Christmas Preparations

Liberty display

Liberty display

I’m still on a buzz from the weekend…

We got back on Saturday evening with a sense of ‘did that all really just happen?’ and decided to continue the fun by going to watch the new Star Wars film on Sunday morning, which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately (as is the usual case with the cinema we go to) I had to put my teacher voice on and ask the teenagers to take their feet off the back of The Bloke’s seat and stop kicking him, despite the fact that their parents were sitting right next to them. Thankfully, they did, and we watched the rest of the film without further interruption. I always feel like a whingy toe rag when I say something, but it always gets on my nerves when I have to get into teacher mode. Continue reading

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How To Shop When You Hate Shopping

how to shop when you hate shopping

I had a day off yesterday, so took the opportunity to go to the opening of the new ‘Grand Central’ centre, complete with the new John Lewis store in Birmingham. I’ve watched it take shape over the last few years, and thought it might be a chance to get started on my Christmas shopping (yes, I know it’s September, but I’m using this particular ‘C’ word already…) ahead of the mania that sweeps the city every year.

The problem is, I hate shopping. Okay, to be fair I like buying presents for other people, but I hate actually going out to do so. I hate the crowds, in particular the people who seem oblivious to those around them, and over the years I’ve had lots of bad experiences that have involved rude staff, having my feet run over with pushchairs, long queues of people monotonously complaining about having to stand in line, and one particularly angry woman screaming at me to ‘get out of the way’ in her desperation to secure a box of biscuits from the shelf in Selfridges. Nice. They must have been fabulous biscuits.

Of course, the easiest and most effective way of purchasing items is to buy them from the Internet. However, many people I know are still wary of sharing their bank details online, and there are plenty of horror stories of people who have been scammed, had to wait for weeks for items to arrive or have experienced difficulties when trying to return or replace damaged goods. I use the Internet for specific items, but I often prefer to see a product, or in the case of clothes, try them on before I buy. Continue reading

Travelling Home For Christmas

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I’m on a train up to Manchester to spend Christmas with my mum, sisters and brother-in-law. I got up early in an attempt to beat the thousands of people that are embarking on similar journeys today, and I appear to have made the right decision- my carriage is almost empty, very quiet and calm. The Bloke is going to his mum’s tomorrow and my friend is looking after the cats, so aside from braving the hoards of people that will undoubtedly be in a blind panic in Marks and Spencer’s later to purchase something for our Christmas dinner tomorrow I’m pretty much set for the next few days.

The Bloke and I had our own little Christmas together on Sunday. We awoke in the morning and exchanged gifts. As usual, he’d spoilt me rotten with thoughtful and amusing presents, including a DVD of Masters of the Universe. It was the first film I ever saw at the cinema, and I have been in love with Dolph Lundgren ever since. I made a passing comment a few weeks ago about the fact that I only own it in VHS and can’t find it on DVD anywhere, so he imported it from the States. Awesome. He also made me this:

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I cried laughing – I had seen a similar image on a blog post a while ago and have been trawling the Internet for a t shirt, only to discover that he had made transfers and ironed it on. Genius. The only trouble is, I’m not sure where I could wear it without getting beaten up by die hard Nirvana fans…

We ate a beautiful dinner with all the trimmings, indulged in an epic amount of chocolate whilst watching Masters of the Universe and spent the rest of the day snuggled up with the cats (once they had finished kicking the crap out of their Christmas presents – catnip filled stuffed mice) and talking. It was nice. No, it was more than nice, it was perfect. We’ve been together for years and have only spent one Christmas together properly, so it’s great that we can create our own with our own little family.

I’m looking forward to a few days of fun, laughter and plenty of sleep with the family- after reconciling a number of issues recently it’s going to be the first one in years that we will all be able to enjoy each other’s company!

If I don’t get the opportunity to tell you so beforehand, have a lovely festive season, whether you celebrate Christmas or not!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

Back To Reality After a Wonderful Weekend

imageIt was difficult getting motivated this morning. I sat at my desk this morning, turned on my laptop and almost instantly a reminder popped up: data analysis due tomorrow. Eurgh. I like my job and I work at a good school, but after having such a brilliant weekend I was suddenly brought back down to reality with a big bump.

It was my birthday last Friday, and I’ve had a wonderful weekend of celebrations. My lovely colleagues treated me to Crispy Cremes, chocolate and cinema vouchers and they found it hilarious to all sign a One Direction card when they know how much I dislike them, which made me and my students roar with laughter when I opened it. On Friday night The Bloke and a large group of friends from all different areas of my life joined me for drinks at my local pub. It can be sometimes quite awkward when introducing groups of friends to each other, but everyone instantly connected and there was lots of laughter, some dancing and the odd spillage. I had a warm and fuzzy moment where I sat back and watched everyone as they were talking – I’m lucky to know lots of wonderful people…

Suffice to say, my hangover was of epic proportions on Saturday morning. I had woken up early as The Bloke left for the day to visit his family and couldn’t get back to sleep, so instead of wallowing in my own alcohol – laden filth I decided to make the short journey into Birmingham City Centre and attempt to make a decent start on my Christmas shopping.

