Thursday, 31 December 2009

2009, a Summary


Achievements

- I kept one of my New Year's Resolutions and took up running, despite my conviction that I couldn't run to save my life. However, I proved myself wrong, and I am now capable of running up to six miles without stopping. I entered two races this year, a 5k and a four mile, and I will be running in a 10k race on Sunday. I also won my very first medal, not as a prize for doing well, but a souvenir for participating in the 5k.

- I finished the first draft of my novel! It still has a very long way to go, but it is a real accomplishment in itself as I've never completed anything of that length before.

- I attended a course at church, about spiritual gifts. A little courage was required in this because I had no one to go with, and knew nobody else who was going, but I did it. I went along to the meetings and engaged with the other participants. It was an excellent opportunity, and one that I feel has really benefited me. My next step is to join a house group, which will be my challenge for the new year.

The Places I Visited


- Spud and I began the new year by visiting London. I hadn't been to London for ten years, and so it was an exciting experience. Spud took me on the London Eye, and showed me Harrods where we marvelled at the prices...



- At Easter time I joined Spud's family on their annual holiday to the Lake District. It is a very beautiful part of the country, and on both occasions that I have visited it, I have had my breath taken away by the landscape.



- In the summer, I went to Brittany with my family. I fell in love with the place during the week that we were there...




Missed opportunities

- I was gutted to find out that I'd missed seeing Sixpence None the Richer playing live at a Greenbelt, a Christian music festival here in the UK. I've never been to Greenbelt, and probably wouldn't have gone even if I'd known that Sixpence None the Richer were playing, because the festival coincides with Spud's birthday. Still, one of my dreams is to see them live.

- I was also denied the student accommodation I applied for, which meant another year of commuting to university. It hasn't been so bad though, and I can see the benefits from living at home.



Miscellaneous

- As most of you know, in February Spud and I got engaged! Need I say any more?



- A definite highlight of July was the wedding of a second cousin - I love weddings!



- And, of course, one of my highlights of the year has been setting up this blog and meeting so many lovely people...

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Wishing You All A...


(Fudge)

...Very Merry Christmas! I also want to take the opportunity to thank you all for your friendship and support this year. It is a real privilege to have 'met' each of you! I hope you and your families all have a restful, fun filled time, and all the joy, peace, love and happiness you deserve! Looking forward to hearing all about your Christmases soon!

Lots of love,

Kess
xxxx xxxx

Merry Christmas

Cooking

Food is a very important aspect of Christmas for me. I feel as though I've done more cooking this month than I have all year! I began Advent by making gingerbread men, and just yesterday I prepared a three course meal (more about that later)! One of the things I most look forward to, though, is Christmas dinner. We always have turkey with all the trimmings, and it is delicious! However, nice as the food is, I believe the atmosphere is even more essential than the food itself.



Home

This is my last official Christmas at home. Next year, Spud and I plan to spend Christmas with his family (although we will spend some of the holidays with my family too!) and although the year after we will spend Christmas with my family, I won't be there for the whole Christmas period so I will miss out on various traditions such as putting up the tree, etc. I am not altogether sad, because someday soon I will have a home of my own, and Spud and I will start our own Christmas routine, but I will remember these childhood Christmases at home for always.



Relations

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the people we love. I know that the remaining number of Christmases with my Grandad is very limited, and his health has been so dreadful this year that this could possibly be his last, so it's important to treasure the time we have left with him. I love my family so much, and being with them really makes Christmas for me.



Ice

If you've read my previous posts, you'll know that when I was staying with Spud we had some pre-Christmas snow, a real novelty! It was so cold that the snow lasted for days, and icicles began to form. Back at home, my family didn't receive the snowfall they'd hoped for, but it was still bitterly cold. Yesterday evening, after a heavy rainfall, treacherous black ice formed on the roads, and this morning we've had to postpone our plans to visit my grandparents because the roads are too slippery!



Social Gatherings

For the last few Christmases I've hosted a social gathering for my friends. In the past up to ten people have attended, but this year I kept things simple and just invited my three closest girl friends (my bridesmaids-to-be!) I prepared a three course meal (cheese fondue and French bread, with mulled wine; spaghetti bolognaise; and chocolate cake) and we spent the whole evening talking, eating and drinking, taking photographs, and having a really great time!



