Thanksgiving


In the spirit of Thanksgiving in the US today, I thought I would share with you a list of things I am thankful for in my life just now:

  1. homeThe roof over my head. Yes, we owe more on the mortgage now than when we took it out 18 years ago, and yes there are some fairly hefty repairs that need doing on it, but these four walls and the roof on top are my safe haven. Homelessness and the possibility of losing the family home have been brought home to me recently, which makes me all the more thankful that I have this place to call my home.
  2. The food in our freezer. It was only a few short weeks ago that we were in a position to pool a couple of weeks worth of groceries and do a big batch cookout so that we would be seen through the “silly season” ahead, yet already we have had to turn to those supplies because of an unexpected bill (and therefore massive bank charges for failed payments) and we have very little cash to see us through the next 6 weeks or so. We also have an unexpected lodger too, so the food in the freezer was well timed, and continues to be a life-saver for us. I am thankful that I was prompted to fill the freezer just before the money ran out.
  3. Spiritual support from church friends. Linked to point #2 above, this one is another big one in my life. My faith in God is as strong as ever, but sometimes, the spiritual support of other people is what keeps my grip strong. I am thankful that my faith in God has brought me to such a place that I can be part of a group of supportive and understanding friends.
  4. dsc_0949.jpgMy family. Especially my husband. We are like a tag team at the moment, and we seesaw between being strong and weak. When one is weak the other lifts them up, and vice versa. Sometimes we are on an even keel in the middle, but as anyone dealing with a financial (or other) crisis knows, emotions and ability to cope can swing quite violently from one extreme to the other and it takes a particular type of relationship to hold it together. My kids have been fantastic too, both in emotional support and simply bringing laughter and sunshine into an otherwise bleak and austere existence. My parents too – where would I be without them?!! From my mum “accidentally” making an extra Shepherd’s Pie, to my Dad transferring an emergency lump sum into my bank account over the summer to bail us out (yet again), my parents have been instrumental in me holding things together in the last few months. I am thankful for the loving and supportive family I am surrounded by.
  5. crochet-hookCrochet. A life-saver a couple of years ago when my illness first took hold and everything seemed pointless and without direction, crochet has been an activity that I turn to again and again to help with anxiety and depression. I have started some Christmas projects and I am thankful that I have been able to find a cute snowman which I am working on for our house this Christmas.
  6. Music. Like crochet, music has been a life-saver in so many ways over the years for me. Whether it is listening to it, playing it, writing it, arranging it, planning it, organising it or whatever, I am thankful for the presence of music in my life.
  7. My Kindle. I was bought a Kindle as a gift for Mothering Sunday a couple of years ago and at first, I was a bit sceptical about using it. A lifelong lover of books and reading (notice the differentiation I made there), I didn’t really want to engage in technology like a Kindle but having been given one as a gift I thought I didn’t have much to lose. I haven’t actually looked back since being given it and I have engaged in so many more books and articles than I would have done in hard-print books in the meantime, largely because of all the free books available online. I am thankful that I have got access to such a large, free, library of books to read and the mechanism to carry them all round with me all the time.
  8. bedMy big comfy bed. Might sound a bit trite, but I honestly say a prayer of thanks every time I get into my bed each night. Linked to the point about the roof over my head above, I am so grateful that first of all that I have a place to put my head each night, and second of all that it is so comfy and warm once I get in. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to rest properly each night.

This is not in any way an exhaustive list, and it isn’t in any particular order, but these things are on my mind most of the time and they are the things see me through when times are bad as they are now. I am sure that when the climate changes for me I would come up with a slightly different (and longer) list.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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All Change!


We have lived in our house for 18 years now and when we first moved in we did a quick paint job in the back bedroom to make it fit for Emma, who was about 4 years old. We wanted bright and cheerful so we painted two walls bright yellow and the other two blue (City blue, what else?) and that has been pretty much it ever since.

Emma lived in that room on her own until Ethan was born the year later and they shared for a good long while until we had to split them up. Ethan went into the small boxroom (tiny boxroom, it was just about big enough for a single bed and a rug) while Emma stayed in the back bedroom. Then, when Ethan was about 15 or so he became a bit too long for the bedroom so we had to swap them over. Emma was happy enough to go into the tiny bedroom/boxroom and Ethan was in his element being in the big bedroom at the back. We had planned on decorating the room at some point but we have never got around to it. Until now.