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Tip: When attempting to shop in the second biggest city in the country, do so with a raging hangover. I was feeling so awful that I was in no mood for politeness and taking things easy. My headphones were in, my heavy metal music was on, my elbows were out and I was like a woman possessed. I knew exactly what I wanted and where to obtain it from, and I was in and out within two hours. I returned home with everything on my list, and had even managed to buy myself an ‘it’s my birthday and I’m brilliant so I’m going to treat myself’ present in the form of a shiny new iPhone 6, which replaced my old faithful iPhone 4 that went to the electronic heaven in the sky last week.

The Bloke returned home later that day to find me in my jammies and lying on the couch under a quilt. The hangover had subsided a little by that point, and so we spent the evening watching ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and eating pizza.

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Sunday was the day I had been looking forward to all week: The Good Food Show at the NEC. It has become a yearly tradition for The Bloke and I as it always falls on the weekend after my birthday and I love it. We’ve established a routine – The Bloke stands back and pretends that he doesn’t know me as I run around and grab all the free samples that I possibly can, we buy lots of cheese, chutney and products by Crimbles, we watch a show and then go home before it gets too busy to move. This year was no exception – we arrived just as it opened and almost immediately I had a potato on a stick in one hand, some cocktail sticks that had been skewered with different flavours of cheese in another and was attempting to munch my way through different olives laced with beautiful oils, herbs and garlic without dribbling them down the front of myself. Classy.

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We went to see the Hairy Bikers show (who, if you haven’t seen or heard of them before, are essentially two northern and heavily bearded chefs that ride motorbikes and create brilliant cookery programmes for British television), and I was delighted that The Bloke had managed to get tickets right on the front row. They didn’t disappoint, and even brought Louis, a contestant from the recent Great British Bake Off, to help them on stage. The food they created smelled beautiful, they entertained with their usual warmth and cheeky jokes, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In my infinite wisdom I decided to finish off the last of my shopping after we left. It was early in the afternoon by the time I arrived, and it was utter chaos. I managed two stores and came home. Never. Again. I’ve decided to avoid town at all costs from now on unless I can get in early. However, my shopping is now nearly completed, most of my cards are written and all I need to do is put up the tree, torture the cats with their little Santa hats that I force them to wear every year and I’m all set. My weekly Twitter party, #SundayBlogShare was being guest hosted by Gene’O @sourcererblog and he did a wonderful job, and I checked it sporadically to see lots of new participants and hundreds of posts being shared. Brilliant. Thanks Gene’O, you’re a star.

This is why getting out of bed this morning was so tough. I needed another day or two to recover.

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I also wanted to say a huge thank you to all of you who wished me a happy birthday across my social media sites. It was indeed a happy birthday, filled with lots of lovely people and experiences, and I have been thoroughly spoilt with cards and unbelievably thoughtful gifts.

So, back to reality. Anyone got a time machine they would like to lend me so I can go and do it again?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

The Cat Owner’s Guide To Wrapping Christmas Presents

Items needed:

  • Presents
  • Wrapping paper
  • Ribbon
  • Gift tags
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape
  • Two cats: Cat A that has decided he wants a cuddle and Cat B that has just woken up after sleeping for the majority of the day and is in the mood to play.

Instructions:

Step 1: Sit on floor in the middle of the room. Remove Cat A from lap.

Step 2: Take out items needed from carrier bag, having previously purchased them that day from the only card shop in your local area amidst a fury of seemingly angry women and their screaming children. Stop Cat B from sniffing the scissors.

Step 3: Cut strips of sticky tape and stick them along the edge of the wooden coffee table to make the wrapping process easier. Stop Cat B from batting at the sticky tape.

Step 4: Remove wrapping paper from clear plastic film. Stop Cat B from attempting to chew this. Remove Cat A from lap.

Step 5. Unroll wrapping paper and attempt to cut out required amount of wrapping paper on the floor. Remove Cat A from the middle of the paper. End up cutting out paper while standing up. Stop Cat B from batting sticky tape.

Step 6: Wrap present while Cat A sticks his nose in the middle of the paper. Avoid accidentally sticking Cat A’s whiskers to the paper when adding sticky tape. Notice that Cat B is shaking her paw furiously and realise that she has got a piece of sticky tape stuck to it. Remove sticky tape from paw. Remove Cat A from lap.

