Winter solstice

25 days of kindness – December 21st

December 21st is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, or in other words, winter solstice. With only 7 hours and 25 minutes of scheduled daylight here as it is, it hardly felt like the day broke at all with such low lying fog. Not to worry! Any excuse to fill my room with the flickers and fragrance of scented candles is much appreciated.

I thought I would match the shortness of the day with a brief blog post. After my failed attempt on Saturday, I successfully managed to deliver some magazines to the doctor’s surgery for anxious patients like myself to flick through in the waiting room.

So there you have it, short and sweet! I read that, like with most festivals, it is traditional at winter solstice to feast. And that is exactly what I plan to do. A cosy night in with good friends, cheesy Christmas films and even cheesier pizza!

Love,

Mary x

Three times a charm

25 days of kindness – December 20th

Three is usually a crowd, but not today.

The rough plan: a day out in my hometown to meet and old friend for a catch up and to sort out some last minute bits and bobs for Christmas.

Added bonus: the opportunity to carry out three acts of kindness that I wouldn’t normally do.

Numero uno (e due)

In light of my recent bedroom overhaul, I have a lot of books in need of a good home. My academic foreign language books are more likely to find an appreciative owner if I sell them online, but for general chick-lit novels and detective stories, Oxfam books is ideal.

However, I guessed the store’s opening time incorrectly (this seems to happen to me a little too often…), so with half an hour to kill in the damp British weather, I wandered into the nearest shopping mall. Almost immediately upon arriving I was collared by a representative for Amnesty International. Now, usually in this situation I would rattle off the unoriginal yet effective “Sorry, I’m in a bit of a rush!”, but I knew full well that this was an outright lie. So I stayed. And I listened. And I signed up. Am I in the financial position to subscribe to every charity who stops me in the street? Absolutely not, but one every now and again doesn’t hurt.

 

 

Harris Museum at Christmas

Last but not least

My wallet and load feeling somewhat lighter, I turned a corner and saw none other than a Big Issue vendor. If you read my blog yesterday, you would know that I bought the magazine when I was in Leeds, so before I had thought twice I found myself saying “Sorry mate, I’ve already got that one!” and walked away. Cursing myself for sounding so rude, I turned around and asked if I could get him a hot drink instead. “Ooh, a tea would be grand, thanks!” The man has good taste, I thought.

 

Love,

Mary x

P.S. I am thrilled to have been nominated for a Liebster Award, so watch this space for my Liebster post and nominations!

Big issue, small solution

It is much easier to be kind to people when you are surrounded by them.

Knowing I was headed for Leeds, I didn’t particularly plan a good deed of the day because I was confident an opportunity would arise on its own. And sure enough, it did.

As I was wandering through the County Arcade (in which my bank balance could barely stretch to window shopping), I noticed a lady under the archway at the far end, clutching a stack of magazines. As I approached, my initial inkling was confirmed as I heard her calling out “Big Issue”, so naturally I bought one.

Big Issue Christmas Edition

For those of you who don’t know, The Big Issue Foundation promotes ‘working not begging’ and offers ‘a hand up not a hand out’ to those who need help getting back on their feet. Official vendors buy the Big Issue magazine at £1.25 and sell it on at £2.50, keeping the profit they make. (Or in the case of this bumper edition, I bought it for £3 so £1.50 went directly to the vendor).

Though I have purchased Big Issue magazines in the past, I can’t say I have ever read one. I assumed it would just be filled with adverts and other nonsense, but I must admit, it’s not half bad! An amusing article on Christmas jobs including a segment by a cracker joke writer, TV, album and book reviews as well as a good old puzzle page.

But best of all… the cryptic crossword comes with quick clues too! I will definitely have to make this a regular purchase.

Love,

Mary x

 

 

Acknowledgements

25 days of kindness – December 18th

Yet another fail

Another day, another week and… another act of kindness. But what? Having exhausted my own bank of ideas that I could feasibly do today, I returned to google for inspiration. The same old sort out things popped up, so I just picked one of them and rolled with it.

I took out my phone and started crafting a friendly and polite message which went as follows:

Hi there, just to say I hope you had a good day and I wish you a happy Christmas time and all the best for the New Year. (You don’t know me and I don’t know you, just a complete stranger hoping to put a smile on somebody’s face today). 🙂

I then sent the same message to 30 completely random numbers and waited.

Nothing. The most likely outcome is that I sent the messages to unassigned numbers. Another possibility is that the recipients considered my message as annoying spam. Either way, even though the intention was kind, the whole exercise was pointless, so I went back to the drawing board.

Eventually I came across a suggestion so simple yet perfect: acknowledge somebody else’s kindness. So I would like to take this opportunity to publicly express my gratitude to a few people now, whether they see this or not.

