About Hayley

Bird parent, dog aunt, walker, photographer, forklift driver, bookworm, maker of messes.

A Side Saunter

Dare I say it? Things are looking up! I don’t expect things to stay this way, because life doesn’t work like that, but I am trying to make the most of my ‘up’ times while they are here. I’m hoping that I can remember (I’m trying to DRILL IT RIGHT IN ME) that the next down spot won’t last forever and I’ll bounce back again just like always. The downs are a part of life and shouldn’t be a thing to be feared. Am I not strong enough to handle whatever life throws at me? I am. I’m living proof.

I’m in week two of a new food strategy, and it’s working. I’ve been feeling weird about food for the last couple of years, as it happens. Up until recently, I would eat pretty much anything. Fussy eater was not in my vocabulary as a child, so much so that I was that weirdo that would eat the skin on the custard with my school dinner. I’d go so far as to actually request it, while all the other kids were getting supremely grossed out. No one had to force me to eat brocolli – it didn’t matter what was on the plate, the plate was getting cleared and that was that.

Slimming World used to work for me, because you can eat big portions. As long as was full up, I didn’t really care much what I was eating. In recent times I’ve been trying to make it work again, to repeat my past successes, then getting frustrated when I fail over and over.

The problem is, I eat and I eat, but because I don’t really want or even like the food that I’m eating, I’m never truly satisfied. I’m not hungry exactly, but I’m always left feeling like I have an itch I can’t scratch. Then before I know it, I’m giving in to my cravings and ending up right back where I started.

My new plan is to stay in a very small calorie defecit. I was reluctant to even think about calories, because it brings back feelings of hunger and sadness from my younger days. I used to restrict so much, I literally couldn’t function like that if I tried to do it now. I used to aim for about 1,300 calories per day, which is ridiculously low. The last two weeks I have been aiming for a MINIMUM of 2,000 calories a day, which means I haven’t been feeling deprived and I’ve been staying on track. What’s more, I’ve been eating food that I actually want to eat. That’s the main difference as to why I’m doing well. Food should be enjoyed, and as long as I’m edging towards my goals (rather than sprinting in the opposite direction, as I have been) then that’s fine by me.

I’ve also been saving myself a whole load of time (less food prep) and a whole load of money, both because I’ve been buying less food and I’ve been using the cooker less. For instance, most days I would have cooked Slimming World chips from scratch. I would microwave the potatoes beforehand to soften them up, then cook them in the oven using Frylight, that destroyer of kitchenware. They would usually be in the oven for at least 40 minutes, whereas now I will chuck a couple of hash browns in the air fryer for ten minutes and that’s that. Job done. Another thing about keeping an eye on calories is that it’s free, so that’s another saving. No more diet club membership fees for me.

Less time thinking about and preparing food means more time for knitting and other creative pursuits. Since my last post I finished a third frog, this time for my little brother. He has come up with the BEST NAME EVER for it – he has named it ‘Hopscotch’. I’m sorry, but there’s no beating that.

I’m improving my knitting with every frog – I still find the legs tricky but I did the body and the jumper without making a single mistake. I can now knock up a frog jumper in a couple of hours, such as this one which I made for my sister yesterday afternoon:

A stripey one takes a bit longer than a plain one, but not terribly so.

The thing I LOVE about knitting, is that I can be creative but it doesn’t take anything out of me. I love painting too, but it takes an emotional toll. Sometimes after I paint I’m exhausted, my brain feels totally emptied out, but I don’t get that when I’m making frogs. This is why I’d go so far as to say I’d never be able to be a fulltime artist -I would burn myself out in about five minutes flat. I like that I have managed to figure that out, too, rather than to keep trying to make something fit that just doesn’t. I feel like a (self-imposed) weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

I am going to sell some frogs – I’ve started working on a little stash which I’ll put up for sale at the beginning of November. That will leave plenty of time to get them posted out for Christmas. They would make a great present (hint hint!)

I’ve decided once and for all I’m not interested in a side hustle. I am more and more drawn to slow living, so I’ll do what I enjoy and sell what becomes available as a result of that. I have decided to call it a side saunter. It sounds so much more relaxing.

Lately I’ve been enjoying the versatility of digital art. The great thing is that once you’ve paid for the initial tools (in my case an iPad pro, an apple pencil and £10 for a digital painting/drawing app) then you don’t have to spend another penny. You also don’t have to worry about where to store a huge stash of paint or have to clean anything up after. Cleaning brushes is honestly the worst.

Last week I was chipping away at a frog illustration (yes, frogs have now entirely taken over my life) and falling in love with it more and more with every second that went by. Because it came together so well, I thought I’d put it to use to make a long-time dream of mine come true.

Years and years ago now I bought my first product from an artist on Redbubble – this mug, in fact (which was broken long ago, me being as clumsy as I am).

I love that design, but I also thought it would be sooooooo cool if I could do that, too. If I remember rightly I bought this mug around the time Pea came to live with me, which was in 2016. Six years later and I have made that dream a reality. I now have my own Redbubble shop!