Step 7: Cut ribbon. Stop Cat A and Cat B from playing with the ends of ribbon.

Step 8: Write gift tag. Write another gift tag after Cat B, who is still on a personal mission to play with the ribbon, pounces and nudges the pen, resulting in a line across the original gift tag.

Step 9: Stand up to cut another piece of wrapping paper out. Sit back down and place wrapping paper on floor. Remove Cat A from paper. Stand up to cut another piece of paper after Cat A digs claws into paper during removal process, ripping a hole in the middle of it.

Step 10: Repeat Steps 6 and 7.

Step 11: Remove both cats from room and continue to wrap presents. Listen to Cat B cry loudly for ten minutes.

Step 12: Go upstairs after remembering a forgotten present. Upon your return, remove Cat A from carrier bag.

Step 13: Wrap present surprisingly easily. Spend ten minutes looking for pen to write gift card. Discover Cat B playing with pen on kitchen floor.

Step 14: Return to room to find Cat A chewing on the corner of the ribbon on one of the presents. Remove ribbon from Cat A’s mouth, only to discover a large patch of cat slobber on the corner of the paper. Re-wrap present.

Step 15: Give discarded ribbon to Cat A. Watch as Cat A sniffs it and walks away.

Step 16: Take out some gift bags to put presents in. Start to place presents in first bag. Remove Cat B from second bag. Stop Cat A from chewing on handle of third bag.

Step 17: Place filled bags in wardrobe. Sit on couch to write Christmas cards. Hear a faint cry from upstairs. Remove cat from wardrobe.

It’s a good job they’re cute…

Exhibit A: Daisy (Cat B)

Exhibit A: Daisy (Cat B)

What about you guys? Do your animals make a seemingly easy process much more complicated?

You can find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

Image 1 credit: newschoolnomads.com

 

The Valentine’s Day Grinch

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sexandrelationships.com

Roses are red,
Bacon is red,

Bacon.

With a week to go until Valentine’s Day my social networking feeds are becoming filled with sweet messages of love and ideas for gifts…

Oh joy.

Before I begin, I would like to make it clear that I love love. I love being in love, reading romantic stories and watching romantic films. I’m an advocate for all things heartfelt and passionate and while I don’t believe in the idea of ‘soulmates’ I truly believe that there is somebody out there for everybody. I love celebrations and holidays and I look forward to them every year.

However, there is one particular celebration that I dislike: Valentine’s Day. I am the Valentine’s Day Grinch.

I’ll never forget the jealousy I felt when my friend received an enormous anonymous card on her doorstep. It was beautiful, with ‘Will you be my Valentine?’ carefully written on the inside. I was 13 years old and had gone to her house after school for dinner – we heard the sound of the letterbox and there it was, staring at me.

“Who’s it from?” I asked, forcing a smile.

“I’ve no idea!” she squealed at me. (To this day, she still doesn’t have a clue who sent it).

I tried to be happy for her, but secretly I was suppressing a desire to punch her in the face. Why didn’t I get one? What was wrong with me?

This scenario, however childish, is just one of the many reasons why I don’t like Valentine’s Day, despite being in a committed relationship for years. In many circumstances the day serves as a huge slap-in-the-face reminder to single people that they haven’t met ‘The One’ yet, and while most of my single friends in their 30’s are past the point of caring, there are still plenty of those that do. Since the middle of January I have read posts from single bloggers with advice for preparing to spend the day ‘alone.’ I dislike the fact that some are made to believe that their self-worth is defined by their relationship status, and I dislike the pressure that the day often puts on our male counterparts, particularly in the younger generations.

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I can’t rhyme,
Refrigerator.

However, scientific studies (and by scientific, I mean I asked my friends – I’m sure there are far more scientific studies out there however) have shown that couples equally dislike everything that the day has come to represent. In the shops the masses of Christmas tat is replaced with Valentine’s tat, accompanied by a sea of red cards as soon as the holidays are over, advertisements for flowers, chocolates and cuddly toys appear everywhere and the inevitable conversation between The Bloke and I happens at the end of January:

“Are we doing anything for Valentine’s Day this year?”

“We can if you like, but I’m not that bothered.”

“Me neither. Shall we just stay in?”

“Yeah, fine by me.”

“Are we doing the card thing?”

“Yeah, we can do the card thing, but let’s leave the presents. The vet/car/council tax bill is due next week.”

“Ok.”

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brucesallen.com

Most couples always start with good intentions and the excitement of the ‘Honeymoon Period’ is all consuming. I’ve been there on several occasions and those times have been the most exhilarating of my life. The first date, the first kiss, the first ‘I love you’ and everything else in between is a magical experience and everything the new spouse does or says is music to the soul. Family and friends start to roll their eyes as you regale them with yet another story of how wonderful/funny/sweet this person is and the passing of time seems to drag when you aren’t in their company.

