10 reasons to be happy right now

I’m baaaack!

So first, an apology. I’ve been the world’s worst blogger lately (at least on here – over at Theatre Things I’ve been a busy bee). But I’ve been feeling bad about it, and then I got a lovely comment the other day from Sarah that inspired me to try harder. So here I am!

Now part of the problem with happy blogging has been that recently I’ve been slipping back into some bad habits, and keep finding myself moaning about stuff to anyone who’ll listen (and, I’m sure, a few people who look like they’re listening but have actually gone to their happy place).

So I decided to get back to basics, and make a list of 10 reasons to be happy right now. And here they are:

  • Tomorrow is a new day. More importantly, tomorrow is also Saturday.
  • It’s bluebell season.

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  • Next month I get to be bridesmaid for one of my bestest friends. In Greece. On the beach.
  • I totally got 100% on this Friends quiz.
  • The Kinky Boots London cast made an album – not that it wasn’t fun to listen to the Broadway actors attempt a Northampton accent. (I promise you, if you’re ever feeling a bit blue, this show will cheer you right up.)
  • One of my colleagues bought us profiteroles today. They were good.

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This is not my route home from work (sadly). But it’s a nice photo.

What’s making you happy today?

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Photo Sunday: Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day!

Usually, I’m not a fan of this particular holiday, because as a singleton I always end up feeling either that I should be depressed because I’m not in a relationship, or that I should make some kind of anti-Valentines stand to show how okay I am about it all.

Well, not this year. This year I decided that I was going to enjoy Valentines Day, and rather than sulk because my friends had written on Facebook about what an amazing day they were having, I decided to plan an equally awesome day for myself that I’d be equally happy to brag about. Who knows, maybe some of them will end up being jealous of me 😉

The fun actually started yesterday, when I went to a friend’s house for dinner and games night. She’s an amazing hostess, artist and cook, as evidenced by these beautiful appetisers. (Notice the Ladybird book of dating on the table; we thought it might have some good tips. It didn’t.) It was a lovely evening with good food, good friends and a rather delicious cocktail involving amaretto and apple and elderflower juice.

Appetisers

Then, this morning I took myself for a walk by the river, although not a very long one, because even though it was a sunny day, the wind was icy.

Greenhithe riverside walk

Ingress Abbey, Greenhithe

So I headed home, via the shop, where I picked up some flowers and a red berry candle, which smells amazing. And then I spent most of the afternoon and evening drinking tea and enjoying a Poldark marathon.

Valentines Day

(Because seriously, who needs a boyfriend when you can spend a few hours with this guy?)

Poldark

Oh, and I also made myself a roast dinner, but I don’t have a photo of that, because I was too busy eating it. But it was yummy.

I should also mention that this is day 1 of 28 Days of Love, a free, 28-day (obviously) course run by the ladies at Project Love, who were recently featured in Psychologies magazine. Basically the idea is every day for 28 days, you do something nice for yourself, whether it’s buying yourself flowers, having a lie-in, watching your favourite film or singing in the shower. It sounds awesome, I can’t wait 🙂

There’s still time to sign up for 28 Days of Love; who else fancies spoiling themselves a bit?

Happy Valentines Day! I (genuinely, for once) hope everyone – single or not – had a fantastic day.

Happy Sunday: fudge, friends and football

Hope everyone had a great week! As usual, I’ve been keeping an eye out for good news and happy things to share, both from home and away. What good things happened to you this week?

This week:

  • So technically, this happened a little over a week ago, but I’m still very excited, so it’s going on the list… On January 1st, my year got off to an awesome start when I was asked to write a monthly theatre feature in a local magazine. To say I was excited doesn’t really cover it – I can’t wait to get started.
  • Speaking of local, the youngest person on the New Year Honours List is 13-year-old Jonjo Heuerman from Wilmington. Jonjo’s raised over £235,000 for Cancer Research UK, in memory of his nan, who died of bowel cancer, and his football hero, Bobby Moore.
  • My friend Nina had her first article published on Elephant Journal this week. It’s a great piece about how to deal with life’s ups and downs, and well worth a read. And you can read more from Nina on her blog, The Pollyanna Plan – she’s brilliant and one of the most positive people I know.
  • Chris Dempsey from Illinois donated part of his liver to a complete stranger in 2015, after overhearing one of his colleagues talking about Heather Krueger, a family member who needed a transplant to save her life. Chris and Heather got to know each other in the time leading up to the surgery – which was a success – and now they’re engaged.
  • As part of a work project, I randomly decided at the end of last year that I was going to learn Welsh. The idea of the challenge is to learn as much as possible during January using our language app, and although it’s open to anyone, we’re having our own internal competition in the office, which – as of Friday – I’m winning! (I have a feeling when I go in tomorrow I won’t be any more, so I’m making the most of this small victory while I can.)