Emma has been to university and now lives at her Grandma’s round the corner, and Ethan has about 18 months left before he flies the nest for uni himself and so, what better time to do some decorating?!

The bright yellow from 18 years ago is now a bit, well, dull. And the blue is faded to say the least. These photos don’t really do it justice, but to give you an idea of what it looked like up til today, here are a couple of pictures:

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When we painted the walls originally, it was just to cover up the painted anaglypta wallpaper from the previous owners. They must have put a couple of layers of paint on because when we started stripping it today it was like stripping off paper mache! Underneath that paper and paint was hiding this paper layer. We are guessing it is the original paper from the 1940s judging by the pattern and the quality of the dyes on it.

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It has been a pig to get off – I’m sure they stuck it on with flour and water mix rather than wallpaper paste! – but it’s all off now and ready for repapering tomorrow or Wednesday.

Ethan has had to move all his stuff out of the room for us to do the job and we are going to try and get it all done this week. He’s having to sleep on a mattress on the floor of the living room for a couple of nights, so the race is on.

Keep your eye out for some more photos as the job gets done. It has taken us 18 years to get this job started, we are going to make sure it has been worth the wait.

 

 

 

 

ChristmasCam


It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas in the Smith household at last!

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My fireplace. No candles lit yet but we're getting there!
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Our tree. Nice and cheerful.
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The Carol Service last night - I'm on the left of the picture. Action shot!
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My family - Kevin on the left, Ethan in the middle and Emma on the right. You'll notice Emma is standing on a step in high heels and is still the same height as her brother!

Daybook Entry – 13th October


I realise it has been a week since I last posted but please forgive me friends. As you will discover further down my post you’ll see I’ve been a bit distracted this week with studying but I promise I’ll be better this coming week. To bring you up to date with what’s happening on the Mushy Cloud I thought I would do a daybook entry today because it helps to focus things in a few sentences rather than great long tracts of stuff. Thank you for sticking with me!

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FOR TODAY
Outside my window… it’s nearly winter out there!!! Wow, where did that cold air come from? Oh yes, that’s right, the ARCTIC! Actually I’m glad it’s so cold out there because it makes my nice cosy little nest seem even cosier and nestier. Lights on, candles lit, fire on, X Factor results on, doors shut and wine open. Yup. Autumn is well and truly here.
I am thinking… how I’m a lucky girl to have such a wonderful and safe place to live (although, watching Kevin wrestling with a not-quite-blown-out-match in the waste basket is making me reconsider the “safe” part of that statement!). No, seriously. I am lucky to have a lovely home where I am safe and loved and where I can be myself and nobody bats an eyelid about it.

I am thankful… for my family and my home.

In the kitchen… we had chicken and bacon cheesy pasta bake tonight. All made from scratch and dished up between five of us. Five plates and pasta dish all scraped clean tell me it was a success!

I am wearing… my comfy slopping about the house clothes.

I am creating… a future for myself. I have restarted my studies for my degree this week and when I graduate I’m going to get myself on a teacher-training course. I’m estimating it will take me about four years but whilst I can’t work because of my health I am going to use my time and invest in whatever future I have. And I’m crocheting minions and owls for some fun and a bit of income.

I am going… to go up to bed after the X Factor results.

I am wondering… why on earth I watch the X Factor when the ones who can sing always end up getting thrown off early and it’s always the young teenies who are marketable rather than talented who get through to the end.

I am reading… I’ve just finished reading “Mad About The Boy” by Helen Fielding and I’m at the start of the 11th instalment of the Wardstone Chronicles, “Spook’s: Slither’s Tale” by Joseph Delaney.

I am hoping… the fibre optic service is activated tomorrow. Excited!!

I am praying for… my friend Joyce; Darcy and Sue; Viv and Mark; strength and patience.

I am looking forward to… getting stuck into my studies again this week.

I am learning… the history of medicine in society from 1500 to 1930. Specifically this last week I’ve been learning about the Greek physician Galen and his theory about how the human body was a balance of four humours. Very, very interesting stuff.

Around the house… laundry done, dishwasher running, floors swept, crocheting tidy (well, almost…)

I am pondering… a cup of tea or a mug of ovaltine going to bed? (I have to point out that they would probably be made in the same vessel – why one is a “cup” of tea and the other is a “mug” of ovaltine I don’t know!).

A favourite quote for today: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves”

One of my favourite things… is Autumnal nights in my nest.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Stay and Play tomorrow morning, lots of studying and then band on Friday night. A nice quiet one this week I think.