However, after a while, life inevitably gets in the way. The cute little underwear bought to impress starts to morph into enormous knickers and sexy night dresses become flannel pyjamas. The hair goes up and the make-up comes off. What is left is essentially the real versions of ourselves.

While I love love, I condradict myself in that real life I am not an overly romantic person and I resent the fact that on this one particular day I am expected to be, in essence, ‘romantic.’ Yet February 14th has no connection for me and The Bloke – our anniversary is in November. What if we’re not in the mood that day? What if one of us is ill, or we’ve had a bad day at work. What if I have a stack of marking that needs to be completed?

I appreciate that the positive message behind it is that it is important to take the time to show your loved one that you care and before I start receiving indignant messages I am certainly not begrudging or judging anybody who wishes to go all out on Valentine’s Day, but the real us shouldn’t have to wait for a specific day of the year to demonstrate our feelings in the form of a hurriedly bought gift that has been picked up on the weekly shop. Of course, I’m generalising here, but shouldn’t we try to show our other half how much they mean to us as often as possible rather than on a day that has been created for the purposes of consumerism?

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Here’s a poem,
Now shut your face.

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Dryicons.com

The Bloke runs me a bath in a morning before work. When I’ve had a crap day he cooks me dinner and rubs my feet. ┬áHe would buy me flowers, but the cats take it upon themselves to eat them. He records TV programmes that he think I’ll like. We surprise each other with little gifts, cards and date nights. My family and friends like him and the cats worship him. On the rare occasions when I return home from a night out after consuming my entire body weight in alcohol he politely ignores my endless wittering and then brings me breakfast in bed the next day to help with my inevitable hangover. We’re occasionally grumpy and can snap at each other, and at times he’s the most irritating person I’ve ever met. We’ve seen the best and the worst of each other. It isn’t perfect, but regardless of whether the day has been good or bad, I know that he’s the person that I want to wake up to each morning. I am an extremely difficult person to live with, he’s a very patient man and I’m very lucky.

However, I don’t need the validation of being given a card once a year to prove that I am worthy of being loved.

So Valentine’s Day, quite frankly, can kiss my foot.

What about you guys? Do you go all out for Valentines’s Day? Does it depress you every year, or do you just simply ignore it?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

The Festive Spirit Has Finally Arrived…

I must admit, I haven’t been feeling the spirit of the impending holidays over the last few weeks. I love Christmas, but I think the pressures of the last few months have taken over and the whole season has snuck up on me, tapped me on the shoulder and screamed in my face when I least expected it.

This all changed today, however, when The Bloke and I decided to go into town and stay there until we had finished getting everything we need. It was quite a dull and miserable day, but we got there early enough to appreciate the German Market before the rest of Birmingham decided to join us and it was actually possible to see what was on offer at the various stalls.

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The most popular stall at the market

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Stuff they never knew they needed… until now!

We were also able to move around successfully in Selfridges, which at this time of the year is virtually impossible. They’ve done an absolutely stunning job with the decorations inside…

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I love the lights…

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More stuff I didn’t know I needed…

I had a great time – I’ve bought all my presents and finished wrapping them when I got home. I was also able to treat myself a little by spending some of my Waterstones book vouchers that I received for my birthday. I bought Tom Cox’s ‘The Good, The Bad and The Furry,’ as I’ve been an avid follower of Tom and The Bear, his ‘Sad Cat’ on Twitter for a while now (@MYSADCAT). It appears to be customary to post a picture of your purchase with your cat and tweet it to Tom, so I did just that with Wobbly, my 19 year old tortie. She was clearly ecstatic by the early Christmas present…

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Absolutely delighted…

What a brilliant day! I may even go out again tomorrow to try and get a few last minute surprises for The Bloke – he was with me for most of today and therefore it was quite difficult to get anything for him.

Hope you’re enjoying the last part of your weekend!!

Monday Morning Musings and Thanks

After The Bloke and I spent yesterday packing I find that I am spending the first part of Monday morning sitting in my front room surrounded by boxes, packing tape, newspapers and bubble wrap. In my very first post I commented on the amount of ‘stuff’ that I own, but it was only when I started to organise all my worldly possessions and box them up that I realised exactly how much I’ve collected over the years. Twelve years ago, when I moved to the city to start univeristy, everything I owned could fit into the back of a car. I remember the day that I got my unconditional offer acceptance letter – I went straight out and bought myself a frying pan, a plate, bowl and cutlery from Woolworths in Bolton Town Centre (I’m showing my age here) and all these years later I am going to have to spend the day finding a large hire van to transport everything across to our new home next week. Continue reading