Monday, 24 December 2012

'Twas the night before christmas......

......and all through the house..........women everywhere were screaming at others to stop eating chocolate before they made themselves sick, were frantically trying to defrost the turkey with a hairdryer and wondering if wrapping the last presents in newspaper would make them look 'green' rather than 'you ran out of wrapping paper for my present didn't you?'.  No? OK then just in my house.

Actually I've not done too badly this year and I am lucky that my brother and his wife are hosting Christmas dinner.  So everything is done, the presents are wrapped, the house is cleaned, beds are made for those family staying at mine, food is in the fridge and we're good to go as they say.
The rest of today will involve sitting on my butt, painting my nails and stuffing my boat with chocolate.

For those of you who read my post on Loss you will know that last year was a very bleak Christmas for my family, but this year we are going all out Christmassy and celebrating.  Celebrating life and togetherness and the fact we are lucky enough to be able to have a Christmas - many can't.

So what I really want to say in this post is, Christmas can be an excitingly fantastical period, but I know that not everyone has such a festive time.  Those who are struggling financially, those who are home alone, those who are grieving, the homeless, the list could go on and on so I just want to say to all of you who are regular readers of my blog (I thank you) and also those who stop by and comment (I also thank you), that whatever situation you find yourself in this Christmas, I wish you from the bottom of my heart a time filled with peace, love and joy.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Loves and loathes - November

Ok so I know it's hurtling towards the end of December and I'm really late with my November loves and loathes but life just got in the way, but here goes.  First up are my loves:
Yankee Candle - Snow in Love
This Snow in Love Yankee Candle has been burning away on my desk this past month, so much so it has literally burned away! There wasn't even a teeny bit left so I could light it for its photo opportunity.  If there ever was such a thing as real sugared snow, then this would be it.  Divine.
Chai Latte by Drink Me Chai
Next up is this Chai Latte.  I'm a bit late coming to the whole Chai Latte phenomenon and I didn't discover it until I was in Australia in September 2011 when my gorgeous friends introduced me to the joys which are Chai Latte.  Before then I didn't even know it existed and I was adamant that we didn't have this in the supermarkets back home.  Once returned from the great land that is Oz I went on a mission and found this in my local Waitrose (I have since discovered it in Asda too!).  It does say just add water, but so does the hot chocolate I favour and I always make that with semi-skimmed milk, so I made this the same way and it is perfect.  So creamy and warming.  I truly believe this tastes just as good as the chai lattes you can get in any of the well known high street coffee chains.
Marks and Spencer stag scarf

My last love for this month is this gorgeous stag scarf from M&S.  I first spied it on Kats blog Doesmybumlook40 and I liked it so much that I not only treated myself to it, but I got one for my Sis-in-law for her Christmas pressie, in the other colourway which is a deep pink with orange stags on it.  The photo here shows it more as a yellowy/gold, but in the flesh I would say it is more mustard.  This thing is HUGE and so so warm.  I love the vibrancy of the colours just perfect for slinging on over a cute black jersey dress or some black skinnies.  It is enough to brighten even the dullest of days.
Tresemme 24 hour body

So now onto loathes.  This is my one and only loathe for this month.  OK loath is too strong a word, it's more of a dislike and it's the Tresemme 24 hour body blow-dry lotion.  I picked this up when I was in a hurry as I needed something small to pack for my trip to Amsterdam.  You can read more about my trip to Amsterdam here.  I've used Tresemme's shampoo and conditioners over the years and felt they've been alright, nothing exciting but they do the job and as this came in a little bottle and I was in a hurry I thought that will do.  It's a clear lotion with a pump spray. You just spray into the roots of towel dried hair and dry as normal.  It did leave my hair fairly shiny but not sure it lasted 24 hours, the body seemed to drop after a few hours and the term 'blow-dry lotion' to me is a little old-fashioned.  It reminds me of being a Saturday girl in a hairdressers over 20 years ago!  I don't know whether this really did anything more for my hair than a regular blow-dry with a decent brush would have of done.

So that's it for this month.  Not many products but then I've not had too much time on my hands for trying out new things what with Uni and Christmas approaching.

So what have been your loves and loathes this November?  Is there anything you think I really should try over the coming months?  Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, 15 December 2012


This date last year my life changed forever.  On the 15th of December 2011 my Mum died.

This post isn't about pity, it's about loss, it's about my Mum, it's about me and hopefully it will help someone out there who has just been bereaved or who is going to lose someone very dear very soon.

