Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Darkest Night

I peer outside, into the darkened world beyond my window. The ground sleek and black with rain. The street lamp glow illuminating pockets of driving rain. I raise my head and listen as the wind howls through the trees and rafters. I watch the trees twist and thrash against the gathering storm, almost as if they are trying without avail to keep it at bay. Yet still the storm gathers. The moon is bright in an inky sky. It gazes on, impassive to the nights proceedings. An ancient moon it carries the memory of a thousand storms that came before.

I shiver and pull the fabric closed. The menace firmly sealed outside these walls. The house creaks and groans under the weight of each blow. I begin the nightly ritual. I check each door, and one by one each light is extinguished leaving only howling noise and caressing darkness to keep me company as I slowly and carefully ascend each creaking stair.

In the dark, a new and unheard noise fills my ears and my heart fills with a cold icy dread. A strange, unearthly noise. A strained and strangled cry fills the air and I am frozen for a second. Quickly and driven by some long dormant, primitive instinct, I run. Along the hall, I reach the door at the end, the noise emanating in waves from the other side. Fear and dread stand shoulder to shoulder with me at the doorway. Holding my breath I open the door.

I look down, and in the dim light I can see the outline of her face. I lean closer and watch as the traces of a smile linger on the corner of her lips. A breath escapes from her, deep and relaxed as she dreams beneath her heavy lashes. She whimpers gently. She does not stir when I gently kiss her forehead, but again a gentle smile plays across her lips. A beautiful child lies sleeping safely in a blanket of her dreams. As calm, still and bright as the moon she shines a light into the darkness to guide me even in this, the darkest night. This storm too shall pass.
Thursday, 25 October 2012


Somebody I know is lying. It started slowly with little white lies, here and there.

I gave the benefit of the doubt. Tried to take them at face value, but that is hard to do when someone has more than one face.

The claims have grown bigger though, over time. Things don't add up. They have started tripping over those little white lies.  They tripped and though they don't know it , I saw them fall.

Contradicting, forgetting where one lie ends and another begins. Still they don't stop. Just cover with bigger lies, until the white lies have changed colour and we are in an extremely grey area.

I am hurt by the lies. They are pointless and unnecessary. They are manipulating people's emotions. Although we are not the closest friends, I like liked this person. They seemed friendly, and kind.

Yet they lied in an attempt to gain affection and attention when there was no need. Though it seems the tide is turning. People are drawing away, perhaps sensing as I do, the deceit. Which only breeds more lies as the desperation grows.

I don't feel in a position to question, accuse or confront. I am conflicted. I am angry that this person doesn't trust me or the world enough to be themselves and know that is all they need to do to be liked.

 I am angry at whatever the world has done to this person to make them feel that lying is the only way they can be accepted.

I am scared for them, as I don't want anyone to be hurt when their house of lies comes tumbling down.

I want to talk to them, but I know if I did we would never speak again. Our relationship would be irreparably damaged. Yet maybe it is already. I cannot believe a single word any more, though I try.

So do I simply stand by and watch as this person hurtles towards the inevitable and they are found out? It feels almost cruel, but didn't they bring it on themselves?

What would you do in my position?
Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Christmas Organisation week 10 - Shopping for Gifts

Did you see last years Littlewoods Christmas advert? It actually made me FURIOUS! Suggesting you buy an uncle an HTC mobile phone? I'm sorry but I wouldn't be spending upwards of £100 on uncle whatever his name is?  Especially when it is likely I'll get someone crap in return!  I know, I know.  It is better to give than to receive and all that.  It doesn't mean I have to bankrupt myself in the process though does it?  I feel that for a lot of people Christmas has become ridiculously and needlessly expensive because of retail advertising. It is perfectly easy to keep Christmas affordable and still give lovely gifts. So I'm going to tell you how I do it.  Just so you know, there will be no secret trick showing you how to buy hugely expensive gifts on the cheap.  This is about being sensible, working within a budget and giving lovely gifts that won't have your wallet and you groaning under the strain!  So read on...

Do Not Feel Pressured

This is far too much...

First of all, no matter what adverts the companies trot out at Christmas touting extravagant gifts do not let yourself be drawn into it.  The fact is, most people you know are skint this year and even if you aren't it doesn't mean people should EVER expect expensive gifts.  No one should judge you for the gifts give and you should never feel upset or embarrassed by the gifts you give just because they don't cost a lot.  A person who would judge you, or is ungrateful probably doesn't deserve a gift at all! If you feel the need to, let people know that you are scaling Christmas back this year.  This will help with people that have "high expectations" about gifts.

Concentrate on kids

Look at their smiling faces!

Christmas is really for kids isn't it?  I know the best gift I will get this Christmas is seeing Holly opening and enjoying her gifts.  I am personally quite happy not to get gifts from others as long as Holly does, so if people have kids I tend to buy for their kids only.  Similarly my partner and I only buy each other small pressies as our main focus is Holly.  If you do feel the need to give other parents a gift I would give something  homemade (we'll touch on that later), or something like chocolates or wine.

