So long 2013…

…never have I been happier to say goodbye to a calendar year. I’m so very thankful that 2013 is OVER, and I know several of my friends and family members feel the same way.

My baby sister is turning 23 today, my older brothers are here in Edinburgh so we had the quietest Hogmanay I’ve had since the years I would spend it being babysat by my Nana and Grandad, tucked up in bed between them watching Scotch and Wry.

Now we’re all in bed (though one brother may still be watching a truly awful film still. He told me it was great. He was lying. Or he just has really bad taste in films…in my oh so unhumble opinion!)

Now it is time for sleep. I have my new pyjamas on. The make up has been rubbed off my face. Let’s see what 2014 brings.

:)

Happy New Year!

I’m wishing for one with more joy and less death, illness and crappiness all round.

2013 in review…

What, for you, was the high point of 2013? Were there any other highlights?

For me, the high point of 2013 was my April trip to London. I loved seeing Matilda, I loved seeing Miss Sweetroot’s responses to her first time in the city, I loved being with such great friends and a special memory was made watching the Sunset from the London Eye.

Other highlights include Soul Surfer Road Trips to Polzeath, Aberdeen and Cardiff and watching two of the Guides getting awarded their Baden Powell. And getting accepted to do my postgraduate qualification at Glasgow uni!

What, for you, was the low point of 2013?

2013 has been the year of the Grim Reaper. Two grandparents, two uncles, one of my Mum’s best friends and my childhood friend’s Mum.

Plus Feb-April being ill with flu, my café spill and some weird sinus/viral infection thing was just a bit rubbish.

Tell me some things you learned this year.

I learned how to use moodle. And I learned how much I hate moodle too! I learned the art of nagging to get things done in girlguiding. I was reminded how passionate I am about learning over teaching, education in general and how education will always be more of a passion than counselling ever will be.

Who would be your “person of 2013″? It could be someone you know or a famous person who’s inspired you.

Back in November, my friend asked the leader of Christian Surfers International for his one bit of wisdom he would share. It was this: think about who’s kingdom you are trying to build. The main reason being that it takes jealousy, competition and pride out of the playing field.

Amen to that.

What was the best film you saw this year?

I’ve seen very few films this year, but probably Les Miserables.

And what was the worst?

Thor 2.

Or Lincoln – does it count if we switched it off half an hour in because we were so bored watching it?

What was the best book you read?

I can’t pick between How the Girl Guides Won the War and The Perks of Being A Wallflower.

What was the best thing you saw on TV?

I was not impressed with how NCIS ended last season….DUCKY!!!!!! (and if you are in America, Australia or you have fancy TV in the UK – yes, we’re only on Season 9 and you’re all on Season 10 and 11).

And of course…How I Met Your Mother.

What, for you, was the sporting highlight of 2013?

The European Artistic Gymnastics Championships. If anyone thought that London 2012 was a fluke, think again. Our lads took home a lot of medals…and then Kristian Thomas and Max Whitlock followed it up by bringing home a couple more from Worlds later in the year. Happy British Gymnastics fan here!

What was the best album or song you heard in 2013? What song did you play most?

Back in May, my friend Judith and I ended up wandering round a branch of Fopp in London’s West End. They had a tune playing and I loved it so I asked what it was they were playing. I ended up bringing home Sam Amidon’s Bright Sunny South album home with me to Edinburgh.

Unsurprisingly the most played song on my iTunes is ‘My Old Friend’.

What are you looking forward to in 2014?

I am looking forward to going to Germany with some of my coursemates from university to do the Lifelong Learning winter school. I’m hoping to meet up with friends from around the UK. And I hope to do lots more fun things with the Guides and Senior Section! :)

And the new year has begun…

Sunshine PandaThe new year has begun, and the last few days have been surprisingly action packed! I brought in 2013 wearing as much of my favourite colour as possible – purple shoes, purple dress, purple eyeshadow, purple nail varnish (which has dyed my fingernails a wee bit…oops). And it was lovely bringing in the New Year with my Mum and a bunch of lovely friends. No drama. No pressure. I realised just as we were leaving that I’d not had a drop of alcohol. I’m not a big drinker, but I had planned on having a gin at the bells – and ended up having shloer (fizzy grape juice that looks like champagne in the right glass!) to better ‘match’ everyone’s fizz! And then I forgot all about it. I spent £10 on a bottle of gin to have a few tipples over the holidays and it’s still unopened. ha ha! Just as well it doesn’t really go off.