My Mum was only 66 when she passed away.  Now some of you reading this may think this is old, but I can assure you it isn't.  My Mum still worked full-time, infact more than full-time, she was always on the go and had a memory like an elephant.  She was shy and reserved until you got to know her.  She had a wicked sense of humour, an amazing singing voice and she was a tiger who would do anything for her children, regardless of the fact we were all 'fully grown'.  Above all this she was a Mum and that three letter word says it all.

I had only been back from Australia for 3 weeks when I got the phonecall that would change my life.  At 7.30pm on 14th November Mum called me and she couldn't get all of her words out.  I was sure she'd had a stroke.  (I worked for many years in stroke rehab, I know all the signs), but what I didn't know, was that day my Mum had been to the hospital, by herself, and had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.  That phonecall from my Mum is embedded into my memory forever.

I had to have her admitted to A&E against her will, which is one of the hardest things I have had to do.  Being in A&E and hearing her unable to recall her date of birth, what month we were in or who the Prime Minister was was heartbreaking (these are all standard questions Doctors ask when someone is admitted with confusion).  This was the lady whom everyone went to to get a date from or to clarify information, as I said above she had the memory of an elephant.  There she was; my Mum, but my Mum was already gone.

She was an incredibly private lady, hence the reason she was alone when she went for the MRI scan.  Didn't want to worry us and all that, you know how it goes. Stubborn as a mule and infuriating as hell at times.  But it wasn't until the next day, 15th November, that we found out that Mum hadn't had a stroke but instead she had a brain tumour, but that wasn't all.  The tumour which orginally looked like a primary cancer, was infact a secondary tumour and she had primary lung cancer.  Options were really limited, none of them would cure her in the long term, they would prolong her life and that was all, and we ran through all the options of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery and a mixture of all three as well as palliative care.  Mum was put on a high dose of steroids to reduce the inflammation around the brain tumour, and this improved her speech slightly, it was only the inflammation which had given her intermittent speech problems over a couple of days which was the indicator that something was wrong.  Other than feeling a little tired, Mum had no pain and felt normal.  So to receive a double cancer diagnosis not only hit us as a family for six, it totally floored my Mum.

We are a family who are very spread around, not just within the UK but worldwide.  Having to phone my Mum's sisters, my cousins and other family, friends and my Mum's employers knowing those phonecalls would change their worlds forever was one of the most harrowing things I have gone through (and I can tell you I have experienced some harrowing things in my time).

The doctors predicted we had months if Mum didn't have any treatment.  We had ONE month, one calendar month that was all.  Mum wanted treatment which surprised us all.  She was always the sort of person who said "well when your times up, your times up", but then again none of us know what choice we would make when we are delivered that fateful news.  But the cancer wasn't going to wait for the surgery to take place.

I can remember standing in the side room which Mum was in, by this point she was totally unresponsive, I staring out of the window seeing all the Christmas lights, the party revellers in their finest, was screaming inside "MY MUM IS DYING, why isn't Christmas cancelled".  But as much as you hate it at the time, life goes on and it is a constant cycle which we all live through but I wish we would talk about death more.  It will happen to all of us.  It is the only sure thing.

Somehow you go onto automatic pilot, eating, sleeping, I did the Christmas present shopping for my nieces and nephews, and Mr B.P.'s family.  I put up family and I fielded calls from others wanting updates.  I showered and put on make-up, arranged a funeral.  Afterwards I looked back and couldn't believe I had done all those things and more, but believe me you do and you will when you find yourself in a similar situation.

Mum passed away in the early hours of Thursday 15th December 2011.  I live 45 minutes drive from the hospital.  I missed her passing by 10 minutes.  I was heartbroken, but I knew my Mum wanted it this way.

A whole year has passed now.  Sometimes it feels like yesterday, sometimes it feels like her passing happened in another lifetime, time is a funny old thing.  I miss her everyday but it does get easier.  Life will never be the same, how can it be?  Especially when you lose someone so intrinsically linked to your very existence.  But you do learn to build a different life without that special someone in your life.

Grief too is a funny old thing.  You will find some days you feel absolutely fine, other days it takes your breath away.  You could be in the middle of the supermarket, watching your favourite soap or in the shower or something could remind you of them, a smell, a phrase, a song on the radio, but ride that grief it is all part of the healing process.  Your body and mind has to heal, give it time and don't be hard on yourself.  I learnt to accept the times when I felt awash with grief and just accept it.