It was one of my goals for this year to start selling my own creations, one way or another. Or rather, the thing that is important to me is making them available to sell. The actual sales are secondary – it’s the putting myself out there that was the first and biggest hurdle for me. I suppose I still had my doubts, at least until I saw that I can have an actual CLOCK made with my own design on it. Which is just so super cool.

For a moment I was considering keeping my shop private for the time being and seeing how I feel later, but then I realised that actually, my design is indeed good enough to see the light of day.

I haven’t ordered myself a clock yet, I’ll wait till payday, but I did order a couple of cheap bits and bobs just to check the print quality. So far only the postcards have arrived from my order (items are printed on demand and dispatched once they are ready) but they are looking good!

I am most excited for my tote bag to arrive, so naturally it’s the last thing to be dispatched. Still, in the meantime I’m working on more designs and the ideas are flowing again. Thank goodness for that.

I also have a couple of fine art prints of the design, but I need to work out how much to charge for them so that I don’t lose money. Once I have that figured out, they will be up for sale. This part is harder than I imagined, because charging what they are actually worth (or at least what they cost me) makes me feel incredibly guilty for some reason. That’s obviously something I need to work on, because there’s not much point to a side saunter if I end up losing a load of money. On the flipside, if I make just £1 I’ll be happy. Of course I’d rather be a millionaire, but I’m good with starting small!

Hayley x

Rest and Digest

I had my doctor’s appointment last week, and as suspected, it was a complete waste of time. After reeling off a list of symptoms, the doctor asks me ‘what do you think is causing that then?’ Um, sir, is it not your job to tell me? I didn’t expect anything else though, and although I was determined not to get fobbed off I could see that it wasn’t worth expending the energy. Let’s say I do get him to listen to me. Then what? Best case scenario I get put on a years-long waiting list.

So, I have decided to save up to get some private help, and I’ve started to do my own research. Let’s see how much I can help myself, at least while I’m feeling in the headspace to actually do that. In the times when I’m not, I’m already trying to set myself up to just bloody rest, and trust that things will get better. I feel so different now to how I felt a few weeks ago that I can hardly even remember what it felt like during that time. It seems like it happened to someone else, or that it happened years ago and is a distant memory.

Rest and digest is the opposite of fight or flight (I have been researching how to have a regulated nervous system, don’t you know) and that’s what I’ve been aiming for on my week of annual leave, which is today coming to an end. When I’m off work I usually try to force myself to get into a day pattern, but this time around I was not going to be forcing anything. When I was feeling at my worst I couldn’t read, as much as I love to, because I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Over the last week, however, I’ve been reading from about midnight till four in the morning and I have been LOVING IT. It feels like I’m back, when I genuinely feared I was lost forever. How dramatic am I.

I have also watched three seasons of a series and loved every minute. I’ve been watching The Boys, which is funny, sad, DISGUSTING at times, but a damn good series. It’s one of those things that’s been recommended to me so many times and I just say ‘yeah, yeah, it’s on my watchlist’, now I’m the one telling everyone they need to watch it. If they have a strong stomach, that is.

My favourite activity though has been the knitting. Last night I completed a little frog for a friend and I’m so excited to give it to her.

Isn’t it flipping ADORABLE? I asked her to choose the colour of the jumper from my wool stash and I think she made an excellent choice – very in keeping with the season what with it being official meteorological autumn right now.

I’m getting neater with my knitting, and I’ve found a better material for the arms and legs to make them poseable – florist’s wire.

Now I have started work on a different creature, which should be finished by the end of the week. I am so looking forward to showing him to you! He’s a gift for my sister, which again, I should wait until her birthday to give to her. But I can’t, I just can’t wait to give it to her. Patience? Never heard of her.

Today I am starting my 1,393,200 attempt at getting healthy. It’s not just the weight (although as I explained to a friend recently, I have become rotund) it’s genuinely how I physically feel that’s the problem. My tummy is NOT happy, and I have to do something about that. I also have slightly high cholesterol and the doctor wants me to take blood pressure readings for a week, so I really have to get on top of all of this.

I’m not making any grand declarations though, I’m just saying that I’m going to try. Because every time I try to force myself into a complete life overhaul, I put so much pressure on myself that I just burn out within a week. I do this over and over thinking that the next time will be different.

If I want something to change, then I have to change something. Wise words from whoever came up with that one.

Right, time now to grab my needles and get my knit on. Rock ‘n Roll or what!

Hayley x

If you want to knit your own frog here is the pattern (link) and if you need any help with it don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!

Oh the Humidity

Yesterday I took myself out on a walk in the woods. It’s been horribly, horribly humid the last couple of days, but I’d decided I was going to go walking no matter what. No excuses.

When I got out of my car the air was like soup, but I thought once I got deep into the woods and into the shade it would probably be nicer. Nope. It was just as soupy. It was 25c outdoors, which is just about my perfect temperature under normal circumstances, but the humidity is just the worst. I spent a few months in Malta some years back, and even when it reached 42c it was easier to cope with than the weather here. Hot and dry, I can deal with. Hot and moist? No. No way. It’s exhausting.

If you’re in the UK and experiencing this drought, you may have noticed a distinct autumnal quality to the woods lately.