The 1st day of January we were determined to get out of the house. Last year I was so grateful to have the Soul Surfers beach walk to force me out of my bed and wake me up on New Year’s Day. There had been no beach time organised this year, but my friends informed me that for once ‘Dogmanay’ had not been cancelled. And so we went off in search of the event in Holyrood park (trying not to get runover by cyclists doing the triathlon) and cheered on the dog sled teams!

IMGP0543

 

And then on our final bank holiday – affectionately known by LFS community as ‘Coomanay‘ (because all ‘holidays’ need a name more original than ‘2nd Jan’, my university friends Sam & Joanie invited me to go to the zoo with them. Sam actually is a high school friend too, and was in the year above me. I jokingly refer to him as my honourary big brother given than he and the 2 other guys in the year above  became really good friends of mine when we all went to uni and stayed in halls together. I was a year younger and they had my back. I really appreciated them for that! The big deal was that I FINALLY got to see the famous Pandas. We were super lucky that we got a good view of both Sunshine AND Sweetie, as depending on where they are or how they are feeling (Sunshine suffers from colic and has been ill a few times) you don’t always see them both. Sunshine even woke up from his nap and started wandering about. They have separate enclosures – both indoor and outdoor. They were indoors when we were in. Sam & Joanie very generously organised and paid for the tickets (they are both Zoo members) and would not let me pay them back. I eventually gave in and accepted one of the best presents ever. I was very excited and may have been caught doing a dance singing ‘We’re going to the see the Pandas‘ and bouncing a lot before we’d even got through the doors. We saw the lions sleeping in their den too, and Sam walked away from Joanie and I when our response to seeing this was to start singing ‘In the jungle, the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight...’ followed by ‘in the zoo, in Edinburgh Zoo the lions sleep tonight‘.

Sweetie Panda

 

I hadn’t long been back from the Zoo though when we got a phone call to say that my Auntie had been in a car accident and was being taken to hospital in an ambulance. After lots of confusing phone calls which left us with lots of questions, anxiety and worry, I was called upon to retrieve Oliver the dog. Oliver had been in the car accident too, and the police had taken him to a police station about a 20 minute drive away. Unfortunately there had been ANOTHER car accident on the same stretch of road, so I got stuck in a traffic jam behind the accident (unsure if it was my Auntie’s accident or a different one) and realising I had no clue how to transport a dog. Thankfully some (safely made) calls to friends gave me helpful tips and advice and Oliver was fine on the drive to my Auntie’s home. Even if he did set off the seatbelt alarm a few times! The police seemed disappointed that I’d come so quickly as I think he’d become a novelty star in the police station. They were fantastic and super nice. So appreciative of all the emergency services! And very glad to say my Auntie is ok, and was able to be discharged a few hours later.

Today has been a lazy day. I had great intentions today of achieving many dull tasks like laundry, going to the supermarket and cleaning. None of this happened. What I DID manage to do was book tickets for me, my Mum & 4 friends to go and see Matilda in London’s West End in April. Can’t think of a better way to spend my last few hours as a 28 year old.

So all in all, I’m happy to have ticked something off my to-do list (seeing the pandas) and made steps to ticking another thing off my to-do list (seeing Matilda). Now I just need to hear good news from the plumber and hear back from the joiner re: to my Aberdeen flat and all will be well.