I can remember feeling as though my breath had been taken away.  Losing Mum was so painful it physically hurt.  I now know the true meaning of being heartbroken.  It is a physical pain within your chest.  Something which is as simple as taking air in and out appears to be an insurmountable task.

In my experience people will do things which will amaze you.  Those you thought would be there for you almost ignore your bereavement, which can feel like another bereavement all over again, others will give you the widest shoulders to lean on.  Take all the support you get.

Also I have an NHS background, I know how it works but I beat myself up for months after because I felt I hadn't asked for enough, pushed enough, got the equipment in place which I knew would make Mum more comfortable.  Please don't do this to yourself if you find yourself in a similar situation, when you are the one who has become the eye of the storm, you forget everything going on around you.  No matter your background you become the patients carer, you have so many plates to juggle you are bound to drop one or two, it doesn't mean you have failed in their care.

Many would say my Mum had a good life and a good death.  Yes she died safe and warm and relatively pain free in a hospital bed and we had a months 'warning' of her impending demise.  But it doesn't matter how long you have or how they pass, a loss is a loss is a loss and you will feel that same pain no matter how it happens.  Be kind to yourself.

There are so many things I miss about my Mum, far too many to list here and I am so sad that she passed away many years before she should have but I'd much rather have had the 40 wonderful years I had with an amazing Mum than many more with a feckless mother.

The firsts are always the hardest.  The first birthdays - theirs and yours, Mothers day, Christmas the list goes on, be kind to yourself on those days but  you do get through, I did.

Last year as you can imagine, Christmas was the bleakest of times but this year, we as a family, are joining in all the festivities and being thankful we have a wonderful support group around us.  Christmas means different things to us now but we will still celebrate.

As for my Mum I just want to thank her for making me the strong and independent women I am today.  I know without her love and guidance I would not be the person I am.  I love you Mum.

As lovely as it is to get everything on your Christmas list and I know I've written my fair share of lists, at the end of the day presents really don't matter.  It's the people you share it with and the memories you make, as cliched as that sounds it is true. So when people ask me this year what is on my Christmas list, my answer is always the same; 5 more minutes with my Mum, just 5 more minutes.

Friday, 7 December 2012

7 little days

I've had a good week this week, apart from panic over a uni assignment which I thought I had finished but decided I wasn't happy with, so spent most of the week re-writing it, it HAS been a good week.  Why did I decide to do a degree, at my age I ask you! So I just wanted to share some of the things which have made me smile and be thankful for this week. Sometimes we just need to step back and count our lucky stars.  So in no particular order:

Mr B.P. having a good week business wise and surprising me by taking a couple of days off. (This is as rare as hens teeth).

Buying our Christmas tree.  This is a monumental decision in our household.  I have Christmas tree O.C.D. and it has to be perfect, but when I get the right one, I am happy happy happy!

Going with Mr B.P. on a rare day off to see a humungous Christmas display and acting like a couple of kids.

Chai Latte, thank heavens for Chai Latte

The soft (and sometimes not so soft!) snores and the funny little sighs of my little mutt as she curls up next to me whilst I watch a bit of the old T.V.

Making Mr B.P. a hot chocolate with all the trimmings (the sort of hot choccy you need to 'drink with a spoon') and seeing the glee on his face!

Waking in the night to find my kitty-kat curled up beside me, purring gently.

Talking to my best friend over in Australia, twice on the phone for over an hour each time.  God I miss that girl.

Mr B.P. making my dinner twice this week, TWICE! (this is also as rare as hens teeth).

All in all I can't complain over my lot this week, how about you, how has your week been?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

NOTD - midnight skies

After a couple of days wear, please excuse the wearing tips!
This polish isn't really called midnight skies, I made that bit up! It's actually a mix of Sloe Berry with a top coat of Guinea by Front Cover.
But midnight skies is what it reminds me of. After all the terrible rain and subsequent floods we have recently had in my neck of the woods, we are now being blessed with some of the most beautiful crystal clear nights.  The sort of nights where every sound is amplified because it is so crisp, with purple-blue skies lit with thousands of stars, the sort of night where you just know you will wake to a beautiful frost.  So this is why I've called this NOTD midnight skies as it just reminds me of those glorious nights.

These polishes came in a gift set last Christmas from my sister-in-law, actually I 'blame' her for seriously getting me back into different polishes and I've been steadily building my collection of metallics and sparkly topcoats over the past 12 months. I store my polishes in a couple of old Glossyboxes!

So what nails are you rocking this festive period and what do you think I should try out next?