Spreading the Cost and setting a budget 

Start saving!

 I think it is safe to say that no one wants to be feeling the pinch over the winter months. Your energy bills are higher, so adding the cost of gifts, cards, food etc isn't going to leave you with a very healthy bank balance. There are many ways to spread the cost of Christmas. I do not recommend putting your purchases on credit cards, store cards or catalogue shopping.  Chances are you'll be finished paying it all off just in time for next year.  I recommend first of all setting a budget. You would be surprised how many people don't do this, and have no idea how much they have spent until the bank statement or credit card bill gives them a shock! First, write a list of everyone you will be giving gifts to. You know their likes and dislikes so write down what type of gift you plan to get them and the maximum you want to spend.  Total up your entire list and you have your budget!  Pretty simple?! Choose how much money you want to save each week until you reach your target.  It is that easy. The earlier in the year you do this, the less you will have to save each week as you'll have more time to save up.

If you can't save up, and some people really do struggle with saving (maybe there is a gene the scientists haven't isolated yet), there is another way to spread the cost. All you need to remember is, it is never too early to start your Christmas shopping! I start in the January sales every year.  Using your budget list, carry it with you at all times. Have christmas in the back of your mind all year long.  Every time you plan to go shopping, especially when you see Sales are on, look for potential gifts!  This will get you better gifts at half the expense! I also recommend using websites like Buyapowa and groupon to get good deals too. By the time it gets to Christmas you should be at least close to ticking off all the names on your list! I would say that I have usually finished my shopping by the end of October (at the very latest) every year.  This means that by the time Dec rolls around I am organised, stress free and have a healthy bank balance too.  What's not to love about that?

Lastly, don't forget your loyalty cards! You are spending your hard earned pennies, so if you can get something in return then do it! Also, I suggest you get a Nectar card (if you haven't already). Many retailers now give nectar points. For the full A to Z list of retailers click HERE. You'll be surprised how many are on there!

Homemade/Handmade Gifts


Yummy and oh so cute!

The cheapest and I think nicest gifts you can give are things you've made yourself.  They show effort and thoughtfulness in a way that shop bought gifts don't.  Handmade gifts can be as simple or as difficult as you want them to be. How much time and effort you want to put into these might be entirely dependant on how crafty you are and who you plan to give them to! As a rule of thumb, simple handmade gifts are fine for teachers, neighbours and fellow parents.  Make a few batches of biscuits or cookies and pop them in a nicely decorated jar.  To be honest, any baked goods you can make usually go down a treat! It can be that simple if you want it to be. Save the more time consuming and complicated makes for close friends and family.  I won't write much more about handmade gifts here as I plan to make it the subject of my next post. So look out for my HOMEMADE GIFT IDEAS post next week.

There is possibly more I could say about the topic of Christmas shopping but I think I've rambled on enough.  So what about you?  Do you find any of my advice useful or do you already do these things yourself?  Maybe you have a few tips of your own you'd like to share?  Go on then, you know where the comments box is! 

Give your piggy bank a Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Christmas organisation week 11 - Christmas cards

Where do I start?  As you know, writing and sending Christmas cards can be a bit of a faff! However I have some suggestions to give you about Christmas cards which might be helpful to you.  You might already do these things, but if not I hope they help!

Have a card cull

We all have bulging address books full of friends, relatives, work collegues and acquaintances.  Chances are you send Christmas cards to most of them if not all. We all know someone who still sends cards to someone they met once on holiday about 20 years ago or some long lost auntie's brother's cousin's parrot! They usually don't even get one back!  Sending cards to so many will not only give you a sore hand, but with the price of stamps it will put a dent in your pocket too.  Do yourself a favour, go through your address book and make a list of those people you absolutely MUST send cards to, forget everyone else.  Be ruthless, and don't worry about offending anyone, it is only a Christmas card!  Besides, if you read on I'm going to give you some possibly cheaper alternatives to sending cards for those people who don't survive the card cull! Before I carried out my own cull I had about 40 cards to send.  I have now cut that by more than half

How to buy quality cards cheaply/save money on cards

We are a bit late to be using this tip, but it will come in handy for next year at least.  Do you go to the January sales? If you do just pop into a shop that sells cards and viola!  Chances are you can get their best/luxury cards at least half price.  If you are willing to wait it out until the very end of the sales you can even get 75% off!  I do it every year and I am always complemented on the lovely cards I send!  In addition, should I have any left over cards I put them in a box with previous years unused cards.  That way I always have spares and once I accumulate enough it means I don't have to buy cards the following year!  You'd be surprised how many people I know throw away cards they haven't used because they don't want to use old cards next year! MADNESS!!  If you know others like this don't be proud, offer to take their old cards and you can use them!  Why not swap your left over cards with another thrifty friend if you don't want your old ones?