But we aren’t experiencing early autumn, it’s simply the trees dropping their leaves in an attempt to stay alive by diverting all the resources they have to essential functions only. That’s kind of how I’ve been feeling lately, now I come to think of it.

Some areas of my local woods are looking distincly forlorn, but other parts are doing just fine. Better than normal, in fact, because now we aren’t having any lockdowns, a lot less people are coming here for their exercise. As such this area has gone back to being overgrown just like it was pre-covid. There’s a lot less litter about, too (although still lots of abandoned poo bags, which is just flipping disgraceful).

On the 15th of August we were forecast rain for the next day, so I got every container that didnt have holes in the bottom out in the garden to catch any rain we might get. That’s in addition to the water butt. The ground is so hard and dry, if we do get any significant rain it just runs off instead of soaking in, so I thought I’d catch what I could.

We did get rain the next day, but it was only a few spots that evaporated almost instantly. Very disappointing. So that’s where they have stayed, empty, since the 15th. In fact, this morning is the first time since I don’t even know when that it really rained, and goodness me am I relieved. I’ve only been watering the plants I cannot bear to lose, and I especially couldn’t stand to use up all the water it would have taken to keep the grass green. It’ll bounce back just fine, and at least I haven’t had to worry about cutting it.

This morning we had a deluge and not only is the water butt completely full once more, things in the garden that have been struggling for weeks are already looking transformed.

That’s the very same bush, would you believe.

It’s still raining gently this afternoon, and although it is still humid the air has definitely cleared significantly. Hopefully it will be tolerable for work tonight, because last night was… damp. I managed to grab an impromptu night’s holiday after only being there for an hour-and-a-half, and I was already drenched in sweat. It doesn’t help that the forklift trucks are powered by a half-ton battery which gets hot when you use it, so you’re basically spending 8 hours sitting on a heater. Yuk.

Me, personally? I’m very much looking forward to real autumn and (hopefully) a more manageable climate to exist in for the time being. I’m also seriously hoping I manage to get my act together in terms of weight loss so I can have a much more comfortable summer next year, one I’m able to much better cope with.

Then again, I’ve been saying that for two years now! Still, I can but try.

Hayley x

Gibberish

Just in the nick of time I’m starting to feel better. Not perfect, but better. On Saturday I got out into the garden for a bit of clearing up and it was the first time I’ve done something in the last few weeks without really having to force myself to do it, or without having intrusive ‘what’s the point’ or ‘it won’t be good enough’ thoughts racing through my brain. What a relief to have a bit of peace.

Almost all of Sunday was spent working on my latest project, which is a) the cutest thing ever and b) really good for switching my brain off. Once I get started, that is. There is always the initial battle of starting it in the first place, but never mind that.

So what is this magical thing I have discovered? It is… KNITTING! It’s thanks to my sister that I discovered this in the first place after she sent me the sweetest little video on Instagram. It was of a knitted frog by a superb knitter named India Rose Crawford, and I strongly advise you to look at her photos and videos on Instagram (link) if you want to feel warm and fuzzy inside. I thought it would be such a nice surprise for my sister if I could get hold of one for her.

It didn’t take much investigation before I realised these froggos are in extremely high demand, but it was equally easy to find the person who made the original pattern – Claire Garland, AKA DotPebblesKnits (link). She’s a bonafide genius – how she even begins to come up with her patterns I cannot imagine.

So, despite the fact that I cannot knit, I bought the pattern from Claire’s Etsy shop (link).

When I first opened the PDF of the pattern, to say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. Have you ever seen a knitting pattern? At first glance they look like utter gibberish, and I was quite convinced that if my sister was getting a frog, I would not be the one making it. Thankfully my mum is a talented knitter, so I printed off the instructions and asked her if she thought it would be possible for her to teach me how to do it.

She was confident she could, so I raided her wool stash and got practicing.

Do you know, it actually isn’t as hard as I first thought! First of all you have to decipher what the hell the pattern is telling you to do, but once you speak the language, that part is easy enough. Some of the actual stitches… they’re easy enough too, but with some of them, even watching Youtube videos, I just couldn’t get my head around what was happening there. Mum was on hand to help me though, and with her guidance I learned enough to be able to make the frog. I now know knits, purls, wraps and turns, knit front-to-backs, i-cords and all kinds of other things. And in the right combination, those things make up this…

I mean seriously. I cannot get over the cuteness.

It was not all plain sailing for me, because if you read my last post you know that my brain has not been in tip-top working order lately. The thing about knitting is that it’s very easy to lose your place and go wrong, and I don’t know enough yet to be able to easily rectify my mistakes. That meant starting over when I zoned out and forgot what I was doing, which was… often.

It forced me to practice staying in the moment, and then I’d get into a state of flow which was actually heaven. All that would be going through my mind would be knit, purl, knit, purl, wrap, turn, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit. Or I’d just be counting my stitches, so I’d be perfectly focused on not losing count. One, two, three, four, five… now purl… one, two, three, four, five…

Once I’d done the head and body I was well into it, and other than accidently knitting the first one-and-a-half legs I made inside out (I had to undo them and start again), I was able to figure out the instructions from that point on by myself.