 

 

The bucket list…

…I did a few posts on my bucket list this last year, and even made a version to put on my inspiration wall…

Photo on 2012-05-20 at 23.03I’m so happy that I was able to do a few things on that list. The first was in April when I finally got my long-talked-about tattoo. On 1st January as I brushed my teeth before heading to the beach, I prayed and asked God if He was ok with the whole tattoo thing – I asked if He’d show me a rainbow as a sign it to go ahead with it. And driving down to Dunbar – a massive clear rainbow arched across the fields. The second was in June when I went to my first ever spa day with my lovely friend Carrie. Our groupon vouchers were our birthday present to ourselves! And seriously, if anyone ever wants to get me another spa day as a gift it would be very welcomed! ;) The third was a consolation bucket list tick off as I didn’t get Olympics tickets but I did get to see a Gymnastics World Cup event.

I’ve now added stuff to my list.

Next year I have a few hopes – one is to see the musical ‘Matilda’. I absolutely loved the book (I had it on ‘story tape’ and listened to it a lot as a kid) and I’ve always admired the comedy music genius of Tim Minchin. I want to write some children’s stories. From a really young age I wanted to write books for children, and the fact that everytime I’m in a bookshop I still head straight for the children’s section says something to me. I used to write stories for my little sister to read all the time, sometimes making up scavenger hunts to go with them. I think as I got older I felt self-conscious about my love of children’s literature, but it has been such a joy to see (and actively encourage) my godson’s love of books from a really young age. In the last year I’ve had comments from friends about my reading of stories to kids and been caught sliding into make believe games with singing toy teapots…and they have backed me up in my dream of being the presenter for the CBeebies Bedtime hour. ;) I want to finish my Girlguiding ALQ (Adult Leadership Qualification). And I’d like to attempt some surfing and rock climbing!

I also want to be on the lookout for opportunities to complete some of the other things on my bucket list, and for things that I’ve not thought to put on it.

I have to say that looking toward 2013 I’ve not got a lot to look forward to yet. 2012 was such an exciting year with the Diamond Jubilee, Olympics and Paralympics. In 2014 there’ll be Winter Olympics, Winter Paralympics, the Commonwealth Games and Team competitions at Worlds again…but there’s none of that in 2013. So we’ll just have to find something else to get excited about. :)

Whatever happens, I hope 2013 is going to be one where we can all find contentment in all circumstances, make great memories and have something to look back on with a laugh and a smile.

Let’s make the world a better place.

With love to you all on this Hogmanay…(New Year’s Eve to all you non-Scots!)

Laura Anne (BlondishKoala)

x

 

The Hogmanay Review Questions

So every Hogmanay  I do a ‘review’ of the past year. it’s an LFS tradition now. Just in case you’d like to do it too, here are the questions I’ll be using, and you can feel free to adapt or skip any questions that don’t apply to you!

1. What were the highlights of this year?

2. What was the low point of this year?

3. Best Book I read

4. Best quote from my visits to schools

5. Best film I saw at the cinema

6. Best film I saw on DVD

7. Favourite TV Show this year

8. TV Moment that almost made me cry

9. Most listened to song this year

10. Favourite worship song this year

11. What  was the sporting highlight of 2012?

12. Who would be my  ‘person of 2012′

13. What I learned this year..

14. What I’m looking forward to next year…

24 days of Christmas: Beginning with imperfection (by Sarah)

Sarah has dipped her toe occasionally into the world of blogging and is considering dipping her toe in deeper possibly in the future. Working in a Bank and in a pregnancy resource centre as a Centre Coordinator (yes, she’s Laura Anne’s partner in crime!) along with many other things keep her busy.

Beginning with imperfection

A New Year is a good time for reflection and thinking about the future.  I wonder what 2011 has looked like for you?  Life is full of many things and oftentimes joy and sorrow mingle together.  Maybe some of our hopes have been dashed or they have not yet come to fulfilment.  Life is like that: sorrow, joy, wonder, hurt, hope, disappointment, fear, trust, laughter, tears, pain, faith, anger, peace all mixed together.  We wish for a perfect life, but life is full of imperfection.

Standing in an imperfect place is just the perfect place to begin, and everyday offers the hope of Day 1. His mercies are new every morning and this is a gift.”

-Ann Voskamp

God’s mercies are new every morning. Every day is fresh.

