Sunday, 29 November 2015

Holiday Traditions

I have recently read a few blog posts about Christmas traditions and it got me thinking about the holidays that my family celebrate. When I think about it we don't celebrate many at all. Pancake day (proper name Shrove Tuesday) often brings my immediate family together to share a few pancakes after an evening meal. I think on a few occasions I have driven to my Mum's after a Zumba class to scoff pancakes! I understand that Shrove Tuesday is a religious day but as I do not have a faith many holidays have become about bringing my family together. We may also share a meal for Easter and swap Easter eggs, or in my Sisters case Easter themed cupcakes due to her dislike of chocolate.

And then comes Christmas!

This is my favourite holiday and again is all about family and loved ones. Even though my parents, my sister and I all live in different places we come together Christmas morning, although it gets closer to midday each year, to open our presents. Presents are handed around one at a time from under the tree and we watch each other open the gifts that have been thoughtfully purchased and not always as thoughtfully wrapped if they are mine. We take the time to appreciate each gift and thank the person who gave it. This is accompanied by a cd of Christmas songs playing softly in the background and in recent years my parents log burner glowing away. Although we travel back to my parents home to open our presents we always do so in our pyjamas and I have been known to start the day with a festive snowball cocktail. There is then a little bit of time for each of us to get ready for the family meal. We try to alternate between my parents home and m Auntie's for Christmas dinner and try to get as many family members together as possible, this year it will be a little quieter than usual. We spend the rest of the afternoon and evening eating and spending time together around the table.

It would seem, like possibly many other families, food brings mine together.

In the last few years I have begun some new traditions of my own, which are mostly centred around Christmas and New Year as I think of it as a special time of year and a time to share some Christmas Spirit;

Images from Pinterest

  • Send a Christmas Shoebox
    (you can read my post about them here)
  • Volunteer at the night shelter
  • Give donations to the local food bank
  • Put together a little package for the little girl I sponsor through SOS Children's Villages
I would also love to adopt and celebrate Thanksgiving. As with other holidays I may not celebrate as intended but in my own way. I think dedicating a day to being thankful is a positive idea that should be acknowledged. Some may say that we should be thankful as we go about our daily lies but I do not think it is always as easy as that with other stressors that can sometimes act as a distraction.

What holiday traditions do you celebrate? Are there any new ones that you would like to start?

Sunday, 22 November 2015

What I'm Reading: Elizabeth is Missing

Image from Google
I was searching for books to read and decided to follow a friends advice and search the top books of 2014. Before this I had been working my way through Patricia Cornwall's Scarpetta crime novels and James Patterson's Women's Murder Club series of crime novels. Can you spot a theme? A favourite genre of mine? While awaiting the release of new books from these series I decided to see what else was out there. I was intrigued by Elizabeth is Missing after reading a comment on The Guardian's website, 'Emma Healey's dementia detective story.'

I have worked with individuals with Dementia as well as attending training on the condition through my work as a home care assistant. In recent years my Grandad has experienced significant issues with his memory. I am interested in the disease and how best to work with individuals who have it to enable them to live as well and independently as possible. I feel the same way about any disability.

I went on to read the blurb, to find out a little bit more about the story I was going to become part of. The story is centred about the central character, Maud. Maud is in her eighties and has vascular dementia. Maud narrates her quest to unravel and solve two tales, one is the disappearance of her friend Elizabeth, the second, interwoven through flashbacks, is the mystery of Maud's sister's disappearance seventy years earlier. This is alongside Maud using handwritten notes to herself, not always successfully, to keep track of her day to day life and discoveries.

I thought I had a reasonable understanding of Dementia and how to work with individuals who have it, however, what this book did for me was to give me an insight into what it was like for the individual, how it made them feel when they could see in others reactions that they had forgotten or irritated, the uncertainty and fear felt at times. Some of Maud's mannerisms also made me smile to myself because in them I recognised Grandad, asking the same questions repetitively, reading aloud and following instructions even if it is not the right time to do so. An example of this is when Grandad reads PUSH on the belt clasp of his wheelchair. He will push it and undo his belt even when he needs it to stay done up. After it is secured again, now he has seen it, he cannot leave it alone and every time he sees the instruction, what does he do? Pushes it and around again we go.

I thought that Elizabeth is Missing was a great book, I loved the aspect that touched me personally but also following the unravelling of the two mysteries.

Have you read the book, what are your thoughts?

Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Weekend with Grandad

On Friday afternoon, I left work at 5pm, I stepped out of my work role and into one as a family carer. As I have discussed in a previous post, I lost my Nan last year. She was my Grandad's carer, when she became unwell my Mum took on the role. This was not an easy transition nor a quick one but one that our family felt necessary. I feel very grateful to be part of a family that has been willing and able to come together to support each other and Grandad during the past year and a half.

