Thursday 26 November 2015

Practising gratitude can be good for your mental health

My post last week talked about frightening world events. Although we can’t avoid the bad things in life, I wanted to have a more positive focus this week. I want to discuss how practising gratitude can be good for your mental health. Over the Autumn half term holiday my daughter and husband sat down at the kitchen table and made some artwork. I love the way my daughter draws such happy and bright pictures. I also love the way when faced with a blank page and some glitter pens, my husband writes the words “I Love Life”. I feel happy just looking at what they have both created. It reminds me how lucky I am to have them in my life.
cute and quirky childs drawing with smiling faces next to a glittery i love life illustration
My late-Father suffered from clinical depression and it can be debilitating. Although I had plenty of patience and empathy with my Dad, I also used to get frustrated that he couldn’t see the positives in life. Today would have been his 70th birthday. He passed away nearly ten years ago and I believe his depression shortened his life. I have seen the effect of severe depression and I know how hard it is to be grateful when you are in a dark place in your life.
I’ve never been diagnosed with depression, but over the years I have suffered with low moods. As I get older I am trying to become more resilient and look after my mental health more. I am determined to try and be positive in my own life. I find that taking a moment to think about all the things I’m grateful for helps alot. I have been scribbling down gratitude lists and pinning them to the fridge for a while now. I find it makes me more optimistic, less self-centred, less materialistic and generally happier. So, inspired by my daughter and husband’s positive outlook on life, I’m going to write a gratitude list…

handmade illustration created with glitter and star stickers saying I love life
I am grateful for…
1) …having the opportunity to become a Mum. Our daughter means the world to us. She makes me look outwards instead of inwards. She is fun, creative, caring and loving…I drink it all in and we have a blast together. She is also, like most children, grateful for the little things. She gets excited about having her favourite meal, making a tent with a blanket, watering the plants at the allotment and opening a new packet of felt tip pens. Her eyes light up at the thought of riding on her scooter, eating cake or seeing her cousins. As adults we get weighed down with hang-ups all too soon. Sometimes embracing the childlike appreciation of simple pleasures can help us to be more grateful for what we have.
2) …my Husband. After nearly twenty years together it is very easy to start taking each other for granted. I am guilty of this, and I’m sure he is too. But when I look at his “I love Life” picture and I remeber how upbeat he is. When he gave blood a few years ago, it came as no surprise that his blood type is “B Positive”. He’s happy in his own skin, not materialistic, caring and able to laugh at himself. In fact, his ability to laugh at himself is one of his best qualities. I think being able to poke fun at yourself is often a sign of a good sense of humour and an optimistic personality. At the grand old age of 48, he seems to be really content. Living with someone like this helps to balance out my pessimism and tendancy to worry. When I’ve been at my lowest points, he has been there to pull me back out. I’m very grateful for that.
3) …hugs. I love hugs from my daughter, my husband, my Mum and my friends. I think we forget how important physical contact from loved ones can be. I always remember a couple of years ago when my late-Grandmother was at our home for a meal. For some reason we were talking about hugging. My Gran piped up: “I don’t have anyone at home to cuddle me”. As a lady who had lived on her own for nearly fifty years, it reminded me how she must miss the simple pleasure of a hug. Of course we all gave her a big cuddle. I think getting lots of hugs means you aren’t lonely and that is something to be grateful for.
4) …my health. I had a health scare last year. The three weeks it took from going to my GP and being given the all clear were probably the longest of my life. I’m doubly grateful that I live in a country where it only takes three weeks to be seen by a consultant. When I was given the all clear, I decided there and then that I would be more appreciative of my life. It can so easily be taken away from you.
5)…the cup of tea bought to me in bed every morning. It sounds really trivial, but it isn’t. It means I have someone in my life who cares about me.
I know it can be hard to show gratitude at times, but if you have a moment, take the time to write down a list of things you're grateful for. Even if it's just the light shining through the windows, the cat purring on your lap or the music on the radio, it all helps us to feel alive. And that is definitely something to be grateful for.
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
cute childs drawing showing two smiling girls in a multi coloured heart frame
Just some of the online articles discussing the positive effects of gratitude:
20 Quotes That Remind Us Why It’s So Important To Laugh at yourself

You Baby Me Mummy

Let's Talk Mommy

Magic Moments over on

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Should we talk to children about frightening world events?

I had planned to blog about roses this week. In particular, I wanted to blog about the last flower clinging onto this plant at the bottom of the garden. I couldn’t believe there was a lone rose still in bloom in November.

