Thursday, 31 December 2009

The future ain't what it used to be

As far as I am aware Dickens didn't write a book about New Year so I don't know what the correct term is, I'll just have to stick with the name Scrooge; New Year's Eve ~ Bah Humbug!

I just don't get it, why do we all have to look fondly back over the past year and talk about all the wondeful things that happened? I can think of a few of the top of my head; friends had babies, friends got pregnant, and some got engaged, we won Allotment of the Year, there was the first Allotment open day, trips to Italy and France, Andrew and I turned 30, I made some fabulous on-line friends I wouldn't be without......But. There was a lot of crap too, depression, anxiety, insomina, war, deaths, constant moaning about the Allotments, oh god I despair.....

So if you're into the whole celebration of another year to be conquered and many dreams unfullfilled then HAPPY NEW YEAR  to you! Get drunk like so many people seem to think is necessary (ah, are they in fact hiding behind alcohol and secretly hate the whole party too?) and make some resolutions you won't keep. Then see you tomorrow, where nothing will have changed and it's not really Hoorah!! 2010 but in fact it's just Friday.

I'm not in the best mood as you can tell. I am just fed up with commericalism and the 'need' to be happy. I'm personally exhausted at the thought of another year ahead,  I just try to stick with one day at a time.

Kisses and hugs to you all, I'm off to eat chocolate - now there is a reason to celebrate: chocolate.

I have a happier postt planned for tomorrow on seaweed, do come back for that - I'm not this grumpy all the time :)

2 hours later.....
I've just had the panic attack I was hiding towards, and now I feel clamer with my meds and a hot shower. It sounds very big headed but I just finished reading my own words in the Allotmentherapy essay I wrote earlier this year and I feel better for it, I'm my own therapist, haha. Embrace the new year, a new season for growth, both growth of food and of soul. My deepest love to you all x

Monday, 28 December 2009

The calm after the storm - updated!

So then, it's all over for another year. What was all that about? My goodness the worry we get ourselves into over presents and family dinners etc, now all is back to normal; the shops are going through the hell of sales, selling items we bought a couple of weeks ago for much less than we paid for them, people are going back to work and the house still has decorations up but otherwise looks the same (bar the piled up recycling in the corner). Christmas ~ such a drain on the resources, financial and emotional.

I should of course take photos of all the glorious presents I recieved; the books on gardening especially (of which we now have 2 new Alan Titchmarsh, 'Joe's Allotment', 2 River Cottage books [one on veg, one on perserves] and a Nigel Slater veg book to name a few). We were spoilt rotten as usual by eachother and by Mamma G. Plus I recieved lovely gifts from 3 good GrowVeg friends, one of which was a secret Santa and it's driving me mad trying to think who it is!

Soon all the decorations will be taken down, the cards put in with the recycling and the chocolates devoured. The vouchers are already spent, well most of them. We went up to Belfast yesterday and surprisingly we didn't get elbowed about all over by crazy bargin hunters, actually it was quite enjoyable, but for the black ice I slipped on and landed on my posterior. I even managed to get the fire brigade out to tend to a christmas light decoration that was commiting suicide (sometimes Christmas is all too much...). Funny, it blew and threw out sparks and melted plastic down onto the street and I was the only one who did anything. Does everyone else live in their own self important little worlds all the time or is it just the draw of the sales that does it?

Today we go to the Allotment for the day. Left overs in a picnic hamper and a large supply of coffee to help us stick it out, boy is it going to be cold! I have a funny feeling we won't see many down there today, I hope I'm wrong though, this is the time when there is lots of soil prep to be done and plans drawn up for the new year. I for one shall be trying to work off the Christmas pudding and some of the chocolate *blush*, though in my defence I didn't go overboard this year.

Well off to try and get a nap (still suffering the insomina!) before we have to get up and out. x

P.S. Our Brussel Sprouts were delightful, steamed and still with a bite to them, it's the first year I have enjoyed them ~ maybe my picking them the day before had something to do with that. It's such a satisfying job. The following may be offensive and even shocking to some......


Our own sprouts and my sister-in-law loves them raw!!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

My Merry Christmas Wishes to everyone

May your turkey be moist and succulent, cooked the whole way through and stuffed to perfection. May you win most of the crackers you pull and the games played, but not rub it in.
May you receive gifts that you actually like and not ones that go straight into the emergency present drawer.
May the gifts you give bring joy, as you have thought carefully about what that loved one would like.
May you remember to wear a baggy jumper and trousers which you can unbutton desecretly ;)
May you not be alone, but instead surrounded by those you love, even if that means being wrapped up in the arms of only one special person.
May you not over do it too much ~ you'll only feel sick later on ;)
May the family and especially any children not drive you up the walls and make you want to pull your hair out.
May you enjoy the celebration, the time together, whatever your religious persuasion or indeed secular feeling on the whole thing.
Most importantly ~ may your vegetables, that you grew, taste fabulous; even the super stinky brussel sprouts (hold your nose, if you must, but eat one!)