Image from Pinterest
A family carer is defined as; someone who provides unpaid care for a family member or a friend due to an illness, disability, mental health problem or an addition and cannot cope without the support. I have previously worked as a home care assistant so have experience of providing personal care and using equipment such as hoists to move people who cannot move themselves. This knowledge and experience helped to an extent but when I began supporting Grandad I had to get over feelings of embarrassment at helping him with such personal tasks.

It was Mum's birthday last week so about a month ago I offered to stay with Grandad for the weekend so that Dad could take her away. I think it's important for them both to be able to have some quality time together and for Mum to have a proper break from her caring role once in a while.

Grandad is and has always been a kind, gentle man and he has had to learn to be a patient one as well. As long as I have known him he has had a physical disability, losing his leg in a motorcycle accident when he was much younger and being diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis). In recent years Grandad's physical ability has deteriorated as well as his memory, however, his humour and personality are still very much in tact. He still takes pleasure from life and experiences even if he can't always remember what he has done. He is a definition of living in the moment.

Friday evening was spent in front of the telly catching up on Doctor Foster while Grandad snoozed beside me. He woke long enough to ask for cheese on toast for tea and to take his medication before saying that he would like to go back to sleep, a favourite activity of his. I was worried that he would be up in the night but he slept straight through. In the end I was the one that had trouble sleeping because I forgot my eye mask.

Luckily for me Grandad often enjoys a lay in as much as me. He was still sleeping when I woke at half 9. I sat and had a coffee and watched another episode of Doctor Foster before waking him. He decided that he would like eggs for breakfast so that's what he got alongside his orange juice and morning medication. After another snooze, it was time to have a wash, get dressed and go out.

Grandad now uses a hoist to lift him out of his bed into his adapted wheelchair. We have also been able to purchase an adapted van. This allows us to lower the suspension, push the wheelchair up the ramp and strap him in. Being able to do this gives him and us some much needed freedom. He can come with us to most places, as long as they are wheelchair friendly.

Although we have a lot of equipment to help, it is still physically tiring moving Grandad around, the wheelchair is heavy enough without him in it for a start! I look at it as good exercise though, which makes me feel a lot less guilty about tucking into the Chinese take away and chocolates Grandad and I shared Saturday night. To balance being out and about Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed a lazy day in today watching Christmas films until my parents returned. We then cooked and ate a roast dinner together while watching the Theory of Everything before I packed up my things and headed home.

Image from Pinterest

Sunday, 1 November 2015

A Weeked with Friends


Quite often when my friends and I meet up either food or coffee are involved. On the Saturday, a few weeks ago now, I drove to Lakeside with some friends to go bridesmaid shopping. I was truly excited when I received a message and photograph, whilst I was away on my road trip earlier this year, telling me that she was engaged! I felt honoured when I returned home, around two weeks later, to find a hand written envelope waiting for me, inside was a simple, yet beautiful gift and a special question.

We had an appointment at a bridal shop to start the day and to hopefully find some inspiration. My friend and I had had a sneaky peak at some dresses a few weeks before when I had gone with her to try on some wedding dresses. The previous bridal shop we visited had a whole floor dedicated to bridesmaid dresses. The shop we visited in Lakeside had far fewer to browse through. Having said that, we managed to find a few to try on. When we had looked before I got the idea that we may get short dresses, however, on this occasion the longer dresses were a lot nicer and there was slightly more choice so we ended up dragging a few through to the dressing room. We found one dress that we each tried on and all liked the way that it looked (once the helpful assistant had pinned it anyway). I haven't had a good reason to wear a pretty dress since my high school prom nine years ago.

Then it was time for food! I didn't realise there was a restaurant on a boat at Lakeside, last time I visited I went for the standard Nandos. I love something a little different though so was pleased the decision was made to go aboard. A bottle of Prosecco was ordered to share and add a little sparkle to the afternoon. The restaurant is a Miller & Carter and was dark and sleek inside. There is a very reasonably priced lunch menu that is even served on a Saturday which I was surprised by. I was tempted by the burger, but typically I go for a burger, so thought I would try something a little different. As the restaurant is a steakhouse, I decided I would order steak in a toasted onion ciabatta served with seasoned fries. The meal was finished off nicely with a sweet caramel apple crumble tart. A continued wander around the shops was welcomed after the large lunch.


My friend picked me up from mine about 11am and we drove to Norwich to meet our friend who moved their with her other half last year. A journey that should only take an hour took more like two thanks to road works so we were definitely ready to go into the city centre and eat when we finally arrived. We ended up going to Bill's. As soon as we walked through the door I loved it! The d├ęcor is rustic and quirky. There is exposed plaster, brick, metal and wood.

Image from Pinterest
We all ended up ordering the same, Bill's pink lemonade and burger with various toppings followed by cinnamon doughnuts. I enjoyed the food as much as my surroundings and the atmosphere. After our long lunch, we did a little shopping before heading home.


Have you eaten anywhere you really liked recently?