A peek into my day… pumpkin hat

My little pumpkin beanie for kids. Lovely isn’t it?!

 

 

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Daybook Entry – 9th June


Daybook Entry

 

 

 

 

FOR TODAY

Outside my window… there is glorious sunshine dappling my back garden, which is in partial shade from the pine tree on the boundary with next door’s garden. I can hear the pine cones cracking in the heat and the sounds of some children playing in a garden not too far away. There is a gentle breeze blowing and every now and again a collared dove comes and settles on my bird table.

I am thinking… how wonderful it is to be alive.

I am thankful… for my banding friends who have made today a super experience.

In the kitchen… we have had pasta with a carbonara sauce with a salad of rocket, tomatoes, cucumber and celery. Sounds like quite a mixture of tastes but believe me, it was lovely!

I am wearing… shorts and a t-shirt.

I am creating… there is a lack of creative projects on the go at the minute, which is something I need to put right soon.

I am going… to go and sit in the garden shortly whilst Kevin takes some pictures of things we’re putting on eBay.

I am planning… where we are going to on holiday this year. Finance is very much an issue so we are going to have to be careful, but some time by the sea would do me the world of good right now. We’re thinking about Norfolk. We’ve been to Cromer before and we loved that coastline so we might head back there again this year.

I am wondering… how to go about recapturing my creative mojo.

I am reading… “The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough. It has been on my “to read” list for years but for some reason I’ve never got round to it. I had started to read “Gone With The Wind” last week and the idea to read this popped into my head when I read about Scarlett waiting for her Dad in the dark at the gateway to their plantation. There are similarities between the stories – Irish descendants, plantation/estate, family hardships etc – and I remembered watching “The Thorn Birds” when I was a child in the 1980’s. I’m about 20% of the way through and am loving it. Whenever I start to read I am right there in the Australian Outback with them tasting the dust and swatting the flies in the height of summer. I’ll do a proper book review of it later on, but if you’ve read it too please drop me a line and let me know what you think. Similarly if you remember Richard Chamberlain as Father Ralph please share your thoughts with me.

I am hoping… this lovely weather holds for a few more days yet.

I am praying for… Danny’s family and loved ones; Nelson Mandela; Prince Philip; my Gran; my cousin G.

I am looking forward to… time at the seaside in the summer.

I am learning… not to feel guilty when I’m resting. At the moment the only way I can manage my pain is to take proper rest in between activities and to manage what activities I actually undertake. The downside of it is that I feel awful about the stuff I have to leave undone, so the lesson I’m learning at the moment is to ease up on myself and to not feel guilty about it. It’s not easy!

Around the house… most of the windows are open, most of the laundry is done, most of the washing up is done, most of our shoes and bags are put away…it’s a “mostly” home at the moment.

I am pondering… on the schedule for our Sunday School lessons over the summer. I want to plan a program that will be flexible depending on the number of kids present, yet structured so we can have a definite start, middle and end.

Today’s Golden Moment: Was when the audience spontaneously clapped in unison at the right times when we played “Is This The Way To Amarillo”. Love it!!

One of my favourite things… is brass bands in the park on Sunday afternoons.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Stay and Play in the morning; a communion service for the residents of a care centre later in the morning; a church meeting at lunchtime; work on Wednesday and Friday; band on Friday night.

Picture of the day:

Cromer beach
Cromer beach

I chose this picture because it was taken at Cromer the last time we were there and I’m really looking forward to going again this summer, all being well. It’s a lovely place. So peaceful and the views are wonderful. Bring on the summer!

 

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Top 5 30 Day Challenge – Day 6


Day Six: Top Five Things That Happened To You So Far This Year

Sorry for the gap in posts, but here we are with day 6 of the Top 5 30 Day Challenge.

For this one, as it is only March, I am going to take “top” as “most significant” things that have happened to me this year. Here goes:

1. I have finally got an explanation for my abdominal pain and it doesn’t look particularly promising. I have got to have another scan in 6 months time to check on the progress of several “growths” in and around my biliary system. I am told they are not likely to be cancerous (thank the Lord!) but there is a niggling little voice at the back of my mind that keeps echoing the word “likely”….

2. I have successfully run a series of Sunday School classes for the children at my church. It’s particularly significant a) given the health problems above, and b) because my self-confidence has been at an all time low. I have learned an awful lot from the experience and I have felt myself grow spiritually as well as in confidence.

