a possible venue. I strain my neck to see if there is a suitable, cute garden or if they do accommodation – surprised I haven’t crashed yet! 😉 Every colour I see becomes a possible bridesmaid/colour theme. Every white dress is possible bridal couture for myself. Every sentimental quote I see, is a possible ‘personal’ touch to make the little things important on the big day – screw the guests, I’ll be surrounded by word plaques!  😀 haha.

I’d say that I’m still in the overwhelmed phase. In a good way. Everything seems a possibility and I’m just collecting ideas to fill those blank pages in my book 😉 I havent been engulfed by the invitations, save the dates, wedding menus – where I might just suggest we cook and eat the groom instead. No, it’s all very nice still. It will be interesting to see how this develops I think! I have a lot of friends and acquaintances getting married too in the next 24 months, so I hope they will share ideas and read this too 🙂

Next post: Venues! (We are going to see our first 2 on Friday.)  – I actually had my first ‘Bridezilla’ moment when I was booking these. One hadn’t replied to my email in over a week. I became very ‘well if they want us to get married there, then they should be efficient enough to reply!’ This was also because every other venue and immediately invited us along/emailed us/phoned us just for looking at their website! I emailed again saying ‘we would appreciate a response this time ASAP as we were seeing other venues that day.’ Cue, a response immediately with an apology and we are now booked in. I can work this Bride thing! 😉

Wedding Quote 1:

‘Marriage lets you annoy that one

special person for the rest of your life!’

See you soon wedding planners….

XSXS