Welsh uTalk Challenge

  • Last week, commuters on a morning train from Ascot to Waterloo actually enjoyed their journey for once when the conductor posed a fun music quiz, repeating the question each time new passengers got on. Apparently this is quite a regular occurrence on South West Trains – are you listening, Southeastern…?
  • I was feeling a bit grumpy the other day (yes, it does happen – I’m only relentlessly cheerful when blogging) and then my friend Safia produced her latest amazing creation, Super Sinful Oreo Fudge. It’s basically a heart attack on a plate, but if it did kill you, at least you’d die happy. Unfortunately I was too busy eating to take a photo, but you can see Safia’s pictures – and check out how it’s done – on her blog, My Griffin Way.
  • A woman from Sydney, Meg Churches, has become famous for making tiny wraps to protect orphaned baby bats. The idea behind the wrap is that it replicates their mother’s wings, which is crucial for the bats’ survival. Meg’s design goes under the adorable name of Cuddlebatz, and here’s what it looks like in action:
  • Without wanting to bang on about theatre, this week I’ve seen three fantastic shows – New Jersey Nights (a celebration of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford, Grey Gardens at Southwark Playhouse, and a second visit to the hilarious Peter Pan Goes Wrong (the link is to my review from the first visit, when the show was touring – it’s now at the Apollo Theatre in the West End, and still brilliant).

Have a great week! 🙂

10 ways to enjoy hygge this winter… without moving to Denmark

Working for a language company, I often discover brilliant words in other languages that have no direct translation in English. To ‘rire dans sa barbe’ (French) means to laugh into your beard while thinking of something that happened in the past. Which I’m sure we’ve all done at some point. ‘Age-otori’ (Japanese) is to look worse after a haircut. Which we’ve also all been through, sadly. And, of course, the ultimate untranslatable word, which I know I use every time, but that’s because it’s brilliant: ‘backpfeifengesicht’ (German), meaning a face badly in need of a fist.

(It works both ways, incidentally – as I discovered a few years ago, trying to buy hayfever medication in Madrid. My attempt to directly translate ‘fever of hay’ into Spanish was met with blank looks, and I ended up leaving empty-handed and red-faced – and still red-eyed from the hayfever, to add insult to injury.)

But anyway. One of the best untranslatable words I’ve found is the Danish ‘hygge’. Partly because it’s a fun word to say – you pronounce it ‘hooga’ – but mostly because it’s much more than just a word; it’s a whole concept that basically embodies happiness. And it’s recently become kind of a big deal outside Denmark – so much so that Morley College in London are now including a module on it in their Danish language course.

So what is it? Denmark’s official tourist site, VisitDenmark.com, describes hygge as ‘creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people’. Which sounds amazing, and if Danish people make a habit of this, it’s no wonder the country came top in the United Nations’ World Happiness Report in 2013 and 2014 (and this year it came 3rd, which is still not bad). So I thought I’d share a few ways we can all enjoy hygge this winter, without leaving our cosy, comfy homes.

1. Invite friends over, just because

It’s not compulsory to have other people around to enjoy hygge, but really, is there anything better than a spontaneous evening in with good friends, especially when it’s cold and dark outside?

2. Put on your PJs and dressing gown – and fluffy slippers

I’m not ashamed to say that last Saturday, I arrived home at 4pm on a rainy, miserable afternoon, and changed immediately into my PJs before spending the rest of the day on the sofa with a cup of tea. And it was awesome.

3. Don’t overcomplicate

The secret to hygge is its simplicity, so don’t feel you have to prepare an elaborate meal, or do anything deep and meaningful. The easier the better.

4. Buy some candles

Because there’s not much cosier than candlelight.

Candle

5. Put the world to rights over a drink

There’s a pub near work that we used to go to all the time. It’s a bit of an old man pub, but we’ve had some brilliant and memorable nights there, tucked in a corner talking about everything under the sun. In fact I think it might be time for a return visit…

6. Turn off the computer

She says, typing a blog post on her laptop. But hygge means putting the technology away and enjoying the simpler pleasures life has to offer. So as soon as this post is finished, I’ll do that. Promise.

7. Don’t rush off after dinner

What’s the hurry? Stick around, help clear up, have a drink, have a chat. Hygge means forgetting your busy life and all the things you need to get done, and just relaxing and enjoying yourself. And if you’re the host, don’t get offended if people don’t want to leave – it’s a compliment, after all.

