@SusanCalman – My Strictly Winner

I am a huge Strictly Come Dancing fan, its what autumn evenings were made for.  It gives autumn evenings a little sparkle with the dances, costumes, make up and hair, music, staging etc.. It is a show which genuinely makes me happy and relaxed, whether it be the big shows at the weekend or Zoe during the week, my family know to let me have a little time to watch Strictly.

I genuinely like all the contestants, there’s no one I’m ‘agin.’ (see @mariankeyes, SCD super fan) However this year there has been one contestant who has shone out and for whom I may have developed a bit of a girl crush, the magical Susan Calman.  Her joy and enthusiasm for Strictly was unrivalled and here was a contestant I could relate to, similar age, non dancer, not very girlie but whom adored Strictly and wanted to learn to dance.  Her choreography and music choices were brilliant, Kevin Clifton is so talented because he understands who is partner is and how to portray that in the dance.   Susan’s costumes and make up embraced all the glitz of Strictly and she looked stunning.  I liked how natural it felt to see Susan’s wife in the audience and how supportive she was, alongside Susan’s gang of friends the ‘Geek squad.’ Here were professors, lawyers, writers cheering on their friend in matching t-shirts at Blackpool and loving every minute, its the sort of thing I could see me and my friends doing.   Susan brought so much to Strictly and this evening, I thought the episode lacked a little something and I’ve come to  realise that it was missing the infectious joy and passion of Susan and Kevin.

On Monday  I led an assembly at the special needs school where I work on our theme of the week, learning something new.  I started with Susan’s pinned tweet when she was announced as a contestant to some of her quotes and interviews as she progressed and finished with her dance to Morecambe and Wise.  During the dance, my students started standing up and came to the front to dance, it was a totally spontaneous moment and it was a moment of pure joy and delight, Susan’s enthusiasm and love for dancing has made life a little more sparkling and joyful for so many.  Thank you Susan and please keep dancing.

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Summer Sparkles

So the weather is pants and the summer holiday plans aren’t quite what we had hoped for, but there are still (damp) sparkles everywhere.  This is one of my favourite weeks of the year and despite the weather its a week when I really have felt thankful for the little joys in my life. They are all about experiences and being with people (except my stationery purchase but hey it was stationery. ) Gail Honeyman’s book had me thinking and reflecting on relationships and kindness and the book was a timely reminder that it is the simple little things in life which really matter.

This week ……

1. Its been my birthday.

2. Its been my wedding anniversary! (there is a connection, with Mr S being given an ultimatum to marry me by my 30th birthday as he needed that little nudge)

3. I watched fireworks on Saturday night

4. I did two early runs in the glorious morning sunshine at the weekend, it rained heavily later so I was chuffed with my early alarm calls.

5. I met with family friends for a coffee on Sunday morning and got to talk weddings and all things sparkly and have a sneak preview of the dress.

6. It was carnival and the weather stayed dry.  After the parade, the children met up with lots of friends in the showground and the adults got to chat in relative peace!

7. The children and I went to my parents for a few days whilst Mr S was working away.  We all got very spoilt.

8. I went to the Morph exhibition in the Mall at Bristol.  It was nostalgic fun and I got to make a Morph and play with all the interactive exhibits triggering warm, fuzzy memories of childhood.

9. Along with my dad, I took the children on their first visit to Cardiff, one of my favourite cities.  It was sunny (the only dry day this week) and I got to ride the big Ferris wheel, which made me ridiculously happy.

10. I bought new stationery.  As a teacher new school year = new school stationery.

11. I was given a fabulous new book for my birthday and I’ve already finished it.  Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is a brilliant book and one of my best reads this year.

These are just a reminder that even when the rain pours down during your summer holiday there are still times to be enjoyed and memories to be made.

 

 

The School Run

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The school run is one of my precious times.  I’m not going to romanticise the school run as I have just returned from a damp school run where both children fell off their scooters despite my words of caution and I was chief bag carrier, but it is a special time with the children, 10 minutes of walk and talk twice a day.  Sometimes we walk with friends, sometimes its just the three of us. sometimes its just 2 school bags, other days we are balanced with guitars, lunch boxes, PE kits and any ‘art’ work returning home.  Over the past 5 years, I’ve learnt that umbrellas are useless, best to stick to hoods, likewise I never take a handbag, pockets are good for keys and a phone so I can hold something else, whether it be a hand or junk model.  Its also the school run law that the day when you are 30 seconds late that it will be the first day in months when the children come out of school on time.