3. I lost my hero at the beginning of this month. I have spoken about him before, but my Dad’s older brother, David, lost his brief but brutal battle with liver cancer on March 6th.  As well as being a personal bereavement, the loss of David has caused a seismic shift in the dynamic of our family.

4. My son’s voice has broken in recent weeks. I count this as significant because, as any mother will tell you, as my youngest he is therefore my baby no matter how old he is. He turned 13 in January and he changed into a very reticent, awkward and gangly youth with a croaky, husky voice literally overnight. My little baby boy has gone forever and emerging (slowly and with much deodorant and shower gel) is my son, the man.

5. Connected to number 4, my relationship with my husband is currently undergoing a change. We seem to be coming to an end of the relentless “parenting” that we have done for the past 19 years, and our worry and stress is becoming replaced with other things. For instance, we have both attended the Alpha course recently – 12 weeks of spiritual examination and reflection on who/what/why God is – and on Friday night we went to see University Challenge being filmed at the Granada studios in Manchester. Things that we couldn’t have done if our children were still young and needy and it’s nice to find that we are emerging, blinking and wheezing, into the sunlight of a long established friendship. It’s a bit like coming out of an Andersen shelter after a blitz and finding that even though the house has been bombed, the roses in the garden are still blooming in the sunshine.

 

 

Shrove Tuesday


 

Today is Shrove Tuesday. I wrote about what Shrove Tuesday means to us English people last year here, so I won’t repeat myself again this year but what I will do is show you how we made our pancakes at home instead.

This is my son Ethan heating the pan to start cooking a pancake.

I am proud to say we made our own pancake mix today – none of this shop-bought rubbish for us!! It’s easy peasy: take 8oz of plain flour, break an egg into it, beat it to get it going and then add enough milk in stages until the batter is the consistency of single cream. Let it stand for half an hour or so and then get cracking with your cooking!

Here’s one in the pan:

And the finished article:

As you can see, it’s just plain old Jif lemon and sugar for me. The kids used to fight over putting all sorts on their pancakes and they’ve had everything from jam to nutella by way of lemon curd and raisins (not all on the same one!!) but it’s plain and simple for me.

You can’t beat a bit of simple cooking!

Daybook Entry 27th January


 

 

FOR TODAY

Outside my window…it’s dark, misty, murky, cold, dank and miserable

I am thinking…I wish I could describe the weather a bit better than I just did!

I am thankful…I have a fully functioning central heating system

In the kitchen…is the remains of the birthday cake I made for my son yesterday

I am wearing…black t-shirt and dark blue (fleece lined) jogging bottoms

I am creating…granny squares for a crocheting demonstration tomorrow

I am going…to the craft club/coffee morning at church tomorrow morning

I am wondering…about the validity of my own existence (yes, I’m feeling very sorry for myself at the minute!)

I am praying for…my brother John who broke his wrist yesterday; the family and friends of Paige Holt who died last week from cystic fibrosis; personal guidance about my own future; my daughter’s exam results

I am reading…Leviticus – we had a discussion last night about the Bible at the Alpha course and the subject of Leviticus came up. We were talking about the purity laws and how relevant they were then and are now. I felt a bit out of my depth because I my “technical” knowledge of the Bible is pretty poor so I’m doing a bit of hurried catch-up reading

I am hoping…for a couple of snow days next week so the family can stay at home with me; warm and cosy, lots of tea and soup, homemade bread and board games

I am looking forward to…bedtime. I haven’t slept well this week, what with visual hallucinations one night, and auditory ones (not sure if that’s a proper technical term, but it’s the only way I can describe hearing voices and things that aren’t there!) the next, and then some very strange nightmares/night terrors the night after, I haven’t rested or recovered AT ALL this week.

I am learning…you can’t always trust people in positions where you *should* be able to trust them to have your best interests at heart

Around the house…is a skip-load of laundry (I swear to God, I’m sure I’ve got the neighbour’s washing as well as my own….), tidy kitchen, various partially-finished craft projects littered around and about, random bits of crap and a general “lived in” feel to the house

I am pondering…open a bottle of wine  or make a cup of tea?

A favourite quote for today… “The time for repairing the roof is when the sun is shining” John F Kennedy

One of my favourite things…clean sheets, clean bed, clean body….ah bliss!

A few plans for the rest of the week: craft club coffee morning tomorrow, church Sunday, PCC meeting after the service and nothing else is on my agenda for the next couple of days.

A peek into my day…

Tired...and medicated....and desperately trying to stay upright...

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