8. Get a cat

I looked after my friend’s cat for a week last Christmas and I have to say, those evenings when he’d come and curl up on my lap while I was watching TV were pretty blissful. There are a lot of practical, sensible reasons why I’ve decided not to get a cat of my own, but every now and again I remember that week and have to really remind myself what they are. (First and foremost being I’d never get any work done.)

Tommy the cat

9. Do something you love

The main point of hygge is to spend time doing something you love, and that makes you happy. Read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, paint something, cook something, go for a run – whatever helps you relax and get away from it all, for as long or short a time as you like.

10. Make your home hyggeligt

Making your home ‘hyggeligt’ requires just a few simple touches. Get some blankets and cushions, add a fluffy rug, put up some fairy lights, and don’t worry if the place isn’t spick and span – the important thing is comfort, not elegance.

For more ideas and inspiration about hygge, I recommend the fantastic blog, Hello Hygge.

What’s your idea of hygge?

Guest post: Inspiredtravels71

Today I’m really excited to share a guest post from Sarah, a good friend of mine. Sarah’s recently launched a fantastic project called Inspiredtravels71. It’s an idea I’m proud to support and it would be great to get more people involved 🙂

Hi, I’m Sarah, a 40 something from Kent, England.

Back in March this year I finished reading Rachael Chadwick’s book 60 Postcards whilst on a touring holiday in Spain. I could really relate to her grief, it’s one of the only books I’ve read which had me shed a tear.

Although my situation is very different, I could relate to it as my Mum, Anne, had a major stroke 9 years ago. Although we are lucky enough to still have her with us, she is severely disabled, needs everything to be done for her, and has completely lost her independence. That is just not my Mum!

Prior to her illness she was extremely active, always out and about and the life and soul of any party. That few seconds back in October 2007 cruelly swiped the ability for that life away and left her with a body unable to function in most normal ways, exhausted with fatigue and at times unable to clearly remember or register what’s going on around her. So although I am lucky that she is still here, I grieve for my mum the way she was.

Mum & I celebrating her 60th birthday, before her stroke.
As requested when starting the book I purchased a postcard, this was done in Barcelona, my favorite European city. Once I’d finished the book, I had a burning desire to use it to do something to help improve things for my Mum. To help to fulfill her want to travel, which post stroke is very difficult, and to brighten the routine in her day. So the planning started…

I decided that it would be fun to start a similar project to Rachael’s by hiding postcards for people to find. I scribbled out a brief message which changed several times and then set up an email address dedicated to this project (inspiredtravels71@gmail.com). In the message I asked the ‘finder’ to give their recommendations of places I could visit and talk to my Mum about. Once I had refined the message, I wrote out my first postcard.

Preparing cards, ready for hiding.
When we headed out on the next day of our tour, I took my postcard with me, and decided to hide it when we stopped for lunch. We were on a day trip in the Pyrenees and stopped at a cafe bar in Font Romeu for lunch. I decided on my hiding place and carefully left the postcard, feeling like a criminal. I’m not sure that you can be arrested for hiding a postcard but I felt like I would be. Shortly afterwards I left the cafe feeling very pleased with myself and bought another postcard in preparation of my next hide.

In June this year I started to feel brave enough to talk to people about my project. I have been overwhelmed by the response I have received. Everyone is extremely enthusiastic about the idea, and I’ve had offers of help from donations of postcards for me to use, to people wanting to write and hide cards for me. I’ve currently got friends travelling around Europe buying and hiding cards for me, as well as taking cards back to Australia to hide there for me too. Since going public around 90 postcards have been hidden at various locations around the world.

When I say hidden, it can be anywhere from your local shopping centre, a day out here in the UK somewhere local to you – Dungeness, Windsor Castle, Bath, Stone Henge and at the theatre in Dartford and London are a few examples of day trip hides – a restaurant you eat in or if you are going overseas, there too. Don’t think that just because you don’t have a big overseas holiday booked you can’t get involved and join in the fun, because you can, I’m waiting to hear from you…

a postcard ready for hiding
Each week is bringing new discussions and the opportunity to interact with new people. I’m having fun, enjoying sharing tales of how the project is evolving with both my parents and enthused by the offers of help I am getting.

Just last week I heard from my first finder, I can’t explain how exciting that was. All I know at this stage is his first name and where he found the card. I was elated to hear from him and have emailed back for more information. Although it felt like an eternity, it was less than 6 months between going public and hearing from my first finder. Considering that the cards are being hidden far and wide, I think that’s really quick! I’m having great fun and have got interesting conversations to have with my beloved Mum each week.

If you want to hear more or join in the fun, please contact me on Twitter (@travelinsp) or via my email address above to find out more.

You can also follow my blog at inspiredtravels71.wordpress.com.

Come and join in the fun, you know you want to…😉