Once I was finished, I could see the bits that weren’t quite right, all the imperfections, and I almost talked myself out of giving it to my sister at all. But I also knew further attempts probably wouldn’t be that much different, so I decided to give it to her anyway, warts and all. I also made a little jumper for him, but I’d already given him to my sister before I realised that in our photo session he’d been completely naked. But that’s not important.

When I handed froggo over yesterday, it got the exact reaction I’d been hoping for – my sister was over the moon. As if I could have waited till December to give it to her! Never in a million years could that have happened.

Once Mr Frog was safely handed over to my sister, we started our day. It’s become something of a tradition to have an art day together either in the summer or the winter – we just sit down together and make art just for the fun of it. How utterly wholesome!

First of all we took Newton for a walk in the park before it got too hot for him, and had a coffee at the visitors centre. I love me a good visitors centre, and what’s more, dogs are allowed in there so neither of us had to wait outside with him. Did you know that such a lot of shops in the UK are dog-friendly? You can even get a Puppucino from Starbucks (which of course does not contain coffee because giving dogs caffeine is a big no-no).

That done we sat down to our painting. I was still feeling in a frog mood, so this is what I made:

Then we had a Newton walk/coffee break before I painted my second thing of the day, a colourful sea scape:

I was so worried that I wouldn’t be in the mood for art during art day, but I needn’t have been. It was so good for the soul, and I had the best day. It was also nice to practice being out and about before going back to work tonight. I am not relishing the thought of being around lots of people, but I can do it.

Recently I’ve felt so awful that I doubted if I would ever be OK again, but now I’m starting believe that actually, I will. Just because I felt so bad for that period of time, doesn’t mean I’m doomed to stay that way forever, or to repeat it. I have to believe that better things are coming, and it’s not a given that I (or life) will mess it all up. After all, was yesterday not a wonderful day, even though I didn’t have the greatest of hopes for it? Yes, it was.

It ain’t over yet.

Hayley x

Hard Times

Whenever I have a few days in a row of feeling I good, I think this is it, I’ve cracked it! I’m going to hold on to this feeling and NOTHING is going to stop me. Then I feel bad again, and I can almost believe I brought it on myself. Shouldn’t have had a nice thought, should I, I was obviously asking to feel bad. I started to wonder if I’m stuck in some neverending cycle… well I’m stuck in a cycle alright, but I’ve likely got a good decade yet before I’m able to be free of it.

Having periods suck. I’ve always struggled around that time, and thought it was just normal and that I was weak for feeling dreadful at least two weeks out of every four. But then as things like this get talked about more on social media, it seems that what I’ve been going through since puberty is not a universal experience. Every single GP I’ve ever seen has shrugged it off, but it’s not normal.

I get by though. Well, usually. As time goes on it gets harder and harder to cope with it, and it’s all mixed up with other issues I have. Basically right now I don’t know my arse from my elbow, and I am not ok with that. I feel like I’m drowning. One thing I know is that things are usually quite bad for me, but once a month, it’s infinitely worse. I also know something has to change because I cannot go on like this.

There’s also past things to deal with. I’ve always been someone who struggled with regulating emotions, then after a bad five-year relationship I hardened a lot (read: turned into a cold-hearted bitch). I opened up later, got hurt more than ever, hardened again, then just recently I started to really feel things again. All well and good until something bad came along and I couldn’t deal with it. Feeling things means feeling all the things. I forgot about that part.

This started off with someone being a bit mean to me at work, which resulted in me absolutely spiraling… like, crying in the toilets and completely unable to stop myself. I just had to wait for it to pass. Absolutely absurd. The person in particular was mean because I was basically doing my job too much, which would normally have me telling said person where to go, but it turned into a paranoid week of ‘absolutely everyone I’ve ever known and loved secretly hates me’.

Then little Newty got sick. He’s OK now but there were a few days there where we really weren’t sure if he was going to make it. At that point I just… shut down.

I was worried sick about that doggo, who thankfully is recovering nicely and well on his way to being his old self, but it was just one thing too much and I couldn’t handle it. After we knew he was going to be ok, I thought I’d go back to ‘normal’ myself, but since then things have been… weird.

I have even less energy than usual, concentrating on anything has been virtually impossible, I’m clumsy (I even fell over the other day) and if I’m trying to think (as in, I’m trying to concentrate on not totally losing my mind) I need COMPLETE AND UTTER SILENCE otherwise I feel an almost uncontrollable rage. It’s like I need to use all of my energy on staying in existence. On top of that, things don’t exactly feel real right now, or maybe I don’t feel like I’m real, not sure which, which may well be dissociation.

Not that a medical professional could enlighten me, because when I finally got an appointment with a ‘mental health practitioner’ she asked me if I’d tried PrActicING MindFuLNesS. Yes, sure, after thirty years of mental illness, I’m calling you because I’m at breaking point, I’ve just spent 40 minutes on the phone to you telling you about all of my issues and that’s what you suggest. I asked to be signed off work while I’m feeling spaced out because it’s really not safe to drive a forklift truck when you aren’t sure if you’re a person or not, and her response? Well, you really should have asked for a note a week ago, you’ve left it a bit late.

