December has arrived…

I submitted my final assignment of the year on Friday morning. The weight of relief to have that DONE is more than I can describe. This whole studying business has been more stressful than I ever anticipated it to be (and I didn’t anticipate it being a picnic!). Every time we start a course, I start searching for books on our reading list only to find that barely any of them can be found in our university library. I’ve now twice requested books from other libraries, but it takes a while to get them and that’s frustrating. Once again, books I wanted weeks ago have finally turned up AFTER the assignment is handed in.

Just another thing we’ll be giving in as feedback to the long list we have to challenge the university with.

:)

Anyway, the weekend didn’t stop as I got an emergency call from work only about 6 hours after I’d gotten to bed. We had our fundraiser on Saturday (St Andrew’s Day). And of course there was the terrible tragedy of the helicopter crash at The Clutha bar in Glasgow on Friday night too. :(

Today has been the first day of restfulness, where I’ve been able to sleep in, take my time, start to sift through the mess and carnage the last three months has created (you literally couldn’t see the carpet in my room). I visited my friends as Miss Sweetroot celebrated her birthday. Her Auntie had made these AMAZING minion cupcakes…
minion cupcake
I felt bad eating a cute minion, but he tasted oh so good and chocolatey!

And of course once I got home, as it was December 1st I had to make sure to put up my Christmas Tree covered in hats collected from supporting The Big Knit. Last year I had so many I gave some to a friend, and a few I sent back to Innocent so they could reuse them. This year I have some set aside for my sister since she can’t collect them in Cameroon.

big knit 2013

 

Tomorrow night we will be awarding two of our ‘graduated’ Guides with the Baden-Powell Award – the highest award that can be achieved in Guides. Both girls are now members of the Senior Section I run, and I’m sure they’re going to continue achieving great things… tomorrow is going to be about celebrating what they’ve already done.

So yes, today I’m taking pause. I’m grateful for this month ‘off’, and looking forward to having a couple of weeks off work at Christmas and Hogmanay too to rest, relax and read fun books, and do some writing and scrapbooking.

For now, life is going down a gear from mental busy to normal busy. And the snow is falling on my blog…

2012 is almost over…but there’s more to come in 2013…

So tonight I was tweeting during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, and discovered that the GB Special Olympics team had started following me on twitter. I hadn’t realise they were on twitter, and not sure how they found me, but I’m happy they did.

28th Jan 2013 is the start of the Winter Special Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

A family from my old church in Aberdeen have a special connection, as their son (who unbelievably is now 17 or 18 – he was just a wee kid when I used to go round to their house for student lunch!) is one of the skiers in Team GB who’ll be competing.

You can follow the Team’s blog here: http://2013wintergamesgbteam.wordpress.com/ and Special Olympics GB on twitter (@SOGreatBritain).

After such an exciting year in sport, my hope is to continue giving shout outs to sports that don’t get the same attention as Football, rugby, cricket, golf and tennis… :)

And did I mention that my tickets are booked and have even already arrived for next year’s FIG World Cup in Glasgow? Yep. Ruairidh and Saija are back on guard duty…

The reindeer guard my Gymnastics World Cup tickets!

The reindeer guard my Gymnastics World Cup tickets!

Hello Winter Blues

At some point last week the blues just hit me. It’s difficult for people who haven’t really experienced it to understand. It starts with me just not wanting to get out of bed. It progresses to me hugging radiators and just not wanting to move from wherever I am. I want to stay in one place and hide. I start spacing out. Every morning I just want to cry – especially if it’s dark and/or cold when I wake up. I’m permanently sleepy. My brain starts turning to mush. I can’t remember what I was about to do. I wake up wondering where I am or thinking I’m somewhere I’m not. I do really silly things like putting my mobile phone charger in between 2 plates or start trying to open my front door with a car key.

The feeling of hopelessness is suffocating, and the temptation to use my once all-time last resort for some release rears its ugly head once again. Every day feels like survival rather than living.

And how do you explain that the reason you’ve stopped being bubbly, the reason you can’t seem to hold a conversation or remember that you already had that conversation is because winter has arrived?

This is why you leave all your annual leave for those cold months you know you’ll need it when you cannot face the thought of getting out of your pyjamas and into work. Or to interact with people who simply just don’t get it.

This is why you don’t go to church because you fear that some kid has got germs to pass on some awful cold, flu or stomach bug.

This is why you make sure you don’t have to be anywhere before it’s be sunlight for at least an hour because you can’t bear the thought of weeping while you try to find the will power to stumble in the dark in search of your clothes and a toothbrush.

It’s funny how you don’t forget that it happens, but you forget how intense it feels. Being smothered by the frosty darkness. Wondering if you’re going to lose all your friends because of your unhappiness.