I am aware that for some, Christmas is a very difficult time of year and to those I give my love; my wish is that you simply get through it and come out the other side unscathed. I too struggle to find the joy.


However:
A Merry Christmas to all x
woof! x

Monday, 21 December 2009

In the bleak mid-winter...

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. We are right, slap, bang in the middle of winter. Living with an archaeologist I have become more aware of the significance of this time. In Ireland we have the Neolithic site Newgrange (fascinating place to visit), a place where Andrew took me in our courting years to experience (albeit through the medium of electric lighting) how this was a place devoted to the celebration of the Winter Solistice. I urge you to follow the links and learn more about this place.

Becoming more connected with the earth, the seasons and the weather, I have noticed the vital importance of these celebrations. Many years ago I would not be sitting here with electric lighting, warm oil-fired radiators in a very soft sofa with a laptop! So I think of why and if these days are important to us now. I think they are. We still feel the terrible pull of winter's grasp, dragging us into the depths of coldness, bad weather and darkness; our gardens and allotments can't be tended to as much, most wonderful vegetables will not grow in these conditions and we rarely get the Vitimain D we require from the sun.

So, no I didn't get up before dawn to witness the solistice sun rise and I was in the shower over the sun set but I have had my own little celebration of this, the shortest day of the year ~ I'm in the middle of gingerbreadmen making. Tomorrow, my friends, the days offically start to get longer, spring is on her way and with that in mind I am happier, more ready to conquer the Christmas period and all its madness, ready to plan ahead and think of the rebirth of my allotment and the growing of seeds.

This could be a day of real depression and oppression - there has hardly been any day light. But instead it heralds the start of a new dawn. That's worth celebrating! x

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Snowy blanket

Up very early again, the insomina sedated only or a few hours due to a busy, panic fuelled day. We saw friends in the evening too and though very enjoyable indeed, I does make me tired to socialise. So here I am again up at 5.30am to have my comforting porridge and honey. Of course it is still very dark in the kitchen but this morning there is an eerie yellow glow through the back door window panes. It is snowing. It has been since we went to bed, it was just starting then, now there is a good thick blanket over the world, my world that I can see from my safe home in my dressing gown. I open the door and all is so hushed, the snowflakes fall in utter silence and lay themselves on those already settled. The wind is up a little and the air is frosty; Maggie awakens in her bed and after an icy blow through the open door she makes a gruff noise and nuzzles further into her blankets.

With snow outside my window falling steadily and getting thicker I am reminded of the tog system of duvets. Over the hours that tog raises to extra thick, if only it were fluffy and warm. The street looks prettier and I feel safer, how can there be pain and suffering in a place so cottony and muted?

I am reminded of an old favourite:

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though,
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the wood and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

Sleep tight everyone x

Friday, 18 December 2009

OOTS - for VP

Prepare yourself to be... underwhelmed my dear; I think this is a far cry from what you are used to. I haven't gone round people's houses yet (bit scared really in case I get bopped on the nose) but here are Carrickfergus' 2 town center Christmas trees. The first is in the Civic Center and is really quite nice, the 2nd, well ...... and this is it's 'good' side.....



There are also some colourful planting boxes outside the Civic Center.

So on to Belfast and I was concentrating more on not getting killed by the over zealous (read darned nasty) Christmas shoppers than on my photos to be honest but here are the few I could get.

The City Hall and the City Christmas tree with the Contential market going on.








Our newest Shopping Center 'Victoria Square' with fabulous single colour swathes of lights, loads of trees and one of the biggest fake Christmas trees ever in the world (I think anyway).  I swear it's about 40 ft tall!!! Just look at the people next to it - real normal sized humans!

So there, not terribly exciting I will promise to do better, when not being jostled about by angry, flustered women doing their christmas gift shopping. Oh tis the season of giving and peace and loveliness - NOT. Glad I'm done shopping myself, praise be to the internet!

I must really apologise for the way this post has turned out, I'm just not so good at the old photo placement now things have changed with Blogger.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

SLEEP!