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Sarah’s post is the last in a series of posts over the Christmas period as many of my friends join me for another blog party which I hope you’ve enjoyed!  Please feel free to comment on what Sarah has shared. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here. Happy New Year, and every best wish for 2012.

24 days of Christmas: Ye never see daylicht on Ne’erday (by Fran)

Fran Brady was born in Dundee and is a graduate of St Andrews University. After a varied career in the voluntary sector, she turned from charity management to creative writing. In five years, she has written three novels, a book of short stories, a children’s book and recently – to her surprise – some poetry.  She has three daughters, a stepson, six grandchildren, lots of pals of all ages – and a dog. She lives with her husband in a village in West Lothian

A Fife Mining Community 1954

New Year’s Eve, Hogmanay, was the time for free-range “first-footing”, an unpredictable affair with every house set up for a full- scale party. It was a lottery as to which ones would end up with crowds big enough to do justice to the groaning tables of food and drink. There might be a great party, a horrible fight, a great deal of vomiting or just a gaggle of maudlin mutterers and snorers. Or you might have very few people and be left eating black bun and shortbread for weeks. You just never knew. But every house must be prepared. It was unthinkable disgrace not to be provisioned as if for an army.

New Year’s Day was quite different, having a formal structure. It did not begin until late afternoon, since no-one had gone to bed until dawn once Hogmanay had been finally declared over. Whilst the men snored on, the women and children would be up just in time to catch the winter sunset. Ye never see daylicht on Ne’erday was considered a fitting accolade to a good Hogmanay.

Once the mess from the night before had been cleaned up, it was time to start preparing Ne’erday Denner. This was when as many of your extended family as you could squeeze round your table would be invited to share in Steak Pie and Trifle – the menu was the same in every house and was washed down by copious amounts of that well-known beverage, the hair o’ the dog.

The first guests would be encouraged to burst in on the foul-breathed snoring of the man of the house, dragging him out of bed, declaring:

That must hae been a richt skinfu’ ye had last nicht!Get yersel’ a wash an’ shave, man, an’ get yersel’ through fur yer Ne’erday denner!

Mid-evening, the party would begin. No false modesty was allowed: songs, recitations, even short dramatic sketches made up the programme, repeated year in, year out with almost no variation.

Apart from the returning war heroes, who had proudly brought back their rousing, regimental choruses, few people were ever allowed to introduce new material.

As more and more of the younger generation left to seek their fortune across the Atlantic or Down Under, a new poignancy had been added to the old emigrant laments and there was never a dry eye in the house when everyone joined in “It’s oh! But I’m longin’ for my ain folk. . .

Some better-off families might book a few minutes on the telephone to faraway sons and daughters and everyone would crowd round and shout to be heard, marvelling at the time difference.

The party would once again last well into the next day. Men starting at six o’clock on the early shift would fortify themselves with plates of stovies or tripe and onions and head straight from the party to do a seven hour shift down the pit.

This is an excerpt from:

 Available as an e-book from www.booksanctuary.co.uk

or from www.amazon.co.uk in their Kindle Store.

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Fran’s post is the first in a series of posts over the Christmas period. Please feel free to comment on the excerpt from Fran’s latest book (and let us know if you buy it and read the whole thing!), and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.

BK’s 2011 in review…

It’s time for the obligatory ‘reflection on the past year’ post. I’ve been using this template for a few years now, taken from another blogger!

What, for you, was the high point of 2011? Were there any other highlights?

There have been a few high points. Firstly, hearing the news that the national organisation I work with was a registered charity. Getting to meet a couple more online friends so they are now ‘in real life’ friends. Living the rockstar dream by surprising my friend for her 40th birthday. Speaking at the women’s conference about healing after pregnancy loss. The Powerpoint in September where we were so packed out all our planning went out the window… And of course, the huge one: MEETING ALF!!

What, for you, was the low point of 2011?