Traditions

This year, because the spent the last week or so before Christmas at Spud's place, I participated with some of his traditions. These included attending two carol services, a social gathering with a buffet meal, watching various Christmas movies, decorating the house, and going to an ice sculpture exhibition! I think Spud was a little disappointed after the latter because we didn't get to see all the sculptures. This was because we took Little One, but it was bitterly cold, and Little One fell flat on his face shortly after arriving at the exhibition. He didn't stop crying until we went into some shops to warm up.



Merriment

This is probably the busiest time of the year, but the time and money spent on preparations should be worth it, otherwise it isn't worth it. Christmas is a time to be enjoyed: a time to laugh and joke, watch funny films, take silly photographs (see below), dress up (see below, also), and really get into the spirit of things.



Advent

Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation, but often these begin long before Advent. Spud and I made the Christmas cake at the end of October. Shops began to display their Christmas merchandise long before. Personally, I will buy Christmas presents for people at any time of the year. They're not always intended as Christmas presents - I will see something and think of someone, buy it, and put it back for the next present-giving occasion. The January sales often provide the best opportunities for buying Christmas cards, decorations, crackers, etc. at a reasonable price.



Saviour

This is what lies at the heart of Christmas, and you can read the whole story here:

Matthew 1-2.12

Luke 1.26-2.20

Christmas is a joyous celebration of peace and love, in remembrance of the birth of our Saviour, the greatest gift of all:

I feel your heart beating inside my own skin
And I think of Mary in Bethlehem
That Night in a stable our saviour was born
Yes we have so much to be thankful for
On the last Christmas
The last Christmas
The last Christmas
Without you

They're choosing the colours
Preparing your room
For one day; midsummer
The advent of you

Together we wait
For a heavenly gift
Is winter a wonder?
Enchanted that is

The last Christmas
The last Christmas
The last Christmas
Without you

See the stars shining far above
Hear the singing
Praise to the giver of life and love
Maker of beautiful things

I feel your heart beating inside my own skin
And I think of Mary in Bethlehem
That Night in a stable our saviour was born
Yes we have so much to be thankful for

When the darkness was shattered
The dawn of God's grace
And the journey'd begun
To that first Easter day

On the last Christmas
The last Christmas
The very last Christmas
Without you

Sixpence None the Richer - 'Last Christmas'


'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.'

John 3.16-17

Friday, 18 December 2009

Feature Friday

Today’s victim featured blogger is Ashley of It’s Only Life.

Ashley, as a journalism student, is another fellow writer, who blogs to get her views across to any 'weirdos' as she puts it, who want to listen. Again, I confess myself to be only a recent follower of hers, but one proud to class myself amongst these weirdos! She is happily engaged, and due to be married next year! She also loves Jesus, and is very open about her faith, which is awesome!

Her blog is bright and colourful, instantly appealing, and her style natural and open. She doesn't come across as being shy. Her header is so attractive - a delightful montage of photographs that I think perhaps gives a good summary of who she is.

Her posts are warm and touching, sometimes humorous, often wise and insightful observations of life. Hers is a blog worth reading, and I am sure you will all agree, so get on over there and see for yourself!

Winter Wonderland

The night before last, the snow began to fall, although due to interchangeable showers of snow, sleet and rain, it looked doubtful that we would have little more than an inch of slush. However, as night fell, the snow really set in, and this morning we awoke to a winter wonderland...



Spud and I took his young brother, known here as Little One, out as far as the postbox to post some Christmas cards. Once the task was accomplished, the three of us stepped onto the village green, now covered with a thick white blanket of snow.



Spud taught Little One to make snowballs, and then threw them at me! Behind the camera, I sacrificed all defence in order to take some quality shots. Unfortunately, some of the snowballs were right on target!



I took the above picture by mistake, when I stepped back to dodge a snowball, but you can see the snow that settled on the branches.









Next, the boys decided to build a snowman. I quickly discovered that snow, and woollen, fingerless gloves, really didn't go, and made the decision to continue documenting their work.



Eventually, the beginning of the snowman was almost as big as Little One, and he was struggling to shift it!



