Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A new Challenge

I said at the start of this blog that I am challenging myself to refrain from buying any new clothes or shoes for at least 6 months (which will take me to the end of the year). 

Until last week, I have to say I was coping quite well and trained myself to recycle all Fat Face, White Stuff and Boden catalogues without even opening them.  Then I found myself with a couple of hours to kill on Edinburgh's Princes Street and couldn't help myself but have a sneaky "look" in the shops.  Luckily, I was travelling light to Holland later on that day and refused to pay Easy Jet's extortionate luggage charges so I had no room for new purchases...but it was difficult to drag myself away from the festive dresses - oh the sequins and the shoes - OMG the shoes!!!

I seem to respond well to self inflicted challenges and rarely give in so I decided to set myself another challenge starting 1st December:

I will not drink alcohol on my own in the house for the whole of December.  It might sound easy to some people but I have got myself into the habit of consuming a bottle of red wine over a Friday/Saturday night even when I'm staying in and watching TV.  I drink it because I like the taste - not to get drunk.  So, I'm allowed to drink when I'm out and when I have people over to my house but I'm not allowed to drink on my own.  I reckon the calories saved will only help with the indulgences of December.  And who knows, if I find it easy, I might continue it into the new year...though as I type this I'm actually craving a red wine right now and it's 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon...that's not good.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Week 21 - Going Dutch

The week started with a bang or rather a whir.  I was about to head off on my travels (first stop my mum's house to drop off Skye) and I heard a very strange whirring sound coming from my car.  I have to admit, when I bought the car, I had a bad feeling about it. Everything in my gut said to walk away but my stubbornness and the fact that Dougal's tax was running out the following week meant that I was under pressure to buy something.  And so it is that I found myself feeling nervous about the car and something goes wrong with it on my travelling day.  The noise was enough to put me off driving it so I took it to my reliable garage and left it in their hands to fix the problem - oh the joys of buying a cheap car...a huge lesson learnt here. 

But SuperMum to the rescue!!!  My mum collected me and got me to the train station for the first leg of my journey.  I was flying from Edinburgh on Wednesday evening so I took advantage of being in my favourite Scottish city and met up with a friend for lunch and a catch up then I booked myself in for an appointment at the Mole Clinic.  I urge anyone who has fears about skin cancer to get their moles checked out.  It's such a good service and only took about 30 mins for a professional to individually check every single mole on my body and give me the all clear.  Being a redhead, and prone to burning in the sunshine, means that I'm a high risk category for skin cancer so it was a relief to get the all clear for now.

The flight to Amsterdam was uneventful and the transition to my brother's house was super efficient as only the Dutch can be.  I had a lovely warm welcome from my family who collected me from the train station.  I have to say the house is stunning - so homely and welcoming.  All credit must go to my sis-in-law who has an eye for interior decoration.  Here's the guest bedroom:

Our days were full but relaxing all the same.  On the work/school days my SIL and I negotiated the Dutch trams and buses and enjoyed taking in the splendour of restaurants and cafes.  There's a different vibe in Holland when it comes to eating out and I love it.  People watching is a sport in it's own right and there is no shortage of "buzz" to add a little bit of spice to a latte and apple pie.  Talking of which, we found a place called the Pancake Farm which had the most amazing cafe, play park and picnic area (for the warm sunny days).  And to top it all, the Dutch are a dog friendly nation so they are welcome in most places and I was pleased to see dogs at the Pancake Farm.  Skye's going to love it. 

We went to see Born to be Wild at the IMAX theatre which was an emotional rollercoaster because it talks about the plight of Orang-utans and Elephants and the wonderful people who have set up centres to rehabilitate orphans.  The sights are spectacular and the sound of Morgan Freeman's voice narrating the story makes it a must see!