I broke through my 3 weeks of insomnia last night (and quite a large part of today). It's been so nasty, just running on sugar and panic. Today I am trying to get as much sleep as possible so I have a few new pictures for you instead of a read. I'm off for a nap, hahaha. Fingers crossed I have turned a corner ~ 3 weeks my friends 3. Boys a dear (as my Nana just to say).







Of course they're were a lot more but as feared I feel asleep while these ones were loading and now it's getting late, hehe. Sleep is my friend again!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Not hating Christmas so far - part 2

The wreath.
Last Saturday (which I have some nice photos of for tomorrow) Andrew, Maggie and I went to the local forest. (Colloquial - 'Up the Dams'). We gathered seed heads and little beech twigs, willow whips, conifer, laural, holly and some berries. Andrew took all the heavy bits, I had my little harvest basket full of winter wonder - I felt a little like the lady of the manor gathering things with the head garderner for a dinner party centerpiece (wow, that is rather more embarassing to admit than I had thought).


Maggie had the best time too, we don't go up there often enough. We used to go more regularly but then the Lottie took over all our free time. But can't complain; in both cases we're outside in touch with nature and listening to the birds. Which reminds me of the recent research Mind did on Ecotherapy - they comissioned the Univeristy of Essex to compare the effects of a walk in a country park with a walk in an indoor shopping center on people with varying mental health problems.

* 71% of people reported a decrease in depression after the country walk
* 90% had increased self -esteem after the country walk.

But back to the wreath. Turns out they are very easy and satisfying to make. Back at the lottie, Andrew worked away and I got to making the base out of the willow branches and red dogwood stems (they came from a plant on our plot). This just requires lots of twisting around eachother and maybe a little twine every now and then if things are very springy. Then it was all  fun filling it in with the various leaves, seed heads, and berries. I would recommend florists wire at this point to hold them in place, a bit fiddly but worth it.

At home I tidied it up and added more (fake) berries and a ribbon. Andrew was going to put on his blue star lights and I was going to let him but praise be he changed his mind. What a relief!!!! It would have looked terrible and would have destroyed a lot of the more fragile elements. Phew!!


So here it is on our front door - I hope it says 'Welcome'. I'm pleased for a first try ever - next year will be better.

There are lots of other fab wreaths being made by bloggers here and here for instance, for more inspiration.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day


December Blooms from around the plots. Only the far right 2 are from mine. I do hope, given that it is the depths of depressing winter, that I can get away with a toy flower I saw pinned to someone's shed. It made me smile and I hope it does the same for you xxx

For more blooms visit Carol at 'May Dreams Gardens' and follow the Mr Linky.
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Monday, 14 December 2009

Not hating Christmas so far!



This is great! I honestly don't hate Christmas today. In fact I have been continuing my decoration of the the living room and chatting to my friend ('support worker' really, but we're becoming friends) Eimear about presents and what not. I've gone for the 'bringing-the-outdoors-in' feel and the crafty look that is really me. I have more personally  handmade things put up; a knitted snowman and Santa,a felt reindeer and cross stitch angel, a stocking for Maggie and oranges with cloves in (never done that before - why not!?, so nice).

Plus today Andrew bought me a new angel in  my favourite shop, Oxfam. She's a beauty and can have a candle inside her if you wish, clever girl!

Anywho, Andrew, Maggie and I went to the local forest on Saturday and had a good time foraging for things to put on my new wreath. I took lots of photos too which was nice because I haven't been indulging that enough. Pictures from that trip tomorrow I think; arty farty ones ;) For now the wreath is finished in all its being from my point of view but Andrew has blue star lights he is deseperate to wrap round it before it goes on the door. I'll post a picture tomorrow x

You know having more of the outside in the house is like Ecotherapy too. I can smell conifer, oranges and cloves and there are berries and berry flavour candles and of course reminders of trees and nature. I'm viewing Christmas in a different way.

Oh, I also got my secret santa present from (well it's secret so I don't really know) a GrowVeg friend. Very excited ~ 3 parcels but I promise I won't open them! Plus every time I look over the wrapping paper has 'no peeping' printed all over it, haha.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Love Food, Hate Waste

It was Flighty who introduced me to this website and project, click on the button over on the right side there. I think it is being run in Wales and England but it most definately applies to everyone, everywhere. We shouldn't waste food!!! I know, I know - who am I to preach? I have had raspberries go mouldy in the fridge, have been careless when lifting parsnips and pulled out young ones which I let die, I often don't finish everything on the plate etc. So this goes for me too - TRY TO STOP WASTING FOOD!!