Christmas card alternatives

There really are about a million alternatives.  Here are just a few. For those who don't make the Christmas card list why not send an email?  I don't just mean a bog standard email though...

  • Why not make a Christmas catch-up newletter to send out?  You can include some festive pics, family pics and tell them about what you and the family have been getting up to.  Make a standard one and you can personalise it slightly to suit who you are sending it to  if you can be bothered.  This will save you a stamp and also seem like you've spent a lot of time on it when in fact you can knock one up in a very short space of time!  
  • Why not make your own e-card to send out? Have your kids draw some Christmas cards which you can scan into the computer or use your own festive images then edit it into an e-card by adding some text?  Not only cute but very personal.  You could even do a video message if that suits you better!  Get force your kids to dress up and make them say or sing something festive! BOOM! You're done!
  •  No newsletter or e-cards. Just email everyone and let them know that instead of sending cards you are donating to charity.  Not many people can argue with that! 
  • Do not send cards to everyone at work.  If you feel you have to, put one card in the staff room addressed to everyone. 

Save money on stamps

When you do get around to buying your Christmas cards, size is important!  For the love of God do not buy large cards if you plan on posting them, unless you are happy to pay a small fortune!  Only buy them for those who you plan to hand deliver to!  Imagine if you had large cards for say 50 people, it would cost you £45 to post them 1st class and £34.50 for 2nd class*!

In addition, it  absolutely pays to write your cards early.  I've already written mine and this means I'll be able to post them early enough to use only 2nd class stamps.  It isn't a chore to write them early, and you don't even have to do it in one go. Have them handy in an easily accessible place and any time you have a spare 5 minutes write some.  Even if it is just a couple, you'd be surprised how quickly you'll be done.  Please don't send them late as chances are they still won't arrive on time, even if you have spent extra on 1st class.  I can't tell you the amount of cards I get arriving after Christmas, all with a 1st class stamp on.  I'm sorry but if my decorations are already down it is probably going straight into the recycling!  So essentially you have just thrown money in the bin!

Lastly, did you know that you can easily buy discounted stamps online?  Click here for just one of the websites I found!  The discounts may not seem huge, but every penny counts!

The most radical solution

Don't send ANY cards at all.  Not a single one. No alternatives either. If you are happy to do this you can save yourself a lot of time and money!  Not many people are brave enough to do it, are you?

Well that is it!  It is mostly all common sense, and I'm sure a lot of you already do these things but hopefully I've suggested something here you haven't thought of!  If you haven't already you can learn more about my week by week Christmas organisation plans HERE!

Next weeks topic: Christmas shopping - when, where, how?

*stamp prices taken from the Royal mail website

Getting organised for Christmas - Week 11

Is this you?  Did you find the Christmas lights but lose your sanity?

First of all, I see it on twitter every day.  People bringing up the topic of Christmas and others becoming crazily pissed off at the mere mention of it this early on.  I mean, of course I get it.  We haven't even had Halloween yet and everyone is banging on about Christmas! Well let me clarify my position for you.  I don't want, or expect you to be getting excited about Christmas. I won't suggest you adorn yourself with Christmas earrings or bust out the Santa socks.  I don't want to piss anyone off, I just want to convince you that being organised for Christmas earlier will not only help your bank balance, but might possibly preserve your sanity.  Dare I say it, if you are a busy parent you might even manage to find 5 minutes to enjoy the festivities as opposed to running about like a headless Christmas turkey chicken!

I'm pretty sure any parent could tell you what a crazy time it can be.  Christmas gifts and cards to be bought, wrapped, delivered. Parties to organise or attend and possibly outfits to buy. More last minute gifts to buy for horrible people who spring them on you unexpectedly.  Christmas meals to plan, Christmas plays to attend, make costumes for and help out at.  Oh and you still need to keep on top of the housework, especially as the risk of unexpected visitors is about to increase rapidly during December.  Oh yeah and looking after those pesky kids/babies.  Don't forget them. There are probably another thousand things I've not mentioned, but you get the picture?  So then let me ask you a question.  If you can make it easier on yourself in any way at all, why wouldn't you?  I plan to do just that, as I also have my mother, partner and daughters birthdays in December too!  So as a Christmas gift, I'll be sharing my easy, stress free Christmas tips with you all!  I know, I know I'm too kind! If you are still unconvinced and resistant to talk of chrimbo this early I suggest you head off on your not so merry way.  I wish you good luck you are going to need it!

Time permitting I plan to do a Christmas related post every week (for the next 11 weeks) up until Christmas.  Starting out with organisational tips ranging from Christmas cards and gift buying to homemade gifts and Christmas  decoration ideas.  Towards the end, as we become more organised (I hope), I'd like to do some posts on Christmas traditions or favourite Christmassy stuff!

The 1st post (week 11) will be all about Christmas cards.  How to get cheap good quality cards, how to save on stamps, Christmas card alternatives etc.  You can read it HERE!

I hope that some of my tips will help to make your Christmas a little more merry than maniacal!


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