While they set to work on rolling a second snowball, for the snowman's torso, I admired the thatched cottages, dusted with snow...







Within a short space of time, our handsome snowman stood complete...



I rummaged around at the base of some trees, and found some branches that would make the perfect arms, and a twig for a mouth...



And Spud donated three pennies for the eyes and nose. He complained that it was the most expensive snowman he had ever built!



We stood around, admiring our handiwork...



And then decided to return home to the warm.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Carrie's First Annual Blogging Bash




I spent some time selecting my outfit, and in the end decided on this:




Of course, my date will just have to be my hunky fiancé, Spud - who else? Lol.



As for transportation, I think Spud would just love to arrive in style, in his Sinclair C5 (over my dead body!) but as it's a one-seater that's not really practical. I think realistically we will be boring and go by car.



I can never go to a party without bringing something along with me, and so I spent some of my free time whipping up a carrot cake, especially for the occasion!


Happy Blogging Birthday Carrie of [carrotspeak.]!

And also, many happy returns to my friend Emily, who celebrates her birthday today!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Christmas in the Air

The scent of snow was in the air today, riding upon the cold, dry chill that assaulted us every time we left the warmth of a shop, and walked the streets in search of further cover. It is predicted to fall tomorrow afternoon.

'It smells like winter,' I commented, as we walked to the bus stop.

'It smells like Christmas,' Spud replied, with my full agreement.

Yesterday evening, at dinner, he lit the advent candle, and afterwards, we switched out the light and remained sitting at the table, several of us, for what felt like hours, talking and laughing. Eventually, we decided to decorate the tree, which was bare apart from its 240 lights, flashing in the darkness of the living room.

We adorned the branches with baubles, and Spud's youngest brother, just two and a half, helped too. The evidence lies in the lower branches, where the majority of the decorations have congregated, but I lifted the little one up to reach the higher ones, feeling both maternal and broody.

Now that the busyness of life is on hold, temporarily, I have begun to enjoy myself, and feel the excitement of Christmas heavy in the air. And also the anticipation of the future. Next year, 2010, will bring about some new changes, changes that I am beginning to feel ready for. But for the moment, I am going to enjoy the here and now. There is so much to look forward to...

Monday, 14 December 2009

Retreat

I see my time away with Spud as being a much needed retreat. Here, the work I've been contending with for the last six weeks, does not exist, and I am adapting to a new, more relaxed routine with the man I love.

The journey here was a good one, and I spent most of it reading for pleasure. I chose two books for the journey, The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks, and Bliss and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield. I was absorbed for the entirety of journey, and the eight hours (well, seven if you don't include the hour long wait between coaches) seemed to pass very quickly.

It is so good to be reunited with Spud. Although we talk nightly on the phone when we're apart, it really doesn't compare to being together - that goes without saying! That first glimpse of him, following several weeks apart, is something I always hold dear. Suddenly, I was looking at him from across an empty street, that was swarming with pedestrians only a second before. No one, nothing, existed in the space that lay between us. My eyes were only for him. His eyes were only for me. In the seconds it took for us to breach the gap and fall into each others arms, I was struck by so much gratitude to God for giving him to me to love and take care of, as a husband someday.

Yesterday we attended a candle-lit carol service, held in a country church in the middle of nowhere. The church was so beautiful, and something bubbled up within me as I sat in the pew, absorbing the atmosphere, while reading the words of the carols in the dim light.

When the service, followed by rounds of mince pies and mulled wine, finished it was almost dark. It was quiet in the church grounds, and the air smelt crisp and clear. Light shone through the stained glass windows depicting Jesus as a shepherd, surrounded by a flock, and tenderly carrying a lamb. It is an image that stood out from the day.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Have a Great Weekend!

Hi folks!

Today has been manic, and I still haven't finished my packing! :( Still, in less than 24 hours, following almost 8 hours of travelling, I will be with Spud - hurrah!