But all this seems so trivial compared to recent events in Paris. I generally blog about our allotment, crafting and my vintage finds. I'm aware of how lucky we are to have a safe and comfortable life. My mind is a jumble of thoughts at the moment and I wanted to try and write some of them down. This isn't just about Paris, there is so much sadness and killing of innocent people in the news and it is hard, even as an adult, to process it all.

Blogging about gardening feels unimportance at the moment. And yet, this rose has become more poignant to me after last week’s terrorist attack. All the other leaves have withered and fallen to the ground, but a single crimson rose flowers on. Life prevails. My late-Grandmother always said “where there’s life, there’s hope”. You could argue that I am na├»ve, but I refuse to think that all we have ahead of us is fear and hatred.

As a Mum I worry. We want our children to feel secure, but our world seems increasingly insecure. We have not watched the recent news whilst Magoo has been around…we watch it when she has gone to bed. As I flicked through the channels yesterday, she happened to see some of the Paris vigils at the end of the evening news and asked: ‘why are those people so sad?’. My husband told her people in France had died and their family and friends were very upset.

His explanation avoids the topic of terrorism, but Magoo is six and I think it was better to say something than nothing at all. Magoo experienced her first taste of grief last year when her Great-Grandmother died. We’ve always been open about the topic of death. We’ve talked about it being a natural part of the cycle of life. Admittedly we talked about it in the context of old age or illness. Broaching the subject of people losing their lives prematurely through violence is probably too much for her at the moment. I’m aware that Magoo is one of the lucky ones, the fear of violence and death are part of some children’s daily lives. I want to be engaged with the world we live in, I don’t want to turn away. I want Magoo to be engaged too, but it's hard to know when it is appropriate and how to talk about these topics. This piece in The Guardian suggests we “give children the chance to tell you what they know and how they are processing it”. I'm sure as Magoo gets older, she will have more questions about the wider world. There will be events that scare her. Fear is a normal reaction, maybe we shouldn’t try and shield our children from it completely.

Many other bloggers have written about this situation recently. Hurrah for Gin illustrates it perfectly with this simple illustration:

As adults we’re scared too, so how do we not pass this fear onto our children? How do we see the positives in situations like this? Over the weekend I read the post “How do I talk to my children about terrorism when I don’t understand it myself?” by Cardiff Mummy. She writes about the Fred Rogers quote, which has been widely shared since the Paris attacks:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

The vast majority of people in our country are aware of the dire situation in places such as Syria, Beirut, Kenya and the loss of innocent life across the globe. But we feel helpless in the face of it all. So it is truly amazing that there are people out there making a hands-on effort to help. The police, paramedics, doctors, security guards and aid workers have my utmost respect. They are usually first on the scene when tragedy strikes. They go into the eye of the storm when everyone else is understandably running for their lives. Similarily, charities supporting refugees and organisations such as Medicine Sans Frontier work in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. They provide ongoing support once the world's media have moved on.

So maybe this rose isn’t so trivial after all. It has encouraged me to write down my deeper thoughts and feelings and in the process I have read more widely on the subject, it's good to feel more informed. I also feel more confident about talking to my daughter if she asks questions in the future about serious world events.

Above all, I agree that we need to focus on the helpers. It is a positive we can take from this situation. We must try and support each other, we must support those who help others. There are far more people on this planet who want peace rather than hatred. We mustn’t think that all is lost and the world is a terrible place. There is an alternative to hatred. And we should be encouraged to share this with our children.

If you can, please help to support these amazing charities helping vulnerable people:

Doctors Without Borders (Medicine Sans Frontier)

Save the Children: Child Refugee Crisis Appeal

This week I'm linking up with:

#brilliantblogposts over on

The life affirming 'How Does Your Garden Grow' over on

Share With Me over on

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Old school My Little Pony: a trip into 1980s nostalgia

I can't tell you how much I love the fact my Mum kept many of my childhood toys. A firm favourite in our household are the My Little Pony figures dating from the early 1980s. I loved them as a child & would save up my pocket money to buy a new pony to add to my collection as often as I could. What is truly amazing is seeing my own daughter play with them & love the ponies just as much as I did.
Old school My Little Pony: a trip into 1980s nostalgia
The ones pictured here are commonly know as 'generation one' ponies. My Little Pony continues to exist in many more forms and has been rebranded more times than I care to think about. My daughter watches the latest version of the MLP cartoon and I find it a bit fast paced for my liking. Must be getting old and I'm probably just being nostalgic about my ponies, but I feel like the G1s were the best. I only have to hear the My Little Pony theme tune from the 1980s & I get misty eyes.