There are people in the world dying every bloody day, every minute because they are literally starving. Not 'oh, I'm hungry, I think I'll get a biscuit' but 'Oh (too weak to talk)' hungry.

Those of us who do Grow Our Own have the prefect excuse to eat well and not waste food. For instance 2 nights in a row this past week Andrew and I had lottie soup. It was thick potato (Maris Piper *whisper this bit ~ bought in, we've run out of our own, shame*), Carrot (rainbow ones ~ yummy) and Leek. Goregous. During the week we also had our own Beetroot and our own Runner Beans (from the freezer - OH my! a taste of Summer) along with loads of other stuff we've grown.

Anyway Love Food, Hate Waste; seems like a good slogan to me xx

Friday, 11 December 2009

The Gaults get festive

It's no secret that I am not a fan of Christmas, I find it all too stressful, demanding, commerical and expensive. Each year I am sure I eat too much, drink too much, spend too much and generally get worked up because (quite frankly) my bloody depression and anxiety does not care that it is the festive party season!

Well, this year, the last in this house, I have decided to get into the festive spirit. Things are going to change, I am going to embrace the season and enjoy the colours, lights, gifts, friends and family and the love. But at the same time I am not going to lose who I am, I can (and lets face it I probably will) feel bad without the world crumbling down around me. I am not the center of the universe!!

So, yesterday I went Christmas shopping in Belfast. This year (as we have tried in the past) we are being careful with money in the knowledge that we have solicitors etc to pay in the New Year. I gathered up presents in a creative way, taking the time to really think about everything and how to acheive it manageably. Hence my decorations or instance (you can't really expect me to talk presents here, loved ones do drop in here from time to time!), I am using things I have collected over the years and when I think about it, a lot have been presents and some I have made myself.


Here is our living room fireplace. No, I didn't make that particular wreath but I am in the middle of one and tomorrow Andrew and I are going to the forest to gather bits and bobs for it. The silver dangly decorations I did make, as I did all the felt hearts on the tree. I found my little wooden bowl yesterday in a charity shop and gathered bits from the garden and a few old and broken decorations to make it into something special - I can smell the forest right now and unfortunalety, yes I am still allergic to conifer (darn it, I'm itchy all over!)

I'm also making a felt reindeer but I'm not so sure how that will work out, ahaha. Andrew has promised me that the oven will be fixed and then I can make my Gingerbread men, something I have done every year (almost) for the past 14! It's my own little tradition and I love to give them as presents and to have the smell throughtout the house.
*
After work, Andrew met me in the city center and we visited the Continental Market. Such fabulous handicrafts and food. Oh we just had to get a few Breton biscuits - so good. They didn't make it half way round the market. We had locally brewed beer in a tipi! I had the Hillden beer and Andrew had the Headless Dog (which was sweeter), there was also local cider , mulled wine, 'tipsy' hot chocolate and Molly's Chocolate Stout, all sounded very good but 1 half pint and we were off. Such discipline!!

See Christmas and Winter in general can't be that bad if I had a good day like that!

OH and I got an early present from Andrew ~ a tripod for my DSLR, here's a picture of Maggie taken with it, late in the eveing when my camera isn't at its best usually, or I should say I'm not at my best - long exposures - blurry. Is't she's so CUTE!!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Interviewed!! - me, by a proper magazine!!!!

Yes dear reader, I, your humble Carrie, has just been interviewed by a lovely lady (Kate) from Woman's Own magazine. How's that to make you feel special of a dull Tuesday morning? It was for an issue due out in January wherein there will be very helpful tips on how to stay sane and happy after the stress of Christmas and the New Year (and the debts and bad eating habits we've gotten ourselves into, you know who you are!).

My part is in connection with Mind, for who I am honoured to be a media volunteer. If you haven't already heard of them, check out their website. They really are trying (like me I hope) to break the stigma of poor mental health. In fact they are trying to attach a big bomb to any stigma and blow it up, never to be seen again. I really do have hope (yes, it often fails me, I admit) that the medical profession will start to actually listen to groups like this and indeed if I'm honest, to people like me. Ecotherapy is a tool, a medicine if you will, to help (not nessarily cure) those of us with poor mental health and anxiety. Even if you are lucky enough not to experience these problems to a life altering level - Ecotherapy is good for you too!!!!