I'm very tired - it has been a long day *eyelids droop* starting at 5am this morning. I had my last lecture for my Shakespeare module at 9am, and had the usual 45 miles commute. It was worth it though. Today's lecture was, appropriately, on The Winter's Tale, and I contributed, for the first time, to the seminar! I am very shy in class and can't usually get a word in edgeways during class discussions (I worry about interrupting people!) However, my lecturer asked today if anyone had been to see the play in performance, and I tentatively raised my hand. He asked me a few questions about the performance, and how certain scenes were portrayed. It was a small triumph for me! :)

I went to the library and took out a couple of books to reference for my creative writing assignment, and also a couple of volumes of Katherine Mansfield's short stories. I've read, and enjoyed, a couple, and learned recently that they were one of Daphne du Maurier's inspirations. I thought they would make good light reading over the holidays.

I also collected my first assignment during the break, and was ecstatic to discover I'd achieved a first - not a bad start! It was a relief to know that all my hard work paid off. Although I've received a handful of firsts during my time at university, I consistently achieve the next grade down, 2:1, which I would also have been pleased with.

Anyway, I'd better get back to my packing.

Before I go, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to you all, and let you know how much you mean to me. I am so grateful for all my blogging friends - you know who you are! Your friendship really uplifts me and I love to hear from you, whether from reading your blogs, or receiving your comments. You always make my day!

Speak to you soon! Have a great weekend!

Lots of love,

Kess

xxxx xxxx

Feature Friday

Tonight is going to be busy, but I just have time to showcase the blog of a new blogging acquaintance of mine, The Daily Sarah. Sarah's blog is a recent discovery, but I'm so glad I found her. She's another young woman whom I can identify with from reading her blog.

One of the first things I learned about her was that she plays the cello! :) I am always in awe of anyone who can play a musical instrument (well), and the cello is fairly original; certainly not your everyday recorder, or piano. I'm yet to become acquainted with anyone else who plays the cello.

Sarah is also a lover of reading, something which is reflected in a recent venture of hers, The Confessions of a Bookworm. This is a second blog which may in time become a book club. Sarah reviews books which she has/is read/ing, and invites her followers to read along and leave their views.

I only discovered Sarah's blog a week or so ago, but I would call myself an avid follower :) She is a faithful blogger and her daily installments (double installments now that she's set up her book club blog! Lol) are always a delight to read. So what are you waiting for? Why don't you go on over and say hi?!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

8 or 10?

Here's a question for all you blogger experts out there:

I have 8 followers that are visible on my blog, but according to my dashboard I have 10. Does this mean that blogger is malfunctioning, or does it mean that I have 10 followers, two of which are anonymous? If it is the latter, then I haven't heard from the two anonymous followers.

I finished one assignment last night, the one which has been preoccupying most of my spare time for the last fortnight. With that one out of the way, the pressure has lessened slightly, even though I have two more assignments to complete before January. I even found some time to do some baking today. You will hear more about my culinary creation next week! :)

Oh, and finally, I would like to shout out to my friend Matty, who emailed me the other day to say he had been reading my blog:

Hi Matty! Welcome to The Passing Place! Thanks for stopping by. Come and visit whenever you like!

The day after tomorrow, work and lectures will be over until January, and I will be packing, excitedly anticipating my reunion with Spud the following day...

Monday, 7 December 2009

100 Books


I found this list of 100 books on one of the blogs I'm following, The Journey to Publishment, and as a lover of books, couldn't resist posting it myself. I've emboldened the titles that I've read, and italicised the ones I hope to read someday. Feel free to do the same if you wish :)