The first pony I ever bought was Cotton Candy. One birthday or Christmas I was given the twin baby ponies, complete with nappies, bottle and necklaces. I used to imagine Cotton Candy was their Mum.
vintage, my little pony, cotton candy, baby twins
vintage, my little pony, snugfit, nappies, bottle, baby
Cotton Candy was soon followed by Apple Jack. I spent many hours coming her golden mane...
vintage, my little pony, applejack, nostalgia, 1980s
Over the next couple of years I added to my collection. The ponies evolved to have glittery logos on their flanks, their heads were positioned to look up more & there were even unicorns towards the mid-1980s. I owned Moonstone & she was secretly one of my favourites. My head was turned by her rainbow mane & the shiny planets on her bum. I thought Cotton Candy looked a bit glum in comparison. Children can be so fickle...
vintage, my little pony, cotton candy, apple jack, nostalgia
Despite being over thirty years old, Magoo loves playing with the My Little Ponies from the 1980s. She gets completely lost in a world of mane-brushing just like I did when I was her age.
Old school My Little Pony: a trip into 1980s nostalgia

I'm linking up with these lovely linky-hosts:

'The Ordinary Moments' over on

Image of the Week over on

Happy Days over on

Brilliant Blog Posts over on

Magic Moments over on

Thursday 5 November 2015

November on the allotment: sunshine, sunflowers and our memory bench

The weather over the weekend was glorious. There was beautiful warm sunshine & a mellow stillness in the air that you only seem to get in Autumn. We thought we'd make the most of the weather & try to make a dent in the weeds on our plot. The more work we do now, the less back-breaking preparation will be needed in Spring. That's the plan anyway...
November on the allotment: sunshine, apples, harvest, crops
I blogged back in early September about our huge sunflowers. They are now way past their best. We wanted to clear the area so we can plant a green manure crop over the Winter. I have never seen sunflowers with such robust stalks. It was like felling trees. Our loaded wheelbarrow was destined for the communal compost heap, but a neighbouring plot holder asked if she could have the seed heads for her bird feeders. Nice to know nothing goes to waste on an allotment...
Magoo helped my Mum to dig up the last of the beetroot & load up the wheelbarrow with weeds. Magoo loves walking back & forth to the communal compost heap, she likes to look at all the other plots. She was particularly jealous of some huge pumpkins growing in a raised bed. They are on our 'to do' list for next Spring...would be great to carve our own homegrown pumpkins next Halloween.
November on the allotment: sunshine, sunflowers and our memory bench
November on the allotment: sunshine, sunflowers, wheelbarrow, weeding, plot, gardening
Magoo took full advantage of the wooden bench we've recently installed on our plot. This particular bench is special to us because it came from my Granny's garden. My Gran grew up in a poor mining community in Wales & everyone was far too busy working to take pleasure from gardening. She then spent over forty years living in a first floor flat in Clifton in Bristol. So when my Gran moved to her bungalow in the early 1980s, she was overjoyed to finally have a garden. We would often sit on this bench at the end of her garden drinking tea & enjoying the sunshine. My Gran sadly passed away in late Decemeber 2014 & her bungalow has recently sold to a new owner. I was really keen to rehome the bench on our plot. So now when we want to take a break from weeding or digging, we can sit down & remember how much she loved gardening.
November on the allotment: sunshine, sunflowers and our memory bench
This week I'm linking up with:
Whatever the Weather over on &
How Does Your Garden Grow #HDYGG over on
Point + Shoot over on and Snowing Indoors
Country Kids over on
Let Kids Be Kids over on

Tuesday 3 November 2015

1970s nostalgia inspired fortieth birthday canvas: a handmade gift

Back in May, my friend Lisa turned 40. I wanted to make her a handmade, personalised gift, so I decided to embroider a canvas for her. This canvas features a number of the most iconic events from 1975. I think the 1970s were a heady mixture of glamour, glitz and political struggles. I wanted to try & reflect this in the canvas.

The 1970s gave us David Bowie, Disco and the birth of Punk. It was also an unsettled time politically for the United Kingdom with high inflation & industrial action by coal miners. This triggered the Conservative government to try & restrict electricity consumption with the Three Day Week.

I transferred my selection of 1975 events onto a cream calico fabric using a transfer pencil. I then used back stitch in various, bright embroidery threads to create this piece. I love hand sewing and find it relaxing, so making this canvas was really enjoyable.

I was born a year later in 1976, so may have to make a similar one for myself as the big 4-0 is looming on the horizon...


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