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!

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