I think one of the reasons that the school run is so important to me is that I never had a parent doing a school run with my when I was a child.  We were bussed to our primary school and we walked ourselves to and from the stop.  I was always slightly envious of those friends who met their mums in the school playground.  I have been incredibly fortunate that I have been able to negotiate my work hours around the children’s school day, so I do the school run everyday. As one of my children has a 1:1 TA I need to do the run to be able to liaise with the school daily.  The mornings I work are pressured and I have to take the car on these mornings so I can get to work asap, I can be dropping the children at school at 8.50am and be presenting assembly at 9am! The afternoons are my favourites, I always walk and sometimes we just let the mood take us.  Last week we ended up with an impromptu play in a friend’s garden, we might have a walk along the beach or on sunnier days we might go for an ice cream.  I think the walk gives everyone the time just to de-stress from the day and reconnect.

I know when I’m an old woman it will be those simple moments I look back on, the journey mapped out by the red post box and yellow grit box, the corner where we look for friends, the old man at his window who waves to us, the lollipop lady, the goodbye and greeting hug in the playground, this is what makes the school run special and one of my favourite parts of the day.

 

I got that feeling …

I love this line from Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t stop the feeling’

 

Its Sunday night and I want to write about that feeling …. Its not a feeling of worry or anxiety about the coming week but of a weekend so well spent that I have that buzz, that happiness which will help the week flow.  I’ve been really lucky to have had that feeling after a number of weekends recently and it got me thinking about what makes that feeling.  The three weekends which have had me feeling so positive have all been different, a weekend at home  hosting family to celebrate a special birthday, a day out at the seaside and a party and a weekend away.  No weekend has been quiet and relaxing yet I’ve felt more energetic and alive after each one.  I don’t have an answer to what creates that buzz, family is a feature in all weekends, as are friends, good weather certainly helps but does not make a weekend, the activities can be grand, a weekend at Badminton or simple, a train ride, a walk, a cup of tea overlooking a bay.  I wonder if its appreciating others, this could be Grandad’s 85 years, a rider’s sporting prowess, being inspired by artists and crafts people or seeing and enjoying the world through a child’s eyes.   I don’t have the answer but I know that a busy, inspiring weekend with family and friends can give you the freshness and sparkle to start the week.

Me Time

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Infographic from happify.com

 

This weekend I have a night and day alone at home, my first in over 6 years since the children came to live with us.  This quirk came around as Little Miss is away on Brownie camp and there is a family celebration at Mr S’ sister’s this weekend which the boys are attending.  I was not comfortable with attending the event in case there was an emergency with Little Miss and she needed me quickly so I stayed at home.  This is the first night I’ve been away from my babies in 6 years, its strange and I miss them but its an important step for both of them.  I hope we’ve been able to give them the confidence and independence to be away from me whilst being secure and enjoying their time away.  Little Man is with Daddy and has had a brilliant day but its hard not knowing how Little Miss is getting on at camp.  For all her confident manner and bravado, she can be fragile and needs reassurance, I hid a little note in her pyjamas to remind her how loved she is and that we are all hoping she has a brilliant time away.  The cuddle I give her when I pick her up at 12 tomorrow will be one of the sweetest we’ve shared.

So, the day which I have dreamed of arrived today.  This week I’ve spent lots of time thinking about what I would like to do, although I have been restricted by my need to be local and ready to drop everything if needed.  I think an ideal day on my own would be at a spa or visiting some galleries in a big city.   I am somebody who spends all my time with people at work and home and am always busy, busy, busy.   I was looking forward to the solitude.  Today has taught me that for all I dream about being lazy and doing nothing I’m not really that sort of person.  I had imagined after waving the boys off at 7.30 that I would jump back into bed but I was awake and looking for something to do.  By lunchtime I had been to the gym, sorted out and organised my wardrobe, chatted to my mum on the phone, done some recycling at the tip, pottered around choosing a book in the library, driven over to the neighbouring town and done a little shopping!  Since then I’ve read, wrapped Christmas presents, watched Strictly and this is my second blog post written.  Its been a day of simple pleasures and to be honest not that much different from a normal Saturday just without the company of my 3 favourite people.  The bonus was that I’ve not needed to think about making meals!