Originally I had written about the first half of 2011. But in the last few days an event trumped all the challenges of this year when on Boxing Day I found out that one of my childhood friends had been found dead on Christmas Eve. We now know why his Mum could not reach him on Christmas Day, and although his death was not unexpected, it has been a huge shock for us all. My earliest memories are filled with our childhood games (namely Trevor & He-man), going to Edinburgh Zoo in Edinburgh and Ramboland in Aberdeen. This likely means starting 2012 by attending a funeral with close family friends in mourning.

Tell me some things you learned this year.

I got a big wake up call to how much of my life was tied up in trying to live up to church leaders and church members’ expectations. Leaving church was the best thing ever because I lost some of the religious side of me while I wasn’t an active member of a church over the summer, and now being back in a church I have a much better perspective. I feel much more ‘Laura Anne’ now than I have done in 4 years!

Who would be your “person of 2011″? It could be someone you know or a famous person who’s inspired you.

It’s a tough one to pick this year. But I think I’m going to choose Adam & Karen Owens. They really inspire me, and now I’m learning more about adoption and fostering in the UK – hoping it’s something I’ll be able to do in the future.

What was the best film you saw this year?

The King’s Speech.

That film deserved every single award it received. And I always did have a lot of respect for the Queen Mum!

Closely followed by Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows – Part 2.

And what was the worst?

Hmm…it would have been Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon but a miscommunication meant that I ended up not seeing it. It seems I was saved from a terrible fate of a couple of hours of my life I would never have got back.

So it’s going to have to be Bridesmaids. It would have been a great film had it not been for the waaaay over the top scene in the Bridal shop.

What was the best book you read?

The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith & The King’s Speech by Mark Logue & Peter Conradi

What was the best thing you saw on TV?

Love on the Transplant List

What, for you, was the sporting highlight of 2011?

No question: Kohei Uchimura becoming the first male gymnast to win 3 consecutive world titles. His gymnastics is breathtakingly stunning, and I’m so looking forward to the Olympics next year.

What was the best album or song you heard in 2011? What song did you play most?

I think Adele’s ‘21‘ album.

Most played song is once again Albertine by Brooke Fraser

What are you looking forward to in 2012?

Singing at Powerpoint in the New Year. (I’ll be trying to find some better fitting earphones and remembering that long curly hair & in-ear monitors really don’t make a good combo)

Maybe meeting some more online friends ‘in real life’ (there are some plans in the making)…

I’m sure that work is going to be as much of a rollercoaster as the last 4 years have been.

The Olympics. I’m still very gutted that I didn’t get tickets for the Women’s All-Around artistic gymnastics final, because that would have been amazing to see. My new hope is catching the world championships when they come to Glasgow in 2015!

And all the exciting things that I’m not able to anticipate… Bring on 2012!
What has your 2011 looked like? 

24 days of Christmas: The Tamale Making Party (by Fiona)

 

Fiona is a Brit in Texas, working with husband in the field of animation and film, with their company Dancing Fish Productions. They have a young son and another baby on the way. They are currently juggling life as parents, working in a crazy, uncertain industry and living in a foreign country. They consider they are extremely fortunate to be loved by great family, friends and a great God.

“A What-making party?”

“A Tamale making party, come join us”

There are many things that are odd to me, a Geordie, Scottish, Northern Irish-sounding lass in Texas. Holiday season brings its own unique challenges, and each country, state, town around the world does it differently. The massive metroplex that is Dallas-Fort Worth is no different, with its 6.5 million people, 38% of whom are of Hispanic heritage. I consider this to be a great asset to the culture and make up of this great state, although vastly alien to my background and knowledge. I am fortunate to have amongst my friends a Texan of great Hispanic heritage, who graciously extended the above invitation to me. This would be a new experience, as you might guess, there are not many Tamale making parties, even in multicultural Edinburgh, our previous home.

Tamales are a very old, traditional corn-based food, filled with meat, cheese, veggies or chillies that are thought to go back to 8000-5000 BC, which were eaten by Ancient Mayans, Aztecs and Incas. Today they are eaten all over Central and South America as well in the US. They’re especially eaten over the Christmas/New Year period and I’m told that if you go into any Mexican families’ house between Dec 1st and Jan 6th, there’s sure to be a Tamale offered. A bit like mince pies in the UK. But with a bit more of a burny tongue.