There is one redeeming quality. 

You know it is temporary.

Because you’ve been through it before, year after year after year. You know what you need to do to get through it, to do your best to cope with it. You’ll fight. You know there is the hope that the first snowdrop will bring. One day the sun will rise higher in the sky, one day you’ll walk outside and it will not hurt to breathe in the outside air. One day you’ll open your eyes in the morning and you’ll smile because it’s a brand new day and the sun is warming once again.

So while the frost invades, I’ll remember the promise of snowdrops that will come again.

Honey and Spice Cake

This recipe is a bit of a marmite one. I’ve discovered people either really like this cake, or they really don’t like this cake. This will make you 12 muffin sized cupcakes, or the cake in the picture above which was baked in a 9″ (24 cm) cake tin. Apologies for the yellowness of the picture, the lighting in our wee kitchen sucks big time – plus I forgot to take a picture before we started eating it.

For the cake:

Ingredients

200g unsalted butter

200g self-raising flour

100g light muscovado sugar

2-3 tbsp honey

4 eggs

1 tsp all-spice

½ tsp baking powder

Method

Line your cake tin with greaseproof paper on bottom and grease the sides with a little bit of butter.

Preheat your oven to 150 C.

Melt butter, sugar and honey in a saucepan on a low heat.

Beat your eggs.

Once butter, sugar and honey is melted, and your eggs and whisk together.

Sift flour, baking powder and all spice together then stir into your butter/sugar/honey/egg mixture in a bowl to create a smooth batter.

Pour into cake tin (or divide equally among muffin cases).

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden, then place on wire rack to cool.

For the icing:

Ingredients

75g butter

175g icing sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp all spice

2 tsp honey

Method

It helps if you leave your butter out of the fridge while the cake is in the oven/cooling before you make the icing.

Place butter in a bowl and beat until soft and fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar sifting it through a sieve (to prevent you getting lumpy icing!)

Add the vanilla extract and honey and beat until you get a thick, creamy and smooth consistency.

Once your cake is cool, you can spoon the icing onto the top of your cake and spread evenly across the surface of your cake.

Where there is cyber snow, there is real snow…

After coming to the end of a mental week where a lot I was concerned would go wrong did go wrong, then a very difficult long conversation with my Dad, I went to bed exhausted.

I woke up in the early hours freezing.

And then when I actually got out of bed, I realised why.

The real snow has begun to arrive in Edinburgh…

It’s hardly anything compared to this time last year though…

Koala Friendly Mulled Wine

Koalas can’t drink wine. We koalas aren’t too upset because we’ve never been able to drink wine, so it we don’t know we’re missing out really. However, once a brunette koala got a little bit ill from drinking mulled wine that had actual real wine in it. She didn’t realise that mulled wine was made with…well, wine. Oops.

However, this Brunette Koala decided she wasn’t going to miss out anymore, and thought she’d do some experimenting to find an alternative one Christmas…

Ingredients:

600 ml red grape juice

400 ml cranberry & raspberry juice

1 orange

2 mulled spice sachets

200ml water

Method:

Pour your juice and the water into a saucepan. Add the mulled wine spice sachets.

Bring to almost to the boil (should be bubbling around the sides a bit), then keep at that temperature for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, rinse your orange, then cut into fine slices.

After 10 minutes, take out the mulled wine spice sachets, add the orange slices to garnish, and take off the heat.

And serve!!

My family actually much preferred this non-alcoholic homemade alternative mulled wine to the normal stuff, and was a hit on Christmas Eve last year. The only annoying thing was that I’d only  bought one carton of the red grape & yumberry juice so we weren’t able to have any on Christmas Day. I haven’t been able to find Red grape & yumberry juice this year, so the red grape and cranberry/raspberry combo is my alternative. :)

Autumnal Mourning

I made the mistake of hanging out my washing outside this morning. Several items of clothing almost ended up in neighbouring gardens, then while it was still sunny – a freak horizontal heavy rain shower hit soaking all my clothes when they were almost dry.

Every day litter and leaves blow into the vestibule at the main door into the pregnancy centre and we have to sweep them out, only for more to blow back in.

It would seem then that Autumn has indeed ARRIVED.

And with that comes the cold. Already getting up in the morning is getting increasingly difficult and the number of daylight hours are reducing. Some people love the Autum with all it’s colours as the leaves turn red and golden, conkers hit the ground and people dig out hats and scarfs to start wrapping up warm.

I’ll be frank: I hate this time of year.

I never tire of spring and summer, I can’t remember thinking ‘oh man, it’s so hot, I wish it would rain’. I love to bathe in the sunshine and soak up all the UV rays that might give me skin cancer one day making my hair lighter and give my feet a chance at defrosting.