Except… I DID ASK FOR ONE A WEEK AGO AND THEY TOLD ME I HAD TO HAVE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOU FIRST. THAT IS ONE OF THE REASONS WE ARE SPEAKING NOW.

Response? ‘Oh’.

This is why I never try asking for help. This is the ‘help’ you get.

But I’m at the stage where I can’t not ask for help, and I know it’s going to take a fight to get it. I’m so tired though, I don’t want to fight!

Aaaanyway. I have booked a face-to-face doctor’s appointment, and I only have to wait a month for that. During that time, on my good days, I’m going to be researching to get all the information on the things that are most likely wrong with me, and when I see the doctor I am not going to let him dismiss my symptoms. Because the first doctor did that nearly twenty-five years ago when he told me it was normal for sixteen-year-old me to have a beard, and do you know what? I’ve had enough of not being listened to. Carrying on day-to-day means having some kind of belief that things might actually improve somewhere down the line, and they haven’t been improving with me trying to do it alone. I’m taking a deep breath and seeing where this goes.

In the meantime, even though it’s the very last thing I want to do, I’m going to make a concerted effort to get outside. I know it will help, and I know I need to do it every day. It feels… naughty, being off work and going for a walk in the woods, but what else can I do at this point?

I’ve also found a new craft which is absolutely perfect for turning my brain off, because I don’t have to concentrate too much, but also if I zone out completely I have to go back and start again. I’m using it to practice not zoning out before I go to work, and also to stop unwanted thoughts. It’s nice to have a little break from my racing mind from time-to-time. I would tell you what it is now, but I’m making a gift for my sister and if I tell you what it is she might guess what I’m making. It was supposed to be a gift for her birthday in December, but in reality there’s no way on earth I can wait that long to give it to her. I can’t wait to show you guys either.

After a very moany load of paragraphs (I felt like I just really needed to get that out) I will leave with something positive. So here is a beautiful dahlia, ‘cafe au lait’, which has somehow survived heatwaves, slugs, snails and neglect to turn into an absoute stunner. What can I say, she’s more resilient than me!

Hayley x

Cramming

I’m currently coming to the end of a very long weekend and I’ve had some serious exhaustion to contend with. I’m talking the ‘my family thought I might be dead’ kind of deep sleeping. It’s been… something else.

I’d guess that on one of the days of my extended weekend I must have slept for about 20 HOURS. I suppose I needed it? For the life of me, I just couldn’t seem to stay awake. I was infuriating my colleagues last week- night work is especially hard in the summer as it becomes so difficult to sleep during the day. On the hottest day everyone looked like a sleep-deprived mess. Everyone except for me, that is. I slept for 11 hours straight.

I finally seem to have slept myself out, so now with one day before I go back to work, it’s time to CRAM. I promised myself I’d get everything straight this weekend, and I don’t intend to break that promise. My main goals for the rest of the summer are to keep the plants alive, to practice painting, to get my fitness levels up and to drop some more pounds. And to paint, paint and paint some more. Today I need to get loads of boring organising and cleaning done so that I can keep it in order from now on and mostly concentrate on those goals.

Yesterday was a garden pottering day whilst I eased myself back into staying awake for more than five minutes at a time. I don’t have nearly as many tomato plants as I’d planned, but the ones I do have look really robust and healthy. Good ole tomato plants. Most excitingly, the tomatoes have started to appear already.

I think it’s really cool that seeing that first fruit of the season gives me the same buzz that I got from first growing tomatoes two years ago. I’m not sure why- they’re pretty easy to grow, but I’m not complaining. I’ll take my dopamine wherever I can get it.

I bought this young sunflower indoors from the garden back in May, in an attempt to save it from the garden pests. They had nibbled it down to slightly less than a single leaf, damn them. It’s a Mongolian sunflower, and all of my seedlings were eaten bar two, so I didn’t want to take any chances. It has taken such a long time, but it’s finally bouncing back.

My wish is that I get at least one head this year so I have seeds for next year, rather than having to buy more. The same goes for my ‘Tumbling Tom’ tomatoes. Apparently, they are the only variety of tomato that is a true trailing plant, and the seeds were way more expensive than any other I’ve ever bought. There were only a few in the packet, and only one plant survived. Thankfully it looks like it’s going to fruit prolifically so I can also save seeds from that plant (although they may not come true when I sow them next year). I don’t care about stuff like that- for me, that’s a huge part of the excitement. You never know quite what you’re going to get.

I’m very excited that my hollyhocks look like they’re finally going to flower. They were supposed to flower last year but didn’t, so I can’t wait to see what this variety comes out like. Unfortunately, they are absolutely riddled with hollyhock rust (a common fungal infection) so they aren’t exactly looking wonderful, but a ropey hollyhock is better than no hollyhock in my opinion.