Though who am I talking to!! Haha, anyone reading this will already know the Wisdom of Plants and the simple  fact that we are creatures of the earth. We are not meant to live in concrete worlds, and never see and listen, touch and smell living plants. Where ever you are right now I hope you can see tree, a flower, a carrot even - get in touch with what really matters. And if all else fails and you're still stressed, look at my silly picture (showing off my new hat, fleece and wellies on Saturday - it was a COLD day)  and remember - wine is a fruit juice = it's good for you.

Monday, 7 December 2009

You got be dedicated if you wanna be a ....

...Record Breaker, record breaker oohhhh!
Do you remember the Guinness Book of World Records show with Roy Castle? I loved it so much. I also got the annual with millions of facts every year (which I never looked at post-christmas), not that I remember any of that info.

But one Record is very fresh in my mind - Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland broke the tree planting record on Saturday!!! Hurrah for the Derry group who shattered the previous record by 8,000 trees. The record now stands at over 26,000 trees planted in a single place in 1 hour. Read all about it here: BBC NI news

We didn't do so well at Eden, but trees were planted :)

Forgive any BAD spelling, they've taken away spell checker on Blogger, I'm not happy :(

Friday, 4 December 2009

Calling occupants of Earth!!


DO YOUR PLANET PROUD AND PLANT A TREE!
I've been terrible and forgot to talk about National Tree Week which runs every year. This year it's from 25th November (way back on Wednesday!) to the 6th December (this Sunday). So there is still time to do your bit ~ plant a tree or six and enjoy the trees all round us, with out them, well, we'd be dead probably!!
****
For those of you reading this humble blog and are who are Eden Lottie Holders ~ tomorrow at 11am, we are planting trees at the allotment gardens with the Conservation Volunteers. It's part of the Breathing Spaces Tree O' Clock event and if we try hard enough we could even break a world record for the most number of trees planted in 1 hour. Now there's a challenge for you.
****
I really urge you check out the website highlighted, it tells you all about native UK trees (and international trees, if you want to take part where ever you are) and how to plant them. Very important to plant a tree properly, otherwise, what's the point! So read over that, even if you've planted many a tree before and brush up on the best techniques.

Remember that every day loads are cut down; venerable trees older than us that have witnessed the pasting of history that we only get to read about, ironically on the paper they sacrifice for us.

Therefore - Hug a tree tomorrow too, why not? - that's my challenge to you all.
Trees....bloody brilliant!!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A panic attack

I'm sure my face drains, I feel light headed and my legs no longer seem able to hold me up, they don't feel like my legs anyway. Colours get too bright, there is some flashing, the contrasts too sharp but then comes the noise. A howling onrushing cacophony of overwhelming sound that seems to come from every direction at once, the tamber and strength of it makes my stomach uncomfortable and heart race. I stumble to the shed, put my hands over my ears, close my eyes, crouch down but it only gets worse. The screaming and the rumbling crashing-waves-on-a-pebble-beach are in my head, not coming at me, in me. It gets louder as I try to focus, the angry screaming is my voice I don't know how I know this but like a nightmare I silently call for help, my throat getting more and more restricted, I can't breathe.

I know I need help, I know I need to calm down, to take a tablet but I can't seem to get my body to work with me. I can't think where the water is, where the medication is, what to do with my huge hands which are fumbling about, wringing each other or in my hair scratching, pulling. Clothes hurt and my eyes are bulging, heart getting so fast, random objects appear to be coming at me in 3D movie style, I'm dizzy, where am I?

Andrew, andrew, please help me andrew... make it stop......

This is a panic attack.

I just wanted you to get an idea of it. It happens a lot, even at home (though they usually aren't as bad), even when things are fine a moment beforehand. This is one of the reasons I hate going to the allotment, hate going out alone but also one of the reasons that I must. Ecotherapy is not easy, I'm not the little girl from 'Little house on the Prairie' skipping down wildflower hills; I'm not Sleeping Beauty out communing with nature and all is songs and sweetness. Ecotherapy is hard - when it works it is so very rewarding but it doesn't always work. I haven't been writing much about my lotties recently, I haven't been there and I'm nervous about going back this weekend. This is the reality of therapy - I never said it was easy. My 'Allotmentherapy' essay has been published in part in a mental health leaflet posted out to every house in an area of North East Scotland. They made it sound all a bit too easy in their extract - it isn't. The depression and panic travels with you where ever you go, part of you.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Another nearly Wordless Wednesday


WE SOLD OUR HOUSE!!!!!

So in honour of that I post a photo of a little part if our back garden (rather bedraggled after all the frost and rain and general icky-ness of November). Even still, we are going to miss this place so much, but onward ho!!

(I know it isn't a great photo but, well I was cold and a little grumpy this morning, haha )
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