At the weekend the four of us decided to take a cycle into the centre of town where I was meeting up with one of my Borneo friends (who lives an hour away) and we were taking J to see Happy Feet 2.  Now, I have to tell you about my cycling experience.  Firstly I would like to say that I normally embrace new things and would always urge people to immerse themselves in the local culture.  I feel it's only right that visitors also do the same.  So cycling was high up on my list of things to do in Holland.  We were setting off on 3 bikes (one had a tag-along for J).  Easy - all I had to do was follow the leader.  Unfortunately I started off at the back of the convoy.  I watched my brother wobble with J on the back and that made me wobbly.  Plus the cars are so close.  Plus there's so much to negotiate - cars coming from different directions, pedestrians, trams, buses and traffic lights specifically for bikes.  So you can imagine my fear when we came to our first junction.  Red lights.  But there are so many lights, I'm not sure which one is for us.  I see the ones directly in front of us turn green and SIL took off.  Then a car from our left started to turn right...and my brother had to swerve to avoid him.  Seeing this, I slowed to stop and my hesitation made the car edge further to the right then I realised if I let him go, all the other cars turning right would proceed and I would be stranded so I started cycling again and looked up and saw all the lights in front of me were now red!!!  Holy Moley!  My family were way ahead.  So I just went for it and hoped that nothing would hit me.  My heart was in my throat.  And the tears pricked my eyeballs but I blinked them away and cycled as hard as I could to join my family who were completely oblivious to my trauma.  At the next stopping point I asked to go in the middle so I had help either side of me.  We made it and I had a gorgeous pasta lunch to calm the nerves and fill the tummy.  The way home was more relaxed, possibly due to the reduced traffic, and I actually started to enjoy the feeling of wind in my hair.   We've since dissected my cycle fears - I'm a control freak and I always prefer to know what I'm doing and where I'm going so, being in the hands of others, makes me more nervous.  My solution?  On my next trip, my brother is going to set me free with a bike and a map and I'm going to meet one of them at a cafe in the centre and find my own way there and back.  This challenge also makes me nervous (probably moreso) but I'm in complete control and, as long as I study the map, I know I can do it might take me twice as long as everyone else but failure is not an bring it on...

On Sunday we went to the NEMO Science Centre in Amsterdam where J got stuck into the science experiments and we all learnt something too. 

In all, it was a fantastic holiday.  A huge relief to see my family so happy and settled in a country that seems to "suit" them if you know what I mean.

My journey home involved trains, planes, buses more trains and my fabulous mum to drive me and Skye home.  A dog's welcome home is unsurpassed.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Week 20

Look not from the mind but from the soul
For the life that is coming is already before us
Waiting to open up the world
Just look more closely
Find the eyes to see.

What a fantastic week.  Lots of amazing things happened this week...

First of all, I got news today that I passed my first module of my diploma which was a huge relief.  When you are studying from home, you have no one to compare answers with or chat to about the work so there's a bit of doubt when submitting answers - did I write enough/do I need to elaborate more/etc?  So getting a pass was an added bonus to a truly great week.

On Wednesday I visited one of my oldest friends - in terms of length of friendship not age.  "L" has recently moved to one of the most gorgeous parts of Scotland where she is undertaking a Sarah Beeny scale renovation of a mansion...or should I call it a castle?   I never quite know but it certainly is grand in scale and beauty.  L is a truly inspirational person as I watch her juggle workmen, 2 young children and 2 dogs whilst her husband works abroad. Often, when I spend quality time with a person, the repercussions reverberate for days afterwards.  And each time this happens, I never get a chance to thank that person or at least acknowledge the impact they have on my life.  Well, I'm trying to put this right by thanking L here and now for her words of wisdom.  One of our deep and meaningful conversations touched on life's regrets...I proudly sat there and convinced L that I had none.  Only later, when I was "going for it" in my body combat class, did it dawn on me that I do have one regret that I've kept locked away in my innermost soul for years.  I don't want to go into the details but I am so thankful that it has surfaced now and I am forced to deal with it because it will undoubtedly help me in the next phase of "finding myself".  I want to tell L that I appreciate our chats and you will never know how much they help me.

On reflection, it is poignant that certain friends pop into and out of our lives at exactly the time that we need them.

As if on cue, I went to visit another friend "M" the following day.  M is one of the most spiritual people I know and she always knows the right thing to say.  As if she read my mind (which was dealing with the issue of regret that I discovered yesterday) she offered me a foot spa which did a major detox of my whole system...the timing was perfect and helped me tie up a few lose ends in my head.  M's message to me is:

Find your passion and you will find your path.