The pests really are outdoing themselves this year. I’ve heard other UK gardeners saying the same thing- that the aphids have just gone crazy this summer. Ladybirds eat them, but I’ve only seen one single ladybird this season. One is nowhere near enough. My RHS Gardening magazine tells me to be patient and that the ladybirds and lacewings will eventually come to eat the aphids up, and to not be tempted to spray the plants. Not that I would. We don’t do pesticides in this garden, no matter how annoying the bugs get.

I guess we could also describe our flock of garden sparrows as pests, but I find them hilarious. I suppose it must be handed down the generations that us particular humans aren’t a threat, because every year they try harder and harder to get inside the house. Well, one has actually succeeded so far this year after making it into my brother’s bedroom.

We have both of our bird boxes occupied, but one couple must be new to the area because they don’t like us so much. The shout at me if I get too close and practically dive-bombed my mum while she was out there. One even touched her cheek as it flew by. I don’t have photographic evidence, so here’s a photo I’ve recylcled from 2020. It’s the same box, so I think it counts.

To get a blog posted was in fact on my to-do list this weekend, so I don’t feel bad for taking the time to do it. Having said that, it’s time I cracked on before I run out of energy. I’ve got A LOT to do.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

When a Plan Comes Together

I used to say that I didn’t give a damn about what our house looked like- there are more important things in life than having a picture-perfect home. Up until quite recently, as a family, we’ve been dirt poor. Growing up it was normal not to have a carpet or to have hand-me-downs- you get used to these things. Check out one of the sofas we used to have… They don’t make ’em like that anymore (thank GOD). I believe that came from my great-nan, but I could be wrong. I wonder when it was made. The 70’s? Earlier? All I know is that it’s a monstrosity.

As time goes on I get increasingly self-aware, for better or worse, and once you start taking notice of things, you can’t help but spot patterns. One major thing I have learned about myself is that not living in a nice space makes me grumpy as hell. Despite the fact that the house has needed decorating for years (at least ten), it was with some reluctance that I started doing something about it. Once I began to really see the changes, however, I knew it was worth it. I feel so much better in myself.

When the chap came to lay the new flooring in the living room, I realised it was the first time I’d ever done proper adulting in that respect. It is the first time I have ever arranged something like that by myself, which was then followed by another first. I just bought my first ever brand new sofa, at age 39, which is quite something. Unless it came from a family member, the only other sofa I bought was a second-hand one from a charity shop when I briefly lived in an absolute dump of a flat with my then-boyfriend. I’m all for recycling, but that sofa did smell funny. There was no getting away from that.

As these things go, apart from the flooring, which we splashed out on so that the animals wouldn’t destroy it in five minutes flat, we haven’t spent much money and certainly don’t have the finest of anything. We don’t need anything particularly fancy, but it’s nice enough that I feel infinitely happier than I did. I think the pandemic made me realise how important for the soul it is to have a decent sanctuary away from the world. Home is a good place to be.

I’m not finished by any means. The old carpet and furniture is being taken away towards the end of the month, until which time we’ll just have to look like a bunch of hoarders, and there are loads of little odds and ends still to be done. Now I’ve made so much progress it thankfully doesn’t feel nearly as overwhelming. Dare I say it, I’m actually having fun now! Most importantly, the animals approve. That’s the main thing.

Be that as it may, I have worked hard over the last few weeks and this weekend I just needed a good old rest. For so long it’s been all too easy for me to consider needing rest as an excuse for eating cake and drinking wine, but told you I was going to do better, and I did.

During the week I went to pick up a pile of bricks that my sister and her fiancé kindly let me have (giving the garden even more hoarder-vibes than ever), and I called upon my friend and his van to help me out. I was very grateful not to have to make twenty trips in the car, so as a thank you I took him out for lunch.

I’d had work the previous night and I was exhausted. Diets and exhaustion don’t go hand in hand, because once you reach that point of tiredness it becomes all too easy throw caution to the wind. Luckily I’d had the foresight to plan what I was going to do ahead of time, and somehow I managed to stick to said plan.

I find Wagamama a great place to eat out because even their healthy dishes are flipping delicious. I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy a Wagamama as it happens. Do you ever do that thing where you eat something so tasty that you have to nod and say ‘mmm, MMM, MMMMMMM!!!!’ as you’re eating it? Maybe that’s just me, but either way it’s a sure sign I’m eating some fabulous grub.

On my days off I was going to start on the project I had in mind for the bricks, but I decided rest and relaxation were more important. The bricks can wait. My number one priority has been to stick to plan when it comes to food, and I’ve done exactly that. My reward to myself for working hard was to actually lose some weight and start feeling better already. Because I really do, after just one week.

The constant heartburn is now non-existent, there is a huge reduction in tummy bloating, meaning I can sit more comfortably, and I’ve seriously been enjoying my food. Plus a distinct lack of hangover is a bonus. What did I ultimately get for my hard work? A 7lb loss, that’s what. Happy days.

Now I finally feel like I’m moving forward, and absolutely nothing is going to get in my way.

Hayley x

Something of a Mess

This year I inadvertently took part in ‘No Mow May’. It was a complete accident- I was simply too busy to cut the grass. Or at least, when I did have a spare moment, it was of course raining. I’m not knocking the rain- I didn’t have time to water the plants so I owe anything still being alive out there to the odd shower. The weeds are thriving which I guess is good for the pollinators, but it’s not that easy on the eyes.

