Friday, 9 February 2018

Beating the winter blues

January in Comfy Marmalade land was a game of two halves - looking back, it seemed to have gone by in a flash, but at the time the days just seemed to drag. January has always been a bit of a funny month for me - I'm terrible for clinging to the year just gone rather than embracing the opportunities the year ahead presents me with. After the madness of the last couple of weeks of December, which for us also includes the Boy's birthday, January always seems a bit of a let-down, and I find the next twelve months stretching ahead of me a bit daunting at times.  The dark mornings and gloomy winter days can also be a challenge - I love my sleep and my bed, and I waking up is a much easier and more positive process when chinks of beautiful daylight are streaming in through the folds of the curtains.


Bulbs (crocus?) peeping up through the snow-laden flower beds in our back garden.
The beautiful blue stained glass tulip was a gift to myself; I bought it a
couple of years ago from the Alnmouth Arts Festival - well worth a visit

A winter walk helps to life my mood - and thankfully we have a wealth of options around here


This particular January has also coincided with my sister and I finally completing the sorting out of Dad's house and affairs. Which in many ways is a big relief, but in other ways is just too 'final' and I'm finding it more emotional than I had anticipated I would.

So, in a determined effort to banish my general doom and gloominess, I'm trying to be more optimistic about the forthcoming year, and have put in place a number of strategies and plans to try and help me to ease into 2018 with a more positive outlook.

I've been trying to get a little more exercise and to eat a little healthier, without putting a massive amount of pressure on myself.  I know in my heart of hearts that I'll never be super-fit or mega-healthy, but small changes in my routine and diet have been having a positive effect on both my physicality and my headspace.

All part of my health kick, which has been intermittently successful...
(Husband's homemade lemon drizzle cake just out of shot...)

I'm drinking more water (tap, not bottle), I'm making a determined effort to have a healthy lunch rather than reaching for something convenient, and I'm trying to do a little basic exercise each morning and, if I can remember / be bothered, each evening.  Just some in-house stretches and basic moves. I'm not always succeeding in these goals, but I'm certainly doing them more than before.

I've also been intermittently keeping a 'gratitude diary'.

Keeping a gratitude diary really helps me to focus my mind on the small,
positive things that get overlooked sometimes

Now, I was sceptical to say the least about this before I started, but I actually find it an uplifting and very positive thing to do. In a nutshell, before you go to bed you get a notebook and write down three things you've been grateful for that day. It could be a text from a friend, a particularly tasty meal, or a hug from your kids. The simple act of recalling it and writing it down triggers a positive response in your head, and you go to bed feeling happier about life, less negative - more grateful, I guess. It makes you focus on the small things that have made a difference in your day and really puts a smile on your face. Try it - it works.

This is my gratitude diary. It's a simple notebook; it might look basic,
but I like the quality of the paper, and the ring binding means that all the pages
lay flat.  I also love these Bic Orange pens - my all-time favourite go-to.

I've also been trying to be more environmentally aware, and teaching my kids to do the same.  We've always been hot on recycling in our house, but now I'm upping my game - I'm making an effort not to buy fruit juice cartons with plastic straws, looking for toiletries which are kinder to the environment, and checking ingredients to ensure they don't contain palm oil (the damage we're doing to the habitat of orang-utans due to the inclusion of palm oil in our products is shocking. As is the number and variety of products it can be found in - cream crackers surprised me for example).

I've also found Palm Oil in the Husband and Daughter's favourite swiss roll.
Not sure how I'm going to break this one to them...

By making small changes and by educating our children, I feel better about myself and happy that we're hopefully making a small difference environmentally to their future, and to the future of our descendants.

My new craft room is still giving me loads of pleasure and
is a wonderful place to escape when I need a break or some solitude


My mega-bargain charity shop bag hangs on the door of my craft room


I'm mentally noting things to look forward to in the near future: Valentine's Day, Pancake Day and the Husband's birthday, all in February and all of which will be celebrated in our house. And I've been slowly adding to my 'inspiration wall' of pictures and photos in my craft room.  This week I've added a page from one of my favourite children's books, 'Dogs Don't Do Ballet', a gorgeous greetings card I found in a local shop, and a photo of Dad with the Boy and our nephew (which makes me both smile and weep inside at the same time just now, if I'm honest).

Hunt out Dogs Don't Do Ballet. The story and the illustrations are just gorgeous.


I'm trying to focus on my immediate surroundings and really appreciate the small things that can sometimes go unnoticed: a lovely sunset, the bulbs pushing up through the ground as spring approaches, the way a snowflake hits a windscreen…

Focusing on the small things - a stunning daytime sky opposite Comfy Marmalade HQ...

...and the sky later that same day

...it all sounds a bit hippy-ish, but it's making a significant difference to how I'm approaching the year ahead. I've bought some amaryllis bulbs for my kitchen windowsill, and will plant them in the garden once they've bloomed.


I'm embracing my hygge-side and have been making a conscious effort to light candles in the evening, especially when we gather as a family for our evening meal.



I've also got a cosy hygge-style crocheted blanket on the go just now: I've gone for soothing grey and white rather than the riot of colour that usually comes off the end of my crochet hook.  I suspect it's a choice subconsciously influenced by my winter, slightly melancholy mood, and that by spring I'll be back to bright, cheery colours again.

Only another sixty-odd to go... might make it smaller...!

And, perhaps most importantly, I've been keeping myself busy.  I'm working a couple of days a week on a voluntary basis at a local art gallery and museum, assisting with their marketing and promotional efforts.

The Art Gallery & Museum where I volunteer - inspiring and fun

It's a lovely little place, originally the home and grounds of a local mill owner; they have some cracking events on and a really fantastic café restaurant, and I'm very much enjoying using my creative and business brain again - it feels like it's been too long.

More Art Gallery & Museum pictures. Doesn't that wallpaper make your heart skip a beat?


I've recently done some invigilating at our local high school which, whilst not the most exciting job in the world, kept me out of mischief for a week.  And the death stare I developed to keep the teenagers in check can, I'm sure, be modified for use on the Boy and Girl as well… There's also the possibility of a new work opportunity on the horizon, so things are looking promising vocationally.

And just this week, I completely stepped out of my comfort zone and ran a paper star making workshop for four of my friends.  Free of charge, of course, but with full printed instructions, and with cake (courtesy of my baking fanatic husband) and hot drinks on tap.

My paper star workshop was a real success, I think, and I loved every minute

This is a photo taken by Gemma from RaeRaeAndBelle (@raeraeandbelle),
who attended the workshop; she made these stars on the day and is now addicted!
Photo used with kind permission

In the event, I loved it - it was so much fun, and we chatted and giggled throughout.  I got such a buzz from it, and my students seemed to enjoy themselves and left stuffed full of cake and with a variety of beautiful paper stars they'd created in all shapes and sizes.

I made this star on the day from wrapping paper that my friend Caroline brought;
it's for the Boy's bedroom and looks rather marvellous, even if I do say so myself


Flowers from a satisfied workshop customer.  Thanks Gemma!

Next week, I'm giving another friend a one-to-one lesson in how to crochet.  Who knows, maybe I could add a workshop-leading string to my Comfy Marmalade bow…

All in all, I'm doing my best to kick myself into touch, to stop moping about and to start looking towards the rest of 2018 and with fresh, positive eyes.  After all, it's only another nine months until we get the Christmas decorations out again…

Bye for now xx


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