Every Autumn I mourn the loss of summer, want to bawl my eyes out at the sight of Christmas trees and mince pie displays in the supermarkets, sob at seeing dark colours and woolies in stores and cling onto the hope that Spring will come soon and maybe, just maybe it’ll be a good one in Scotland this time.

(Note to God & Mother Nature: I hoped for summer this year after the snow apocalyse last winter, and instead we got the coldest summer Scotland has had in 20 years. I feel cheated. Just in case you didn’t already know).

I am now in mourning again.

Bring on the Spring!

How to survive an arctic climate church service

This morning was my first day back at church since before Christmas (because I go to a more local church on Christmas Eve, and New Year hit on a weekend!) and I was on the worship team.

And I was PREPARED for how cold it would be. I was not going to spend my morning in pain and misery caused by the Antartic climate of the Braid Church Building.

In addition to what would be a usual outfit of leggings, socks, top and cardigan I had added

  • extra pair of leggings
  • hiking socks
  • fleece slipper booties (which someone thought were shoes?!)
  • arm warmers
  • woollen scarf
  • Hot water bottle (for the 30+ mins of sitting in a pew during the preaching)

The hot water bottle was mostly used by the other backing vocalist who was shivering next to me. And some people laughed at the hot water bottle until they held it and didn’t want to let go (who’s laughing now, eh?)

I even remembered to make extra pancakes and smoothie yesterday to grab on my way out the door. This turned out to be a very good plan as I slept in after my alarm went off as my brain saw no sunlight outside at 7.40 a.m. and from this concluded that it was still the middle of the night and therefore it could not possibly be time to get up yet.

Sorry Mr Worship Pastor as this resulted in some tardiness on my part showing up 15 mins late to practice :( Shame on me.

I might have to ditch one of my bibles out my rucksack to replace with a hot water bottle for when Inter:act starts back on Tuesday! :)

And while we’re on the subject, my poor Cassie the Corsa – she has taken a beating in this cold weather. The heating no longer works in the car, and the windscreen wipers are doing some strange things. I imagine it might be the snow melting and getting into the electrics or similar. The roads are also atrocious – full of potholes after more than a month of snow and ice – and that’s not helping. At the moment I’m trying to save up money so I can take her to the garage for repairs – but terrified of what the cost could be. Plus I’ll need to pay the Term 2 fees for Inter:act soon too.

Trying not to worry about all of that, but it’s tough not to. All prayers appreciated!!

The Return of Narnia

Yes. Last night, Narnia made a comeback to Scotland. Only 3-4 inches this time – but some of our team who were over for training and a dinner told me that there’s double the snow here than there is on the East of the city.

Made for an interesting drive to and from the pub in town last night (my friend Fi heads back to Spain tomorrow, so wanted to say goodbye until April….sob!) and hoping I’ll be able to drive to church without too much issue in the morning.

The snow also meant the 2 people meant to be bringing savoury dishes to our ‘Pot Luck Supper’ tonight weren’t able to come, so I had to make some emergency couscous and broccoli in cheese sauce for a vegetarian member of our team.

Now I have not much in basic food in my cupboard/fridge for friends coming over for lunch tomorrow.

But I do have plenty of dessert!

A tough month

I feel I can write now, since I’ve had a good day. This last month has been a real struggle to get through (just in case you hadn’t already picked up on that through my previous posts, tweets or facebook updates). The song above has been my anthem this year, in much the same way that Maybe This Christmas was last year. 1 week of illness, 1 week of snow (and aggravating a back injury), 1 week of more snow, and continued ice (and more snow apparently on the way). I’ve missed lots of social engagements and was forced to work from home last week. I’ve missed 2 weeks of inter:act. I missed a whole month of church (through conferences and then illness). I haven’t seen some of my close friends in over a month.

It has been tough, and very isolating.

It has made me depressed.

I haven’t been sleeping well the last few nights with vivid dreams and being in some discomfort with my back. It seems to begin to get better, but has got worse after going to church the last 2 Sundays – maybe I’m allergic to church?! ;) I know that I’m just generally feeling rubbish about myself – I feel like my body is failing me, and completely malfunctioning and as a result my self-esteem, self-worth and confidence is taking a hefty nose dive.

I’m also very aware that usually December brings the obligatory ‘reflection on the year’ posts, and as I tried to think, I realised that this year has not been a lot of fun in the grand scheme of things. It’s not that there haven’t been highlights, it just seems to be that the negative stuff has far outweighed the positive stuff this year.

I’m trying to find the love in this winter, and I’m struggling.

I don’t want to be sitting here wishing a fraction of my life away, but I am really.

I’m just longing for this year to be over, and the deepest part of me is desperately waiting for Spring to come.

New life, new hope, new beginnings, growth…