  • To my lovely parents for helping me out with more things than I could list here, for generally putting up with me and for just knowing when I’d love a cup of tea.
  • My dear friend (who I am sure would prefer to remain anonymous) for helping me prepare for an interview in French. (If you speak French and are interested in make-up, check out her blog here).
  • To my college “husband” Ben for his constant enthusiasm and infectious zest for life.
  • To Mr Paley for making me get some fresh air today despite usually being as indecisive as a sloth.
  • And last but certainly not least to someone else who shall not be named. You know who you are, and I am eternally grateful for everything you did.

Love,

Mary x

Run, run, as fast as you can…

25 days of kindness – December 17th

If in doubt, bake.

And if in doubt what to bake, bake biscuits.

Once again, it had been dark for hours before I realised I was yet to complete my daily act of additional kindness, so what better to do than whip up a few batches of festive gingerbread cookies for family and friends? Before a Gingerbread Man could say “YOU CAN’T CATCH ME I’M THE—”, I had turned to my trusty Taffy Thomas recipe and set to work melting, stirring, kneading and rolling.

The Gingerbread Man

Taffy Thomas is a local storyteller based in Grasmere, directly opposite Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop. I have been using his recipe for as long as I can remember (to varying degrees of success!) as it is printed in a story book I have accompanying his version of The Gingerbread Man. In fact, I even vaguely recall icing statistics equations onto these biscuits in an attempt to literally digest my A level maths revision… hmm!

Anyway, here is the beautifully illustrated and simple recipe:

IMG_8561

Rather than rewrite the recipe, I would just like to add a few tips:

  • Sieve the self-raising flour before adding it to the mixture if you want to avoid lumpy biscuits!
  • Make sure you have plenty of plain flour to cover your surface before rolling so that the biscuits don’t stick.
  • Instead of oiling the baking tray I prefer to line it with grease-proof baking paper.
  • The baking time depends entirely on the thickness of your biscuits, so be vigilant! Mine only took 9 minutes (which I may or may not have discovered after burning the first batch!).
  • With small cookie cutters and thinly rolled mixture I managed to make OVER 90 biscuits, so you may well want to halve the quantities and use bigger templates!

When I have time, I like to wait for the biscuits to cool then make royal icing to lightly decorate them. Wrapped nicely in cellophane, these biscuits make a great Christmas gift!

Enjoy!

Love,

Mary x

Books are my bag

25 days of kindness – December 16th

It seems that yesterday’s self-kindness paid off since I managed a solid 9 HOURS of sleep. Well, I say solid… apparently I have started ‘sleep-checking’ my phone whenever it vibrates… definitely time for a big switch-off!

Plan A

My body and mind well rested, I was determined to hit it big style with my extra act of kindness. I gathered a bunch of magazines and a virtually blank puzzle book (minus the codebreakers – they are my favourites!) and brought them to my local doctor’s surgery. An anxious patient myself, I totally empathise with those in need of distraction whilst they sit nervously anticipating a potentially upsetting or embarrassing appointment, so I had intended to leave the magazines on the table in the waiting area. Intended being the operative word; it was closed. I thought that the doctor’s offered appointments on Saturday mornings, but evidently not this Saturday. Not to worry! By now I am well accustomed to good deed failed attempts, so I had a back-up plan.

IMG_E8541 (2)

Plan B

Careful not to slip on the ice, I made my way up the hill and around the corner to the library. As inconspicuously as possible, I began perusing the shelves until I spotted a novel I had recently read and loved: Aleph by Paulo Coelho. Pretending to read the inside cover, I surreptitiously slipped a pre-written note inside wishing its next reader a lovely day, slotted the book back in its place and strolled out of the library as nonchalantly as I could, making a mental note to go there more often.

In other news, a positive consequence of the daily pressure of this challenge is that I have become very proactive and much more efficient in general. Whenever I have a job to do, I try to plan ahead so that it coincides with my act of kindness or vice versa, and I get it done that same day. I just hope that this will continue once blogmas is over!

Love,

Mary x

Be kind to yourself

25 days of kindness – December 15th

Being kind to others is a way of being good to yourself.

I came across this quote by Harold Kushner today and I am completely on board. Not only does consciously being kind improve our feeling of self worth, but seeing someone appreciate our action can leave us with that warm and fuzzy feeling.

Yet after a difficult day and hours spent compiling lists of potential acts of kindness, nothing seemed a viable option… until I saw the following suggestion: be kind to yourself. And that’s when I realised that Harold Kushner’s idea concept can also work in reverse. Sometimes, you have to be good to yourself in order to be kind to others. Whether that’s taking a hot bath, sitting down to eat something delicious and nutritious, or in my case, drinking a big glass water, closing my laptop and getting an early night. It’s time to stop beating myself up about things I can’t change and to wake up tomorrow ready again to kill it with kindness.

Love,

Mary x

P.S. My cheek swab kit arrived today from DKMS blood stem cell donation! (See my post ‘Bloody Mary’ from December 7th).