But for me, this was more than just an invitation to find out how to make an interesting new food (which by the way, you make by the hundreds, hence why you need a party of people, and you boil or steam in a leaf wrapper which you discard when you eat it). As I found out, the actual making of them is deceptively simple looking but much harder to do well. Like most things, simple is usually the hardest thing to do.  And to me, this simple invitation has everything to do with the kindness given to strangers (me and my family), learning about new cultures to open up your mind and the extending of warmth and welcome that is beyond your means, with no thought of return.

Like many at this time of year, and in this economic climate, money is tight for us. We’re wondering how to pay the next bills. And so it is for this family that opened up their small home to the masses. But they do something very special that is often found amongst those who don’t have a lot: they give. Their time, energy, hospitality, and their resources. And what is simpler but harder to do?

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Fiona’s post is one in a series of posts over the Christmas period as many of my friends join me for another blog party which I hope you’ve all been enjoying!  Please feel free to comment on what Fiona has shared, and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.

24 days of Christmas: Lost in translation (by Kamsin)

Kamsin Kaneko teaches English to unappreciative students in Tokyo, Japan.  Originally from the New Forest area of Hampshire, she has spent most of her adult life living overseas and has made Japan her home.  Christmas however just isn’t quite the same anywhere other than home. 

**Kamsin doesn’t know it, but the reason I purposely scheduled this post for today is because it is her birthday! Please take time to wish Kamsin a Happy Birthday too! **

Christmas – Lost in Translation

Christmas is not a holiday in Japan.  It is a day with no religious or cultural significance for most Japanese.  But, this doesn’t stop them from celebrating Christmas.  Kind of.  Japan pretty much imported all the sparkly bits of Christmas, the lights, decorations and Santa and then made up a whole new way to celebrate.

Most businesses put up Christmas decorations and many key locations throughout Tokyo have Christmas “illuminations” (lights to you and me).  Blue and white lights seem to be very popular.  It is rare to see lights in the shape of sleighs, father christmas or snowmen.  Mostly they are just pretty lights.  They are some beautiful trees too.  Superficially it seems like Christmas is being celebrated in familiar ways.

But if you ask people what they do for Christmas it all starts to feel a little less familiar.  In the weeks before Christmas I asked my students (aged 19-22) what they will do.  Many were holding drinking parties with friends, some would be eating chicken and cake (not quite what you’re imagining, we’ll get to that in a minute) with their family, and those lucky enough to have a boyfriend or girlfriend were headed to some popular date spot to enjoy the romance of the illuminations.

Christmas is considered a night for romance.  Although it is also “celebrated” with friends and family.  Christmas Eve is probably the biggest date night of the year.  Personally, I blame Mariah Carey (All I want for Christmas is You) and Wham! (Last Christmas) for this.  Both of these songs are horribly popular.  Christmas is not a holiday and if it falls on a weekday most people will be at school or work.  If you don’t have a big date then it’s pretty much just a regular day.

Chicken (Kentucky Fried) and Christmas cake (a sponge covered in whipped cream and strawberries) are the food of choice.  People order both months in advance.  It seems KFC ran a very successful advertising campaign back in the 70’s or 80’s and convinced the whole of Japan that KFC is the authentic taste of Christmas.  No idea where the strawberry shortcake came from, I guess it just suits Japanese palates.

All of which leaves me with the feeling that any genuine Christmas cheer got lost in translation.  It’s Christmas, but not quite.  I try to find my own ways to make Christmas feel special but it’s never quite the same.

P.S. New Year is the big festival in Japan more comparable to Christmas.  People celebrate with special foods, gather with their families, and children receive gifts of money.  People also exchange New Year’s cards, which in a display of Japanese efficiency, are all collected by Japan Post in the weeks before the year ends, and then delivered all in one go on January 1st.

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Kamsin’s post is one in a series of posts over the Christmas period as many of my friends join me for another blog party which I hope you’ve all been enjoying!  Please haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.