That’s kind of a lie actually. I am personally rather partial to the ‘wild’ look but my mother isn’t a fan, and it’s also really hard to find dog poops in the long grass.

Since we currently have a jungle instead of a garden, I’m patiently waiting until it gets late enough in the morning to cut the grass. I could do it now, but at 8am on a bank holiday? I don’t think the neighbours would be impressed. It is the Jubilee weekend in the UK, not that it means much to me. I couldn’t give a rat’s behind about the queen and I don’t get any extra days off work. Yay for working in retail. But I guess I should allow the rest of the street their lie-in. Me, bitter? Never.

In between paragraphs I’ve been popping out into the garden to see what’s new, and I’ve noticed that some of the nasturtiums have sneakily flowered. I haven’t even got around to sticking them in the ground yet but they’re doing just fine on their own.

So, I previously wrote that I was going to start being healthy this Monday, and wonder of wonders, I actually did. It’s a miracle! Before COVID I used to walk into town all the time instead of taking the car, but I haven’t done it since before the outbreak. Until yesterday that is. I’ve been putting it off for no other reason than I feel so bloody self-conscious about my appearance at the moment.

Fitness-wise I was fine. Despite being several stones heavier than the last time I walked that route, I did around five miles with not even a blister to show for it. Including doing my shopping, I was on my feet for just over two hours. Ok, I was also quite a bit out of breath and absolutely BAKING, but I’m happy that I don’t have to start right from the beginning when it comes to getting my old life back. In any case, look at that view. That sky! You don’t get that sitting indoors.

As for food, where I have repeatedly fallen down is that I started listening too much to other people. All the times I’ve been the most successful at losing weight so far, I’ve been following the Slimming World plan. The premise is that you can eat as much as you want of ‘Free Foods’, so you never have to worry about going hungry. The plan states that you should eat until you feel full, but that’s something I never paid much attention to at first. I like big portions, I always have. I like to eat.

It’s right that Slimming World should add a caveat with the Free Foods, because if you start eating everything in sight for the sake of it then you’re obviously not going to lose much weight. Having said that, I definitely took it too much to heart. I remember I’d lost quite a bit of weight already when my consultant asked me what I’d eaten recently. I’d made a crustless quiche, and if I remember rightly I’d used six eggs. She said to me, ‘but you didn’t eat it all, right?’ I did. I ate the whole damn lot, and I lost several pounds that week as it happens. I lost several pounds every week back then.

After that, other things started creeping into the group conversations. I started feeling guilty if my portions were too big or if I ate until I was stuffed, and that made me not only miserable but also, annoyingly, hungry. I see it on social media, too. HOW CAN SLIMMING WORLD WORK IF YOU CAN EAT 10KG OF PASTA AND STILL BE ON PLAN?!?!? Well, you can’t. As in, you can’t eat 10kg of pasta and not explode. That’s how it works.

Previous attempts to ignore the voice telling me to have one less potato or whatever have failed, but I have a whole new supply of determination at the moment. I have been eating very generous meals, and I’ve noticed that I haven’t been getting ridiculous cravings. Long may it continue! Yes, I’m still worried that I won’t lose any weight this week, but I need to see this through. I’m ignoring the doubts, and even if I don’t lose, at least I’m eating some veggies. My heartburn has almost gone, too. It will NOT be missed.

Ok, it’s only been 3 days and I have a long way to go, but I’m three days closer to my goal than I was before.

That’s something.

Hayley x

For Now

I still haven’t had time to get out into the garden over the last week. I’ve felt like I’ve needed more than the usual amount of sleep just lately, so I’ve been letting it happen. Case in point- I slept for about ten hours last night, left my sister’s in the morning (intending to get cracking with a load of stuff I want to do), but went back to bed for another five hours. I finally emerged at about 5pm, and will definitely still be able to sleep tonight. Sometimes you just need a good old catch up.

Between naps (and rain showers) I’ve been out with my camera. Last year I sowed a wildflower mix, and since I didn’t know what it contained at all I had fun identifying what grew. To be honest ID-ing flowers is one of my favourite passtimes of all. One flower that stood out for me was the California poppy, which has come back this year and has definitely multiplied. They’re really cool – I like them from their initial seed heads all the way to their petals. They are so pretty in all kinds of ways.

In 2020 my friend’s mum moved house. She dug up a variety of unknown bulbs from her new place and donated them to me, which I then haphazardly planted around the garden. None at all flowered last year, but this month I have discovered that some of them are gladioli. I think. It’s not a plant I’m especially familiar with.

At first I wasn’t overly taken with them, but their petals unfurling is actually rather beautiful. I’ve decided they can stay.

The giant allium from last year is in full bloom, despite me wondering whether it might not perform as well this year. For one thing it flowered a lot earlier than its first year, but in addition to that it’s also just as big as it was before. It’s a beaut, for sure.

Unless it’s nighttime, you literally cannot go near it and not see a bee. It’s impossible. Same for the comfrey, which I grew to make feed for the garden. The bees love it, and I love the flowers, so I cannot bear to cut it down. Guess I’m sticking with ordinary tomato feed for now.