1. Jane Austen – Pride & Prejudice

2. Harper Lee – To Kill A Mockingbird

3. JRR Tolkien – Lord Of The Rings

4. Jodi Picoult – My Sister’s Keeper

5. Stephanie Meyer – Twilight Saga

6. JK Rowling – Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone

7. Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife

8. Markus Zusak – The Book Thief

9. George Orwell – 1984

10. Raymond E. Feist – Magician

11. Khaled Hosseini – A Thousand Splendid Suns

12. Paullina Simons – Bronze Horsemen

13. Gregory David Roberts – Shantaram

14. Margaret Mitchell – Gone With The Wind

15. Bryce Courtenay – Power of One

16. Dan Brown – The Da Vinci Code

17. Dan Brown – Angels & Demons

18. Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist

19. Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre

20. Tim Winton – Cloud Street

21. Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner

22. Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights

23. Arthur Golden – Memoirs of Geisha

24. LM Montgomery – Anne Of Green Gables

25. Joseph Heller – Catch-22

26. Elizabeth Gilbert – Eat Pray Love

27. Niv Bible With Bible Guide

28. JRR Tolkien – The Hobbit

29. Yann Martel – Life of Pi

30. AB Facey – Fortunate Life

31. Douglas Adams – The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

32. Lewis Carroll – Alice In Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass

33. Diana Gabaldon – Cross Stich

34. Rohinton Mistry – A Fine Balance

35. David Pelzar – A Child Called It

36. Li Cunxin – Mao’s Last Dancer

37. John Marsden – Tomorrow, When The War Began

38. Frank McCourt – Angela’s Ashes

39. Frank Herbert – Dune

40. JD Salinger – A Catcher In The Rye

41. F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

42. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – One Hundred Years Of Solitude

43. Bryce Courtenay – April Fool’s Day

44. Ken Follet – Pillars Of The Earth

45. Patrick Suskind – Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer

46. Matthew Reilly – Ice Station

47. Carlos Ruiz Zafon – The Shadow Of The Wind

48. Stephen Hawking – A Brief History Of Time

49. Christopher Paolini – Eragon

50. Louisa May Alcott – Little Women

51. Mitch Albom – Tuesdays With Morrie

52. Jane Austen – Persuasion

53. Alice Sebold – The Lovely Bones

54. Ian McEwan – Atonement

55. Leo Tolstory – Anna Karenina

56. George Orwell – Animal Farm

57. Anthony Burgess – A Clockwork Orange

58. Antoine de Saint ExupĂ©ry – The Little Prince

59. Roald Dahl – Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

60. CS Lewis – The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe

61. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love In The Time Of Cholera

62. Bill Bryson – A Short History Of Nearly Everything

63. Fyodor Dostoevsky – Crime And Punishment

64. Anthony Bourke – Lion Called Christian

65. Arundhati Roy – The God Of Small Things

66. Paullina Simons – Tully

67. John Grisham – A Time To Kill

68. John Grogan – Marley & Me

69. Vikram Seth – A Suitable Boy

70. Alexandre Dumas – Count Of Monte Cristo

71. Neil Gaiman – American Gods

72. Cormac McCarthy – The Road

73. Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

74. Brendan Shanahan – In Turkey I Am Beautiful: Between Chaos And Madness In A Strange Land

75. Tim Winton – Breath

76. Bryce Courtenay – Jessica

77. Graeme Base – Animalia

78. Donna Tartt – The Secret History

79. Mario Puzo – The Godfather

80. Anne Rice – Interview With The Vampire

81. Steig Larrson – The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo

82. Stephen King – Stand

83. Helen Fielding – Bridget Jones’ Diary

84. Eckhart Tolle – New Earth

85. Matthew Reilly – Seven Ancient Wonders

86. Jung Chang – Wild Swans

87. Nicholas Sparks – The Notebook

88. Bret Easton Ellis – American Psycho

89. David Eddings – Belgariad Vol. 1: Pawn Of Prophecy; Queen Of Sorcery; Magician’s Gambit

90. Louis De Bernieres – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

91. Melina Marchetta – Looking For Alibrandi

92. Celia Ahern – PS I Love You

93. John Irving – A Prayer For Owen Meany

94. Colleen McCullough – The Thorn Birds

95. John Kennedy Toole – A Confederacy Of Dunces

96. Terry Pratchett – Good Omens

97. Hunter S. Thompson – Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas

98. Joanne Harris – Chocolat

99. William Goldman – Princess Bride

100. Charles Dickens – Great Expectations


Sometimes I wish I had a second life just for reading!

I have entered my last week of lectures, and it's proving to be extremely busy! I am looking forward to getting the other side of Friday, when I can take things a little easier. I am really excited about seeing Spud on Saturday, but hope to complete at least one assignment before then so I need to get my head down.

On a sober note, my brother's guinea pig died tonight. My brothers and I have kept guinea pigs all through our childhood, and they are creatures with real character! I will leave you with a cute picture, in memory of our most noble Rascal...