I do think that having a little time to yourself is a real luxury and a nice way of reminding yourself of the things you like to do.  I feel refreshed and relaxed and know that I’m going to be a happier and engaged Mummy tomorrow when we are all home together.  I just hope that the little ones are not too tired to share their stories and adventures with me.

Harvest Festival

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As a teacher and parent I tend to do school events twice, once at work and then repeated at my childrens’ school.  The work events are more stressful as I am usually involved in preparing and presenting the event, but at the primary school, I enjoy relaxing and watching the event as an enthusiastic and supportive parent.  At this time of year its harvest festival, our school event this year featured a scarecrow parade which was brilliant.  We simply offered some ideas and inspiration to our classes and the results were stunning, ten life size scarecrows accompanied me in presenting our harvest festival and the children dancing Dingle Dangle Scarecrow with their models was just a classic moment.  The primary school’s festival took place in our local church, a gorgeous and atmospheric setting.  All the children sat at the front in their classes and sang and did the actions to their well rehearsed songs.  There are some lovely harvest songs now, my favourite contemporary song is Harvest Samba, but the reception children singing Big, red combine harvester is always a super sweet moment too.  I do miss Colours of Day and Autumn days from my primary school days, I may add one to our school festival next year for a retro feel!  Thanks to some helpful advice from Little Man’s 1:1, we were able to secure prime position to see our little ones perform at the church.  Little Man needs reassurance and to be able to see us clearly at such big events, so it was a relief for us to be right in front of him and able to give him broad smiles, thumbs up etc.. Little Miss was two rows behind him.  For her, singing and performing come easily and confortably, she has a beautiful voice and loves to sing. It was wonderful to see them both perform and be proud of their role in the festival.  I do enjoy harvest festivals, they are a lovely autumn tradition and I’m lucky that even when my children leave primary school I’ll still be able to continue celebrating them annually at my work and to give thanks for our harvests.

Hygge

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At this time of year as Autumn draws in, I like to focus on creating a cosy, warm home. A home that from the first step in feels comfortable, relaxed and safe.  In the autumn, it may be the smell from a slow cooker recipe wafting through the house, the blanket on the sofa to snuggle into whilst reading a book, a candle or essential oils filling the air with a warm and spicy aroma .  Much of this is compatible with the Danish philosophy of Hygge which is very much in vogue at present.  I was introduced to hygge last year in the Simple Life magazine and recently read a book on the subject by Pia Edberg. Hygge is a difficult word to translate from Danish, Edberg describes it as ‘the concept of cosiness ….. the art of creating warmth, comfort and wellbeing…’ From my reading it’s creating a simple, purposeful life and a philosophy so much to my own too.  I think living in a small rural town, we have less materialistic  pressures, we have small, mainly independent shops and buy what we need.  When I visit big town I feel quite overwhelmed by the choice.  In a small town we create our own leisure time as facilities are limited, there is a culture of joining clubs and supporting local events.  Daytime activities are using and appreciating our environment whether it be for running, walking or water sports and evenings are for sports, drama and creative activities.  We live surrounded by the wonder of our natural environment, I love to walk along the beach in wellies, wrapped up in a scarf and woolly hat and just look out to the sea.  Until I lived at the seaside I never realised the different shades of blue for the sea, it really is different every day.  I tend to run off road in the fields and countryside and again the colours as they fade from green to brown show the changing seasons.  The beauty of spending time outside is the opportunity to warm up in front of a fire or relaxing in a warm, bubble bath.

I am interested in the concept of hygge and how it relates to our happiness, I think being with nature grounds us, enjoying simple pleasures relaxes us and being with friends and family in comfortable environments encourages good mental health, everything always seems better once discussed and problems less surmountable.

Resources for Hygge

http://www.thesimplethings.com/blog/hyggetalk