After 2.5 years, and one last evening of ‘treats’ (for the time being) my period of eating and drinking all kinds of unhealthy crap is now at an end. It absolutely has to be, because I’m really feeling it now. My fitness is certainly not at an all-time low, not by any means, but it ain’t great either. I have heartburn pretty much all the time and I’ve started to be concerned about other things, such as high blood pressure.

I’m approaching 40 now, and things like that are starting to seem a lot scarier than they used to. I’ve really got to start taking care of myself.

To see me through the next couple of months I had an evening of fun at my sister’s yesterday. I will eventually try to find a good balance of health and fun, but for now I just need to get my s**t together, you know?

We had a nice BBQ then once it got dark got the firepit out. I do love a good fire, and as a photographic subject it’s hard to beat. These are just taken on my phone, but they’re pretty cool all the same.

I do love visiting my sister and her fiancé, but the best bit of all is Newton. It’s all the more fun visiting him at his home because he seems so excited that I have gone to see him instead of the other way round. But then the best of the best is that I was allowed to say over in the spare room (AKA Newton’s room) and he kindly permitted me to sleep in his bed.

He spent most of the night sleeping with me and… I just can’t tell you how happy it makes me. He’s such a sweetie, I will never get over how much I love that dog. How a whippet manages to take up the majority of a double bed is still a mystery, but he manages it somehow, and I’m still happy to take just a corner of the space if it means doggo snuggles.

For now, that’s it with just coating along. From now on I will be making progress.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Soon

I am very much a procrastinator. I intended to start my diet yesterday, but instead, I decided to get a couple of social events out of the way beforehand.

Sunday was a boot sale day, which probably doesn’t automatically mean food for most people. For me and my regular boot sale friend, we will at the very least have ice cream, possibly cake, possibly something hot and tasty for breakfast. Sometimes all of those things. I thought about warning my friend during the car journey that I wouldn’t be partaking of any snacks for the time being, but I changed my mind. This friend does a lot for me, and I thought at the very least I would treat him to breakfast one last time before I get on the wagon for a good while. It really is the least I can do.

We went to the nice boot sale again. It’s a bit out of the way, maybe a twenty-minute car journey, but it’s totally worth it. I’m glad our last trip there was not a fluke. The first stall we came to was selling old plant pots for £1 each, so I bought all of the large ones the chap had.

I don’t mind at all the battered, weathered look, but I happen to be in possession of some Rust-Oleum all surface paint that was begging to be tried out. It’s a primer and paint in one, and first impressions are that it’s damn good stuff. It really does stick to pretty much anything, and it’s suitable for interior and exterior use.

It needs a second coat, but I’m happy with the product so far. The reflection from my little garden table is really cool- I’m tempted to paint that pattern on it permanently.

My other purchase is something I’ve been after for YEARS- an old-fashioned guillotine. I must have said about thirty times as we were walking around the stalls, ‘I can’t believe I finally got one!’ I’ve been keeping an eye on an Instagram account that sells vintage stationery but when one does pop up not only do they get snapped up really quickly, they are also too expensive for my budget.

This was a mere £10. A tenner! I can’t believe it! It looks rough and ready but it cuts like a dream. The chap selling it told me that it was his dad’s, who was a caretaker, and he got it when the school he was working at was demolished to be rebuilt. My dad was also a caretaker, the school was also knocked down, and for a minute I wondered whether this chap might be my half-brother. It’s more than possible because my dad was (is?) a total man whore, and I could well have a variety of siblings out there that I don’t know about, but the ages don’t match up so in this instance it’s just a coincidence.

Next Sunday I’m going to my sister’s for a BBQ where I intend to have a few alcoholic beverages. It’s rare these days that me and the sister get to really chill out and spend quality time together, so it’s an opportunity I’m not willing to pass up. Not to mention that her fiancé can COOK, and to turn down his food would be a sacrilege. I’m really looking forward to it and want to have a fully fun time.

So the diet starts not now, but soon. Very soon.

I’m supposed to be catching up on some gardening today but the weather is poo. Yesterday was gorgeous, and I spent a lot of time in the garden lounging. I’m pleased I didn’t waste the sunshine- and at the end of the day, that’s what the garden is there for. To simply be enjoyed.

This is my first year growing ranunculus, and they are just perfection. They are also one of my least-eaten plants this year.

I’m focusing on the good elements of the garden, and am absolutely not going to dwell on the perhaps 30 healthy heritage carrot seedlings that have been eaten in their ENTIRETY by slugs. Or perhaps a single slug, who knows. I wouldn’t mind but that was my most protected area and those seedlings should have been fine. Damn you, slug. Damn you to hell.

Luckily there is still time to sow more, because I was really excited about growing yellow, white and purple carrots. Looks like I’ll have to take extra measures if anything’s going to make it to harvest though.

Ah well, it’s all experience!

Today has to be a tidying up day. I now have a nicely painted room, we have new flooring in the living room, but there is also stuff EVERYWHERE. I really had better get to it.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x