She also provided the quote at the top of this post which she got from the magical book Celestine Prophecy - a must read for all!

To bring closure to my spiritual week, I had a lovely session of power yoga on Thursday which gives me a chance to connect with the soul and then a refreshing swim on Friday which cleansed the soul.  I cannot emphasise enough how this week's events were perfect timing in my life.  To celebrate all of this coming together I had a lovely night out with the girls on Friday.

As if that wasn't enough, I also have a holiday to look forward to.  This week, I'm off to Holland to visit my nephew, J.  You can read about his adventures on my sister-in-law's blog:

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Week 19

So after a week of wine, rich food and very little sleep, this week has been about redressing the balance.  It's been exercise all week - body combat, yoga and back to swimming!

Practising my reiki has been another priority and I am grateful for my willing friends who continue to let me practice on them.

I've also completed the first module of my Dog Behaviour Diploma.  I'd forgotten how difficult it is to read something then answer a question and try to put the facts into your own words.  I also spent longer than I would have wished researching one question which asked for "the British writer who published the first dog breed book in 1800 which identified 15 breeds".  Easy - straight to Google - except it wasn't that easy and it took hours of my time. Fingers crossed that I've passed this first module...

So a few strange things happened to me this week:  Let me begin by asking you this: if you found yourself in the woods in the dark and you heard a strange sound, would you go and investigate? They do in the horror films. And strangely, so do I.  I guess it depends on the sound but just the other day I heard a strange knocking sound in the woods and could not help myself but go and have a look (I felt safe with Skye but not entirely sure what she would do in an emergency). It turned out to be trees swaying in the wind and knocking into each other...

And another spooky situation...I was walking through a closed caravan park with a few static vans...the park is in complete darkness except for the moonlight and I heard a mobile phone ringing sound coming from one of the empty vans....

Spooky or what?

Friday, 11 November 2011

Week 18

November brings about a change.  As I said in last week's post, I was feeling a bit down at the end of I had to do something about it and I turned to my reiki master for help.  I was feeling a little bit "lost" - perhaps at a cross-roads or a decision making point but I definitely didn't feel grounded.  Trude Bacon is my reiki master and I had a session with her this week and I can tell you the change was dramatic.  I told her about my feelings and that I needed to be grounded...well, when she worked on my feet, I actually felt like I had lead slippers on.  I felt my feet were so grounded they were going to pull me off the table.  As well as feeling rooted to the earth, I also felt a weight lifting.  I cannot recommend Trude highly enough.

The rest of my week got better and better...I continued my reiki practice with friends on Wednesday night (they also cooked dinner for me so that was a bonus) and on Thursday my beautiful friend Sandy arrived from Switzerland.  And, as an added bonus, my friends Pauline and Lizzie arrived from London on Friday for a "Borneo girls" reunion.  It was Sandy's first time in Scotland and I was worried because on Thursday morning the wind was blowing a hoolie and the rain was torrential!  But, as if my good fortune couldn't get any better, the skies cleared on Friday and the whole weekend was calm with the most stunning blue skies.

I had an absolutely awesome time with my gorgeous friends.  Our routine was mainly eat, walk Skye, eat, walk Skye, drink wine, eat, sleep...  Pauline and Lizzie left on Sunday and Sandy stayed an extra couple of days so I was able to show her some typical Scottish sights like a historic ruin, a beautiful sandy beach, bonfire night and our heather clad hills with customary "famous" grouse.

Week 17

Ok so I am late with my posts.  I want to tell you that I have such a fun-packed, rollercoaster lifestyle that I had no time to do my blog...but that would be untrue.  To be honest, I hit a wall - not literally.  I found myself with lots of negativity and feeling quite down so I really didn't "feel" like doing my blog.  But I turned it around and I'll tell you how in Week 18.

This week is the turning point: Summer officially ended and the clocks went back and the dark nights drew in...some people might blame the darkness for my lethargy but in all honesty, this is my absolute favourite time of year.  With the most stunning autumn colours, it actually feels like walking under a tunnel of gold at times.  I don't think my photos can do it justice but here's some of the better ones:

 And of course, with the change in season brings stormy seas: